PORT OF CALL
by K. Stoley
<small>Constructive criticism and chats welcomed by firstname.lastname@example.org.
The minutes seemed to drag on into hours as Alyssa waited to be called for her interview. She was taking a step out of her ordinary life and trying to get a position with a cruise line. Adventure and sailing the high seas for living was the ticket for her. No more working in the dull, dusty library of a small town where each day blended into the next. She was beginning to feel like one of the old worn out books that she watched being reshelved every day. Her job was the total sum of the Accounting Department, which basically meant that she was in charge of all accounts payable and receivable from overdue book fines to the purchase of new books. Each day she arrived at the library at dawn and didn't leave until dusk, putting in long hours as part of her duties. She was beginning to feel like one of the children of the night and her pale skin reflected this lack of sunlight. Her family consisted of her mother and father and two brothers, both of which worked construction alongside their father. Her mother remained a housewife, because that is what her father wanted. Alyssa had lived in this town for all of her 28 years and, although she was attractive, she never seemed to date anyone for very long. Her brothers told her that she was looking for Mr. Perfect and would never find anyone. Her mother's response was that she didn't have to settle for less either. Her mother had always been her source of encouragement and had made sure that she had gone to the community college to get her degree. She was happy with her life, but she didn't want her daughter to have to settle if it wasn't what she wanted to do with her life. Alyssa wasn't sure what she wanted to do, she just knew that working in the library wasn't it. So, when the Recruitment Fair came to the local community college, Alyssa was one of the first in line to get in. She walked along the booths that had been set up for various local and national recruiting organizations until she came to the Holiday Cruise Line booth. There as big as life, was a poster of the deck of a ship with a group of people standing in their starched white uniforms, tanned and smiling encouraging her to join them in their fun. Alyssa walked directly toward the table and began to leaf through the brochures, before she knew it, a week later she was sitting in their offices in Miami waiting for her final interview before receiving her assignment. She had flown in this morning and had been met and taken directly to her hotel to register before being bussed to the Cruise Line's offices. She had never been to Miami, let alone Florida and couldn't wait to get out and see the sights.
The door opened and Alyssa looked up as a tall dark-haired woman walked in. She had the most striking blue eyes that Alyssa had ever seen. The woman walked with an assured grace, comfortable in her tall body and with life in general. Her white shorts and pale blue polo shirt contrasted well against her firm tanned skin. Alyssa watched in awe as she strolled over to the counter and leaned against it waiting for the woman behind it to look up.
"Hey, Kelsey! It's been too long, welcome back! You ready for another tour at sea?" The receptionist looked up with unveiled interest. "We've missed you!" "Kelsey?"
Kelsey looked around at all applicants that were waiting and thought, 'I'll just bet you have'. Her attention was caught by a blonde in the corner who, to her embarrassment, was looking straight at her with a look all to familiar to Kelsey. She looked like a deer caught in the headlights, a 'newbie', scared to death and looking for adventure on the high seas. Unfortunately, what she would find is a lot of long hours and hard work for very little thanks. But, the pay was good and Kelsey loved the open air and the smell of the sea so she kept coming back each season. Hearing her name called again, Kelsey turned back toward the receptionist.
"Yes sorry, umm thanks Sandy…I guess I'm ready to head back out. The break never seems long enough though, does it?" Kelsey smiled down at the receptionist trying to be polite. She had continually rebuffed the woman's advances, but that didn't stop her from always trying. Kelsey wasn't interested in getting involved with anyone right now, at least not Sandy.
"No, I guess it doesn't, but at least you aren't stuck behind this desk all the time." Sandy pulled out a packet and handed it to Kelsey. "Here is your room and duty assignments. Ship Orientation is tomorrow at 10 AM in the ODR (officers dining room), you are expected to board at 8 AM and get settled before the meeting." Kelsey nodded her understanding, nothing new just the usual routine.
Sandy laid the packet on the top of the counter but didn't let it go when Kelsey tugged on it. Kelsey looked up questioningly into the hazel eyes and instantly knew what was coming. "If you aren't doing anything tonight, maybe we can get dinner and catch a movie before you ship out?"
Kelsey plastered a look of regret on her face and shook her head, "Oh, I'm sorry. I've made plans to spend the evening with my aunt."
Sandy didn't seem pleased as her eyes narrowed when she remarked. "I didn't know you had any family, you folder lists your parents as deceased."
