What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 2
The sideways throttle from the ship's engines sent a shudder through the hull and up to the seventh floor and room 7007 where Lemara slept. The vibrations of which woke her from her stupendous state.
As she opened her eyes, she could feel the sideways motion of the ship and surmised they were only now leaving the port. And she was awfully pleased with herself for only taking a quick shut-eye.
Except she hadn't.
Sunshine streamed through the window. The view outside appeared different, and she placed that down to the ship's angle. Her body felt excruciatingly heavy as she attempted to get off the bed. As she blinked to adjust her vision, the message across the television screen shunted her attention.
Welcome to Key West,
Departure: Ship sails for Costa Maya at 7:00 pm,
Boarding: All guests must be onboard by 6:15 pm.
Feeling exhausted no more, she launched herself out of bed when she read the local time was 08:04. In a fit of trepidation, she began racing around the room, grabbing her clothes as she headed into the shower, thinking she was late for her dinner date. But then she stopped herself in her tracks. Why does the message read Welcome to Key West? And why does the time on the screen read 08:04 am and not 08:04 pm as she was thinking?
She thought to glance at her watch which remained unchanged on British time, it read 12:04, and the day - Sunday.
Now a message came over the intercom,
Ladies and Gentlemen welcome to Key West where we will shortly be disembarking.
And then her thoughts swayed from the incomprehensible to the coherent; it was not the forty winks she thought she had taken but more precisely, the full-on stairs to Bedfordshire, and it was now the next day. As the trepidation ratcheted down her body, she slumped back onto the bed in despair. Not only had she slept through the safety and emergency drill but had also botched her date with 'Mr We are having dinner together tonight.'
She exclaimed in her West Indian accent now butter creamed over with an English twang, disgusted with herself as she sat on the bed, palms cupping either side of her face.
Two postcards on the floor just under the door drew her attention. She got up and walked towards the door for closer inspection. One of which was from housekeeping and the other from Harry.
Hey Lemara! Here's hoping that the thought of having dinner with me has not sent you swimming back to Europe!
He, at least, had a helping of humour!
It had just gone nine am when there was a knock on the door. Lemara had since finished her shower and was transferring the last of her runway of outfits from her luggage to the wardrobe.
Lemara opened the door to find Harry (less Thom Browne more Double RL in a buttoned-down indigo linen shirt fitted into a pair of white chino shorts) sans housekeeping, standing outside.
For a little while, I thought you had jumped ship Lemaruh.
Lifting his tortoiseshell, RL Hinges off his face.
Rested and more relaxed, she was able to give Harry a more detailed once-over. Today, his hair flopped in dark waves mostly on the left side of his face, and a defined chest showcased itself from under his shirt, and it was his broad chest that undid her composure. She quickly took control of the situation by closing the door behind her, motioning for them to go to breakfast. He struck her as being in his late twenties early thirties, but he certainly took care of himself, and definitely knew how to dress.
I tried! She said. Except no one told me there was a bungee rope attached to me!
Great! Whom do I need to thank for that? Harry asked.
Seeing the funny side and the compliment in his statement, Lemara smiled. He had not mentioned the dinner date once. However, she was under no obligation to go on a date or dinner with him.
They arrived at the Cafe Grill and Bar on deck ten. While most guests had chosen the bustling breakfast buffet on floors five and six, some forty or so guests were sat out here sunning themselves. As well as, safeguarding their deck chairs at prized locations around the pool for later in the day. Proof that no matter where you are, location is premium when it comes to deck chairs. The earlier you get there, the better the chance of owning a prime spot such as Park Lane or Mayfair, that is if you are playing British monopoly.
They sat a bleached wood table set for four with mix-matched rattan chairs, Lemara with the Cafe Grill at her back. She surveyed her surroundings, another seven guests were in the pool enjoying a wild morning frolic - and three photogenic waiters on the other side of the pool seemed to be looking in her direction.
Harry had quickly excused himself, addressing a message received on his mobile. He stood at the bar, back to her, firm shoulders, one hand shoved in his pocket, the other holding the phone. Lemara could hear him repeatedly saying, in a very controlled Mainer accent that,
That was nevah open to negotiations.
Lemara gave a side glance, trying not to appear too inquisitive. One of the waiters swaggered over to her table. Now with a closer inspection, he seemed to be from the far east but not sure where, she didn't identify the flag on his name badge which said, Edwin.
He complimented her dress, and they chatted on the weather as any Brit would. He had one of those ready smiles that little twinkle in his eye, and Lemara could not but hold onto his gaze. With Harry still on his call, she sat back in the chair, feeling the sunlight grace her skin where her orange, backless a-line-v-neck dress with spaghetti straps did not afford coverage. It was then she noticed the Caribbean reggae tunes been carried on the easy breeze. For the first time that morning, she now saw the port of Key West next to the ship, and Harry was now walking back to the table.
