14 - What Happens on A Cruise, Stays on The Cruise
Were you ever going to mention it? Joshua challenged.
Lemara stood, hands crossed to her front, giving herself the only hug she'd be getting this side of the morning. Her lips pursed, knowing she had been backed into a corner with that question.
Lemara, when did our communication stop having open, revolving doors? Just when?
His jaw ticked. Not something she'd seen often of him. Matter of fact the only time she'd seen it before was with Julia crashing his car. Not just crashed it but recklessly did so.
Oh, and when she'd given away a painting she'd gifted him to one of her admirers. A portrait she did of herself. Her head back and eyes closed—her skin a dark coffee against a black background. Gold threads crisscrossing her pixie haircut with gold eye shadow and dripping liquid lips to match. Joshua loved that painting, and it hung pride of place in the living room. She had last minute decided she would replace it with another, but he'd noticed the second he walked through the door and was well, his version of livid.
So in fact, his sister has been the only known person to make his jaw tick, now Lemara had joined the ranks. Not good.
That flumping hot dog. That flumping hotdog, Lemara had insisted on, had created a real bone of contention. After one bite, she'd shared the rest of it with her dazzling white top and with the floor. Gutted, she almost cried, half for the hot dog she lost, the other half for her tunic that by then, had resembled a butcher's apron.
Save for her quick thinking man, who had them dash back to the suite, calling the butler to come to their rescue. Except their butler had chosen that opportune moment to practice his downward dog pose, leaving Joshua chivalrously offering to run it to laundry services. Regrettably for Lemara, the route to laundry services wasn't one she ever had mapped out in her head. Therefore when her astute boyfriend asked her to retrace her steps with an earlier white shirt, the sound of cowpat hitting the fan could not be mistaken.
Em, when you left here this afternoon with that white shirt, wasn't it to laundry services you went?
Stuck, as if someone had poured glue just where she chose to stand in the bathroom. A bathrobe now tied so tightly around her waist, she was easily a magician's assistant, no illusion required. The perpetrating white tunic stared back at her from between the double sinks, like an innocent bystander to the spectacle. There was no way out of this; the tunic, or was it the hotdog or the damned absent butler had backed her into a corner.
No. Lemara finally denied.
Joshua was still, calm, holding his position at the entrance to the bathroom and walk-in closets.
Em, whose shirt, was it? His speech calculated, his words articulated.
She buried her face in the palms of her hands; her speech muffled when she finally spoke.
Whose shirt? Eyes slightly arched, voice starched.
Harry's. Her face and response coming out of the grave at the same time.
Harry as in, the Harry who took that photo? Harry, as in Harry at the pool? As in the Harry on the bridge? That Harry?
He'd swung a samurai's sword with each mention of Harry's name. Cutting her every time he did. That last 'Harry' so deep, she bled.
Lemara. How did this man's shirt come to be in your room?
She buried her face back into her palms, sheltering from the quiet storm brewing—each question drawing life from her.
Le-mara Heisen. Captain Hart replaced Joshua Hart.
Removing the implicating parts of the triangle's third leg, she gave him the entire novella she'd downgraded from a novel. His eyes lasered hers, his left forefinger straight as a bow, staccato his columella as if in the early part of Mendelssohn's violin concerto.
The production now in recess, Joshua recapped the performance.
So you get caught in an outburst, sluiced in their juice, and Harry turns Magic Mike in the middle of the club, giving you his shirt?
She nods. Her face successfully refraining from sparking a smirk at Joshua's rendition.
Em, today, you remembered to tell me some woman made a snarky remark towards you but not that you got caught up in a whole brawl and this guy denudes himself, giving you his shirt.
She now had to smother a chuckle at Joshua's exaggeration. Only, he caught her reaction and stood poker-straight.
Lemara, is there any reason you're finding this amusing?
Met with the silence, of his rhetorical question, he continued.
Let us for argument sake, accept that's what happened, why didn't you say that instead of disappearing with the shirt.
I thought I'd take the shirt back and that be that.
Baby, do you think the concern here is the shirt going back? What is concerning Lemara, is the cloak and dagger way, in which it has all now unfolded.
No longer able to uphold the frame that she effortlessly carried around for the last twenty-something years, she leans back onto the sink for support. Sunrise was due in less than a few hours, but this situation was sure to bring on a polar night.
So he gave you his shirt and then what?
And then what? She repeated.
Don't do that Lemara.
Joshua paused, his patience wearing thin.
What happened after he gave you his shirt? Did you stay at the club? Did he escort you back to your room? Because that's what I'd do if I was single and had stripped in a club for a woman I found sexy and whose bed was only a few minutes away.
Joshua no one stripped.
Lemara can we concentrate on the crucial parts here.
So to be clear, Joshua continues probing, did you take the shirt to Harry this afternoon?
Lemara nods, and she feels her mouth begin to twist into that nervous pout.
Lemara when you came back from delivering the shirt today you were unhinged. Is there anything else you are not telling me?
