Chapter 1 – Working Environments

Wednesday, 15th July 2009

Atlantic Ocean: 18 degrees West, 62 degrees North.

Time was balanced at that peculiar point when men are at their weakest and their bodies are suggesting sleep, but for many reasons some must be awake. Mother Earth too was in a quandary, somewhere between early morning darkness and dawn. One constant was the temperature, the biting cold found in the wild waters northwest of the Faroe Islands.

Amidst the mountainous swells sat the dark, foreboding bulk of Spartan 4, a Russian stern-trawler. Also, its massive structure couldn’t prevent it from being lifted like a child’s toy in bathwater. There were few lights showing onboard, apart from the green and red required by the laws of navigation. At the port side, a single figure stared down at something 100 metres away in the swells.

The person on the deck of the trawler wrinkled his nose, as he caught a breath of the cargo behind him. He opened a long waterproof casing and removed a rifle. It had a telescopic sight, which the user knew would serve little purpose under the circumstances, but he lifted the weapon into the aim, and adjusted the sight out of habit.

*

Pete Harris was one of three men in a four-metre, Gemini semi-rigid launch. He was dressed like the others in a one-piece wet-weather suit, which was worn over the appropriate heavy warm clothing. Over the wetsuits, they wore lifejackets, which in Pete’s mind, was their most important accessory.

He had tried a standing position, but couldn’t bear it, so knelt down. He shouted to his companions. “I suppose you two have suction cups on your boots and a heating system inside your wetsuits.”

They both laughed at his dark humour. That was good for his credibility.

The intrepid journalist gripped the safety rope tight with the numb fingers of his left hand. He raised his Nikon Digital SLR with his right hand, caught the Russian tanker in the rangefinder and pressed the shutter release. It wouldn’t be his most professional frames, but he clicked rapidly to take in as much information as possible.

Even kneeling, Pete felt nauseous, slipping back and forward, but he held on and gritted his teeth. He had to fight all outside influences and inner demons to get this done. It occurred to him that there was no steady horizon, which reminded him that he was 150 miles from land. Rolling up and down on large waves in such a tiny craft was beyond even his descriptive powers. He felt sick.

He spoke, using a throat mike and headset combination. “Photographing the Spartan 4 as it sheds pollutants into the sea. Location is now between Iceland and the Faroe Islands.”

The headset was attached to a Sony Digital Voice Recorder. It already held information concerning the trawler’s sister vessels which were operating nearby.

A slight change in the wave pattern combined with a lack of feeling in his body, caused Pete to slip forward, and his face touched the icy water. Instinctively, he held onto his camera as he felt strong arms hold his legs and keep him in the boat. His heart skipped several beats as he was dragged back to safety. Pete’s mind was not in a good place.

When he turned to get onto his knees again, he found Kurt, the larger of the two Greenearth men grinning down at him.

Pete gulped in air. “Thanks.”

Kurt said: “We haven’t lost anybody yet, mate.”

The journalist slipped his left arm under the safety rope and gripped further along with his left hand. Before raising his camera, whilst he got in position, he said a silent prayer asking that he wouldn’t fall again. Until his face hit the surface he had been unable to smell anything, but now he had a taste of his surroundings. It blended well with the sound of the wind and the motion of the waves. Pete’s body was already numb, and now his face was bitterly cold.

Determination had taken him from novice reporter to freelance writer and columnist, so he wasn’t about to let something like a hostile, freezing ocean beat him. He took his eye from the camera to glare at the massive ship. At this range in the breaking dawn, he could now see patches of rust, all over the hull, and on the markings denoting the Plimsoll line. He saw a movement amidships and stared up at the guardrail of the trawler.

Pete said: “Is there somebody up there watching us?”

“Yes mate,” Dougie said, “so be careful.” He wiped the fresh splashes from his eyes. Dougie was at the helm of the small craft holding it steady. “Remember we told you, there’s a nutcase with a rifle out here on a trawler.”

“I’ll try to shoot him before he shoots me,” Pete replied and raised his camera again. In his blurred view, he tried to calibrate the movement of both vessels. He wanted to hit that mean point when he could focus steadily. It happened; like a stalling aircraft; the dinghy seemed to hold its position for a bit.

Pete aimed at the figure high above and pressed the button. He had to avoid thinking about his circumstances, so he spoke into his recorder. “We can now confirm that there a group of vessels,” he said and paused to focus his camera. “Three are working the waters, offloading to a relay of wet-ships. This fleet have been photographed at Murmansk and Archangel-,”

He thought he’d felt a stinging in his left arm and a fraction later heard a loud crack. It took two wipes using his right forearm to clear the water from his eyes. He gasped when he saw a rip in his waterproofs. Was he seeing blood on his left arm?

