"Is the boat ready?" I asked pulling the homemade satchel over my back. "I need to leave as quickly as possible."
"It's ready, but I still think you should say goodbye friend."
I sighed at the same tedious advice. However, there is no going back now. I've made my decision and if I told anyone they would just try to stop me. The fools never realized escape was the only way off of this island. There was no rescue party; there was no forgiving tribe that would take us in. We had two choices; work ourselves to death or fight for freedom.
"No, it is time I left. Thank for all your help Makema, but this journey is my own," I replied resting my hand on his shoulder. "I know you understand me or you would have never stolen the boat and risk the lashings."
He nodded, but didn't say anything. Emotion clouded his eyes. He, like everyone in the village, knew I never wanted to stay home. My passion was adventure. I dreamt of surviving on unmarked islands, sleeping under the stars and sailing the ocean. It was a wonderful dream that I would pursue or die trying.
I left him to his thoughts. Whatever sadness he felt he would grow out of. He had his own desires and dreams, but we knew well enough I was not a part of it. Leaving the shade of the trees I made my way across warm sand towards the welcoming water. I followed the tide until I reached the large rock. Sure enough, behind it was a row boat, the mighty vessel which will carry me towards my dreams. Sure, it seemed beaten and old, but it was in fact sturdy. Exactly the kind of boat I asked Makema to retrieve.
I clambered across the rock and into the row boat. I needed to leave now. It would be better if the villagers discovered me missing in the next few hours. By then it will be night and they can't follow me that way.
As I lifted the oars the boat suddenly bounced and rocked. I clutched the sides; something had hit the boat. I turned around to see Makema standing at the other end.
"Go home, Makema," I ordered. "You don't want to..."
"I want to go with you. That's all I want to do."
I stared at him. He was being sincere and my heart felt so warm. In that moment I balanced myself, walked over to him and hugged him as tight as I could. Losing him was not an option to me anymore; losing a man like this would kill me more than any beast.
"I can't stop you, but I can thank you," I replied holding tighter and releasing. I stared into his eyes and nodded. It was time to go.
Taking an oar each we began to paddle. We've been rowing for years, so our combined strength carried us across the worst waves that crashed on the tide and towards open sea. The sun on our backs energized us more than it exhausted. Hours passed and the sun descended. As it did we pulled on jackets. Sailing at night is cold and no matter how hot you are from rowing, you needed protection against the elements.
"The next island is a few hours row from here," I told him, breathing heavily.
"Are you sure we can make it?" he asked slightly worried. "The villagers have sharp eyes collectively and we don't want to be spotted.
"If we do we will be a day’s journey ahead of the village. We could use the time before they give up the search," I answered. "Trust me, we have lived with them long enough to know how much they care about us."
"It feels a little wrong..." Makema began to say. He saw my expression. "However, I don't regret it."
"Good," I nodded. "I will make sure that you don't...you will feel right for leaving and right for leaving with me."
Makema stared at me a moment with his grim face and it broke for a moment to reveal a smile, truly somebody that I could never lose.
We continued our journey and soon the boat grinded against the sand of the small island. Making small shelter we rested for the night. Warm light woke us up and we continued our rowing.
"How far is the next island?"
"Two days," I told Makema.
"Hmm, going to be sore after that."
I laughed. We've felt more aches in pains in the village than a two days row could give us. Still, our muscles would feel tight after such a long haul. However, we will be far away from home, far enough that the village can't follow. I tasted freedom, it's wonderful flavor fitted the horizon ahead of us. Vigor empowered us and we rowed like champions.
Makema knew it as well. We would be free of the people who made us work like dogs. After years of torturous labor the village only ended up training us to escape. Makema wanted to stay and fight, but I guess reasoning finally caught up with him. We were barely adults and they were slavers. It may have been where we grew up and we may call it home, but it wasn't where we belonged.
Two days passed, we reached another island. This one was larger than the one before, but still uninhabited.
"How far are we going to go?" Makema asked, exhausted and thirsty, but the coconuts and springs fed us both.
"A little bit further. There is a village out there on a safer island, one that would welcome us with open arms rather than chains."
"I hope you're right, Sabeda, I really do."
"I am, Makema. For me it will be a stepping stone to someplace else, but for you, it can be the force you can aid in freeing our people. I want you to think on that long and hard."
"I...I want to stay with you."
"I want you too as well, but help this tribe. If you feel like joining the attacking force, do so. Otherwise, let us keep rowing."
He sat there a moment and took a deep breath. Freedom called to Makema and he could not ignore it. He had no ambition beyond freeing our people, but I could see that he was beginning to share mine. I may not have believed it then, but I do now. Makema would stay by my side to the end and I by his. Freedom wouldn't be so sweet without company.
Be sure to follow!