Chapter 1; A Bizarre First Meeting
It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. What started off as a relaxing day of fishing out in the Bristol channel on my boat lead to my life changing forever because that was the day I met her. I knew who Emma Barnett was. Everyone in the world did. She was one of the most high profile celebrities in the world at the time. She was just seventeen years old when her movie The Leader of the Packbroke the box office when no expected it to. Since then the movie had spawned two very successful sequels and it seemed as if her image of dark blond hair and pouting lips was everywhere but even so that seemed a world away to me.
Work had been a nightmare lately and I needed to just unwind a little. I owned a small motor boat with a roomy cabin that was just right for little jaunts out to sea every now and again. I had invited three of my old school friends to join me; Rory, Michael and James. The trip proved half of what I had hoped it would be. The fish weren't biting unlike James and Rory who had a history between each other which was never quite settled involving a girl named Rachel five years ago. As the fifth hour out in the channel passed by enough was enough and we headed home.
We had come back into the harbor at four o'clock in the afternoon and moored up before saying good bye to James and Michael. As usual they were the first to disappear to the local pub once we were back leaving me and Rory to tie up the boat and unload the gear. We were both quiet, in truth a little tired, as we cleared our gear off the small deck behind the cabin. Finally I broke the silence.
"Isn't it time you and James got over this?" I asked Rory.
Rory sighed, "I have tried."
"You need to try harder. It's been three years and that tart is long gone to London by now. She's probably dancing around some pole now getting old men to put their pension money in her thong. You made a mistake but it would be unfair to say you were entirely to blame."
"Like I said I have tried. He's just not interested. Look at that!" said Rory his eye having caught something in the car park overlooking the harbor.
I looked up to see what it was Rory was talking about. Glistening in the afternoon sun was a brand new Bentley just parking up near the edge of the dock. The door opened and a woman stepped out before closing the door behind her. My eyesight has never been excellent so I couldn't quite make out her face from that distance but I could see she was wearing a pair of blue denim jeans and a white t-shirt sitting underneath a leather sleeve-less jacket. Her attire hugged her features smartly revealing that she had an above average body but that was it. I always liked that however. I've always hated women who just show everything and leave nothing to the imagination. That was the kind of girl Rory and James were fighting over. What stood out more than anything however was her dark blond hair that bushily hung over her shoulders.
I watched her as she slowly walked up to the handrail and began to lean on it looking out at the boats moored in the harbor. Suddenly I saw her head turn towards us. I knew I was staring and that she was looking at me but I didn't care. It took a thump in my right arm from Rory to snap me out of it and I returned to unloading the boat. I glanced back every so often and saw her standing there. Every so often we saw each other looking at one another again but only for a few seconds. Then at some point she was gone but the car was still there.
"Nice," I uttered under my breath just enough that Rory caught it.
"I'm more of a Rolls-Royce kind-of-guy," joked Rory. Neither of us could even dream of owning a car like that.
"I wasn't really talking about the car."
Rory smirked. "I didn't think so."
"What do you think? Some gold digging trophy girlfriend waiting for her super rich sixty year old toyboy to come back on his boat?"
"Or hoping he doesn't," said Rory mischievously.
We carried all the stuff up to Rory's van and loaded it back up. We never kept anything on the boat that could be swiped by someone passing by. Once it was done I bid goodbye to him and he drove off leaving me to head to the nearby shop to pick up some stuff for a rather glum night in in front of the television; a 'perfect' end to an otherwise disappointing day - or so I thought.
I went into the shop and was immediately greeted by Viola, the octogenarian shopkeeper who I think had taken a shine to me over the years. I acknowledged her enthusiastic wave before walking up to the alcohol section. I picked up two bottles of whiskey, a bottle of lemonade and some rather unhealthy snacks. I paid for my stuff while making polite chit-chat to Viola and walked out through the door.
You know how sometimes you feel like you've walked into an invisible wall? Well that's how I felt that day walking out of the shop. Outside was a set of benches where people could buy ice creams and sit and watch the boats going in and out of the harbor. Sitting on one of the benches was the woman I had seen get out of the Bentley. Although I hadn't seen her face clearly from the boat I recognized her clothes. What stunned me was I recognized her! I couldn't believe what I was seeing at first and wouldn't believe what my eyes were telling me but the more I stared at her the more I came to believe it. It was Emma Barnett.
She saw me standing there probably looking like an idiot and I felt compelled to acknowledge her. I rather nervously nodded a 'hello' in her direction and she smiled back. The smile was half hearted and I suspected that she was afraid I was going to go rushing over to her like some crazed fan. In all honesty I had never been a big fan of hers. For me it was more of a casual thing in as much as anyone can have an affinity for someone they see in a movie but the whole bizarre thing of seeing her there suddenly made me feel like I was in a movie myself. Not wanting to seem anymore like an idiot I just carried on and walked passed her already picturing in my mind how I would tell my friends.
"Having a night in?"
My head seemed to snap back in the direction from where the voice came. My ears twitched sensing that the question really was directed at me. It really was her asking me the question.
