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The following story is for adults and contains graphic descriptions of sexual contact between adolescent and adult males and the power imbalance of these relationships. Like so many of my stories, this is a voyage and return.

If you are a minor, then it is illegal for you to read this story. If you find the subject objectionable, then read no further. All the characters, events and settings are the product of my overactive imagination. I hope you like it and feel free to respond.

Fourteen runs through five progressions, with frequent interludes. If you would like to comment, contact me at ail.

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Thanks so much to Philip Marks for his contributions and the background conversations that bring the story onto the page. I also want to add a shout-out to Mischief Night who answered my call for a proofreader. Thanks to those who keep Philip and me updated on your interest.

Theo 7

St. John’s, Antigua

November 27, 2018

“People didn”t believe that I was really a lesbian. They thought that, because I was raped as a teenager, my fear of men made me gay.”

Samantha Jonas is still athletic at fifty-seven. Mary Rule stands in the guest-room door watching Samantha talk to Zion Baptiste and Theo Clarke. The local activist projects confidence. “I’m a lesbian,” she tells the young girl. “I was like that before the rape. I was attracted to females and that’s my life.”

Theo Clarke sits beside Zion in the school uniform that cannot quite hide who he is. Samantha turns to him. “You’re very lucky that your mamma supports you. You hug that woman, tell her how lucky you feel!”

“I do,” Theo assures her, all emotional.

Growing up, Samantha Jonas always wanted to dress as a boy. “I’d wear pants and a shirt, and two weeks later my mom would cut them up and throw them away. She’d give me money, I’d go out and buy men’s clothes, and she’d cut them up and throw them away again.”

“My momma taught me how to sew,” Theo interjects. He would find an outfit, she would help him fit it to his growing body like a glove.

Mary Rule is amazed by Samantha’s strength. She can see the spark of Samantha’s conviction stoking Zion’s courage. Zion is much like Mary remembers herself at that young age, full of dangerous feelings, cautious about exposing them to the censor of her conservative community. Mary has been to Zion’s school, worshipped with her family’s congregation. Jeremy’s friend’s life is not completely comfortable; her family does not accept Zion’s sexuality. But from her visits, Mary sees love between them. She understands the young girl’s situation very well.

“When you get to be two old birds like Mary and me, you’ll realize that life’s too short. Be proud, make a difference, be change.”

Mary taught young minds to make her difference. She would not compare herself to Samantha. Her new Antiguan friend helped found Antigua’s and Barbuda’s first LGBT organization.

She helps kids who are kicked out of their homes find shelter, supports them in school, and helps them to come out of the closet. God’s mercy, the woman distributes condoms and brings medication to people who are HIV-positive, Mary reminds herself. That is more than Mary and Kate ever did in Nova Scotia, for all their liberal aspirations.

We could have done more than reap the benefits of other people’s courage, Katie girl. Mary turns back to the guest bedroom where her brand new luggage sits beside the bed. There is not much to pack. Samantha helped her sort through things on Gravity. The useful things would be left for Jeremy. Her clothes were worn by the years at sea. Best to start fresh, Mary decides. Gravity is ready for her boy, but the stubbornness of men! Jeremy came back, deciding against taking her offer if he could not pay her something for a share of the boat.

“Give us a dollar for it, you flaming proud fairy!” Mary scolded his determination, “I’ll sign it over free and clear, so you won’t think of me each time you sail. You sink it, your problem, with no blame from me, you stubborn nancy-boy!”

Jeremy would have none of that proposition. “I have a plan!” and that was all he would say about it. “We’ll share Gravity, that way I know you’ll come back to Antigua.” Oh, the heart of the boy, Mary thinks. She likes Antigua, she likes Samantha, and there is Jeremy.

Branko introduced Mary to Samantha at a garden party. Samantha showed Mary about the island and Mary brought her on a weekend cruise to Guadeloupe. Mary had reasons to come back to Antigua and Barbuda, but Samantha’s activism gives her reasons to go back to Nova Scotia. Her life might be more than tending an old memory-house and greeting Kate’s stray dogs in the park across the street.

Mary turns back to Samantha’s tiny living room. The teenagers are listening to Samantha with bright eyes and hope.

