What Happens on a Cruise, Stays on the Cruise - Part 9
Caressing her back and buttocks, Joshua plants a kiss long and hard on Lemara's lips. She snaps a photo of them together on the beach, kissing him back. He kisses her back. She kisses him back, and that continued for a Caribbean minute. Any longer and a room may have needed to be built around them. Lacing his fingers through hers as he walked off to kit himself out for his surf and for Lemara to make herself comfortable on the sand.
Moments later, Joshua was on the water, and as he appeared to be enjoying himself, Lemara waved at him. It was more a rhetorical wave.
She now made her way to the shaded privacy of their cabana and into the womb of one of the hammocks. Her bare legs splaying either side of it, her lipstick red painted toes pinned to the ground controlling the sway of the hammock.
A short while later, Lemara looked up from her phone just in time to see Joshua and his board skim across the water. His neon green kite amplified against the sky like a giant leaf whose swirls refuse to come to rest out on the water, and Joshua clearly enjoying the ride. There were another two kitesurfers on the water, but other than they, the water remained uninvaded by humans.
She smiled and turned her attention back to her phone, where she had posted the photo just taken of herself and Joshua on her private Instagram account. She captioned it.
Where the sun does shine.
Her good friend, Maisie, was the first to respond.
We are so jealous you guys; it is pissing it down with rain here in London. Maisie commented.
While it was Joshua who had introduced Lemara to Maisie, it was Maisie who had introduced Joshua to his now ex-wife. Maisie and Joshua started at the airline around the same time. Joshua was one of the pilots on Maisie's first flight as a flight attendant. She recalled how thorough and patient Joshua had been though he was himself being put through the ropes at the airline.
Because as Joshua says 'Happy crew, Happy passengers, Dream flight!'
They had been friends ever since. Maisie herself is married to a pilot.
But if Joshua was the youngest Captain at the airline, Maisie was the living black book of who was dating whom at the airline. Twenty-five thousand employees but she near enough knew who was dating whom, who had dated whom and who didn't know their dating was unexclusive with whom.
Rain? What is that? Xxx Lemara joked to Maisie's comment.
Lemara joked on another three comments before she clicked off the app, turning her attention to the myriad of WhatsApp messages and emails that remained unanswered.
She first looked at an email from her boss' boss, grateful at least that it wasn't marked urgent. Better yet, it was good news. Once again the company had been shortlisted in two categories for the upcoming travel awards:
The World's Leading Private Jet App and
The World's Leading Private Jet Website.
He followed on to write he would like press materials created regarding the news that would be communicated to the media and the company's clients.
The rest of the email, inessential to Lemara's past, future or present, but he did finish by writing.
Let me know when you're available. Hope you are enjoying your cruise.
So does this mean he wanted this done now or on her return?
Lemara closed the phone screen, crossed her wrists above her head and looked out to where Joshua was now gliding across the water. Remembering they only made it to the nominations last year in the same categories and the upcoming award ceremony only a few months away - she marked it as urgent although the big boss had not. The newest starter in her department but the big boss highlighted he preferred her materials on situations such as these.
Lemara, you have a way with words. He had said.
That or it was his psychologically reversed way of sending the work her way because 'these situations' were more prevalent than you'd believe. But in the two years, she had worked at the company she had moved from Content Creator to Content and Digital Specialist. A title and a role she was sure was created especially for her given the myriad cross-section of skills she regularly had to employ—everything from website editing to communications, PR, branding, marketing.
'You have an artistic eye' - is another thing he liked to tell her.
But there was no chance of her or anyone else ever heading up that team unless the boss's brother in law left, as he currently held the position. But Lemara loved being the Digital and Content Specialist, not least because that role allowed her to work remotely. Especially when being able to work remotely meant, that when Joshua requested a last-minute long weekend on her for Lisbon or New York or Dubai, she could pick up her Samsonite or her Steamline Luggage or her Tumi and roll with it.
Lemara stared in the direction of Joshua, but her eyes only engaged with the blue sky that formed his backdrop. And out of that blue came Harry and she was hit with a quick, heady spasm.
Unconsciously, her body had recited their earlier activities and tremored out of the intense aftershock of that earthquake. Unconsciously her senses recalled their bodies scent from this morning and Lemara sat up in the hammock, inhaled deeply.
Harry Langdon was now becoming like a sea, powerfully breaking down a cliff wall that stood for four years. She would need her own defence mechanisms because he was now attacking walls around her mind and soul even in his absence. She rested the phone on her lap, pressed her fingers up against her lips, but couldn't help but wonder how his day was going.