"Yes, they are. My aunt is my only living relative and is listed as my next of kin for emergency purposes." Kelsey replied trying hard to keep her solicitous look on her face. One of these days she was going to tell the woman off and be finished with her constant fishing expeditions, but she didn't want to jeopardize her assignments either. She knew that Sandy had pull when it came to the assignment of rooms and duties. Kelsey had tried every other way to let Sandy know that she just wasn't interested in her. It wasn't because she was a woman, because Kelsey was a lover of all things female, just not this one.
"Maybe when you get back then." Sandy murmured and let go of the packet and Kelsey whisked it quickly away before turning and waving good-bye on her way out. 'Whew! Another reprieve!'
Alyssa watched the interaction between the women and for some reason was happy when the tall one turned down the receptionist. She hadn't been real thrilled with the way the redhead had eyed her when she first came in, too pushy for Alyssa's taste. Alyssa had never dated a woman before, but the idea was far from foreign to her. There were few opportunities in her town, which was one of the reasons why she never had a date. Alyssa grinned thinking, 'If her brothers only knew!' Caught in her daydream, she didn't hear her name called the first time. The second time, she looked up and the receptionist was looking at her impatiently as she called her name again.
"Oh, I'm sorry, that's me." Alyssa quickly rose and went toward the counter. Sandy looked at her curiously before shaking her head and giving her directions on where to go for her interview. Nodding in understanding Alyssa finally thanked her and went down the hallway the woman had indicated.
"12-B, this must be the room." Alyssa mumbled to herself and smoothed out her shirt before knocking on the door and waiting for a response. She heard a muffled voice call “come” from behind the door and she turned the knob to open the door and enter. The room turned out to be a small conference room consisting of a table with a couple of chairs around it. Seated on the other side of the table was a man in an officer's uniform of the cruise line. He quickly stood smiling and looked down at the packet and then back at her and said, "You must be Alyssa…"
"Yes, I am." Alyssa walked up to the table and stopped.
The officer held his hand out for a handshake and introduced himself. "Great, I'm Mark, Chief Purser. Welcome to Holiday Cruise Lines. Please, have a seat."
He waited until Alyssa was comfortably seated before beginning. "May I call you Alyssa? We run a pretty informal ship in the Pursers office."
Alyssa nodded and replied, "Yes, Please do."
"Great! I'm not sure how much they have told you, but should you accept this assignment you will be attached to the Pursers Office. With your background, we can certainly use you." Mark replied opening up the manila envelope with her name on it.
"So far all I've been told are the basics about employment, salary, benefits, etc. They told me I would learn about the job assignment itself at this interview." Alyssa leaned forward on the desk excited with the knowledge that she actually had the job if she wanted it. At the last interview, they had left her to believe that nothing was final until she received an actual assignment, and this was it!
"Well, then let me tell you about your assignment then." Mark answered happily and began to turn the papers in Alyssa's direction so that she could follow along. "Your assignment, as I stated before, is with the Pursers Office. Your duties will include manning the Pursers Desk in the main atrium. Most of your role will be to act as a cashier of sorts, cashing checks, exchanging currency and things of this nature. You will rotate with three other Officers on a set schedule. We are all a pretty friendly group and I don't mind any switching of schedules between officers as long as it is noted on the rooster ahead of time. Other than that, at the end of each shift, the officer is expected to total out their transactions for the day and log them in the computer system. This will ensure that we have ample funds and various currencies available for the passengers. Most of which is kept in a safe and either myself or the Assistant Chief Purser, Monica, have access to and in rare emergencies, the captain. But, we don't like to trouble him with the day to day running of our office." Mark sat back smiling and waited for everything to sink in before continuing, "So, do you have any questions?"
Alyssa thought for a moment before answering. It didn't sound like that difficult of a job to her and actually it might be fun to actually talk to the various passengers. In the library, she never got to talk to anyone. "Well, the job sounds good. You've seemed to explain it fully."
"So, think you might be interested in joining us this season?" Mark waited for her response before going into the rest of the details of uniforms and rules.
"Oh yes! I think I'd like that very much!" Alyssa was so happy that her smile must have stretched from ear to ear. She was going to sea!
"Terrific!" Mark rubbed his hands together in excitement for the young woman. She seemed to be an easily likeable person and would have no problem fitting in with his staff. "Okay, next let me tell you about your uniform, room assignment and the rest."
