A Piratical Legacy Chapter 30 Part 2 - Coming of Age
Chapter 30 – Coming of Age Part 2A Piratical LegacyChapter 30: Coming of AgePart 2
The sun was shining hotly down on Twikkii Island when Ching Shih Buccaneer stepped out of her taxi. She stood for a minute on the sandywalkway that led to the front door of the familys vacation house. It had been years since shed been here, but as far as she could tell, nothing hadchanged."Wait here for a minute," she told the taxi driver. "Im just going to drop off my suitcase and then Id like to go to the market to stock the fridge."The driver smiled amiably and turned on the radio to settle down and wait, though he did offer to help Shih with her bag. She waved him off,though, and carried it in herself.
She dismissed the driver at the marketplace; it wasnt a long walk back to the chalet. After buying what food she thought shed need for the week,Shih also stopped and picked up a few new outfits and got her hair styled a bit differently. Finally, she braved getting her nose pierced.She felt that she was looking pretty good.
She returned to the chalet and, after putting away all of her purchases, phoned her old, old friend Jim Reeves and invited him over.He promised to be there right away.
The butterflies were back as Shih strode down the sandy path to the sidewalk, where Jim was waiting to be greeted. Would he appreciate that shewas grown up now? Would he even notice? And would they still be friends now that they were meeting in person for the first time in ten years?
"Ching Shih!" Jim said exuberantly, catching her up in a warm hug. "You have blossomed into a glorious flower of womanhood. How wonderful itis to see you again!"Cue butterflies trying frantically to escape. Shih ruthlessly forced them down and made herself casual, choosing instead to enjoy the warmth ofJims embrace despite the hot day.
"Its good to see you too," Shih managed after what felt like (to her) showing his dazzling white teeth.an eternity of silence. With a grin, she then performed the traditionalTwikkii Island greeting that Jim had taught her during her first visit "Yeah, some of them," Shih admitted. "But Hugo never did, I thinkto the island. because his girlfriend is part islander.""You have kept up practice!" Jim said delightedly. "I am honoured "Ah yes, young Lainey," Jim nodded in remembrance. "She is mythat you have remembered." sisters husbands uncles wifes cousins daughters niece.""How could I forget?" Shih giggled. "We only emailed at least "That... sounds complicated," Shih grinned. "But interesting. Whyweekly for the past ten years. Especially when I was small, I would dont you come inside out of the heat and we can talk some more?"make my brother and my cousins practice with me after each email." "I would like that," Jim said."How they must have gotten annoyed after a time," Jim smiled,
Shih had purchased a ready-to-serve salmon dinner for two at the market, and this she quickly heated up and served."Ah, this is one of my favorite meals," Jim said, taking a bite and savoring it with evident relish."The shopkeeper said it was a best-seller," Shih said, trying the dish herself. "Mmm... it is good."
"But you did not come all this way to talk only of food," Jim said, leaning in closer and gesturing with his fork. "Email is a splendid way tocommunicate, Ching Shih, but it is not truly speaking. Tell me... what have you been doing with yourself for the past ten years?""I know you have long nights so close to the equator, but I dont think we have that much time to talk tonight," Shih grinned. "How about I just tellyou about how college has been so far.""I am all ears."
Shih lit into the tales of the drama happening at her dormitory with gusto, all the while trying to figure out where to look when she was facing Jim.If she looked at his face, she was mesmerized by the sculptured beauty of it, and if she looked at his chest then she lost her train of thoughtcompletely. It was a bit embarrassing."I think your fellow college students have a bit too much time on their hands, yes?" Jim said smoothly once Shih fell silent."A bit," Shih said. "If theyd just stick to woohooing their intended spouses, or not promise to be an intended spouse, theyd have a lot less drama.""That is my opinion as well," Jim said, smiling and showing those perfect teeth again. "It sounds to me like your friends engage in trouble for thesake of trouble.""One more reason Im glad Im not going to be living in the dorm next year," Shih said, swallowing the last bite of her dinner. "Cmon, Jim. Theresa fire pit outside and Ive got marshmallows for dessert!"
"Spending the evening under a starlit sky with the harmonious sound of the waves crashing in my ears, and a raven-and-scarlet haired beautybeside me... I think this is the perfect night, Ching Shih," Jim said with evident appreciation once the fire was burning cheerfully.
Shih blushed. "Thanks, Jim," she said softly. Then, feeling a bit uncomfortable and unsure, she steered the subject in other directions. "Ive neverseen so many stars at night before. Its dazzling!""Even on your Pirate Island, there must be more light pollution, then," Jim said. "Here, there is little. The stars are even brighter outside town, aswell.""I can imagine," Shih said dreamily.
