A Star Tribune serialized novel by Jane Fredericksen

 

Chapter 2

The story so far: The sailor smashes up a joint in northern Ontario.

City Marina was a block south of City Dock, just past Lakefront Park. Privately owned boats and many of the local charters moored there. When she was younger, Kacie used to love to wander along the shore, listening to the clank of halyards and pondering the various boat names.

Some seemed almost mystical: Dreamcloud, Starseeker, and Pete’s own charter boat, True Wind.

Some paid homage to unknown ladies: Anne-Marie, Lily’s Joy, My Girl Gillian.

Some showed the owner’s sense of humor: Weekend Retreat, the Moneysucker and Buoys Club, a blue-hulled schooner towing a pink dinghy titled Gulls Annex.

And some just seemed, well, pathetic. Kacie and Gina now stood behind an oversized, shiny white yacht decorated in bold script, which read: I Got Mine. Kacie scrubbed at her cheek. If it started to bleed again, she’d have a good excuse to head back to the apartment.

Gina pulled Kacie’s hand away. “Don’t,” she warned. “Or I’ll throw cold lake water on you.” Gina spotted a paunchy man on the yacht’s deck and waved to him.

“Bernie!”

Bernie Macklebury was a big, boisterous bear of a guy in his late 40s. His face cracked into a wide grin when he saw Gina. He waved back as if flagging down an ocean liner.

“Hey ya, Queenie!”

Queenie. Bernie always had nicknames for people. Kacie hated her own.

Bernie hopped off the deck and in a couple of strides stood beside them. He gave Gina a sloppy peck on the cheek and cuffed Kacie’s shoulder.

“Hey ya, Princess! What happened to you? Rough day?”

Kacie winced and rubbed her shoulder. “Yes, Mr. Macklebury.”

Bernie broke into a guffaw loud enough to jolt a seismograph. “I told you, call me Uncle Bernie.” He cuffed her again.

Kacie gritted her teeth. “Yes … Uncle Bernie.”

“That’s the spirit!” He winked at Gina. “Say, Princess. Come on over here. There’s something I want to show you that might just make you feel a bit better.”

Kacie looked questioningly at her mom.

“Why don’t we all go?” Gina sounded overly chipper, like a cheerleader whose team was starting to drag.

Bernie seemed relieved by her suggestion. “Great idea! This way.”

They followed Bernie to the slip behind his yacht. Moored there was a 16-foot daysailer. The name on its stern read “Stowaway.”

“Like it?” asked Bernie.

Kacie eyed the little boat. “Nice,” she ventured, wondering why her opinion should matter. “Is it yours?”

“Hell, no, Princess!” Bernie guffawed. “It’s yours!”

Kacie stared at him. “Mine? Why?”

Bernie shrugged. “Cause I own a boat shop. Cause I can. Don’t be shy. Go ahead, check ‘er out!”

Kacie’s feet seemed anchored to the dock. Her very own boat? It couldn’t be true. She looked from grinning Bernie to her mother’s nervous smile. True, Bernie did own Macklebury Marine. No doubt, he often came across good deals on used boats. Maybe this was one of them.

She turned back to the boat, unglued her feet from the dock and stepped closer. The Stowaway was a neat little thing, bone-white, sleek and trim. As Kacie suspected, the daysailer wasn’t brand-new, but she’d obviously been well cared for.

Kacie began to board, but stopped. “Right foot first,” she reminded herself.

It was an old sailing superstition that Pete had taught her. Start off every journey on the right foot. It wasn’t just for luck; it was symbolic, too.

Kacie climbed aboard, right foot first, barely able to hide her excitement. She inspected the tiller. Seemed easy to maneuver. She sighted along the mast. It appeared to be sturdy and straight. Kacie guessed that once she hoisted sail, the little boat would fly.

Nothing seemed wrong. Nothing she could put her finger on.

She gazed out toward the Marina exit. Seven signal flags, each representing a letter of the alphabet, fluttered in the breeze. They flew from a series of posts, marking the entrance to the open lake. Kacie had once used a codebook to puzzle out what they spelled. It didn’t take long to put them together: “Freedom.”

Kacie studied the flags and realized they kept shifting direction. It’d be a tricky wind today.

Why was Bernie giving her a boat?

She glanced at the dock. Bernie and Gina had their heads close together, whispering. As soon as they noticed Kacie watching, they stopped and stepped apart.

“Whaddaya think?” asked Bernie.

Kacie paused. “I don’t know what to say.”

“Just say thanks, kiddo,” suggested Gina.

Kacie studied them both, trying to read the wind.

“Thanks,” she finally said.

 

Tomorrow: Chapter 2 continues.