by Andrew Foote
Back on board, Aruno was animated. "It's all coming true Mimi-cu! The writings were right. Strange boats bring me home together with my Boy-god and my family. The medicine woman returns with her bonded one, and almost exactly two summers since leaving."
"I hate to say I told you so!"
"Yes, but you knew a secret and I didn't, so that's why I doubted. I never expected this to happen."
"Even so, those people must've had great insight."
Aruno looked thoughtful. "Please can we go to bed now? I need you to make love to me."
"Yes, of course we can, but you sound sad, not excited about being back home."
"After we get to my village, I will have to go through a reacceptance ceremony. This is normal for those who have been away for a long time – it's nothing to be worried about, but for me it'll mean being unable to spend my nights with you until our bonding ritual is over and that might take many days before it happens.
There is another reason for feeling apprehensive if not sad, but one that I cannot tell you about"
"Why? If it's making you sad then I need to know and understand."
Aruno gave me a hug. "No more talk Mimi-cu. I am bound by a vow of silence, so please, no more questions?"
"Just one more. What about your Mum and Dad? Does the same apply to them, like being apart and everything?"
"No. Because they were bonded by marriage in another culture, that is enough, although our elders would like it if they went through their own bonding ritual here in the village."
"A week apart is going to be agony!"
"Ha! But think about the night when we're back together!!"
"I'm trying very hard not too! But it isn't just about sex, I'm desperate to hold you in my arms – feel your warmth. – smell your scent. I'm going to miss that."
"The law only talks about nights, not daytimes. We can hold each other as much as we want then, – only sex is forbidden to us."
"I suppose I'll survive a week."
"What about me? I will have too as well remember?"
"Come on. Let's take a shower together, I think tonight is going to be very long, and very sweet!"
We met up with Cathy and Rob for breakfast at a local café. They looked like shit, - much the same as we did!
"So, it looks as if the same rules apply to straight couples!"
"Fuck off Simeon! Yes, it bloody-well does!"
"Language sweet Catherine. We'll manage."
"Sleeping arrangements might cause problems, unless Sam bunks on Marion and Rob with you on Conqueror."
"No disrespect, but love him like a best mate as I do, he doesn't float my boat!"
"And neither do you float mine, so we get as drunk as skunks, and pass out every night before you go changing your mind about me!"
"That might work!"
"It better, or your dead meat sunshine, and if I say something like Bugger Me! Ignore it and go to sleep!"
"You have my word…… sweet thing!"
Aruno was quietly wetting himself with laughter, but Cathy pulled us together. "Hangovers make me hungry – a night of breath-taking, wonderful sex, even more so, so let's order and get organised shall we?"
We all met on the quay at one in the afternoon, and after a light lunch, loaded everything onto the boats leaving Anita and Arthur with only their cabin baggage to bring with them the following day, then early evening, Rob and Aruno went for a walk leaving Cath and me alone to talk as we sat out on the Marion's after-deck.
I don't think we'd done this on like a one-to-one since Rob had appeared on the scene. That's not a harsh comment – he was the right man for her but I missed our interaction; after all, aside from Aruno, she had been a constant friend despite our obvious differences, and someone who understood me – probably better than I understood myself.
"Are you happy then Cath?"
"Why shouldn't I be?"
"I dunno. We've come all this way with little hope of turning back, so I just wondered how you felt."
"I'll try and summarise.
I love Rob – and I can't envisage life without him. My brother is with the man he loves who also happens to be my dearest friend and confidant, Mum and Dad are back together, and more than that, they're here with us. The journey tested all of us to limits we never knew existed, yet here we are, alive and well.
What else is there?"
"Nothing…… absolutely nothing!"
"So, why don't you get your arse down to the refrigeration deck and grab a bottle of ice cold Frascatti and a couple of glasses so we can drink to all our futures before the other's get in on the act.
I love you Simeon, – don't ever forget it!"
I did as per her instructions!
It was really nice, the two of us lazing around in the heat of the dipping sun. Things between us hadn't changed and actually, we'd probably grown to understand each other better these last six months. We'd never tried to force conversation; we were just comfortable being in each-others company.
I looked at her as she read her book. She was a looker and no mistake! Dressed in a Ball gown, tastefully made up and she would turn many a head, but put her in oilskins and sea boots, stick her on her boat and she was a match for us men in every respect; with attitude as a backup!
Rob and Aruno got back just as I was on the verge of getting more wine, but Aruno did the deed with the pair of them opting to drink beer.
"I can see why you love him Simeon, he's such a nice kid, and funny too. It took me a while to spot the difference between him being serious, and gently taking the piss!
We had a great walk and he took me via the pleasure boat area and Jesus, you should see some of those boats; talk about expensive play things!"
