"You!" Linebeck said.
She looked at him, curious. "What?"
"What?" Now she was just confused.
"You're Jolene, that's what!"
"What?" She looked furious. "What are you talking about?"
"You! You're Jolene! I'm Linebeck, don't do remember? I stole--"
"Nevermind," he said hastily.
She was glaring at him with something like rage, and maybe hatred. Oh, no. He quailed under her threatening silence. "Did I say something wrong?"
"You—know me?" she demanded, but her voice, normally so confident, was shaking. What now? "You know me!"
"Well, um, yes, I--"
"You know me, and I don't—I don't even know who you are!"
"I don't remember anything!" She was more upset than he'd ever seen her. "And you know me!"
She was trembling violently—with some terrible anger, he was sure—and the glint in her black eyes looked she was about to kill him. After a second, though, she only made a strange noise, like a half-smothered scream of frustration, whirled, and ran from the house, slamming the door behind her.
Oh, great. What had he said?
With a sigh, he resumed staring out the window.
After an hour had passed, Jolene still hadn't come back. He got to his feet, frowning. It went against his better judgement, but he was a little worried about her, and he really ought to say he was sorry. For whatever it was he'd done. He would go find her, and just hope she wasn't too angry anymore.
The mist was all but gone, though tendrils of it still clung to the forest's floor. The clouds had cleared away at last, and the sun cast long, cool shadows from every tree. Staying closely to the path, he headed east.
He spent the better part of another hour searching for her, but Jolene was nowhere to be found. Somewhat confused, he walked back to the house, and then saw the trail down the cliffs.
She was sitting in the shadow of the cliffs, legs crossed, on the pebbly beach. He watched her for a moment as she picked up a stone, turned it over in her hand once or twice, and spun it out across the water. It skimmed over the surface, striking the crests, until a bigger wave came up and it vanished underneath.
He grabbed a stone, crossed to stand behind her, and tried it himself. It sank after only three jumps. "You're no bad at that," he admitted, and sat down beside her.
She picked up another stone and skipped it even further.
"I guess there's not much else to do here," he said, a little more quietly.
Another stone, which she threw so violently that when it hit the water, the spray got into his face.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
When she didn't reply, he sighed, then got to his feet and walked away.
Behind him, he heard a sigh, heavy and desolate. He turned back to see her, shoulders slumped and head hanging. "Me too," she said.
"I'm the one who said it."
"I'm the one with anger management issues and no social skills."
That made him smile a little bit. "Well, it would seem you haven't had much interaction with people. Or at least—I mean—that is--"
She managed a laugh, though it sounded a little forced. "Bet people hated me."
"Not all of them."
"Which were you?"
He should have been expecting that, of course, been prepared for it, but he hadn't been, and he had no answer to give her.
"Just—leave me alone, okay?" she said after a moment. "I need some time. To think."
He nodded, hesitated, then turned and walked back up the cliffs, up to the woods.
Something glittered at the edge of his vision as he walked down the path. He paused and turned, but he couldn't see what had flashed in the sunlight. He took a few steps back, searching the misty undergrowth, and saw it again. Was it...could that be...
He didn't hesitate for a second. With a little cheer of joy, he sprinted towards the golden glint, shoving through the brambles. It was there, within his reach--
The ground exploded.
He was being constricted, his arms pinned to his sides, trapped in wet, pulsing slime that was so warm it seemed to be boiling him alive, with some kind of sharp spines coming into the center, digging into him from all sides and holding him in place.
The monster had caught him!
"Helllllp!" he shouted, so hard and loud that his throat hurt and he could feel the sound all the way through his skull. He could barely draw enough breath to call out again. "Helllllp! Joleeeeene! Helllllp meeeeeeeee-eee-eee..."
Blackness threatened him and he struggled to take a breath while being crushed by the monster. When was she going to hear him and come rescue him?
Was she going to hear him?
Suddenly, he heard a loud snap from somewhere off through the trees, followed by a thwack! and a violent shudder from the gelatinous beast that held him prisoner. Snap-thwack! Snap-thwack!
With a screech, the monster tore apart, and he hit the ground so hard that the little breath he had was knocked out of him. He lay there in the dead needles, panting, as gold rupees rained down all around him.
"What were you thinking?"
Oh, no. Here it came. She hadn't changed much at all, had she?
Clearly not. She reached down and grabbed his cravat, pulling him to his feet. He yelped and slapped at her hands in a desperate effort to prevent his strangulation. She released him, and he staggered back as she launched into a tirade.
"You are a complete idiot! I told you to stay on the path! I told you! Didn't I? Did I not specifically say to stay—on--the path?!"
"Treasure...the monster...you said...I thought..."
"You said it was in the mist..."
"You idiot! That wasn't the monster! That was a Like-Like! You idiot! You greedy, reckless, stupid, foolhardy idiot!"
She sighed, both relieved and exasperated. "It's alright. It was a mistake, I know. I..." She clenched her teeth and sucked in a breath before admitting, "I shouldn't have shouted. Just don't do it again. These woods are dangerous, you know. You have to be careful."
He nodded vehemently. Anything to steer her away from the topic. "Careful, of course. I think I can manage that."
She laughed a little. "I...I'm sorry. I guess I just...got carried away."
He was somewhat satisfied to hear her apologize. Maybe the loss of her memories had also dampened her pride.
"So," he said as he trailed along behind her along the path back towards the beach. "If you have a ship, why don't you leave?"
She gave him a look that was really all the response he needed. "Yes, Linebeck, broken."
"I don't know how! All I know is the sails are bad, the masts aren't stable, the rudder doesn't work, there's extensive damage to the hull, and I'm...not entirely sure it was all that well built in the first place."
"Not to mention monster damage...and collision damage too, I suppose."
"Never mind." They were standing on the beach now. He looked up at the ship, and now he could see that she wasn't the proud, majestic beauty that had once been so familiar to him. No longer was the ship the grand queen of the sea.
"I could fix that," he said confidently.
"You could not."
"I could, too!"
"You're not going anywhere near my ship."
He nodded, only willing to give in because he was terrified of her, especially when she sounded so much like the Jolene he'd known. Besides, she couldn't fix the ship, and he knew it.
Of course, whether she knew it was another matter entirely.
"Fine," he said, trying his best to sound haughty and aloof. He had the feeling he'd failed dismally. "If you don't want my help..."
"Not particularly," she replied. "Although..."
He wasn't sure that was necessarily a good thing.
"I suppose if you really wanted to, you could work for me."
"What, as a servant? I think not!"
"No, as payment. You'll work for your passage on my ship when it's finished."
"No. You don't need my help. I'll build my own ship."
"You can't build a ship!"
"I can. I will!"
"I am not!"
"If you don't want my help, I won't force it upon you!"
He stood up and stalked across the beach, his coat, salt-covered though the seawater had evaporated, flapping stiffly around his feet.
He waited patiently. She didn't know how to fix a ship. She never had repaired the damage that monster had caused, and she'd always been to proud to ask for his help. She was the one bluffing. She wanted to get off this island as soon as possible, too. She needed a ship as much as he did. She would give in and come over to ask him, pride or otherwise.
When a few minutes passed in silence, he turned around to see that the beach was empty.
Oh! So that's the game she was playing, was it? Well, he could play that game too. He was patient. He would expose her bluff.
Smirking to himself, Linebeck headed back up the cliffs and towards the house.