21 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
She looked at him. Eyes narrowed, lips pursed, head swaying from side to side with the motion of a clock's pendulum. Gathering time.
Don't you remember me? His eyes piercing hers.
Why does everyone keep asking me that? Frustration about her tone.
They stared back at each other. Her eyes still narrowed at him, but her head, motionless. No memory of Harry oscillated anywhere between her then and time in Singapore.
I remember you.
The ship surged.
Okay, Mr Langdon, you are going to have to do better than that.
Now wondering if we've roughed and tumbled before? A devilish smile on.
She paused, caught off her guard by that ocean of doubt. Flashes of white, grey. Grey on white.
No, I'm not. Swiftly catching herself.
Sure we haven't previously tossed in each others' drunk and tempestuous storm?
Of that, I am very sure. She shot back but with a snigger at the end. I would have remembered—her answer resounding.
I'm glad to hear it.
And Julia? Air quickly leaving her lungs but just as quickly reentering.
Harry raised her chin, their eyes reading each other. It was now his turn to pause. A pause a little too long.
The two of you were at The Long Bar having drinks. The four o'clock Singaporean downpour had just started. You got up, just as I turned up, sat down. The hem of the blue and white dress you wore floated to your ankles. Your hair, back in a neat bun, showcased your face. But the gold-framed sunglasses you wore hid those eyes from me.
Her chest heaved, she swallowed. Cymbals crashed, more flashes of white, a resounding drum roll, the ship shuddered. He paused, exhaled.
We said hi, you left, said you had to call your boyfriend.
Backed up by Julia's memory, his story checked out. She had been in Singapore robed in that said dress, and religiously, squalls of rain came through about four every afternoon, and they did worship at that Long Bar on a few occasions.
Wait, is that it? Unfolding an arm from across her front to drop Harry's from her chin. Am I supposed to remember you from that?
A male guest passed by, he nodded, the woman he's chaperoning an ugly shade of pale. The ship's intoxication in no way aiding his side to side gait or the woman's shade of pale. They nodded back.
The guest out of earshot, she said. Doesn't he look a bit like that famous Italian tenor, the flamboyant one? The corners of his mouth curled up. You mean he looks like he's had him.
Try as she might, her suppressed giggles burst out.
Come on, let's get some coffee. I've missed this already.
Missed me making you laugh, missed your company, miss our chats, your smile, your laugh. When I saw you in those breeches this morning...
He paused. His eyes spoke the words that didn't leave his lips, did the work his hands shoved in his pockets couldn't.
And when I saw you on your own at the bar this evening, you have no idea...
She clicked her teeth.
Hmm, I don't really think that's a good idea. Checking the time on her phone. I left Josh in the Sports Bar. I'll see if he's still there.
Lemaruh, the man's a pilot in a bar, he'll be fine.
Doesn't give me a reason not to check for him.
You mean you're turning me down?
What? Did you really expect me to say yes?
I was hoping you would. But tell you what, I'll come with you.
Something a little mysterious about his response, but neither did she say no to his company.
By the way, have you heard the joke about the pilot, a marine and a police officer who walked into a bar?
If it's the one with the punchline (mocking a jab at Harry), yes. Half giggling through her response.
I suppose you've heard them all.
I've heard a few—a smile enveloping her face.
So I take it Joshua is the guy you left the bar to call back in Singapore.
Hands again stuffed in his pocket as they wandered along, then out to stop her from rolling with the ship's motions.
Yes, it was. Suppose I was more of a dutiful girlfriend back then.
And now? His eyes prying.
I don't want to talk about it. At least not with you.
And why not? Isn't that what people do on holiday. Tell absolute strangers their life story?
So we're absolute strangers now? Lemara popped back at him.
They'd arrived at the Sports Bar. A little busier than when she left Joshua earlier, but Joshua was no longer one of the patrons. The bartender remembered her, offered they'd left for the ball court a little while ago.
They? She asked, puzzled.
Yes, himself and Ms Fitzwater.
She shook her head. The name had no registration for anyone dead or alive.
Natalie. He contributed.
Her eyes flicked. Thank you, she said about to turn out of the bar.
