“Here it is. Ain’t much but it’s mine,” my dad said as he stepped onto a boat with a small cabin that I was sure only had one bed. I was hoping there was a sofa of some kind in there too.
I had been so relieved when I’d stepped off the plane at the small airport to find Abe already there waiting on me. I had worried that I’d spent the last of my savings on airplane tickets to see a man who wouldn’t show up. This time he had come through for me.
“Good news is, it’s got two bunks and a full size bed. I’ll take a bunk and you can have the bed. It’ll be easier on you and the baby. I went and got a few things for you at the store. Some things I knew you liked. The fridge is a tiny thing but I have a cooler on here too with ice that I keep cold stuff in.”
I stood on the well-worn boat and saw touches of my father. His favorite fishing hat, the one my mother had given him for Father’s day when I was a little girl hung on the hook going into the cabin. The tackle box that Valerie and I had bought him for Christmas one year sat over in the corner with the fishing rod he’d bought one summer when we had gone on a family vacation to North Carolina. I hadn’t realized he still had those things.
“It’s perfect, Dad. Thanks for letting me come here. I just needed to get away,” I said, turning to look at him.
His mustache and beard needed trimming but I could still see his mouth turn down in a frown. “What’s wrong, Blaire bear? You seemed so happy a week ago. How did things get so bad so fast?”
I didn’t want to talk about it just yet. “I slept on the plane and it wasn’t a good sleep. It’s been well over twenty-four hours since I’ve been in a bed. Can I take a nap first?” I asked.
Dad looked even more upset about my being tired. “You shouldn’t have been pushing yourself like that. Why’d you fly overnight? Never mind, you can tell me later. Just go on inside there and head down those steps to that back room. I’ll bring your bag down. Not much room but we can manage.”
I didn’t care about attempting to take a bath in the tiny little bathroom or changing my clothes. I was too tired to care about anything. “I just want some sleep,” I assured him.
The bed filled up the entire “bedroom”. It touched every wall. I crawled up in it from the doorway and kicked both of my shoes off before curling up into a ball and falling fast asleep.
It was late afternoon when I woke up. The gentle swaying of the boat was soothing. I was thankful I didn’t suffer from motion sickness. It would be bad if I did. Stretching, I sat up and reached in my pocket to pull out my phone and turn it on. I’d been avoiding this. Rush would know I was gone by now and he would be upset. I wasn’t ready to deal with him just yet. I still needed some time to decide what to do.
I didn’t check my voicemails or text messages once I turned my phone on. I just slipped it back into my pocket and climbed the steps out of the small cubbyhole onto the main deck. Dad wasn’t around but he’d mentioned at the airport that he had a job working at the marina and he needed to go in this afternoon. In return they allowed him to keep his boat docked here for free.
The small fridge held a few bottles of water and I took one out and grabbed a banana from the basket of fruit he had sitting on top of the fridge before walking out to sit in the sunshine. It was breezy but sunny. Similar to the temperature in LA.
“Abe know you’re on his boat? He don’t strike me as the kind to hook up with barely legal women,” a deep voice asked from behind me. I spun around to see a guy in his mid-twenties standing in the boat docked beside my dad’s. He was shirtless and his jeans hung low on his hips. It was obvious he did manual labor. He was slender but solid. His long brown hair was bleached from the sun and it was in a low ponytail. Several strands were loose. I couldn’t see his eyes because he was wearing aviators.
“Do you speak?” he asked with a smirk and took a drink from the water bottle in his hand.
“Yes,” I replied, still slightly startled. I hadn’t been expecting Dad to have neighbors. This was a boat for goodness sake. How many people lived on their boats?
“Where’s Abe? Or are you crashing?” He was relentless in his questioning.
“I don’t know. I just woke up and he was gone,” I replied.
The guy raised one of his eyebrows. “So he does know you’re here?”
What was he, the damn police? “Abe is my father. He’s very aware that I’m here,” I replied a little more annoyed than I’d meant to.
