Sunset over the tropical beach. Vertical crop.

I sat at the top of the stairs, looking into a perfect cerulean blue sky. Had I not been staring through the gaping hole in Par Impar’s roof, I’d call it a perfect day here on my Caribbean island. It wasn’t. The cries of those who had lost so much, the fear and worry from those who had taken shelter within my walls, and the fact that so many of them had nothing to return to weighed in the air like a heavy, humid miasma. Pain. Sorrow. Loss. These were not my domains, and yet, from a place where the roll of a dice, the flip of a card, or the spin of a wheel brought good fortune, they were now here.

I wiped away the tears falling down my cheeks. Inside I raged like the storm that had devastated my island and so many others. I was a deity. I wielded power. And yet, I had no way of twitching my nose or wiggling my fingers to make lives and bodies whole once more. I felt completely, utterly useless. I also needed to act.

“We’re running low on some supplies, well stocked on others, but no emergencies. With your permission, I’d like to take our extras on a boat over to Abaco Island. They need everything they can get,” Grace answered.

“Good, if we have extra nonperishable food, Audrey, can we add it to what Grace has? It may be a drop in the bucket, but hopefully a helpful one,” I suggested.

“Of course. I was going to mention that myself. We are fine with food and most of the perishables have been used up. We have refrigerator space for baby formula if necessary, and I’ve had a couple of the housekeepers round up things like extra sheets and feminine supplies.”

“Thank you.” I turned then to those who handled the grounds and animals. “Juliet, please make an assessment of our aquatic life. I’ll tend to my koi personally. You don’t need to worry about them. Javier, please have your teams assess what we need and what repairs need to be made. Samuel, the roof is structurally sound, but has been ripped back. We’ll need to start with tarps, and of course, not rent out the top floor of that wing. Please let me know what you need and I’ll start ordering supplies.”

I paused to consider my next words. “The guests who remained here will no doubt be leaving as soon as they’re able. The communication staff is already dismantling the radios, though I’m thankful that some of you are able to still lend your equipment. We have several boats leaving this afternoon. Par Impar will use the west wing to house those who need shelter and who have nothing to go back to. If any of your families need assistance, please get the information to Minerva. I’ve reserved the entire wing, but right now, I think just the three floors below the top one will be sufficient. If my villa is damaged I’ll be staying in my office. I have a couch and a bathroom there, and I can eat in the kitchens with everyone else.”

Tears dotted my staff’s eyes, and I knew how much the storm had cost them. A few of them either had family members or supervised staff members who had family on Abaco, and couldn’t leave for various reasons and now couldn’t reach them.

“I also want everyone to know that they can come to me for anything. This will be difficult for all of us. We will get through it.” I stood and hugged my staff, accepting their thanks. I paused by Minerva. “I’ll be in my office for a bit, and then will be at my villa doing assessments. I’ll take a radio with me in case you need me for anything.”

“Thank you.” She remained withdrawn, as disturbed by the devastation as I was.

I hugged her. “I’m here for you, too. Remember that.” Then, before I could lose my composure among my employees, I hurried to my office.

I picked up a large tile that appeared to be some ancient game piece or game board and held it to my ear. Instead of the roar of the ocean, a deadly silence greeted me. They’d cut us off in our hour of need. We were alone.

I expected no less honestly. So, I stiffened my spine and changed my flat shoes for sturdy work boots. About twelve hours into the storm, I’d changed into jeans and a Par Impar t-shirt. I grabbed the pair of leather gloves Samuel had offered once the storm had eased, then hurried downstairs and outside.

As it had the first time I’d seen the devastation, the debris from palm fronds to thin wood from terraces and lattices boggled the mind. I stifled a gasp, already seeing Samuel’s staff out clearing walkways and making piles.

I picked my way toward my villa, already seeing the pavilion over my beloved koi pond had collapsed. I made it to the edge and lifted boards and the latticed roof that had fallen on the hard, clear PVC cover. The square ventilation holes had cracked beneath the weight, bits of leaves visible on the surface of the pond. And there, through the clear roof, six orange bodies swam, seemingly unaware that the world had been destroyed around them.

It took more work than anticipated to lift the cover, but I soon had the pond revealed. I sank to my knees next to it, then reached into the water to let the fish come nibble at my fingers. They were alive. My beautiful fish were alive. Somehow, in all of this devastation, they’d made it, and I broke down in huge, gut-wrenching sobs. So much destruction. So many deaths. And yet, fate decided to spare my fish. I had no words, just raw grief.

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