I wouldn't be too concerned. The ball court would be closed in this weather. And if not closed, I doubt he'd be able to stand much more shoot a ball—his tone playing on his words.
She smiled at the bartender's reassurance the ball court would be closed. The bar's door closed behind them, and outside, her tongue drove into the right side of her cheek, replacing the smile. Her fingers steepled, massaging the discomfort in her temple.
He isn't in the bar we just came from; he is not in this one. I've asked the captain to shut the other bars, so I'd say he's fine.
Lemara was happy to let Harry's play slide, Natalie with her man, not quite so much. For a brief moment, they stood outside the bar in silence. Their legs apart, keeping them balanced. Harry's hands stuffed back in his pocket, Lemara's back across her front.
But I can see you would like to check the ball court.
She breathed a sigh of relief when he said that.
So four years, huh! Here's another joke. You've definitely not heard this one.
Tell you what, we take your man, and we tie him to one of his jet engines as it's flying down the runway...
Her lips broke into a grin.
I don't even know why I am laughing at this. Hands across her stomach, chuckling out her words.
If he doesn't marry you then, I'll do it. I'll put a ring on it. That last bit not a joke.
He'd looked across at her and then back to the door they were about to open. His statement both a compliment and, in some way, a pop at Joshua; she refused his eyes. The wind slammed the door shut, the one they tried to open, locking that pain in. Driving rain and wind forced themselves through the brief opening.
Lemaruh, there's no one in their right minds out there. Jesting.
She smiled, and between the two of them, won the battle with the wind. Opening the door.
Harry's statement delivered on their words. There was no Joshua. Only an unforgiving storm, a sea of doubt, angry water.
Drenched, they stood inside the ship. Her white t-shirt glued onto her form, water raining down her bare legs. Harry went quiet. The same quiet he had when they left the pool deck drenched, he in his white shirt and dark blue trousers, her in that blue dress.
He stayed quiet, closed out the gap between them. Her chest swelled. His eyes communicating a repeat of the wet thru blue dress.
That blue and white striped dress you wore (an inflexion in his voice) had a matching sash belt wrapped around your waist like an obi belt. His left hand now the obi belt. Buttons all the way down the front. The top four unbuttoned to here.
The back of his right hand catching a fire, grazing to a stop just between her breasts. Her chest tight rose with the surge of the storm. His lips came down, glueing the only other part of his form not already stuck to her.
She peeled herself away. This glue, a different type of vulnerable and doesn't stick.
I think. I think I'll go back to the suite and wait for Josh. Passing her tongue between tightly pursed lips.
Behind her, the suite's door double-clicked shut. Shutting out the quiet of the corridor, locking her in with the battle she had raging. The glass walls that earlier flooded the suite with sunshine now taunted. Angry ghosts.
A scan of the suite said only silence would respond. The sea surged, a discomfort resurfaced. Her stomach in a lurch, she made it to the sink, leaned forward, but only infuriation came.
Where the hell was Joshua on a ship so ill-tempered? When finally Lemara retreated from the bathroom. Another clash of cymbals, this one glowing up her white bathrobe. Another sweep of the suite, it was her pain that heaved.
The sofa he slept in last night seemed the most comforting, it smelled of him. Closer to the door.
Ten, eleven, midnight, the clock, her phone, the door, one. Annoyance about her thoughts.
The wind and the sea remained embroiled in a relentless lover's quarrel, their ship doing its best to wrangle out of it. More flashes of white, grey shed light on a situation that showed no signs of easing. The wind swept in from the right; in obedience, the ship bowed just enough for her to see the waves but didn't bend. Angered, the wind raged in from the left, sitting the ship upright. Upright the waves rose like a mountain, taking the ship with it, leaving it there.
Oh Gawd! Her chest tightened, left her body.
Just where was Joshua? The ocean of doubt crashed in. Her pain turned to annoyance, to disgruntlement, to anger. She drowned in her pain.
The lock on the door rustled. Lemara bolted, leaving Usain behind.
A whiskey stench permeated the open doorway as if a Speyside's distilleries had relocated to outside suite 9087.
All bets were off that she'd be dead before the ship's doctor arrived with oxygen from the medical centre.
Shhh! He was saying.
Lemara's chest caved.