Rummaging around, she pulled out a pair of marshmallows and some roasting sticks. "Time for dessert!" she said eagerly."I enjoy dessert," Jim murmured under his breath, looking at Shihs slender young form. But she didnt hear him, which was probably a good thing.The blushes would have been unbearable.
"Do you prefer your marshmallows lightly toasted, or burnt?" Jim asked, pulling his back from the flame and eyeing it speculatively."Lightly toasted, with a chunk of Hersheys chocolate, pressed between two graham wafers," Shih said wistfully. "But the store didnt have grahamwafers, so we cant have smores.""I have never heard of these," Jim said curiously."Theyre pure and total taste nirvana, Jim," Shih said longingly. She licked her lips, which caused Jims breath to catch in his throat. However, hisvoice was normal when he responded."When I visit Pirate Island, then, you will have to share them with me.""Deal," Shih smiled, but her heart fluttered at the implication that there would be future visits to look forward to.
"If you prefer your marshmallows toasted, I think it is just perfect right now," Jim added, gesturing to the sugary confection.Shih pulled it from the embers and examined it. "I think youre right," she said, and she popped it into her mouth.
"Mmm... thats SO good," she said with satisfaction once she could speak again.
It was a delightful evening, and so it was with extreme reluctance that Shih and Jim headed to the house some hours later."Just one more marshmallow for you," Jim teased, dangling the nearly empty bag in front of Shihs face."If I eat another, Ill burst!" Shih groaned, rubbing her stomach. "But man, that was good...""I know just the cure for overindulgence in marshmallows," Jim said seriously."Oh?""Red hands!"
"Oh, I dont know," Shih said once her hands were well and thoroughly reddened. "I have a better idea.""With such a hint, you must share it."
"Its over there," Shih said, pointing. She stifled a giggle as Jim turned to look and she bounced a full water balloon in her hand.
"I do not see anything other than the house," there was confusion in Jims voice."Thats because youre not looking in the right direction," Shih said, a wicked edge in her own voice. "Its over here now."Jim obligingly turned to look.
"Two can play at this game," Jim laughed, pulling a bright green water balloon out from under his clothing. The two of them raced around to thefront of the house, where the footing was a bit more certain in the dark.
"Youre on, island boy!" Shih shrieked gleefully, hefting her own magically conjured water balloon."Loser has to pay the winners admission at the ruins tomorrow!" Jim added."Ooh, you want to make things interesting," Shih giggled. She hesitated a moment, then flung her ammunition in Jims direction whilesimultaneously dodging to the left. Jim launched his own missile and dodged to the right...
...where he was promptly nailed by Shihs balloon!"That is only the first round!" he spluttered, dashing water out of his eyes. "I demand a rematch!""Oh, you are such a guy!" Shih giggled. "You sound just like my brother and my cousins... cant believe you lost to a girl!""There is some shame for a grown man to lose to a girl," Jim agreed. "However... there is no shame at all in losing to a woman--and you aredefinitely a woman, Ching Shih Buccaneer.""Good to know," Shih grinned. She readied another water balloon. "Now, are you just going to stand there talking all night or are you ready for thatrematch?"
A considerable time later, a thoroughly soaked Jim Reeves and Ching Shih Buccaneer bid one another farewell."See you in the morning," Shih said happily. "And remember to bring extra money for admissions... this ones definitely on you!""I think perhaps I would like to request a replay analysis of that last volley," Jim said with a smile. "After all, did you not in fact end up wet aswell?""Thats why I said it was a draw," Shih grinned. "But I still beat you, five to four."I must concede the point," Jim said at last. "Have sweet dreams, Ching Shih. I will come for you after breakfast.""Im looking forward to it!"
The next morning, Jim was already waiting by the mailbox when Shih finished breakfast."Ready to go?""Lead on, Mr. Jim!"
They decided to explore the Ancient Ruins of Numchuck, and Jim gallantly paid for Shihs admission, since hed lost the previous evenings bet.
Even though shed been here as a child, Shih couldnt help but feel overwhelming awe when she stepped through an archway and beheld themajestic glory of the giant monkey fountain."Fantastic," she breathed to herself. "And to think all of this was created by a culture that has been dead for millennia... these ruins were alreadyhere when Jims ancestors came to the island, centuries ago. Its mind-boggling."She was overwhelmed with the urge to climb all over the immense monument and learn its secrets, but she restrained herself. She was sure thelocals would never forgive her for being so presumptuous as to damage their artifact.
