My Christmas Star


"Maybe a swim." I paused in my muttering. "Yuck, after I brush this taste out my mouth."

Heading into my miniature bathroom, I took care of the urgent needs of my incredibly frail-feeling body this morning. Making myself not go back to bed, I shrugged off my sleep pants and pulled on my swim trunks. With a shiver, I grabbed a towel, dropped it into a chair by the metal ladder off the back and -- with no time to allow myself to hesitate -- stepped off the back of the sailboat.

Fuck me!

Plunging past the golden Caribbean Star nameplate, I vanished into a storm of salty bubbles, which streamed up my body tickling every hair. The rush of water was delightfully warm. Surfacing, I rolled over onto my back and floated for a moment, my eyes closed. The laughter of seagulls was thankfully silenced by the water. Fucking noisy, white, air rats. It did however also silence the first two calls of my name. In fact, till a thrown stone splashed next to my head, I didn't know I had an audience. Startled, I looked towards the pier.

"Good morning." Victoria was holding up a Christmas red coffee cup. "How about a caffeine fix?"

With a hidden sigh, I swam back to the sailboat and crawled my way aboard. Sloosing water off me, I shook the towel through my short hair, draped it over my neck and waved her aboard when she paused at the gangplank.

Stepping on board, she placed the obnoxious red cup next to me. Victoria looked at my bare chest, her lip quirking.

"Well, well." She gave me a smile. "I can see I need to have a talk with my daughter about her having terrible taste in men if she dumped that body for Thomas."

I snorted and took a sip of the coffee. Deliciously perfect, exactly as I like it. In fact... I looked at her and raised an eye.

"I have a good memory. And I listen." She dusted some sand off one of the chairs and sat down with a plop. "You asked Jennifer once to pick you up a coffee, like that one, on her way over to your parent's house for a night of homework."

"And you remember that?"

Victoria nodded then shrugged at my incredulous look. "Not hard to remember; I take mine the same way." She saluted me with her cup before she took a sip Hers, I noticed, while equally crimson-colored had a big, white, cartoony snowflake plastered across it, half hidden by the cardboard holder.

"Um. Well, we share that at least." I sat back, my wet back instantly sticking to the old vinyl of the chair. "Shall we build a relationship on our mutual love of milky coffee?"

She gave me a naughty smile. "Well, I'm not dating anyone at the moment, and I've heard of relationships with far less in common lasting years. But... " She rolled her eyes. "'re far too young for me."

"And I dated your daughter."

"And you dated my daughter." She took a deep breath that made my eyes naturally find a focus on her breasts. "Besides, I don't date people suffering from paranoid delusions."

Oh, so we're back to that now. "You must have a lonely social life then."

"Better than yours." Her grin flashed a bit snarky, but then slowly faded. "I want to talk about your future."

"Why? The promise to my mother, again?"

"That, and the fact I think you need some adult guidance in your life still."

Meddling bitch. "I have Nana for that, thank you."

"Um hum, I talked to her yesterday." Victoria looked over her cup at me. "There was a lot going on in your life your grandmother said she had no clue about. Pretty hard for her to help you when she doesn't know what's going on, don't you think?"

"Not everything I think or do is everyone else's business." I didn't try to hide my annoyance. "And sorry, but in my opinion, none of them are your business."

"Damn shame. I'm making them my business."

Getting up, I walked past her and down into the cabin. With a single last look, I defiantly shut the door on her. Weak, true, but it was as close to slamming a door in her face as my ship would allow.

Apparently, a closed door is not something this woman understands.

When the door opened behind me, I turned with a huff.


Victoria shrugged. "I was married for ten years and then divorced for eight. I raised a drama-queen daughter ... alone. I promise you, Randal, there is no door that intimidates me anymore. Now, your future plans, where are you going to go to college?"

Grabbing my wet swim shorts, I didn't even bother to turn away I simply peeled the sucking fabric off my damp ass and let them drop with a wet plop to the floor.

Ignoring her, but secretly pleased at the shocked look I saw, I stepped into my tiny shower and rinsed the sea salt from my skin. The old hot-water-on-demand tank gave me a few minutes of scalding water then settled into a comfortable lukewarm. A bit of shampoo acted as soap as well and, with a shake that scattered water out of my hair, I shut off the shower and stepped out dripping. A fresh towel allowed me to look around the moving terry cloth to see my unwanted visitor's reactions without her knowing it. Her face was flush, but she was looking at me appreciatively.

