When We Were Married Ch. 03DbyDanielQSteele1©
FOOLS RUSH IN
My name is William Maitland. I'm an Assistant State Attorney in Jacksonville, Florida. I'm the poster child for workaholics, having thrown away one of the hottest women in Jacksonville and my two children and a 20 year relationship because I couldn't maintain a life apart from my job as the top working prosecutor in Jacksonville
Three months ago I had a wife. In another month or so I won't. I haven't taken the break-up well, although it has done my physical conditioning a world of good. It also led me to a mini-breakdown which in turn led my boss, the real top prosecutor, to exile me from my job and troubles for a week-long cruise on the French operated cruise ship, Bonne Chance.
The cruise has done me a world of good. I have met a poor little rich girl who really does have more problems than I have, which at least showed me that I didn't have the shittiest life on the planet. And I have also met the luscious and lovely Aline des-Jardins, one of three cruise directors on the ship who has been flirting with me, raising my ego and libido for the past three days.
Unfortunately, when my suspicions that her attentions were based on her being assigned to watch me to make sure I didn't do anything stupid like jumping overboard as a result of depression were confirmed, I didn't take that news well either. Which led the lovely Ms. des-Jardins to tell me forcefully to go fuck myself, instead of possibly getting the chance to plumb her depths.
And that is why at 12:30 a.m., after royally pissing off the first woman other than my wife that I have seriously considered going to bed with in 18 years, I have showered and I'm my way over to the Alpha Lounge at the bow of the ship where I expect Ms. des-Jardins to be having a good time without me. I will probably be insulted and crushed in a way that hasn't happened since Junior High when Missy Cartwright laughed loudly at me when I asked her to dance at the first formal dance I'd ever attended.
But no matter what happens, I will at least be doing SOMETHING as my life circles the Big Toilet Bowl of fate. I may go down, but I will go down fighting.
Monday, July 18, 2005 -- 12:35 a.m.
I walked out of the elevator which ran from the sixth to seventh decks of the Bonne Chance and saw down the corridor a knot of five men and women drinking and smoking and generally fooling around. Three of them were female passengers I vaguely recognized. Two of them were younger male staff officers.
The doorway behind them was open and I saw smoke and lights and heard music. I didn't need the sign overhead that said "Alpha Lounge" to let me know that my moment of truth was about on me.
I had faced a mob of horny frat boys with a fire poker and millionaires who had threatened my family and serial killers who had very sincerely told me they would escape prison and flay the skin from my body while I was still alive, and I don't think I was ever more frightened than I was walking down that corridor.
This woman, and the power she had to crush what lingering remnants of a male ego I still possessed, would have given even the Angel of Death pause....but as the old saying goes, fools rush in.....
They looked at me curiously as I approached them. I had dressed in black slacks and a black turtleneck that I'd had cleaned on board. One of the taller male officers stepped forward to intercept me as I drew near the doorway.
"I'm sorry, M'sieu," he said, interposing his body between me and the doorway without being too obvious about blocking me. "The Alpha Lounge is restricted to invited guests. There are many other lounges and bars open at this hour elsewhere on the ship."
"I've been invited. Ms. des-Jardins invited me. Would you check with her and let her know I'm here. My name is William Maitland."
He looked at me and then at the other male officer. A look passed between them and I knew what he was going to say.
"I'm sorry sir, but Ms. des-Jardins informed us that you might be coming and told us to tell you that you were not welcome here."
Now that I was here, being crushed wasn't all that terrible.
"Women can change their minds. Often do. Tell her that Mr. Maitland would like to apologize. You can do that, can't you?"
He tried to stare me down but men a lot tougher than him had failed and he finally shrugged and said something in French to the other officer that probably translated to "keep the asshole out while I check," and walked into the lounge.
We just stared at each other while the three women stared at me and giggled and whispered among themselves. It didn't seem to be too long before the tall officer walked back out.
"I'm sorry sir. She said she hasn't changed her mind and won't. She said you should seriously consider her last suggestion."
