As Jayme paused outside the large double glass doors, a smile crept across her face. The snow crunched under her feet as she shifted her weight foot to foot, while she took in the view on the other side. It may be winter outside but Katherine managed to make the travel agency look very warm, tropical and inviting. She remembered the day Katherine decided to open her own agency.
“You do more of the work around here than any of the other two agents put together, Katherine. Why don’t you just open your own place? The commissions on me alone should pay your rent!” Jayme had teased in a hushed voice. The two women had been friends since high school, not best friends, but constant friends, the kind you can lean on when the times got tough, and for a while they had gotten very tough for Jayme. Katherine had known Jayme needed some time away to heal her broken heart , and knew just where to send her: Aruba. That was the beginning.
“You really think so?” Katherine questioned, although the same thought had been on her mind lately. “What should I call this mythical agency?”
“I’ll think about it, but for now, it’s time to travel.”
Jayme pushed open the large glass doors with “It’s Time To Travel” etched in large letters, palm trees and exaggerated waves, and stepped into another world. Large tropical plants, green, glossy and lush, graced wide window sills and tiled floor space alike; a small, but flowing fountain tucked into a corner added sprays of humidity into the warm air. A merchandise exchange with the florist next door, kept the plants fresh and lively.
Katherine’s desk, an oval sheet of smoky beveled glass set on four tall hand woven baskets, was flanked by rattan chairs with over stuffed soft blue and green seat cushions. The walls of her cubical sported a full sized tropical mural. The feeling her office space gave a person, was one of sitting on a verandah somewhere in the tropics, during the late morning hours, looking over acres of gardens to a cove of the deepest azure blue. Katherine had copied the idea from Jayme’s dining room and expanded on it. The result and ambiance was incredible!
Katherine looked up from her computer terminal as she felt rather than heard the presence. “Jayme! How good to see you!” a common greeting, but one Jayme knew Katherine meant sincerely. “I was just thinking about you. One of my clients just brought back one of your tapes that I sent her home with. They are in love with Cozumel now. She said it was the most complete video travel log she had ever seen. Although I must admit she was a bit unsure at first by ‘The Reef Roamer’ , since her and her husband only snorkel, but you now have a new fan. She want to look at all your tapes eventually,” Katherine paused. “You know,” her fingers moved swiftly across the computer keys, “it’s been almost five months since you’ve gone anywhere. The last time was to Cozumel, and that tape has been a hit across the nation. Are you ready for another ‘assignment’?”
“Jayme laughed. “I haven’t even said ‘hello’ yet and already you’re sending me away!” she settled into the comfortable chair across from her friend, resting her head on the back, staring momentarily at the fish net covered ceiling. The mood suddenly shifted.
Katherine was silent for a moment and then said very gently, “The dreams are back, aren’t they?”
Jayme just nodded, still staring at the ceiling. “My agent called last month and said The Abaco’s would be a good spot. He’s had a lot of requests, mostly from the Bahamian government, I think. The Abaco’s still aren’t very popular, but the diving is good, and they’re anxious to start drawing tourists in.”
Katherine took the change of subject in stride and let her fingers begin their dance on the keyboard. “How about….. Two weeks in The Vista, and then two weeks on Fantasy Island? I can get you a flight out ….. In….. three days – this Saturday.” her hands paused. Were they treading on dangerous ground? Katherine was well aware that the Abaco area is where Donald died.
“Two weeks in each place? I usually stay one week at four different places, for a better over all view and experience of the area. I can see all I need to in a week.”
“They only have the two places, Jayme. It’s a small island. Tell you what though,” her long red tipped fingers began their dance again, paused, then began once more. “There is an out island that is trying to establish a tourist trade. Let’s go for a week in the Vistas, a week on Fantasy, and two weeks on Holm Cay. Three selections instead of four. Holm Cay sounds like a real paradise. A visit from the Reef Roamer would be a real boost to them.”
“But no one knows they’ve been visited by the Reef Roamer until after I’m gone.” Jayme protested.
“And that’s the beauty of it. They all try harder with everyone who visits, because they don’t know who the Roamer is! It could be anyone. They just hope that someday the Roamer will visit them.” The concept of the travel log was Katherine’s, but the tag and the development of “The Reef Roamer” had been all Jayme’s.
“Okay, the Abacos it is. I’ll be back Friday for my tickets.” Jayme stood, stretching out her back and now starting to mumble to herself. “I’ve got to get new cards and blank DVD’s, and some new battery packs, check the camera and the recorder, call the house sitter and the pet service,” and she was still listing things needed doing as she pushed the glass door open again, stepping into the chilled air.
Katherine just smiled. Jayme will be alright, she thought, she just needed something to do. Four years ago it had been the same thing. That’s when “The Reef Roamer” had been born.
They had been sitting across from each other at a Rotary meeting having lunch. Katherine had been having lunch, Jayme was pushing food around her plate. Jayme had slowly put her fork along side her plate, deliberately setting it perfectly square to the napkin. Katherine noticed Jayme’s hands were shaking. A quick glance at her face revealed a disturbing haunted look in her eyes.
“I can’t stay here,” Jayme murmured to no one, and slid her chair silently backward, almost in slow motion. Not ‘I have to leave’, or ‘I have to be someplace’, but ‘I can’t stay here’. Katherine frowned, as these thoughts sped across her mind, and then followed Jayme out the back door, unnoticed by most.
