As it turned out, Hazel wasn’t at all acquainted with the illustrious rhythm of the sea. With their first night on The Sovereign, that is, Christel’s personal steamboat, they treated themselves to a bottle of wine and a fine seafood meal. The wine was all right, and Devin had over-cooked the fish, but it was the atmosphere of the night that counted. Soon enough, as the sun took on the fresh colour of lemon-yellow bursting over the vast sea, Christel found Hazel leaning over the railing, returning her seafood to the ocean.
“You know, if you had told me that you got sea-sick so easily I would have arranged for a carriage.” His jests did not seem to amuse her. Christel saved her the embarrassment and left her alone. She’ll get used the sea sooner or later.
Ever since they had departed on their journey back to Eden, his words to her had been coated with a sullen hint of doubt. That kiss had changed something – the way they looked at each other, and even the sound in their voices as they spoke. Christel was thinking about it more and more. It was a simple impulsive moment, no longer than five seconds, and he couldn’t stop thinking about it. He remembered how soft and sweet her lips were. He remembered the look of her face when they danced…
With his mission completed, Carley had been avenged. He had to accept that he was thinking about her less and less as his world changed. She wouldn’t want me to dwell on the past, he told himself. Instead he wondered about the future. Hazel.
Christel owned a house in Eden, to which he visited occasionally during his trips back and forth. It wasn’t really all that much to look at. The gardens had been un-kept, and dense green vines crawled up the walls, over the windows, and onto the balcony above.
It was awfully dark inside, with most the windows covered by plants or other obstructions. The rooms were all poorly furnished – the one that served as his bedroom had only a mattress on the floor, a blanket, and some old forgotten papers belonging to a previous heist.
Careful not to be seen, the group lugged each bag of gold from the carriage they had borrowed and into the dining room. From there, they would assort all the treasure into its respected categories – the coins into a pile, the diamonds into another, the amethysts, the jewellery, and so on. Then each individual pile would have to be divided up according to each persons agreed cut. Christel and Hazel would both receive thirty-five percent, an even split, as they had agreed on all those months ago. Devin was to receive twenty percent. Annabelle, the woman who had assisted with their escape, was promised four percent from Devin. Their getaway driver, whose name Christel wasn’t quite sure of, was promised three percent. The last three percent Christel had decided to give to Arlandra, if he ever saw him again.
Of course the action of sorting and dividing the treasure was likely to take an entire day, even with Annabelle and Devin’s little driver servant helping. In the meantime, he had plenty of errands to run in Eden before the day was done. He planned on spending no time sitting around with a pile of gold at his feet, and so he prepared his steamboat with fuel and supplies to make the trip to his secret island, just off the coast of Eden.
He wanted to be gone at first light on the morrow, sailing off to his real home, the natural hidden fortress where all of his gold was stashed. The notion of being gone became stuck in his head. Gone… without Hazel.
He wanted her, he knew, more than any promise of diamonds and gold. But he simply couldn’t leave his wealth behind. And on his return to his uncared-for home in Eden, he thought about it. Devin’s words – it’s her, or the gold. You have to choose, lad.
Christel had the night to make his decision.
It was dark when Devin and the others had finished meddling with their mountains of riches, and at last each person was awarded with their own little pile of wealth. They celebrated once again for the sake of celebrating – sharing another bottle of wine and reminiscing the tale of the heist that would never be told again to a soul. Although with all his cheers and his pile of gold, Christel still felt empty handed.
About half an hour later he found Hazel up on the balcony with the sky above her, staring over the city under the crimson blue gleam of the moon and the stars. Christel loved the shape of her silhouette against the night. He took a slow deep breath, and walked casually up to the balustrade beside her. He didn’t look at her, but instead just followed her eyes over the city, watching as the little specks of light below flickered like fireflies. The moon was cool and bright, and he found it just so relaxing.
“It’s a nice night tonight,” he said calmly, lifting his gaze up and becoming lost in the vast ocean of stars. “Sometimes I feel like I could just float up there.”
Hazel smiled weakly, without breaking her gaze, and Christel’s expression died. “Look, I’m sorry I kissed you,” he said at last. “It was the heat of the moment. I shouldn’t have done it.”
Hazel turned her eyes to him. “It wasn’t the kiss that bothered me. It’s just… everything else.” There was a hidden tension in her voice. “You’re a thief, Christel!” she suddenly blurted out. “And so am I. How can I trust you?”
Somehow, in all of his feelings of affection, there was anger hiding away. “You think I wanted this? You handcuffed me to a bed, remember?” his voice was louder than he wanted it to be.
“And it’s over now! We’re done. So why do you insist on staying together? We’re thieves! We take things from very dangerous people! Don’t you see? Every attempt I’ve had at having a normal life has been carved up by my past! I can see it in you too, Christel, the look we both share, of a desperate life and a long history of things we can’t change. So why do you insist on staying together?”
Christel could feel her tears and he was silent as he looked for the words. “You’re right,” he spoke softly, almost a whisper. “When we first met you reminded me so much of someone I loved… someone I lost. But then, day after day, I realised that it was okay to forget the pain of the one who was gone because it’s what she’d have wanted. And then I fell in love with you. I can’t change the past but I can damn well make my future. We can do it together, Hazel, you and I against the world. We can forget the past, break the cycle, and be happy for a change.” He thought about it for a while, how great it would be to show a real smile again, just like he did when Carley was still alive. “We can be happy, Hazel, but I can’t do it without you.”
Her tears finally began to flow, streaming out from her shining hazel eyes. “I can’t do it again,” she cried, sobbing heavily between each breath, “and I won’t let you do it either.” And with that she stormed off, back towards the house.
Christel turned to her, wincing at the hole that had been torn through his chest. “Hazel!” he cried, desperately. “Hazel wait!” But she was already gone, and now Devin stood in the doorway, his narrow face darkened by the night.
He had a familiar look in his eye, one that Christel remember from years past. “It’s for the best, lad.” He was trying to be comforting in his own way. “It was her or the gold, you made the right choice.”
Christel, suddenly tired, brushed passed his friend. “I didn’t choose anything.”
“Where are you going?” Devin called after him as he went inside.
“I’m going to bed,” he responded angrily. “I’ll need you first light tomorrow morning to help load my cut onto the steamer.”
Christel had awoken the next morning with no memory of whether or not had had dreamed of anything. He had felt empty and frustrated as he loaded his bags of gold and supplies onto the steamboat, and as the sun peaked red over the horizon, Christel said a decent farewell to Devin. “I’ll see you back in Taelliwey pretty soon.” And they ended by shaking hands.
To Hazel he could only manage an awkward goodbye before setting off into the distant ocean. Already the silence was maddening.ns 22.214.171.124da2