Chapter 69

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Hailie went up to the deck. Zigzag was adjusting some ropes attached to the sails. Roberto was cleaning the cannons again. Kendra was lying on the rail, her hat covering her face, one foot on the rail the other swinging next to it and her arms behind her head. Sunny was sitting on her stomach.

She looked up at the poop deck. The Captain was at the helm. How come she got in trouble for being on the rails and Kendra did not?

"Kendra! Who told you you could slack off?" the Captain shouted. Kendra didn't answer. "Kendra!" From the shift in her arms and how her shoulders seemed to cover her ears more Hailie was almost certain that Kendra was awake and just ignoring him.

Hailie went over to the other rail and only managed to smoke half a cigarette before Benji came up to her looking furious.

"You told him not to teach me," he said.

She held the cigarette away from him. This was the first time she'd ever seen Benji get angry.

"I told him that I would prefer him not to teach you. He decided for himself."

"Why do you have such a problem with me becoming stronger?" Benji asked. His face and stance were aggressive but his eyes shone.

"Your definition of strength is very narrow-minded. Winning a fight does not mean that you are strong."

"But losing a fight means that you're weak."

"No. It sometimes just means that the other person was more skilled and experienced than you are. Whether you are physically weaker or stronger does not matter if the person is more skilled."

He grabbed her shoulders.

"I have to do this," he said.

"You may think so but I do not and apparently so does Zigzag."

"You've been fighting since you were much younger than I am."

She met his eyes. "I have. Which is why I have taken the stance I have and refused to teach you."

Benji dropped his hands from her shoulders and ran them through his hair, letting out a sound somewhere between a growl and a muffled yell. She'd never seen him like this before. All this because she told him she didn't want him to fight?

"Benji, is something else bothering you?" Hailie asked. "Is your back hurting? Let me see." She reached out and he pulled away and glared at her.

"Stop treating me like a child! I'm turning eighteen in four months. For all you know I could be older than you," he said.

Had she been doing that? She knew how annoying that was.

"I am sorry. That was not intentional," Hailie said. It was true that he could be older but she doubted that was the case.

"I don't care! It still pisses me off."

This was not the usual Benji. Something much really be bothering him.

"If you are angry with me then tell me what it is so I can fix it. I will try to treat you differently from now on," Hailie said. "But I will never agree with you fighting."

He looked like he was going to say something but he clenched his jaw and walked away. He kicked the door post on his way down. What was wrong with him? Hailie rested her head on the rail. This was not a problem she was used to dealing with. The day was just getting worse and worse.

The cigarette slipped from her fingers. She jumped away from the person.

"Pay attention or you'll light yourself and the ship on fire," Kendra said.

"Sorry," Hailie muttered.

"I overheard what happened so I came to give my advice on how to deal with teenaged boys."

"Everyone is giving their advice," Hailie said into the rail.

"Yes but they don't give advice like me so listen closely while I impart my wisdom," Kendra said. "I have many years of experience. Eli and Zigzag still have yet to grow out of their teenage years."

"Eli is twenty-three."

"His actual age is irrelevant."

Irrelevant?

Hailie raised her head. She was feeling to chain smoke again but she was running low on cigarettes. Kendra handed the cigarette back to her.

"Okay, fine. Tell me what the problem is and how I can fix it," she said. "I do not think you even know what is going on."

"Something you'll learn the longer you stay on this ship," Kendra leaned in closer, her grin widening and mischievous, "I know everything."

Everything? What did that even mean? Did that mean she knew what was bothering Eli yet didn't go? Did she know about what happened to her? Or worse. Did that mean Kendra know that she and Eli kissed?

From the look on her face she either did or was almost sure that they did or she was grinning evilly about something else. It was hard to tell with this woman.

"Then what is bothering him?"

Kendra turned and leaned her back against the rail.

"He's measuring himself up to Eli and finding that he comes out short in every aspect," she said. "He's trying to change what he can."

Hailie groaned. "Now what do I do?"

"You? Absolutely nothing."

"But--"

"Look, this problem is not with you, it's with him. He has a problem but it's not your fault. It's not something you have to fix. Leave him alone."

"That is it? How is that going to make things better?" Hailie asked.

"It won't make things better. You are going to ignore him. I am going to teach him how to fight."

"But that is exactly what is causing this problem in the first place. I do not want him to fight."

Kendra nodded. "That's true and I do agree with you for the most part. Fighting is not a good thing. However, I think it might help in this situation. There is a reason I told the Captain to teach Eli."

"Yes but now he kills people," Hailie said. She felt like hypocrite considering that she'd killed people as well.

"You don't know the entire story and I have an idea how to teach Benji. It won't be the same as Eli or Zigzag or anyone else. We have to get his frustration out without making him think that fighting can solve everything."

"And you know how to do that?"

Kendra nodded. "I have an idea. Leave it to me," she said. She ruffled Hailie's hair. "Relax. Things aren't as bad between you two as it may seem."

There was a shout from the bird's nest.

"I see something!" Dylan said. "It's a shipwreck!"

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