They ordered minute steaks with eggs and sat in a little silence as they waited. The Harry that left the table was not the Harry that returned to the table. His mood was pendulous and slightly distant.
Everything okay? Looking him in the eye.
Harry looked away to the pool and inwardly exhaled.
His Mainer accent now more prominent.
Bob Marley's 'Jammin' was wafting through the speakers, as a party of four of Abercrombie & Fitch's best-dressed twenty-something-year-olds cackled to a near table.
Libby, why would Bob Marley sing I hope you like chicken soup?
The entire party, including Libby, who was being ridiculed, was pealing from the revelation.
He does. Listen .. Doesn't he? Doesn't he Jess?
And Libby to everyone's disbelief began humming her made up lyrics...
I hope you like chicken soup...
At that point, it became much too much for any of them, and they were now in hysterics.
Harry and Lemara looked at each other and could not help but smile themselves at the rib-tickling situation unveiling at the other table. The ambience definitely lifted, further enthused by the aroma of the freshly grilled steaks now delivered at their table. They continued their casual banter through breakfast, and unconsciously walked off the cruise together and into Key West.
Following the flow of tourists off the cruise ships, they now found themselves emptying into the main river of holidaymakers on Whitehead Street. Given the throng of fellow travellers, Whitehead Street is no secret, at the end of this street is the Southernmost Point of the USA marked with a buoy pointing out just that. And some ninety miles away in the distance was Cuba. A photo opportunity and a free one at that, made even better when your own voluntary photographer was in tow. Harry took her camera and motioned her to stand next to the buoy. Lemara quickly punctuated her face with a smile as he clicked away. Because what's better than a free photo opportunity? Not having to ask someone to take one for you and it turns out Harry was a dapper hand with a camera too as she inspected a few of the clicks.
Definitely a few here for the gram.
Halfway down this street was the home now museum of the four times married, Nobel Prize winner Ernest Hemingway.
They'd now been out and about for just over five hours wandering around Key West's warren of colonial-era homes, boutiques and gardens, and all that walking, sightseeing, chatting and laughing in the relentless Key West sun had left them parched. As they walked back in the direction of the ship, Lemara thought she'd recognise three figures walking towards them in the opposite direction but could not be sure. But as the figures got closer on Duval Street, she realised why she thought they looked familiar. They were the waiters or rather the Aviator wearing leading men's magazine models from breakfast - and shirtless. Recognising each other from off the cruise, both parties waved as they crossed paths and Edwin wearing his ever-ready smile, said hello. Even with his Aviators on, she could see the gleam in his eyes. Her head followed her eyes, all the while coveting that chiselled torso that belonged to his uniform just earlier that morning.
Harry notably sizing up the situation acknowledged
Well he is a bit of a heart racuh!
Lemara turned to him with a wry smile.
They found themselves a bit of respite on the patio of a seafood restaurant overlooking dreamy sailboats on the water. A mix of locales and tourists alike, it was no 'Bar Hemingway' but had a suitably mellow vibe about it - ideal after the last couple of hours. Now it was Lemara who was present in body only; she was absentmindedly wandering down Duval Street alongside Edwin.
As it happens, Harry was too engrossed with a message he was replying to on his phone to notice. As he finished and put his phone away, he apologised saying he had a bit of a storm brewing and he needed to try and prevent it from becoming a hurricane. Well, she could not fault him for that, though no name was given to this storm and she wasn't about to ask. She did, however, want to know why he was cruising alone and as if by intuition he said
I guess you must not have a boyfriend since you are cruising alone.
She glanced at his left hand before answering and noticed that there was a mark where once a ring was. She looked him in the eye and replied.
I guess you must be single, since you are cruising alone.
They smiled at each other over Pina Coladas, plates of shrimp, crispy conch fritters and fries now arrived at their table. He picked up her plate of shrimps and gallantly began to peel them on her behalf as he passed his dish of crispy conch fritters to her.
Want to try my conch?
Lemara sensed Harry's statement wasn't limited to the conchs he had just placed in front of her, but he said it which such flippancy that she redecorated her side of the table with a mouthful of pina colada.
His phone had not gone off, and if it did, he had given it no attention, and they finished eating with the same playful conversation.
They escaped the mellowed out atmosphere of the restaurant and found themselves trapped amongst the wild-sandal-wearing partying crowd of Mallory Square enjoying the infamous Key West sunset ritual.
And just like that, he took her right hand; his left arm firmly behind her waist and guided them through the crowds towards the direction of the cruise ship.
Caught unawares by his physical closeness, Lemara's breath got caught in her throat, and as she was about to turn to face Harry, she discovered her face almost mirroring his.