Phyllis took a breath, the cool breeze gently lifting her hair off her shoulders. The smell of the salt water wafted through the air as hints of coconut oil and tropical drinks mixed in the air. This is exactly what she needed.
She smiled politely as several couples passed hand in hand. There it was, the familiar ache, the one she tried to quell with work, with alcohol, with sheer determination to pretend it didn’t exist, yet she still felt it, every time she saw two people so clearly in love. Another deep breath–another calming infusion on the tropical elixir of relaxation. That wasn’t what this trip was about. This was about her..only her. She needed to get away–to forget and that was precisely what she planned to do.
The attendant took her passes with a welcoming smile and ushered her to her suite. She stepped aside as she watched him leave her bags in the corner. After declining the offer of anything else, Phyllis sat on the bed, the view of the sparkling water from h er balcony lulling her into serenity.
Billy walked onto the deck, row after row of lounge chairs sat empty, just waiting for weary travelers to fill them. He pulled the brochure from his pocket, the itinerary still stapled to the back. There were so many excursions, so many things to do, but somehow everything seemed to be geared towards couples or groups…not the sad single cruiser who was here to forget the fact that he was in fact sad and single. His eyes fell on the deck layout and quickly found the deck bar. Most people probably planned to start their trip sober. Not him.
“Well, you know what I think…I think you’re better off without him.” Billy swirled the scotch around in the glass as he peered at the young woman beside him. “I mean any guy that would walk away from marrying you would have to be crazy, right?”
She giggled, running her hand up his arm allowing her fingertips to trail over his shoulder.
He smiled at her, her body curving against his, a nearly empty margarita glass sitting precariously in front of her. “How many of those have you had?” He asked.
“Two,” she whispered, leaning even closer to him. “But you don’t need to worry about that. I can drink with the best of them. Trust me. My inhibitions aren’t lowered tonight. You’re not taking advantage of me.”
Billy sighed, looking at her. She was beautiful, likeable, easy to talk to–yet he still hesitated.
“Why don’t we go back to your room?’ She cooed, reaching for his hand and standing up beside him.
Billy nodded, the scotch making him warm and relaxed. He walked down the deck, turning down the narrow corridor, finding his door and reaching in his pocket for his room key. His hand froze as he heard a voice.
“Jesus,” he hissed.
“What’s wrong?” Her breath was hot on his ear as she leaned in close, her body pressed up against him.
Billy shook his head. He couldn’t tell her. What was he supposed to say–that he thought he heard the voice of the woman he loved? That he spent so much time thinking about Phyllis that he now conjured up vivid memories of her–even memories that seemed so real he’d swear she was on this very ship.
He shook his head again, more vigorously this time. “Nothing,” he whispered. “It’s nothing.”
“Good,” she whispered. “Because I’d hate to think you were having second thoughts about this. I usually have pretty good instincts about guys and if there’s one thing I know, it’s that you aren’t a mistake.”
The words hit him like a brick. The color drained from his face. Flashes of memories, of her face, of her skin, of the feel of her hair….
“I can’t,” he managed, stepping back and putting distance between them.
“What?” She stammered.
“I’m sorry. I just can’t.” He ran his hand over his face. “You’re very….”. He looked at her again, the sheer swimsuit cover providing absolutely nothing in the way of modesty. “It’s not you.”
She huffed. “Well, I damn well know that. You know it’s a shame too. We could have a really good time tonight.”
Billy leaned back against the door as she stormed off. He sighed and headed back down the corridor towards the bar. He’d need far more help forgetting tonight.
Phyllis stared at the itinerary. The ship had everything–restaurants, bars, theaters, casinos, even a full service spa, but she hadn’t even been able to summon the desire to leave the room. She sat on the balcony, the thick, white terrycloth robe tied around her. The view was everything she could have hoped for and she stared up at the night sky wondering if things would ever be as simple as they seemed at this moment.
The slight breeze carried the gentle sounds of soft music and gentle laughter and she looked down at the deck, watching as groups of people gathered in pleasant conversation, as families sat watching their children, as teenagers struggled to ditch their parents, and as couples cuddled in oversized lounge chairs.
She saw the tiki bar at the far end of the deck, a few people seated there drinking tropical drinks with little umbrellas. One man drew her attention. He sat at the end of the bar, his shoulders slightly hunched, his hair dark and mussed, his hand wrapped around the glass of what appeared to be straight liquor. He reminded her so much of him. She took a breath and closed her eyes. Thinking of him was not productive. She turned to walk back into her room, glancing over her shoulder one last time before closing the door.
The group of teens at the table behind him had been chattering endlessly since he returned to the bar but at the moment their conversation had centered around the sky. Billy finally turned to look up, to see the fantastic display these almost adults seemed so fascinated by. As he did, he saw her, but it couldn’t be. Could it? Billy stood, gripping the bar as the steady stream of liquor made itself known to his legs.
Was he crazy–had she finally driven him to madness or was it actually possible that she could be here–that someone, somewhere believed they were meant to be together after all.