Well, that was clear enough. She was pissed. All those romantic fantasies I had spun in my mind were crashing to the hard cold earth. But, the odd thing was, I didn't feel too badly. I had tried. There was probably less than no chance that anything could have ever happened between a woman like her and a man like me. But at least I would have no regrets about what could have been.
I looked back to the elevator and then changed my mind. She might be able to keep me out of the lounge, but she couldn't keep me from looking down at the ocean from this side of the ship. The railing ran around three-quarters of the section.
'How do you get to the deck railing from here?"
"You can take the elevator back down to the sixth and get out to the deck from there."
"I want to go out on this deck's railing."
"Yeah, as the punch line goes, be very, very afraid. You can keep me out of the lounge with no problem. I doubt very seriously you can keep a paying guest from walking on the outside railing anywhere in this ship. And if you try I am going to raise so much hell that your company will be very sorry they ever sold my boss a ticket for this cruise."
He looked at his fellow officer and they frowned, undoubtedly thinking so hard I expected smoke to start billowing out of their ears. The tall one finally said, "follow me," and led me down the corridor beyond the entrance to the lounge and to a closed door. He pushed on the metal bar across the door and it opened with a creak, revealing the outside railing that ran around most of this section.
"It locks from this side," he said, grabbed a metal rod wedged into a metal stanchion near a glass-encased fire extinguisher, and propped it in the doorway. The door couldn't close and couldn't lock.
"You won't be locked out. When you come in, please remove the bar and replace it where it was, if you would. Oh, and.."
"I'm not going to try to crash your intimate little orgy," I said, looking back at the three female passengers who were stroking the other male officer in a fairly obvious manner. "I just want to get some fresh air and a fresh perspective and then I'll be out of your, and Ms. des-Jardins', hair. If you would, tell her I hope she has better luck with her next assignment."
I walked out without waiting for a reply. I walked to the railing, taking one look back at the lounge. I could hear strains of something like a romantic ballad French style being sung inside, but no words. Then I looked back down and out at the waves. The view was the opposite side of the ship.
From the other deck I had watched the ship cutting through the Caribbean. From this deck I watched the waves fall away behind us as the ship moved forward. It was cool but pleasant as the winds whipped along the deck. It could have been raining or it might have been sea foam, but drops would hit my face from time to time. The ship was obviously not moving as fast as it had been on other nights.
Marsh Harbour in Abaco wasn't that far away so they were obviously taking their time getting there to make it in six or seven hours.
I lost track of time and when I glanced at my watch next, it showed that it was 1:30 a.m. Where had the time gone?
"You are not only a very unpleasant man, but stupid as well. Most men would have taken the hint they were not wanted and simply have slunk off with their tails between their legs."
"Probably too stupid to know when I'm not wanted. Anyway, I hoped you'd be aggravated enough to come out to talk to me."
She had changed out of her standard blue and gold uniform and was wearing a light blue low-necked blouse that showed she did have breasts and a pair of blue slacks. She stared at me with her characteristic stone-faced expression, or lack of one.
"Why? I think I made my feelings about you clear, and you made your feelings about me crystal clear, Mr. Maitland. What do we have to talk about?"
I turned my body to her and reached out to take her hand. She stiffened, but did not pull away.
"I just wanted to apologize, Aline. Then I'll leave and I'll do my best to make we don't run into each other again. I am sorry. Sorry that I misjudged you. Sorry that I insulted you, when you were just trying to do a job. I..uh...I reacted badly because I have to admit I was spinning some pleasant fantasies about you. You are a beautiful woman and I'm sure I'm not the only man that's ever been...smitten with you. I was hurt. But I know I had no cause to insult you the way I did."
"No, you didn't. It hurt more because I did...like you. You seemed like a different kind of man. When you....said what you did....you caught me off guard. "
"I know this won't make a difference in how you feel, but the only excuse I can give you is that I'm in strange territory here."
She looked at me quizzically.
"I've been married for 18 years and in a committed relationship for almost two years before that. I've forgotten how to do the man-woman thing."
She stepped closer.
"The captain said your superior told him you were in the middle of a very bad divorce. That you were hurt very badly by your wife's actions."
