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Poor Pinocchio! He even tried to tear his hair, but as it was only painted on his wooden head, he could not even pull it.

Just then a large Pigeon flew far above him. Seeing the Marionette, he cried to him:

“Tell me, little boy, what are you doing there?”

“Can’t you see? I’m crying,” cried Pinocchio, lifting his head toward the voice and rubbing his eyes with his sleeve.

“Tell me,” asked the Pigeon, “do you by chance know of a Marionette, Pinocchio by name?”

“Pinocchio! Did you say Pinocchio?” replied the Marionette, jumping to his feet. “Why, I am Pinocchio!”

At this answer, the Pigeon flew swiftly down to the earth. He was much larger than a turkey.

“Then you know Geppetto also?”

“Do I know him? He’s my father, my poor, dear father! Has he, perhaps, spoken to you of me? Will you take me to him? Is he still alive? Answer me, please! Is he still alive?”

“I left him three days ago on the shore of a large sea.”

“What was he doing?”

“He was building a little boat with which to cross the ocean. For the last four months, that poor man has been wandering around Europe, looking for you. Not having found you yet, he has made up his mind to look for you in the New World, far across the ocean.”

“How far is it from here to the shore?” asked Pinocchio anxiously.

“More than fifty miles.”

“Fifty miles? Oh, dear Pigeon, how I wish I had your wings!”

“If you want to come, I’ll take you with me.”

“How?”

“Astride my back. Are you very heavy?”

“Heavy? Not at all. I’m only a feather.”

“Very well.”

Saying nothing more, Pinocchio jumped on the Pigeon’s back and, as he settled himself, he cried out gayly:

“Gallop on, gallop on, my pretty steed! I’m in a great hurry.”

The Pigeon flew away, and in a few minutes he had reached the clouds. The Marionette looked to see what was below them. His head swam and he was so frightened that he clutched wildly at the Pigeon’s neck to keep himself from falling.

***

After resting a few minutes longer, they set out again. The next morning they were at the seashore.

Pinocchio jumped off the Pigeon’s back, and the Pigeon, not wanting any thanks for a kind deed, flew away swiftly and disappeared.

The shore was full of people, shrieking and tearing their hair as they looked toward the sea.

“What has happened?” asked Pinocchio of a little old woman.

“A poor old father lost his only son some time ago and today he built a tiny boat for himself in order to go in search of him across the ocean. The water is very rough and we’re afraid he will be drowned.”

“Where is the little boat?”

“There. Straight down there,” answered the little old woman, pointing to a tiny shadow, no bigger than a nutshell, floating on the sea.

Pinocchio looked closely for a few minutes and then gave a sharp cry:

“It’s my father! It’s my father!”

Meanwhile, the little boat, tossed about by the angry waters, appeared and disappeared in the waves. And Pinocchio, standing on a high rock, tired out with searching, waved to him with hand and cap and even with his nose.

It looked as if Geppetto, though far away from the shore, recognized his son, for he took off his cap and waved also. He seemed to be trying to make everyone understand that he would come back if he were able, but the sea was so heavy that he could do nothing with his oars. Suddenly a huge wave came and the boat disappeared.

They waited and waited for it, but it was gone.

“Poor man!” said the fisher folk on the shore, whispering a prayer as they turned to go home.

Just then a desperate cry was heard. Turning around, the fisher folk saw Pinocchio dive into the sea and heard him cry out:

“I’ll save him! I’ll save my father!”

The Marionette, being made of wood, floated easily along and swam like a fish in the rough water. Now and again he disappeared only to reappear once more. In a twinkling, he was far away from land. At last he was completely lost to view.

“Poor boy!” cried the fisher folk on the shore, and again they mumbled a few prayers, as they returned home.

“This is all for me?” She walked over to the bed and picked up a parcel wrapped in shiny pink foil.

“Who else? I wasn’t joking when I said he missed you.”

She turned to him, her face serious. “Did you miss me?”

“I—” Why was his mouth so dry? He couldn’t look away from the water that dripped from her hair and beaded on the curve of her shoulder. “I did. I—”

She tossed the present back on the bed and crossed the space between them.

“Did you miss me?” He gazed down at her, his throat tight around his voice. Damn it, why couldn’t he swallow?

“Yes.” There was a vulnerability in her expression, so different to when he’d first met her. Not self-conscious and defensive, but open. Her face was so close to his, tilted toward him, her mouth only inches from his own. If he just leaned down a little further…

The alert from James’s transcomm cut through the air between them.

Relief mingled with disappointment washed over him as she pulled back. Her expression was unreadable.

“I, uh…damn. Where is it?” He cast about for his comm. Had he left it downstairs? No there it was, peeking out from under one of the gift bags. Reluctantly, he picked it up and turned on the screen.

No. Horror seeped from the device and into his body. He sat slowly on the bed.

“Pine—” He swallowed, hard. “It’s Joseph.”

 She dropped the bag she’d been holding. “What’s wrong? James?

Her expression was so vulnerable, he almost couldn’t speak. “He’s…Pine, he’s—”

“No. No, no, no. He can’t be. I’m back now. I’m here, and we’re all going to be happy, and I’m his daughter so he can’t be—” She wrapped her arms around herself. As though she could hold Joseph there.

The shrillness of her voice cut through his shock. “Pine, I’m sorry. I— He’s not dead. Well, they don’t know if he’s dead. The boat he was taking to meet you has disappeared.”

“Disappeared? How is it possible for an entire boat to disappear?” She rushed over to him, peering at the screen. “I mean, they knew if even a single one of us stepped ten feet out of our designated zone.”

“It shouldn’t be possible. It’s not even like he’s out in the middle of the ocean. He was just going from the mainland to Bowglass. People do it in sailboats, for god’s sake. They said there was some kind of freak storm. It lasted less than twenty minutes, and he was gone.” He shoved his fingers through his hair. “It’s not possible,” he repeated.

She straightened, her voice calm. “James, we’ve got to go.” She turned away and yanked open her dresser drawers.

James stared up at her, uncomprehending. “Go where? The authorities have dispatched search crews.”

Human crews. James, up until five months ago, that part of the ocean was my home. If Joseph’s there, I’ll be able to find him.” She twirled her finger at him. “Turn around.”

He obeyed.

A few moments later, Pine dressed, they thundered down the stairs.

“Pine, this is—” What did she think she was going to do?

“I don’t care. We just have to get down there and see what’s going on.”

That much he could agree with. Maybe there would be more news by the time they Arrived.

They were at the door when Pine spun around and ran back to the living room and up to Mara’s portrait.

“We’ll be back soon,” she promised it.

Mara smiled up her then returned to her work, her hands deftly manipulating the tiny tools.