Instead, she contented herself with sitting at the foot of the waterfall and trailing her fingers in the ice-cold mountain water while the fine spraydampened her hair and clothes."I wish this vacation would last forever," she whispered.
Standing up, she moved to the front of the fountain. There was a small sign there that stated that all coins offered to the fountain would be used tomaintain the ruins as a historical site for the ages.
"Legend says that a wish made with an offering to Numchuck will result in your hearts desire," Jim whispered, coming up behind her. "So make awish.""Oh, I did," Shih replied, flipping the coin into the water and watching until it was lost from site."What did you wish for?" Jim teased."Thats for me to know," she grinned. "If I tell you, it wont come true, now will it?""See, Ive never been clear on that point myself," Jim responded. "If you dont tell anyone what you wish, then how can they help it to come true?""Come on," Shih laughed, looking at her watch. "The tour leaves in five minutes and we dont want to be late!"
"Youre the last of the group to join us," the tour guide said as Shih and Jim approached the rendezvous point. "The shuttle to the beach is justabout to leave!""Ive always wanted to go parasailing," Shih confided to Jim as they climbed into the purple minivan."Well, now you have the chance," Jim smiled. "I have always enjoyed it."
However, neither of them enjoyed the trip all that much--they ended up steering right into a patch of angry jellyfish.Jim and Shih were both exhausted, and Jim left to go home. Before he went, however, he suggested that Shih check out the local spa--in hisopinion, it would pep her right back up.
After a power nap back at the chalet, Shih made her way to the spa just in time for the daily dinner special.
"Zee pineapple surprise, she is très magnifique," the chef exclaimed, kissing his fingertips. "You wish to try eet?""Sure," Shih said. "But... arent you French, not local?""I came here when I was a leetle boy," the chef replied as he served her a generous portion. "I have learned how to cook zee local cuisine my entirelife!""Well, it sure tastes like it," Shih said appreciatively. "My compliments to the... uh... you.""Merci."
After soaking in the hot spring for a little while, Shih decided that a hot stone massage would be the perfect way to wind up the evening, and sheeven paid a little extra to learn the technique herself.
The next morning, Shih felt considerably better. Jim had to work, so she had the day to herself, and she decided to check out South End Beach...there was a Pirate Ship there.
"Arr! This be the life for me!" Shih cried, spinning the wheel frantically. "Hard to starboard, mateys! Now port! Land ho! Dont hit the rocks!Make fast the mainsail! Trim those lines!""Daddy, she almost looks like a real pirate," one bewildered-looking tot declared, pointing to the raven-and-scarlet haired mistress of the wheel."Dont be silly, honey," the man said, shaking his head. "Theres no such thing as pirates anymore.""I beg tdiffer with ya, man," Shih cried, letting go of the wheel for a moment. "Im Ching Shih Buccaneer, and Im descended from real pirates,sure enough! The blood may be a little dilute, but when Im on a ship, even a ruined one like this... it calls to me, aye?"
Leaving the wheel to the little girl and her father, Shih decided to explore every inch of the rest of the ship. First, she checked out the plank."Arr... and this be a bad place t learn Ive lost me sense o balance," she murmured to herself, still using the pirate voice shed fallen into whilespeaking to the other tourists. "Yikes!" She hastily backed up back onto solid ship.
Just as she got clear of the plank, the fencing station with the training dummy freed up, and Shih picked up a cutlass experimentally."Hmm... not bad," she said, hefting the blade to get a feel for its weight. She lunged forward. "Aha!"
Before long she was really getting into it. She lunged at the dummy again and again, faster and faster. The same child who had questioned herearlier pointed her out again. "Look, daddy! Shes really doing it! Shes fighting with the dummy!"
"Some people are just born to be pirates," Shih grinned to herself. She handed the cutlass off to the little girl. "Your turn now!"
Then she raced back up onto the foredeck and frantically raised the pirate the crew?"flag. "Most people usually ask what happened to Captain Jack," the woman"I see you have discovered the infamous Buccaneer family flag," a blue-clad smiled.local who was evidently a tourist guide of some sort, nodded to Shih. "Not me," Shih said firmly. "What happened to the crew?""Buccaneer?" Shih almost stopped what she was doing, she was so startled. "Why, they shipwrecked this fair vessel not three weeks after abandoning"Thats what I said," the woman smiled. "This ship used to belong to a their captain, didnt they?" the woman said. "And ever since then Jacks firstscurvy pirate by the name of Jack Buccaneer... until his crew mutinied and mate, Captain Dregg, haunts the ship!"threw him off." "Wh-whats the ship called?" Shih asked, hoisting the flag the rest of the"Really?" Shih blinked and paused for a moment. "Then what happened to way.