“Shit,” he said. He felt an intense burning sensation in his left bicep. He continued to use his left arm and trembling fingers to hold him steady. A stream of crimson ran out from the cuff of his outfit, over his fingers and onto the rope. A glance was enough to tell him that the blood was now oozing from the tear in his waterproofs.

Pete’s eyes misted, but he blamed the splashes of cold water. He looked up and aimed his camera amidships, his right forefinger continually pressing the shutter release. For a moment, he lowered his camera and tried to focus on the face of the man high above them. A man, he now knew, who was aiming a rifle. The features were hidden. He was silhouetted by the ship’s lighting.

“Hey, guys is he shooting at-,” Pete said, his words trailing off. He shook his head in an attempt to clear the drowsiness that engulfed him.

The cold temperatures that had been protecting Pete now subsided, allowing him to feel the pain. He let go of the rope and his falling bodyweight pulled his arm free. Strong hands pulled him hard onto the deck. There was a metallic ‘ping’ from the casing of the motor when a second shot was fired.

Kurt shouted, “Go Dougie, Go! Go!

Dougie nodded to Kurt, spun the rudder hard to starboard and revved the outboard, but not before another shot ricocheted off the casing. The front of the craft lifted as he opened the throttle to maximum.

Pete tried to focus as he felt his body being lifted almost vertically, then he was buffeted by the deck beneath his back. He felt as if the boat was standing up in the water, racing with its underside against the surface. It was good that he didn’t know how accurate his own mental images were.

Kurt had harnessed himself to the side of the vessel, and was using a pencil and a handkerchief as an improvised tourniquet on Pete’s arm. It was working.

The struggling journalist tried to focus on his rescuers through his tear-filled eyes. The pain in his arm increased as the launch bounced off every available wave, large or small.

Pete was losing track of events and fading. “Are we going to die?” he said. “Please don’t let me die. I have to speak to Alice.”

Kurt slid down onto the deck to get alongside Pete, then wrapped a strong, reassuring arm over his chest to keep him secured. “Nobody’s going to die, mate. You’ll see Alice.” He looked to his colleague, squinting against the continuous freezing spray and nodded toward the engine.

Dougie was leaning forward from the back of the boat, steering with his left hand and gripping the safety rope with his right. He screamed against the engine noise and the wind. “We’re on the max!”

The Greenearth crew’s mother vessel was 12 miles distant. Pete’s stomach churned during the rapid escape. He continued to think of Alice as the pain increased. At times he felt aware of all around him, as if he was standing against a bouncing wall, then he would doze off only to come around again a while later. Would he ever see Alice again? Would they resolve things? Everything went black.

*

Tuesday, 11th August 2009

Panama, Central America: 81 degrees West, 7 degrees North.

A series of countries extend from the southern border of Mexico, to the northern border of Colombia. They are collectively known as Central America. At the southern end of this region is Panama, most famous for the canal which links the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

The might of the Pacific washed up onto the quiet bay at Portillo on the southwest shores of Panama. A lone swimmer fought the waves, but even half a mile out, she swam with confidence. At 42, Gloria was renowned for her fitness. She was also recognised because of her affection for the planet’s waterways. That affection was one of the things that had drawn her to the profession she loved. She reached the buoy with the flashing red light, touched it, turned, and headed back for shore.

Gloria would never forget the lesson she’d learned about the power of the ocean. For that reason, her morning swim remained a training session as much as a leisure pursuit. In her field of expertise, she recognised the water for all the things that it served to do. Just a few months before on one occasion, she had allowed her fitness and romantic notions to lull her into a false sense of security. She had learned how small she was in the great scheme of things.

The ocean was a wild force of nature and she had almost succumbed to that untamed energy. Whenever swimming since, she regularly saw Hermes and some of his friends as they came to swim and dive alongside her. She was the athletic human with the dark mane.

*

Following her swim, Gloria took a shower and had breakfast. The scientist scanned the ocean as she walked the short distance from her house to her workplace. She strolled along the covered walkway of the small lab complex, and could smell coffee as she opened the door.

“Good morning Bonita,” she called to the young assistant.

“Good morning,” the lovely dark-haired girl said. “I thought I’d make us coffee. I’ve already prepared for our morning tests.”

“What’s brought on the industrious start to the day?”

