Au Voir, Mes Chers Amis, Episode 29, Odysseys in Paradise

On Rich’s final night Jean arranged a banquet. The entire island of a little more than 100 happy and hardy Polynesian people attended. They roasted a couple pigs along with local fruits and vegetables. The evening was filled with warm smiles and breezes. Jean and Turua taught Rich a couple dances. Rich told them about the glaciers and williwaws of the Strait of Magellan. All listened intently as Jean translated.

Rich ended with, “How many of you would like to go and see the Strait of Magellan?”

No one raised their hand. Jean felt embarrassed. He thought Rich might feel as if his stories were not good enough. “I will go! Don’t embarrass Rich, we would all like to go.”

“No,” Rich said. “If you don’t want to go that means I told the story right. It is beautiful, but frightful. It is too harsh to live there. You are good people, I would not wish that on such good people.”

Laughter and conversation broke out among the people. Rich sat on the ground next to Jean. They talked more as they watched the flames of a small campfire flicker in front of them.

Rich leaned over. “I must go, mon ami. Parties seem to break up after the guest of honor leaves. I don’t want this party to break up; everyone is having too much fun, so I will leave without saying goodbye to your children or Turua.”

“You are welcomed to visit a thousand times and beyond that, you must stay,” Jean said.

Rich stood and slowly made his way to the beach and the dinghy. Just offshore, The Odyssey rested.

“Rich!” A hushed voice said.

Rich turned. It was Turua standing next to a palm.

“Hi, Turua,” Rich said and smiled politely. “I go now.”

“My English is not that bad,” Turua said.

“I apologize,” Rich said.

“I’m am glad you spoke in the manner you did about the places far away,” Turua said. “Sometimes Jean talks about wanting to go back to them. If he does, I’m afraid he will never return.”

“Jean and I became good friends in short time,” Rich said. “He will never leave you or this island.”

“Did he tell you he has a daughter?” Turua said.

Rich hesitated. “Yes. Are you afraid he might leave to see her and her mother.”

“I am a woman and think of such things,” Turua said.

“That’s understandable,” Rich said.

“But he should take care of what is his,” Turua said. She handed Rich a large pouch. “Inside are pearls; enough for many necklaces of three strands. They are of some value here, but very valuable in your world. Can you give them to the young woman who belongs to Jean?”

“Where does she live?” Rich said.

“I heard you say you were sailing to Sydney,” Turua said.

“She lives in New Zealand,” Turua said. “That is on the way.”

“It man be many months before I’m able to get to New Zealand,” Rich said.

“It took many months to collect the pearls,” Turua said.

“I will deliver them,” Rich said.

“And it is okay if her mother knows, they are for her also,” Turua said. “They live in Auckland.”

“I don’t suppose you’d have an address,” Rich said.

“No,” Turua said, “but Jean’s daughter is named Ramona Cantwell.”

“That’s not a common name,” Rich said. “I will deliver them to her.”

“Merci beaucoup,” Turua said.

“What if I can’t locate her?” Rich said.

“You will have some beautiful pearls,” Turua smiled.

“They will find the girl,” Rich said.

Rich nodded and smiled assuredly. He pushed the dinghy into the water and motored slowly back to The Odyssey.

Rich awoke the next morning with only the glow of the sun beneath the horizon. He untied the sails and jumped into the cockpit. He started the motor and gently nosed away from Reao. He turned for one last look. Jean and Turua stood on the beach holding each other with one arm and waving with the other. Rick smiled and waved “Au voir, mes chers amis!”

The island faded from Rich’s sight far too fast.

 

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