So I hit the 25,000 words today. Five minutes ago! I am running behind but, that is almost half of a decent sized novel! Not sure where the characters will end up, know now who I think the antagonist is and how the love story will end but, I might make it into a sequel too. Especially if there is a market for Novella sequels! Anyway, with the news of Paris;, a recent commitment to participate on a project bringing a Syrian family to our community; and, the fact that the subject of my book attempt is centred on refugees of a different kind - white, Canadian and scared, I am living and breathing crisis and I can't sleep! Hence this after midnight post! There is so much to remember, so much to change, so much to feel that I am going to do an unprecedented thing! I am going to share it with you. Yikes. Deep breath. So, here it goes!
Not the first chapter but:
Not the first chapter but:
Monica had huddled by the fire for the rest of the afternoon, letting her children wander close by, playing tag, chasing twigs in the little creek and digging canals along its bank. She kept an eye out for old Pete but he never came back their way. The May sky was turning pink when Monica split some granola bars between the three of them and handed each child a juice box. Throwing their garbage into the fire, Monica felt herself just wishing they could stay here forever. Warm, safe, and free. But soon to be hungry, tired and wet, she admonished herself. Monica tucked Mattie into the stroller as his eyelids began to droop, stashed his bag under the seat and headed back toward Horseshoe Bay just as the moon was rising over the mountains. Same moon as last night, she reminded herself. Just the scraping of their boots sliced through the silence of the rainforest.
The boat was about the size of the family room Monica had left behind just twelve hours ago. Marty had approached them as soon as they had emerged out of the woods and climbed the stairs leading on to the unlighted pier. He had loomed rather large as he rounded the empty control booth. He looked a lot like Captain Hook with his large nose and chiseled chin jutting out under his lips. His long black hair was captured into dreadlocks that streamed down his back like Hook's more gentlemanly ringlets. Even his eyes were black and bright but when he spoke, his words were soft and confident.
"Looking for the midnight launch?" Marty stopped short of the pier's edge and waited for the little group to approach. Monica held Mattie close to her chest as Jessica clung to her free hand, her small backpack slapping Monica's elbow with every step. Her own backpack weighed down her shoulders after the short trek out of the woods. It was all she had left. Monica had moved in a surreal landscape that nothing in her life had prepared her to face. Nothing. "We are running on schedule. The weather is perfect. Looks like all is a go. Please move into the waiting area near the mooring." Monica acquiesced with just a nod. Her mouth was too dry to speak.
"Mommy, the life jacket is too tight and it smells." Monica looked down into Jessica's frightened face and forced a smile as she gently touched her eight-year-old daughter's chin.
"I know, sweetie, but it will stretch a little and the smell will blow away in the ocean breeze. Daddy always told you that when we sailed, right?" Monica felt her frozen smile dissolve as she pulled Jessica closer and gave her shoulders a hug. Daddy. Mark. Where are you?
"Hurry, now. I have to get Mattie into his jacket, too, and he is such a wiggle worm." Such normal conversation. Child-mother words. There is nothing normal about this.
With hushed tones, the three men in charge of the small fishing boat called out to the mixed crowd of moms and dads, aging grandparents and the ten children clinging to someone's hand or leg.
"Hurry, please. No noise."
" We only have fifteen minutes before we have to be onboard. One small bag per person."
" Sir, you can't take that sleeping bag."
"Sorry m'am, no noise. Please. Hush up your child."
Monica settled Jessica on a rock nearby, adjusting the straps of the backpack to position it on Jessica's chest instead of her back. Everything had to fit over the cumbersome life jacket. Mark, I need you here.
Mattie squirmed on the ground between Monica's feet. Asserting his two-year-old self, he threw his head back, slamming it against Monica's knees and cried out in frustration.
"Shhhh, Mattie. Shhh," Monica whispered to her son. "Mama will help in a minute." Monica scooped Mattie up in her arms, desperately trying to quiet her little son's loud yelps.
"Mi'k, mama. Mi'k." She knelt down on her knees and answered her son.
"Soon, Mattie. Ok? Mama will give you milk soon - when we get on the boat. See the boat, Mattie. We have to be very quiet so we don't scare the fishies. OK?"
Monica forced a smile to comfort her son and sighed with relief when Mattie put his fingers to his lips and said, "Shhh, Mama. Mattie won't scare the fishies."
In fifteen minutes, the boat was loaded with eighteen adults and ten children. The adults shifted their weight and meagre possessions and the moms and dads positioned their children close by. Monica tucked Jessica in close to her knees, letting her lean on the big backpack stuffed with a change of clothes, some dry food and three small emergency blankets she had stored away a few months ago. Mattie snuggled against her chest, drawing comfort and some nourishment from her breast. Her life jacket rested open sliding a little from her shoulders as she held her son. Jessica fingered the small flashlight she had snuck into her bag after her Mom had checked its contents. Monica shook her head "no" as Jessica raised her eyebrows in a silent request for permission to turn on the one source of light she could find in the pitch black mist off the coast of British Columbia. Jessica slid the flashlight into her jeans pocket and moved closer to her mother.
The sound of the boat's motor shattered the silence of their escape from the new government and the new laws that had threatened their families for the past six years. This was the most dangerous part of their journey, the three men had admonished as the passengers had settled onto the small deck.
"No lights, no smoking, no talking," the tallest of their three rescuers reminded them. "Keep the children quiet." The red-headed sailor nodded at Monica as she breastfed Mattie.
The boat slid into the fog enveloping Horseshoe Bay. They would follow the ferry route to Vancouver Island where they were promised safety, food and a place in the new settlement established after the last Tsunami had obliterated nearly all of the west island coastal towns. The west coast of the island was wild, believed uninhabitable now and perfect for refugees with good reason to flee this new global presence.