Monday, April 10, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 7

Back in Lorenzo Beach, South Carolina, Melvin Truxton and his wife returned from their Las Vegas trip early only to hear the worst news possible. The yacht their daughter was on had been lost in a vicious storm that had suddenly arisen in the Atlantic Ocean. The luxury boat had no doubt been swept out to sea. As a result, the whole Truxton family was distraught.

Marla Norris was basically in the same shape. She was so devastated by that news that her sister Mildred and brother-in-law, Seth, had to stay with her for a few days. Mildred did what she could to talk Marla through the unbearable guilt she felt at Jamaal’s disappearance. After all, Marla had been the one to suggest the trip to her son in the first place. Already a widow, it pained Mrs. Norris even more to know that she may have lost her one and only child, too.

Angel’s friend, Kenya, was also dealing with guilt. She’d stayed home all day on Saturday, waiting for Angel’s promised call. But it never came. Instead, Mel Jr. came by her house early Sunday morning with the disturbing news of about his sister.

Unfortunately, Kenya collapsed from the impact of that horrifying report and from a massive case of overwhelming guilt. She was the one who’d felt that deep sense of dread before the trip. And even though she’d shared her concerns with Angel, in her heart of hearts Kenya wished that she’d protested more intensely. Then maybe her best friend would still be alive.

Scared senseless by her reaction, Mel Jr. immediately took Kenya to the nearest hospital to get checked out. She was like another little sister to him and he didn’t want to lose her, too. When the doctors finally released her, Mel Jr. took Kenya to her parents’ house, so that they could monitor her through the night. All and all, Jamaal and Angel’s loved ones were reacting basically along the same lines as the loved ones of all the other ill-fated voyagers.

***

In another part of Lorenzo Beach there was someone with a totally different reaction to the distressing news. Richardene Sanders was exactly gloating as she sat in her modest apartment, putting on a pair of red high-heeled pumps.

That’s what you get, Jamaal. God don’t like ugly, Richardene mused smugly, completely applying her own meaning to a popular religious phrase. Her negative attitude was a clear sign that she was still bitter about Jamaal’s rejection of her.

Completely satisfied with the latest turn of events, Richardene crossed her legs, opened up her compact, and began to meticulously apply an extra coating of red lipstick to her full lips. She had a hot date tonight.

***

The next few weeks didn’t get any better for the families of the missing voyagers. In the Truxtons’ case, they stopped traveling altogether and stayed close to home in hopes of hearing further news concerning their daughter. Even Mel Jr. slowed his traveling schedule down to a crawl.

Marla Norris’ life also seemed to have come to a standstill. Although she was taking baby steps towards accepting what had happened, she still felt deep down inside that her son was still alive. Marla didn’t know how, but like the Truxtons, she just couldn’t give up hope.

As if functioning off of the same sense of optimism and despite the advice of concerned friends, both families refused to conduct memorial services for their children. The Truxtons and the Norris’ couldn’t bring closure to this chapter in their lives. Not just yet anyway.

Kenya was also having a hard time bringing closure to this situation. While trying to work through her grief, she found it extremely hard to continue working at the travel agency. Yet in honor of her friend’s memory, she kept it open and simply hired an office manager to man the day-to-day operations while she took some much needed time off.

Besides prompting Kenya to make changes in her professional life, losing her best friend also caused her to start making changes in her personal life. The first thing Kenya did was finally break up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Saul.

After two years of dating, the man still hadn’t told her that he loved her. Nor had he given her any indication that he was even remotely interested in a commitment. Kenya wanted more out of life than that. She deserved more out of life than that.

Surprisingly enough, Kenya soon found out that she really didn’t miss Saul at all after their breakup. In fact, she regretted not breaking up with him a long time ago. Then as she persevered to go on with her life, Kenya even gave up her secret crush on Mel Jr. The same crush she’d had since he showed her how to slow dance in preparation for her first school sock hop. No longer would Kenya hold onto false hope concerning any man. Mel Jr. only saw her as a sister-type and she finally decided to accept it.

But the most important decision Kenya made of all was to renew her commitment to Christ. Although she’d never been a promiscuous woman, she had conveniently ignored the importance of remaining celibate in her quest for love. Now she was saving herself for the total package – marriage. And it felt good doing so. Kenya just wished that Angel was here to share the good news with her.

***

On a small patch of land out in the Atlantic Ocean, the days turned into weeks. Soon the weeks slid into a month and still Jamaal and Angel were on the island. By October, the two island dwellers had established an efficient coping routine. During the day they fished, cultivated the garden that they started from the dried seeds they’d saved from the yacht’s produce, and explored the island together.

Sometimes in the evenings Jamaal and Angel played various games to pass the time away. Games like group story, letter games and tic-tac-toe. They’d even found a deck of cards to play with. Those cards provided hours of good clean fun and prompted interesting conversations, drawing them even closer together.

