What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 1
She picked up a perfectly crisped strip of bacon. So smothered in maple syrup, it cascaded off the strip she plumped in her mouth.
They certainly know how to do bacon here.
Lemara mused, looking out the window from her table in the restaurant, where the hotel’s guests had seemingly all set their alarms for the same wake-up call. Seeing how they'd almost all turned up that minute for breakfast, like only London’s buses do. The restaurant, now charged with that excitable American accent.
From its position on the hotel's second floor, this restaurant commanded a view of Fort Lauderdale International airport's runway. Lemara had only made it to breakfast some five minutes earlier, herself. And was like a 'dog with two tails' having found a vacant window seat. Some coffee, bacon, Floridian sunshine and a bit of plane spotting added a little halcyon moment. This much needed after a snap decision and an overly extended flight. The latter, the result of a storm perusing the Caribbean's east coast in a fit of ill-temper, diverting their plane to Philadelphia, where they spent most of the night.
At a table near her, a woman enamoured with her girlfriends' matching sparkly sandals, almost made everyone's hearing impaired, when she too, was gifted the same sparkly pair. 'A pizazzy one!' Lemara surmised.
And more akin to a town crier, a chirpy waitress rang out breakfast's closure. A jangle, sure to have any remaining last-minute guests out of bed and in the restaurant in a jiff. Even so, on approaching Lemara's table, she maintained her breakfast-closing cry, only this time added, 'Is there anything else we can get you, ma'am?'
I suppose her face masked by a lack of sleep, prompted that question.
Another pot of coffee and milk, please.
Although not sure why she requested it, as she was still nursing the first pot. And should definitely only ever have one cup of any hotel's coffee. The potency such, that the aroma alone, is sufficient to send her cannonballing off any wall. Did all hotels purchase their coffee from the same plantation? Or was there some unknown secret employed when making the coffee? She wondered.
Another aircraft took to the sky and her thoughts with it. She reached for her phone, but it remained dead. Sighed. Another one of those occasions where she'd plugged the phone in but omitted to switch the switch on. In all essence, she should be in England for her upcoming graduation, but the lure of a western Caribbean cruise - much more arresting. That fuelled by the need to do what she and her sister had so often talked about, that at times it felt familiar. Go on a cruise.
She sat with the memory, a fresh wave of grief and the second pot of coffee the waitress placed on the table.
'Ma'am', the waitress started. But when Lemara looked from the runway to her, she finished by handing her a just poured cup of coffee and a hand on one of Lemara's shoulder.
'I know' the waitress chirped, 'everyone just off on holiday brings me to tears too.'
Lemara managed a small giggle and her chirpy waitress left.
She took a sip of her coffee and, as she did, glanced in the direction of the picture developing in the corner of her eye. Sat a few tables away, a Thom-Browne-clad guest keeping his cup of coffee company. Hooded eyes focused on the frame. And like an adhesive, his gaze held her attention but the glue insufficient to compete with her interest in the Boeing whose wheels courted the runway outside. Satisfied the pilots had satisfactorily romanced the landing, she glanced back at her peripheral interest.
View now blocked by the waiter at his table, her phone dead and coffee long near impotable, Lemara made her exit.
I see we've crossed paths again! A voice from behind pointed out as she made her way to the lifts.
Knowing she hadn't crossed paths with anyone between the hotel and Fort Lauderdale's cruise port, at check in, boarding or on the flight over, she kept walking. And not recognising that voice veiled in its American accent, she continued on her course. But the same voice, said the same thing again and curiosity got the better, so she glanced back, found herself halting in her tracks.
Ohh! The little exclamation that left her mouth.
Her Thom Browne image from breakfast had materialised. Inexplicable, but a smile emanated across her face as if she was glad to see him. And she was; just wasn't sure why. Now upright, he stood about five feet, eleven inches, his hair wavy, dark. Not overly gorgeous, but neither bad looking. Enough to quote her interest the second time that day; gosh, he even made arm candy status.
It must be fate. His face lighting up as he caught up with her.
Is that so? Raising an eyebrow. Both now standing opposite each other outside the lifts.