"It all started when my wife said four words to me that ended our marriage..."
And so I told her everything. I told her about the emails, which I could almost recite word for word. I watched her face as I told her my story, leaving nothing out. I told her about how Debbie and I had met. And how I had never truly believed she loved me, but that instead it was a marriage built of gratitude and hero worship.
Why I felt free to tell her, a stranger, of all the people in the world, about the emails and what they revealed about my marriage, I could never say for sure.
"And that's why I'm on the cruise. That's why I am probably more of an asshole than I have been. Why I put people off. I didn't want this life. I don't want it. I want what I had, but I can never have it again. I still love her, even while I hate her. I don't know that I'll ever stop loving her, but I pray every night that that day comes.
"And that's why what you said hurt so bad. I was married to and loved a beautiful woman who I don't think ever loved me the same way and is fucking a younger man in our bed tonight, I'm sure. And then I met you and I started thinking for the first time since all this shit started happening that life might not be so terrible. And then you tell me that I was just a job. Nothing more."
She hadn't said a word, but she hadn't pulled away. I dropped her hand from mine.
"And that's the story. And my apology. I'm sorry I kept you away from your friends and your party. I'll head back now. And I really will try to stay out of your way for the rest of the trip. It's only a few days."
"You weren't just a job, Mr. Maitland," she said. She stepped into me and before I knew it she was searching for my tonsils with her tongue. I returned the favor
Somebody, I think it was the science fiction writer Robert Heinlein in one of his books for younger readers, once wrote that 'girls don't have bones,' because it feels that way when you're kissing one. Guys are all sharp angles, hard surfaces. Girls are soft and round and where they're the softest and roundest is where they're the most fun. I had read that when I discovered his books in the 7th grade and I'd never forgotten that description.
That's the way the woman in my arms felt in this moment. I remembered watching her across the way the other night in that moment of the storm and feeling that I had stepped out of my old life. I felt the same way now. This was not Debbie. I had to keep reminding myself. She felt, and smelled and tasted different. And she was in my arms and she was playing tonsil hockey. This could not be happening.
She broke the kiss and stepped back from me, then reached out with one finger to rub her lipstick from my lips. I tasted mint. Debbie had never tasted of mint.
"I accept your apology, Mr. Maitland, William."
"William is my name, but my friends call me Bill."
"I accept your apology, Bill. If I had known, I would not have acted like such a bitch. I know what it is like to love someone like that, and I cannot imagine what it would feel like if he were to betray me in such a fashion."
I touched my lips.
"Friends don't kiss in your country?"
"Not like that."
She smiled in the darkness and I felt something cold and hard deep within myself begin to crack and I told myself, "You will not fall for this married woman."
"But I am French, and you are standing on a piece of French soil, We do things differently here."
Then, "the party continues. Come inside and have something to eat and drink. We can talk."
She held her hand out to me and, knowing this was going to lead to disaster, I took her hand and followed her into the Alpha Lounge.
Monday, July 18, 2005 -- 12:45 a.m.
Debbie rolled to her back and gasped for air.
Doug placed one large hand on her breast and squeezed it rhythmically.
"My God is right. You have got to be the hottest woman in the Western World. It's been more than three months and every time I get inside you it feels like the first time all over. That's never happened with any woman I've been with.
She couldn't help smiling a little.
"Doug, you've already got me. You don't have to keep seducing me."
"It's the truth."
He squeezed her breast again and said, "You want to..."
She shook her head.
"Jesus Christ, Doug, it's going to fall off if you keep using it. I'd forgotten what it was like to be with a young man. But...I...I'm tired. I've got to go in for that early morning department meeting at 8. You can stay here tonight. Kelly and BJ shouldn't be back here until late afternoon, but I want you out of here before they get here."
"I should be up and out by 9 at the latest. I'll try to avoid Little Miss Hot Pants..."
"I was just teasing. I don't want to have her catch me alone here either, Deb."
"Make sure she doesn't. She and Bill Jr. are both spending the night out so there shouldn't be any chance of your crossing paths with either of them."