A grin broke across his face and he had perfect white teeth. Not what I’d expect from a guy who had hair like his and lived on a boat. “You’re Blaire. Nice to meet you. I’m Captain,” he replied and took another swig from his water bottle.
“Captain?” I asked before I could stop myself. I knew it sounded rude.
“Yeah,” he replied.
“That’s just… it’s an odd name,” I replied.
He let out a low chuckle. “Not really. I’ve been living on this boat since I was sixteen. That’s ten years now. Reckon if anyone’s a Captain I am.” He shot me a wink then turned and walked back inside his cabin.
Left alone again, I leaned back in my seat and propped my legs up in front of me on an upside down ten gallon bucket. My phone began ringing and I debated even looking at it. If it was Rush I was going to want to answer it. Maybe it was time I did. He needed to know where to find me.
I glanced down and, sure enough, Rush’s name was on my phone screen. I clicked answer and held it to my ear. I wasn’t sure what to say to him. I’d been an emotional mess when I’d run. I needed space and time. Now I was missing him. How could I marry him if I couldn’t even stand by him when he needed me? Was I always going to get this upset when he wasn’t around when I needed him?
“Blaire? Please, God, tell me you answered this phone,” Rush’s voice was laced with panic. I felt guilty.
“It’s me,” I replied.
“Where are you, baby? Please tell me where you are. I swear I won’t ever leave you again. I’m done with dealing with my sister’s shit and being the parent my parents weren’t. I just need you. Please, where are you? I’m at Rosemary and you’re not here.” He was so worried. I’d scared him. My throat tightened and my eyes stung.
“I’m in Key West with my dad,” I replied.
“Fuck. Did he come get you from the airport? Are you staying on his boat? Did he feed you?” Rush paused in his many questions and took a deep breath. I could tell he was trying to calm himself down.
“He did come get me and I’m fine. He had bought some groceries before I got here so I’ve eaten,” I paused and squeezed my eyes tightly shut in order to hold back my tears. I didn’t want to cry. Rush would completely go insane if he heard me crying. “I’m sorry. I was upset and I needed to get away from it all. I needed time to think.”
“I know you’re upset. You had every f**king right to be upset. You went through a scare without me and I hate myself for it. You should have left me. Hell, I would have left me,” he stopped and took a deep breath. “Can I come get you? Please? I need you, Blaire.”
Would it always be like this? Would I always come second to Nan? Would our baby come second? I knew he believed he was done with her but I knew better. He loved his sister and it would kill him to ignore her when she needed him. I guess what I needed to ask myself was could I live without him?
No. It was that simple. Even with my heart still hurting from his not being there for me and the baby yesterday, I needed him I still couldn’t imagine life without him.
“Nan overdosed. I found her unconscious in her hotel room. I left my phone in her room when I rushed off with the paramedics to take her to the hospital. That’s why I didn’t answer you. I’m so sorry, Blaire. I am so damn sorry.” The pleading in his voice broke my heart. I should have known it was something that serious. Rush always answered my calls and texts.
“Is Nan okay?” I asked. Not because I cared about Nan but because I cared about Rush.
“Yeah. They pumped her stomach. My mother is taking her to a center in Montana to get her some help. I can’t keep trying to control her. I have you and our baby to focus on.”
I looked up as my dad stepped into the boat. He was carrying a paper bag in one hand and a gallon of sweet tea in the other. I wasn’t ready to leave him just yet. I had just gotten here and I liked seeing him happy. Or at least content.
“I want to stay and visit my dad for a little while,” I told him knowing he was going to argue. I was missing him something fierce and I knew he felt the same way.
“Okay. Can I come visit him too?” he asked
My dad was watching me and a small smile tugged on his lips. I didn’t have to tell him what Rush had asked. He already knew. “Tell the boy to come on. I got room for one more.”
“I’d like that. I miss you,” I replied.
Rush let out a sigh. “God, baby, I miss you too. So damn much. I’ll be there as soon as I can get a flight out.”