20 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Don't speak. His lips burned into the side of her neck.
She gasped. Her body, becoming increasingly limp.
Hold me. He caved.
His fire burned between her hips; a half cry escaped her lips. The air she needed to breathe wrestled in her lungs with a desperate need to suppress the screams building inside. Robbed of breath, she spluttered.
Except for the water lapping around them, everything else appeared at peace. But how wrong appearances were. Hearts thumped, bodies throbbed, where they lingered in the edge-of-the-earth sensations Joshua liked to take her.
Water surged with a sea besieged. Besieged by a wolf pack of jet skiers off the coast of Cozumel. Lemara coughed from the rude awakening of jet ski fuelled swells. Joshua adopted the sidestroke with Lemara clinging to his side; they looked up, looked around. His eyes implying his displeasure at the three joy riders. They, on the other hand, elicited their squeals of pleasure, circling a third time before taking off.
You okay? His concern replicated across his face.
She shook her head, still unable to speak.
Their foreheads met, kissed. Noses touched, lips smiled, kissed. That was Joshua accepting her answer.
Em, you do pump my blood. Cementing his statement with a greedy kiss to her lips.
Arms still around his neck, she laughed, throwing her head backwards, and when finally she raised her head, said.
Hopefully, that's not all I do—a twinkle in her eye.
You have no idea. Mirroring her twinkle back.
Back on the ship ahead of the boarding rush and the earlier departure time, they caught a lift to themselves. Lemara entered, Joshua followed and then a thud. She looked back, the lift doors undecided as to whether to keep closing or open again. But what was certain was the figure jumping through the opening. Nothing uncommon about Joshua holding the lift doors open for someone. It just so happened Natalie was the lucky recipient this time.
Hi. She said as she leapt into the lift.
Her see-through cover-up falling to rest on her body, revealing she covered everything but what needed covering. Lemara replied, then stayed silent. Joshua saw too. Responded too, then promptly motioned to the lift panels for her deck. Nine, she said. Lemara's eyes reexamined the numbers on the panel as if somehow they'd newly inserted another deck nine. He came to stand on her right at the back of the lifts, wrapping her waist as the elevator went up for the ride.
Natalie, she said, do you ever get that suspicious feeling you're being followed? Looking up at the numbers as they climbed and then over to Natalie standing on their left.
Joshua tapped her waist. She felt his inner smile.
No. Why? Are you being followed?
Lemara laughed. Joshua piped up.
What my girlfriend is saying (tapping her waist again) is that we keep bumping into each other.
Ahh, come on, you guys, I like seeing you. Besides, it's a small ship.
Is that so? Raising her eyes under their hooded lids. A smile glorying across her face.
The lift now on deck nine, Joshua ushered Lemara out, Natalie following.
Ahh, she said again, this time digging her purse out of her beach bag. I'll give you a card for our ranch.
Joshua stood waiting for the card. Lemara walked on, looking back at the two as she rounded the bend to their corridor. Natalie not only handed Joshua the card but lecherously brushed herself on him.
Lemara's neck straightened, arms folded across her front. Joshua dropped his hand, the one holding the card and Natalie walked off in the opposite direction, towards the stairs and up.
Hang on, didn't this woman want deck nine? Lemara questioning the back of her.
Coming down the stairs closest to Lemara was Jada and another two guests.
Hey Lemara, it's my birthday today. We're going to the Sports bar for drinks at four. Do you want to come?
Happy birthday, hun! Sure, why not? See you at four?
See you at four. Jada reiterated and kept on walking down the stairs.
Not that Jada had stopped at any point in the conversation. Joshua now stood by Lemara's side.
That should be fun, looking down the stairs after the three.
Hmmm. She was looking up to meet his eyes. Joshua Hart, she continued, I've been going out with you for four years and never have I met a woman that brazen. But if she keeps up, crapaud gone smoke her pipe.
Joshua laughed. She's in trouble, is she?
But it means you've still got it—patting him on the ass.
Em, I'm going out with you; there's no chance of losing it. I'll make sure of that. Sticking his hand down her back pocket.
Washed of Cozumel beach's salt and sand, they sat bathrobed. Lemara on the floor, her head between his legs, Joshua on the bed, blow-drying her braids. Her phone went off; the blow-drying stopped—Julia was video calling.
Hey hun! Holding out the phone and tilting her head back into Joshua's lap, giving Julia a good view of both of them.
Oh Gawd! Josh, have you spoken to Eleanor for the day? Only her neck and chin visible.
No Julia, I haven't spoken to our mother.
Well, she called me, clearly after she couldn't find you. She dreamt that one of us is having a child as in either you, Em or me. The details were sketchy, but this is Eleanor's dream.
Lemara spluttered upright. Joshua straightened his bathrobe. He does that straightening thing whenever he feels Eleanor is a wedge between him and his twin.
Julia, are you pregnant?
Oh, Gawd, no.
Then, no one's pregnant. His words, sure.
Wait, hang on, you didn't ask Em if she is pregnant.
Julia, no one's pregnant.
Not yet. She laughed at the two of them. Anyway, Em, I remember where I met Harry. It's Singapore.
Oh! Readjusting herself between Joshua's legs.
He's the guy we met in the hotel bar. He was at some wine festival. Anyway, that's not important. What's important is that I'm in Dubai, (turning the phone out for them to see her beach view) but I'll be back by the time you guys get back to London.
Rattling out the words as if she needed to be out the door to catch another flight.
That quick, eh!
Lemara looked on with renewed interest knowing Julia's trips to Dubai usually had something to do with Rashid. Rashid is the closest Julia came to getting married. Her aversion to religion, any religion saw to their disjunction. Yet, they had remained friends.