“I’m trying to learn from the qualities of the best boss in-,”

“Okay,” the best boss cut in, “enough, enough.” They both giggled and enjoyed their drink. As she sipped her coffee, Gloria switched on her laptop, opened her Inbox and was delighted to see an email from her daughter.

 

Date: 10 August 2009, 18:30

Subject: Progress

From: Isabella

To: G. Banderas

Hi Mom,

I have a free morning and decided to drop you a line before doing anything else.

I got back here to find that two of the other girls have left our course, and one of the guys has dropped out too. It seems that Architecture will remain dominated by men for a while to come, but I’ll uphold the family tradition of striving to be the best and not giving up.

I feel reassured knowing that I have you on the end of an email or Skype if it’s urgent. Miami is a nice place to study and the campus is cool. The fact that there are direct flights to Panama also makes me feel more at ease.

I have so much on my ‘to do’ list, but I wanted to say ‘hi’. No need to reply.

All my love,

Isabella  xxx

 

To most people the message didn’t say a great deal, but to the girl’s mother it said what mattered most; her daughter was enjoying her life at university, and she knew if she had a problem her mother would be there for her. She would always be there for her.

After reading Isabella’s message, Gloria checked out a favourite blog site. She read the screen and looked up. “This guy with the rifle has to be caught.”

“Which guy with the rifle? I thought Jonah was a Greenearth activist.”

“He is, and he writes his blog as an individual so nobody can say it’s a statement by the organisation.” She looked over at her assistant. “According to Jonah, this mystery man has fired at the activists before, from a launch and a trawler, but always with a rifle.”

“You mean he’s trying to kill somebody?”

“It says that, in mid-July, a freelance journalist was out with two activists on an observation trip. Whilst he tried to take pictures of the ship, a man fired at them with a rifle.” Her brow furrowed and she shook her head, “In the waves out there he would have difficulty aiming to wound somebody, so he couldn’t have cared about the result.”

“Are they all okay?” Bonita asked.

“It reads as if the journalist was injured, but it doesn’t say how badly. As soon as the man on the ship fired again, they got away from there and headed back to their main vessel. They administered first aid to the injured man and sailed for Torshavn in the Faroe Islands.”

“Where were they when it happened?”

“It was in an area known for its clean waters, midway between Iceland and the Faroe Islands. There are two images of the ship. A Russian stern-trawler called Spartan 4, but there’s no more information on the journalist.”

*

ONE YEAR LATER

 Monday, 9th August 2010

England, United Kingdom: 0 degrees West, 54 degrees North.

Pete woke at 5am, his entire body feeling clammy. The lightweight duvet was sticking to his skin. He lay for a few seconds staring at the ceiling and reached across with his right hand to touch the two-inch scar on his left bicep.

Yes, it had happened but now he had to get over it! He tried to sleep again, but as he had learned from experience, he would have difficulty. He got up and made a coffee. He donned his jogging pants, hooded top and well-worn trainers. After a light warm-up, he went for a three-mile run.

On his return, a shower followed by more coffee saw him ready to start his day. He dressed, opened his Toshiba laptop, and checked his emails. Writing made his life okay, again.

At 8am, he stood to look from the window of his cliff-top room, out across the glittering waters of North Bay. The house was situated two miles outside Scarborough, on England’s east coast, giving an uninterrupted view of the North Sea. He could see the long, low, silhouettes of tankers a few miles out. Close to the coastline, he could see the filled white sails reflecting in the sun, as yachtsmen practised their skills.

He thought back to his recurring nightmare. In the incident a year before, his profession had almost cost him his life. He closed his eyes and shook his head. It had already cost him his marriage. It had cost him Alice.

A light tap on the door pulled him from his reverie. “Come in,” he called.

The door opened, and Andy Collier entered. At 48, the two men were the same age, but there the similarities ended. Pete was tall, had short, fair hair, and maintained a toned physique. Andy, the owner of the boarding house, was short, dark-haired, bearded, and displayed the results of a healthy appetite and lack of exercise. He maintained the appearance of his previous life as a merchant seaman.

“Here he is,” Andy said, turning to address his wife.

“Hi Pete. I’m Karen,” she said as she breezed into the room with all the subtlety of a hurricane. “Andy tells me you’ll be settling in more permanently than our other guests.”

Pete couldn’t help but smile as he got his first look at the woman of the house. She looked about 30, but he knew she was the same age as her husband. She had an infectious smile, and a figure many women would kill for. Her presence seemed to light up the room.