The photo Joshua brought into question earlier now became the focus of her attention. She left the suspension of the hammock, picked up her camera and helped herself to a drink, nibbles.
It was at the restaurant in Key West the photograph was taken. The shot most likely taken under the premise he was inspecting the camera; clearly, he wasn't merely checking the camera. Looking closer at the image, she'd have to admit even to herself that it looked intimate.
Harry Langdon. A disarming smile across her face.
Lemara quickly caught her breath and turned her attention back to her emails. She responded to another three and decided the remainder could wait.
Switching over to her WhatsApp, she noticed Joshua had left her a plethora of messages, voice recordings and missed calls-the total, thirty-six. Two messages from Joshua's mom. Should she look at those now or wait and find out if Joshua knows what they are about? Lemara decided on the latter thinking that whatever it was, it would be better hearing it from him. In the PWG chat group (Pilots' Wives and Girlfriends) there were another one hundred and forty-seven messages.
She debated what should be looked at first and decided the messages from her man should really take priority. She began reading through the texts.
Em, I know you said you wanted some time to yourself but I'm going to join you in Costa Maya. Switching my next flight for one to Cancun. Call me back when you get this message. I'm missing you as always.
Lemara's chest buckled.
Flight lands at..., let's go to Hayhu beach..., It's idyllic, and I see they have kitesurfing...
The messages on PWGG were once again lighting up, causing Lemara to switch over to see what was happening. She saw Joshua's name, and of course, her eyes widened wondering what additional feather was being put in his cap that she wasn't aware of. Her fingers scrolled down to where his name was first mentioned and began to read.
Jaz: Vicky, have you ever flown with Captain Hart?
Vicky: Yes. I like flying with him.
Jaz: Do you know him well?
Vicky: Yes, why?
Jaz: I think he likes me.
Vicky: What makes you say that?
Jaz: Well, we just get on really well and yesterday after we landed...
Vicky: Jaz, Captain Hart gets on well with everyone. Vicky interjected.
Maisie: You guys realise you are in the group chat right and that in this group chat is Captain Hart's other half?
S I L E N C E
Half an hour later.
Jaz: Wait, how is she on here?
Maisie: I think the more important question is, how are you?
(This is where Lemara initially joined the conversation.)
Jaz: I'm a flight attendant
Maisie: Honey, that may well be the case, but this group chat is for pilot's wives and girlfriends. Last I knew you were neither.
The chat went silent again, but Lemara's brain reverted to 'but yesterday after we landed.'
Yesterday after we landed, what? Yesterday after we landed... we all went to the bar for a drink, and Joshua paid for her first drink (and the rest of the crew). Yesterday after we landed... She discovered she left her favourite lipstick on the aircraft, and Captain Hart held the crew bus while she went back to retrieve it. Yesterday after we landed... She hadn't realised how nervous she was and soiled her pants, and Captain Hart paid for a new pair. Because that is the sort of thing, Joshua does. But what exactly was Jaz going to say? And who was this Jaz, Joshua had never mentioned her?
Joshua would often give Lemara a lighthearted debrief after his flights to include the crew onboard.
Lemara pursed her lips at the unfinished sentence. She was disturbed that such an inconsequential statement now plagued her.
Joshua was now lugging his kitesurfing equipment out of the water, shortly assisted by a staff member from the kitesurfing club. The fingers of her left hand were once again pressed up against her lips. Her eyes were unarmed but locked on Joshua and all five feet ten inches of him. Shoulders toned, biceps lean as he strode over to their deck and into the shower.
I think I'm going to need a massage tonight Em! Forgotten how gruelling kitesurfing is. Taking the drink, Lemara had brought him and quenching himself with it.
Well, you are in luck, there's a spa onboard the ship.
Oh! I was hoping to get one of yours. Peering at her over the towel, sensing a slight frigidity unmatched by their surroundings.
Okay, hang on. Is this because I stayed out on the water longer than I said? Amusement in his voice.
She looked up at him but said nothing. Instead, she moved to walk away. But Joshua was quick and trapped her in between himself and the towel undoing the messy braid bun she had done up to get as much sunlight as possible on her body. He dipped his head to kiss her on the lips, she quickly switched her head away to the right, and Joshua's lips followed. She ducked her face to her left, and he followed, and that continued until it fused into them laughing at each other.