Rashid wants me to showcase my beachwear range at an upcoming fashion show. Its exclusive. Ultimately they'll be stocked in his sister's boutiques.
Ohh, hun, that's great!
Congrats! Joshua chimed in. By the way, while you're over there, can you check on the apartment before the new tenants move in.
Josh, we pay agents for that.
And Julia, I'm asking you to check that they're doing what we pay them to do.
Julia looked down at her phone screen and back up to them.
Anyway, Rashid's calling me. I'm gonna go, waving at them before she hung up. By the way, this grandchild of Eleanor's is mixed-raced.
And she was gone.
They both sat quiet, unmoving. Joshua because he never much cared for his mother's dreams. It may be the only thing about his mother he didn't much care for. Except one of those said dreams had seen himself and Julia do well in 2017, though that same dream was the straw that broke a camel's back. That camel being what was left of the relationship between Julia and her mother.
Lemara's quietness, however, stemmed from something else - the mixed-raced baby. If the child is mixed-raced, it wasn't hers and Joshua's. But neither had Eleanor's dream excluded her. She swallowed on that thought.
Both dressed in shorts and white t-shirts (her shorts shorter than his) hands entwined; they strolled to the Sports Bar. There was no Jada. She'd already left, supposedly for a pool bar, as pointed out by the bartender. A replay of an F1 race on the television screen auditioned for Joshua's attention, and he stayed to watch. A kiss to his lips and she was off, preferring to seek out Jada and celebrate her birthday.
Propped up on a stool overlooking the pool, Lemara found a tipsy Jada and friends. Ordering two of 'the queens', that red elixir Edwin had introduced her to the night before, she handed one to Jada.
Try this; you're gonna love it.
Hmm. This is good, Lemara. Strong too.
Happy 21st birthday to you. Clinking their glasses.
Three barstools away, another guest was calling for a dark and stormy. A drink to match the impending weather, he continued to say.
There was no Edwin this evening; as a matter of fact, she'd not seen him all day. What hilarious stories might he have to tell about stormy seas? She wondered.
She took the first sip of the cocktail, quenching her thirst. While beside her, Jada was staring into her empty cocktail glass. But like the elixir it was, the cocktail glass was full again and emptied again.
It was the bartender who was impressed this time.
Would you like another? He asked.
Make it two. Jada replied.
Ahh, hun, we need to pace ourselves. This cocktail is strong stuff.
In the time-honoured tradition of leaving port, the ship's horns blasted. And either the ship had not left port in good time, or the storm had changed its course sensing how it swaggered from side to side on departure. That or it had the drinks the guests at the bar ordered.
Now and again, the wind gusted across the exposed top deck, the ship doing its drunken swagger in response. All but two young boys remained brave in the pool, sloshing about with the water. They, too, now being asked to vacate it for their safety.
As the ship carried on with its increasingly drunken conduct, passengers gradually disappeared from the open deck.
Cozumel had since been swallowed into the distance, and so had Jada's third cocktail.
Jada, you are gonna be drunk before anything.
Ignoring Lemara, and instead reached for her unfinished cocktail. The ship had a better idea. It rolled, sliding Lemara's glass into Harry's hands, who treated himself to the entire contents, saving her the trouble. Lemara looked up, visibly surprised to see him there.
That. Was not yours to have. Jada drawled.
Jada, you're going to get yourself drunk.
Me? Nooo. I've never had a drink in my life. Wagging an index finger at Lemara.
Ooph, you are drunk. Poking fun at her.
The ship had done its biggest sway yet, rolling Jada's head and upper body into Lemara's chest at a time when something inside her rolled too. It was not a good sound.
Come on; we need to get you back to your room. Trying to sit her upright.
I like your boyfriend. Punching Lemara with each word.
I like him too. Come on.
Except, the boyfriend Jada referred to was not the one Lemara thought because she reached over and tugged Harry's collar.
I like you. Jada continued to say to him.
Lemara took an extended breath, looked over at Harry, then looked around.
Oh Gawd Harry!
Jada buried her head back in Lemara's chest.
Jada, what is your room number?
Room number, I don't have one.
You're gonna have to take her to your suite. Harry contributed.
But her mother appeared along with a member of staff and took Jada to her room.
She's going to remember her 21st.
Or not. His voice crisp.
They walked on in silence for a bit.
Hmm. Looking up at him.
Have you given any thought to those hotels I showed you the other day? When they found themselves at deck nine's lifts.
No, I haven't.
You should. I know the managers at the properties well; I could put in a word for you.
You would, would you?
You bet I would.
And do what about Joshua?
A slight edge to her tone, causing Harry to tilt his head.
Your man is a pilot, better yet captain; he can fly to see you anytime. Better yet, get a job in any of these places.
She laughed, shaking her head at the same time but said nothing. But her brain made the connection between the Singapore hotel on his list, the same hotel she and Julia had stayed at.
This sounds serious.
Does she look familiar?
Scrolling to a picture of Julia in her phone's gallery and turning it to him.
Head tilted at a precarious angle as if the picture wasn't already upright; a smile grew across his eyes. Then stopped.
Yes, she does look familiar. Is this a trick question?
No, it isn't.
Why does she look familiar?
Lemaruh, this is not a trick question?
His repeat of the question more rhetorical.
No, it's not!
She looks like...
His words shot down mid-sentence by the ship's crackling PA system and Captain Cantieri's voice blasting through, then silence.
Well, for starters, she looks like your boyfriend. Tilting his head again at the photo.
They are twins but is that it?
He raised his eyes from the photo to her.
You don't remember me, do you?