“While No One Was Looking” – Chapter 1

The effect others have on the path of our life are often not apparent. We see clearly how our own actions and decisions change our lives, but it’s often in retrospect that we realize the changes brought on by others that we may not even consider directly involved in our lives.

Most people never recognize the people that form the triangles in their personal relationships.  Just as we unintentionally and unknowingly change the lives of the people around us, their indirect actions and reactions have effects and some control on our own path, even indirectly through a third person. As the sage advice says “be careful who your friends are”.


Chapter 1

There had been many memorable days working on the Lady Z drift fishing boat. Days with perfect weather, or terrible weather, days with big fish being caught all day, the decks full, crowded with excited fishermen, and some days were especially memorable for the people who came on board. This was one of those days.

Juan Rivera, first mate, was helping the second mate Allan hand out fishing gear to the customers, giving and taking the usual jokes and jibes from the regulars, the boat engines warming up at idle, the Lady Z still tied to the dock, when Captain Harris gave Juan the order to cast off the lines. Juan glanced up the dock as he unlatched the boarding steps while Allan picked up the bow line near Larry, a regular customer with a prime spot on the starboard bow. Juan dropped the boarding steps back onto the rail. He waved to Allan to wait, then turned to look back at the dock. Trotting toward the boat were two late-comers, tall, young and laughing, obviously first-timers. They stopped at the gate and waved.

Juan looked up at Captain Harris. The Captain nodded and pointed at his watch, it was two minutes after 7, and the Lady Z almost never left the dock later than 7 am. Juan jumped up on the dock and ran to open the gate.

As Juan helped the couple on board, he took the woman’s hand. She stopped and looked at his face, as if studying it, and as he looked back something in her eyes froze him, something tightened in his chest, and for a moment he couldn’t breathe.

“Hello, I’m Barbra Ossa”, she said. The world became silent to Juan. He no longer heard the boat engines, or the seagulls, or the chatter of the fishermen. It seemed as if all had ceased. Barbra’s voice was deep and rich with a tremolo that vibrated in accompaniment to the tingling of his skin where he held her hand. Juan was frozen, enjoying this moment more than he should, when Larry blurted out “Hello, I’m Larry, let’s go fishing!” The laughter from the fishermen broke Juan’s spell.

Barbra Ossa looked at Larry and back at the group of smiling men. She blushed and lowered her eyes, not realizing their laughter obscured that they were mesmerized by her beauty.

Juan regained his composure and shook Carlton’s hand. Smiling at them both he said his usual greeting “I’m Juan Rivera, first mate. Find a place at the rail or have a seat and I’ll get your gear for you after we cast off. Welcome aboard the Lady Z.”

Cruising out the Boca inlet on smooth waters, the 30 year old boat had been making morning and afternoon trips during the winter season since Captain Harris bought her nineteen years ago. Almost all the customers on board today were regulars. They had their usual spots on the rail and were ready to fish as soon as the boat reached the reef and shut down the engines. The two newcomers stood out in this group of drift boat regulars. The fishermen barely noticed the guy. Trying not to stare, and failing, all eyes were on the woman. She was an uncommon beauty amongst them. Some of them thought they had seen her on a calendar or in a magazine, or maybe it was in a movie? Others were dreaming of being with her. Almost everyone wondered what these two were doing on this tub?

Juan had worked on the Lady Z for so many years he had lost count. It was actually 18 years, but he paid no attention to the passing of time, or what he might have achieved financially in a more rewarding occupation. Elena, his ex-wife did, and this was one of the reasons she had left him. That and the fact that he always smelled like the fish he brought home with him every day. Juan didn’t mind the smell of fish, it was part of his life that he loved, working on the ocean.

Juan had only worked on the Lady Z, and only for Captain Harris, who he regarded as a great captain. He originally began the job when he and Elena had just married, considering it temporary, just until he finished college and could start a career in something else. The problem was he hadn’t decided what he wanted to do for the rest of his life. Every day while at school his thoughts were of being out on the water, working on the fishing boat. The work was hard, especially during the season when it was two trips a day. The pay and the tips on a drift boat were not great, but most days he received fish in return for cleaning the catch for some of the customers. Eventually Elena refused to cook the fish he brought home. Juan would cook their dinner, something for her and fish for him. He loved to find new ways to cook the fish, and he loved to eat it.

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