“I thought, well I’m personally going to make a stand. You can make a difference in this country and in its LGBT community,” Samantha is urging Zion.

“Female couples can kiss in public, but a man on a man could never do that,” Branko explained to Mary. She thinks of Jeremy and Theo’s prospects. Branko says proud Theo will be frequently harassed, threatened. One time this month while Jeremy was away, Mary walked with Theo, and a group of men started yelling insults at him. “He has to dial it back,” Branko advises.

Mary looks at her fresh airline tickets beside her passport. Jeremy asked for patience, his eyes shining with optimism about some scheme to buy his way into Gravity. He seems prepared to face the realities of Antigua eyes wide open. She trusts he will be reasonable about the help he obviously needs.

St. John”s, Antigua

November 28, 2018

The law firm doesn”t look all that much like the fancy ones Jeremy seen on TV; it is more of an ordinary business office, but it is located in the nicer districts not far from the Cove and Blackburn Park district of St. John”s.

Jeremy enters with a hopeful heart, and considerable enthusiasm for his business. This is going to work, Mary! The five-hundred-dollar tip that Linda Peck gave him at the end of his cruise is safely in the bank along with his wages from Emil L”heureux. “I want to thank you, Jeremy. Olivia and Chris had a special time, thanks to you.”

The receptionist takes his name, acknowledges his appointment and asks him to wait in the lobby. In short order a middle-aged man, maybe forty, dressed in a white suit comes out.

“Ah, young Master Gates, welcome to Joseph Joseph in total there are fourteen patios and fourteen gates. Most apartments have a nice view of the harbor and the ocean, one building looks inward to the courtyard and outward to the hills.”

“On the fourth side, one classroom will also be made into a bachelor unit; the other classroom is combined with some of the original office space to make a two-bedroom unit. One small office is retained for the management of the property. If you have been counting, that makes thirteen single units and one two-bedroom, for a total of fourteen.

“In rebuilding we have had to update the structure. The original stone is attractive but very old and weak; we had to take it apart to build concrete walls for the stone to attach to. The metal rebar will help to make it earthquake and hurricane resistant. This is the most modern way to build in Antigua.”

“Now half the units have been modernized and rented out or are used for BnB operation; the Trust keeps some of the rental income in a fund used to pay for more renovations, our firm”s fees, and as an ongoing reserve for the property”s operation. If a bill comes in that the current month”s rents cannot cover for example, this fund is used for that purpose.

“Does all that make sense to you, sir?”

Jeremy stirs, “Um, yeah I sort of think I understand; I have seen the property. You could tell me more and I”ll ask questions later.”

They are interrupted as the secretary brings coffee and they resume.

“One point is that the original investment must remain in Antigua and Barbuda for twenty-five years. This is a requirement of the investor citizenship law. That is not a concern as we can establish that the full amount of $400,000 was invested in the property, including renovations. So profits beyond that may be taken out and put to some other use. However the property itself must remain in the Trust, or if the property were to be sold it must be replaced with some other approved real estate totaling $400,000 and located in the islands.”

“As the asset appreciates – increases in value – the increase could in theory be taken out, though in the case of this property that would be difficult since you can”t divide or sell portions of it. At least it would be very difficult to do that.”

“I don”t wanna sound stupid but what”s an asset?” Jeremy asks.

“Ah not at all stupid, sir. For our purposes today an asset is anything that has value that endures, and in our example, the item must also generate or create money or more value in some way. Stock in a company could be an asset, bonds are assets, diamonds or gold are assets, a business can be an asset; and real estate in particular is an asset; and the particular Antiguan law involved means the original amount has to stay invested in real estate. Does that answer your question?” The man pauses.

“Um…yeah I am pretty sure I understand.”

“So at the moment there is a cash balance slightly under $25,000 US dollars all from rental of the units. The amounts fluctuate as net income – net income means the income after expenses from the rental of the units is deducted – are added to it, we call those retained earnings. However only half of the units have been renovated to this point, one is just getting finished up and ready for market; cebeci escort six are rented, three to full time tenants; three as AirBnB units.

