The wave hit hard against the side of the ship. The vessel walls were high and strong and have held their own in some horrendous storms, but an unmistakeable groan sounded loud across the seas as the vessel succumbed to an almighty battering. The curved metal and twisted bolts ached under the strain, and the creaks spoke a sound of age and tired wisdom. Heidi crouched low on her bunk, just peeking up and out of her window enough to see a salty splash blur her already limited vision. Although nervous, Heidi was not afraid. She would soon be turning 14, which was evident in her youthful looks, but not in her personality.
Being raised on the seas had aged Heidi far beyond her years. That plus growing up with no mother allowed her to become no one’s shadow. Her independent single minded attitude was not boyish as one may expect a girl would be surrounded by a 12 strong male crew, in a harsh reality. Instead she had embraced her feminine side and had created a sanctuary in her room. Her tired old walls were lifted with swirls of pink paint, and she had collected numerous teddy bears, clocks and trinkets that she had made a point of picking up every time the boat docked for a couple of days.
The storm moved in fast taking them all by surprise. Although usually very hands on and a huge asset to the team, Heidi knew with one glance from her father when it was time to retreat off the main deck and into her room. Dimples suddenly jumped off the bed, crashing hard against the side board. Heidi’s displayed items that she dared keep out were firmly blue tacked down, but she could see the strain on them as the boat was thrust almost entirely on its side with one large wave. Securely seat belted in and gripping hard onto the safety rails at the side of her bed, Heidi looked down at Dimples slumped body, imagining her to be in pain from the fall. Good job she was made of cotton and thread. Of all her friends, Dimples had seen her through many a rough sea and more.
The loud cries of commands shouted between the crew caused Heidi to look out of her porthole. Dan and Jack desperately tried to secure down the un-hinged fishing equipment, saving it from further and possibly un-repairable damage. The catch was already gone, that was certain, but at times like this no one cared. Everyone one was focussed on getting out of the storm in one piece and hopefully back to still land. Jim and Heidi had lost many a good guys over the years, and everyone knew what was at stake. As the clock ticked by, Jim became more and more aware of his daughters dysfunctional life. He started to think of her future, possible boyfriends, and hobbies she may want to try, and he dared to hope that the one thing he had taught her to do over the years, would be the one thing she did not aspire to live out her days doing. Though if she did, he only had himself to blame.
From the ships centre stern room, Jim navigated the tossing vessel into calmer waters. As the swell softened and the storm finally passed, the first glimpse of sunlight to creep over the tortuous sea sent a warm bolt of ease through his every tired and strained muscle’s. Sweat trickled down the side of his brow. He met the glare with a tired blank expression, lost in a sad sentiment to his late wife Cara. He truly believed that she watched over him and Heidi, and at the end of every storm he would allow himself to think of
Cara and how beautiful she looked when she would sit tall behind the old oak piano that graced their living room. It was Jim’s most prominent memory, recalling the joy on Cara’s face as she played to her young daughter. He hoped she had noticed how much of an impact this vision had on him, now it was too late to tell her.
Cara was only 29 when she was taken from them. She like Jim was a sea lover, so it was hard for him to fathom that she was hit by a car whilst returning from the shops. Jim had teased her that day for not buying any biscuits. It had become an ongoing joke of theirs considering how Cara had helped encourage Jim to lose the 2 stone he had recently gained. He called it sympathy eating through Cara’s pregnancy cravings, but Cara knew that he had done it deliberately for her. She knew how much she hated the idea of gaining weight through her pregnancy, and how much she dreaded the hard work getting it off again. Jims plan to get fit together once the baby came was a huge gesture of solidarity and love. Cara had to pinch herself sometimes wondering how she had been so lucky as to find Jim. Their team approach to fitness really worked. Between them they quickly lost 3 stone 4lbs. They of course succumbed to a treat every now and again, and on this particular day, Jim’s jibes caused Cara to sneak out of the house while Jim showered, to get something nice for dessert.
By the time Jim was informed of the accident there was no sign of the Cadburys chocolate roll and tin of Ambrosia Devon Custard that Cara had planned to combine for dessert. Her shopping was tossed in the impact and was now discarded somewhere well away from the sadness that lay still at the junction of Crown Point. It was clear what had happened when the mildly intoxicated young driver veered onto the curb. No one considered there to be any relevance in retrieving the flayed articles that would surely be picked up and appreciated by some other person. It only mattered to Jim who now found it hard to eat dessert. He knew why Cara had gone to the shop and he struggled with not knowing what treat had lay in store for him on that life changing day.
Heidi was just turning 2 and couldn’t yet appreciate the loss of her mum. Jim never could decide if this was a good or bad thing. He would have found it intolerable to nurse his daughter through the loss and pain that he was suffering. Instead, he chose to move them away from the bitter land, and move them out to sea. Jim and Cara’s family disapproved of his abrupt decision, but Jim knew if he was going to be any kind of parent to his daughter, he couldn’t just stay put and wallow in his grief.
Heidi slowly opened the stern-house door and saw her father’s rigid stare over the horizon. She quietly approached him and lovingly wrapped her arms around his waist, to which he smiled down and returned the embrace. He reached forward and patted the dipped mahogany one piece steering wheel, which is embossed with the family name; Peters, and each of their first names on the 3 spokes. Jim had the steering wheel custom made and fitted before he would even consider taking her out of the marina. The ship found Jim pretty soon after Cara died. He had a funny sense that Cara guided them together, although he still wasn’t fully certain that she would have approved of the ship life in which he had raised Heidi. It had always been Cara’s dream to live the life Heidi was forced to, but throwing a young child into that life seemed almost kindly cruel. Jim often wondered if she would have been a sea lover like her mother had been.
The day Jim’s eyes fell on the beautifully crafted vessel; Jim had been contemplating how to cope with a life without Cara. He walked aimlessly along the marina, talking out loud to his late wife, pretending she was still there, whilst looking for answers and guidance. He consoled himself with all the usual clichés such as, time heals all wounds, and in time, someone new will come into my life, but with each thought he got a stabbing pain and a burst of anger. How could this of happened to us, we were so happy, he yelled helplessly. He struggled to find some sort of solace or answer that would satisfy a lifetime of unease and turmoil. If he could find some way of accepting that Cara was taken for the greater good, just maybe he could bear to go on.
Standing on the pier end he gripped the cold metal handrail hard with his strong calloused workman hands. His knuckles now white with the intensity of his grip, he imagined how easy it would be to lift himself up and over crashing hard on the rocks below. Breaking down he realised how immense pain and loss could bring out an array of stupid and usually unimaginable thoughts. He knew full well is daughter needed him, and he released his grip, crashing his hands to his face sobbing hard and uncontrollably. After two months of almost silent mourning, he was finally allowing tears to drench his weathered face. With watered eyes he saw the aptly name boat ‘Hope Floats’ cruise into the marina. Jim had been here many times, but had never seen this one floating beauty which grabbed his attention. Just to the right of the boats name there was a deep scuff. From a distance it could easily be mistaken for a dash highlighting the name, much in the same way you would highlight a person’s name on a birthday card envelope. Jim wiped his eyes and looked again. It was definitely a scuff. Hardly believing what he was seeing a bizarre warm feeling overcame him and with watered eyes he quickly walked towards the marina where to boat would soon dock.