By Ann Dixon
Money has always come readily to me. As an investment banker, I had what people often referred to as 'the luck of the devil.' I also played the stock market and lady luck was, it seems, my constant guide and companion. BUT! As the old saying goes, ' Lucky in business - unlucky in love,' and this was certainly so in my case.
I married young. Helen was the beautiful, blue eyed girl of my dreams and when we tied the knot, a whole raft of manhood sighed, wrung their hands and wailed morosely.
The first few years of our marriage were sheer bliss but as Helen climbed the greasy pole of media management and I played 'he who dares' on the stock market, our lives slowly and irrevocably drifted apart. Socializing became an endless round of champagne breakfasts and business meetings cunningly disguised as cocktail parties. Looking back we didn't really stand a chance. Marriage, and the ever increasing demands of work, were a sure fire recipe for marital collapse.
Helen and I went our separate ways three years ago now. We had pots of cash safely ferreted away in a Swiss bank account. With some the money Helen set up her own advertising company. I, eager to escape the rat race for a while, bought a small island off the coast of Ecuador.
My only companions on the island was my dog Gyp and Darwin Escaltza, a jovial and somewhat portly naturalist. When he wasn't showing tourists the wonders of the Galapagos Islands, he was either teaching in the University of Quito, lazing on his own island of Bernita or swilling ice cold lager on my porch. Life was good and my considerable bank account enabled me to live on my island in consummate ease and luxury.
I remember one particular day, standing on a spit of orange brown rock that jutted out to sea. It was one of those perfect days that lingers in the memory. The air was heavy with the scent of Jasmine. All was quiet save for the occasional cry of the flightless cormorants nestling in the shade of narrow crevices. Out at sea Black Noddies skimmed the waves at breakneck speed, a pod of dolphins frolicked mischievously, twisting and turning in a wild joyous competition. Right next to me, lazy Sea Lions basked in the shade of overhanging ledges, saving their energies for the rigours of night hunting. Overhead Mocking Birds flitted to and fro from bush to bush, bringing back precious twigs for their designer nests and crickets jumped from leaf to leaf in their secret low level world. This idyllic picture was completed as two graceful turtles, swimming in the shallows, raised their heads momentarily before descending into the shimmering depths. Right there and then I thought that life could not be better. Suddenly a tiny iguana scuttled over my foot and brought me back to reality. Life on my island was indeed blissful and yet hardly a day passed when I did not think of my beautiful wife. With Helen at my side I was convinced that a great life, could become a perfect life. There was no denying it; I missed Helen like crazy and the thought of her so far away made my heart ache.
For many months life trickled by in a golden haze of reverie, until one evening in May my peaceful, quiet, existence was turned topsy-turvy. Hurricane Henry came raging into the South Pacific ocean and decided to pay me a visit. Prior to Henry, I had always been fascinated by hurricanes, seeing them as exciting and thrilling creatures of nature. I was foolishly not prepared for the complete devastation and destruction that Henry would inflict on my island home..
On that fateful night the wind began to build and I guessed that I was in for a humdinger of a tropical storm. I gathered together some essential supplies, turned off the generator and headed down to the basement. Among other things, I had installed a triple glazed safety window so that I could, in an emergency such as this, keep an eye on anything happening above ground.
As the day slipped into midnight black, I knew that things could only get worse. Gyp padded too and fro whining softly. He too could feel the air pressure dropping and hear the howling of the wind. We sat there we listening to the house creaking and whimpering and the doors clattering. Then came the rain. Hard and fierce at first battering its fists against the walls and windows. By the time the full force of the storm hit us, the rain was travelling horizontally and an angry wind was bending the trees almost to the ground. Every time a gust hit, it shrieked and wailed, and the house groaned and moaned against the relentless onslaught. Even though I knew the house was incredibly strong and brick built to the very highest quality, I worried that the roof would not hold. I had visions that when the storm moved on, I would find the roof in tatters and strewn about the bedrooms.
Slowly and irrevocably the storm worsened. Then, as a particularly strong gust of wind battered the ever weakening structure of my home, I heard it cry out, as if in terror. The ceiling shuddered and shrieked. Gyp yelped as a small lump of plaster fell onto his legs. I knew at this point that we would have to leave the basement and brave the raging monster that was Henry. Holding Gyp in my arms I headed up to the kitchen. Already my home was in tatters. For a few moments I stared open mouthed at the wreckage. The roof had indeed been blown off and all that remained of the bedroom ceiling was a few joists. The furniture was mangled and broken and some of it had lodged in the nearby trees. Initially I stood there, rooted to the spot. Gyp began to struggle in my arms and reality kicked in.
The rain was cold and hard and stung my face. I fumbled into my rucksack and brought out my high powered lamp. Leaning against the gale force wind, I pointed the lamp towards the path that lead to Carris Cavern. At least Gyp and I would be safe up there but the way up was steep and rocky and with Hurricane Henry dogging our way, we were exceedingly lucky to reach the safety of its open arms. I slept fitfully, dreaming of Helen. For sure, life had been good to me but I would have given away every penny I owned to look once more into her deep blue eyes and feel the warmth of her body next to mine.
Come the morning all was quiet and still. I woke Gyp and we tentatively made our way back to the remains of the house. It was such a sorry sight.
The skeletal remains looked forlorn, as a fighter might, who had just lost a title fight. The island had fared no better. On the sand palms lay motionless, their bodies snapped clean in two. The shoreline was littered with flotsam and jetsam. Delicate green-blue plants were flattened by huge boulders, thrown by the mighty hand of Hurricane Henry. Even the lazy Iguanas usually found basking in family groups in quiet pools, now meandered about aimlessly, unsure of what to do or where to go. Ignoring the devastation I walked over to generator housing where I kept a transmitter. I tapped out the statutory s o s signal and waited to be rescued.
When help finally arrived it came in the guise of Darwin in a naval launch. As there was now no jetty, the boat anchored in Sandy Bay. A dinghy was launched and as I peered out to sea I noticed a woman step aboard. It was her. My brain did a double take and my heart danced the jitterbug. Once ashore she raced towards me and flung her cold wet arms around my neck. "Jake! Oh my god Jake I thought you might be dead." She cried.
"No way Babe," I retorted. "No hurricane could ever get the better of Jake Dempsey."
Needless to say, the reunion was glorious. I was in seventh heaven. It was as if we had never been apart. I gazed into her azure blue eyes and held her close. At long last I felt complete. Then, from the corner of my eye I glanced up at Darwin. He sauntered up and gave a short embarrassed cough - my bubble of joy slowly faded into the warm Pacific air.
Later that day, I salvaged the remnants of my island life and stowed them aboard the launch. I bid my island adieu and with Helen at my side, we headed for the mainland. From there, we flew to the safety of a hotel room in Quito. We were decidedly pleased to note it had an ample king sized bed. The rest as you say - is history.
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