The wind grasped my skirts. I clutched at them wildly to get them under control. My face; beetroot red. His face; unfortunately positioned at my now exposed crotch.
“Oh, hello”, he said, with a wispy, mocking smile on his bronzed face. I flushed a deeper colour still, not that he’d be able to see from where he was.
“No need to pout, I’ve seen it all before. I’ve got five sisters, see”. He turned away as some sort of gesture of respect and held out his hand to help me onto the boat. The damage was done with his previous words, but I took his hand. It was softer than I was expecting. I didn’t let my fingers linger on his. I made sure not to look him in the eye.
There was an awkward silence as he loaded my luggage behind us. I didn’t know what I was allowed to touch or sit on but I settled on a tarpaulin covered box across from him.
“Are you the only boy?” I tentatively asked, to keep a conversation going – away from my underwear.
“I’m sorry?”. He stood up as I asked, having finished tying down my cases with some sort of rope netting. Had I offended him?
“In your family. The only boy in your family”.
“Oh. Yes. I had a brother. A twin actually, but he passed away ten years ago.”
There were no other passengers. We were safely tied down, so it was time to push off. He threw the rope holding us to the jetty expertly onto the wooden boardwalk. It curled neatly around the pylon.
“Oh, I’m really sorry to hear that. What was his name?”
“Well”, he paused, as he used an oar to turn us toward the open water, “my name is Andrew. We haven’t really started at the right place, now have we? I suppose we couldn’t have seeing as I’ve seen your knickers before I even know your name”. My face flushed again while his beamed.
I was speechless. He smiled cheekily and waited for my response. I stared at him, incredulous in my embarrassment.
I opened my mouth to tell him that my name was Doctor Thoreau and that I – not a Husband, not a Father, but I – paid his wages. Before I could utter a word my ears were inundated with a deafening noise.
“Blllllgggghhhhh barrrrrpppppppp blllllllggggggg”. The engine roared to life with one swift movement of his muscled forearm.
I stood up and let my skirts give in to the wind.
I locked eyes with the European boatman. He shifted uncomfortably and the smile ran away from his sun kissed face. The horizon was between my legs.
As sweet as a whisper I said: “What do you know about me now Andrew? Nothing I don’t want you to”.