Unfortunately, fishing didn’t pay the bills quite so well as writing. Even though I was still getting royalties for my books, I wasn’t making any new money. It wouldn’t have been so bad if we weren’t paying tuition for Charlotte to go to prep school. If I wanted to make fishing work and maintain our lifestyle, I knew I’d have to take it farther than just going out casually a few times a day or week.
Rhea and Juno suggested that I should also supply the resort, so I added some lobster traps that I checked often and also made sure to fish where I could pull tuna and shark which were top sellers on our menu. Additionally, I would hit several ponds a day so that I could get more varieties of fish.
Pretty soon I was my own biggest fresh fish producer. I was working 8 hours a day and coming home exhausted. The energy I used to have at the end of a day was no longer there. Even if I wasn’t tired, I knew I wasn’t happy.
The problem was that fishing was no longer as much fun as it was before I turned professional. Even though I was making enough money, I was no longer enjoying what I did.
“I hate fishing,” I told Emilee one day while we were working out. “It used to be fun, but now it’s just a job. Would it be bad if I quit? I mean, the restaurant and the groceries can go back to their old distributors, right?”
“Yes. Are you sure that’s what you want to do?”
“I think so. I don’t think I can keep doing this as a career. It’s exhausting. I want fishing to be relaxing.”
“You don’t have to do it, if you don’t like it. We don’t really need the money. If things are tight, we can just cut back. We’ve never had to be frugal, but that doesn’t mean we can’t be.”
“I know. I just wish I knew what I should be doing. Don’t you think I’d have figured it out by now?”
“Do what you love Ares.”
“I did. But doing what I loved made me start to hate it.”
“Then do something that would make you happy.”
“I don’t know what that would be!”
“I’m sure you will figure it out.”
Quitting fishing was easy. Figuring out what to do instead wasn’t. I spent a lot of time at my computer researching possible career paths.
“Maybe I should just retire!” I said out of frustration one evening. Emilee, who had been really patient with me, just sighed.
“If you want to retire, then do it. We can live more simply. We can bring Charlotte home and send her back to school with William.”
“No. No,” I said, banging my head on my keyboard lightly. “I am not ready to retire yet. I may not know what I want, but I am still too young to just lounge around all day. I’m getting stir crazy already. I have to figure out something!”
“You could always take a more active roll in your family’s businesses.”
“Ugh,” I groaned. “I hate managing the properties. I was awful at it. That’s why Rhea hired people to do it for us.”
“Well, maybe you could work for one of the companies? I like working at the grocery. You could do part time work there.”
I shook my head. The idea of being inside even for short periods of time wasn’t my cup of tea.
It was actually Homer who gave me the idea for my next career. He and William were getting ready for school and were excitedly talking about a field trip that William was going to take to the Rocky Reef in a few days.
“We get to go snorkeling and everything!” William enthused. “I’m one of the few kids who knows how to do it, so Mr. Parker said I could show everyone.”
“Just remember to tell them what Dad told us,” Homer said. “Tell them that the sea is dangerous and that they have to be careful at all times.”
From my position at the fridge, I couldn’t see Homer’s face, but I heard the sarcasm in his voice. Without turning around I said, “That’s right. And maybe I should come on this trip with you, as a sort of chaperone. I could call your teacher and offer to help teach proper snorkeling techniques.”
Both boys groaned, “No dad! You can’t do that!”
“Of course I can. You want your classmates to be safe, right?”
Recognizing that I meant what I was saying, Homer ruffled his little brother’s hair. “Sorry bro. I guess I shouldn’t have said anything. But maybe Dad won’t be a complete dork. Maybe the other kids will think he’s cool…for an old guy.”
That got me to turn around. “Hey! I’m very cool! And I’m not old!”
I had fun with the kids on the field trip. I don’t think I embarrassed William that much. I used him as my scuba instructing assistant, so the other kids were pretty impressed that he already knew so much.
I enthused about the outing so much to Emilee that night and over the course of the next few days that Emilee pointed out that I might have found my next career path.
“Hmmm, scuba diver?” I thought to myself. “I think I could do that.”
So I went down to the local dive shop and asked if they needed an instructor. They really didn’t. Frustrated, I went to my sisters and told them what I was planning.
“So what I was thinking is that we should add a diving class to the activities we offer at the resort. I could be like a tour guide under water for more advanced divers and I could teach basic snorkeling to the others.”