There was a light rain falling, more like a soft mist, buy Jayme seemed not to notice as she sat down in the freshly mowed grass, on the bank of the town Millpond. Katherine sat beside, her, and waited, watching.
As if she’d known Katherine would follow, Jayme said, “I’ve got to do something, Kath, anything! Sometimes, like now, I feel as though I’m going crazy! Really off-my-rocker, screw-loose, crazy! I’m going through the motions of living a normal life, and I don’t have a normal life! My husband is dead, has been for a year, but it’s as though he’s just not around. I still see the same people, and they treat me the same as they used to; I do the same things and feel the same way; I live the same way, dress the same way, eat the same. Maybe that’s it. Everything is still the same. Wasn’t something suppose to change when Donald died? Am I suppose to change? Do you think I need a nice long vacation?”
That last question startled Katherine. “Maybe you do. Maybe you do… Tell you what,” Katherine’s mind whirled, “I’ve always wanted to go to Aruba, just to see what it’s like, but I never seem to make it there. People are always asking me what certain places are like. For the most part I can tell them, because I’ve traveled around a lot. But not there. So here’s the deal: you go to Aruba for me, I’ll book you into different places so you can test the variety of accommodations, like I would do; you take lots of pictures, go sight seeing, try the restaurants, the works, and then bring me back a report. I’ll give you my employee discount on the package, and then buy your portfolio, so you can write off the vacation as business! How soon would you like to leave?” Katherine was so pleased with her idea, it never occurred to her that Jayme would say no.
There was a long pause. Jayme turned slowly, head tipped up, auburn hair sticking to her cheeks and forehead, green eyes squinting into the mist, finally noticing the rain. “Two weeks. I’d like to leave in two weeks. Here are some things I have to do first. Is that enough time for you to make all the arrangements?”
“Plenty of time.” Katherine breathed a silent sigh of relief. “Oh, Jayme, not only is this going to be good for you, you’re going to have a great time and maybe meet some fabulous hunks!” she knew it was a mistake as soon as she said it.
“I don’t want to meet any men!” Panic rising from deep within, Jayme almost changed her mind about going.
“The don’t, but do try to take some good underwater shots for me,” Katherine replied, not feeling the flippant tone she added to her remark. She hoped the comment about underwater shots would override the slip about men. She got to her feet and offered Jayme her hand. Smiling, Jayme grasped her friends fingers and stood.
“Thanks, Kath. I hope this works. I guess I’d better check my scuba gear, too, huh?” Jayme raised a finely sculpted eyebrow at Katherine, and gave her a wistful grin. Katherine knew Jayme hadn’t been diving since Donald’s death. But she also knew how much Jayme had loved the sport.
During the next two weeks, Jayme chose and rejected several different cameras. Finally deciding on a new video mini cam, hoping it would fit her underwater housing.
The trip to Aruba was more than successful. Three weeks after arriving back home, Jayme invited Katherine over for dinner.
“Well, do I get to see the pictures, or are you going to keep me in suspense?” Katherine joked, sipping her iced gin and tonic.
“Have a seat, the show is about to start,” Jayme switched off the light and hit the VCR play button on her big screen TV.
“Show?” Katherine was truly amazed over the next hour. Jayme had footage of inside every hotel and restaurant she’d been to in Aruba, plus street scenes of the people, shopping, tourist stops, scenery – and the diving. The underwater footage was the most spectacular Katherine had ever seen. Neatly edited with overlaid commentary in Jayme’s melodic voice, the final scene was a breathtaking sunset, and ended with the comment: “Sunset in Aruba. There’s none like it anywhere else in the world.” Jayme’s soft, throaty voice added a surreal quality to the experience. Katherine finally let her breath out.
“That was incredible. J Absolutely incredible! That really makes me want to go there, Jayme, and see all of it for myself!” The travel agent’s enthusiasm was building, as was her excitement. “I had no idea you were doing a video, Jayme. You’re really good! Wait until the others see this! Can I take it to the travel convention? Where would you like to go next? You will do it again, won’t you?”
“Katherine, slow down, you’re rambling. I gather you liked it.” Katherine just nodded, afraid to say anything at this point. “Good. I had a wonderful time doing it. It really was just what I needed to pull me out of that funk I was in. It was terrific to dive again, too. I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. Of course I’ll do it again. Bon Aire next?”
The Reef Roamer series added two more locations that year, and three every year after. Soon after that first convention, the tapes began selling across the state in dive shops and travel agencies that specialized in dive packages. A year later, Jayme had to get an agent to handle the sales and distribution, and the year after, the sales went nation wide. The Reef Roamer was well known in dive circles for honest comments and good advice.
Sam Perry, Jayme’s agent, called her one day with an interesting offer. “The Brighton Club for Divers, or B.C.D. wants you to speak at the Michigan Divers Convention next month. It’s good money.”
“B.C.D.? clever … since B.C.D. is also an acronym for a Buoyancy Control Device. What do you think?”
“Don’t do it.”
Startled at Sam negative response, she asked “why not?”
“Look, Jayme, right now, only you, me and Katherine know the identity of The Reef Roamer. There’s a big mystique to that. I think that we’ll loose something, some element of surprise, of spontaneity, if people were to know what you look like. We might miss out on the lecture circuit, but we’d miss out on a whole lot more than money the other way.” When Sam didn’t opt for the easy money, she trusted him more than ever.
“I agree, Sam. No speaking at clubs or conventions. Please send my regrets to the B.C.D.”