Part One: Chapter Four

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Atlas purses his lips and creases his eyes so tightly to keep himself from laughing that he feels a tear run down his cheek. Luckily Lana is too busy looking out at the museums, clubs, and shopping malls to catch on to Mary’s mocking tone, and Lance practically eats the story out of her hand. Next they’ll be planning what Ivy League school their children will attend, Atlas thinks, or starting their own non-profit that Mary uses to siphon funds from her husband. If only it were this easy for guys; Lana has barely noticed his presence since they entered the cab.

Right on cue, Lana says “Look at that!” and breaks through Mary’s story about saving a beached baby whale. “It’s CoCo Bongo!” The club crawls with men dressed up as The Mask or Spiderman, movie characters who haven’t been popular in America since Atlas was a child, and loud music drowns out the cab’s radio despite the closed windows. Women already stagger from one local bar to another, their high heels like thorns stabbing the sidewalk with every lilting step, and men in suits and polo shirts hold them up on equally unsteady arms. The streets are clogged with tourists holding shopping bags and peering at the couples through designer sunglasses on their way back to their resorts, and occasionally one of them darts across traffic to take a picture on the other side of the road. 

“You actually want to go there?” Atlas asks, and Mary elbows him again. He’s supposed to pretend to be Lana’s prince charming, a musician who thrives on late nights at famous clubs and all-you-can-drink bars, but in actuality he’s already craving his tree branch and a good book and doesn’t want to pretend any different to impress a woman he just met. The idea of letting a million strangers sweat on him and spill their drinks on borrowed clothes is enough to make him turn around and get back on the plane, let alone seeing Lana that way. “No offense, but I don’t want to pay a fifty dollar cover just to see a bunch of drunk Americans and a few costumes.”

“I only wanted to go because I thought you’d want to,” Lana says, putting her hand back on his leg on purpose this time. “You’re a twenty-one year old musician, so I thought Coco Bongo was your style. I’m glad to know it isn’t.”   

“Not my style at all. Though I do admire a lot of musicians who would have fit that description, especially from the ‘60’s and ‘70’s.”

“Then you would love my collection of old records,” Lana says, looking truly interested in their conversation for the first time since the flight. “I have vintage Pink Floyd, The Who, Genesis… you name the rock band, I have it on vinyl.”

“Me too, except I’m still looking for a good copy of A Trick of the Tail.” Atlas wants to say more, but the cab driver pulls up to a private gated driveway and tells Mary that this is their first destination. The house is almost as big as one of the smaller resort, with a security guard in the post next to the gate and a manicured lawn spotted with palm trees; an old golden retriever chases a red plastic ball like a cat chases a mouse, batting it with one paw and then running to catch it with the other, and one of the housekeepers brushes a broom over the concrete steps in time with the faint mariachi music floating from inside. Lance says goodbye and walks around back to get their suitcases, already distracted by the luxury that surrounds him, but Lana lingers in her seat and makes Atlas promise to come by the next afternoon and have tea on the beach with her aunt and uncle.

“We’re traveling into the city tomorrow night,” Mary says, cutting off Atlas before he can form his reply, “but why don’t you two meet us at our resort for lunch tomorrow, and we can come by on Friday?”

“Perfect,” Lana says, squeezing Atlas’s hand before she follows her brother up the steps. She gives him a small wave from the patio, her hair golden and shining in the bright sunlight, and then she disappears into the long hallway behind her.

As soon as they are out of view of the house, Mary whistles and gives him a light punch on the shoulder and says: “I thought you were going to crash and burn with that CoCo Bongo comment, but you pulled through, kid. She actually likes you.”

“Why did you tell her we are busy tomorrow?” Atlas asks as he scratches the sweaty hair under his wig. “I thought the whole point was to get into the house, get the money, and run?”

“It is, but unless you’re going to come up with a way to break into the safe in your dreams, we’re going to need at least a day to formulate a plan. Plus, it’d be a shame to have to flee the scene of the crime before we get to enjoy a few nights of carefree living. Who knows when we’ll get this chance again?” They arrive at their hotel a minute later, and Atlas has to admit, it does look like the best place to spend a few carefree days. A bellboy rushes to the trunk and carries their suitcases from the cab to the lobby, an open room where birds fly back and forth through the open bay windows, and one of the receptionists welcomes them in perfect English before handing them a map of the resort’s many restaurants and securing wristbands on their right hands. 

“Oh Atlas, look!” Mary cries, pointing out the window to the purple sunset casting palm tree shadows on the manicured beach. “It’s beautiful.” They wander onto the terrace, a wooden porch that leads to three Olympic-sized swimming pools, then lean their arms on the fence and let the warm winds wash against their faces. The waves crash against nearby rocks, uninterrupted by chatter or the call for drinks that will characterize the daytime crowds, and Atlas lets his worries slip away like seaweed into the ocean. When he turns back to look at Mary, she is looking out over the fence like she would look over the bow of a ship and call orders while she steers an imaginary wheel.

“You really do look like Mary Read from here,” Atlas says while goose bumps move over his arms like the tide. “You’ve finally become a Caribbean pirate.” The sun sinks into the water like a blink, and as it falls, Atlas squints his eyes so that his sister blurs into the setting sun, just a shadow of flowing hair and a chin pointed like a compass towards the open sea. At that moment, he realizes that despite her rash decision making and faulty plans, he will follow her anywhere. 

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Starting on 8/24, author Kelly Ann Jacobson will post a chapter from her Wattpad exclusive book, Atlas and Mary Read: Pirates and Thieves, every day. Check back tomorrow for more!

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