"Yea," I replied still in disbelief, first that it was her and now that I was actually talking to her. "Just a chilled out day today. Or trying to at least."
"I know the feeling," she said looking away momentarily. There was something in her voice that portrayed sadness. It was familiar somehow although I couldn't quite put my finger on it exactly.
"What about you?" I asked.
"What are you doing down this way? It's not exactly Hollywood," I quipped immediately wishing I hadn't since I now sounded like just another silly fan.
"Just went out for a drive and this was where the land ended and the sea began," she said looking out at the sun that was now just slightly above the horizon turning the sky orange.
"Well," I said not wanting to overstay my welcome. "Enjoy the view." She smiled a thank you and I walked away towards my own car parked across the car park still wondering if all this was real.
"Excuse me," I heard her call out. I turned around and saw she had got up from the bench and was walking towards me. "You have a boat, right?"
"Uh, yes," I replied.
She reached into her pocket and took out her purse. Stuffed inside was a bundle of twenty pound notes.
"I have three hundred pounds here," she said handing them to me before I had even agreed to anything. "I'd like you to take me out to that island over there."
"You want me to take you around it?" I repeated looking for confirmation.
"Yes," she said. "Is there a problem?"
"No, not really. It's just it's not everyday I have someone offer me a wad of cash for a trip around Bluff Rock."
"Bluff Rock?" she asked quizzically.
"It's what it's called. Years ago people used to trick cargo ships to crashing in to it so they could rob them," I explained remembering the story Viola had told me once.
"Charming," she said.
"Don't worry that was a long time ago."
The island she was referring to was a large rock about five miles out from shore. I had been fishing around it all day and was looking forward to going home for a shower but I found myself unable to say no. It wasn't the money. I just didn't want this bizarre experience to end. Rory felt compelled to agree and soon we were back on board the boat heading back out to sea as the sun continued to go down. For the journey out I stayed in the wheelhouse, only occasionally looking back at my passenger who sat at the end of the boat looking out at the sea and listening to the Sea Gulls hovering around us hoping to scrounge a few pieces of fish off us.
We reached the island and I cut the engine to allow us to float around it. In my rush to go back to sea I had taken the bags I had bought in the shop with us on the boat. As the boat bobbed up and down in the sea a bottle of my whiskey rolled out across the floor and stopped by her feet. She picked it up and looked at it before asking me, "Do you mind?"
"No, go ahead," I replied.
Before I could offer her anything to water it down with she had taken the top off and swigged the bottle back. Her face twisted as it burned her throat but I was impressed by the volume she had consumed. I stepped up beside her and she handed it to me as she wiped away some of the excess from her lips before giggling slightly. I knew I was driving home but her power over me was intoxicating in itself. It wa slike she was some witch who had cursed me into obedience and so I threw caution to the wind and I too took a sip although it wasn't quite upto her standards. She was obviously accustomed to drinking spirits.
I passed the bottle back to her and she drunk from it again. Before long the bottle was half gone and I could feel myself feeling quite tipsy. I suspected she'd had most of it but couldn't be sure. I kept waiting for her to say something but she just kept handing the bottle back whenever she wasn't having any. I had seen this look before on people who were drinking. Its the look of someone trying to forget something. She was starting to look pitiful almost desperate. She was losing her aura with each sip of the bottle.
"Don't you think you had better be careful with that?" I asked her as I started to feel the situation beginning to tumble out of its comfortable place.
"I don't know your name," she suddenly said. I was about to answer when she threw her finger to her lips and said drunkenly, "Sssshhhh! I don't want to know."
Holding the bottle she walked up to me. She moved the bottle towards me and lifted it upto my lips forcing me to drink it. I swigged it back for several seconds before my need for oxygen forced me to cough out the portion in mouth. I stumbled backwards much to her amusement. She lifted it upto her lips once more but this time she kept her eyes on me as she drank another mouthful. The bottle was almost empty now and once she was done she threw it into the sea. Her movements made the boat rock from side to side and before long she fell backwards onto the wooden deck.
She lay on floor giggling like a silly schoolgirl. I was now a little annoyed. The magic was definitely fading away and I reached down to help her back up on to her feet. Once upright she threw her hands onto my shoulders to hold herself up. Strangely, the first thought that came to my head was that she was lucky it was someone like me she was with in this condition. It would have been easy for me to take advantage of this and have my wicked way with her. I doubt she would even remember it.
"I think it's time to go back don't you?" I said to her.
"I'm sorry Joshua," she uttered.
"No," I said to her. "I'm not Joshua. My name is Brian."
She looked up at me with wet eyes, "Brian?" Everything came flooding back. In an instant she had sobered up and she took two steps backwards, her eyes looking away from me. "Can you take me back please?"
I did as she asked me. A short ride back and before I could even tie up the boat to its moorings she was gone putting even Michael and James to shame in her speed. That night I sat in my small flat drinking the second bottle trying to fathom the whole event. It was crazy. As my drunken mind descended into a haze I even began to wonder if it had in fact been a dream.
I would proven wrong.