Mark pulled out more papers from the envelope and went over them with Alyssa. Since this was her first season with the Cruise lines she had been assigned to room with an experienced officer who could show her the ropes. Alyssa had been assigned to bunk with the Assistant Sports Director for the duration of this cruise. It was the Cruise line's policy to mix their officers from the various departments so that everyone could get acquainted and also get to know how other parts of the ship operated. Mark signed her slip for her uniforms and after welcoming her again, sent her along on the next phase of her employee orientation.
By late afternoon, all arrangements for uniforms and essentials, medical releases and paperwork had been filed and taken care of, and Alyssa was free until she was to report to the ship at 8 AM the next morning. Exhausted but exhilarated, Alyssa headed to her hotel room to call home and change. She wanted to get something to eat and check out the sights before it got too late. The call home was the hardest thing she would have to do. It was for sure now, that she would be gone for at least 12 months on this duty assignment. She wouldn't be able to see her family unless they booked passage aboard her assigned ship. She could call and write, but that was about all the she would have time to do. There were no side trips unless for an emergency.
Hanging up the telephone, Alyssa realized that the only person she would miss would be her mother, but she promised to call and write as often as possible. She could hear the catch in her mother's throat as they said good-bye and the enthusiasm of an hour ago dimmed as Alyssa thought seriously about the task she was undertaking. The job itself was a 'no-brainer' as far as Alyssa was concerned, but what about the hours in between her duty schedule. She knew no one on this job and had never been one to make friends quickly, and she would be far away from everyone she had ever known.
The doubt and fears began to creep in causing Alyssa to second guess her decision. But, before she let these fears take root, she decided to get out of the hotel room and take a walk over to the shops at Bay Shore. She bought a couple of trinkets to send back home and ended up sitting down by the water to decide where she wanted to eat. Deep in thought she didn't realize anything was wrong until she felt her purse being ripped from her shoulder. She held on as hard as she could to the one strap, but it broke and the assailant began to run between the tables of diners at the outdoor café and suddenly found himself sprawled out on the pavement. Rising from one of the tables was the tall woman from the Cruise lines. She bent over and retrieved Alyssa's purse and the man scrambled to get away from the growing crowd.
Kelsey had seen the whole thing coming and got lucky when the man ran in her direction. She just stuck her leg out at the last minute sending the thief flying threw the air. She leaned down and picked up the purse as he ran away. She had no intentions of following him or getting involved as she was shipping out the next morning and didn't need anything to get in the way. Holding the purse she looked over at the startled blonde and blew out a breath as she walked over toward her thinking, 'She had better start getting a grip on life before she finds herself in trouble or worse.'
"I think this is yours." Kelsey stated matter of fact and held out the purse by its broken strap. Close up she saw that she was average height, blonde and kind of cute, but when she looked up into the brilliant green eyes, they caused her to take a second look and then a third.
"Thank you. I never saw him coming." Alyssa gushed as the women stood looking at her so intently. She could feel the flush running up her cheeks at the close scrutiny. "Umm, my name is Alyssa."
Kelsey hadn't heard a word the woman was saying and didn't realize that she was even talking until she saw her expression change to that of embarrassment. 'Damn Kelsey! Pay attention yourself!' Kelsey scowled thinking.
"You need to pay attention around here or you are going to get hurt." Kelsey's voice sounded more curt than she had intended it to, but she had been caught off guard and was angry with herself.
"I'm sorry." Alyssa quickly replied to the woman. She hadn't even acknowledged the pleasantries of an introduction and Alyssa was taken back at the brusque behavior.
"Okay, but be more careful and less sorry." Kelsey answered and turned to walk away. She didn't know why she was being so obnoxious right now and decided to take her moody self away before said anything more.
"Your welcome!" Alyssa murmured tersely under her breath as she watched the raven-haired woman walk away. "I'm glad to meet you too."
Kelsey's back stiffed as she heard the woman's comments, it was a pain to have such good hearing sometimes. Now, she felt like a bitch for acting the way she had to the woman. Feeling guilty, Kelsey turned at the first row of stores and decided to keep an eye on the woman to make sure there were no repeat performances tonight, at least that is what she told herself she was doing. She watched the blonde intently as she got up and went over to the nearby café and was seated at one of the tables. Kelsey waited long enough to watch the blonde order her dinner and then left to pick up a few things. She figured the blonde was safe for the moment as she waked away thinking, 'What did she say her name was? Oh yeah, Alyssa. Hmm, nice enough name.' Kelsey walked down to the drugstore to stock up on some of the items she would need for the time being.