“Ares,” Juno said, “You’ve never shown any interest in the resort except as a place to hang out.”
“I know. But I think this will be good for the business. I’m sure it will work.”
“But you’re not even certified to teach scuba.”
“I will get my certification. And then we can open the dive shop!”
Finally I found something that I was good at and enjoyed that allowed me to have fun outdoors while I worked. Unfortunately, being a scuba instructor and guide was a lot more time-consuming that being a writer or fisherman. There were set hours and specific things I had to do and I worked pretty much every day since I was the only instructor the resort had.
Because of this Homer and William spent a lot of time on their own. I would have worried about this more, but I really had taught Homer everything I knew about boating and water safety. William had learned from both of us. I trusted both of them. Even when William went out on his jet ski, I knew he would be ok. He always wore his life-vest (a rule that Emilee insisted on if our children were to go out on the water).
I knew that William was a strong swimmer. He was as good at scuba diving as his older brother…maybe even better. He might even be better than me once he got older.
So imagine my shock when I got a call from William telling me that he and Homer were in trouble.
“Dad,” I heard his voice crack over the phone. “We need help,” he said in a sort of muffled voice.
“What? William?” I asked. I immediately started to worry. “Where are you? What do you need me to do?”
“Dad, she’s going to do something to Homer.”
“Who?” I practically begged. I was already running out the door to get into my car. “Where are you?”
“He wanted me to meet his mom. She has a new house.”
I skidded to a halt, I was so surprised. “What!? Martina?” Martina lived with Omar and Rhea. Surely they would have told me if she was well enough to live on her own.
“Uh-huh. We took the boat out. And…” William’s voice broke. “She hit him, Dad.”
“Ok,” I said, hoping that I sounded reassuring even though I was feeling increasingly panicked. “Where are you guys. Do you remember where Homer drove you?”
“It’s on an island sort of south of the resort and near the Science Lab.”
“Ok son. Ok. Hang on. I’m going to call Uncle Omar and then I’m going to call water patrol.”
“Ok. I have to hang up now. She’s coming back.”
“William!” I practically shouted. I had hoped he’d keep his line open. The beep of the phone call ending was like an explosion. “Shit! Shit!” I yanked my phone out of my pocket and started scrolling through my numbers.
The first thing I did was call water patrol. I didn’t know the coordinates of Martina’s house, but I gave him the same directions that William had given me. Then I promised I’d call if I got the exact address from Omar.
My hands were shaking as I scrolled down to find Omar’s number. I was thankful that I only had to push one button to make the call. I don’t think I could have punched in the entire number.
“Omar, it’s Ares,” I said when he picked up. “I need to know where Martina is right now. She has my kids!”
“What? Slow down Ares,” Omar said. “Martina has Homer and William?”
“That’s what I said! I need to know where she lives!”
“She lives here Ares. You know that!”
That Omar didn’t know about Martina’s new house, I started to really panic. “Omar. Seriously. Martina has Homer and William. William called me and says she has a house on some island out south of the resort. He says she hit Homer.”
“Oh my god! Ares, man, I don’t know what William was talking about. Martina lives here. She goes to work during the day and then she comes home. She doesn’t have a house on some island.”
“Yes! She fucking does! She has my kids Omar! We have to get to them before she does something crazy.”
“Ok. Ok. I’ll call Chantelle and Christy. Maybe they know where she might have a cabin or something. Dude, I swear. I thought she was doing better. That’s why we got her the part-time job at the bookstore. It seemed to calm her down and give her a purpose.”
“I understand, Omar. Just hurry. Call if you find something out.”
After I hung up, I called Emilee. Aside from taking William’s call earlier, this was the worst phone call I had ever had. No man wants to tell the mother of his children that they were in danger.
“Ares! You said she wasn’t dangerous!” Emilee screamed at me. She was crying.
“I know. I was wrong. I’m so sorry, but I swear I’m doing all I can to find them.”
“Oh god! Ares, you have to find them before something really awful happens to them. I swear, if she hurts my babies…” Emilee dissolved into wracking sobs.
I was crying, too. I kept promising I would do everything I could to save them. I finally managed to hang up, telling her that I was going to get in the speedboat and go to where William said they were.
“I’ll find them. The water patrol is already looking, but if they can’t find them, I will!”
“Promise me, Ares. Promise.”
