Kelly was waiting for me at the station in Charleston as he’d said, having had business in the city that evening anyway. He was taller than I expected I noticed as he unfolded himself from the little hard chairs in the waiting room. I guessed 6’1” and not too gangly either. His shoulders looked broader seeing him now, standing straight and reaching for my hand, rather than slightly slumped in repose the way he always was when we chatted on line. I was glad he didn’t try to hug me. We were going to have some type of close relationship in the near future, sure, and it might be one that involved a friendly hug now and then, but I appreciated his awareness that this was not yet that future.
“You really came then,” Kelly said in greeting, relieving my fears he would have one of those creepy, weak handshakes. “ There was a small part of me that wondered if you change your mind at the last minute. This is quite the leap of faith you are taking I realize.” He hefted my bags from where I dropped them to shake his hand as I laughed aloud.
“You don’t know me that well yet then. This is right up my alley. I wasn’t kidding when I told you about all the places I’ve lived you know.”
Kelly’s smile was warm and sincere, “Well I knew you were impressive, and now I know you are truly brave. I am really glad to finally meet you and to welcome you briefly to South Carolina.” I blushed a little and broke eye contact.
It always feels weird hear people use such compliments on me, I don’t think I am all that impressive. And brave? No way, I was scared to death every time I made one of my crazy decisions or moves. I didn’t know him well enough to argue with him yet though, so I let it slide. We headed toward where I could see my bike being unloaded from the train. As we walked back toward the station doors, he told me of his plans for the evening and following day.
I would be staying aboard the sailboat for the next two weeks getting us ready to get underway and becoming acquainted with her while Kelly stayed at his house closing things up there. It would be nice to have a little time transitioning before he moved on board and we departed. I was thrilled to see my new home and begin my stay aboard her immediately.
I told him so and put emphasis on calling the boat only my new home. I gave a dramatic sigh and Kelly laughed, understanding, but not caving. He still hadn’t told me the name of the sailboat yet, insisting on introducing us in person. I kept myself from speculating, I kind of liked the mystery. Boat names have always fascinated me and I wondered idly if I would be able to trace her history and find out why the original owner had named her whatever he did.
Charleston is about 45 minutes from where he lives and another 10 minutes or so to where the boat is docked, so we had plenty of time to go over what we needed to accomplish in the next two weeks. We picked up the sushi on the way out of the city and I shook my head a little in amazement as he got back in the car with a little cooler rather than the usual paper take away bag. Money. I suppose you can get anything if you pay for it. I realized it was a little bit of an eye opener to how differently things might operate traveling with him.
“We’ll pick up your rental car in the morning so you can run the errands you need to in order to get us ready.” My eyes widened in the dark of the car, but I managed to keep my mouth from dropping open so I think I saved myself the embarrassment of Kelly noticing my shock. Kelly continued on and I realized he must be used to having a secretary or personal assistant with the way he simply rattled off his needs so matter of factly. Well, he is my captain, as of tonight I guess. I smiled to myself in awe as he carried on.
“Oh, and check the bar and restock it as necessary or with any of your favorites. Can you make proper cocktails?” He glanced at me briefly as I nodded, mute. “Good, no offense, you seemed the type to understand the difference between a martini glass and a shot glass, but so many young people these days swill terrible things. Captain and Coke? Vanilla vodka and Ginger ale? Those are not cocktails, they are sugar soaked headaches.”
At this I finally found my voice, I couldn’t agree more, and some something inane to the effect of, “a good drink is a thing of beauty and though it’s hard to beat the classics, a well stocked bar is like an artist’s palette. I actually love making cocktails.” Terribly in-eloquent, but the important part is that he nodded and replied.
“We’re going to get along just fine, you and I.”
I’d had my attention on Kelly and not realized we were already arriving at the marina. It felt good to realize the atmosphere in the car and the conversation, albeit surprising, was comfortable enough that the ride had flown by.
Rolling down his window, Kelly held out his marina shipowner’s i.d. to the approaching guard. Re-entering the guard stand, I could see him comparing the id with some other cards on a clipboard. When he came back out and passed the cards to us, I noticed the id numbers on them matched, I shouldn’t have any problems with the guards knowing to which boat I belonged. I slipped the card into my wallet and waved at the guard as the gates swung slowly open allowing us through.
Steering the car into the covered lot, Kelly again took my bags in hand after helping me unload the bike from the rack. I hung the cooler from my handlebars and we walked in silence along the dock until he made a left turn, set the bags down and spread his arms wide, grinning at me.
“Evie, meet the lady of my life, The Slip Away.”
I looked at the sailboat behind him and matched his grin. She is glorious.
After showing me briefly to my cabin and dropping my gear on the bed, I went back up on deck and unfolded a couple of sling style chairs and a low, folding table I found leaning on the starboard rail. Kelly followed me a moment later, a bottle and two glasses in hand.
“I thought it appropriate to celebrate our first night as a crew of two,” he said, settling the bottle into the now empty cooler. Glancing at the bottle being opened before me, I managed to swallow my burst of shocked laughter before embarrassing myself. I should’ve known, I thought, plucking chopsticks apart and opening cups of soy. Traveling with a rich guy is certainly going to have it’s perks.
Kelly handed me a flute of Veuve Cliquot and I wondered silently if it was his favorite or just appropriate to his tax bracket. “Here’s to new friendships, smooth sailing, and an epic voyage worthy of tales to tell when we are old and grey.”
I smiled and with the purest of joys I lifted my glass to his. “Cheers to that!” I exclaimed and we drank down our first glasses sending our private thoughts to the stars and the lapping waters around us. I asked Kelly if she had had many owners before him and if he had a chance to ask why she had been named the Slip Away.
“Nope, just one before me,” he replied proudly.
I turned from admiring what I could see of the sailboat in the moonlight to see Kelly smiling broadly.
“You like the name do you? Thank you. I named her actually, and yes, you guessed partly right about why. I also like the idea of slipping away from my current life and all its stressors for a little while.”
I choked on my sushi and took a gulp of my champagne before allowing myself to respond. “Wait, you named her the Slip Away? You changed her name?”
“I sure did. Her name wasn’t bad or anything, she used to be called Goddesse, yes with the e. Classy, beautiful, sure, but it just didn’t suit me.”
“Um. Oh…” It was all I could manage. I had wanted to sail forever and had watched all the movies, read all the books. You don’t change the name of a boat. You just don’t.
Kelly laughed then, noticing my dumbfoundedness. “ I know, I know, it’s ‘bad luck to change a boat’s name.’ Believe me, I heard it. I had a hard enough time finding someone willing to do the paint job. But I don’t go in for superstition.” He slanted a look at me with a smirk, “You know, it’s supposedly bad luck to have a woman on board also. I’m clearly not worrying about that one either… and neither are you, if I may point out.”
I sipped my champagne. He had a point, a point I couldn’t very well argue with. I told him as much, forcing a laugh. OK, I told myself, ok. No problem. He’s right, it’s an old superstition. Meaningless really, I’m sure. Just like the woman on board thing. I won’t worry about it. It means nothing. My heart continued to stutter, not stabilizing after my pep talk. I drowned it in champagne. Luckily Kelly had brought two bottles.
“Don’t worry Evie, this is going to be a perfect voyage.” He said it with confidence and poured me another glass as he spoke and I finally felt my muscles ease again. There was no sense in letting my dream be tarnished by silly, old, sailors’ tales. We turned the conversation to speculation on what we would see and I told stories of places I had been before. Laughter overwhelmed my fear and we chatted late into the night, enjoying the beginnings of a new friendship.