“And the seven other apartments have all been vacated now, we had some trouble with the mixing of new renters and those who could only afford the unrenovated units. We had a little trouble renting the new ones, and when we are ready to renovate a unit it”s much easier if it is already vacant. So we paid the three remaining tenants a small bonus to move out. The last left two months ago. So there are seven units not occupied and waiting for us to accumulate the money needed to update them, plus one we can rent soon. We will renovate two or three classrooms at a time over the next two years as it”s more efficient than doing one at a time. The more we rehabilitate of course the more rent we can get, and the more money we”ll have to speed things up. If they all rent well we might finish in a year.

“So most current income is being diverted to operating costs and especially to renovation of the other units. We predict another $100,000 in total renovation for them. So you can see the $25,000 on hand is barely enough for one. And the total investment when all fourteen are done will be on the order of $500,000 dollars. Once all units are updated and generating income in the long run the funds will increase handsomely. Mr. Holland, Dr. Fisher, and the firm have made a very good investment on your behalf. The whole of the property could be worth a million US dollars in five years as property values grow, in addition to earnings generated by the rentals once they are all done.

“In two years you may expect a tidy cash flow each month for use in making future investments or to use for your own personal purposes. It”s better to keep the money in the trust and reinvest in something where it won”t be taxed but you can take some for yourself if the principal trustee agrees. Of course it will continue to be necessary to keep some liquid funds for operations and maintenance to keep the value up. But if you reinvest well you could have over two million US dollars in the trust in say, ten years. And that is when the trust can be turned over to you, at age twenty-five.”

“Wait, what is liquid funds?” Jeremy hopes this is all written down so he can review it with his dad.

“Oh simply a way of saying cash, which can be spent easily, as opposed to money tied up in real estate, which would have to be sold or mortgaged in order to get cash. Even when the properties are all renovated and generating money, only a part of the proceeds will be available to other uses. And of course the wise man will invest a good part of the rest in something as well to keep the trust itself growing. As I say by the time you are twenty-five you could have very substantial wealth.”

“And I”m guessing cash flow just means that leftover money you talked about?”

“Almost. Cash flow is the total money the investment generates, the net cash flow is the amount after expenses and taxes and is what you would have available each month, but again one should reinvest as much as possible especially in your youth. I must say you have a knack for understanding business, young sir. For our discussion it is money that flows from the investment; the profits that remain after expenses.”

He pauses here and delays by taking a sip of bottled water. This is the delicate part of the discussion, which so far has gone well.

“So you have asked to have the use of the funds in the liquid cash account.”

“Under the laws of Antigua and Barbuda, we are bound, as a fiduciary of the Trust to strictly follow the terms of the Trust. A fiduciary,” he interrupts himself, “is a way of saying we are financially responsible for what we do in handling the Trust. We must carry that duty with care.

“The Trust documents provide that the management of this Trust and its assets will all revert to you at the age of twenty-five. Until then we or anyone else who is a Trustee are required to operate and make decisions that are in your interests and that preserve the Trust until that time. We keep essentially all the wealth this Trust generates inside the trust to maximize its value. And the manager of the Trust, Mr. Holland at the moment, can direct us within the corners of the law in making decisions, he has mostly left it to us.

“Which brings us to your request for disbursement of some of this money. Now the law of Trusts does make it possible for us to disburse some part of it, give it to you before you come of full age; after you are twenty-five you could have access to anything above the core investment – that must remain. But we must be prepared to justify it as being in your best interests short term as well as long term, and normally such a disbursement must be justified as an emergency or unusually urgent need. Oh and disbursement as I said is taxable, the earnings of the Trust are not taxed until disbursed out of the Trust which is an excellent reason that net rental income is reinvested in further development of the property.

“I am afraid in this matter, our hands are tied; at this time while the Trust technically would allow us to disburse some money based on your need, there just isn”t much available money for that purpose. What exists is needed to keep the renovations moving forward. Again in the long run this is very much to your benefit. The sooner renovation happens the more money can be generated. And the sooner we invest that money the more it earns, in this case the investment is in more renovations but later, who knows, more real estate perhaps.

“Now some small amount might be made available but hardly what you are seeking. Perhaps a few hundred or even one thousand dollars if that would help your situation. I cannot promise even that but I anticipate the senior partners could be persuaded.”

Seeing the boy”s reaction, he takes a moment before continuing.