"I can but imagine, but would you fancy taking one of them across the Caribbean and down through the North Atlantic?"
"Nah. Bollocks to that! Ours are designed and built for heavy weather – those things are made of plastic, very expensive plastic!"
Rob paused, but then looked at Cath. "Sam did show me something else on our stroll? There's a beautiful little Anglican Church up on that hill you can see over there……"
He dropped to his knees and took hold of her hands. "It's like the perfect place to get married…… so would you consider marrying me Cathy?"
She studied her half full glass then tossed it, and its contents over the side, stood up and hoisted Rob to his feet.
"No. No consideration required. Yes of course I'll marry you! I love you, or hadn't you noticed?"
I think Rob was almost shell-shocked by her reply. "Really? I mean, you'd really marry me?"
"The only competition around here is another handsome guy…… the problem with him is, he's gay, and totally in love with my own brother, so with every other avenue closed to me? Fuck it. Why not!
Get a life Robby, please? I thought you'd never ask!"
I went to fetch Cath another glass but Rob...... (ha-ha…… Robby, obviously his "bedroom name"!) stopped me.
"Champagne I reckon Simeon, and I think we should delay our departure until the day after tomorrow."
"I'm on it, and by the way; not before time…… and congratulations!"
I tossed my phone to Aruno, who still looked like an idiot frozen in time. "Call the hotel and leave a message for your folks. Just tell them we've been delayed and we'll call once we know what's happening, but not to check out of the hotel in the morning.
Don't mention tonight or you're in serious bother!"
"Trust me Mimi-cu…… but before you go, I have a question for you.
One day it is my destiny to lead our people with you as my consort, so it is right that I should ask you this.
Will you marry me Mimi-cu?"
"Ask me properly and I'll consider it."
He dropped to his knees and took hold of my hands.
"I love you. Will you marry me? "
"I've had time to think, and my answer is Yes, and without hesitation!"
Rob and Cath clapped both of on our backs. "I'll go get the Champagne, however with one slight change of plan. Two bottles rather than one!"
The next morning, Sunday, Anita and Arthur came down to the boats wanting to understand what had caused the delay.
They were pleased for us, and I think relieved knowing that our unions would be sanctified by a formal Christian wedding rather than being some loose arrangement. They knew as did we, that once we had settled in to village life, a bonding ceremony would take place, but both Arthur and Anita had been regular church-goers when they'd been together, and I knew that Rob had a faith of sorts, so with their blessing, we decided to visit this church and put things to the priest.
Just before we finished our coffee, Arthur put a suggestion forward.
"I don't want you to think that we're muscling in, but we had told all of you that Anita and I intended to reaffirm our marriage vows since we were back together as a couple, but with all that had to be arranged to allow us to come out here, we never did it, so we were wondering if you'd mind making it a triple celebration?"
Cathy was ecstatic! "That makes so much sense! All of us getting hitched on the same day and in the same church would be an unforgettable experience!
What to you guys think?"
There were no dissenters, all of us agreeing it was a perfect idea, so draining our mugs of coffee, we walked to the church, and on reaching it, we allowed Anita to explain things to the Vicar as she knew him from the time she had spent on the Island. Also he didn't speak much English, nor the dialect spoken there.
The bottom line was, he liked the idea, but what with the marriage bans having to be read on three consecutive Sundays, the weddings would have to wait for three weeks.
Another delay; not that it bothered us, but Aruno, having been desperate to return home might think otherwise, but he just had a dreamy look in his eyes as he spoke.
"I don't mind waiting."
We bought rings, just plain gold bands. This was about symbolism, not extravagance. The bond of eternal love expressed through the marriage vows between Rob and Cathy, Aruno and me were the most important thing.
My Mum together with Rob's parents, flew out for the ceremony and insisted that organising some sort of dress code other than shorts, tee shirts and flip-flops would be her responsibility opting for white trousers, white short sleeved shirts and white shoes. Smart enough to mark the occasion, but cool enough to be comfortable.
The day of the weddings dawned. In the old tradition of the bride and groom being apart the night before saw Rob joining me on Conqueror whilst Aruno bedded down on the Marion.
This didn't apply to Anita and Arthur – they stayed up at the Hotel Grande along with Mum and Mr and Mrs Adams.
Tempting as it was to over indulge on the beer, Rob and I shared a bottle of wine before he announced his departure to his bunk. He actually hugged me before retiring – just nervous anticipation I hoped!
Showered and dressed in our posh stuff, we just sat around waiting for what seemed like a lifetime. We couldn't risk going topside to sit on the deck just in the event we saw Cathy and Aruno leave for the church, so I had every fan running, every hatch and window open – thankful for the moderate breeze that kept the air circulating.
