The sun hadn’t been up long when Aedan first opened his eyes. He laid flat on his back and thought about the coming day. He hadn’t been sailing for a while so there was a bit of excitement along with good memories that found their way to the surface. The couple he met two evenings ago, the Carlsons seemed competent and friendly. Since he was always keeping his eye out for his next boat he was anxious to see theirs. He was familiar with the model but had never been aboard one.
Beyond all of that though, what he was most excited about was having Noel along. Assuming the weather cooperated, sailing with another couple would be a great time to relax and have fun with no pressure and for sheer pleasure it is difficult to beat a beautiful sunset at sea. The thought of the long day ahead reminded Aedan that he needed to gather a few things to take along to eat while they were out. He built a list in his head of what he would take along,
Curious of the time, Aedan reached for his phone in the charging cradle but it was empty. He rolled over and found the phone beside his pillow. He must have fallen to sleep while catching up on the news. He muttered to himself and pressed the button on the side but nothing happened. Again he pressed but the screen remained blank. With words reserved only for himself when he does foolish things, Aedan set the phone on the cradle and immediately it began charging…from 0%.
Fully awake now, he glanced across the room to the clock radio and saw that it was nearly 8am. He had woken 30 minutes later than intended but there was plenty of time for a shower. He would call Noel after the phone had recharged to make sure she was up and getting ready.
With anticipation of the day ahead and the shower behind him, Aedan went through his normal morning routines. Shaving, brushing teeth, crunches and push-ups were all routine though truth be told, he did extra today. Noel would be there.
Once he was ready to hit the road and dressed, he grabbed the now partially charged phone, went to his call history and called the last number – Noel’s. After three rings, it went to voicemail. He would try again later.
The homeowner, Ms. Fernandez was busy in the kitchen when Aedan came down the stairs. Always pleasant, she offered Aedan coffee and breakfast. He took her up on the coffee and a couple pieces of fruit. They talked about his plans and other things to do in the same area of Havana. Aedan was anticipating spending some time with Noel after they returned to port.
An hour had passed with no response from Noel so he called again and again ended up in her voicemail.
“Noel, it’s Aedan. I just wanted to be sure you’re up and will meet us at the marina at 11. I’ll grab some things to eat while we’re out. Just bring yourself and plenty of suntan lotion. It looks like a beautiful day. Oh..and call me when you get a chance.”
Ms. Fernandez was smiling when Aedan put the phone down. “Please take some of this fruit with you! It will go bad tomorrow and I need to get more.”
Aedan suddenly felt a little embarrassed.
“Thank you but I can’t do that!” He responded.
“Nonsense“ was her reply. “It will go bad soon.”
Sensing this was a losing argument, Aedan agreed to take a few pieces and she nearly emptied the fruit bowl into a bag as he watched.
For thirty minutes more, the two of them sipped coffee and talked until Aedan decided he needed to get moving. He was concerned that he had not yet heard back from Noel but knew she was excited about going out. Perhaps she too had forgotten to charge her phone.
As they neared the bottom of the coffee cup, Ms. Fernandez called for a taxi for Aedan. He noted that she truly did bend over backwards to make him feel comfortable. Ten minutes later, a horn sounded from outside. Aedan grabbed his own bag in addition to the one that Ms. Fernandez had prepared for him, wished her a good day and headed out the door to the waiting taxi.
Along the way, Aedan asked the taxi driver to stop at a grocery store where he grabbed a few more things to take along. The Carlsons had already volunteered that they had plenty to drink so he grabbed more water before returning to the taxi and completing the trip to the marina.
He was an hour early but that was by design. Walking the docks to look at the assortment of boats has been something he has done frequently in the last few years. It is said that the best days of a boat owner’s life are the day he buys a boat and the day he sells it. He had experienced both and though he often tells himself it is foolish, he still looks for ‘the boat’ that will draw him back.
While walking the piers, Aedan tried again to call Noel but once again got her voicemail. He was now starting to worry a bit. He hadn’t known her long enough to know if being late was a habit. Of course, she wasn’t late yet but why hadn’t she acknowledged his calls?
As he neared dock “D”, Aedan saw the Carlsons toward the end unloading their cart that sat at the end of the finger pier. Mr. Carlson noticed him and waved.