“However, there is one other possible way in which we might be able to help.”

Gravity is not coming closer to being his, from the way all of this sounds. Ten years is a lifetime away! Seeing a ray of hope, Jeremy says, “What can you do?”

“Well, It might be possible if you wish you could occupy one of the units, either full time or a BnB unit when it”s not rented out. There”s a down side; that would reduce the amount of money for renovations, but I think it could be justified.

“However if instead of a renovated unit you perhaps take one that is not yet renovated, this would be better as it would not reduce the income at all for the next year or more. In effect your only cost would be for electric and water services, the trust loses nothing as the units are not rented anyway. Of course you would have to vacate when we renovate but it could be the last unit done, so you would have perhaps a year, maybe more.

“In either case we”d be using the asset in your best interests, preserving the value, and with a place to live you would obviously need less income for your other needs. And as there would be no money involved, there is no tax for the Trust to pay.

“The other possibility I am obliged to explain to you, would be for you to retain a solicitor and instruct a lawsuit be filed in the courts to force us to disburse the funds. I would be happy to refer you to a solicitor but I have to tell you, it is highly unlikely you would succeed since the vast amount of the Trust must remain in Antiguan real estate and the costs of such a suit would probably exceed any amount that could be disbursed.”

Jeremy has a heavy feeling in his chest. He had put a lot of hope on this. “Well, I was planning to live on my boat, so I wouldn”t need one of the units,” he says with resignation. The disappointment hurts.

Mr Joseph is used to giving out bad news, and knows to keep his silence for a little. Then, “Well, I am sorry Master Jeremy, but I can promise you that in the longer term you will do handsomely owning this property and we will endeavor to keep your investment in condition to grow in value. And of course we are happy to help you with any other legal needs you might have. You are our very good customer.”

Jeremy leaves with a heavy heart. He has no choice but to tell Mary Rule he cannot buy Gravity, even a part of the small sloop. All he can do is sneak into Theo’s room when Theo’s aunt Ronica is not looking, hoping that Theo’s cousins keep the secret. Barring that, he can ask Claark and Anna van der Merwe to let him turn the unused shipping container behind Lekker Braai into a bedroom until he can find something better. George Thomas probably won’t share his crash pad over at Shekerley Boatyard.

Jeremy is determined to stay away from Levi Fisher’s Fourteen Gates. If he has to, he will sleep on the street, spend money on the expensive hostel in English Harbour. He can swallow his pride and take Mary Rule’s offer, accept the risk of losing it later, live on the street, or go back to Levi Fisher’s Luxor Winnebago, which is what Fourteen Gates really is. Yeah, just put the silver necklace back around my fucking neck. I’m out of options here, Jeremy sighs,

I can’t do shit, Jeremy accused himself as he sat in Malcolm King’s AV Bolinger driving back to the Pueblo after his first attempt to walk out on his own. There are almost-tears he does not want the people on the street to notice. Another cliff I can’t climb back up or down because I’m in the dark. A barn, an Ohio pasture, a livingroom in San Ysidro, trapped and helpless. Too stupid to end a shitty now. Jeremy’s chest hurts in the Antiguan heat. He knows he has to find a taxi that will take him back to Falmouth.

But Shane and Jeremy taught themselves to swim when they were six. Levi taught him to drive the Jeep beside Bull Shoals, Jeremy learned to climb with Keon King and how to sail with Anton Schroeder. “You can do it.” He does it. I’ve done shit. The interview was just another face plant and he has to grind this problem out çeşme escort so he can level up.

It is Fourteen Gates or mom and dad unless … Unless he tries one other way!

Chillicothe, Ohio

November 28, 2018

“Hello Mom. How”s things in Ohio?” Jeremy tries to downplay his nerves. He”s got a bad feeling in his stomach but he”s determined to find a way to make sharing Gravity with Mary Rule work fairly.

“I”m fine son, and so is your dad.” What Remy is doing is looking at the grotesque inflation of cost and expectations young parenthood entails. $1,349.00 for a stroller? Am I going to take up jogging? There was a good chance Herb and Mary had already purchased one.

“How about Sophie? Is the baby ready to come?”

“I”m excited, Jem, it looks like a few days at most and your new sister will be with us.”

