Rosie sneaked over to St. Thomas to attend the Rolex Regatta. She had begged LeeAnn to be allowed to go and LeeAnn had said no, she was too young, period. But Rosie had gone anyway. When LeeAnn found out, she dispatched Huck to find her and bring her home. Huck and LeeAnn had been together only a few months at that point, and Huck was still completely infatuated. He would do whatever LeeAnn asked without question, even though he knew he held no sway over Rosie.
He had loaded his truck on the car barge and driven to the St. Thomas Yacht Club, where he paid twenty-five dollars to park and another five for a couple of beers to walk around with while he hunted for LeeAnn’s child. Because Huck had been born and raised in the Florida Keys, he was no stranger to regattas. They were only nominally about sailing; really, they were about drinking. Huck took in the well-heeled crowd holding their cocktails aloft as they danced to the band playing vintage Rolling Stones, and the pervasive sense of joy and revelry—because what better way to spend an afternoon than drinking rum and dancing under the Caribbean sun while a bunch of white guys in five-million-dollar boats negotiated wind and water in the name of an overpriced watch?
He was cynical because he was jealous. It looked fun, and he had come to be a buzzkill.
Huck found Rosie sitting on Oscar’s lap at a picnic table crowded with other West Indians, all of them nattily dressed, all of them wearing Rolexes themselves. They were eating chicken roti and conch stew, drinking Caribes. Huck was bigger than Oscar, just barely, but there were some other gentlemen at the table who were bigger than Huck and Oscar combined, with Rosie thrown in.
Huck saw no way to tackle his assignment other than head-on. He approached the table—the men and Rosie were all speaking patois, Huck could barely decipher a word—and said, “Rosie, I’ve come to bring you home.”
Rosie, he remembered, had blinked lazily, unfazed, and had burrowed like a sand crab into Oscar’s arms. “I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying here.”
“No,” Huck said. “You’re not.”
“Hey, man,” Oscar said. “You heard the lady.”
“She’s not a lady,” Huck said. “She’s fifteen years old.”
This caught the attention of the other gentlemen at the table. They started lowing and whoa-ing. Oscar knew how old Rosie was—maybe he thought she was sixteen or seventeen. However, the others likely thought Rosie was nineteen or twenty, maybe even older. She was wearing iridescent-blue eyeshadow and a halter top the size of a handkerchief.
Huck squared his shoulders. “I’m not leaving without her.” He hadn’t been sure how intimidating he seemed, but he had been to Vietnam before any of these guys were born and he would remind them of that if he needed to. “I’m going to have a cigarette while you say your good-byes.”
Oscar had eased Rosie off his lap and then held her face and talked to her gently while she cried. But it was clear Oscar wasn’t going to put up a fight, and Huck felt proud of himself, thinking how relieved LeeAnn would be when both Huck and Rosie pulled in the driveway. As long as he found the girl some other clothes.
Huck was ready for Rosie’s anger. She climbed into Huck’s pickup and slammed the door so hard it nearly fell off. That hadn’t surprised him. When they pulled up to Route 322, the sounds of the reggae band still wafting in through Huck’s open window, Rosie said, “I hate you.” That hadn’t surprised him, either.
“I don’t know who you think you are. Maybe you think you’re some kind of god because you’re white. But no white man tells me what to do.”
Huck said, “There’s a popular phrase that goes, ‘Don’t shoot the messenger.’ I came at the request of your mother. She had to work, and so she sent me. Frankly, I think you got off easy.”
“I still hate you,” Rosie said.
Huck doesn’t think Irene needs or wants to hear all this, so he just says, “I married LeeAnn when Rosie was a teenager. She was a rebellious child. She dated a West Indian fella, older, from St. Thomas named Oscar. That went on for too long, but it ended when Oscar went to jail.”
“Lovely,” Irene says.
“Tell me about it,” Huck says. “He got drunk and stabbed one of his friends. Though not fatally.”
“Did Rosie go to college?” Irene asks.
“She did, at UVI in St. Thomas. It’s funny, some kids who grow up here can’t wait to get away, and some can’t bear to leave. Rosie was the latter. She loved it here. She and her momma used to fight like half-starved hens over a handful of feed, but there was a deep emotional attachment. So she stayed. For a long time, she waited tables at Caneel Bay. That’s where she met the Pirate.”
