The Swamp (Part 13)

Hendricks noticed right away that Luz was walking with a limp.

“Are you alright, Luz?” he asked, concerned.

Luz struggled to stay calm, but the tears were flowing down her face.

“There were some problems at the house. We had a big fight. My father is hurt very badly. I…I cut him. I am not certain, but I don’t think he can walk.” She stopped, bending over to throw up.

Hendricks put his arm over her shoulder, but she pushed it away.

“We don’t have time to waste. I think he is too hurt to chase us but he could call his friends or even the police. We need to hurry!” she pushed forward onto the beach, which was clear under the light of the full moon. It was late in April now, and soon the rainy season would start and with it would come the torrential rains and thunderstorms that soaked much of this part of the world from May until December each year. But now the air was very dry and the sand was still warm underfoot from the previous day, which had been a typical scorcher.

They reached the small boat and Luz climbed in while Hendricks pushed it out into the still surf of low tide. The water glinted like the honed edges of a million swords reflecting the light of the moon and the myriad stars overhead.

The outboard fired up right away and they pushed out and into the sea without incident. No one followed them and there was no cry of alarm.

The night was still and as the shoreline receded, Hendricks could clearly see the edges of the vast tropical jungle that he had just miraculously somehow managed to cross all alone. Seeing the dense vegetation from this vantage point brought home the enormity of what he had just endured. Though he was tired to the point of a breakdown, he was elated and somewhat proud of the fact that he had indeed survived and that now, out here on the open ocean, he was finally free to allow himself to perhaps believe that he might just somehow make it out. He knew in his gut that there were more obstacles, that there just had to be more challenges to come but he felt stronger in spirit than he had ever felt in his life.

The refreshing spray of water hitting him was like a tonic for his bone-weariness and he looked admiringly at Luz, who steered the boat through the surf expertly. He knew that he owed her more than he could ever repay in this lifetime. That he, the Special Forces hero would be rescued by this tiny slip of a girl was an incredulous event that could only have been shaped by the hand of Fate itself.

“There are reefs ahead, Henrique, just hold on tight. But do not worry, I know how to get through them. Lucky for us there are no waves. Maybe we have luck for once, no?” she tried to laugh it off, but he could see that she was tense, her knuckles pale and stretched on the rudder.

Hendricks did not know what to say. He was too dog-tired to do more than nod. The buzz of the engine soon became a distant hum as his mind drifted off and he fell asleep on the hard planks of the boat, tonight more comfortable to him than any down bedding.

Luz watched him carefully, unable to let go of the rudder.

She thought back on her life and what had brought her to this moment, to this place. Like Hendricks, she also felt elation at finally having had the courage to escape from her life. Yes, she hated what her father had become and what he had done to her. Still she was incapable of hating him, it was just not in her nature. In fact, she still loved him. But she was no longer the naïve girl, waiting for him to make a sea-change and become the good person that she desperately wanted him to be. Alcohol had evaporated any goodness that had once been in his heart. It had turned him into a vicious, lazy, evil, lustful man, a man that was capable of destroying his own wife and daughter in order to satisfy his drunken vices.

Luz knew that people never change, not really. What is in your heart the day you are born is the way you will be all your life. This is what she believed. This is what she knew.

The hardest part was leaving her mother behind, but Luz vowed to herself to one day return, to take her mother away from all of this injustice. She imagined herself becoming rich and powerful and returning to Rauna on a big yacht. She would have several massive security guards with her at all times, of course, and they would stifle any resistance as she came back triumphantly. She would get her mother and maybe one or two of her best friends and they would sail off in the yacht and maybe go around the world in luxury.

She sighed wistfully and once they were out in the open ocean, she turned the engine off and lay down next to Hendricks. She smoothed his long hair with her hand and kissed him on the forehead, then drifted off to sleep.

Luz dreamed she was in Paris, shopping in one of the fancy stores that she had seen in her magazines. Luz carried a tiny Chihuahua in one hand like she had seen Paris Hilton do in the tabloids. In the store she was waited on hand and foot by subservient employees who brought her outfit after outfit to try on. Inside the dressing room she took off one dress and tried on another.

She looked at herself in the mirror and noticed that she was wearing a white wedding dress with a beautiful veil. Luz smiled in appreciation, loving the way she looked.

Que bonita te vez, Luzesita! How beautiful you look.” Spoke a voice from behind her.

She spun, startled. Her father was there, dressed in a tuxedo, looking very handsome and clean. She smiled radiantly, so happy that her father was there with her on this most important day.

They were inside a church now and light streamed down from the stained glass windows. There were hundreds of people there, all of them watching as she walked down the aisle. Her father waited at the end, in front of the altar. The priest was there, dressed in his finest vestments.

Something was wrong, however. She looked around and could not see her husband to be. Where was he? How could he be late to his own wedding? And then she realized that she did not even know who this person could be.

“Wait,” she said to the priest, “I am not engaged to anyone. How could I be getting married?”

The priest just smiled at her as if she was a child. He gestured toward her father. She looked at him in shock. “Papi? Que esta pasando? What is happening?” she took a step back.

Her father grabbed her roughly and brought her closer. She could see now that he was filthy again, stinking of rum and smoke. His bloodshot eyes pierced her and the spittle flew from his mouth when he spoke. “Why, Luz, we are getting married, of course?” he laughed rudely, planting a kiss on her mouth. She pulled away in disgust but he held her and tore the dress away, ripping it down the front, exposing her breasts.

“No, Papi, no!” she screamed.

“Wake up, Luz! Wake up!” her eyes snapped open and she saw Hendricks crouching over her. She had tears running down her face and she buried herself in his arms.

“Now, now, Luz, don’t cry. You were having a bad dream is all. Shhhh. You’re awake now. It was just a bad dream.” He comforted her.

“Oh my God, it was horrible, Henrique.” She stammered.

“Shhhh, don’t talk.”

` Luz calmed down in his arms. She felt light-headed and realized that the sun was out and that it was very hot in the boat.

“I’m thirsty, Henrique.” She reached for the water gourd, but he stopped her. “What’s wrong?”

“Luz, we have to save the little bit of water that we brought.” He advised.

“But we will be on land soon. We have enough for two days at least.” She was annoyed now.

“That’s the other problem. Umm, I don’t know how to put this. When was the last time you checked the engine?” he asked.

“I…I don’t know. My papa does all that. Why are you asking?” But she knew before he could say anything. She turned around quickly and looked at the silent engine, a trail of smoke coming off the top of the outboard.

“We were chugging along just fine and then it made a kind of popping noise and then….” His hand slashed across his throat. “Kaput. Nada.”

They both stared at the silent engine and then at the vast ocean around them. They were dead in the water.

to be continued

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