Sunday, June 3, 11:35 P.M.
Las Piernas Marina South
Blissfully unaware that the moment everything would change was near, they were bickering.
"You should have to do the kitchen, Seth," Mandy said, drying a tumbler. "I shouldn't have to do it just because I'm a female."
"Female," Seth scoffed, securing the latch on a compartment beneath a berth. "Not like anyone could tell you are. You're still an 'it.'"
"An it!" Mandy snapped the towel at the seat of his pants. She hit her mark, then squealed in dismay as he turned and easily grabbed her weapon away from her.
He grinned as he saw the belated realization dawn on her face -- it had been a mistake to attack him within the confines of the yacht. She cowered, waiting for his retribution. He laughed and tossed the towel in her face. "Half the other girls in ninth grade have bigger boobs than you do, Pancake."
She shoved at him, and as he fell back in mock surrender, he knocked over a set of cookware she had not yet put away. In the silence after the crash and clatter, they each covered their mouths and repressed laughter.
"Quit the horseplay down there!" their father's voice called.
Seth glanced at the companionway, but their dad was too busy with his own work above to continue scolding. Seth looked at his watch. They probably wouldn't be at their dad's house until almost one o'clock in the morning -- they had a lot to do before they could even take their dad's new boat back to number 414, its own slip.
Seth knew that some boat owners would have taken their yachts into the slip at any hour and cleaned up there, but his father never showed such disregard for others. Whenever he got into the marina after nine or ten o'clock at night, Trent Randolph, in consideration of the live-aboards whose boats occupied the slips nearest his own, always docked here first, next to a bait shop at an isolated point on the far end of the marina. "You wouldn't turn on bright lights and wash and vacuum a car at midnight on your driveway at home," he would tell friends who asked about this habit. "People live even closer together here."
They hadn't taken friends with them this time. This weekend's sailing trip to Catalina Island had been fun -- especially, Seth thought, because it had just been the three of them. Trent Randolph had finally dumped Tessa, his lowlife girlfriend, not long ago. Seth hated her. She was the one who had split his folks up two years earlier, but that wasn't the only reason he didn't like her. She bitched about Seth and Amanda constantly, and Seth was almost positive she was playing his dad. He had no proof, but once or twice when his dad wasn't around, Seth had overheard her talking on her cell phone in kind of a lovey-dovey voice, all sexy and everything. And he knew she hadn't been talking to his dad. So maybe his dad had caught her at it, too -- or just finally wised up.
He knew his dad wouldn't get back together with his mom. He knew they weren't happy together. And he wished he could stop wishing they would get back together anyway.
Better to think of good times. Like this weekend. Seth, Mandy, and their dad even spent a night camping on the island, something they had not done since the divorce. "It was like he could be a dad again," Mandy confided to Seth when they left Avalon. He had rolled his eyes, not willing to agree openly with her. One reason he liked the new boat was that he figured his dad had used it to get rid of Tessa -- Seth recalled that she had been just about as pissed as his sister had been pleased with the yacht's name -- Amanda.
"I still say you should help with the kitchen," Mandy whispered now as they picked up the fallen pots and pans.
Copyright © 2001 by Jan Burke
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No Man's Land
by Simon Tolkien
Inspired by the experiences of his grandfather, J. R. R. Tolkien, during World War I.
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