Strangers of the Past: Part XXVII
Posted on 21/02/2013
He’d missed it. Eight years of his son’s life, of seeing those open gray eyes staring adoringly at him, his small fingers grasping his own and tugging him to see what he’d made. His heart squeezed painfully in his chest and Jonathan swallowed the hardness lodged in his dry throat. Eight years and he’d never known whether Hannah had given birth to their child or if they were both lost forever. He’d been foolishly rejoicing over his reunion with Hannah, while being ignorant of his son’s existence. He hadn’t dared to believe Hannah had survived, never allowed himself the privilege to fathom his child’s birth, but both had happened.
Reverently, Jonathan lifted his blurry gaze above the blue sea to the sky. God had kept both safe… and alive.
“Jon,” Marcus’ voice drifted over him and Jonathan quickly blinked away the tears, turning to his brother-in-law and Gill who was staring curiously at him from the other side of the swaying boat.
“Hmm,” Jonathan managed to say, averting his face to wipe at the tears.
Marcus smiled sympathetically before turning to Gill. “He’s a bit overwhelmed…”
Gill raised a brow, not completely understanding why a grown man would cry over island fishing. After all he’d been doing this since he was just a child, it was all commonplace to him. He shrugged and turned to scan the blue waters before them. “Here we can catch yellow fin, but further down, you can get Dorado.”
Marcus nodded, still distracted by Jonathan who barely looked like he was ready to jump over the edge. He’d seen the faraway look in his teary eyes and sighed softly, dragging his gaze to the shore miles from where they sat in the rocking boat. Just hang on, Bro… We’ll figure all this out.
Ameya was a tight ball of nerves as she placed a hot cup of black coffee on the counter in front of a quiet Neve, pulling her trembling hand behind her back. With a quick glance at Tomas quietly munching a sweet cookie Neve had brought for him, she perched on the chair beside Neve. “We need to talk…”
“Hmm,” Neve muttered, cupping the mug with his hands, his gaze lowered to the steaming liquid inside.
She frowned at him, suddenly remembering his strange behavior from earlier. Later, she told herself. Right now she needed to know something. She swallowed hard, mustering up the courage to ask. “Is it possible…?”
Neve slowly lifted his head at her hesitance but didn’t say a word, his mouth slack and his gaze weary.
Ameya blew out a breath before continuing. “Is it possible to remember—I mean—if after all these years have passed, can it happen that I still remember my old life?”
As soon as the boat hit the sandy shore, Jonathan was already climbing over, bounding up the sandy hill. Gill gaped after him and only jerked his gaze to Marcus who was also stumbling onto the wet sand in an attempt to catch Jonathan. “What—?”
“So sorry!” Marcus called over his shoulder and started jogging to catch up with the sprinting man heading for the other end of beach.
Gill shook his head as he pulled the oars from the boat. “Tourists…” he mumbled, peering over to where they were headed. Back to the fisherman’s hut where they’d left Old Man Jonas earlier. He clucked his tongue despite the niggling curiosity and stepped out onto the water, busying himself with anchoring his boat.
“Hold it!” Marcus shouted as Jonathan staggered to a stop just in front of the empty canopy. He stumbled behind his brother-in-law and clapped a hand over his shoulder. “At least give me a heads-up,” he said, struggling to catch his breath.
Breath haggard, Jonathan’s gaze darted from one end of the hut to the other before glancing over Marcus’ head at the row of houses, frowning. Where was the old man?
“He’s not here,” Marcus muttered once he’d finally caught his breath, placing his hands on his hips. He frowned at the empty chair and the clean floor. “He took his nets with him too.”
“He has to be here somewhere,” Jonathan mumbled, stepping around Marcus toward the row of houses.
“What are you thinking about?” Marcus asked as he stepped in stride with the taller man.
Jonathan clenched his jaw. “I need to know. I want to know everything about Hannah and…” his Adam’s apple bobbed visibly. “And Tomas.” He pushed forward, stepping into the darkened, narrow alley between two houses.
Neve’s jaw slackened visibly and Ameya bit her bottom lip. She shook her head as if to rectify her thoughts. “I know it’s been a long time since I had a dream about it… but what if it started again, what does it mean?”
Ameya watched Neve lower his head to the coffee and sigh. She frowned, wanting to shake him off this moody disposition so he could talk to her. What was bothering him? “Neve, answer me, please.”