I think I almost demolished a packet of twenty cigarettes that morning, but finally we heard the wedding cars pull to a halt on the quay, and once they'd departed, would be our que to leave and take the walk up to the church.
We had decided that Cathy and Rob should marry first. I was going to be his Best Man, Arthur would give the bride away and Aruno…… don't laugh…… was going to be Cathy's pageboy!
A sixteen-year-old pageboy!!!
Next to put his head on the block was me.
We weren't like Bride and Groom – a partnership sums it up rather better, but someone had to assume the role of the submissive one and so I elected myself to that position, much to Aruno's objections.
He was going to be the chief of his village eventually so it made sense for me to be the subservient one. I just hoped that he'd be dominating on our wedding night……
There wasn't going to be a Best Man, and with no blushing Bride to get shot of by an anxious Father, our families would join us at the alter to bear witness to our vows with the same being played out when Anita and Arthur reaffirmed theirs.
The services were simple affairs with no hymns or lessons, just standard ceremonies. There were no throngs of guests to witness our vows, only the Vicar's three Grandchildren, his wife and the organist were in attendance so it was over relatively quickly, however the church bells rang, and that did bring people onto the streets.
We were mobbed as we stepped outside, even more joined us as we walked back to the quayside.
We had planned a simple barbeque as a wedding feast, but the good people of Fernando de Noronha were having none of it!
Stalls appeared, laden with food and drink, bands came out of nowhere playing typical South American jazz together with more local music causing people to take to their feet and dance. Kids played impromptu games of football and baseball – the entire town had come alive in one massive party. Later there were fireworks and I began to wonder if all this wasn't because of our weddings and perhaps they'd coincided with a festival.
I asked Anita if she was aware of anything. "There's nothing I know of, but they normally turn out to celebrate a wedding and then there's something else to consider.
Your journey from England has meant that it's fired their imagination. Four young English people in two fishing trawlers, making a pretty dangerous passage to South America where they intend to settle makes for a rather romantic story.
From that first stop in Mexico, your progress will have been reported by local fishermen and so on right the way down to when you arrived here, like a chain letter.
They're normally a private people. They'll be very polite and welcoming, which is why you haven't been mobbed by them.
I think that the weddings were the catalyst that made this celebration inevitable. They see it as if you waited until you got here rather than getting hitched elsewhere and to them, it's like you're honouring them and their community. That was perhaps the signal get acquainted.
What you also have to remember is that our Island is only about thirty-five miles from here and doubtless you'll be a regular sight what with collecting supplies, and landing your catches, and this way, they get to know you."
At three in the morning the party began to wind down.
I was pissed to put it mildly; so much so, Aruno had to help me get down to our cabin, where on helping me to bed, I promptly passed out.
Not how I had envisaged our wedding night but never mind.
Neither Rob, Cath, Aruno or I surfaced until late afternoon the following day – all of us looking like crap, so it was coffee, dry toast and back to bed by seven that evening.
Next day all of us felt better for the rest and it was time to think about leaving for the Island.
I had to see my Mum off before that could happen and that would be emotionally charged in itself, so we spent what little time she had left to her in Brazil, together during the day and eating out and exploring little taverns come the evenings.
Three days later she took a short flight from Fernando de Noronha's airstrip to Natal where she could get longer flights which, after three changes, would get her into Dallas Fort Worth and a direct flight back to Heathrow.
Naturally I was sorry to see her go, I'd hoped she'd come with us to the island but lack of air conditioning and humidity control there put her off the idea.
She did make me a promise to visit again during the cooler season, but Aruno gently explained that this was the coolest it got and definitely not to think of coming between February and June!
During the weeks we'd spent there, I thought we should go and find the Harbourmaster to get an idea as to how much we owed him for our berths.
The answer was an unequivocal Nothing. No charge to working boats as he made his money from the expensive yachts and sea-going cruisers in the marina.
He wasn't your typical Harbourmaster, - he owned the entire waterfront even though you might've been forgiven for thinking he was just an employee as he drove around in a beaten up old Nissan pickup which bore a strange resemblance to my Landrover's condition – ergo, a pile of rust about to fall apart.
We made our farewells and pulled out three days later following a call from Mum telling me she'd landed safely in London.
This was the final countdown, our goal was almost in sight and…… I was scared.
[For those who use webmail, or whose regular email client opens when they want to use webmail instead: Please right click the author's name. A menu will open in which you can copy the email address to paste into your webmail system (Hotmail, Gmail, Yahoo etc). Each browser is subtly different, each Webmail system is different, or we'd give fuller instructions here. We trust you to know how to use your own system. If the email address pastes with %40 in the middle, replace that with an @ sign.]