I looked outside the bedroom window with a flashlight to see what was making the noises but couldn't see anything but greenery. I went to the front door and tried looking out of the windows that run down each side of it but they are leaded and cut glass and it's black as pitch outside so can't make anything out and there is NO WAY I am opening the door for a better look. So I never know what made the noise ALL NIGHT right through until the sun came up.
I get up at 7 to be ready to leave by 8. I pack up the rest of my stuff and go in the kitchen to make some tea. David is there and we exchange a pleasant 'good morning'. I am not going to leave this on a sour note, if I can help it. Then he drops the bomb. "How much is the bill for the car rental?" I think for a moment... "One hundred and eighteen and change, if I recall." "I want you to pay that to me before you leave." My blood turns to ice. "I am going to pay it cash when I return the car, " I say, "that was what we talked about yesterday." "No," he says, "you said you would pay me as soon as I put it on the card" "You have a very selective memory," I say. " that was for the plane ticket home. I asked if you could put the plane ticket on your card and I would just give you the cash right away." "So what's the difference?" he says, "I want the money now." "The difference is, what if I get there and they won't put it on your card?" "Why would that happen?" he scoffs at me, "They have approved $250 on the card, there won't be a problem." "There better not be." I say, then "You don't trust me, do you?" I ask. He starts to say no and then half way through he switches. "N....I have been burned before." "Well what about the money you promised to pay me for putting together the pamphlet for the boat for you? You said you would pay me and you have no intentions of paying, do you?" "I can't even use it!" He yells at me. When I was finished working on it, I printed it off and the settings on the printer wouldn't allow printing to the edge and so some of the graphics and text was missing. I told him that a proper print shop would not have an issue with it so be sure to take it to one. "Yes," I respond, "that's because you took it to Office Depot and they aren't a proper print shop. If you take it to a proper place, it won't be an issue." "And pay an extra $50?!?" He is horrified. I roll my eyes. "If you are too cheap to take it to a proper place, that is not my problem." I say, "I did exactly what you asked of me and you need to pay me." "I took you out to dinner twice." He says. I am incredulous. "Are you kidding me? First of all, you paid for dinner one time BEFORE you asked me to do the pamphlet and the second time I tried to pay and you told me it was your idea to eat out so you were paying. Second of all, two meals don't add up to what you owe me for my time. Thirdly, if that was how you were planning to pay me then why did you say that you were trying to give me a way to make some money?" He doesn't have an answer for that. "You are not an honorable person." I say. "I want you to pay me the money for the car rental." He responds. I go get my wallet and am about to take out $118 and then pause. "I am going to get the bill out of the car to make sure. " I drop my wallet back in my purse and then grab it back out and take it with me. I am pretty sure he wouldn't go into my wallet but it makes a nice point. You don't trust me, well guess what buddy? I don't trust you either. I go out to the car and I am shocked again. He has moved his truck to block the driveway so I can't get out and that makes me see red. I am angrier than I can remember being in years. Swear words I don't ever let out of my mouth fill my head. I grab the bill, see that it is indeed for $118, and march back into the house. He isn't in the kitchen. The way I am feeling at the moment, it's a good thing for him. I grab the money out of my wallet and slap it onto the counter. I put my wallet back in my purse and am about to go get my luggage when I stop. Sometimes I just know things. I go back and pick up the money and fan it out. I have put down $218 by mistake. Thank you GOD for prompting me. I put the extra hundred dollar bill back in my wallet and start piling my bags in the garage. He comes out as I am carting my backpack to the car and points to my bags. "Are these ready to go?" he asks. "Yes and don't touch them." I say. The adrenaline from my wrath would allow me to pick up the car right now if I had to. Fifty pound suitcases feel like ten.
I get the car loaded and am about to tell him to move his truck but before I can he gets in and does it. I squeal out of there without a backwards glance. I drive up the road to the shopping center and park. I need a few minutes to calm down before I set off on the road or I will be driving with my foot down all the way and that won't do. I go into K Mart and buy a blow dryer and some shampoo & conditioner, stuff he said he had on the boat and so I wouldn't need. I will need it now.
By the time I get back out to the car, I am no longer livid but I am still upset and for the first 20 miles all I can think about is how to get back at him. They warned me at the car rental desk that if I returned the car any way but full of gas, they would charge $5 a gallon to fill it up. Gas is $2.20. "If you think I am returning this car full of gas, think again." I yell to no one. It helps a bit but I have to force myself to let it all go so that the whole trip isn't ruined. I plug my iPod into the stereo and blast out my favourite road trip play-list. That's better. Much better.
I get my camera ready to take some pictures. I want to get one of that long bridge we were on the other day. It won't look the same not lit. But when I get there, it's still pretty impressive and I take several shots as I drive along it.