I moved the towel and looked her in the eyes.

There was a second of blush before she spoke. "Well? I'm waiting, or did you think a naked man was going to scare me off more than a shut door?"

"I'm not going to college."

"Ah, yeah you are." She was purposely keeping her eyes on my face since I had made no move to cover myself. "Your grandfather and your dad both left money, specifically set aside for you to go. So you're going."


"You're grandmother will--"

"My Nana is going to have her hands full just trying to make sure that Mina and Tina get into a good college. I'm going to leave the majority of my school funds to her, for them." Tossing the damp towel towards my hamper, I pushed aside the old threadbare curtain that covered my sparse wardrobe closet. I grabbed a black tank top and a pair of board shorts but I didn't, however, make any move to get dressed. Instead, I turned to face her full on. "Taking the rest of my money, I'm going to sail the Star here to somewhere other than this fuck-shit town for a year or two, find me a better place to live. And then, once everything around here goes to shit like it's going to, I'm going to come back. I'm standing in the middle of Main Street, drop my pants, and tell every one of you losers that wouldn't listen to my dad to kiss my ass!"

For a moment she stood there, dumbfounded. Then a smirk appeared and her eyes dropped to take in my whole body in a slow gander. When her eyes came back to my face I was the one hiding a blush.

"I can't wait to see that. Too bad it won't happen." At my glare, she sat down at the galley table. "See, it's a sad fact, but it is a fact that your dad was wrong. So things won't be going to shit. Which is good, given that you're going to be staying. See, I'm going to apparently have to hand raise you like a baby bird till I believe you're really ready to fly on your own. At the moment you're still far too susceptible to believing fantasy nonsense to be allowed on your own."

"Victoria, I've been living alone for months now!"

"There is a lot of difference in living on a boat in a marina -- swilling beer and eating junk food -- than being out in the world, alone." She nudged the trash can with the paper remnants of a week's meals. "You're what? Eighteen, nineteen? The real world will eat you alive in a week."

"Not likely. I have all I need here." I held out my arms to the walls around us. "Anything this world can throw at me, I can simply sail away from."

Victoria gave me a snarky smirk. "What makes you think you can manage a sailing boat alone? This thing is a fifty-footer, Randal! You couldn't even get this ship out the marina, without sinking half the other boats here?"

Pulling on my shorts, I walked past her. Stepping off the boat, jumping up the gangplank onto the dock. Anger fueling me, I threw off the two mooring ropes at bow and stern. Hopping back down, I flipped up the brightly-varnished wooden cover on the control panel, turned the key, and hit the button to start the Star's anchors rolling up.

"What are you doing?"

Turning the brass key to its fullest, the big engine under us woke up and belched exhaust into the water behind us.


"I would recommend you leave now." I placed one hand on the throttle, the other on the wheel and gave her a look that dared her to do otherwise. "Last chance to do so before you have to swim."

"Yeah, like you're going anywhere."

With a quick tilt of my head, I pushed the worn wooden knob under my fingers forward and turned the wheel away from the dock. With a foam of bubbles behind us, the Caribbean Star purred her way away from her mooring. Seeking the clearly marked deeper channel, I headed toward the open throat of the marina's cluster of yacht-laden piers, easily pointing the sailing ship's long nose towards open sea. Ignoring Victoria -- too focused on what I was doing to pay her any mind whatsoever -- I smiled feeling the Star roll under my feet as she wallowed in her own wake ripples. At the end of this narrow channel, I turned her hard port and slipped past the last pier. With a glance ahead, I saw that there was nothing before us clear to the horizon.

Setting the searing lock, I left the wheel and moved forward to unhook the nylon rain cover on the rolled up sails. The white patina of seagull shit irritated the hell out of me as I pulled the covers free and rolled them up. Stepping past the cabin door, I tossed them inside to get them out the way till I could manage to clean them.

"Okay, Randal, you made your point."

Stepping back to the controls, I looped the mainsail line off the line clutch I was holding, hit the button beside the electric cabin top winch, and watched it spin. Above us, the mail sail ran up the tall mast. It billowed out to a wonderful tautness as I turned the wheel pointing Star completely into the wind.


"I'm not making a point, Victoria. I'm taking my sailboat out for a day of sailing." Happy with the luff of the main, I took a second line and repeated the process to raise the foresail into place. The Star began to heel-over as she caught the wind. "I told you to get off, but you didn't want to listen. Swim or stay. I honestly don't give a fuck."