There I was, desperately scribbling a message to pass to you. Then I looked up, discovered you'd left.
Maybe you shouldn't be scribbling messages to strangers in a restaurant. She teased.
Well, that's just it. I can't help but think, we've crossed paths before.
We did. Earlier this morning. In the hotel's restaurant, remember?
No, before that.
We've crossed paths before? Really? Where? When? Intrigue fired her questions.
That's just it. I've not been able to work it out.
Can I just say, Mr... . Drawing out the 'Mr' while her face tilted slowly sideways towards his.
Sorry, yes it's Harry. You can call me Harry.
Okay Harry, (she started again) can I just say, that that, is the weakest chat-up line I've ever come across.
Except it wasn't. I feel certain we've crossed paths before.
It was him now tilting his head sideways, eyes narrowing as he spoke.
Ookay, if you say so.
I do. But let's start again. I'm Harry from Maine. Extending his right arm to her. And I couldn't help noticing you in the restaurant this morning.
Let me guess. Was it the way I drank the coffee?
No. It was the way you held the cup! Mimicking her.
Both laughed out. Their laughter causing the congregation gathered for the lifts to look at them.
Another message blared through the ship's intercom.
Should we take the stairs? Looking at the crowd.
Their tete-a-tete had left them blissfully unaware of the congregation amassed around them.
If this gives me more one-on-one time with you, then yes. Extending his arm, ushering her towards the stairs.
Eyes locked, if only for a moment. She shook her head as if to shake her thoughts before starting up the stairs ahead of him.
So tell me, what is your name?
She heard his absent footsteps behind her and turned back to look at him. She still climbing the stairs, him stood still, arms stuffed in his pockets.
No, your name does not ring any bells. Walking up to catch her. Lovely name, though.
Thanks? Almost grinning.
Another two floors up and easy banter saw them arrive on deck seven.
So this is my floor.
Looking up and down the aisle for the direction of her room. Her-recognised-anywhere-white-luggage case, her unintentional beacon drawing attention to itself just outside her door.
And this is me. Pointing to room 7007 towards the back of the ship as they neared it.
Well, I'm on deck nine in room 9088. His key card and his hand going up in a decidedly flirty manner. And, nice to meet you again, Lemara.
They shook hands, a firm one before turning to walk away. Lips creased into a smile, she waved him off.
Have a safe journey! Jesting as he walked on.
Harry gave her another little wave, kept walking. Halfway down the ship's corridor, he stopped, turned around. The same time Lemara had quit fumbling with the key card to look back at him.
Listen. He quipped, swaggering back to her side. If you don't already have dinner plans for tonight, would you like to join me?
I may well do? Teasing, in her devil-may-care mood.
So that's dinner at eight; I'll come and get you. His statement more an affirmation than an invitation.
Lemara smiled. Liked how he had just called all the shots. He turned to leave but not before chivalrously opening her door and lifting her luggage into it. Hands brushed over hers, as he did so.
Well those hands of his certainly don't shuck any oysters or pot any lobsters back in Maine.
Closing the door behind her, eyes journeyed to the large window ahead, flooding her room with more of the golden sunshine she had paid to fly all the way to Florida for. On her left, a bathroom and wardrobe lined the room. A queen-sized bed, a desk and a chair filled the remainder of the space, and the window oversaw it all.
Out in the port, a ship's horn sounded and she walked to the window to have a look. And by the time she'd reached the window, four cruise ships' horns partied in the port. And when that party had finished, walked back to the bed, splashed herself face down across it.
Thoughts turned to what to wear to dinner with Mr Harry.
Something with a little sass is what Ms Hart always says. The reminder sombrering, she got up off the bed. Movements laboured, she picked up her phone, still uncharged, plugged it in and this time made sure to switch it on at the plug.
The update for her phone she'd been putting off, now forced itself through. TV on, she flicked through a few channels after reading the welcome message on the screen. But with it being near twenty hours since she last had a good sleep, she lay across the bed again. It was now a toss-up as to which would power through. Her or the phone. Though the bed, having won over her jet-lagged body, wasn't fighting her cause.
But what's a few minutes of shut-eye, eh?