I imagined a lot of things as I hopped into my own speedboat to see if I could find out where Martina had Homer and William. I imagined both of them hurt. I imagined that Martina might have done some sort of murder-suicide thing that people always hear about on the news. As I drove around frantically, I pictured pretty much every terrible thing that could possibly happen.
I went all around the resort and over by the Science Lab. I checked every little island I came across. Not one of them showed signs of the fishing boat that Homer and William had been in. There were several cabins, but when I checked them, they were all empty.
Eventually, I had to give up and return home.
“Did you find them?” Emilee asked, her eye filled with worry. I had to shake my head no. I couldn’t find the words to answer her.
“Oh god!” Emilee grabbed me and we held each other, both crying.
“What are we going to do? Where could they be?” Emilee kept asking me. I just didn’t know. I had never felt like such a failure in my life.
“The water patrol is looking,” I finally managed to say. “They will find the boys. We have to believe that.”
“But what if they don’t?”
“Don’t think that way, Em. Just don’t. The boys will be found. They’ll be ok.”
“But that woman! She could do anything!”
“I know. But she’s never really harmed Homer or anyone. Just pray that she isn’t as dangerous as you think.”
It was hard to pray for the best when I kept thinking about the worst. William had said that Martina had hit Homer. Homer was her own son. What would she do to William if she was capable of hitting her own son.
Emilee and I didn’t sleep that night. I made repeated calls to the water patrol who said they were checking every island in the area that might have the cabin William had mentioned. I also spoke to Omar who hadn’t found out anything useful from his sisters.
“We’re going to go out looking, too,” he told me.
“Don’t bother,” I said. “I’ve already looked and found nothing. I came home just incase the boys managed to get home on their own.”
“Well, you can stay there, but I feel like this is my fault. I’ll go look,” Omar said. I had to let him do it. It would make him feel better and it would mean that one more set of eyes was trying to find my children.
Since I couldn’t sleep, I decided to do a light workout. It was something to take my mind off of my worries. Emilee joined me.
“If we’re moving, we don’t have to think,” she said.
In the end, even exercise didn’t help. Emilee and I collapsed on the couch and just sat there holding each other. We were too afraid to move. Then, just after midnight, I heard splashing down by our dock. I went out on the patio to see what it was. And that’s when I heard Homer calling for me.
“Homer!” I shouted back.
“DAD! HELP ME! HELP!”
I practically flew down the stairs and over to the dock where Homer was standing, holding a dripping William. Homer was sobbing and his legs were shaking. I could see that it was all he could do to remain upright holding his brother.
“Oh god! Homer!” I ran up to him. I grabbed both kids in a relieved hug. They were both soaked to the skin and Homer’s lips were turning blue.
I grabbed William from Homer’s arms.
“Come on, son,” I said, cradling my youngest boy in my arms. He was freezing and seemed to have passed out. “Let’s go inside. You’re both so cold. Let’s get warmed up.”
“It was so awful D-dad,” Homer stammered. “We went to see my mom and do some fishing. She invited us. And then sh-she got a little mad a-and she h-hit me!” Homer said, shivering.
“It’s ok, son,” I said. “I’m just glad you’re home.”
“I had to hit her back d-dad. I kn-nocked her down.”
“You did what you had to,” I tried to reassure Homer.
“William and I ran,” Homer continued. “We got into the boat and took off.”
“It would have been f-fine,” Homer said, “except the boat stalled. I thought I flooded the engine or something. It stopped in the middle of the water.”
“Why didn’t you stay with the boat?” I asked.
“Sh-she did something to it, D-dad. She sabotaged it or something. The radio wouldn’t work and then W-william noticed that it was starting to take on water. We had to get out or s-sink!”
“Oh son!” I pulled in William tighter. His little body was starting to shake though he hadn’t woken. I had to get him and Homer inside so that I could call 911 if Emilee hadn’t already done so. I know she ran out onto the deck after me. She probably heard Homer calling for help.
“I didn’t think we were that f-far from home. I thought it would be ok, b-but W-william started to fall behind.” Homer started to sob, reliving the terrible ordeal that he and William had been through.
“I turned back for him, Dad, but he was so tired! I had to swim for both of us. It was a lot farther than I thought. W-william passed out about a half mile from the shore. I didn’t know what to do! I just kept swimming.”
“It will be ok, now,” I said, not sure that I believed it.