For a moment she stood there huffing, then she yanked out her cell phone and began punching the face.

"Jennifer? Hey, I'm going to be out of touch for a few hours. Just letting you know." She stepped away but I still heard her. "No, nothing is wrong, I'm just going sailing. A friend made me an offer I couldn't refuse. Yeah, I hope so too. Okay, I'll call you when I get back. Love you too, bye."

With a flounce, Victoria moved over to one of the padded seats. After a moment of huffiness, she leaned back, undid her ponytail, and let her red hair stream out into the wind. "So where are we going?"

"Nowhere in particular. Just to the east, for now." Looking to port, I saw a charter fishing boat set up by the inlet. Chasing red snapper or snook, no doubt. "Or I could turn us south. How about dinner in Miami?"

"Too many people," she muttered, half-ignoring me.

I nodded accepting that fact. "There's leftovers in the fridge still. There's Mangrove Cay above Grand Bahama. We can anchor offshore, take the food and have a picnic on the beach. Or maybe go swimming?"

She shot me a look. "I didn't bring a suit. Unplanned trip, remember?"

I smiled and waved to the charter boat as we passed.

"All the better."

Victoria shook her head at my grin. "Don't try to flirt with me, Randal, I'm not my daughter. I want one of those beers you've been hoarding."

"Floor cooler, middle of the cabin, under the rug. Just pull on the metal rung."

When she disappeared into the cabin, I set the autopilot and took the time to pick up my tank top shirt and pulled it over my head. Resting my hands on the wooden overhead railing, I looked at the lighthouse as it vanished slowly behind me. The creak and rustle of the sail and boom a gentle song in my ears.

"Here." A bottle bumped me in the back. Turning, I took the offered beer. "I figured you would want one."

"Thanks." I gave her a soft smile. "Vicky."

With a roll of her eyes, she stepped past me and plopped her shapely butt on a padded bench seat.

** ** ** ** ** ** **

The water was a brilliant turquoise color and the sky was so blue it hurt the eyes to look at it for too long. When she finished her beer Victoria stretched out onto the bench and propped her head on her arm. That she was watching me made me a little self-conscious, but I didn't give her the satisfaction of knowing that.

Or I hoped anyway.

Feeling a hint of the munches, I disappeared down into the cabin long enough to make me a turkey sandwich. My long years of hard taught manners got the better of me.

"Are you hungry, Vicky?"

"No, not really. I still feel stuffed for yesterday. You missed a great meal."

I decided to not ignore the needling. "I had a great meal in its place. And with much better company than my ex-girlfriend and her new boyfriend."

"I wish you and Jennifer could have at least stayed friends. You two knew each other for so long, it's a shame that you fell apart over something silly."

Not wanting to argue, I did choose to ignore that.

Munching on my sandwich, I stepped back out into the light and looked around, double checking everything till I was satisfied nothing had changed in the few minutes I wasn't there. Despite my act of sailing confidence, I wasn't really as comfortable as I was trying to make Victoria think. While it's true I had taken the Star out dozens of times, even sailing her as far south as around and past Key West ... but, I had always had my grandfather or my dad aboard to double check everything for me.

Not that I was nervous or anything. I knew what I was doing.

Glancing over at the redheaded woman, lounging comfortable, I did have to question just what I was doing with her. Somewhere in the middle of this mornings ranting, she had tripped something in my emotional cocktail slurry. Maybe it was her more-than-minimal resemblance to her daughter, a girl I had wholeheartedly loved. Or maybe it was the simple maturity that made Victoria seem like a tower of confidence no matter what I said. I wasn't used to that. Well, Nana had it, but that's different. Way different.


I startled. "Huh?"

"You're staring. Never seen a redhead before?"

I flashed her a grin to hide the awkwardness I felt. "Yeah, I've even kissed one a time or two."

"Hum, was kissing all you did?"

Shooting her a look to see if she seriously wanted an answer to that, I saw the twinkle in her eyes. I gave her a roll of my eyes and went back to chewing cold turkey.

"You. Were. Staring. Why?"

Looking back at her, I had to wonder what she was even questioning this. She was a fairy looking, nymph-faced, redhead with a decently curvy body, who was a sprawl in a not-quite-but-close pinup pose. Her crimson locks -- freed from their normal ponytail or bun -- were dancing in the wind, caressing the back of her slim neck.