As the tattered pirate flag suddenly caught the wind and blew straight out, displaying the llama-and-veggie crest proudly for all to see."Why... its the Pearl," the woman said. "The Black Pearl. I thought everyone knew that."
The news was shocking, to say the least. Shih decided that she needed some answers... and there was one logical place to look. She waited until thetour guide wasnt looking and then crept into the Captains cabin.
"Aaauuuugh!" she shrieked, and took off at full tilt for the safety of the beach.
"OOGA BOOGA!" the ghost of Captain Dregg shouted, wiggling his fingers menacingly. "Take that, landlubber!" He looked around for the girlhed spooked from the cabin. "Aww... come back! I was just joking!"
Gingerly, Shih made her way back up the gangplank and onto themain deck of the ship. "Sorry," she said. "Lost my cool for a minute "Distant descendent," Shih confirmed.there." "Arr!" the pirate said merrily. "Dont that beat all? And here I was"I tend to have that effect on women, genrally," the ghost said just thinkin itd be good to see old Captain Jack again."affably. "Th names Captain Dregg. And who might you be?" "But didnt you overthrow him?" Shih blinked. "Thats what the tour"Ching Shih Buccaneer," she replied. "Does the name mean anything guide said."to you?" "Bah," the pirate ghost dismissed the guide with an airy wave. "She"Buccaneer... Buccaneer..." the ghost thought that over for a minute. dont know nothin. Jack was me mentor! And me best friend!""Any relation to Captain Jack, then, mate?"
"Then howd you end up with the Pearl?" Shih asked. "The lady said said. "I has this ... feelin ... about ya, mate."thats what this ship is called." "Maybe I should look for it," Shih mused. "Just to get some family"Nay, this aint th Pearl," Captain Dregg said with a snort. "This be closure."the Counterfeit Clam, mate. Sister ship o the Black Pearl, but not thePearl herself. That ships no been heard from since Jacks mate "A worthy quest, itd be."mutinied with all hands." "Ill think about it," Shih decided.Shih sighed. "Thats a bit disappointing," she said. "Here I washoping Id solved a family mystery." "Ya do that, lass," the pirate nodded. "In the meantime, have ya seen th view o the island from the crow’s-nest? Tis a sight worth"If y ever do find the Pearl... let me know then, lass," the pirate ghost seeing..."
And when Shih had clambered up to the pinnacle of the ship, she agreed that it was indeed a sight worth seeing. The entirety of Twikkii Island wasspread out before her eyes, and ocean as far as the horizon. It was dazzling.
Reluctantly, Shih climbed back down. She decided to spend the rest of the afternoon catching rays on the beach. Unfortunately, she fell asleepunder the gentle warmth of the sun... and when she woke up, she more closely resembled a lobster than a pirate.Grumbling, she stomped home to spend the rest of the evening applying lotion to cool her fiery skin.
"Ouch... that looks painful," Jim said sympathetically when he met felt pretty good. And being around Jim again distracted her fromShih the next morning in front of her chalet. He almost but not quite what discomfort she might be feeling. "So what are we doing today?"touched her shoulder, then pulled back. "I thought you might enjoy getting some firedancing lessons, so I"Its not as bad as it looks, thanks to some aloe and an oatmeal bath," made arrangements," Jim said, flashing his bright white teeth at her.Shih said. "And you can rest assured, Im absolutely covered in "I havent overstepped my bounds or anything, have I?"sunscreen today." "Not at all," Shih said. "Lead on, Mr. Jim!""Youre glistening with it," Jim chuckled. "Hey now, youre way too old to be calling me that," Jim admonished"I do look rather like a marinated lobster, dont I," Shih grinned. her gently.Since her skin didnt sting as much as shed anticipated, she actually
"This is Fire Dancer," Jim said by way of introduction once theyd reached the beach."Thats an... interesting... name," Shih said."It is an old islander tradition," Jim said. "Naming people after their job title is traditional in many cultures, is it not, Miss Buccaneer?""That makes a bit more sense," Shih nodded. She flexed her muscles. "So... Im ready to learn, if youre ready to teach!"
To the fire dancers delight, and Jims encouragement, Shih was a natural. She hadnt progressed to lighting the baton before they left for the day,but she was well on her way there.