It's a long trip and somehow I never get on Alligator Alley. I am following the GPS instructions. According to the map, Hwy 75 makes a left onto A.A. just as it ends and it is the only road that crosses Florida down this far but every time I think maybe it is about to come up, it doesn't. I finally see the skyline of Miami on the horizon before I realize it isn't ever coming up. I can't figure out how I got here.
I had set the GPS to Miami beach as I want to see it now I am in control of where I am going. On the way I pass a canal and across it are some houses with boats tied up outside that blow my mind. One of the boats is HUGE. Almost a small cruise ship. It has to be a hundred million dollar boat. These must be the homes of the celebrities that live here. Coming back later, I drive on the other side and see that it is an island called 'Star Island'. If I had time I would have driven around it and had a good look but I don't have a minute to spare after wandering around Miami Beach for an hour looking at the cool buildings and then a quick walk down to the water.
Apparently, I find out later, it is South Beach or somewhere a bit more north that has most of the Art Deco buildings but I am happy looking at these. I wish I could go inside some and have a really good snoop. One of the buildings has a sign saying 'Versace Mansion - Tours'. Is this where he was shot? How awful.
I continue on my way and soon realize that there is no way I am going to have this car back on time. That means there is going to be a second day rental charge. Well I can't say I'm concerned. Between the gas and this, I might just get my $150 out of the miser after all.
I see a sign saying Key Largo is just over a bridge coming up and I get really excited. I am expecting coral pink houses, sand roads, palm trees, azure water and brilliant white sand. Instead it looks like driving along any old commercial district. Hmmm. Well, this is just the highway that connects all the islands. I am betting that if I drive down one of the many little side streets, paradise awaits.
The GPS announces "Destination ahead." and I soon see the yellow building with the 'Pet Resort' sign on the blue tin roof. I pull in and there is a guy cleaning out the inside of the only other car in the small lot. He stands up straight as I get out of the car and smiles. "Hi." we both say. He tells me that he is Elliot, and he works for Nancy. His clothes are filthy from all the dust the dogs kick up running around the open yard. There has to be 20 dogs in there. He tells me that Nancy is always gone from 4 to 5:30. I look at my watch and it is 5:15. I thank him and decide to wait in the car with the air running and he goes back to cleaning out his car.
In no time at all, a grey truck pulls up and Nancy gets out of the drivers seat. I get out and we meet. We hug. It is SO good to see her after all these years. She looks older, for sure, but she still looks great. Jake gets out of the passenger side. He spends about three or four hours every afternoon in the bar with his mates, drinking beer and shooting pool, so thus he isn't driving. As he walks up to me I am shocked. I would have walked past him on the street. He looks nothing like he used to. The years have not been kind and I can't even picture what he looked like back then now that I see him. Later, at the houseboat, I see a picture of him with his daughters that, judging by their ages, is about 20 years old and there I see the Jake I knew. What a difference. He welcomes me with open arms and then tells me that HE would have walked right past ME on the street. Such irony. I laugh. He says now that I have laughed and he has had a minute or two with me he is starting to recognize the old me. Last time I saw him I was 18 and weighed 130lbs, so I highly doubt it but it's nice to hear.
We talk about the logistics of getting to the houseboat. It is too late to take back my car as Thrifty's is another 10 miles down the road and is closing right now. As it is full of luggage, we decide to leave the truck and Jake's car here and pile into my car. They direct me to the boat yard on the Caribbean Sea side of the island where their houseboat is out of the water getting the bottom refinished. We pull in and the thing is HUGE. 85 feet. When we get inside, it is bigger than most apartments. This is going to be nice.
They show me to my room, it has a queen sized bed up at about waist-high. There is a built-in dresser and small closet, with a lit mirror above and a small TV and DVD player. This is luxury. I am going to have no problem getting myself organized in here. A quick trip to the local dollar store the next day helps accomplish that and before I know it, I am completely at home. As I plonk down the last of my bags on the bed, Nancy comes in and says, "I am so glad you didn't go back to Canada."
Family is a wonderful thing. Here I haven't seen these guys in 16 years, over 30 years in Jake's case, and yet they have opened their home to me and are genuinely thrilled that I am here. I am quite overwhelmed and so thankful, and I am really looking forward to getting reacquainted and becoming more than just family to Nancy. The age difference fades away the older one gets. I have a picture from about 1961; I know I am three years old because my sister is a baby in my Aunty Mary's arms. My mom, uncle, dad and Nancy are in the photo as well. I vividly remember her driving away after the photo was taken on a small scooter with a red 'L' on the back for 'Learner'. She was about 17. So much older and sophisticated than I ever thought I would be. Now, still the same years apart in age but friends.