Alyssa looked at her purse strap and knew that it was irreparable and shrugged. She really didn't think she would need a purse for awhile anyway. Staring out over the ocean she remembered the conversation between the woman and the receptionist and the remark about having dinner with her aunt. "Guess we know that wasn’t true." Alyssa couldn't help but wonder about the dark haired stranger and if she possibly worked on board ship too. Her musings were interrupted by the arrival of her dinner and she concentrating on eating it. She hated to eat alone and ate quickly and while she waited for her bill, she decided she had enough excitement for one night. Staring out over the water and the evening sky, she decided to just go back to the hotel to get some sleep.
Kelsey returned to her lookout spot and was slightly relieved to see that Alyssa was still there. She watched the young woman for a few moments and noticed the sadness in her face as she sat alone. Kelsey was no stranger to that look, it was one that stared back at her every time she looked into a mirror. 'Maybe she doesn't have anyone either' Kelsey quickly shook off these remorse thoughts, 'Hey, it's not the end of the world!'
Alyssa made her way back past the shops toward her hotel. She was glad that they had put her up so close to everything so that she wasn't stuck in her hotel the entire time. Even with her little purse mishap, she was happy that she had a chance to look around a bit before she sailed in the morning. 'I'm sailing in the morning!' She kept chanting to herself with one huge smile on her face. So wrapped up in her own little world again, Alyssa never realized that she was being followed again as she entered the hotel lobby and took the elevator up to her floor.
Kelsey followed at a discrete distance and smiled when she realized they were staying at the same hotel. 'Good, I won't have to go out of my way playing Good Samaritan. I'm just walking back to my hotel.' She told herself as she followed the blonde into the lobby and waited for the next elevator to take her up to her own floor.
Kelsey was up at the crack of dawn, packed and ready to get onboard and get settled. She knew the ship orientation by heart, but it was mandatory for all officers to attend. 'Yipee!' she thought glumly and headed down to the lobby to find a newspaper and a cup of coffee to kill some time.
Alyssa heard music playing in the background and rolled over and fell back asleep. It wasn't until the phone rang that she jumped up awake, it was her wake up call from the front desk. She had used it as a backup in case she failed to wake up to the alarm in the room. She quickly hung up the phone and ran for the shower, grateful that she had the presence of mind to call the desk or she would still be sleeping as the ship pulled out of the harbor. Getting up early had never been a favorite past time for Alyssa, who liked to sleep as late as possible in the mornings. But, she knew that those days were long gone with this new job. She would be on a rotating schedule of shifts. The Purser's Desk was to be manned from 5 am to 9 PM every day, seven days a week. Being new woman on the totem pole, so to speak, she had a feeling she would be pulling a lot of early morning shifts.
Alyssa caught the second employee bus pickup to the cruise ship and stumbled on board with the rest of the arriving crew. All her things had been previously sent to the ship except for her overnight bag, which she carried. As she waited on the dock to board the ship she rummaged through her bag for her ID. Each ID listed, beneath their photo, their name, rank and country of citizenship. 'Photo ID must be worn by all employees at all times, and must be carried on their person even off duty.' Her mind quoting what she had read from the Employee Handbook. Placing the chain around her neck, the ID badge hung to almost her waist. Frowning, she let it go. Enough time later to worry about the small stuff. When it was her turn to board, she showed her ID and her paperwork and was directed toward her cabin. She had never been on a cruise ship before and she could feel the excitement building as she walked down the passageway looking for her cabin number. She knew that officers received better quarters than other employees, but usually cabins that the paying customer wouldn't want. Either they were too small, or too out of the way. Alyssa was surprised to find that she had to go up two decks to find her cabin. She didn't think that the crew were actually bunked above the level she was currently on and hoped that it wasn't a mistake. Now, was not the time to be running around trying to find her cabin, orientation was in 30 min. and she had wanted to be early to make sure she got a good seat. She hadn't realized how long it would take to go through the boarding process or that there were this many employees on a cruise ship. This was a whole new world for Alyssa and she was constantly amazed at what she didn't know.