“Wow that is exciting. And all three of you, you still want to raise the baby, Mom?”

“Your father and I really do, Jem, and it was Sophie”s idea, she hasn”t changed her mind about it.”

“Wow that is gonna be so cool, to finally have a little sister!”

“Yes. We”re feeling very blessed, Jeremy.” A pause. “Jem we”ve been thinking about Christmas. You know your father and I were planning to come to Antigua. With the baby coming we”ve decided the thing to do is to have a family reunion there, so you can meet Sky and we can see all the things you”re doing.”

“Wow, that”s great mom!”

“I think Aunt Anita can join us for a few days. And your grandparents are agreeable.”

Jeremy has a queasy feeling in his stomach. He wants to see them all, and his mom especially; he”s worried that they won”t approve of what he”s accomplished. Plus, well, there isn”t a lot of accomplishment so far.

“Oh,” he pauses, “ahh…yeah that”s good mom. But will the baby be okay to fly?”

“Unless something develops it”s okay. We”ll have to get her a New Zealand passport because her father isn”t here to sign for an American passport, but Sophie says that won”t be a problem.”

“Oh, yeah, sure that makes sense. So  you and Dad and Grandpa and Grandma and Sophie and Aunt Anita and Sky? That”s…. can you get a hotel for that many people this close to Christmas? That”s the high tourist season?”

“I already checked and we have two BnB units next to each other that can accommodate six. We may have to split up for the flights a bit but we can all fly together out of Miami … are you concerned about this, Jem?”

“Well, just, I might have to work some, mostly the restaurant.”

“Well I”m sure we can make it work.”

“Uhhh…hey mom, could I talk to dad?”

“Of course hun. Just a second…” Remy looks at Grey beside her. He points at a practical crib on his phone. The one Jeremy grew in would apparently land them both in jail for child endangerment.

“Hello?”

“Hi Dad.”

“Hi son, how are you doing?” Remy and Greyson smile at each other, because a three-way conversation is always something joyful.

“Um, well, pretty well I guess. I am wondering where the emancipation thing is at.”

“I”d have to check with Bill Price, but based on what he said last time it will take a little while longer.” Greyson and Remy share the familiar regret that things have come to this pass, but this is mingled with a shared pride in their son.

“Oh. Okay … see I have to talk to you about something. That is part of it but …”

“Sure Jeremy, I”ll give him a call to check on it tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Dad, but – well that”s not it, that”s not the important thing right now.”

“Okay well, just tell me what you need, Jeremy.”

“Yeah. Well see I told you I need to find more work, but Anton is having the boat shipped out and that leaves me without a place to live,” there”s some strain in his voice as he continues, “and housing, any kind of place here, can be pretty expensive. But I have an opportunity that”s really good, a place to live and a way to make money.” His father continues to listen without comment, which makes him nervous.

“Well, you know about my friend Mary Rule, right?”

“Yes, the teacher from Canada.”

“Well, Mary left her sloop here in the islands. It”s older and not very big, but it”s nice and really well equipped for a single crew to run. So she wants someone, well, she wants me to take care of it and she”s offered to go into partnership with me and have me use it for sailing charters, day trips, that kind of thing.”

“Well, son, that”s interesting.” He hesitates a moment, then in a studied neutrality, “I don”t know anything about that business.”

“See she just offered to let me do it, but Dad, but the thing is, well I can”t take charity here. I can”t take the partnership without putting up money to buy a share of Gravity. That”s the name of the boat. But if I do then I have a place to live, the boat.”

“I see what you”re saying son. I”m not sure how I feel about it, but if you are emancipated it means you get to make the decisions that I or your mom would normally make. So I assume you”re just seeking advice here?”

“Right, Dad. I want some advice. But see, I need to borrow the money to buy my share. I think I need to pay her $10,000 though I think I can work out a payment plan. My deal with Mary is to keep two-thirds of the net income, that”s the income after expenses.”

“Yes son, I understand net income,” Greyson is amused.

“Oh right, well anyway I can make payments to you if you loan me the money. And it could be a little less than that ten thousand cuz Mary would take payments from me too. But I would need to put up at least half the boat”s value.”

