Saturday, September 21, 2013

Flor De La Mar

 Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri was born in the village of Palau Macan upon the pristine beaches of Tiger Island a half days drive from the city of Jakarta.   A quiet girl, she spent most days rolling coconuts in the front yard among the high palms and running with the other village children when the city buses passed in dusty clouds.   
 She was unremarkable in every way, this scrawny brown skin and bones filthy island girl.  Except for one feature, to the shock and amazement of everyone in the village, even the elders in their long bamboo huts, Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri was born with the most piercing and crystal blue eyes any had ever seen.
 Her father was a boat guide, spending his days on the white sand beaches leading tourists in wide brimmed hats to secret fishing holes.  Scratching out the most meager living as he tied knots in sun bleached ropes and smoked hand rolled tobacco. 
 But what he loved most, were stories of adventure.  Kidnapped and Treasure Island, a small portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson hung tacked to the wood above the steering wheel of his small sailing vessel.  Often a visitor would ask the origin of the man with wide set black and white eyes in the photo and the guide would say, “There sails the man who taught the world to dream.”
 But the father’s favorite book was A Thousand and One Arabian Nights.  He was convinced the tales were real.  Sinbad’s gold.  Ali Baba’s pirate cave.  Aladdin’s magical lamp and flying rug.  The riches of Persia laid out like a treasure map for one brave enough and smart enough to find it.   His reason for this was the story teller herself, Scheherazade, who kept herself alive each night telling tale after unfinished tale to the love drunk king, staving off her own execution long enough to finish the tale and begin another.
 Every night Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri’s father would sit beside her little bed and read the Arabian Nights by candlelight and ponder about the hidden secrets in the story.  How it must have been a coup upon King Shahryar, brought about by the sultan’s chief vizier, Jafar, who just happened to lead the king back to his bed chamber to see his wife in the naked arms of her slave lover, who just happened to put the scimitar in his hands, who just happened to later offer his own sly daughter as wife to quell the king’s mad revenge, and the equally brilliant Dunyazad, as lady in waiting. 
 How these three must have conspired to use the stories, one after the other, to elicit the secret locations of the kings hidden treasure and to, piece by piece, slowly steal it from beneath him.  He would whisper to his daughter, “That is what I did with you, my precious child, stole the bluest sapphires in the world, and laid them in your eyes.”
 Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri adored her father and believed him to be an honest and just man, but a man nonetheless with his eyes on the faraway sea.  One day a large boat arrived at the village dock with a Captain who was hiring a crew of locals to help lead an expedition far out into the Indian Ocean.  The Captain, a broad shouldered man with gleaming bronze skin and thick black mustache spun a tale so wild and furious it wrapped the entire village up in a frenzy.  It was a tale of sunken treasure, the Captain’s distant ancestor had lost almost half a millennia ago.
 The ancestor’s name was Admiral Alfonso d’Albuquerque.  In the year 1511 he sailed from Portugal to the ancient land of Malay and sacked the city of Malacca, stealing 60 tons of gold ingot coins and 200 chests of diamonds, rubies, and emeralds, even the throne of Sultan Mahmud Syah itself and sailed into the rough waters off the Sumatra coast where the ship, the Flor De La Mar, a four-masted carrack, sank to the bottom of the sea.  
 It was this ship the bronze skinned Captain, who also shared the long historic name, Albuquerque, hoped to locate and plunder.  With his collection of ancient maps and purses bottomless as the sea itself, he needed brave men to lead him into the waters, to watch the skies as he dove below.  
 Many of the men in the village were enraptured by this story, but none so much as the father of Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri.  He said to his daughter on the day he set sail with the bronze skinned Captain, “In every life there is one great adventure, and this is mine.  Never be afraid of the horizon, my darling.  Your eyes will lead you to your destiny.”  She never saw her father again.
 Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri stayed in the village through elementary school  then moved with her mother to Jakarta to finish her secondary courses.  She excelled in school, placing high on a list for entrance into the city wide medical learning center.  At just eighteen, she qualified for the nursing abroad program that placed young Indonesian girls in the homes of rich Saudi families as nannies.  
 Traveling to Saudi Arabia, to the land of Scheherazade, was too perfect to be true.  Excitedly she accepted the offer, remembering her father’s words about every life having one great adventure.  She knew this was hers.  The money she earned would allow her mother to retire.  In just five years, she could return to Pulau Macan a woman of wealth and means.  A woman of stature.  A brown skinned woman with the crystal blue eyes.  A goddess of the sea.
 Of course, her adventure to the land of the Arabian Nights didn’t not turn out as planned, fated like the sunken Flor De La Mar, when she arrived in Riyadh she became a prisoner to the rich Saudi family who promised to protect her.  
 She was not allowed to leave the house, beaten if rooms were not cleaned, beaten if the baby cried, beaten if the food was not prepared perfectly.  She was not allowed any contact.  No calls home, no internet,  no connection to the outside world.  She was now a slave. For three years she lived this cruel way and then things got worse.  The master of the house took a liking to her blue eyes.  He raped her and left her with child.  
When the first wife discovered this, Aulia Consuela Sukarnoputri was arrested for adultery and sentenced to public execution.  There was no one to save her, to speak for her, to even send word to her mother this heinous act was about to be committed.  Only one man knew.  Mad Dog received word on a little note stashed behind a peanut butter jar from an unknown ally.  He left immediately for Riyadh with two clear objects.  Free the woman he’d promised to marry, and kill the man that raped her.  

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