Twirling batons used muscles Shih hadnt exerted before, and she was a bit stiff and sore after her training session was done. Jim suggested theyhead to the spa to soak in the natural hot springs for a while."Oooh... this is better," Shih said gratefully. "It stings my sunburn a bit, but its worth it for the muscle soothing.""As to your sunburn," Jim said, his eyes travelling over Shihs lithe form, "there is an island cure you may want to try. We call it moonbathing... lieout under the light of the moon and see if you can cause the sunburn to fade to a tan.""I suppose it cant hurt to try," Shih nodded as she sank deeper into the steaming water. "Ill give it a shot before I go to bed tonight.""It will work," Jim said confidently.
When she returned to the chalet after sunset, Shih wasted no time in putting Jims advice to the test. She lay out on a beach towel beneath thestars...
... and to her surprise, her skin cleared up almost immediately!"Excellent," Shih said to herself as she appraised her now bronzed skin. "I wonder how that works..."
The next morning, Shih was up bright and early. Her grandfather, Roche, had left her a map to a hidden hermits home somewhere on the island,and she was determined to see where the path led. Roches Mickles had been lost when he died, and Shih wanted one of her own.
She was met inside by a man who identified himself as a Witch Doctor. He gestured wildly and frustratedly at all of his broken appliances, andmade it obvious that he wanted Shihs help before he would talk to her.
Shih threw herself into the project with abandon. She was almost electrocuted by the dishwasher...
...and ignited by a spark from the television. But at last she finished, and the Witch Doctor returned to his hut. He stood waiting patiently for her toacknowledge him, and then suddenly turned tail and went outside again to fish."What a rip off!" Shih complained. "I fix everything for him and hes completely ignoring me! Just because I stopped to get a drink of water beforetalking to him!"I also agreed it was unfair, so I worked a bit of magic. Shih would find a Mickles in her inventory anyway, the next time she checked.
After a long and tiring morning, she returned home to relax the afternoon and early evening away. Jim would be stopping by with a friend of hisafter dinner for dessert, but that was hours away.Most of the chateau was too hot for comfort, so Shih retired to the more sheltered master bedroom. To her surprise, there was a stuffed bear sittingon the night stand. "And howd you get in here?" she asked the plush animal, not expecting a reply."Ya dont want t know, love," the bear replied, startling her right out of her skin."Aaah! Dont do that!""I get that a lot these days," the bear grumbled. "Yad think none o yad ever heard a talkin bear before, lass.""You havent spoken much to us pirates of late," Shih pointed out. "You could say were out of practice."
"Arrr! And ya call yerselves pirates, mate!" the bear complained. Clam isnt half a mile from where we are right now, run aground and"Runnin shops and stores and other respectable businesses is hardly turned into a tourist attraction. The ghost of Captain Dregg still lurksin keepin with the pirate spirit, savvy?" aboard to frighten unwary tourists, even.""And what would you have us do?" Shih demanded. "Ah, Dregg!" the bears shout turned gleeful. "He was only half the captain I was, love, but a good man neertheless. Probly why his ship"All ya need is a ship, and a star to steer her by," the bear said ran aground, savvy?"dreamily. "Its th best life in the world, mate. Why, if I had thePearl..." "Do you know where the Pearl is?" Shih asked."Yes, but she was lost with all hands and never heard from again," "They threw me overboard, lass, lest ya forget," the bear scolded her.Shih said sadly. "I found her sister ship, though. The Counterfeit "An in the bleedin Gulf of St. Lawrence, too!"
"Well, yeah," Shih conceded. "But a Captain has a special connection to his ship, right? You haunt those creepy stuffed animals... havent you evertried haunting your own ship?""Err..." the bear paused for a moment. "I hadnt actually thought of that, no.""Well, why dont you give it a try and report back to me, then?" Shih asked. "Maybe my family can find out where the ship is after all these years,and claim it back for ourselves!"
The bear gave her a long, considering look with its button eyes. "I likes the way ya thinks, girl," it said at last. "Youve the true pirate spirit in yourbones, no doubts there. If y can find me ship, perhaps Ill find meself some measure of peace, savvy?""Savvy... and its a deal," Shih grinned, reached forward, and shook one threadbare paw. "But itll have to wait until after I graduate university.""Whats three more years when Ive been waiting five generations, love?"
As the shadows lengthened on the lawn, the temperature inside the vacation house gradually grew more reasonable and Shih roused herself fromher pseudo-nap to get the house ready for Jim and his friend. She even put a cake in the oven to bake!When she saw Jim and his friend approaching, she headed outside to greet them."Ching Shih Buccaneer, I would like to introduce you to my friend Mary Vijayakar," Jim said, flashing pearly whites at both lades. "Mary, this ismy friend Shih. Like you, she was a member of the Twikkii Island pen pal program.""Its great to meet you!" Mary said enthusiastically."You, too," Shih said, hoping her voice sounded friendlier than she felt. Jim had more than one pen pal? Suddenly she felt like ten times a fool.
