by Adan Ramie
As they waited in line at the little stand on the beach, Sadie slipped her hand in the back pocket of Rachel’s jeans and gave her a squeeze. Rachel slapped it away. Sadie’s mother glanced back, sunglasses pulled down her nose, but was met with two innocent smiles. She said something in a language Rachel didn’t know, and moved forward with the line.
Rachel grabbed her phone, typed a message, then showed Sadie.
“Stop trying to embarrass me. They already don’t like me.”
Sadie took the phone and typed her response. She kissed Rachel’s forehead as she handed it back.
“Show them who you are and they will.”
The line moved again and the group of them huddled together. Sadie’s aunt Camilla pushed forward and started haggling over the posted tour prices. Sadie rolled her eyes and started toward her, but Rachel watched in fascination.
“No group discount?” Camilla asked. “Senior discount? I know I look good, but I’m over 60, and I served. Say, what about a military discount?”
Her husband waited behind her, his face serene as he looked over the sparkling water. Sadie’s mother grumbled at him, but he turned to look at Rachel instead. He leaned in close and whispered,
“You didn’t expect so much, did you?”
“Pardon?” Rachel asked.
“All this,” he said with a smile. “Us.”
“It’s been wonderful,” she said, wishing for Sadie. “I don’t have a big family.”
“Sadie told us,” he said, then patted her arm. “You’re a good girl.”
When he turned away, Rachel deflated; she had been holding her breath. Then she looked back at Sadie as she walked back smirking.
“All settled,” Sadie said, then kissed the top of her head. “We are headed out in ten minutes with the oldest tour guide here. Discount rate.”
The two piled onto the pontoon with Sadie’s family and waited ten minutes for the captain. When he arrived, Camilla swore. “We get Father Time.”
“Everyone aboard?” he growled.
They agreed and were off. Rachel relaxed in Sadie’s arms as the boat slipped across the water and everyone was quiet.
“Can’t say’s you’ll see any whales,” the captain said. “Dolphins a’plenty, but whales, nah.”
“On a whale-watching tour? Of course,” Camilla crowed, but her husband nudged her and she closed her mouth in a pucker.
“They’re beautiful,” Rachel told Sadie as two dolphins met the slowing boat a couple of hours later. “Why are we stopping?”
The captain signaled a 360-degree turn. “Discount rate.”
“Wait,” Sadie’s uncle said. He whispered something to the captain, shook his hand, glanced back at the rest of them, then jumped off into the water.
“Jason, are you insane?” Camilla cried.
But he didn’t stop. He swam to the nearest beach, then gave them a wave as he stood dripping on the sand.
“Go get him!” Camilla said.
“Can’t,” the captain said as he picked up speed. “Paid me not to. Settle in, we have a ways to go.”