The sun was just barely peeking over the Point when Jack arrived at the yacht club. He parked his black GTO in the far corner of the lot to insure that others would not open their doors on it, took his bags out of the boot, and checked to make sure it was locked and everything was secure. He walked across the parking lot, stopped at the club house briefly, and then went out on the dock to the boat.
The Arnold family had had larger yachts in the past, but now they contented themselves with the small boat. Jack had spent a lot of time there lately, getting the craft ready for the voyage, which was unusual since they didn’t do much boating when school was in. What Jack’s parents did not know was that he had not smoked a joint or taken any other kinds of drugs in over two weeks, had drunk very little, and had seen a rise in his grades. His change of life was obscured by the fact that he had not cut his hair or shortened his sideburns, which still went well below the ear, nor had he shaken off the studied disinterest which he showed to his family. Only Cat sensed that something was going on. She only shared her feelings with Terry, who knew how to keep a secret, especially if she remotely suspected it had anything to do with Denise.
Across the bay the team was boarding the chartered yacht which would take them to play Alemara Academy, the Island’s prestigious all-boys school. But Jack had managed to get permission to go on his own. His pretext that he wanted to see his old schoolmate Rick Langley, who was now living in Drago, as Rick’s father took his self-imposed exile at St. Mark’s parish.
Jack removed and carefully stowed the canvas cover on the boat along with his things, made one final check of his marine radio and other gear, fired up the gasoline engines under the stern, untied the lines that held the boat to the dock, backed out of the slip, and roared out into the Verecunda Bay on his way to Alemara.
The southern coast of the Island could be run two ways: “inside,” namely between the barrier islands and the Island itself, and “outside,” beyond the barrier islands. Jack preferred to run it inside because outside the waves were generally higher. With the prevailing winds from the south-east and the swell from the same direction, going outside frequently meant taking it on the beam, which caused the boat to roll and made for an unpleasant ride, especially in smaller craft such as his. In Verecundan territory his course wasn’t too difficult; once he cleared the Point, the main object was to travel up the Elaron Sound about halfway between the Uranan coast and the barrier islands (with their reefs.)
The bottom had few features, which didn’t make for much visual appeal but made navigation easier. Jack ploughed through the Sound at full speed ahead. The wind blew his ample hair back and the sunrise made a nice vista to his starboard. It was just Jack and the sea, and with the temperature back in the 22-23ºC range he was not only glad to be going where he was, but was having a good time getting there and enjoying the view through his polarised sunglasses.
It wasn’t until he got into Vidameran territory that things got a little complicated. The Sangler River left at its mouth some sand spits with their accompanying sand bars, especially the horseshoe bar that dominated the bottom of the river mouth. Fortunately Jack knew these waters well, and in any case didn’t have much draught to worry about under him as he roared on over the shallow waters below. He knew just how much to leave the cays out of the river on his port without getting tangled up in the patchy coral, and in no time he ended up on the inside of Cambell’s Cut, again midway between the Vidameran coast and the offshore islands. This manoeuvre made him think of the times when he threatened to quit school and move up to this area as a native guide. Perhaps, he thought, if things didn’t work out with university in the States, he could move up where Rick lived and do the same thing at the other end of the Sound. Soon he got a glimpse of the Driscoll Point lighthouse, which signalled him to begin to turn to port and head into Alemara.
He arrived at the Alemaran government dock with his charts still rolled up and stowed away. The weather was still good, the low floating clouds making their procession from the ocean and over Alemara. He took care of immigration formalities and then moved the marina nearby. Tying the boat up and securing everything, he went up to the dockmaster to pay his fees.
“You heard about the rest of my tennis team?” he asked the dockmaster.
“You didn’t see them coming up?”
“No. They must have run outside.”
“You’re right about that. I think I heard on the radio that they just passed Morgan’s Cay and should be here in a bit. You could meet them over at the government dock.”
“Good idea. Thanks.” Jack took his tennis bag with racquet and headed back over on foot to the government dock. As promised, the chartered boat arrived and the rest of the team, with Coach Hancock, came ashore and had their passports stamped.
Jack was waiting for them on the other side. “So pretty boy took his own boat,” Pete said sarcastically after he came through the gate.
“Thought I’d make the most of the trip,” Jack said.
