That line, a hook and a sinker.
His words like a wrecking ball had come back at her like an old London Underground turnstile, smacked her in the stomach.
Since first leaving his drunken lips, those words loomed like the cumulonimbus clouds they were. But when again they left more sobered ones, toneless though they were, they hit hard. Her stomach churned with a vigour unmatched to the mouthful of whiskey she'd drunk. The contents repeated, choked her windpipe.
This wasn't Joshua, the rolling drunk who swaggered in the door and crashed out on the sofa last night. Rather, he came off as sober as a judge. So there was no more supposing he didn't know what he was saying.
Now she knew he knew, and that, too, cut deep.
Turning into Lot's wife now would be a blessing. That blessing, however not bestowed on her.
She swallowed, turned back to him.
But her lips pursed shut. Unlike her stomach, her brain had not concocted an answer to spew out. No plausible reason, at least, to give her man of four years why she had been holding hands with another. One she'd sworn not to have known until she came on the ship.
He, too, said nothing, only appraised her coolly.
Josh, I'm a little disappointed in you. Face straight.
And why is that? A subtle arch of an eyebrow.
Are we now bringing hearsay to our relationship?
Well, you don't give me much choice at this point.
Seriously? How long have we been together? Four years. (Answering her own question.) Have I ever questioned you on what you get up to when you're away? Have I ever gone through your social media and gone? Who's this?
No, because you don't need to. I tell you.
You tell me what you remember to tell me. Because so far you can't remember what happened after you left the Sports Bar last night.
I told you I went to the ball court?
Ended up at some crew bar somewhere.
He'd swung his legs off the bed then; Lemara instead had a sideways view of him.
So, on a night when the cruise ship we are on is battling the hell that broke loose between the wind and sea, you chose to go to a crew bar?
Em, I honestly cannot remember. But hang on, (turning back to her) are you trying to turn this back on me? Almost laughing.
No, I'm not.
In truth, she wasn't; she was buying her brain time. But that was the second time he'd done that dismissive laugh for the morning.
Well, then tell me what's going on with Harry. Because I do remember suggesting we do this cruise together. You turned me down. Then you got on the cruise, and that was it.
Head hanging in her left palm, Lemara massaged an ever-increasing frustration from her temple or was it a response. Because not knowing what means Joshua came across this information would make the wrong answer detrimental. The repercussions...
She started again. His name slow off her lips. Oh Gawd, followed next, but Gawd had long distanced himself from this situation.
Eyes closed, she drew on a long breath because whatever answer she gave now would either set her up to dampen a flame or set oil to the flame.
Her mind ploughed through but cultivated nothing. Not knowing which of her Key West, walk to dinner, time in the nightclub, late-night pool deck hand holding escapades Joshua was told of left her struggling to answer.
Joshua maintained his quiet, none of which helped the discomfort.
Yes, that did happen.
What did happen?
We may have held hands.
You may have, or you did?
OK, Josh, he did hold my hand. Frustration about her tone.
Her answer decided by the fact that one too many people on the cruise would have seen her. But hedged all her bets on the one person she felt may have felt they had something to gain by saying so.
And you were holding hands because? Still being cool, calm and collected.
I don't know, Josh. He was guiding me through a crowd of masqueraders. He was freeing me from the clutches of a drunken guy.
Becoming annoyed, but with whom?
So, he had cause to hold your hand once. Then he had another what, he simply forgot to let go of your hands? Moreso, you forgot to let go of his?
Josh, it wasn't like that.
Then tell me how it is because you came out on a cruise, and it's as if you forgot about me? Tell me something, Lemara, had I not joined you, would you have called, messaged?
Of course, I would have. She shot back.
When I'd cleared my head.
When you've cleared your head. When you've cleared your head. (Repeating himself, the second time, monosyllabic). Do you need a clear head to pick up your phone to me and tell me you've arrived safely? Do you need a clear head to message me to say, Baby, I'm on the ship, all good?' Clear your head of what, Lemara? Me?