Thoughtfully, Greyson considers the request. “Son, let me ask you, and I”m not saying no, I need to talk to your mom and think this out from our end; but if we don”t loan the money, what is your backup plan? Or do you have a backup plan? I guess I”m saying we”d like you to learn to make contingency plans – in case things don”t work out. As much hard work as you put in, sometimes things don”t work out and adults have to be ready to do something else when it happens.”

“Oh. Well. I”m not sure. I”m doing all the odd jobs I can find, and they make enough to pay for my living expenses except a place to live. I don”t know what I can do … oh well, I don”t want to do this but— “ he pauses to collect himself.  “Did you get the paperwork for the Trust yet? Because I talked to the lawyer here and he said he”d sent it.”

“Yes, we did and we”ve agreed to take over as Principal Trustees. I still have a lot to do to understand it all.”

“Well, there is one thing, I”d rather not … but the lawyer said that I could live in an empty unit, one that hasn”t been redone yet. He said I could live there for free because it doesn”t cost anything. I”d just have to pay utilities. Maybe for a whole year.”

“First off son, that sounds a lot more practical and reliable as a place to stay. Even if you pursue the charter boat idea I think having a place to stay on land would be a good idea and one that costs you almost nothing – I mean,  you won”t be using much in the way of utilities when you are sailing. Well I would urge you to take that deal at least you have a backstop if you need it.”

“Uhh … let me think on that some more Dad …”

“Of course, that is really yours to decide, son.”

“Dad you and Mom have been really good to me, helping me to do what I need to do. But … well what about the boat loan, Dad?”

Greyson hesitates. “I think I need to know a lot more, and your mom will have to be part of this too. You are making this a business proposition to us, I think you should learn to write up a business plan. Doing that will help you to see what it will take to make that work, and it will help us to decide if it makes sense to help you with it. So I”m not saying yes or no but I think you need to do that.  I will talk to your mom about all this too.”

Later that evening, in the parlor, while building a fire against the Ohio winter, Greyson speaks to Remy.

“Hun I am thinking that, well, we could give him the money we got out of selling that Winnebago. I don”t think I mentioned it to him. It”s pretty close to what he is saying he needs for this boat thing. I just don”t know what I think about the charter cruise idea. It”s outside my experience.”

“Grey, I have a some concerns here and the first is, all this time he”s been sailing as part of a larger crew, now he”d be sailing all alone, or with passengers who might not know how to help if something happened. Do you think this is safe?”

Thinking it over, he replies, “Safety is a legitimate concern. I don”t know how – ah! You forget that we have a sailing expert right upstairs!”

“Oh, of course, I think she”s asleep by now but we can ask her in the morning. The other thing, do you think he can actually put a plan together? Don”t you think he”s at least going to need a lot of help with that?”

“Yes as to the business plan, he does need help, it”s more than he knows how to do. I should put together some examples for him and some reading … in fact I should talk to Rita Clement about it too. I”m more concerned about how much room we should give to let him fail if that”s what happens. Failure is a great teacher but I don”t want him carrying a full set of adult worries emancipation or no.”

“Grey it seems to me that if he were here and in school, the issue might be different but – that”s what we would do anyway. You let kids make mistakes, let them fail as long as it”s not too dangerous, too big of a failure could break a kid. But some chance to succeed and do it on his own … He”ll learn if this works, and he”ll learn if it fails.”

“Maybe so, but I don”t like the idea of letting him fail. After all the other things he”s been through I don”t want anything to discourage him more than must be.”

Middleground Trail, English Harbour

November 29, 2018

The long hike took them up from Pigeon Point Beach along a rocky trail. The path cim cif yapan escort turned along the crest where the hikers could see the streaks of boats circling around to the harbor’s entrance. Beyond one boat, the clouds came down to the ocean, and then disintegrated into a grey, translucent smear. The rain line moved away from them towards Montserrat.

They have to stop on a bare rock where they have an unobstructed view of the harbor mouth. The finger where the historial fort ly guarding the harbor entrance leads Jeremy‘s eyes across the narrow mouth to the Pillars of Hercules. He can see the white line of the surf washing over the shingle beach he explored his first week.