They shook hands and Karen asked, “What do you think?” twirling around and causing her auburn hair to lift briefly. She raised the bright coloured scarf from her shoulders. “I finished it this morning.” The scarf was never intended to match her yellow T-shirt and white shorts, but Pete could overlook the mixed fashion. This was an attractive woman.

“I love the colour scheme; it’s very, vibrant,” he said as he caught his breath. When Karen had raised her arms and spun around, her shirt pressed tightly against her ample curves, and it was easy to see a bra had not been on her ‘to do’ list when she dressed.

Andy sat on an armchair and pulled his exuberant wife down to sit on his lap. “She gets a bit excited when she finishes a new garment,” he said, then looked up at her with pride.

She pulled on his beard and planted a kiss on his lips.

Karen said: “Andy tells me you’re some kind of journalist. You’re not one of those investigative types are you; uncovering wrongdoing, getting in danger?”

“Nothing that exciting,” he lied, as he thought back to the year before. “I’m a freelance writer, so I can work for more than one client at a time.”

“Do you sell the same article twice then?” She cocked her head to one side.

“In a way I can, but I have to make sure I present it differently for each client.”

As Andy sat listening, his face was tugged up by the beard and his wife looked him in the eyes in mock horror.

“We’ll have to watch this one darling,” she said. “He sounds like a slippery one.”

Her husband looked up at her and laughed, more to humour her than anything.

Pete’s thoughts flew back to Alice, as he remembered loving her as deeply as these two obviously loved each other. He brought himself out of his momentary melancholy.

He said: “When we have time you’ll have to show me some of your creations.”

“Oh no, mate,” Andy said, “please don’t become a fan.”

Karen slapped her man’s shoulder, before addressing their guest. “I’ve been looking forward to meeting you since I got back from the craft fair,” she said. “I’ll see you at breakfast, but how about joining us for dinner this evening. That way we can get to know you better?”

“That would be very good of you but-,”

She held up her hand cutting him short. “Oops. I’m afraid we don’t do ‘buts’ here. We’ll be eating at six this evening,” she said and laughed. “Andy will fetch you.” She turned to her husband. “Won’t you darling?”

“Apparently,” he said and winked at Pete.

*

Pete had a productive day, finishing off two pieces for a series he was writing. It was about the effects of pollution on inland waterways in the U.K.. He did a regular check of his emails and wished he hadn’t bothered – he received an email from his estranged wife. He was torn.

It was nearly three years since she’d walked out, so rather than read the message he archived it. The ‘Alice’ file would no doubt expand in volume if he responded, so he decided not to do so yet. He promised himself that one day he would read it, but for a while he would make her wait, treating her as she’d treated him.

Apart from Alice’s unexpected communication, he was on good form as six o’clock approached. Three minutes before the hour he heard a knock on his door. He checked his appearance in the mirror, ran a hand through his short hair, and grimaced to check his teeth. He opened the door, and his smile emphasised the deep dimples in his cheeks.

Andy nodded, and they went through to the dining room together.

“I’ve taken the liberty of chilling us a couple of cans, mate,” Andy said. “I hope lager is okay for you.” He handed a can of Tennent’s to Pete. “The Scots know how to make beer.”

“Actually I don’t-.” Pete started, but accepted the can and changed what he was about to say. “I don’t mind lager, or beer.” He cursed his own lack of discipline. Now his evening would be darkened by the need for self-control. Drinking again was not good.

“Good evening,” Karen said as she glided into the private dining room. She was looking a million dollars in a low-fronted floral dress. She wore oven gloves to lift the hot plates of food from the serving hatch to place them on the table.

Whilst the two men had a beer with their meal, Karen had a glass of water. Conversation remained light as they ate, and afterwards both men said they’d enjoyed the meal. They all went through to relax in the conservatory which provided a sea view.

As the evening progressed, Pete realised his beer was only half way down the glass, whilst his host’s drink was almost finished.

“Would you like another one mate?” Andy asked, raising his own empty glass. “I’ve got plenty in the fridge.”

As Pete stared grimly at the beer in his hand trying to make himself say ‘no’, he didn’t realise his hostess was watching him closely.

Karen said: “You take your time Pete.” Her guest’s expression was something she recognised. She forced a laugh. “Just let the old man of the sea drink himself into oblivion.”

Andy chuckled and left the room.

“I’m sure if the man would like another, he’ll ask,” Karen said. “He has a mind of his own.”

Once Andy was out of earshot, she spoke to Pete in a whisper. “If you put it on the table it will be easier to resist.”

