Billy made his way across the deck, weaving through the small crowds of people, grabbing on to the backs of lounge chairs for support. This is the public service announcement you should give about drinking, he thought. It’s impossible to track down a women when you can barely stand upright. He glanced up at the balconies, all of them now empty, his eyes searching for any sign of the woman he’d seen–the one he was almost certain was Phyllis.
He made it to the corridor, his body pressed against the wall. After struggling with his keycard for a moment, he opened the door, heading straight to his own balcony and stepping out. Looking down, he could see the bar. The vantage point was right. The voice he’d heard earlier…was it even possible?
“I must be really losing it,” he whispered aloud as he let his body relax into the empty chair. He stared out over the ocean. The night sky seemed to fade into he dark ocean waves and he tried to lose himself in the tranquility of it all. There was only one problem, his mind was otherwise occupied–as it always was–with thoughts of her. The bar below them looked almost empty now, the small groups of teenagers slowly drifting away and only a few stragglers remaining. He watched a few couples swaying in time to the rocking of the ship. What he wouldn’t give to be with her like that, to have her pressed up against him, her arms wrapped around him, her head resting on his shoulder.
Instead he sat here alone, imagining crazy scenarios in which the two of them separately booked the same cruise at the same time and ended up mere feet away from each other. It was crazy and intellectually he knew that. In his heart though, he didn’t want to believe it. He wanted to believe crazy could happen. He needed to believe it. He needed to believe in the fantasy. That was what they were. That was what they did. It had been crazy, but it had also been wonderful and no matter what anyone said, it had also been real.
Phyllis slowly walked to the bar, her eyes scanning the people there. She looked for the man she’d seen from the balcony. In her mind, she knew it couldn’t be him. It would be an impossible coincidence, but somehow until she knew…until she laid eyes on the person and saw it–she still had this nagging hope.
The bartender smiled at her as she wandered by. He held out the bottle of tequila in his hand. She nodded and took a seat. She stared at the shot glass in front of her. This might help her forget for tonight, but she’d still remember him in the morning.
“I really shouldn’t.” Phyllis leaned back a little, her body feeling heavier, her bones limber and soft. By the third shot, the tequila had stopped burning her throat on the way down. If only the pain in her heart was as easy to numb.
The man sat close to her, close enough for her to smell the oil he’d slathered himself with. She’d seen him sitting by the deck pool when she’d approached the bar and he’d quickly joined her, picking up her tag and happily encouraging her to continue matching him shot for shot.
“Aww..come on. You don’t want to leave yet. Shots are on me.” He smiled at her, his eyes roving over her bare shoulders. Her ring sparkled under the moonlight. “Your husband must be plenty confident.”
Phyllis glanced down at her hand, the thought of another shot suddenly more appealing. “Oh,” she sighed. “Right.”
“I just mean, letting a woman that looks like you come to a bar alone…it’s not exactly the best way to ensure she comes home.”
“I’m divorced actually.” She saw his eyes light up. “But I’m not looking for anything here. I just came down here to get a drink. That’s all.”
She felt his body slide closer to hers as she saw the smile on his face grow. “Sometimes the best things in your happen are found when you aren’t looking for them.” He leaned in closer, his mouth just inches from her ear. “How about we take this party somewhere a little more private?”
“No…I can’t,” she whispered, leaning away from him. “I’m actually seeing someone.” She looked up at him, relieved to see him back off.
He held up his hands. “I hear ya,” he said, putting some space between them. “I’ll say it again–I’ve got a lot of respect for any guy confident enough to send you out alone.”
“So do I.”
She saw him turn too, a sure sign she hadn’t imagined the voice. Her body turned slowly, the tequila causing the room to spin a bit as she swiveled on the stool to face him.
“Billy,” she whispered, “What are you doing here?”
The man beside her eyed him suspiciously, then turned back to look at her. “You know this guy?”
Billy stepped closer, his hand resting on the small of her back. “Yeah she does.” His voice was calm but his face showed his seriousness. “Does she know you?”
“We uh…we’ve been getting acquainted this evening,” he smiled, his eyes looking back and forth between them.
Billy turned back to look at Phyllis. “Really?”
“I was just having a few drinks. He was here at the bar. I was just telling him that I wasn’t looking to meet anyone.”
Billy nodded. “Well, then, I guess you were probably getting ready to leave then, right?”
She shifted his hand a little, his fingertips dancing up and down her spine.
“Yeah,” she whispered. She nodded as she carefully stood to her feet, the feel of his warm hand on her back steadying her while simultaneously making her weak. She smiled slightly at the man at the bar as she walked slowly beside Billy.
“Where are we going?” She said softly as he led her away from the bar.
He looked down at her. “You’ll see.”