17 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Her chest so tight, she could barely breathe. Crouched down behind the door, arms wrapped around her knees, she cried miserably into them. The guilt, all-consuming, tugged at her.
There was no other way out of this; she had to come clean with Joshua. Lose that unpredictable noose from around her neck. The thought of that, just as suffocating. But what was she going to say? What could she say?
The distinct clonking of a meal trolley wheeling down the corridor became louder, as was the phone ringing in the suite. Lemara squeezed her eyes and rolled her head back onto the door for support.
The ringing stopped and started again. The second time she pushed herself off the floor. Wiping her nose with the back of her hand, she made her way to the phone on the side table. Indistinct chatter in a melee of voices, and someone howling a laugh burst out the handset as it left the receiver.
Ha-low! Doing her best to sound unlike the crying mess she was.
Em, are you coming down? Joshua questioned.
Uhmm. (Her throat not entirely cleared to answer the question.)
And there was a pause from both of them. Lemara listening to the commotion in his background. Joshua, simply listening.
Another minute and I'll be down. She continued.
I'm in reception. I'll see you in a bit.
Resting the handset back on the receiver, she crossed her right hand across her front, left hand cupping her mouth and stared back at it.
The calm in his voice decks away from the emotional turbulence she felt. If he was thinking, what she thought he was thinking, why was he so calm. But then that was Joshua; Joshua getting angry is uncharted territory. His ability to remain calm in any given situation (while a great trait for him as a pilot), was at times she found frustrating in their relationship. Still, Lemara was grateful he'd always refrained from unkind words during an argument. And on that note, she exhaled and went in search of her beach bag from the day before.
In the bottom corner of her bag was the key card, Joshua had dropped in it. She dipped her head back and exhaled as if smoking an invisible cigarette.
A quick splash of water and a towel dab to her face, and she was out the door heading to the lifts, very much hoping not to encounter anyone she knew, especially Harry.
But the greek goddess Elpis must have been on her side, at least until she stepped out of the lifts and into reception. That or Elpis enjoyed being in a confined space. Or rather Pandora was once again up to her usual tricks and trapped Elpis again, this time in the lift. Seeing that as Lemara stepped out of them, her eyes sailed undeviatingly into Harry's, chuckling at something someone had said.
His eyes flickered, then stayed with her. Lemara's heart stopped, but her stomach danced, his eyes expressing a bit more than she'd liked him to, causing her to slow her pace. That gaze of his had once more caught her off guard.
How does he do that?
Quickly, she reset her composure, not least because her eyes had sailed over Joshua's shoulder to Harry but also to prepare herself for the mini assembly they stood in.
Captain Cantieri stood on Harry's right, animatedly telling everyone he had been married three times, divorced three times and, that the last marriage never made it to their first anniversary. It turns out he needed something a little bigger than an espresso cup to bale out the floods gushing through the cracks in that ship.
He was a commanding presence whenever she saw him. But when does he actually sail the ship? Lemara wondered. Since he more often appeared to be socialising with his guests than anything else. And she had a quiet chuckle to herself.
But, it was Ms Hweet Hwoo, who appeared to have moored herself to her man and had just stroked her left arm over his right shoulder, that sucked the air from Lemara.
Yesterday, Lemara was happy to play along with those flirtatious tickets she had towards Joshua, but those tickets had now expired. She took on an extra shot of air, fanned a smile out across her face, neck and back spirit level straight, and with one foot in front of the other, strutted over to the little gathering.
Ahh, Ciao Bellissima!
Came the enigmatic Captain Cantieri on spotting Lemara strutting towards his married-three-times assembly, assembled with another two guys Lemara had not yet met. One slightly more salt than pepper on top stood between Captain Cantieri and Joshua. The other, whose head paraded a straw hat, had erected himself between Hweet Hwoo and Harry.
Synchronised, the latter three's necks turned to look back towards her.
Good morning to you too, Captain Cantieri. How are you today?
Mirroring the Captain's enthusiasm as she slotted into the space, he'd opened up next to him for her.
She rhapsodised in Joshua's direction, the kind he would have had earlier in the morning had their night not gone decidedly south. Since no one needed to know, Lemara smiled at him. A smile so infectious it went viral in the little congregation where all but Hweet Hwoo had caught on. But she was forgiven for having a slower connection than the rest.