Galleon Beach has its regatta and the villas lining the slope behind it. Beyond the wooded folds to the left, Jeremy’s eyes rest on Fourteen Gates and Antigua slipway. His eyes drop to the bare path they are following. The path draws attention directly to his dilemma.

Jeremy’s companions are with Theo, a dozen paces behind. They are unmoved by the view, laughing together about some antics at Zion’s school. Here on their own, they can be out and express themselves honestly.

“Pay it forward, Jeremy,” Mary tells him.

“What do you mean?”

“Take the help you have been offered. This is the time you need it. Take an old woman’s handout, if that is the way you see it. Take Gravity because right now, your only other choice is to go home or live on the beach. That’s not the path you want to take, so accept my offer, and then pay it forward.”

“I might never pay you back.”

“Oh, I know what you are thinking, kid. The old bag of bones with the tired ticker is going to clock out before you are on your feet.”

“Don’t talk like that, Mary.”

“You never know, beside the point, bucko-bum-boy. I said pay it forward, big or small. When you have the means, hold out your hand and help someone else.”

Could he do that? Sophie Wright was there in San Diego to open a door when he needed one. Jeremy might find some way to pay her back. He had in fact. Jeremy loaned her money to fly to San Francisco. Sophie’s baby, Jeremy’s goddaughter Sky, must be due soon, and maybe partly due to him, little Sky had found a safe home with his parents. He forgot if Sophie had told him when the new member of the family was to arrive. Rita Clement was another helpful soul. Jeremy did not know how he could repay Rita Clement for her help, the hours she was spending with him. Perhaps his mom and dad were paying her.

Mary offering to leave Gravity in Antigua is beyond all that. “You love that boat. The time, the money you put into it,” Jeremy reminds her.

Mary might say, The satisfaction was in the doing. For the price of a new car, she had years of creativity and problem-solving to entertain her. She had the satisfaction of sharing that with Kate, and then Gravity’s consolation in her grief. She fulfilled her dream and crossed the Arctic Circle on both coasts.

“It is quite a thing,” Mary agrees. “Gravity should be in motion.”

“Yes,” Jeremy understands. He thinks of the sadness of Sirocco, tugging at its anchor like a dog scratching at the door, needing to be let out for a run.

“So take the damn thing! Should I sail it back to Halifax, let the winter ice and salt gnaw at it until I finally sell it to some stranger? I’d rather know you had my boat and kept the breath of life in it. Add some new adventures to the logbook. You’ll tend to Gravity’s needs.”

“You’d come back, won’t you?”

“Everytime I’m tired of the snow.”

With that, things shift in Jeremy’s mind. He understands that he could do this without guilt.

V.C. Bird International Airport

November 30, 2018

Theo perches on Jeremy’s 2003 Zuma 125cc wishing even more that it was a dirty white Vespa scooter that would complement his 1950s style cigarette pants. The magenta slacks pop against the chic Audrey-Hepburn-Roman-Holiday white pleated blouse. He stares coolly at the airport traffic behind red Cat Eye shades, daring the young security guard to come over and tell him he could not park in the tour bus lane.

He wore the new outfit in honor of Mary Rule’s departure. She took Zion and him shopping while Jeremy was Jack-Sparrowing about the Caribbean. Zion tried the combinations on while Theo looked on critically. Mary also let him buy a lovely split hem rib-knit pencil dress in yellow. It would have been awkward on the scooter, so he wore it to her goodbye party at Chandler’s Caribbean Cafe when he sang. Samantha Jonas believes the day will come when Theo can try his own dresses on in St. John’s. Branko disagrees and Theo remembers Kingston.

“Welcome to Antigua, darlings!” he Sophia-Lorens to a stream of North American tourists conga-lining into a large air conditioned tour bus. Despite the afternoon heat, most wear matching rainfoil packable jackets with the charter company’s colors. A woman Mary Rule’s age with twice her weight stops to snap a memory to take back to Lake Wobegon. Theo wants his floppy hat, but all he has is the helmet Mary bought him, “Wear the damn gear, girl!”

Two players peel off from the line and approach Theo. They look like teddy bears to Theo, Jimmies, not Daves. “How about a picture hunty?” the heavier one asks admiringly. “You’re a sight for sore eyes.” He turns to his companion for confirmation.

