Adrian's Guilt (12)



"The captain sulked. He did not seek out anyone for conversation. He avoided meeting the stares of his friends. He kept his head tilted downward most of the time. Sometimes, he lost track of days. He ate meals without tasting the food. He felt trapped alone in a cramped chamber too tiny to hold the depth of his emotions. He roamed the deck like a sick man stumbling after his health. Adrian was sick, sick with guilt."

 

CHAPTER 12


Edward harrumphed when Adrian broke the news to his friends of Yusef’s sudden departure. His nose turned redder than the rest of his face. His outrage vented itself in words.


“The man ran away like a frightened fish,” he roared in the cramped compartment of Adrian’s cabin. “He is incapable of committing himself to anyone or anything.


“Damn! If you can’t make good on a promise to a woman, don’t make it. Orelia is a good woman. I hope this doesn’t make her turn a cold shoulder to life.”


Edward’s pronouncements with their ring of sincerity stunned Adrian, Trevor and Robert. But they spent no time analyzing their purpose because the news itself overwhelmed them. Their hearts had grown heavy with Yusef’s decision to leave the ship. Now, they discovered that he had abandoned them and the woman for whom he had left them. Their pain etched lines on their faces. Who did Yusef care about, they asked themselves. Himself for one. The friends, all except one, felt duped. Their hurt turned to anger.


“How dare he call himself a friend,” Robert said. “All he knows how to do is leave.”


“He can go on then,” Trevor picked up. “But he better not try coming back.”


“I’m going to find him,” Adrian said.


“Find him! They all exclaimed. “What in God’s name for?”


“Because I love him. Because he’s a friend.”


“He has no sense of loyalty,” Robert said. “He’s no one’s friend, Adrian.”


Adrian said nothing for a few moments. What could he possibly offer in Yusef’s defense? The others waited, poised and ready to pounce on whatever he said with a rebuttal.


“I don’t doubt him,” Adrian said, softly. “It never occurred to me to distrust Yusef. I don’t believe his decision to leave Jamaica was made so easily.”


“Oh, you mean he may have lost a few nights’ sound sleep while agonizing over it,” Robert said, with a scowl on his face. He continued:


“I’ve heard enough sympathy for the scoundrel, myself.” Robert walked out of Adrian’s cabin.


Trevor said to Adrian, “You form strange allegiances,” before leaving.


Edward, who had set the tone, said nothing and followed them out.


Adrian sat on the edge of his bed. He reached for his moustache to twirl but, when his fingers sailed through the air, he remembered that he had shaved it off. It seemed as though nothing was the same. Yusef’s friends had lost faith in him and in Adrian’s judgement of him. Adrian felt lost. What had happened to their friendship? As he thought about faith and trust, the memory of making love to Orelia floated back to him, and his heart sank to its lowest. What kind of friend was he? He fled into a miserable sleep marked by a dragon-like sea monster as large as the ship chasing it. He shouted orders, but his men followed their own minds. The buccaneers ran into each other as chaos ruled.


Adrian awakened upset. The others woke up at odds with themselves. No one contested Adrian’s order to sail northeast to Virginia. They had no objection to the destination, although his friends still choked on the purpose.


Thoughts of Sarah moved into the recesses of Adrian’s mind as those of Yusef hovered over him. He was anxious about the well-being of his friend out of love and guilt. The captain sulked. He did not seek out anyone for conversation. He avoided meeting the stares of his friends. He kept his head tilted downward most of the time. Sometimes, he lost track of days. He ate meals without tasting the food. He felt trapped alone in a cramped chamber too tiny to hold the depth of his emotions. He roamed the deck like a sick man stumbling after his health.


Adrian was sick, sick with guilt. He wallowed in the mud of shame. He foresaw his place in the fires of hell, and he feared his eternal punishment. The Catholic buccaneer had sentenced himself to the most severe retribution. Adrian asked himself whether chests of jewels, golden chalices and sweet spices would expunge the sin from his soul; it surely would exact a thousand million prayers from the priests to whom he would give them. Salvation could be bought with a rich enough penance. However, Adrian would not come near a priest until the ship reached Virginia. The captain’s sexual transgression was dragging him down while still in the waters of the Caribbean. He needed to tell someone before meeting with a man of the cloth.


It was apparent to Trevor that something other than Yusef’s disappearance was needling Adrian. One evening after Adrian played a concert of plaintive music that made him cry, the captain took his intuitive friend into his confidence. He approached him at the railing. Slowly, he began to unfold the story with his head drooping and his gaze fallen to the deck. He, verbally, indicted himself before each twist of the tale. Soon, he lost himself in the reverie of the telling, picking up his pace until he almost began to pant. Tiny beads of sweat popped out of Trevor’s forehead when Adrian uttered “Orelia” and “breasts” in the same breath. Adrian was galloping through the story now, progressing at a steady gait, fast enough to command concentration and anticipation. He had stopped thinking. He spun his yarn out of words that flew out of his heart on the wings of truth. Finally, he broke into the final charge.


“I lost myself in her arms. And I loved it,” he blasted.


A second later, he whimpered, “I’m so ashamed.”


“Why be ashamed?” Trevor did not hesitate with his response. Buoyed by Adrian’s trust in him, he showed tremendous compassion. “Any man would want Orelia. Not only is she beautiful, but the goodness of her soul shines on her face. You still view her as Yusef’s woman because that’s who she was when you met her; that’s why you met her. She’s not that anymore. She is a woman alone, hurting with love. You helped to comfort her. And yourself.”


The tension lifted from Adrian’s face, freeing it of the premature wrinkles it had worn for days. Trevor had helped him see clear of his guilt and to acknowledge the unexpected – he missed Orelia. He had this much more crucial reason for seeing Yusef. Before he began his pursuit of Orelia, he had to assure himself that the merchant was not considering a return to Port Royal.


“Thank you, Trevor,” he said. “You’re absolutely right. We comforted each other.”


How could Adrian know that Orelia and Yusef’s life had not withstood the harshness of reality? Their activities around the sleeping mat had not taken on the same gossamer quality as those on the mat. Quite the contrary. They grew weighty and confining. Yusef developed breathing problems because of a constriction of his throat that led to wheezing. His suffering was constant. At first, Orelia felt sorry for him. Gradually, his whistles resounded into roars in her ears. She hated them. Orelia and Yusef became less amorous. As their lovemaking cooled down, their food tasted bland.


Life at sea began to tantalize Yusef.