“The pirate?” Irene says.
“It was… let’s see… thirteen years ago, Valentine’s weekend. Some guy, rich, white, showed up on a yacht for the weekend and swept Rosie off her feet.”
“What was his name?” Irene asks.
“Never learned it. He came and went. It was just a weekend fling. Rosie called him the Pirate, though, because he stole her heart.”
“So she had a history of this?” Irene says.
“If by ‘this’ you mean poor choices in men, then yes,” Huck says. “I actually suspected the Pirate was a made-up story. I thought Rosie was back with Oscar—this would have been after he was released from jail. But when the baby was born, she was very light-skinned. No doubt the father was white.”
Irene backs away a fraction of an inch. “Baby?”
“Maia,” Huck says. “Rosie’s daughter. My granddaughter. She’s twelve.”
“Oh,” Irene says. “I didn’t put… I didn’t realize…” She tears up, then starts to soundlessly cry. Huck pulls a handkerchief out of his pocket, which is actually just one of the bandanas he likes to tie around his neck when he’s fishing, and hands it to Irene. She shakes it out over the railing like a woman bidding her loved ones good-bye on an ocean liner, then dabs at her eyes. “I’m sorry. I didn’t realize Rosie left behind a child.”
“That’s the real tragedy here,” Huck says. “Me, I’m old. I’ve known loss. But Maia…”
“She’s twelve, you say? And never knew her father? So Rosie was all she had?”
“Rosie and me,” Huck says. “Now there’s just me. But people will step up. Maia won’t get lost. I won’t let her get lost. I don’t care if I have to keep myself alive until I’m a hundred years old.”
“When did Russ come into the picture?” Irene asks.
“I couldn’t be sure…”
“But if you had to guess,” Irene says. “The deed says he bought this house three years ago. Had their relationship… been going on for three years?”
Here is where things get thorny, Huck thinks. Here is where he profoundly regrets his decision to let this woman ever set foot on his boat. They have been acting like they’re on the same side. In some sense, they are. They’re the bereaved. The survivors.
But Huck is Rosie’s family and Irene is Russ’s family. Irene wants this whole mess to be Rosie’s fault and Huck wants it to be Russ’s fault. Irene is making it sound like three years would be nearly inconceivable—but Huck knows that their relationship went on longer than three years. Rosie met the Invisible Man right after Rosie died—five years ago.
“I’m really not sure, Irene,” Huck says. “What I know about their relationship I could write on my thumbnail and still have room for the U.S. Constitution. Rosie told me next to nothing. And like I said, I never had the pleasure of meeting…”
“Mr. Steele.” Huck clears his throat. “Your husband.”
Irene steps back to the table, fills her glass with more wine, and regards Huck over the rim, as if trying to gauge whether or not he’s telling the truth.
He is. He knows it sounds unusual. It was unusual. And part of what’s at work in Huck is guilt. He should have nipped the relationship—or at least the secrecy about it—in the bud. But like he said, Rosie met the guy right after LeeAnn died, when Huck was in bad shape. LeeAnn had been sick, sure—her death hadn’t come as a total shock. And yet Huck had been left feeling like his entire right side had been amputated.
He’d been glad that Rosie had found someone to distract her from her grief. By the time he realized how pathological the relationship was, it was too late. Rosie was in love. All the way.
“I should have done more,” he says. “I should have tried to stop it. I should have hired a private investigator.”
Irene sets her wineglass gently down and lets her hands drop to her sides. “You showed up here,” she says. “That’s more than a lot of men would do.”
True, he thinks. But he says nothing.
Irene reaches out… and takes his hand. “Will you come upstairs with me?”
“There’s something I need your help with,” she says.
Huck follows Irene up the stairs, his mind racing. Is she making advances? Is the “something” that she wants help with getting out of that black dress? This is all moving a little fast for Huck. But he won’t say no. She’s a grieving widow and he has lost his daughter. Now that he has allowed himself to travel back in time, he realizes that Rosie became his daughter the second he yanked her out of the regatta. Or maybe it was when he paid twenty bucks for a regatta t-shirt to put on over the hankie she was wearing. Or maybe it was when she told him she hated him.
***P/S: Copyright -->Novel12__Com