Part 11 - What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Shit. Shiit. Shiiit.
Her stomach regurgitated a bitter fluid to the back of her throat and left it there. Her body's temperature ran a dizzying hot and cold like someone on drugged up hot flushes.
There was nothing for that now, Joshua's eagle-eyes had seen the white shirt. Her only saving grace was, he was more interested in getting her phone than the answer to his question.
Weak from the knowledge Joshua had seen the shirt, she forced herself to go near it. It smelled of her and maybe even the scent of her and Harry. A quick thorough inspection exposed no monograms that tagged it back to Harry. Because not even Lemara could explain those initials on a white shirt this size. The label wasn't one that Joshua wore; neither was the collar size his.
Had this happened in her room, she may have gotten away with blaming it on poor housekeeping. Do you know that shirt was there when I checked in and though I've raised it with housekeeping, they've yet to remove it? But it wasn't. This suite was first checked into by Joshua, knowing him, his sharp eyes would have done a once over and missed nothing. She couldn't dance around the situation that way.
Lemara considered feigning ignorance, but then Harry's shirt would likely be taken to valet services never to be seen again. And she did not want that. Further, she didn't want an investigation carried out with the butler only to confirm the shirt came direct from room 7007 to theirs.
Think. Think. Think. She told herself, despite that her brain came up with nothing.
Before docking in Costa Maya that morning, that little bubble she discharged herself into, was okay, a bubble. Now it was showing itself for what it could be, 'the sin that did Jezebel in.' She'd come away on this cruise to decide on her four-year relationship with Joshua. Despite him not seeing himself married again, niggling at her, nothing about their relationship deserved this.
Think. Think Lemara.
She could hear herself saying, except it hurt to do so. Massaging her temple between her fingers to subdue the pain and lure an answer. Hiding the shirt was not smart, at least her brain recognised that, beyond that, nothing else.
Joshua remained on the phone, and for now, he continued to be distracted.
No hun, it's not your shirt. She heard herself saying.
However, the questionnaire that was Joshua would follow up with a five-tier inquisition. She was not prepared for that. Lemara paced back and forth from the shirt, her mouth in a nervous twitch, seemingly hoping it would offer an answer. Her palms had become hot and clammy from the thinking they weren't doing. As a matter of fact, her entire body had become icky.
Her chest hurt from the guilt settling in and she felt trapped.
I'm going to tell him the truth. She heard herself say, biting down on her lower lip, almost drawing blood.
Joshua... Her voice quavered. Last night... Her stomach churned.
They'd broached the subject of infidelity before; all open and casual conversations. Identifying they had slightly different boundary lines when it came down to it. Except there was no blurring this line, she'd definitely crossed over.
Joshua was still on the phone when Lemara went into the shower. She stood there, allowing the warm water to cascade off her like an uninterrupted waterfall. It was sometime later when she emerged, still without any different an outcome for the white shirt, other than the one she had previously gone in with.
From the conversation Joshua was having, she detected he was on the phone to Eleanor.
She had managed to ignore reading Eleanor's message until now, thinking she'd ask Joshua about it. There was no way Lemara was going to show her face in the lounge then.
As if by some godsend, the conversation switched to Julia, and she got her revelation. She weighed up the situation, which one would be more damning. Julia's or hers?
She towelled herself dry, wrapped herself in a bathrobe and marched back to her wardrobe. She pulled her silver-edged sequin white tunic, matching shorts and a pair of silver sandals. Piling her braids high on her head, she dressed quickly. Stripped the white shirt still on the hanger from the rail and walked into the lounge.
Except she found she couldn't go through with the current plan. She couldn't take Harry's shirt to laundry services. Instead, she went back to her makeup bag, fished out the key card Harry had given her to his suite and marched into the lounge.
Joshua looked up as she came out of the bedroom, his eyes trailed from the deep V in the tunic to the end of it, stopping where the shorts did just below her bum. Whatever situation Julia had managed to create was sufficient for Eleanor to call Joshua about it. And Joshua was the mediator, good son and a twin brother who did his best to mediate.
Pointing to the shirt in her hand, Lemara mouthed she was taking the shirt away, sufficiently audible for Joshua to hear. He moved the phone from his ear, an inquisitive look on his face.
It's not your shirt.
Okay. Why don't we let the butler take it away?
No, it's okay. I'll do it. She replied, breezing out the door before Joshua had a chance to counter.
Lemara hurried down the corridor to the lifts, crossed over on the opposite side and turned back on herself down the aisle to Harry's, letting herself in. She leaned back onto the door. It was quiet in the suite, but it smelled of him.