And in his very warm caramel come to bed voice.
Sorry about earlier. Brushing back Lemara's braids off her shoulder.
That softened the moment, and Joshua sensed it and went in again for a kiss. Lemara allowed it but then picked up another fresh towel and covered his face, making a screen between them. Joshua accepted defeat and allowed Lemara to walk away. A glint in his eye.
By the way, we are having your things moved. She looked back at him, and with the flick of her eyes, sharply declared that she had not agreed to move back in with him.
And why is that? He asked.
What I was actually referring to Lemara, is moving your belongings in your room to our suite. Joshua interjected. There is no reason for us to be on the same ship and be in separate rooms is there? But let's discuss the other matter over the next few days.
No. Dismissing him tersely and continuing to walk away.
No, there's no reason to be in separate rooms? No, you're not moving into the suite? No, we are not discussing you moving back in with me? Which is it?
She felt vast knots of emotion clogging and wrecking turmoil within her. An onslaught of guilt beginning to raise its ugly head, trapping her between pain and torture. She said nothing.
Lemara halted in her tracks but kept her back to Joshua. She could hear Joshua's steps approaching and raised her eyes skywards to lose the moisture that had collected.
Honey, I just know you are not upset because I went kitesurfing and left you here. So what is it? Wrapping Lemara from behind, pressing his left cheek against her right.
Nothing. Lemara shrugged.
Joshua held her for a while longer as if to allow her to continue. Still, Lemara said nothing more; he walked around to face her. Eyes firmly on hers, his gaze narrowed as he studied her.
Lemara, would you prefer that I wasn't here?
On that question, Lemara's breath became trapped in her lungs, and her eyes flicked. Although she had indeed chosen to take this holiday on her own, her emotions were surely unchecked to lead Joshua to raise such a question because the answer was, no. This, all because she had gone off and danced a dance that's now given her a guilty rhythm. Then worked herself up over a half posted story on WhatsApp. Hypocritical, to say the least.
No. Lemara finally replied, her gaze held his firm.
So will you tell me what's going on? Because something is off, this is not you.
They both remained in silence, staring at each other. Joshua leaned back on a table, poker faced, as usual, but his eyes were warm. Lemara, with her arms crossed and lips pursed. He outstretched his palms for her to place hers in but nothing. It was an act of affection, Joshua would employ to let her know that whatever it was would be okay. Stop her from filling up before she exploded in all the wrong ways. But Lemara had already entered them into a stalemate that neither of them knew they were in.
Let's get back to the ship before it gets any later. He said, finally giving in.
Lemara had worked herself into such a stupor; she couldn't bring herself to speak. She simply gathered their belongings and made their way to the taxi.
The taxi pulled up at the cruise port, and they got out just in time to hop on a pier trolley about to depart for the ship. Unlike the outbound journey, the trolley was operating at maximum capacity with cruise passengers attempting to get back onto their respective cruises before departure. And their chatter, like a game of volleyball, everyone vying for the ball to bat back events of their day. What they did, what they saw, where they went. The trolley stopped in front of their ship, and passengers for their cruise hopped off.
Boarding the ship, just in front of Lemara and Joshua was a middle-aged couple who had begun to make their way up the slant. The wheelchair being pushed became stuck, just as they got onto the ramp pausing the boarding process. Mrs looked back at Joshua and Lemara and joked.
I think the wheelchair wants to stay in Costa Maya.
This was a pleasant way of apologising for the hold-up Lemara guessed. Joshua acknowledged and was now assisting Mrs with the wheelchair so that Joshua was now standing alongside her.
Oh, you have such strong arms. Mrs gushed. I remember when my David had arms like yours. She continued.
Martha, I'm still here.
I know dear. Martha responded.
Looking back at Lemara, she continued.
Oh, you two make such a beautiful couple.
Lemara moulded a generous smile across her face at Martha while Joshua was quick to thank her for her compliments.
By the way, this is my husband David, and I'm Martha, and we are the Denhams.
Joshua followed that up by introducing Lemara and himself. They had cleared the ship's security and were now waiting at the lift when Martha announced they were celebrating their 25th anniversary.
Are you on your honeymoon? Martha asked.
The smile on Lemara's face was now one she had previously baked. One she found she had been using quite recently to any such conversations relating to marriage that involved herself and Joshua.
No just a holiday. Lemara has just completed her masters, and we decided to take a break and celebrate.
Congratulations dear! Both Martha and David chimed in.
