She had her mother’s eyes.
Naqiit stepped out of the shadow of the house. She teased Biibi’s hair into long strands, weaving them into a plait as she stared across the sparsely grassed path to Gabin’s window. Where Biibi’s eyes were wild with the uncertainty of youth, the energy in Naqiit’s eyes was raw, possessing something greater than could be confined by the kitchen or Iisaaq’s patriarchal assertiveness. Gabin’s breath caught in his throat and he swallowed. He let the thin curtain fall across the window and retreated from Naqiit’s look.
“Careful, Gabin,” he said.
Dust cascaded off the curtain, sparkling in the summer light as it drifted above him. He lay back on the bed, closed his eyes, picturing his journey north in clandestine snapshots taken from the shadows. His escape had included more luck than planning, as people who thought they knew what he had done aided him with knowing looks and heartfelt handshakes. He took the slips of paper they pressed into his palms – a name on one of them, a phone number on another. The network of dockworkers’ pubs and captains’ bars ensured a friendly reception along the coast, as he worked his way on tiny trawlers and rusting crab boats until landing a berth on a blue water container ship. Gabin’s first deep sleep during his escape had been hidden in the bowels of a great ship, lulled to sleep by the penetrating thrum of the engines, and the soporific and slightly nauseous diesel veil seeping into the cabins.
It had been dark in the cabin, and he had wrapped the shadows around him.
The further Gabin travelled from the scene of his crime…
Action, he thought. Not crime. It was sanctioned.
…the more suspicious the captains became. Word from the south travelled fast, faster still in the nautical world. Gabin worked on his accent, twisting his softer inflections into a more guttural English, more north than south. He rarely spoke, took his meals in silence, leaving one ship in the dead of night to stowaway on another, revealing himself to the captain along with a thick wad of cash in exchange for passage without questions.
The cash got him as far as Greenland and into a trawler bound for the rich waters of Uummannaq Fjord.
And back into the light.
He felt naked in the light.
He heard the chatter of Illorsuit’s residents as they passed his window, voices rising and falling, laughing as they passed his house. The walls of the house creaked in the late afternoon, sighing into the evening as the sun circled around the back of the mountain, never setting, but throwing the settlement into a shadow with a crisp twist of wind creeping off the sun, blowing dust and sand into the houses, picking at the flakes of paint on the walls until they resisted, floating down like fake sycamore leaves in a land without trees.
Gabin turned on his side at the sound of more scuffles across the wooden floor. In her haste to leave Biibi had left the door open. Gabin opened his eyes and stared into the big brown eyes of a puppy as it froze, teeth clenched on a corner of the blanket at the end of the bed.
To be continued…
Copyright © Christoffer Petersen, 2021.
This is a work of fiction. All characters, organizations, and events portrayed in this novel are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.