What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 7
She clasped her hands over her mouth. Her eyes communicated all the surprise her mouth failed to.
Yes, I was missing you. However, YOU, appear to be having a blast without me.
Lemara did her best to adjust her body language, but all she could muster was.
Hi, you, I... Joshua!
Well, hello to you too—the expression across his face now impassive.
She got up hugged him, then sat back and stared. Unable to move, unable to speak, in fear, the wrong words might leave her mouth.
Your door was open.
Yes, that darn door must report it to housekeeping.
Her mind was not tricking her at all. It was Joshua. That fragrance confirmed it even if Lemara's eyes were to be doubted. After all, it was over this fragrance they'd connected all those years ago. Four years ago, to be exact.
Lemara remembered the very early morning he'd walked into the Dutyfree shop she worked at as a sales consultant, full of pep. His pilot's uniform, as sharp as the day they tailored it. Not like someone who'd spent all night in a sultry threesome, romancing the wide body of a Boeing 747 and its captain back to London. This was Heathrow Airport after all; pilots meandered through there like the Seine through Paris. But this pilot, had lips sensuously smacked together like those of LL Cool J's, and it was this that arrested her attention.
She had walked over to where he perused the shelves. They sprayed a selected few scents, and then he asked her to choose.
This one, she'd said. The Original Vetiver, it's clean, fresh and stirring on you!
I trust your nose on this. Was Joshua's response, without verifying it himself.
He'd liked her accent, and he had said as much to her. She had admired his accent too. Honeyed was the way she'd described it with a tinge of West Indian. They chatted a little while longer before he paid and left. But those lips she'd remember anywhere and had even mentioned it to her manager on duty that day.
A week later, he returned and bought another bottle of the same fragrance; his sister had taken the one he first purchased.
Some weeks later, Lemara is finishing her shift and was herself purchasing a bottle of perfume she had fallen in love with when that familiar voice offered to pay. It was Joshua with another bottle of the same fragrance. She had promptly and courteously declined but was now intrigued by this third purchase, but said nothing. His response to Lemara following her decline was an invitation to lunch that she subsequently declined.
At her next shift, a surprise gift greeted her.
Mr Sexy Lips left you a little present. Her manager had grinned when she walked in.
He had gifted her the body lotion and shower gel of the perfume she bought. Joshua had attached a card. His name and telephone number occupying the blank space.
Joshua Hart is what it read.
And that was one of the personas of Joshua Hart she came to know, one that was full of surprises. Even so, he had genuinely caught Lemara off guard this time.
There was a dam of questions ready to burst out her mouth, but they were as confused as the differing tones of a foreign language. Which one should she use to articulate what she wanted to say correctly? She couldn't any further prolong, returning to his embrace, after all, the only thing he'd done was fly some five and a half thousand miles to be with her. Possibly flown the plane himself.
Moving back towards him, the glint of two small objects catches her eyes, the items, seemingly questioning her actions. She walked into his embrace, hands around his waist and buried her face in his chest. And there it was, that familiar Creed fragrance he very often wore. Head resting on hers, wrapping her body and swaying her gently, they said nothing. Embracing each other and the moment, he enjoying her, her enjoying him.
Joshua finally spoke, but only to ask.
Don't you check your messages anymore?
Feeling sufficiently brave to look him in the eye, she tilts her head up.
I sent you a few messages, letting you know I will be joining you in Costa Maya.
Now she realised it wasn't one of his surprises after all. He had tried to communicate it to her. Lemara looked away, and she suddenly remembered she had ignored the green light of her WhatsApp messages. She'd been otherwise too occupied to check them.
How had she managed to cast herself in this shipwreck?
Because while she had unintentionally gotten herself caught up and floated off in the bubble that was Harry Langdon she'd somehow cast off Joshua as a piece of debris. She mouthed something, something along the lines of which rhymed with shuck. Had she checked those blasted messages, she could have prevented herself from this mental shipwreck, saved herself this anguish. In the four years she had been with Joshua, the thought of anyone else but Joshua had never ever sniffed at her mind, but here she was a few days into a cruise and had somehow tripped on the slippery slope of a drug called Harry Langdon.