Thank you, thank you. Lemara replied.
A congregation had gathered by the time the first lift arrived the area was clogged and the chatter immense. The four boarded with Lemara positioning herself in the right-hand corner of the lift while Joshua stood mid-right with Mrs Denham. The elevator continued to fill up until it was bulging at the seams. One of the last to squeeze their way in was Mrs Chatterbox from dinner and one of her daughters, who had managed to squeeze past the wheelchair and were now standing near Joshua. While Lemara's spirits swayed, the rest of the passengers appeared to be in a chipper mood. Mr Denham pressed the button for deck nine, and Joshua confirmed they too wanted deck nine. Everyone else was now declaring their floor numbers to be punched in. Under the weight of its passengers, the lift began its crawl to the next deck.
And what do you do Joshua? Asked Mrs Denham.
I transport people from one place to another.
Ordinarily, Lemara would grin like a Cheshire Cat at that humble response of Joshua's because she knew he did it to save her the flotilla of questions that generally accompanied the alternative answer. But not today, today she hung her head, heavy with pangs of conscience.
But out of nowhere, Mrs Chatterbox gave herself an invitation to the conversation and piped in.
You mean like a bus driver? Her tone, divisive.
Yes, like a bus driver.
Lemara leaned back into the corner of the lift, crossed her ankles, clutched her beach bag and had half prepared herself for the next question 'How can you afford a cruise?'
The lift had stopped at the next deck at this point. A handful of guests got out, and another three who had walked up from the previous deck now boarded as Joshua politely responded.
More poolside gossip for Mrs Chatterbox, Lemara thought.
At the opposite corner of the lift, Lemara spotted the eyes of two ladies (who appeared to be around her age). One of whose eyes lit up when she first saw Joshua prompting her to nudge her friend and their mouths both fell open when he spoke. Neither of them able to peel their eyes off him. That swung the pendulum of Lemara's mood, causing her to smile.
Lemara was, however, unprepared for what followed next. Mrs Chatterbox's daughter now invited herself to the conversation with the following.
But at the reception this morning, the receptionist referred to you as Captain.
I am that too. Joshua replied ever so calmly.
So you are you a cruise ship Captain? With Mrs Chatterbox pronouncing the words 'cruise ship captain' as if they'd suddenly developed a scathing disease.
By this time Lemara was inwardly somersaulting with laughter, she felt she was getting her own back after her vagrant remark to her last night.
The lift had come to another stop on the next deck. Another four passengers went off, and one passenger came on. Space freed up, and the lift was encouraged by this, judging by the ease it moved off to the next floor.
Joshua was now telling Mrs Chatterbox that he was in fact, an airline pilot. Once again you would not have thought it possible but her eyebrows aligned with her hairline. And the passengers in the lift were now gushing. A lady at the front of the lift, diagonally opposite Lemara was now flirtatiously smiling and asking Joshua if he was single. To which he replied.
No, I am here with my other half. Pointing and winking at Lemara.
And now everyone had turned to look at Lemara, her position of incognisance now outed. Lemara has heard Joshua referred to her as such many times over but today it felt warmly special. As Mrs Chatterbox recognised Lemara, the lift stopped at deck eight, and her daughter hauled her unwillingly off the lift.
But the plethora of questions the other answer previously served to avoid was now rendered pointless. That sentence, I'm a pilot, flipped the switch, and all other conversations stopped, Lemara and man were now the subjects of discussion.
Aren't you a bit young to be a Captain and older lady shot in Joshua's direction?
Not if you've done the flying hours amongst other things. Joshua commented.
Does that mean you get free flights? A random passenger yelled out at Lemara.
Only when the Captain agrees to it. Lemara smiled.
I bet that happens often. He replied.
You are so lucky. Gasped one of the twenty-something-year-olds.
By this time the lift had thankfully arrived at deck nine. Joshua still assisting Mrs Denham with the wheelchair exited with Mrs Denham and Lemara following swiftly behind. As the doors slid shut behind her, an intoxication of musk and french vanilla jarred Lemara's thinking. As Lemara scanned the area, it came to her; it became apparent why. She was down these corridors earlier in the day. She shut it out just in time to hear Mr Denham mention he was in fact a US Airforce Veteran.
The conversation with the Denhams was now wrapping up, and they said their goodbyes. Joshua splayed his right palm across the small of Lemara's back as he turned, their steps becoming synchronised as he steered her to their suite.