“I’m sure you will. Hope she’s hot and horny—but you’ve got to be careful on the East Island.”
“I know,” Jack replied.
“You should have come with us,” Pete said in a low voice. He motioned with his head at two of the younger players on the team. “They barfed over the side on the way up. We laughed our asses off. It was so funny. . .”
“That’s okay,” Jack replied. “I had a great trip.” They gathered themselves and their stuff together and boarded the decrepit Alemara Academy bus and headed eastward towards their match.
Alemara Academy was a little less than halfway between Alemara town and Driscoll, which meant that it was out by itself. Although it was only about three hundred metres from the sound, it was beyond the best of the long, broad beach that made the town famous. They pulled up through the school’s front entrance.
“That school in Aloxa has a lot better set-up than this dump,” Jack remarked, recalling Beran-Williamstown’s better physical plant.
Pete looked at his watch. “The girls should be around there somewhere about now. I wouldn’t take their trip for anything, even with these landlubbers we’re stuck with.”
The tennis courts were on par with everything else at the school. The fences, windbreakers, bleachers and asphalt courts themselves had seen better days. Their team was there and practising. Point Collina’s team had to take the entire day off from school for this match, and although the Academy team was home this year, the 1100 start time dug into their own academic schedule. The home team cleared the courts long enough for the visitors to practice while the coaches and captains met to figure things out.
The two teams came out, shook hands, and the matches began. The Academy was competitive in a few slots but Point Collina’s team depth worked against them. One of the Academy’s less proficient players was Raymond des Cieux, who unlike Carla had not taken lessons from his sister. Raymond was at the bottom of the singles ladder and Jack was at third, so while others were playing Jack came over and motioned to Raymond to pull away from the bench and talk with him.
“You still glad you’re not on the Point this year?” Jack asked Raymond.
“It’s all right up here,” Raymond replied. “But it’s better than the Point.”
“I gotta kinda hard question for you?”
“Hard question? For me?”
“Yeah.” Jack hesitated. “How is the best way to ask your sister out?”
“You could try telephoning her,” Raymond calmly answered him.
“Nobody likes a. . .I know that. What I mean is, how do I do it so she won’t say no?”
“You’ve had a lot of girl friends. One of them must have said no. I haven’t had too many, but some of them have said no to me. So what’s the big deal for you?”
“Well, man, from what I hear, when she says no, it hurts. Besides. . .I don’t know how to say this, but I’ve never asked a girl quite like her out before.”
“She is unique,” Raymond agreed.
“So, what does she like? And don’t like?”
“She likes fine food, like we eat at home. So you should consider a nice place, like the Resort, where she can order something reasonably good and perhaps have a little wine without too many questions.”
“Does she drink a lot?”
“Not much. And only with meals. It is the way we were brought up. She is not the kind to go out and get drunk like the last girlfriend you had.”
“You would bring that up.”
“You might also try going to Mass with her—she likes that in a boyfriend.”
“That’s going to be hard.”
“Because my old man hates the Catholic Church. It’s cool with me. My sister Cat’s already in trouble for going there with her friend Terry Marlowe.”
“C’est tres triste. . .you are passing some very sweet women by when you miss Mass. Take your sister’s friend—now that’s a girl I’m afraid to ask out.”
“How come?”
“Because she comes from such a great family, and she is so tall and beautiful—Papa says she reminds him of the women he used to see in Indochina.”
“Yes, my family lived there when Madeleine was born.”
“She was born in Vietnam?”
“She was. We’ve lived in many places.”
“Cool. So you’re chicken, too.”
Raymond looked at the ground. “I guess so.”
“Just give me her phone number,” Jack finally said. Raymond went and borrowed a pencil, wrote it on a piece of scrap paper, and handed it to Jack. “Thanks,” Jack said.
He went back to his bench. As Raymond returned to his own, his coach, who doubled as a history teacher, came up to him.
“What was that all about? You know him?”
“He is in the same form as my sister at Point Collina,” Raymond replied.
“That’s right, your sister does go to Point Collina. So what does he want to do, ask her out?”
“Yes, that’s it.”
“From what you’ve told me about your sister,” the coach observed, “only a Siegfried will take her out—a guy who isn’t afraid of death and will go through the fire.”
“I think he is about to discover this,” Raymond agreed.