“Billy,” Phyllis hissed, swatting him playfully. “I might have guessed this was what you had in mind.”
He shook his head. “Once again, you underestimate me,” he smiled, reaching for her room key. “I’m just bringing you back here to change. Think beach casual,” he grinned.
“Beach casual?,” she giggled. “You know I’m not even sure that’s a thing, right?”
He leaned in, placing a quick kiss on her lips. “I have total faith in you. I’ll meet you back here in ten minutes.”
Billy slowly walked in the door. He stopped, listening as he heard the sound of what he suspected was shoes being hurled at the wall. “Phyllis?” he called out. “You ok in there?”
“Billy?” Her voice was tense. “You’re already dressed?” She sighed loudly. “I swear..men have it so easy…pick a shirt, pick pants and you’re set.”
He laughed, the smile spreading across his face as she continued to rant. He stood, walking slowly into the room. “I guess you could say…” He stopped, his mind suddenly void of all thoughts.
“What?” she said, her hands brushing down the front of the shift dress. “Is it too casual? You won’t tell me what we’re doing, so I’m not sure what I’m dressing for. I…”
“No…No..” he stuttered, stepping closer to her. “It’s..it’s perfect. You look perfect.”
The dress itself was simple, more of a slip than a dress really, with thin straps he couldn’t help but imagine pushing off her shoulders later. Overtop the solid slip lay a sheath of thin, intricate lace work. Her hair was down, her sunglasses pushing the tresses out of her face as they perched on top of her head. She stood, still staring at him, earrings in hand.
“Are you sure?” she asked again, walking over to the mirror and turning to look at herself as she put on the final earring. “If I need to, I can change.”
“Don’t you dare,” he whispered, walking over and catching her to quickly kiss her cheek before she went back to the shoes. “I can’t imagine you could look any more beautiful than you already do.”
“I need shoes,” she whispered, turning back to the pile on the floor in front of her.
Billy grinned. “What are you doing with all the shoes here anyway? It’s a five day cruise?”
Her eyes darted back at him dramatically.
“Forget I asked.”
“Have I mentioned that control is one of my buttons?”
Billy laughed softly. “A couple times.” He reached over, grabbing her hand as she walked beside him. “I promise…this is something you’ll like.”
“Billy..” she whined. “This is all very romantic and I know that most women love surprises, but I’m not most women..I’m really not. In my life, surprises really haven’t worked out all that well and I kind of like to know what I’m walking into.”
“You haven’t had experience with my surprises. I give great surprises.”
She sighed. “You’re not gonna tell me anything, are you?”
He stopped for a moment, turning towards her and leaning in for a quick kiss. “I love you,” he said softly. “How’s that?”
Phyllis smiled. All her life she’d wondered what it would be like to truly feel secure, to not wonder and worry about how she would handle the next crisis, the next betrayal, the next fallout. What must it be like to live in a world where she simply let all that go? Where she simply just focused on the here and the now? Where she just focused on being happy, being loved, being safe—where she just focused on being with Billy—Could she do that? Was that even possible?
“Here we are.”
Phyllis blinked, looking out, the smell of fresh sea air suddenly overtaking her. “Billy,” she breathed. “This is absolutely beautiful.”
He smiled. “See, I told you you’d like it.”
Phyllis smiled as he pulled out her chair. She took a seat and waited for him to walk around the table. “What is all this?”
Billy smiled. It was so good to see her happy. For so long, he’d felt that was what Phyllis needed—to truly find happiness again. She’d suffered so much in her life, at the hands of her father, Victor, the men in the life, and yes, of her own choices, but the suffering had so far outweighed the chances for joy. Phyllis deserved joy. She deserved happiness.
When others looked at her and saw anger, volatility, and vengeance, her saw passion, unpredictability, and a sense of justice. He loved the fire in her—the way she fought for what was right, at all costs, the way she loved so deeply and completely. And yes, she was complicated, but that made her fascinating in all the wonderful ways.
Even now, even as he looked at her across the table, her eyes full of wonderment; he could hardly believe how lucky he was to be with her.
He reached out, taking her hands as he had so many times before. “I just wanted to do something nice,” he said softly. “I saw this excursion in the itinerary and I thought you’d enjoy it. We’ll have dinner and then they take a group of us out on a glass bottomed boat for a sunset boat ride. You can see the fish and everything.” He smiled as he saw the smile on her face. “No jellyfish this way.”
She giggled. “That sounds amazing.”
“I wish we could have gotten a private boat, but apparently there are other people here.” Billy rolled his eyes playfully.
Phyllis smiled, her eyes sparkling at him. “I think I can squeeze in some one on one time for you later. So…what’s on the menu?”
Billy’s smile widened, his eyebrows raising slightly.
“For dinner,” she chided, shaking her head. “I can’t take you anywhere, can I?”
“That one’s on you…you can’t make promises like that and expect me not to have impure thoughts.”
“I’ll have to remember that.” She paused, staring at him for a moment. “Hey,” she whispered, a little more serious. “Thank you for this.”
He heard the sigh leave her lips, almost as if the weight of her worries were finally leaving with it.
“I don’t know how you knew what I needed, but this was it.” Her eyes looked deeply into his as she spoke again. “You always know.”
Her hand was warm as he brought it to his lips for a gentle kiss. “You’re welcome,” he whispered, “but you know you never have to thank me. All you ever have to do is be here because all I need is you.”