"I have fresh coffee cake in the house," she found herself saying cheerfully. "Come on in!""Which way to the little girls room?" Mary asked delicately. Shih gestured wordlessly, and Mary flashed her a companionable smile beforewalking off in the indicated direction."Shih, truly you are a marvelous cook," Jim said with appreciation as he sniffed the spice-heavy air. "Mary will not want us to wait for her. Isuggest we dig in!"Shih picked up her fork, but she didnt feel like eating. "Have you corresponded with Mary for long?" she asked, studiously not meeting his eye."For a few years," Jim said. "She is a lovely young woman, charming and intelligent. Her husband is a lucky man.""Husband?" Shih blinked. She hadnt been expecting to hear that.
"Oh, yes," Jim said. "She is here on her honeymoon with her husband, Antonio. He is taking a scuba-diving lesson and she has a water phobia, so Ioffered to keep her entertained for the afternoon. They are leaving tomorrow, and she wanted to meet the woman I have been filling her ears withall week."
"Youve been talking about me?" Shih asked coquettishly."How can I not sing your praises to everyone I know," Jim replied. "You are the most remarkable woman I have ever met, Ching Shih Buccaneer.Beautiful, adventurous, intelligent... I count myself lucky to be numbered among your friends.""You definitely know the way to a girls heart," Shih said, blushing. "Stop... youll make me vain!"
"Am I interrupting something?" Mary asked, walking into the room."Not at all," Shih and Jim said in unison. They locked eyes and burst out laughing."Please, join us," Shih added, gesturing to the seat on the other side of her.
They ate in companionable silence for a few minutes, and then Maryturned to Shih. "I like meeting new people," Shih said. "Im a Knowledge girl, but Im not a hermit. Sometimes I need my friends to make sure I meet"Youre a great cook," she said, smiling. "Could I get the recipe? Im new people, though."going to be a stay-at-home mom once my husband and I start havingkids, but I dont know the first thing about cooking." "Im Family, myself," Mary nodded. "But then, you probably guessed that.""Sure," Shih said. "Give me your email address before you leave, andIll send it to you. If you forget, just have Jim forward it to me." "It wasnt hard to figure out," Shih said."Thanks," Mary said. "And thank you for being so welcoming. I They chatted for a while longer and Shih discovered that Mary reallydidnt want to impose, but Jim insisted that you wouldnt mind me was a fun person, with a subtle sense of humor and a wittytagging along on his visit." conversational style.
A little while later, Mary stood up and excused herself. "My husbands scuba lesson should be just about over," she said apologetically. Sheextended a hand to Shih. "It was nice meeting you, Ching Shih."Shih and Jim saw her to the door and then returned to the living room."I should not stay much longer myself," Jim said reluctantly. "Between both of my lovely guests, Ive been neglecting my own housework andthere is a funny smell coming from my refrigerator. I need to track it down, though that pales in comparison to spending time with you."
"If it looks like it might be developing an intelligence of its own, bring me a sample," Shih said enthusiastically. "I have this project Im thinking offor my term project next year...""I shall endeavor to please," Jim said with an amused grin. "Does that mean I will be seeing you again before you leave?""I hope so," Shih said earnestly. She blushed. "Ive enjoyed spending time with you, Jim."
"And I have enjoyed spending time with you, Ching Shih Buccaneer," Jim said in a low voice, leaning in closer. For a moment, Shih thought hewas going to kiss her, and she licked her lips nervously."Wh-why dont you come over tomorrow evening," she said hastily. "If you thought the cake tonight was good, youll be blown away!""I shall have to contain my appetite until then," Jim said, stepping back reluctantly.
Shih fanned at herself as she felt the blush rising. "Whoa... little warm in here," she squeaked.Jim looked her up and down. "Indeed, I am feeling a little warm myself. Until tomorrow evening, then?""Dont be late!""Wild llamas could not keep me away."
The next morning Ching Shih was up cleaning at the crack of dawn. She would be leaving in slightly more than forty-eight hours, and sheddecided the previous evening that she wanted Jim more than shed ever wanted anything in her life. By the end of the night, she vowed to herself,he would be hers.
"All th same," the bear said as Shih explained the reason for her cleaning frenzy, "I dont know why yer botherin t clean th bedroom.""If I have to spell it out for you," Shih said, managing to contain a blush."Ya dont, missy. Like I said, I dont know why yer botherin."