Kelsey made her way forward on the Promenade Deck and was happy to see that she had gotten one of the better officer cabins. She wondered if she had Sandy to thank for this and if she shouldn't give in and go to dinner her just once. Cringing at the thought, she figured she would just enjoy her good fortune while it lasted and take the bad with the good later. Entering the cabin, Kelsey chose the bed farthest away from the door, remember past nightmares with roommates that came in all hours of the night, usually drunk and falling on the nearest bed, hers. She would not only be jarred awake, but she would have to get up and put her roommates to bed, before getting back in her own and trying to fall back asleep while they snored in their liquor induced comas. Nope, this time she was taking the rack by the window and going to get some sleep at night! Their gear was all sitting outside the door and she went and pulled her familiar duffel bags into the room and began the task of unpacking. She wondered who her roommate would be this year and hoped it wasn't some starry-eyed newbie that thought every night was made for a new conquest. The only rule that Kelsey loved about the Cruise line was that no opposite sexes were allowed in employee's cabins. Kelsey smiled glad that she wouldn't have to put up with the new recruits bringing home a new man every night. Only with one roommate had Kelsey closed her eyes to the infraction and allowed her to bring a man to the cabin. It was one of the few friends' that Kelsey had ever made on her voyages. Carol and her husband were fresh out of college and both were working the season to save money to get their own home. Carol and Kelsey had set up a schedule where three nights a week Kelsey wouldn't come back to the room until midnight. On those nights, Kelsey spent a lot of time hanging out in the employee lounge and other creative places while she waited until she could get back into their room. Her favorite place was on a deck chair in the front of the ship where no one usually went. She could look up at the stars as the evening breezes washed over her body. It was the nearest she ever came to feeling at peace in her entire life. With the billions of stars above her and the gentle caress of the wind, she felt she wasn't alone. Kelsey had many relationships in her lifetime, but none had ever made her feel that way, which is probably why she had given up searching for someone to complete her world. Now at 33, she just did what she had to, to live and left the foolish ideas of romance to the youth. Kelsey felt a presence at the door and turned, to face her new roommate, a quick spark tingled her heart and startled her, instantly jolting her out of her reverie. This sudden uncertainty allowed her to shut down all emotions and inwardly she groaned, "Oh great! Babysitting detail!'
Alyssa stood looking from the paper in her hand to the number of the door and then back to the tall raven-haired woman that stood in her cabin. 'No, please tell me this isn't happening! Tell me, that I'm not going to spend the next year of my life with 'happy' here!' The two women stood looking at each other with neither one making the first attempt to break the silence. Finally, Ayssa cleared her throat and asked, "Promenade B4?"
"I think this is my cabin." Alyssa replied uncertainly, afraid to enter the room and not sure of what to do otherwise.
Kelsey's patience did not seem to be at it's best today and her reply was anything but cordial. "Are those your bags in the corridor?"
Alyssa looked down at her things next to the door and nodded without speaking.
"Well, then I guess you’re in the right place." Kelsey replied flippantly and finished her packing. She silently kicked herself for her behavior and didn't look at the blonde as she struggled to pull her things into the room and stood looking around unsure of herself.
Kelsey turned to face the woman and maintained her composure to calmly instruct her new roommate. "That bed is yours and this dresser and the closet on the right behind you. You need to hurry and unpack as ship orientation is in 20 minutes in the ODR." Not waiting for a response from the blonde, Kelsey walked past her and out the door and headed down to the briefing, wondering what it was about the woman that made her act so stupidly.
Alyssa sat down on the edge of her assigned bed and felt a rise of panic well up in her. Taking a deep breath, she got herself under control and let her anger take over. Getting up she yanked her suitcase up on the bed and began to pull out her things and shove them into drawers. Opening up the closet, she noticed her new uniforms and placed the few other dressy items that she had brought next to them on the hangers. Finished, she shoved her suitcases under her bed and looked at her watch. She had 5 minutes to get to the Officer's Dining Room for orientation. Hesitating at her dress, she remembered that her roommate hadn't changed into her uniform either and grabbed what she assumed was her cabin key off the dress and went in search of where she needed to be. She finally found a stream of people heading in one direction and tagged along, hoping they knew where they were going. Arriving at the orientation, Alyssa took a seat in the back next to a group of women who seemed friendly enough and introduced themselves. They were all from one department and worked the various lounges. Alyssa was glad that she seemed to find some friendly faces and possible future friends and looked around the room to find her roommate sitting up near the front talking to a group of people who all looked as equally tanned and fit as she did. She began to wonder what exactly their assignments were.
"Hmmm…honey, don't even bother there, nothing but ice." Alyssa turned to face the accented voice that she heard next to her. The woman's badge said that her name was Karen and she was from England.