Was all she could mouth burying her head back into his chest, her emotions running high and very uncertain as to what the apology was for.
She heard a party of women cackling as they went past her door, the sound of their flipflops cheering as they rushed to wherever they were going. And then there was a knock on the door.
Lemara immediately remembered she had left Harry at the gangway, and thinking it was him, she jumped her heart almost flatlining.
She removed herself from his embrace, supported by jellied legs, walked to the door and looked through the peephole. The dam broke, but it was relief that rushed out when Lemara saw it was a member of staff. She opened the door and smiled.
Ma'am, will you be joining the excursion today? A distinct Filipino accent.
Ahh no, not anymore, sorry.
Okay, thank you, I will let the tour know.
With that, she walked back to the elevators. Lemara securely shut the door but not before taking a glance down the hallway.
The shiny objects, however, demanded an answer, and she suddenly remembered, they were cufflinks, cufflinks that belonged to Harry Langdon. She felt the bile rise punishingly up through her throat and into her mouth. She still had the business of Harry waiting for her at the gangway and now the matter of his cufflinks on her desk. She thought she had better resolve both quickly before either became cow pats on the fan. Worse yet, these were solid; the clean up would be messy, taking days, weeks, months, who knew if it would ever clean up.
But neither did she wish to explain to Joshua about those cufflinks sat on the desk that wasn't his. Fearing she might turn into a pillar of salt for facing the wrong way, she turns to face Joshua but makes a beeline for the desk.
Discreetly, she scooped them up (grateful they were all Harry had left behind) and crossed her arms after she did so. She needed to get to Harry before Harry got to her; her thoughts raced from her room to the gangway and back. But they weren't clear. Her brain kept glitching like it had a short circuit, not even a lame excuse would come to her. Her back was once again to Joshua, she did not see he had walked up to where she stood at the desk. He sat back on the desk and faced her.
Honey, you seem a little on edge, what's going on?
Nothing, she retorted with a smile as someone about to come on with a stroke.
Lemara's eyes darted from him to the tv screen behind him.
I've been here some ten minutes, and you've barely said five words.
He outstretches his palms for her to place hers into. She rested the cufflinks into the pocket of her shirt dress, they made a soft clink but at least now her hands were free and part one of the Harry Langdon saga out of the way.
She placed her hands in his and moved to stand in between his legs. Her smile now more relaxed and as broad as the daylight. With that, Joshua smiled back, moving his arms to her waist and she to his neck. And like a seagull that had been swooping overhead for the last few minutes waiting for the right moment to dive, they kissed, long and lingering.
With the current flowing through her circuit, as it should, she was able to think more clearly, and so she told him there was another excursion for that day she needed to cancel. That was at least the truth. He offered to accompany her, but she declined. Said she'd be back right away plus Joshua looked a bit tired.
Lemara picked up her key card and walked out the door. Hurried down the corridor to the elevators but instead of taking them, she ran down three flights of stairs to deck four and the gangway. She couldn't see Harry, he wasn't where she had left him, and she panicked. What if he has taken the lifts and is on his way back to her room. She darted to the elevators on deck four and then back amidst the guests lingering in the area, but there was no Harry.
Ma'am, are you looking for your husband? One of the ship's security officers asked.
Recognising the security officer from earlier and realising she had aimed the question at her, relieved, Lemara said yes.
He's outside, ma'am.
No, he went upstairs, interjected another security officer.
Lemara closed her eyes in despair.
No, he came back, he is outside. Confirmed the first officer pointing to where Harry stood next to one of the bollards.
Lemara rushed to look out the gangway to where Harry was standing next to a bollard. His back to the ship and his phone to his ear. Another cruise ship had docked perpendicular to theirs and passengers were intermingling here and there as they awaited the pier trolley.
