16 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on the Cruise
A single sentence, yet Lemara found herself re-reading the message, ensuring she hadn't missed anything.
Looking up from the text to Joshua, she wanted to step back then, such was his stance. But she remembered he was supporting her because her knees buckled, almost falling.
Handing his phone back to him, she dipped her head into the caress of her free hand, massaging the jumble of the one-lined text Julia had thrown in the mix. A ghostlike cape shrowding her.
Hun, I don't know where your sister thinks we might know him from, but I'm telling you that I did not know him before this cruise.
My sister rarely forgets people!
Baby, I know that!
Worst yet, men!
I know that. Lemara voiced quite pointedly. Tell you what, let's just call your sister because I genuinely don't have an answer to her question.
Joshua dialled the witness on speakerphone to the proceedings, and Lemara dipped her head back into her palm. This time in quiet prayer, knowing if Julia were to ever tag them with Harry, everything else she had said prior would lose its sway, convicting her.
Hey Josh! Have you finally agreed for me to drive your car? Bubbly as ever.
Julia, I'm gonna pretend I did not hear that question.
So you're calling because...?
She paused as if waiting for the question to be delivered by mail to Mexico.
Wait, how are you up anyway? What time is it over there? Bolting to life, like indeed she remembered they were in Mexico.
Hey hun, how are you? Lemara managed to chime in.
Hey Em! Em, haha, you sound like you've been up all night with my brother rhyming with hugging.
Amidst a night that could not be any further removed from that statement, air expelled up through Lemara's throat and out her nose.
How were Joshua and Julia, even twins? They were, at times, Harts apart.
Lemara chanced a look at Joshua, but his eyes were firmly on the phone now beeping, with Julia requesting to go on to video call. With neither of them willing to take on Julia head-on, neither budged.
Julia, (Lemara interjected) where do you know Harry from?
I don't know. He just looks familiar, like someone we'd met somewhere. Even his name sounds vaguely familiar.
Lemara's chest undulated under the towel she still had clutched tightly against it. She chanced another look at Joshua, who was listening intently.
That's what I don't recall; I was hoping you would be able to help me.
No, hun, I don't remember him from anywhere.
Joshua had switched on his captain's voice. Measured, calm and collected. The one where he tells his passengers to fasten their seat belts for turbulence up ahead. The aircraft on the other hand is already taunting the meal you ingested earlier to resurface.
Why do you think you know him? Joshua continued.
Hang on, what's with you two?
The phone beeped again, with Julia requesting a video chat for a second time, but neither her brother nor Lemara budged.
Come on, guys. What's he done? What's up?
Nothing. Lemara replied. Just wanting to know where we would have met.
The way he is looking at you, though, Em?
Lemara flashed another look at Joshua, and this time Joshua's eyes connected head-on with hers.
Ooh, goosebumps of all the wrong kind waved down her body.
Anyway, hun, we're gonna go. Quickly dismissing Julia's statement.
Okay, hun, but can I just say something? You don't sound too good. Are you okay?
Yes, I'm fine. Lemara sorely admitted, knowing this wasn't a case she could ever have a girly chat with Julia about.
Okay, hun, call me if you need me.
Lemara felt the ghostly veil lift. Her stomach felt less tight, offering a slight relief. She still had a chance of coming out of this situation less tainted. Though Joshua's mood seemed neither to be better or worse. Yet he picked up her bathrobe and draped it over her before walking out of the ensuite.
She picked up her phone.
Captain Cantieri had posted five photos of the four of them on his social media account. The first three photos of Lemara, Joshua and Captain Cantieri himself, his barrel chest protruding and in the last two pictures, Harry. He'd tagged Harry and Joshua, which is how Julia came across them. Lemara clicked on the link Julia had shared to their group chat, taking her back to Captain Cantieri's account. In the first two photos, Joshua was looking across at Lemara. Beautiful images of a night going so well and then the very last picture.
Harry's eyes, the way he looked at her - remembering that look, she almost choked.
Further down, Lemara's eyes rested on one of the comments below the images.
Captain Cantieri, who is the guy on your left? He is sexy as hell!
To which another follower responded.
He's an airline captain. He's tagged in the pics. And the woman on his left is his girlfriend.
And another commented.
Damn, she's lucky
Further down the comments...
She's got a beautiful smile
Love her smile and those poster ready legs!
And from another
Her tunic where is it from, I lurve it
Another follower responded
Doesn't it look similar to the one Mariah Carey wore in her music video?
She smacked the phone down on the dresser and breathed out, remembering it was the tunic that ultimately unearthed her current demise.
Lemara looked up. Joshua had just walked back to the doorway of the ensuite, now fully dressed.
We should get going.
Okay. Feeling deflated.
And Joshua was off again. Letting out a sigh as she picked out the rest of her wardrobe to accompany her riding breeches. She tried channelling some excitement for the horse riding she was about to do but that would have taken a race around Hockenheim in a Ferrari 812 Superfast to do it.
The door to their suite's entrance was open, where Joshua stood holding the door waiting for her to come out. Closing the door behind her, he reached for the backpack she carried. Almost as if they were two strangers, they wandered down the corridor to the lifts not speaking and neither looked at the other. No other guests were waiting, and except for the lifts' dinging, the silence between them was deafening.
At least one of those hands swaying at her side should have been intertwined with one of his, but he'd only reached for the backpack. The said backpack now dangled from his left hand. Lemara grappled with coming to terms with what Joshua must be thinking. And just what was going through that head of his? A reserved Joshua she could handle, but not holding hands with the captain of hand-holding was wretched.
Did you manage to locate your key card?
Turning to Lemara as he spoke. Lemara caught his eye as he looked from the lights above the elevator to her and back.
He looked back at her precisely as the elevator dinged, it's doors parted and laughter bellowed out. Joshua looked back at the lift to usher her in, but her feet had somehow become anchored. Like the needle on a compass, Lemara's eyes aligned with a pair at the back of the lift, but those eyes were firmly on Joshua.
Hweet Hwoo! Ca-aptain Haart! What a pleasant surprise.
As if Joshua was some sort of happy pill, she bounded off the walls she leaned on at the back of the lift and in front of the other two passengers in the lift.
Joshua smiled. The first time Lemara had seen him smile all morning, and that was woefully upsetting.
Nice to see you too! Joshua replied, courteous as ever.
Last night, she and Joshua were a fortress not to be reckoned with, and she could handle 'Ms stretch her boyfriend's name out like an elastic band.' Today, however, the fortress had been weakened, with the cracks she'd created in the relationship. And in the close-up confines of the elevator, those cracks were sure to become visible. None of which she was willing for others to see, certainly not Ms Hweet Hwoo.
Can I have your key card, please?
Joshua was now just inside the elevator, his right hand on the lift's door hindering its closure. Although Lemara was the one stalling, as there was no way she wanted to go down in that lift.
Em, what's the matter?
Please. Lemara was almost begging.
Joshua reluctantly removed the card from his pocket, handing it to her.
She took the card and dashed back to the suite. Slamming the door shut, crouching down behind it. Clenching her teeth and cupping her mouth, it all came out. Everything she had held back, the guilt, the frustration, the emotional disconnect, the tears. She sobbed, tears streaming down her face, knowing she had pushed one button too many of Joshua's.