“You should see me in canary yellow,” Theo smiles. “Oh look at you getting your stick out so fast!” The thinner one has one of those awful selfie sticks. The older men huddle close on either side and the three say squeeze. The thin one places his hand on Theo’s ass. “I’ve a boyfriend, love,” Theo cautions. “Are you in town long, Jimmy? Want to hear Dil sing?”

He reaches for his bag. “Here boys,” he hands the heavier man a business card, “give Dil a phone call. I do massages.” Jeremy needs to think about advertising! Theo adds this to his to-do list.

“But I”m not cheap, you know that? Loud, but never cheap,” the heavier man quotes, “god, I love that movie!”

Theo lifts his dark glasses so they can see his eyes. “We must have tea together! Do you sing?”

“A little,” he answers modestly.

“A lot,” his companion contradicts.

“Call me,” Theo flips his fist into a phone and holds it to his head, “I’ll introduce you to open-mike at Chandler’s Caribbean Cafe. Other side, love,” he prompts. The tourist flips the card over. “My boyfriend will show you around the island, take you for a ride,” Theo adds suggestively.

“Is your boyfriend as beautiful as you?”

“You’ve no idea,” Theo makes the phrase dreamy. “He’ll cruise with you, but don’t expect much more than that. He’s my Fergus, see? Your bus is leaving girls, but give us a call, your ship might have come in.”

Of all things, Mary Rule thinks the airport terminal roof looks like the fragment of a biplane wing with a flap extended for landing. No doubt, some clever architect thought this appropriate. It is only noon, and her flight to Toronto is at 2:20. She is probably early, but she has said goodbye to all her new friends in Antigua, promised she would stay in touch, and promised she would return. There is just Jeremy left to part with. She will do that quickly too.

It is a pristine terminal, still very new, artfully putting Antigua’s and Barbuda’s best foot forward for the tourists coming and going. Modern and reassuring, Mary understands. The whole vast space is supported on white columns, tired passengers buoyed by dry air conditioning. Cathedrals to travel, the cathedral in St. John’s is desperate for money to renovate, but for all the religious conviction it hardly generates this airport’s sort of income. That sums Antigua and Barbuda up, in Mary’s mind.

Mary moves across the mirror-polish of the black and white floor with Jeremy in tow. She has sailed from Halifax to Skagway by herself, and the boy must take all her bags upon himself, point out the Air Canada desk, guard her from getting confused in the uncluttered expanse waiting for the next charter flood.

“You have everything?” Jeremy asks anxiously.

“My god, aren’t you a panic,” she smiles at him. “I’ve got everything I need including my winter coat. It’s time to say goodbye.”

“Not yet!” Jeremy protests.

“Why, yes it is boyo,” Mary’s voice is firm about this, but she is not ready to part ways just yet. “You’ve got your papers showing your place on Gravity?”

Jeremy counts it out on his fingers. “One copy in the chart table, one copy safe with Joseph Kale Euler; and David Euler, a minor; and each as next of kin and heir to Levi David Fisher. As you may know Dr. Fisher died in Da Nang, Vietnam on December 12, 2017 as result of suicide.

It has come to our attention in auditing the estate that on or about October 18, 2017 Dr. Fisher created a special Investor”s Trust in the Republic of Antigua and Barbuda in favor of Jeremy Paul Gates, an unrelated minor, and he named you as Principal Trustee. The initial amount of the Trust was $400,000.00.

Dr. Fisher was not of sound and disposing mind and body when this Trust was created, as he was suffering from a malignant brain tumor. Further we have reason to believe the purpose of the Trust was in furtherance of various unlawful activities by Dr. Fisher prompted by his mental disturbance. Further the Trust is an improper enrichment and burdens the interests of his surviving family.

This letter is to demand that you deliver the proceeds of said Trust and a full accounting thereof to the estate of Dr. Fisher for the benefit of his legitimate heirs. Should you not do so, it is the intent of Ms. Euler on behalf of the estate of Levi David Fisher to bring suit for disgorgement.

Please contact this office directly or through your attorneys to arrange the liquidation and transfer of the Trust.

Sincerely,

Riley Putnam, Esq.

Senior Associate

Brief, Anonymous Survey:

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