“Hey, Sara.” The voice coming through the phone was familiar, even if the number on the caller I.D. had not been.
“Eve?” Sara had not spoken to her sister since the funeral.
“Yeah. Listen, do you have few minutes? I’m in town and I wanted…no…needed, to talk with you.” Eve sounded - different. Sad, even. But the baby. Was now the time?
“Sure. I’m at home. Do you want to stop by?”
“Actually, I’m at River Street at the Hyatt dock. Could you come down here? I have a very limited amount of time.”
“River Street?” Sara asked. “Are Chase and the kids with you?”
“Sara, could you please just come? I’m borrowing someone’s phone and…please?”
“Ok. Ok. Fine. I’ll be there in fifteen minutes.”
Sara found a parking space on Bay Street and maneuvered the steep and winding slate staircase down to the river. As she crossed over the cobblestones, she wondered yet again what in the world had gotten into her sister. Eve was the most even-tempered, dependable person on the planet. The idea of her doing something out of the ordinary was beyond Sara’s powers to comprehend. As she walked towards the railing next to the river, Sara saw her.
Eve looked…haggard. Thinner, pale, her eyes red-rimmed, Sara wondered suddenly if…
“Eve. Tell me right now. Are you sick? I’m serious. Like mom? Are you sick?” Sara knew she sounded ridiculous, as she reached her sister and grabbed her upper arms. The words coming out in a deluge. Sara was almost crying.
“Ow! What is the matter with you?” Eve yelled. But looking into Sara’s eyes, her voice softened. “No, sweetie, I’m not sick. At least…at least, not like that. It sounds terrible but…maybe that would be better.”
“What are you talking about? Better? What could possibly be worse?”
Eve moved Sara towards a bench. They sat down.
“Look, I don’t have time to give you all the details. But…” Eve turned away, her obviously irritated eyes watering immediately. “Chase left me. He took the kids.”
“Oh, Eve. No.”
“It wasn’t an affair, if that’s what you are thinking. I mean, I didn’t and he didn’t. It was a patient. A woman, at the E.R., and she made me start thinking about mom and I realized I’m her age, Sara. I’m the same age mom was when…when…”
Sara grabbed Eve in a hug and squeezed. Just squeezed and held on as her big sister cried. In between sobs the story began to come out.
“I lost it, Sara. I couldn’t go to work. All I did for two months was sit in my room. I would take the kids to school, but that was it. I was in a fog. Then, William died and I got it together enough to come and be with you. But when I got back home…Chase met me at the house. He had already moved the kids out. He told me that this didn’t have to be permanent, but that I would have to change. Have to be different. And he left. That was two months ago. I called work, got some shifts. I would pick up the kids on the weekends. But I wasn’t better. And I knew it. The kids knew it.” Eve pulled back now and looked at Sara. “You should see the way they look at me now. Like I’m not their mom. Like they’re afraid of me, or disappointed in me. And it breaks my heart every time. I couldn’t look at them anymore. I had to get out. I had to do something else.”
She was on her feet now, wiping her face and smoothing her hair. Sara’s heart skipped a beat. That was her sister. How many times had she seen Eve do that when they had faced a problem. Another foster home to go to. A new school to attend. That gesture meant “It’s gonna be ok.” Sara followed Eve over to the railing, looking out at the ships as she had just last week with James. But it was hot today, not cool. They were both sweating in the sun.
“How did you end up here? Where are you going?”
“I was surfing the web, burying myself in YouTube videos and trying to catch glimpses of the kids on Facebook. Then I started looking for travel nurse jobs. I considered Alaska and Iceland. Antarctica, for Christ’s sake! Then I saw this ad for a sailing ship. They needed a nurse who had ER experience. I was perfect, except for the emotional baggage, of course.” She turned to Sara. “I didn’t mention that on the application. It’s a 65 foot schooner, Sara. It’s big and beautiful and will get me out of here. I sail out today.”
Sara couldn’t believe it. Her sister, Eve, on a…boat. “I don’t know what to say. How long will you be gone?”
“I don’t know. A few months.”
“Where are you sailing?”
“We sail south. St. Augustine. Miami. The Dry Tortugas. Then over to the Yucatan Penisula. I’ll have some other duties, but mostly I’ll just be taking care of crew and passengers.”
“But your kids and Chase…”
“I know I’m an awful mom for doing this Sara, but I was being an awful mom already. I was—am depressed. I know that. I know that. And I tried taking medication but I felt…lifeless, emotionless. I never got out of the house. I was a mess. What good am I to my kids like that? Maybe if I can do this and go off and…I don’t know, breath a little, I might be able to find my way out of this funk.”
“And if you don’t?”
Eve looked down into the muddy Savannah River. “I don’t know, Sara,” she whispered. “I just don’t know.”
Sara stood for a moment looking at her big sister who always seemed to have all the answers, but she didn’t this time. She didn’t have them all. And Sara certainly didn’t either. What a pair they made. Sara took Eve’s hands.
“I want to tell you some things. First, I love you. I have always loved you. You took care of me my whole life. If you need anything from me, anytime, you come and get me. No matter what, I will come to the Yukanooba Penisula to find you.”
“It’s Yucatan, but ok. Thanks.”
“What? When? How?” Eve’s eyes got very wide and she whispered, “Who?”
“Not sure yet. In July. The usual way and…” She punched Eve in the arm. “It’s William’s. I found out just before he died but I never got a chance to tell him. And now…” Sara shrugged her shoulders, trying not to cry.
“Well,” Eve said. “Aren’t we a pair? I love you, too. And, holy cow! Congratulations!” She gave Sara a huge hug. She pulled away, and began moving towards the dock. “Listen, I have to go. My ship leaves soon, but I’ll call you. I promise.”
“Really?” Sara asked, as sincerely as she could.
Eve turned around and walked back to Sara. “Really, Sara. Always. I love you.”
And then she was gone. The whole exchange had taken no time at all, but what a difference those few moments had made. Sara knew there was a lot that Eve had not told her, but for the first time in a long time she had some hope that she and her big sister just might be able to be friends.
A few hours later, Sara stood in front of the living room window. It was two a.m. She should be asleep. She had work tomorrow and she was tired. She just couldn’t stop thinking about Eve. About how little she knew of her life and troubles. Why did they do this to each other? So many times they could have just talked about what was going on, but they didn’t. And now Eve was sailing away on a boat. Would they ever be able to be open and honest with each other?
Sara jumped and turned around. “Sweet day in the morning! You scared the bejeezus out of me.”
James held out a glass of water to her, laughing as he did so. “I was up banging away on a project for work. I thought I heard you out here. What’s up?”
“I don’t know, honestly. Just couldn’t go to sleep. I’m wired I guess.” She patted her softly rounded stomach, then took the glass of water. “Or little man here is keeping me up. Who knows? What’s your project?”
“Email security. I could tell you a scary bedtime story about the evil college student who tried to hack the system in order to delete emails he wrote to his professor threatening his life if said professor didn’t change his grade. It’s a story that will have you asleep in no time.”
“You know, good as that sounds, I think I will pass. I have a biography of George Washington on my bedside table that is better than an E-Z-Doze at putting me to la-la-land. At least I assume it is, since I’ve been working on it for four months now and have only gotten as far as his birth. The father of our country. Bores me to sleep.” Sara turned towards her room. “Thanks for the water.”
“Anytime. Sleep well.” James raised his own glass of water to her and Sara responded in kind.
As she closed the door to her room she thought herself very hypocritical. If there was anyone in her life that she could and should be honest with, it was James. But he was the one person who could not be told what was swimming around inside her head.