"And now you're staring again."

I decided to stroke her ego. "There is not a lot out here as beautiful to look at as you. There, happy?"

She didn't buy it. Sitting up, Victoria gave me a look. "Lame. That the best you got? No wonder my daughter dumped you."

Oh, that stung.

"You got a nice ass. Not much in the way of tits, but a damn nice ass," I said.

She smirked back a mirror of my own. "You should shave your pubes; your dick would look longer."

Nope. Oh, hell no.

"It's long enough it would touch places your ex-husband never reached."

Victoria chuckled at that and I smiled back.

Getting up, she moved over to stand in front of me, her hands on her hips, swaying with the rock of the sailboat. "That's not saying much."

Now it was my turn to chuckle. "How sad ... for you." I let my eyes drop to the twin low hills pushing up her shirt. "But then maybe you couldn't have handled a man any bigger."

Her smirk was sexy as fuck. "That's what the toy drawer is for." For a moment Victoria leaned in close enough to me I thought she was about to kiss me. Her words were a whisper. "Which, if this is the best you can flirt, it's a damn good thing I have."

"Yeah, it probably is. You're too old for me."

Her hand moved between us and she lifted my chin so my eyes met hers again. "How sad ... for you. I want a sandwich."

Leaving me standing there blinking, she vanished down into the cabin.

** ** ** ** ** ** **

It took the Star about five hours of strong sailing to reach Mangrove Cay.

Appearing like a dark stain on the horizon, the small island began to crest the ruler-flat line ahead about an hour before we arrived. When the tips of about a half-dozen masts appeared next I knew we were going to have company there. By the time the island was clearly visible I could tell that there were, in fact, more than just a few others. Much smaller, coastal boats were there as well. Taking Star off autopilot, I eased her into a sweet anchorage -- as far from the nearest as I could -- lowering the sails as I went and, when finally happy, I dropped both anchors.

The splash woke Victoria.

Looking over at her with a smile, I gestured to shore. "We're here."

I closed the control panel and moved to the forward locker to get out a few items I store since I don't use them often. The Sea Eagle inflatable runabout being the largest and its small battery-powered electric outboard motor being the heaviest.

Dragging out the air pump and starting the assembly, I was muttering to myself. "Oh, I wish I had done this before we left and just towed this damn thing behind us."

"Plan your kidnappings better next time."

I shot her a fuck off look. "Hardly a kidnapping, since you could have left at any time."

Victoria watched me placing the floorboards into the inflatable, then she knelt down to help with locking them in place. "Well, I already had you for indecent public exposure; I was curious just how many more crimes you might commit."

Glancing up my eyes went to the open throat of her top and the delightfully freckled cleavage on display. "Would spanking you constitute assault?"

She chuckled. "Yes, but it would also give me my grounds for justifiable homicide."

"There is a wicker basket atop the fridge. Could you get the food heated and packed away while I get this inflated? There's plenty of soda and maybe pack something sweet."

"Where do you keep something sweet?" she asked, following the lead perfectly.

I gave her a naughty smirk that said it all.

"Oh, gods." With a roll of her eyes, Victoria got to her feet and vanished below. I chuckled hearing her cussing to herself. Leaning over, I looked through the door and saw her bent over into the fridge.

A wolf whistle earned me a fruit cup thrown at me.

Catching it, I smiled, popped the peel-back top, drank down the sweet juice and chewed on the soft chunks of cold fruit. Honestly, I could have made a decent lunch off a few of these. But, even as I thought of that, memories of the delicious chicken dressing that was left from yesterday made my mouth start to water. The other trimming my Nana had insisted I take were equally as wonderful and the sandwich I had earlier was a far distant crumb to my hunger.

Working on the runabout I thought about the flirty banter that had begun to grow between Victoria and me as this day had passed. In the early years of my life -- when she had been our next door neighbor -- she had never been anything but polite to me. She was attentive to the questions that a silly child might ask, but she had paid me no special attention. My brother Tyler had been the older one that always drew all eyes to him, that always seemed to get the girls to flirt and to want him to take out. There have been times when I had to wonder if Jennifer had been a bit older if she would not have rather dated my brother than me. She had all but said so once the break-up arguments had begun between us. The phrase "I wish you were more like...." could really have only one ending given the way Jennifer had crushed on Tyler years ago.

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