“Oh, great! You’re early so you can help me load the boat!” His laugh was unmistakable. Aedan assured him he was eager to help.
Together, the two of them pulled grocery bags, beach bags, a coolers and a plastic gas can from the trunk of the car. The walk from the car to the boat was over a quarter of a mile which gave them plenty of time to talk about the day’s plans. The weather forecast was near perfect. It would be a bit warm but there would be enough breeze to keep them moving well and cooling the cockpit. They would anchor for a bit to eat and swim and be back to the mouth of the port to see the sun set before returning to the slip before it got too late. It had been several years since Aedan had been out and he was eager to experience the power of the wind that could simultaneously bring a calmness encapsulated by silence yet create moments of excitement if one let their guard down too far.
Once everything had been loaded onto the boat and put into it’s place Aedan offered to help with rigging the mainsail but to no surprise, Mr. Carlson thanked him and suggested he relax while he and Mrs. Carlson completed their preparations. This was not unlike Aedan himself – there is a connection between a boat and it’s captain. Some things the captain wants to know are done a certain way while others just fall into part of a routine and upsetting the routine during preparations inflicts a bit of uncertainty. To be fair, Mr. Carlson did offer a few small errands for him to take care of while he watched.
With little else to do and it now less than thirty minutes from the time that they intended to get underway, Aedan called Noel’s number once more but again his call went directly to voicemail. He was growing more concerned by the moment.
“Have you heard from your friend, Noel yet, Aedan?” Mrs. Carlson may have seen Aedan looking at his phone or perhaps she was simply noting the time also.
Aedan signed and shook his head. “No, I haven’t. The hotel is just around the corner – well, maybe two corners but in any event it’s only about ten minutes away. I’m going to go check on her. They all agreed that at this point he should. Perhaps she had just gotten lost and was walking the docks.
Aedan looked in every direction as he made his way out of the marina hoping to see her on the wrong pier. There was quite a bit of activity this morning as people were taking advantage of the beautiful forecast and getting out on the water or simply spending time on their boats doing maintenance and socializing. In all the activity though, Noel was nowhere to be seen.
Arriving at the hotel, Aedan scanned the lobby both for platinum blonde hair and the check-in desk. It was a small hotel that was decorated comfortably but not lavishly. The desk he found easily but still no trace of Noel. At the desk, he made his best effort in Spanish to ask for Noel’s room number. The look of frustration and confusion on his face prompted her to repeat her answer in English.
“I’m sorry sir but I can not give you that information.”
Aedan explained that she was supposed to meet him, that she was late and that he hasn’t been able to reach her by phone.
The clerk shook her head and was about to say more when Aedan pulled his wallet out.
“Please sir, I can not tell you her room number but“. she hesitated and looked to either side of her. Only she and Aedan were in the room. “Ms. Jensen checked out very early this morning.”
Only confusion remained on Aedan’s face.
“Checked out? Are you sure?”
“Yes sir.” She looked back at the book behind the counter “At 4:30 this morning she turned her key in.”
“Did she say why? Was everything OK?” Aedan was grasping for an explanation.
“It was before my shift, sir but I think Maria is still here, she would have been working the desk then. I’ll be right back.”
A couple minutes passed that seemed much longer to Aedan. The clerk returned alone.
“She had to catch a flight and seemed a little rushed but that’s all I know.”
Aedan still couldn’t believe what he was hearing.
“Did she say where she was going? Was she alone?” He asked.
“No, I don’t believe she did and there was nobody with her.” she replied
The front door opened and both looked to see a couple loaded with suitcases coming in.
“I wish you luck sir. Please excuse me.” Her attention shifted to the newly arrived guests “Bienvenido!”
Aedan thanked the clerk and stepped away from the counter. He pulled his phone out and tried to Noel again. This time he received a voicemail box full message.
Still confused and wondering what he should do next, he called the Carlsons and told them that he wasn’t going to make it out with them today. Perhaps they could go out another day but he was going to to see what else he could find out and didn’t want to keep them waiting. Mr. Carlson expressed his understanding and that the offer still stood when he was ready. Since the boat was ready, they were still going out.
Outside the hotel, Aedan flagged down the first taxi and headed for the airport.