He stared at her wide-eyed as she continued. “I used to find that when I held the glass, I drank far too much.” She placed her glass of water on the table.

Pete continued to gaze directly at her and felt as if she could see into his soul. He was about to ask something, but Andy wandered back into the conservatory, humming a naval tune and carrying two fresh cans. He sat down and pushed a beer across the glass-topped wicker table.

“Thank you,” Pete said and caught Karen looking at him. She raised an eyebrow.

Andy didn’t see the brief, silent exchange.

Aiming to get the conversation flowing instead of the alcohol, Pete asked about how the pair met, how they decided on the Bed and Breakfast business, and generally kept the evening moving along with questions. He had known it was going to happen, and when it did, he still didn’t feel prepared for it.

“I’ve been dying to know something Pete,” Karen said.

He gave her a smile. “Go on.”

“You’re a good looking guy, with a decent job, and you haven’t mentioned anyone in your life.” She raised her eyebrows. “Do you have a significant other, or are you married to the job?”

Andy shook his head. “You don’t have to answer that mate-,”

“No, please, it’s fine,” Pete interrupted, and then addressed Karen. “I was one of those guys you mentioned earlier, an investigative journalist. Although I’m now a columnist and freelance writer, I still accept commissioned assignments.”

The woman nodded and smiled, realising her suspicions were correct.

Pete said: “I lived for my work and the excitement it brought me. When I was 41, I was working on a series of articles on diseases within hospitals. That was when I met Alice, a Ward Sister. We dated for six months and married. We were besotted with each other.”

Andy sipped his fresh beer and watched Pete. He felt for him, knowing from the man’s tone that the past still hurt.

Karen’s head was cocked to one side, and her animated character had disappeared, showing a soft and sympathetic side. Part of her regretted the question, but at the same time, she hoped if she could get him to talk, it would help. In honesty, she was the inquisitive type.

Pete lifted the unopened can of beer from the table and glanced sideways at Karen.

She smiled and nodded at him.

He pulled the ring on the can and heard the familiar ‘psssht’. He carefully poured the amber liquid into his glass. “Alice was stunning, and 10 years younger than me.” He took a drink. “We were great for the first year, because of the regular money and creating a home.” He stared at his drink. “Due to the work I had to be gone a lot and it got hard for her. She left me in our third year.”

Karen self-consciously reached out to take Andy’s hand, squeezed it, and they exchanged a look of sympathy. She felt that they were privileged to be hearing Pete’s story. Her intuition was confirmed, and it occurred to her there was more to the tale.

“Actually,” Pete said, “I usually just say I was married and got divorced.”

“Did you never try for reconciliation after she left?” Karen asked.

“I gave it three years, until the end of 2009, and then I filed for divorce,” he said. “It would have been hard to get in touch with me after that.” He didn’t mention his rollercoaster lifestyle and brush with alcohol after Alice left. He also didn’t want to mention the recent unopened email he had received from her.

“Was there anybody else?” Karen’s eyes were bright again.

Andy looked at her with furrowed brow and his lips parted, questioning her silently.

Pete looked at his beer as he considered his reply. “Not as far as I know.”

Andy had heard enough. He admired the man, because he hadn’t slated his wife for her actions. It seemed that he accepted some of the responsibility, and that deserved respect.

“So,” Andy said, “moving onto something I’m interested in. What’s this project you told me about yesterday, mate?”

“I’ve sent a proposal to the editor of ‘Earth, Wind, and Fire’. They are the magazine paying me the most money. I want to follow up my work on illegal fishing, the abuse of international fishing rights, and the effect on local ecology.”

Karen’s jaw dropped. “Is that the official Greenearth magazine?”

“Yes,” Pete said. “I’ve already filed all my work on the problem around the U.K. coastline. My proposed assignment has funds allocated so I can visit Central America. The problem is rife on both coastlines there, but mainly on the west.”

Karen was about to say something, but Andy silenced her with a raised hand.

He said: “Have you had any word back from the editor yet, mate?”

“Actually, I got an email earlier today,” Pete said and smiled. “I could be on my way soon, if I can find the right contact on the other side.”

“Andy,” Karen said, “how often have I said I’d love to go there?”

“Well you’re not bloody going with Pete.”

They all laughed, and it eased the atmosphere. They finished their evening on a high, discussing the difference in the climate between the U.K. and Central America.

Pete stood up to go and addressed them both. “Thank you for a great evening, and Karen, the meal was delicious.”

“It was my pleasure,” Karen said. “I’m sure we’ll get together again before you go.”

