RED SEA by Diane Tullson
4Q 3P M/J
It thrills me to stand on the deck of the ship, look out at the ocean, and see no land in any direction. But there’s a big difference between being on the deck of a huge cruise ship captained by an experienced crew and being out in the middle of the ocean in a small sailboat with nobody but yourself to pilot the ship.
The last thing in the world Libby wanted to do was leave her boyfriend and her best friend behind to sail around the world with her mother and stepfather. Unfortunately, she wasn’t give a choice, so here she is, stuck for months on a sailboat with the two people in the world she most wants to get away from. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if it were just Libby and her mom. But no way is she okay with sailing around the world with Duncan. And so she does what teenagers are really good at. She makes her parents pay. She’s as uncooperative as she can possibly be. She insinuates that Duncan can’t keep his hands to himself. She goes ashore alone, knowing it makes her mother crazy. She does whatever she can to make them sorry that they ever brought her along. But it’s not just being on this trip that’s making her miserable. At every port, she emails her boyfriend, Ty. At every port, she eagerly waits for word from him. It never comes.
After three weeks in Djibouti waiting for the right weather to begin their Red Sea passage, Emma, the leader of their traveling group, decides to leave early the next morning. For safety’s sake, the flotilla must stay together. There are pirates in the Red Sea, men who will take anything and everything a ship has, men who won’t hesitate to shoot anyone who gets in their way. Everyone must be ready to leave on Emma’s signal. But Libby isn’t ready to leave. Not when there’s one more chance to check her email, one more chance to make her parents pay. She sneaks ashore early in the morning. By the time she gets back, the rest of the group has gone. There’s no choice now but to sail alone and hope for the best. Her parents are grim, but Libby doesn’t care. That’ll teach them.
It’s dangerous for a sailboat to be in the middle of the ocean completely out of sight of land. Pirates aside, your tiny boat can’t get out of a freighter’s way fast enough to avoid being crushed. Someone always has to be on watch. Tonight, Duncan wants Libby on watch with her mother. Libby can take being with her mother just so long. She abandons watch and her mother and goes to bed. She’s woken by a loud noise and a change in the boat’s motion. Something is wrong. She tears up the stairs, Duncan just behind her. They reach the deck just in time to see her mother fire a flare directly at what is unmistakably a pirate’s boat. A gunman in the boat aims a gun their way. Tiny bursts of flame erupt from the barrel. The mainsail rips, a cockpit cushion explodes, a thermos disintegrates. Libby can barely think with the panic and the noise, but one thought does go through her mind: “Oh, good. They’re going to miss her.” They don’t. Her mother spins, her arms splayed. A gob of red goo shoots from her leg and she crashes to the ground. Duncan runs towards her. A bullet catches him in the shoulder, and then the top of his head flies off. When Libby opens her eyes again, he’s gone, thrown overboard by the force of the impact.
The pirates take everything they can: almost every bit of food, every scrap of electronics, including their GPS equipment, their batteries, and the go-bag that contains their emergency supplies. What they can’t take, they break. When they finally go, they leave behind a ship with a fouled propellor that can’t use its engines, no way to contact anyone for help, no medical supplies, a badly wounded woman, and one fourteen-year-old girl. For Libby, being alone in the middle of the ocean isn’t at all thrilling. It’s terrifying.