Isla rolled onto her side. Nicky’s breathing was slow, and she was definitely asleep. She’d given Isla the cold shoulder when they went to bed, clearly unimpressed with Isla’s flirting. She didn’t care. Jonno was her interest, not Nicky. She tossed over onto her back again. Still unable to fall asleep, she eventually threw her duvet off and climbed out of the lumpy bed. Earlier, she had noticed that in the lounge of the sprawling old farmhouse, there was a large bookcase that was full of interesting-looking books. She decided to go and look for something to read, because her mother had taken away her phone so that she wouldn’t sit up and text Karabo all night.
The house was mostly dark and sleepy, with only small circles of dim light below the lamps dotted throughout the lounge. Isla navigated her way through the furniture-filled lounge to the bookshelf she spotted earlier. She ran her fingers over the spines of old red and brown book covers, with faded gold lettering. She finally came to the reference books. There was one on Madagascar, and next to it a book titled ‘Libertalia, Land of the Free Pirates’. Spellbound, Isla carefully pulled the book out.
She could barely believe it. It was a book about William’s father’s dream pirate haven.
‘What you reading?’ asked a voice. Isla jumped and nearly dropped the book, as she turned around to see Jonno looking at her. He was wearing sleeping trunks and no shirt. Isla couldn’t help but stare, before pulling the book towards her chest.
‘Um… um, just a book about pirates,’ she stumbled, and then looked down at the book she was clutching to herself.
‘The Libertalia one?’ asked Jonno, walking towards her.
‘Yes,’ said Isla drawing the book away from herself and handing it to Jonno. ‘It seems really old,’ said Isla, holding the heavy book between them, trying to pretend she wasn’t that interested in the book. The heat in her neck moved up into her face.
‘Ya, but it’s really cool. I love that there were once pirates in the Indian Ocean, not just the Caribbean. Don’t you?’ asked Jonno, his face lighting up with enthusiasm, ‘and the idea of the whole place is great too — free people, free slaves, no royalty, everyone equal. For those times, it was way out!’ he said, revealing his interest in the subject. He gently took the book from Isla and made his way to the couch, shrugging. ‘Now they just have this crazy music festival in Madagascar called the Libertalia Festival. Happens every year, and musicians from all over the world go there for the party. I’ll probably go when I’m older,’ said Jonno, leaning back into the couch, his one arm resting on the back of the couch to reveal his six pack.
‘Oh,’ said Isla, barely able to understand what he was saying. It seemed her mind had shut down. She was taking in his words very slowly.
‘Let me show you the coolest parts,’ he said, opening the book. ‘Come take a look,’ he said, patting the couch next to him and whipping through the old dusty pages.
‘See here, the founding pirate was Misson, and then there was Edward England, who became English, too,’ explained Jonno, as Isla walked over to him and sat next to him to look at the pictures. There it was, William English’s family in an old book. The original Edward England stared back at her. She couldn’t take her eyes off him. He looked so familiar. Jonno was still talking about the pirates as though they were a story. But they were real. They were William and his father.
‘I know him,’ said Isla and she put her hand on the page. ‘What?’ asked Jonno, looking around his shoulder at Isla.
‘I mean, I know one of his descendants — William, he goes to school with us. His crazy father still thinks he IS a pirate,’ explained Isla.
‘You’re not serious?’ asked Jonno, his eyes enormous with disbelief.
‘I am,’ said Isla. ‘It’s a crazy long story, and it involves the Matabele from Zimbabwe and their treasure,’ said Isla, liking the way she had all of Jonno’s attention.
‘We have time…’ said Jonno looking intently at Isla. She smiled at him and slowly recounted the story of how Mzi’s family — the descendants of the royal Matabele — had found their fabled treasure in a cave on their land in Zimbabwe. As she retold the story, she explained how the treasure had been stolen from them by Edward — who claimed it was owed to him in lieu of Cecil John Rhodes’ promise to his family, for their help in conquering the Matabele kingdom.
‘But what about the son, William?’ asked Jonno.
‘It’s very weird. William’s father left him behind because he wanted to help us get out the cave. Now William is ‘looked after’ by Cedric, and he comes to our school and is in post matric this year. He’s such a jerk,’ said Isla, her voice scathing.
‘That’s so cool. You’re so lucky to know these people,’ said Jonno in awe.
‘I guess?’ said Isla, ‘They’re just like you and me. Normal people.’ Jonno looked at her as if she was the most incredible thing he had ever seen. Slowly he reached across and kissed her gently on the lips. Isla’s head spun and a whirring sound filled her ears. His lips were warm and gentle, and his hand under her chin was hot against her skin. As he drew away, Isla blinked and then remembered what Nicky had told her. ‘Nicky says you have a girlfriend?’ asked Isla, watching Jonno carefully. She prided herself on seeing through boy’s lies.
Jonno laughed, flopping back into the couch. ‘Ya, she does that. It’s her little game. And no, I don’t have a girlfriend.’ Isla smiled. ‘Good,’ she told herself, she actually liked this boy. ‘Glad to hear,’ she said, before leaning across the couch to kiss Jonno once more, and then standing up and going straight to bed.
The next morning Isla’s mom handed her back her mobile. Karabo’s message pinged through:
‘How’s the tragic end to your holiday going?’ asked Karabo
‘Whaaaaat? Tell me more’
‘Their son is hot and we kissed. Seems it’s going to be better than predicted. Chat soon! xxx’
‘OMG! You are shocking. Ok, have fun and see you back at school. Just 4 more sleeps!’
Question: What is unusual about Isla’s behaviour?