"Thars no reason t be lockin me in th spare room!" the bear protested once Shih had deposited him there."Stay out of trouble!" Shih grinned, winking at him."...thars no rum in here. Wheres a bear t find a good couch when he needs it?"
When she was satisfied with the state of the rest of the house, Shih started working on dessert she planned to serve to her friend. Baked Alaska wasa specialty of hers. She managed to refrain from adding any love potion to the batter, and placed the finished product on the kitchen counter toawait being brandied.
All other preparations complete, she returned to the bedroom to change into an outfit shed been saving for just the right occasion. She fussedconsiderably over her makeup and hair, and she struggled to put contacts in.
Shih was nervous, but she was also extremely pleased with the end result. If this didnt catch Jims attention... nothing would.
When Shih greeted Jim at the mailbox a short while later, she was surprised to see he had also changed into something more formal."Whats the occasion?" Shih asked, gesturing to the suit."I had a feeling," Jim said, taking in Shihs slender form appreciatively, "that it would not be inappropriate. Such fine feathers you wear, my friend!You are a delight to the senses!""Well, I only hope my dessert meets with your approval as well," Shih said with a nervous giggle. "Come on in!""Oh, I have no doubt that it will," Jim said to himself as he followed the young woman into the house. "No doubts whatsoever."
Shih picked up the intricate dessert, poured a generous helping of brandy over it, and lit the entire confection with a match. "Dessert is served!"
"Ching Shih, you are a wonderful cook," Jim said, closing his eyes and savoring the first mouthful."I do try," Shih said. "Its not my strongest talent, but Ive endeavored to cultivate it.""I know," Jim said. "Youve written to me about it frequently. But seeing, smelling, and tasting a thing are entirely different than reading about it."
Putting actions to words, he dug into the creamy confection. His eating habits were a trifle... messy... which annoyed Shih a little, but sheremembered what shed heard a fellow college student say to her boyfriend: something about nobody being perfect, and everybody being cursedwith a few warts. Shih decided that if less-than-stellar table manners were the extent of Jims warts, she could live with that.
"I cant believe my vacation is almost over, though," Shih said sadly. "Accept them graciously," Jim smiled. "Youre one of the few"Ive been looking forward to it all term, and the time has flown by so women who can be complimented endlessly and who will neverquickly!" grow vain in spite of it. That is a quality well worth having.""I will regret your departure," Jim said. "Youve been a bright light "If you say so," Shih said. "But why do you compliment me soon the island this week, Ching Shih Buccaneer." much? Im just the kid youve been writing to for the past few years.""You always pay me so many compliments," Shih said, blushing. "It "You are not a child," Jim corrected her. "You are a woman. There ismakes me a bit uncomfortable, because I dont know how to react." a big difference. Were you a child, we would not be sitting here right now. This is practically a date!"
"Oh, I hadnt thought of it that way," Shih said consideringly. "I suppose this could be considered a date... if you wanted."
Jim swallowed hastily. "I would like that very much," he said softly.Shihs pulse pounded in her ears.
"Here," she said, pretending as though she hadnt heard that last statement. "I dont think you got any cherries on your piece." She scooped up theaforementioned piece of fruit with her fork and offered it to Jim. Rather than putting it on his own plate, or even taking the fork from her, Jimleaned forward and ate the fruit right off of Shihs utensil.
"And in exchange, I call dibs on that piece right there!" Shih giggled, trying desperately to lighten the mood. She wanted Jim, true, but now that itseemed inevitable that she would have him, she had the overwhelming urge to slow things down.Jim seemed to sense that, because he started laughing."Help yourself," he said, gesturing to the plate. "What kind of host would I be if I didnt let you eat off of my plate?""Oh, so youre the host now?" Shih laughed. "I thought this was my place!""Yes, but it is my island," Jim said, flashing his teeth at her.Shih giggled impishly at that. "Ill drink to that!"
Carefully she filled their champagne flutes and raised a glass. "To a wonderful evening with an even better friend," she said, clinking her drinkwith Jims."And to the most beautiful woman on the island," Jim responded. "I will drink to that!"They both drank deeply.
Wordlessly, Jim stood and held out a hand to Shih. She took it, and he led her out into the back yard."A dance, under the stars," he said invitingly, holding out his other hand.
The swayed gently in the warm summer night, and Jim slowly pulled Shih closer."You are like gossamer in my arms," he breathed in her ear. "I dare not hold you too tightly, lest you break.""Ill let you know if you squeeze too tight," Shih smirked. She still had butterflies, but she wasnt nervous anymore.
