We packed up our stuff as quickly as we could and brought it up to Dex’s black Highlander, another sight I almost cried at. I hugged the car, so grateful to see something from our other life, something solid, real and familiar.
We had driven through the streets looking for some place to gather our strength before the morning came and we would have to explain to Zach what happened. The boat was fine despite everything, but Dex would probably have to replace the Zodiac, which wasn’t going to be inexpensive. The money didn’t seem like a big deal after everything we had gone through, but it was nothing to sneeze at either.
The other issue was that not only had Dex’s iPhone drowned when he went to rescue me from the coffin, but we lost the backpack with the Super 8 camera to the depths of the sea. The only concrete footage we had, the only footage that was really spectacular and proved we weren’t full of shit, was now resting at the bottom of the ocean, alongside the library books about the island. They were probably the only books in publication too. Maybe that’s where they all belonged. Their watery grave.
Dex wasn’t sure what to say to Jimmy about the loss. He was going to see what he could salvage from the other cameras before he brought them on the boat. There was the scene with the deer in the night, and a few other instances that might be compelling enough to make an episode out of them. We would have to wait and see. And of course the intro we shot, my red low–cut shirt, the setting sun over the beach. My goodness, that seemed like another lifetime.
I got up from my seat and looked at the iPhone, which was charging at the wall outlet beneath the counter across from us. It was powered and the texts from Ada and my family were coming in one after another. I just didn’t have the energy to deal with them.
I sat back down and took a sip of my hot peppermint tea. “Give it a few minutes. Too many texts coming in.”
“You should tell your parents you’re alive,” he said. “I have a feeling they’ve put an APB out for me.”
“It’s the facial hair, I’m telling ya.” I smiled, even though his beard was taking away the rapist qualities of his moustache.
“I’m serious,” he said and I could see he was. “They must be worried sick about you. Go call them now.”
“It’s 2 a.m.”
“They aren’t sleeping.”
I sighed and unplugged the phone. It had enough juice for a quick call. I went into the women’s washroom for privacy and dialed.
My dad answered right away.
There was a lot of yelling and crying and screaming and sobbing and lecturing. Not only from my dad, but from my mother and from Ada as well, who was also up and worried sick. I couldn’t tell them the truth. Well, I could tell them the truth but I knew it was pointless. So I told them an abbreviated version of the truth. Zodiac deflated (mysteriously), phones had died, storm came in, yadda yadda.
I knew that once I arrived at the house tomorrow, I would get the same lecture, yelling, crying all over again, and I’d once more have to explain my whole story. But I would be home and that was the most important thing of all.
“By the way. Happy Birthday,” my dad said before he hung up. “We love you.”
“Thanks, Dad,” I said, feeling teary. “I love you guys too.”
I staggered out of the bathroom, a weight lifted from my shoulders, and handed the phone to Dex, pressing it into his hand.
“Now it’s your turn. You have a family now. Call your baby mama and let her know you’re dandy, capiche?”
He sucked on his lip, probably thinking of excuses why he shouldn’t. But he nodded and got up. The responsibility must have started to sink in.
He left the diner at the front door and stood outside, lighting up a cigarette and putting the phone to his ear. I couldn’t read his face from the fluorescent glare inside.
He was on the phone for only a few minutes. He puffed on the cigarette, the smoke rising around him and floating away into the night. He stared across the parking lot, transfixed by nothing in particular, thinking about who knows what. Then he stubbed out the cigarette and came back inside.
He hooked the iPhone back up to the charger and sat back down at his seat.
“I think I’m going to quit smoking,” he said brightly.
I cocked my head at him. “OK. Well, good. What brought that on?”
He shrugged. “I don’t know. I had started thinking about how I would have to change if I was going to be a dad. Smoking just didn’t seem…appropriate.”
“Fair enough,” I said, my heart still lurching about at the mention of his impending fatherhood. I tried to hide the feeling but it was there whether I liked it or not.
“How is Jennifer?” I asked, trying to sound breezy.
“She’s great, actually,” he said taking a slurp of his coffee and grimacing. He waved over the waitress, pointing at his cup for another refill. “She’s not pregnant.”
“Uh…” It was the only word I could form in response to that bombshell.
“Yeah, she’s not pregnant,” he said quickly and with a smile as the waitress refilled his cup. She caught the tail end of that and was giving him an unimpressed look. He noticed, grinned at her and winked.
She shook her head and went back behind the counter to read her Hello! Canada magazine. Dex looked at me. “I’m telling you. Waitresses find me adorable.”
I raised my eyebrow. “Let’s go back to what you just said. Jennifer is not pregnant. Are you sure?”
“Well, I’m taking her word for it but she went to the doctor on over the weekend to get a blood test. It came back today as negative. She took two more pregnancy tests. They were all the same. I guess she got a false positive the other day.”
It was sick to admit it but there was a wonderfully giddy feeling rising up inside of me. It made me feel ashamed. I watched him carefully. He seemed fine, but maybe I just wanted him to be fine. I certainly did not expect him to feel like I did.
“Are you OK with it?” I asked.
“Yeah. I’m fine with it.”
“And is Jenn OK?”
He frowned. “I think so. Yeah, I think so. We’re good.”
“So…” what does it mean now, I thought. But I didn’t dare ask it.
“So…” he mused.
He took a sip of his coffee. I took a sip of my tea. There was nothing left to say about it. I sat back in my chair. We both watched each other for a few beats. The quiet sounds of the diner filled my ears. This weekend had taken our relationship further than I ever thought it would go. The strip club. Finding out Jenn was pregnant. A night of ecstasy (for me, anyway). The mental institute. Jenn not being pregnant in the end. And yet I was just scratching the surface. We had come so far and, for me, it just wasn’t enough.
I pulled back my jacket sleeve, inspecting the bandages. They looked fine, though I knew we’d both have to go to the doctor as soon as we got back into the country.
I eyed the anchor silly band on my wrist, happy that the roses hadn’t cut it off and smiled. I looked up at him, hoping he hadn’t caught me staring at the band with a sappy and mushy expression on my face. He was resting his chin on his hand and staring out the window. He quickly glanced at me out of the corner of his eye and smiled warmly in return. He saw. And it was OK.
* * *
We were sitting inside the ferry as it motored its way back to Vancouver, the mainland and the way home. Dex was chewing Nicorette, more properly than normal, still deciding to honor his decision to quit smoking. We both stared out the salt–stained window at the sea. The morning was clear, the sun’s streams of light were twinkling brightly on the calm water. Not a hint of red in the sky.