“I look forward to it,” Pete said. “Good night.”

*

Monday, 9th August 2010

Panama, Central America.

Bonita leaned on the end of the bench. She watched as her boss closed the diary and switched on her laptop. Whilst the machine was starting up, the assistant made her suggestion.

“I’ve fixed us up some lemon tea, because it’ll be pleasant out there for a while, and we can have an early morning chat before work.”

“You mean there’s something on your mind,” Gloria said as she stood and accepted her mug. She went out to the covered walkway to stand beside Bonita. They both watched as the rainclouds started to build over the open sea. The two women held their hot drinks with both hands as a sea breeze brought the aroma of the liquid to their nostrils.

Gloria decided to get in her question first and turned to her colleague. “How did it go over the week-end? Did one of the handsome young men in Lamarosa try to take you for a late evening walk?”

“Of course not,” Bonita said.

“Now don’t lie to me,” Gloria teased. “Does that mean nobody tried, or they did but failed?”

The younger woman lived up to her Spanish name. She was pretty. As she was only 20 years old, most men and teenage boys would say that in her case, pretty was an understatement. Just like her boss, her hair was long and almost black. They both also had long lashes and a golden tropical tan. She flashed a smile before speaking again.

“Only one tried,” Bonita said. It was known that she always stressed to potential suitors that her work came first. ‘Work and study are the most important things in my life,’ she would announce as she left them looking longingly at her.

She was aware of her desirability, and though she was inexperienced, she flirted outrageously with local men. Flirting with the mature men was a traditional pastime and much enjoyed by the targets of the affection. She continued to look out to the lightning storm many miles across the sea, before continuing.

“Do you think there is somebody for every one of us?”

“I’m sure there is,” Gloria said, and her brow furrowed as she looked at her understudy. “You have a long life ahead of you. Don’t worry about such things. You’re a very attractive girl now, and you will still be when you qualify. Take your time growing up.”

Sometimes when the scientist appraised her assistant she saw herself standing there, just as she might have been when she was a student. So full of confidence and hope, eager to grow and learn more. She too, had been full of wonder at the aquatic, and sometimes minuscule world she studied, and less in wonder at the world she belonged to as a member of the human race.

Years before, when she was younger, Gloria would tell herself that the word ‘race’ was apt. Man, as a species didn’t seem to know how to tread carefully, and take stock of what the earth offered. There always appeared to be a reason to hurry and discover something, purely so that it could be exploited for human benefit. The next question caught Gloria off guard and brought her back to the present.

“Did you think your husband was the right one?” Bonita asked, and then bit her lip. “I’m so sorry, forgive me for such an intrusion.”

“It’s okay,” her boss said, rallying to appear calm. “You see we all grow with certain ideals, just as you are doing now. At your age, my traditional upbringing had me believing that it was right, that I should play second-fiddle to my man.”

The younger woman couldn’t prevent her eyes opening a little wider at that statement.

Gloria noticed it and continued. “When I first married it all seemed okay, but I had already experienced my independence, having been to university in the U.S.,” she paused and sighed. “Our marriage was irreparably damaged because of that.”

There was more, but that was all she told anybody except Luisa, her best friend. Some things could only be shared with a woman’s closest friend. She turned to stare out to sea again as a crack of thunder sounded, and the waves looked as if they had responded. There were no seabirds braving the change of conditions and the sky became dark and broody.

Both women stood in silence for a few minutes, watching the power of the elements. The wind built up, rustling the leaves and branches of the nearby palms, whistling eerily through the jungle behind them. Also, the Howler monkeys and Green parrots were quiet, as if they knew a greater power was at play. It seemed to stir Gloria back into action and back to the present.

“Don’t you worry my girl,” Gloria said with a friendly squeeze of her hand on the younger woman’s shoulder. “There is somebody out there for you. You just have to be patient.”

Bonita turned to look at her wise and well-respected boss, and smiled.

“Now,” the biologist said, “let’s get back inside. These specimens are not going to check themselves.” They both laughed, and the situation was eased as they went back to work. As she followed her colleague back inside her own statement made her think, about the men who were recently vying for her attention. They were two very different men.

Gloria was a woman in charge of her own life, and she had a positive outlook on it. She had learned a bitter lesson with her husband and felt beyond the stage of depending on a man. Any new relationship would be on a different footing. Having such an important job had seen her through the marriage break-up. It kept her going on a daily basis.

She was confident that when the time was right, the opportunity would present itself for her. She would experience something meaningful again, with a partner.

***

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