For the others, finger-wiggle-waves and a smile too, as she glanced around the amorous human fort they'd formed.
Well, ah, since you walked in, I've had my fix ah. Captain Cantieri replied.
Have you now?
A single raised eyebrow and a broad grin across her face as she accepted Captain Cantieri's unexpected kiss to her left cheek and then her right.
And who is this pretty young thing who's joined us?
That question left the lips of the salt and peppered haired gent. All the time giving Lemara a double-once-over, down, up and down again, his eyes went. The second time around, glazing her over as if with an exotic passion fruit mirror glaze.
All six pairs of eyes (some lustier than others) now on Lemara.
Natalie, Geoff, David, this is my girlfriend, Lemara.
Joshua declared to the other two men, Lemara had not previously met. Ms Hweet Hwoo finally had a name, Natalie.
Well, at least for the time being, she was still his girlfriend.
She extended her right arm, first to Geoff, whose eyes had completed glazing her over. Then to Natalie, who she gave the sweetest of smiles.
How was last night?
Natalie's and Lemara's hands were still clasped in a handshake when the former slapped the question. For a picosecond, it nearly knocked Lemara off her pedestal. Her eyes near danced over to Joshua, but she caught herself in quick time and steered clear of Joshua and last .
It was great! Thanks for asking! (Remaining rhapsodic as a Sunday morning gospel choir.) What about you, did you enjoy the rest of the night?
Yeah, pretty much left the club after you guys did.
Ohh! Lemara smirked. Wondering if by some means they'd become her Cinderella clock.
Yeah, managed to get up early this morning for a run, stopped for a coffee after. Natalie continued. Captain Hart was there; did he tell you?
That second 'Ohhh' breaking the overlapping conversation between Harry and Captain Cantieri who's eyes were now on them.
Unsure where Natalie wanted to take that conversation, but Lemara kept her in check; continuing with a smile, she tapped Natalie's arm, releasing her's from her clutches.
I'm afraid 'our' Captain Hart may have been a little preoccupied this morning after he came back from his basketball game and coffee with you.
Aware the sentence would have varying connotations depending on whose ears it fell on but she needed to put ice on whatever flame Natalie thought she could blaze. Lemara at least knew Joshua way better than that.
Finally, it was the straw hat-wearing David's turn. Standing closest to her, she had watched him, watch her work the circle and felt as if his eyes had long greeted her before they'd shaken hands.
But now came a tricky bit. She had so far gone on to personally acknowledged everyone; every one that is except Harry. And so she nodded in his direction.
An so slight dip of her head as she said hi to him.
Lemaruh. Was his equal response to her.
Yuh gawh be kiddin!
David's surprise had surprised everyone else.
His statement and his lilting Bajan accent unexpected.
You de young lady with dose legs wearing de tunic in the Captain's pictures last night?
His compliment going so well in that Bajan rhythm all of its own, she felt herself inwardly somersaulting, and then he mentioned the blasted tunic. If one more person mentioned that damn thing...
Ahh! Yes! Composing herself.
She hadn't dared look at Joshua, but she saw Natalie look from her to Joshua and back out of the corner of her eyes. Now, what the hell was that?
So are you enjoying the cruise? Feeling the need to redirect the conversation away from the tunic.
Yes, definitely. De captain here knows what he's doin.
Well, I might not be any good at keeping a marriage, but I can sail a ship for sure ah. Chimed in Captain Cantieri.
Amusing the group a little.
Would you marry again?
The question wasn't a pop at Joshua, far from, nevertheless the instant it left her lips, she realised it could be taken that way.
Ahh! Si! Ofcoursa! Forget three times lucky it's the fourth time lucky ah!
Natalie, gents, I'm sorry to break up this little get-together, but I promised Lemara I'd take her horseriding, and I like to keep my promises.
Are we ready? Firmly looking at Joshua.
Yes. I was waiting for you.
Okay... I'm ready
A flurry of waves and goodbyes, and see-you-laters when Lemara turned on Joshua's signal to leave, his hand sliding down her back.