Island Recess, Chapter 10.
The misty sunlight cast a hazy lemon glow over the waking island.
Still early morning, and the town already stirred with life as it was
high noon on a market day. Standing once more outside her
apartment block, Helena and her companions breathed a collective
sigh of relief. Though what passed for the front lawn was peppered
with debris cast aside by the storm, the building itself stood
untouched. From their vantage point on the sodden grass, they could
see that even Helena’s tottery tripod barbeque remained upright on
the third floor balcony. The rest of the island had not fared so well.
Driving back through the still-swamped streets, the trio had been
dismayed to see the extent of the damage done by the storm.
Although just tapped by a flick of the hurricane’s tail-end, little of the
community had escaped unscathed. Screen doors, window shutters,
street signs and uprooted plants were only a few of the items littered
over walkways and yards. Yet spirits were high. Driving cautiously
down winding side streets, threading their way around the wind-
tossed debris, they were surprised at the number of individuals who
turned to wave, or to smile a greeting, despite the obvious damage
facing them. Surely it would be days, even weeks, before the
community returned to business-as-usual. And yet despite the
damages sustained by public and private property alike, there had
been only minor injuries reported among the community members. It
was for this reason that the locals would, at least for the time being,
overlook the ruin of their property out of gratitude for their very
lives. Ben had been doubly lucky. His brown eyes glistened as Helena
threw her arms around his bony shoulders, and even Neil seemed to
be momentarily speechless as he patted the elderly landlord on the
“Okay, time to get to work,” Neil said finally, and with blustery
enthusiasm. From the front seat of the truck, Morris set up a pitiable
“Ben, would you mind awfully if Morris sat on the balcony?”
The landlord waved away his words with a dismissive hand, and had
soon ensconced the canine on a make-shift bed with an enormous
and meaty soup bone at his disposal.
With Ben in the role of work crew foreman, Neil, Helena, and assorted
relatives worked quickly to bag the debris, and clean up as best they could. Their feet, sloshing through the muddied pools of water were soon chilled, despite the currents of heat rising through the still-damp air. Helena shivered in her thin long-sleeved t-shirt and light windbreaker. Glancing over and observing her goose-bumped discomfort, Neil removed his own fleece jacket, and placed it about Helena’s shoulders, pulling her hands through the sleeves as if she were a small child. Zipped to her chin, the fuzzy jacket hung halfway to her knees. With a quick hug, Neil returned to manhandle a particularly overfilled bag, hoisting its weighty contents to his shoulder, and then onto the bed of his truck. Helena glanced after him longingly, her heart tight with emotion, and her mind buzzing painfully. Under the velvet cover of night she had opened her legs, and her heart, to Neil Streep and in so doing, had made herself vulnerable to the mysteries she had yet to uncover. No matter how deeply the core of her still throbbed at the memory of their coupling, the images of rolled up bills and mysterious packages changing hands crept back into her daylight consciousness. Her thoughts tumbled, torn between her desire to bask in the afterglow of last night’s encounter, and her driving compulsion to know the truth. Glancing over at the tightly muscled figure of Neil Streep, and seeing him giving so openly of his time and energy, her heart thumped painfully against her ribs. When he turned and smiled a slow, warm smile, all invasive, worrying thoughts of piracy and criminal activity were banished to a dark corner of Helena’s mind. She smiled back. The last garbage sack had been lifted or hurled onto the flatbed of the old truck and the yard, if still awash in muddy water, was at least free of garbage and debris. Neil walked slowly toward her, each footstep an embarrassing slurp, as it entered and exited the mud.
“Romantic, isn’t it,” Neil laughed, pointing ruefully to his soaking wet shoes. “In the story books, aren’t I supposed to glide noiselessly across to the heroine before I ravish her?”
“Well, you still have a chance to get the ravishing part right,” Helena grinned, tilting her head back for a kiss that missed her mouth and landed chastely on her forehead.
Later,” he whispered, drawing her to him for a moment before releasing her. He extended a hand to her, and she entwined her fingers with his, feeling the warm press of his palm against hers. Hand in hand, they made their way over the lawn to the front steps of the apartment building. Ben had long ago retired to the narrow porch, where he supervised the clean-up from a threadbare lawn chair, in the slumbering company of a drooling Morris. He now rose unsteadily to his feet, a bright smile touching his lips.
“How do I ever, ever thank you for all you’ve done,” he said in a shaky voice, his eyes wet with emotion.
“No need Ben, no need at all,” said Neil gently, clasping the landlord’s papery hand in his free one. “Friends help each other out; that’s the way it’s meant to be.”