She waited for a moment and when only her echo came back, made her way to the bedroom and the bed that had brought her much pleasure that morning. Her chest ached from her heart's gurgling rhythm, because that same bed may well usurp a four-year relationship from underneath her. She laid the shirt on the bed, quickly picked up a pen and note pad from the bedside table and started her note.
His whisper into her ear nearly left her at sea.
I'm here. I'll hear the message in person. Hugging her around her waist from behind.
So engrossed was Lemara getting the job over and done with, she hadn't heard Harry come in. His unexpected presence startled her, rendering her knees like jelly. Just as well he was holding her close.
I scare you now?
No, Harry, you don't. Turning around to face him.
Lemaruh, I almost had to fish you out of the Atlantic.
Mr Langdon, you do make me laugh. Softening her chuckles in his chest.
I am glad to see you, although, I have to admit I wasn't expecting you back here so soon. Don't tell me he's let you out of his sight again.
Harry, I'm not tied to him.
That I know, but if it were me. I'd tie you to me in every way I could. Squeezing Lemara and resting his chin on her head.
You'd soon enough want to tie yourself to a tree, Mr Langdon.
Hmm, so tell me, what did you and your lover get up to today?
Harry's chin was still resting on her head. She remained still. Was Harry asking her about her day or otherwise? She moved her head back to catch his eyes and they were warm and smiling. And not one's she was prepared to deal with. Being this close to him, in his arms, smelling him, really wasn't what she needed. Her emotions whirled between pangs of guilt and flashes of...
She untangled herself, sat on the bed and sighed.
It was that good, was it?
Joshua had messaged me about today... She paused, recalling the reason she missed the messages. In any case, I'd not seen them. Long and short, we went ahead with what he'd planned. And you?
I didn’t go with my lover, just me. The one I invited stood me up. (A fleck of amusement in his voice.) But, I too went ahead with my plans.
Lemara was chuckling again when the doorbell rang, and Harry turned to get the door.
Harry, if it is your butler, I cannot be here.
He took her hand, leading her to the door. Looking through the peephole, he whispered.
It's a couple—one in a wheelchair.
Remembering the Denhams from earlier, she peered through the peephole herself and just as she was about to tell him don't open the door, he did.
Oh hi! The high pitched voice of Mrs Denham boomed through the suite.
Hi, can I help?
Oh, we were looking for Joshua and Lemara, we just saw her come in.
Behind the door, Lemara's fingers steepled over her nose and mouth at the sound of her name.
Joshua and .... No, you have the wrong suite.
I'm sure it was her we saw. Mrs Denham retorted.
After some deliberation, they accepted they were possibly wrong, apologised for the trouble and left. Harry closes the door and turns to Lemara.
Oh, Gawd Harry. Her voice thick with emotion. They saw me come in.
Do you know them?
We came back on board the ship earlier.
She spun on her heels, one hand on her hips the other going up to shield the imaginary sunlight from her face.
Okay, Harry, I need to go.
Don't leave just yet; they may still be in the aisle.
Lemara's palms revisited the tension on her face.
Plus you've still not told me why you are here.
She recounted the events of the day, everything from her move to a suite next door, to their butler, to his shirt she just brought back that Joshua had seen. And that the shirt was the reason she was in his room.
So does he think you went to laundry services?
Yes, he does.
You can stay here with me then. A slow smile emanating his face.
No, Harry, I can't.
Lemara turns to walk away. However, Harry keeps holding her hands and kisses them as he walks her to the table he worked from earlier that morning. There's a folded complimentary slip on the table, and he hands it to her. It opens to a list of seven hotel chains, contact names, numbers and email addresses written down.
What's this? Lemara asks sedated.
A list of people you can call about that dream job you told me about this morning.
Lemara raises her eyes from the unfolded slip of paper to Harry and back to it. Further engaging with the list and adding her own geotags to it.
Harry, these are all in the US.
Not entirely, Singapore is not in the US. Winking at her.
She wants to smile, but the pressure of her situation subdued it. Lemara refolds the paper, places it in his palms and leaves. Retracing her steps to her suite. She gets to her door and realises she hasn't got a key for her own suite—the irony. She knocks and Joshua now dressed in a pair of white shorts, and a white linen shirt contrasted with the mahogany double monks and belt from Christmas 2017 opens the door.
You know we could just as easily have given the shirt to the butler?
Yes, but it is all sorted now. Walking in the door and past Joshua, who remained standing in the doorway.
Hun, you've got that mood on. Leaning on the opened door as he said it.
Baby, you know what? Can we get some food? I'm kinda hungry.