“Shhh!” Cassy glowered with narrowed eyes.
“…stick the needle,” Dwayne continued unabated.
“Dwayne,” Cassy demanded with a low growl.
“…in the doll and,”
“DWAYNE,” Cassy repeated, pressing her hand against Dwayne’s shoulder; “Change-
I looked up from the broken edges of my crème brûlée. Dwayne slowly closed his mouth, but you could tell his mind was still revving. I dropped my fork.
“Done?” asked the waiter reaching in front of me.
“Ah, yeah,” I stammered before he whisked my plate away.
Cassy was a friend who called me three months ago and asked me if I wanted to go on a cruise with her.
“Wow,” I replied. “That’s just what I need!”
“We’ll go on an adventure!”
“Maybe we’ll both meet someone!”
A week before the trip, she informed me that she’d also invited a couple who were her old neighbors, along.
“I hope you don’t mind,” she tip-toed.
“Oh,” I replied. I looked down at the floor and ran my foot over a piece of chipped tile.
“Their names are Dwayne and Holly.”
“Do you still plan to spend time with me?”
“Of course, you’ll see.”
“Cause I’m not sure if I still want to go if you’re hanging with them all the time.”
Cassy and I had dinner with the couple on the first night of our trip. I picked at my food while the four of them reminisced about the jukebox in the pizza shop in the old neighborhood and the people in the yellow house who always fought. That was when Dwayne started talking about sticking a pin in a doll or something. Apart from that conversation, I was mostly staring at the ceiling with the clinking of glassware and the low hum of the engine in the background. One of the waiters came over and showed me a fake photo of his supposed family, and I pretended to be interested.
Finally, it was late, and we all got up to go back to our rooms. “Don’t drink too much tonight,” Dwayne said in parting.
“What?” I puzzled. “I don’t drink.” I looked over at Cassy, but she looked away.
Later, when Cassy and I reached our cabin, there was a piece of paper with our next day’s itinerary on our bureau that our room steward had left. “What’s this?” Cassy asked, handing it to me.
“Ooo, let me see,” I said, studying it like a treasure map.
“So, at 10:30, it says take years off your face with a peppermint facial.” I began, reading the next day’s offerings.
“How about Making Dessert Tacos at 2 pm?”
“There’s Meet Fellow Singles at 8 pm.”
“Busy?” I asked.
“Casino time with Dwayne and Holly?”
“Look, the ocean!” Cassy suddenly gushed as she opened the glass door to the balcony. I followed. The metal chairs on the balcony scraped the floor. I could smell the saltwater. We listened to the powerful push of the vessel through the sea. “It’s nice,” Cassy commented. Then she started to complain about how uncomfortable her chair was. She shifted around while looking down.
The following day, at the spa, Cassy and I lay on tables, and a technician slathered our bodies with a minty concoction. Casey looked like a witch doctor with her green ng. I could hardly talk because my mask was tightening.
“So, what was Dwayne dalkin about last night?”
“What do you mean?”
“Something about a weedle being tuck in da doll?”
“What?” I exhaled, then waved my hand to say, ‘forget it’ and closed my eyes.
The rest of the week passed. I went for a tour of the island with some other cruisers. One of the cruisers constantly took pictures with an oversized camera. I became friends with the cruise director, “Great to see you again!”
“Thanks,” I replied, “Same to you.” That night while I was sleeping with the rocking of the ship, I had a dream that Dwayne was in.
“That guy you met the other night…” dream-Dwayne began.
“Yeah?” I asked. He was referring to a man I’d met at singles’ night.
“You abandoned Cassy and me and Holly.”
“That’s hardly true,” I replied, feeling a stabbing sensation. Then, suddenly I opened my eyes. I looked around; it was still dark out. I felt my blanket’s thin weave as I pulled it up to my chin. Cassy was sound asleep. At first, I wished I’d told Dwayne off, but then I decided the best thing to do was wake up.
At the end of the trip, Cassy and I had just disembarked from the ship and found our suitcases. We were rolling them towards her car. I could hear the wheels of our luggage
against the pavement. “Ship!” she called.
Suddenly Cassy spotted Holly and Dwayne across the parking lot. She started waving
her arms and yelling ‘goodbye’, and they did likewise.
When Cassy and I were driving back to her house from the ship, I asked her where she
thought she’d hang some artwork she and Holly had each won. “I already thought about that,” Cassy answered. “My hallway; it’ll look perfect.”
“The artwork’s geometric shapes will pick up the shapes in my wallpaper.”
When we got to Cassy’s place, I started transferring my suitcases from her car to mine.
Cassy was on her porch thumbing intently through her mail that had accumulated in her absence. “See you!” I called.
“Yeah, bye,” Cassy replied without lifting her gaze from an advertisement.
“I love you!” I yelled and saw a faint smile spreading across her face as she looked away.
Then I backed out of her driveway. I arrived home an hour later and opened my suitcases on my living room floor. Running shoes, containers of conditioner, my sparkly evening gown, and a shell I’d purchased all spewed out. I also found a container of peppermint facial. “Where did this come from?” I wondered, picking it up, then I thought to myself, ‘Cassy.’
Three weeks later, Cassy called, but I didn’t pick up. She called two more times and finally on her fourth try, I answered. “I can’t talk long because I just slathered on the peppermint facial,” she explained.
“But I want to know, did that guy you met on the cruise call like he said he would?”
“No,” I lied. “It doesn’t matter, though, because that man lives too far away anyway.”
“Right, that’s what I told you.”
I’d told Cassy that my date didn’t call, but in truth, he did. I saw his wind-blown photo as my phone rang two days after the trip was over. I smiled. He and I had been talking on the back of the ship when we snapped photos of each other. I wanted the photo of me on my phone, so I’d have a picture of myself with the ship’s wake in the background.
The blue of the sky and ocean was surrounding us, and I had to shout over the sound of the ship’s engine because we were at the aft. I loved hearing myself yell.
My friend did live too far away, but for the moment, we stood shoulder to shoulder, the wind in our faces.
Cyndi Cresswell Cook is a short story writer and a photographer.