Another thing that drew them literally together was the fact that they moved into two previously unoccupied cabins on the far end of the boat. This was a good move due to the fact that the rest of the yacht carried too many traumatic memories. For practical reasons, the closer they were in proximity to each other, the better. This way, if one needed the other right away, they wouldn’t have to travel the length of the ship to get there.

The only time Jamaal and Angel were not together was when they had to do personal hygiene things or whenever Jamaal had to work on the backup generator. By now he’d become almost an expert in keeping it running. At times, he joked about feeling like the professor on Gilligan’s Island. Especially when he found a way to keep the ship’s toilets working by rerouting some of the plumbing and making sure that the water tanks kept a fresh supply of sea water in them for flushing purposes.

Angel once asked Jamaal if he saw her as the girl-next-door, Maryann, or the sophisticated woman, Ginger. He claimed that Angel was a little bit of both – she was wholesome and classy, a lethal combination to any man’s heart.

Besides the miracles of surviving the poisoning, the storm, and the island itself, another miracle occurred. Jamaal found a way to provide them with more electricity and some heat, which they only used while they slept on the boat at night. He even found a way to patch up most of the holes in the boat, thus insulating it from curious snakes seeking heat from the cold nights the island frequently encountered.

Angel was glad that the snakes were the non-poisonous kind. Otherwise, she’d have to sleep with a gun strapped to her hip at night.

Although the island’s daytime weather was breezy and mild - almost always at least seventy-five degrees - the nighttime hours were often chilly and brisk as mentioned before. This drop in temperature often required more than the customary blankets to keep them warm.

An up side to the island’s daytime and nighttime temperatures was the fact that it kept the insect situation down. Angel was particularly grateful for this blessing. She’d never been a fan of mosquitoes anyway.

Staying in survival mode, Jamaal and Angel’s clothing now consisted of any t-shirts, jeans and sneakers they could find to fit. They also utilized any other ship supplies needed for their personal use. Their diet included a variety of delicious fresh fish that they caught each day, canned vegetables that they steamed over an open fire, and fresh water that they carried from a clear water spring they found while out exploring one day.

Amazingly, the few pounds that Angel wanted to lose around her midriff disappeared. They were replaced with strong abdominal muscles that derived from all the strenuous work that she and Jamaal did on a daily basis. She was fitter than she’d ever been and that was still another blessing right there. These days Angel persevered to count every blessing she could while she could. Especially since her future was still so uncertain.

***

One starlit night the island dwellers sat in Jamaal’s cabin, talking and sharing a can of pineapples after a rousing Bible study. Between forkfuls of the sweet citrus fruit, Angel’s fingers absently played with a patch of white fur on the head of the sleeping dog in her lap. Meanwhile, her mind played with an issue that had been plaguing her for weeks now.

“Jamaal, what if we are never found? The yacht isn’t seaworthy and even if it was, it’s too big to squeeze back through that tight bay without encountering further damage. What do we do then?” Angel’s hands paused over the puppy’s fur. Her back stiffened as she sat at the foot of bed, waiting for Jamaal to answer.

Jamaal looked into the anxious green eyes of the woman who’d become his best friend and smiled reassuringly. “We continue to live one day at time.” Then he reached over and smoothed out the wrinkles in her forehead.

“Brave lady, we’ve made it this far. God will see us the rest of the way. I don’t know how or when, but I just have this unexplainable peace about it.” And he did. Jamaal wasn’t just saying words to appease Angel. He really did have the peace of God ruling in his heart concerning this situation. Somehow he just knew that God was going to come through for them.

Although Angel was comforted by Jamaal’s words and his gentle touch, there was still a pocket of fear left in her mind. Acknowledging that it was there, she told on herself. “I’m scared, Jamaal. Pray for me to have that peace, too,” Angel said with eyes welling up with moisture.

Suddenly, Martinez lifted his head and looked up into her tearful face. Then he got up from her lap and lay down at her feet. Once there he looked up at Jamaal, as if urging him to respond, as if trying to communicate that Angel needed another human’s touch now. As an animal, he couldn’t fill that need.

As if on cue, Jamaal reached for Angel’s left hand. Then he gently pulled her into his arms at the head of the bed and proceeded to rock her like a baby as she cried anxious tears. His heart went out to his beautiful shipmate. He would give anything to take all of her fears away, to deliver her home safely to her family - the same way he’d done his troops in Desert Storm.

Later as Angel drifted off to sleep in his arms, Jamaal realized that he was starting to feel more than compassion for her. More than a sense of duty. I love her, he mused with complete certainty, his eyes resting on her sleeping features.

That thought or rather that revelation sent Jamaal’s pulse racing. Now more than ever he longed for the comfort of Lorenzo Beach. There he would be able to court Angel properly. There Jamaal wouldn’t have to be constantly concerned with more important things like survival.

Exhaling slowly, the frustrated man let out a long breath of exasperation. Show me what to do, Lord, he prayed.


Angel’s Scripture:
“The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

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