Home > The Pirate

The Pirate
Author: Amelia Wilde

 

1

 

 

ASHLEY

 

 

The best thing about this weekend getaway is this incredible tan.

Nothing but miles of sunlight and ocean to take my skin from beige to deep bronze. I’m reclining on a deck chair now, phone in hand, a martini beside me.

I know it’s a life that anyone would envy. It’s not that I’m ungrateful, but it doesn’t feel real. It’s like I’m watching someone else scroll through Instagram and double tap. I was created to be this doll with blue eyes and dark hair. But inside, I’m empty.

“Looking good, babe.” That’s Robbie. He takes in my Gucci bikini with an appreciative groan.

I know he only goes out with me because of my appearance, but I can’t judge him harshly. I go out with him for the same reason. Sure, he’s handsome with a clean-cut, wholesome look. More than that, he gets good grades, gets along with his parents, and has the same friends as me.

“Thanks,” I say, raising my martini glass in a toast.

He’s perfect for me in every way, except the ones that matter, which my friends remind me of whenever I think about breaking up. “You’re so lucky to catch a Morrison,” Jessica said last week before I agreed to this yacht trip. Robbie’s family owns a chain of burger restaurants down the east coast.

At least I know he isn’t with me for my father’s money.

He smacks my ass, and I hide a wince behind my sunglasses. There’s no chemistry. None. Or maybe it’s just me? I’m dreading tonight when he’ll expect us to sleep together. I’ll have to fake an orgasm, the same way I’ve done every time we’ve had sex.

“What’s going on?” he asks, nodding toward my phone.

We have the same group of friends, and that’s what he’s asking about.

Espionage probably requires the same amount of skill as our text messages. There’s a chain for possible configuration, this one adding her, that one excluding him. When someone says something wild in a group chat, there are a hundred side discussions. It’s exhausting, but it’s my life. These are the people I grew up with, the only friends I know.

“Kristyn broke up with James,” I say with a half shrug.

He snorts. “They’ll be back together by tomorrow. What is this? The fifth time?”

A text message pings on my phone, but this one isn’t from the group. It’s my dad.

Hey, honey. How is your girls’ weekend? Send me your smile.

Guilt squeezes my chest. It may be the twenty-first century, but it might as well be regency England as far as my father is concerned. He sent me to an all-girls’ academy when I was younger, and now I attend a women’s college. Majoring in… women’s studies. I’m pretty sure he thinks I’m learning knitting and baking instead of intersectional feminism.

I shoot back a text right away before he can worry. We’re having a blast. Kristyn says hi.

Attached to the text, I send a photo of Kristyn and me grinning at the camera. We took it last week. I feel bad about lying, but I can’t live like a nun just because he doesn’t trust men.

My father was once a normal man, happily married. Then the research team he led had a breakthrough in the way silicon is created. A very tiny change meant that transistors could stay cooler. Which meant that phones could become even thinner and even faster. Fast forward through an arduous patent process and deals with the major circuit manufacturers, and he was no longer normal. He was rich. His picture was on the cover of Forbes and Wired.

That was when disaster happened. Someone decided to capitalize on his newfound wealth. They kidnapped my mother when she was at a Pilates class.

Demanded a ransom, which my father paid. They killed her anyway.

It changed him. He became withdrawn and paranoid. Hyper-focused on his work except to check in with me. I’ve lived with more than losing my mother.

It’s like I lost my father then, too.

We have money. Piles of money. But what I really want is my family back.

“Fuck,” Robbie barks, pacing the deck.

My pulse spikes. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing. It’s nothing, babe. Just go in the cabin, okay?”

Robbie and I have been dating for a year. At first he was sweet, and then he became distracted. But lately… lately, he’s been kind of scary. Intensely romantic and suddenly angry. And I know the reason.

We’ve always done a little recreational pot. No big deal. But now Robbie goes for the harder stuff, and it’s changing him.

“Why do I have to go in?”

“Don’t question me,” he says on a snarl.

I sit up, concerned. “Robbie. What’s going on?”

He sits down, his eyes pleading. “Look, I don’t want you to get hurt. I don’t want you to even meet these people, but I really needed a fix.”

There’s a knot in my throat. I swallow hard. “I don’t understand.”

“They’re coming.” He glances behind him, and I stand up. Sure enough, there’s another ship in the distance. This one doesn’t look sleek and modern like Robbie’s pocket yacht. It looks like a shipping vessel, industrial and harsh. “Go to the cabin, okay? Just stay there, and don’t make a sound. Whatever happens, don’t let them see you.”

“Who are these people?” The answer to that is a little obvious. Drug dealers. But who deals drugs on the open seas? This isn’t like exchanging money in a back alley.

“Bad people, Ash.” His skin has gone pale. He looks less like a Hollister model now. More like a little boy. “It will be fine. I can handle them. I just don’t want them to look at you like this.”

My Gucci bikini had seemed cute in the store. It was pretty when I put it on earlier this afternoon. Now it feels like a glaring red flag to these nameless scary people coming our way. I grab my beach towel from the chair and wrap it around myself. “This is messed up, Robbie.”

There’s more I want to say to him. You’re in too deep. You’re addicted.

Now isn’t the time, not when he’s starting to sweat. I’ll go to our room, then I’ll figure out how to stage some kind of intervention for him. Our friends will help. We may not be true love, Robbie and I, but I owe him that much at least.

There are windows in the main cabin, and though I’m nervous, I’m far too curious to read a book while this goes down. An ocean drug deal? It feels like a reality show. Maybe a reality show following a coast guard. I trade the bathing suit and towel for a sundress, quick as I can. A window shaped like an oversized porthole looks out over the deck, so that’s where I go.

A man steps over the deck railing as casually as you’d step off the subway.

Another man follows. A third. A fourth.

They’re too rough. Too muscled. One of them has a scar that runs from the top of his head to his cheekbone, visible because of his shaved head.

My breath is a wheeze. Everything in me pulls down, down, down. I want to let my legs go out from under me. To collapse to the ground, where they can’t see me.

The one in front crosses his arms over his chest, and I tear my eyes away from him to look at Robbie.

He stands tall, hands in the pockets of his coral shorts. Easy. Relaxed.

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