The Island Guide
An ex-federal agent turned island guide meets his newest client.
I have stared death in the eye so many times I would almost consider us friends. My life is defined by it, whether it is as a B.A.U. Agent or as a deft island guide. Because of it, my friends consider me the most hardened man they know. I am the man who handles it all. But even a man like me has his limits.
My eyes scan the afternoon crowd in Samui Airport, observing the people bustling about and creating stories for each of them. It keeps my mind sharp and passes the time while I wait for my newest client to fly in from the mainland. A poster board with her last name, Andrews, scribbled on with a permanent marker, leans against the wall beside me.
“Jon, get back here!”
A toddler sporting a pair of tractor pajamas runs in my direction, squealing in playful delight. I’m not sure what draws him to do so, but the little gremlin plops himself right in front of him. His blue orbs twinkle with childlike naivety, and his blond hair is tousled from traveling. His round face is sprinkled with freckles. Just like constellations.
My brain takes the observation and runs with it, morphing the boy into a slightly older but similar-looking boy. Unlike the toddler before, this kid fills me with a familiar dread. Not him, not here. The boy is in a dirt-streaked t-ball uniform, and his eyes are cloudy. My heart races as he slowly approaches me. “Why didn't you save me, Mr. Gordon?” he tearfully asks. The airport fades from my vision, allowing the scene to capture my full attention.
“Hey, mister?!” shouts a female voice, yanking me out of my living nightmare. I look down, thankful to see the toddler from before. I take a shaky breath and focus on the teenage girl standing protectively behind the kid. Dressed for comfort in leggings and a faded t-shirt, she juggles three bags of various sizes. A substantially sized rolling suitcase sits next to its owner patiently.
Finally, my eyes meet hers, and man, if looks could kill. Everything about her screams, “don’t screw with me,” but underneath that, I can tell she’s been through a lot. That kind of pain can’t be hidden no matter how much you want to, especially from people who have experienced it themselves.
“Would you quit judging, psychoanalyzing, whatever you’re doing, and answer my question? Are you Jacob Gordon from Island Guide?” The girl sternly demands. She is either very brave or foolish; talking like she is to a man who looks like me isn’t something you do in your right mind.
“I am. What’s it to you?” I gruffly reply as I cross my arms against my chest, instantly regretting it—way to sound and act like a guy who has never dealt with kids. I drop my arms, attempting to appear less threatening.
The girl smirks at me and tilts her head. “You talk to all your clients like that? Sounds like crappy service.”
“You caught me at a,” my mind registers what she said, “did you just say you were a client?” This couldn't be her.
Unlike other clients, there wasn't a lot of given information on Andrews, not even a picture. Something about wanting to keep this as private as possible. We knew she was here to work with a popular travel magazine and was an extremely intelligent teenager. But I wasn't told anything about a little kid traveling with her. If that was the case, one of the others would have been given this client.
The bold teenager gives me a well-duh look. “Yeah. Phoebe and Jon Andrews, but you should know that already.” She points at the sign next to me as she assesses me critically. “Should I be worried?”
Not you. But I know who should be worried. I grab my flip phone from my back pocket and call the only contact I have on speed dial. My best friend, who just happens to be my business partner, picks up before the phone rings twice.
“Gordon,” he answers hesitately. He knows he's in trouble.
“Beck,” I growl, “I’m going to be a little late.”
I can hear his confusion through the phone. “Why?”
“Cause I'm planning your funeral.”
“Miss Andrews, I’ll be frank. You are the immediate next of kin and the best choice to be Jonathan’s guardian.”
“Considering who the rest of my family is, there aren't any great options to start with.” Including me right now. “But I’m supposed to go to Koh Tao in a couple of days, and I'll be there for a month. Can’t he stay with someone else until I get back?”
“Like you said, your family doesn't seem to be a suitable choice, even temporarily. Your only other option is having him in the foster care system until you are back and settled.”
Not happening. “No, I’ll go ahead and take Jon with me.”
“Are you sure? I have some great temporary fosters-”
“I said I'll take him with me. I can change things around for him.” That's what parents do, and I'm his parent now. “All part of being his guardian, right?”
Yeah, if I want to call bringing my two-year-old brother with me on my first international reporter assignment “part of being his guardian.” God, what was I thinking? I’m a seventeen-year-old genius who barely knows how to be a typical teenager, much less how to deal with a kid. But, after what we have both been through, I couldn’t abandon Jon to the foster system, even if it would be temporary. Even if someone had told me about this garbage fire situation, I would have made the same decision.
“I was already appreshive ‘bout taking on a teenager, but you know my stance on kids, Beck!”
Old Grump Gordon has been tearing Boss Beck a new one for the last fifteen minutes. I’m nowhere near the office, but Gordon is loud enough I can hear almost every word. None of what he said before bothered me, except the last thing; that stung. Conceal, don’t feel. Great, now I’m quoting Frozen, although I’m not that surprised. I’ve watched it so many times in the last week I could put on a one-woman show solely based on memory.
“Sissy sad?” Jon reaches for my face like he can wipe away my sadness. When he does stuff like this, some of my regret and fear melt away. I gently ruffle his hair, hoping to distract him from my apparent lack of facial control. Definitely need to work on that. “Just a little bit, but I’m okay, little goobster.” Jon laughs in his usual high-pitched way; he thinks “goobster” is such a funny word.
The creaking of a door and loud stomping tell me the argument is finally over, and Grumpy didn’t get his way. I don’t bother to look up when I hear his footsteps stop in front of me. He already sounds pissed about this whole thing, and I don’t want him to think he's dealing with some oversenstive teenager on top of the last-minute kid addition for the next four weeks. I must ensure my “take no prisoners” facade is up before I look at him again.
After a few beats of silence and pretend ignoring, Gordon finally speaks, though it sounds restrained. “Come on, Miss Andrews. I need to get you and,” he pauses, “Jon to your hotel.”
My heart lurches at the sudden emotion in Gordon’s voice as he says my brother’s name. I look up to catch a flash of agony pass over his face as he watches Jon. Something about my little brother stirs up some deep-seatted feelings in the old grump.
Gordon turns to me and notices me staring at him. The break in his gruff exterior disappears with the clearing of his throat. He busies himself with helping me gather Jon’s and my things. I’ve dealt with crappy parents, zealous bullies, and doubtful adults my whole life. Dealing with Old Grump Gordon should be a piece of cake. Besides, it's only a month; it will fly by.
“Miss Andrews. You ready?” Gordon asks expectantly as he shifts my bag on his shoulder.
“Ready. And don’t call me Miss Andrews,” I grumble as I pick Jon up and situate him on my hip. “It makes you sound like a butler, and I’m no Bruce Wayne,” I joke as I force a smile. I can do this; I’ve got humor on my side.
The only acknowledgment that Gordon heard my crack is the deep breath he takes before he speaks. “Fine. What do you prefer?”
“I hate the term “kid,” and even that’s better than Miss Andrews,” I sarcastically respond, using a posh British accent.
Gordon drags a noticeably scarred hand down his face, obviously done with dealing with my mouth. “Just come on.” He turns away from me, but I can hear him mumble something about me being a pain already.
I take it back; it's going to be a long month.
About the Creator
My inner child screams joyfully as I fall back in love with writing.
Update: my poetry collection, "instead of therapy," is out!
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