"You sure you...."
"No, Doug. It was great, but I have got to get some sleep. Anyway..."
"Don't tell me, now you're worried about Bill again. Or guilty. Or both."
"It's stupid, but...I'm here with you and Bill hasn't been with anybody that I know of. And now he's alone on that cruise ship with a bunch of honeymooners and people are probably getting laid all around him and I can't see Bill getting into that. Or him having any luck getting somebody into bed."
"Deb, people change. Just because the two of you lost it, doesn't mean there isn't ANYBODY that would fuck him. Shit, I've been on those cruises. Must be something about the sea air. A hunchback dwarf could get laid. Trust me, I'll bet he's banging some horny broad right now. You'll see. He'll come back relaxed and a lot more human. That's probably a lot of what's been wrong with him. He just hasn't gotten any ass in a long time. That will make anybody grumpy."
Which should have been reassuring, but as she turned in the bed to spoon against Doug's lean, muscular frame, she wondered why the thought of Bill fucking another woman was more than a little disturbing. It wasn't jealousy. But...
Monday, July 18, 2005 -- 2 a.m.
The Alpha Lounge was smoky as hell. The French would never give up their cigarettes and while they might comply with U.S. health laws in public sections, any purely French bastion was going to be awash in carcinogens. It seemed like every crewmember, except Aline, was puffing away and half the invited guests were as well.
I thought about dropping to the floor to get a gasp of fresh air, but Aline hadn't let go of my hand since we had entered the Lounge. I felt like a high school kid trooping along behind his girlfriend, which was at the same time embarrassing and a source of pride. I saw the way most of the male staffers and a few of the male guests stared at her, and then at me, and I realized there wasn't a one of them that didn't want to be the one holding her hand.
A male and female were on piano and guitar and playing everything from 60s American oldies to some things that sounded like they might have been sung by Édith Piaf in the 50s and maybe Billie Holiday in the late 30s. I thought I recognized "La Vie en Rose." I'd always liked that.
They had a bartender and a fully stocked bar as well as a table groaning with what looked like caviar, lobster tails, what was probably Duck a l'Orange in a thick sauce and, if I didn't know any better, trays of what had to be escargot.
I'd been introduced to escargot on my first trip to Paris and oddly enough for a Florida boy who came from a small West Virginia mining community, I loved them.
Aline led me first to the food table where I grabbed a few escargot to her amazement, spooned up some caviar.
"Are you sure you're not French?"
She dragged me around to introduce me to staff and guests, making sure she held my hand. We were greeted with knowing glances. One male staffer was sitting in a chair near the side of the lounge and doing everything but fucking a half-naked woman about 20 years his senior in the chair. Aline slipped up next to him and kicked him in the calf. He tore his mouth away from the woman's neck which he'd been nuzzling.
"René, get a room."
He started to say something, then sheepishly pulled the older woman to her feet and took her out of the lounge.
She looked at me with an embarrassed expression.
"This is not a private orgy for staff and guests. Some...romancing... takes place on every trip, but staff and especially male staff are warned to be discreet. He was being a pig. He's fortunate the captain or one of the upper echelon officers didn't pop in."
As we walked I finished the Hors d'œuvre I'd grabbed and Aline pulled me toward the open area in front of the musical duo. They were playing something vaguely Spanish and thrilling, but it was okay for slow dancing.
"Dance with me," she said and molded her body next to mine. She was as tall as me and rested her chin and neck on the side of my face. I had never been any great shakes as a dancer, but I was able to move her and myself around the floor without stepping on her toes. I could feel what I knew were nipples popping up and rubbing in circular patterns against my chest.
For the first time in months I felt stirrings and my pants began to get tight in an area that wasn't usually affected. I felt again like a 7th grader getting a hard-on at a school dance, terrified to step away from the girl I held because my condition would be obvious, but also petrified that my condition was so obvious I'd rub it all over my partner and she'd slap my face or run screaming.
She whispered into my ear, "It's alright. I'd be a little insulted if I had no effect on you."
I kept my mouth shut and concentrated on abstruse mathematical problems.