"I should probably kiss you right now," Jim murmured, pulling back just enough to look into Ching Shihs eyes."I think that would be a good idea, yes," Shih said breathlessly.
Time stood still as Jim gently pulled Shih to him and pressed his lips to hers.
"Ive been wanting to do that all week," Jim confessed when the kissfinally ended. "How could they be inappropriate?" Shih demanded. "Ive been looking forward to tonight since... well, since I swore off dating as a"You too, huh?" Shih laughed, her voice a little shaky. teenager. That would have been inappropriate. This is not.""I was half expecting to be greeted by a little girl when I arrived at "No, its not," Jim replied, kissing her again.the house at the beginning of the week," Jim said. "I was stunned tosee how beautiful you were, Ching Shih. Stunned and She took him by the hand and led him back into the house. "Much asoverwhelmed... and as the week went on, I came to realize that I felt I hate to waste a beautiful starry night like tonight..."things for you that could be decidedly... inappropriate."
As soon as they were inside, Jim swept her up into his arms once more."Eek!" Shih giggled. "Youve got me!""So I do," Jim grinned. "Now, what shall I do with you?"
As it turned out, Shih had a few ideas in that regard, and before long they found themselves in the bedroom.
"Are you sure about this?""Now that it comes to the moment... yes," Shih said decisively. "Youre all Ive ever wanted in a man, Jim Reeves.""But I am a Romance sim," Jim pointed out."Oh, Ive always known that," Shih shrugged. "I can read between the lines as well as any girl, and I know youve not been a monk.""I wont promise to commit to you for forever and a day.""Right now, Im only looking for a night."
Very gently, Jim pulled Shih close to him and kissed her again.
"Ching Shih Buccaneer," Jim said sleepily, some considerable time later."Yes?" Shih yawned, taking his hand."Im falling in love with you.""I know."
They held each other close all through the night.
When they awoke the next morning, Jim was worried that things might be awkward, but Shih just stretched sensuously and, when she caught Jimstaring, winked at him."Ill have breakfast ready in ten minutes if you want to catch a quick shower," she called over her shoulder as she strode confidently out of thebedroom.
Jim took one bite of his breakfast and immediately melted. "I dont deserve a woman like you.""Probably not," Shih said cheerfully. "But youve got one anyway!"
After breakfast they headed outside and down to Ching Shihs private beach to soak up the rays and play in the sand and surf."What time does your flight leave?" Jim asked morosely."The shuttle will pick me up in about six hours," Shih said."Then we must make the most of these last few hours we have together," Jim declared.
They spent the rest of the day around the little vacation home, with Shih putting everything back in order and Jim assisting her where he could.Shih kept them both entertained with anecdotes of the drama shed experienced living in dorm, and Jim contributed stories of some of the dumbertourists hed encountered."Thats enough work for today," Shih decided eventually.
"Yes, I would like to spend our last few hours together doing something other than working," Jim said, rubbing muscles that had worked hardrecently. "I am getting out of shape!""Oh... I wouldnt say that," Ching Shih said, smiling knowingly.
She swept Jim up in her own arms and planted a firm kiss on his lips."You are a lot less nervous than you were last night," Jim said breathlessly when she finally let him up."Call it the voice of experience."
"It is an experience I hope to repeat sometime soon," Jim said, pulling her close and embracing her tightly. "When will I see you again, ChingShih?""As soon as you come out to visit me," Shih said frankly. "My bank account cant handle another visit for at least a year, and I dont want to waitthat long.""I have some savings," Jim said. "I will look into it and let you know when to expect me. Your housemates at the Greek house will not have aproblem with me staying?""Well, my brother might want to beat you up," Shih laughed, "or Toby. Hes a Romance sim himself, so he knows what you lot are like.""I shall endeavor to prove my worthiness," Jim said. He checked his watch. "Alas... I believe it is time you got ready to go. The shuttle will be heremomentarily."
Ching Shih ran into the bedroom and changed into clothing more suited to Pirate Island this time of year and brushed her hair out into itscustomary do. She decided to put the nose ring back in, though. She thought it made her look more piratical."That would be the taxi," Jim said sadly when a staccato burst interrupted their canoodling on the front sofa. "Would you like me to carry yoursuitcase?""Ive got it," Shih said. She turned to face him. "I didnt say it before but... I love you.""I know."
And with one last kiss, Ching Shih Buccaneer picked up her suitcase and walked out to the waiting taxi.To be continued in Chapter 31...