He closed his eyes against the soft yet desperate lilt in her voice, feeling his heart twist violently in his chest. He gripped the hot cup, wincing. When Ameya finally woke up from her long sleep, she kept mentioning strange dreams of her running through trees and falling into a dark pit. Said that she was powerless to the feeling of being abandoned. For a whole year she told him of the long nights she stayed awake after the troubling nightmares. On Tomas’ second birthday, they stopped… until now. His heart dipped into his stomach, realization hitting him. He lifted his eyes to her once more, anxiety nipping at him. “When… when did the dreams start?”
She blinked at his question only for a moment, before her brow furrowed in thought. Glancing over her shoulder to check once on the quiet Tomas, she dragged her gaze back to his face and Neve knew his answer before she even spoke. “Two months ago, I think…”
Marcus tugged at Jonathan’s sleeve, forcing the man to stop in his tracks. He sighed heavily, glancing up at the darkening sky. “It’s no use, Jon. Let’s just go back. He’s not here.” He shook his head at the row of houses. The fisherman’s village was one big maze with no way out, and no answers. They’d searched all over the first three rows of houses, asked several fishermen about Old Man Jonas, and still no one could help them
Jonathan clenched his fists, still glancing over at the remaining row of houses behind them. “There’s still time.”
“It’s already dark,” Marcus said firmly. “What good would it do? No one knows where he is.”
Jonathan scowled up at Marcus. “Then you go back. I’m not leaving here until I see—” he stopped, gaping over Marcus’ shoulder.
Marcus frowned, glancing behind him and his lips parted as they both watched the scrawny, old fisherman lugging his thick, tangled web of nets over his shoulders. “Well I’ll be…” he jerked his gaze to Jonathan who had pushed away from him and was already crossing the sand toward the craggy old man.
Old Man Jonas slowed to a stop once realizing his path was blocked and slowly lifted a scowl to the man. Then he blinked, recognizing his shadowed face. Eyes scanning the hardened face glaring back at him, the older man forced out a low snort and walked around the man.
“Wait a minute,” Jonathan said in the man’s native tongue and Old Man Jonas halted, frowning at the path ahead. Marcus watched as Jonathan turned to face the older man. “We should talk. About… Ameya.”
The older man peered over his shoulder at the white man before chuckling. “Follow me.”
Marcus’ jaw dropped at the fisherman as he continued trudging down the path. He glanced once at Jonathan who didn’t miss a step and followed the old man. Shaking his head incredulously, Marcus fell in step with his brother-in-law.
The two men quietly trailed Old Man Jonas as he trudged up a rocky, grassy incline, his fishing nets dragging behind him. No wonder he spent more time mending than fishing. His measured gait was easy to emulate as both Marcus and Jonathan fell in line behind him. As they cleared the top of the hill, Marcus noticed the aluminum roof of a decrepit fishing shack with an old, peeling boat leaning against one of the walls. A low bush of yellow flowers that seemed out of place amid the dilapidated scene swayed against the boat.
Jonathan’s gaze drifted to the exotic yellow flowers and felt the corner of his mouth lift in a wistful smile. Another flower Hannah had always loved and planted along their home in Martinique. Seeing the flower blossoming here, pangs of nostalgia at missing his wife hit him. He blinked the tears gathering at his eyes and forced his attention back to the old man who ignored the flowers and moved to the door.
Marcus frowned when Jonathan slowed in his steps and even more so when Jonathan touched his arm to stop him from moving forward.
“Wait,” Jonathan muttered, eyes on the old man who pushed open the door to his hut and disappeared inside. Marcus dragged his eyes from Jonathan’s stern expression to the darkened doorway and waited.
Light flickered from the window and then Jonathan stepped forward. Marcus followed and the two of them entered the house. The inside was about as dilapidated as the outside, except for touches of color in the lone muslin curtain swaying from the breeze, a woven blanket draped over the single cot shoved on one side of the room. There was just enough room for the three of them, given Jonathan’s height and Marcus’ bulkiness compared to the short, scrawny old man.
Old Man Jonas busied himself for a moment, gently draping the fishing nets over the edge of his wooden cot before he turned around to face both men. With a light casting shadows on his weathered face, his keen eyes studied Jonathan openly before speaking in his native tongue. “You are the boy’s father.”
Marcus distinctively heard the sharp intake of breath from Jonathan and he glanced over at his brother-in-law, noticing his slightly-widened eyes. He frowned, having not heard what the man said but had a feeling it was about Hannah and their son.