It was hot out; the heat enveloping her as she stepped out onto the gangway.
She turned to walk down the gangway, but instead, the word 'husband' now had her walking a plank. She swiftly turned back to the security officer.
Biting on her lower lip, Lemara said. Ahh, by the way, He. Is. Not. My. Husband.
She did her best to communicate those words in the best tone.
Then clamoured down the gangway two steps at a time, attracting Harry's attention as she did so.
Lemara heard 'wine' and 'Slovenia' and stopped just behind him so as not to cause any distractions. Harry knew she was there and reached behind him to pull her close, but her slight rigidness caught his attention. He looked back and planted a kiss on her forehead through words of 'Chianti', 'Tuscany' and 'two minutes'. At the same time producing a key card to his suite, 9088 and placed it in her hands.
Yours. He mouthed.
Tense, she looked at the card in her hand and then back at the ship and now realised she had no idea if Joshua was there for the day, night, rest of the cruise. Where were his things? He had brought nothing to her room.
Her room. She glanced back at the ship; her room was on this side of it. She looked up to where she guessed it was and satisfied herself the lifeboats would obstruct Joshua's line of sight.
Harry's call ends.
I've rented us a Moke in Grand Cayman...
Lemara remained glued to the spot; her lips profusely pursed together. Harry noticing the tension, stopped talking.
Her heart did paces the likes of someone trying to keep their head above water; she felt her stomach twist as she willed herself to speak, her words getting caught in her throat. Overwhelmed, she felt she would burst into tears, but her emotions were the wrong way round. What she was feeling for the man standing in front of her, is what she should have been feeling for the one she left in her room. She pressed her forehead into her palms, unable to stem the dam of tears that came out of nowhere.
Hey! Hey! Hey! If you prefer not to be caught dead in a Moke, we'll get a Jeep Wrangler instead!
Lemara could tell he was trying to make light of the situation and so she giggled through the waters. She tidied her face, took a deep breath.
I'm not going with you today. She finally revealed.
Why? Are you ill?
No. Joshua is here. There could be no question as to whom Joshua is.
He had tilted his head to the side ever so slightly questioning the name. He went quiet; his expression impassioned as the reality of what Lemara had just revealed fully sank through his core. He shoved one hand in his pocket, the other he quickly ran through his dark waves.
Lemaruh... I appreciate the predicament we now find ourselves in.
We? She snapped back.
Yes, Lemaruh. 'We.'
What does this have to do with you? She flashed.
Sensing a little storm, not the kind of a few hours ago, he walked away, over to the other side of the pier, and paused, looked into the water and walked back over to her.
Listen, I realise that we've only known each other for a few days, but when I first set eyes on you, you were like a light in my window. And when I came onto the ship and saw you again, I knew it was fate.
Harry, you and I...
It was now her heart that was twisting; she was feeling a lot more for him than she cared to acknowledge. She stopped herself from finishing the sentence because it shouldn't even be a sentence. She took one of his hands, placed the key card and his cufflinks in it and turned to walk back up the ramp. As she turned, he held onto her arm and pulled her back into his embrace. They remained quiet, that was until Edwin passed with another two of his colleagues and said hi. Harry shrugged.
Here was I thinking he was the antagonist.
Lemara laughed at Harry's sense of humour.
Why, because he makes my eyes sparkle?
No Lemaruh, because you set his eyes on fire.
Wholly consumed by you Lemaruh, and just so you know, I would have done the same thing he's done.
Glancing up at the ship as he said that.
Feeling one weight lifted from her shoulders, Lemara thought it was time she went back to her room and the other half she left in it. This situation had at least gone better than she anticipated, but then that was Harry Langdon, always putting her at ease. And as she turned to walk back up the ramp onto the ship, he said.
And yes we, because I have never slept with a woman that A) I didn't want to see more than once, or B) I didn't want to be with more than once.
Harry, I can't be your lover. I can't anymore be with you.
Well, Lemaruh that will be a challenge, because there's nothing about you that I don't want more of.