Lemara pauses, at the uninvited double barrels, her stomach performed to the question, while Joshua stood waiting patiently for an answer.
No. She finally answers, looking him directly in the eyes.
Anything else will kill us Josh, and this is not the way we are going to go.
She bit on her lower lip almost close to tears at the turmoil she brought on herself.
How did you know where to take his shirt?
He gave me his room number.
Is he in a suite on the other side of the ship?
Left eye arched, she holds his gaze.
Oh Gawd, how does he know?
Yes, he is. Quietly answering.
So that is the reason the Denhams thought they saw you this afternoon going into that suite.
Joshua walks away, at the same time, the suite's phone rings. Lemara could hear him on the phone asking for someone to collect an item for cleaning.
Still glued to her spot, she rolls her head back, the cowpat had ultimately hit the fan. Why had she not called her man or checked her mobile since arriving on the cruise? Ahh yes, Harry. How did she end up in this mess? Yes, that too involved Harry.
Uhh. The tears were there ready to roll.
Except she could hear Joshua opening the door to the suite and someone apologising on behalf of their butler.
Em, the butler is coming in. Joshua called to her.
It's O-kay! I've not... moved... from where you...
Her thoughts trailing off because of whom stood behind Joshua looking at her.
Oh Gawd, what must he think? Nearly twenty-four hours ago he saw me in Harry's suite on the opposite side of the ship and in his shirt.
And the entire time Joshua had his eyes on her.
Good morning madam. James greeted.
Good morning. Lemara managed to voice.
Now in the inspection of Exhibit A, James was quick to rule the stain would be cleared. But cleared or not, that tunic had incriminated her.
What was that?
What was what? She asked.
Joshua, what is it with you and that look?
Do you know him?
Yes, he's Harry's butler.
And you know that because? His thunder clapping.
He served us breakfast! In a lightning flash.
And immediately she saw the storm she had fed.
Well, don't just stop there keep talking.
Exasperated, she turns away from him but instead now faced his reflection full on in the mirror.
I am listening.
Can we do this later, please? It's four in the morning an we are both tired and exhausted.
No Lemara, this is not one for brushing under the carpet.
Their reflections mirroring each other.
Lemara two months ago you moved out, and you moved into the apartment. (His speech slow) You said you needed the space to decide where or what you wanted from this relationship. I wasn't head over heels, but I thought at least, I know where you are, and weren't far from me—and then you came away on this holiday. You needed it for more thinking space. And I thought you know what, let her have it. Then I realised that as much as the decision is yours whether or not we stay together it involved the two of us and we should make it together.
Instead, I come on holiday to my woman who's so preoccupied with another man; she hasn't even had time to read my messages. And this morning, it wasn't me you were expecting, was it?
They stared at each other via the mirror, but it was Lemara who cracked, bowing her head over the sink, her guilt no longer dammed.
Lemara knows this situation should be one of those where she limits her words. She often felt Joshua would have done just as well as a lawyer as he did piloting planes.
He turned to walk away and then turned back.
Did you know him before you came on this cruise?
No, I didn't. Her response was quick. Okay, Josh, I know how this looks...
Okay Lemara, how does it look? You tell me. How does this look? When you hadn't responded to my texts, I thought maybe you had no reception, but then I noticed the messages kept going through. If nothing else I knew your phone was alive somewhere. So then I thought, perhaps, just perhaps you wanted to disconnect. Instead, it turns out my woman appears to be connecting with a man she only just met.
Even Lemara had to admit to herself, Julia's last-minute replica painting of herself looked much better than the picture Joshua just painted of her.
And not only did you ignore my texts Lemara, but you've seemed a little preoccupied throughout the day. Which leads me back to this morning when I arrived. It seemed a bit off, the way you greeted me, but it's making sense now. Would you like me to return to London, Lemara?
His question and his tone wrangled a knot about her chest and tore at it. Her eyes stinging met his in the mirror.
This wasn't how this night was supposed to climax. He met her eyes once more in the mirror and walked away. There was hurt in those eyes of his, and it severed her to the core.
The meteorologist's weather report coming through on the pending storm sounded far more soothing than the storm she'd just encountered.
Showered, she tumbled onto the bed and for what felt like half an hour watched the television lights flicker through to the darkened bedroom. Finally getting up, lifting her heavy chest with her to the doorway of the bedroom.
She paused, waiting for him to respond but when he didn't, continued.
Are you coming to bed?
In a minute. He acknowledged, finally looking away from the tv screen to her.
If their eyes were antlers, they'd be in a sore locked position now, their emotions battling back and forth with them.
Something told her that minute would be longer than a New York minute, certainly longer than a Greenwich minute and most certainly, more extended than a Caribbean minute.
Crushed by a storm she created, she slumped onto the far side of the bed, taking comfort in the one thousand count threads of the Egyptian cotton that covered it. Surrendering to sleep's invitation.