Karen pointed toward Alyssa's roommate. "Kelsey. Yeah, she is gorgeous, but a dead end for sure. Now Terri, the brunette next to her, she is really a nice yank!" Karen winked and smiled at Alyssa.
Flushed and embarrassed Alyssa stammered, "No, you don't understand….she's my roommate."
Alyssa nodded to the woman. "You are one lucky yank!" Karen patted her on the arm proudly and turned to tell the group of her new discovery. All the women laughing and congratulating Alyssa, which made her feel very uncomfortable. She wasn't sure what she had expected, but certainly not this, she had expected there to be some gay women on the cruise, but not everyone she met! 'This is too funny!' Alyssa thought smiling and looked back over at Kelsey and saw that she was looking directly at her with a very unhappy look on her face. Alyssa quickly lost the smile and looked away as the speaker approached the microphone. The entire orientation was spent with Alyssa trying to pay attention and not look over at her new roommate. She wasn't being very successful, but on more than one occasion, she found those blue eyes looking right back at her.
After the orientation, lunch was served and the women began to talk about the opening of the season party that evening in the crew's lounge. It was B.Y.O.B and most of the women had planned ahead and brought alcohol on board with them. Alyssa had never thought about that when she packed as she had never been much of a drinker. The woman assured her that there would be plenty to go around and that she should just show up. After lunch, the crew was released to meetings in their various departments. Alyssa parted ways with her new friends with a promise to show up at the party later that evening and headed toward the Purser's office. Kelsey watched as the women watched Alyssa walk away from their group and the whispering that went on among the little gang. 'Damn, of all the groups to attach herself to…she goes out of her way an picks the worst! Lord knows what they've already told her.' Kelsey shoved her papers in her portfolio and headed toward the equipment room with her team. There were still schedules to decide upon and events to plan, she knew that she had a full afternoon ahead of her. She wouldn't be able to talk to Alyssa and warn her until later that evening. 'Let's just hope she doesn't have a problem with it, cabin switching at this late date would cause a world of trouble for both of them.'
Alyssa actually enjoyed the afternoon she spent with the other officers in her team. She got a copy of her schedule, which didn't look too bad, but as she has thought, she had a lot of early morning shifts. From what she had learned, being an officer had it's advantages. Their days were markedly shorter than the average crewmember. An average crewmember worked anywhere from 12 to 16 hours a day, where an officer only worked 10 to 12, with one day a week off to go ashore. She found that some crew members never went ashore due to their visa status, but being an American with a passport, meant she could get off at any of the stops along the way. Alyssa had dinner with her co-workers before heading back toward her cabin to change for the party. She was looking forward to spending some time making some friends to go ashore sightseeing with. Alyssa hadn't seen her roommate since the orientation and when she entered the empty cabin, she assumed Kelsey was still with her teammates. Quickly, showering and changing into Khaki shorts and a black tank top, Alyssa dabbed on some perfume for good measure and headed toward the Crew's lounge.
It had been a long exhausting day for Kelsey and she wanted nothing more than to relax and get things organized for tomorrow's passengers. Her days of idle relaxing were over now that her tour had started. As Assistant Sports Director it was her duty to see that every schedule and activity was planned and manned throughout the entire cruise. The first cruise was usually the hardest, getting everyone adjusted and then after that they pretty much followed the same pattern for each cruise. She had a good crew working with her this season and things should run pretty smoothly once all the bugs were ironed out, which is what they had been trying to do this afternoon and evening. It was later than Kelsey had thought and she hurried toward the cabin hoping at best to find Alyssa sound asleep, but at worst wide awake and ready wanting to talk. As soon as Kelsey entered the cabin and got one whiff of the air, she knew the worst would have been preferable to what was probably happening. Throwing her things on her bed, she headed back out the cabin door toward the party. Kelsey looked down at her watch, it was already 11:30 PM and the party had been in full swing since about 9:30 PM. "Damn!" Cursing under her breath, Kelsey hurried toward the Crew's Lounge. Knowing the party of women in question, it was anyone's guess as to what had already transpired this evening. She just hoped that her fears were unfounded and that Alyssa was actually more intune then she gave her credit.
Kelsey entered the smoky lounge to loud music and a packed room of partygoers having a good time. Kelsey relaxed until she heard a roar of cheers over the din of the room and looked toward the corner. On a table in the back stood a very drunk Alyssa trying to sway seductively to the music as a group of men and women circled the table cheering her on to take her clothes off and handing her drinks to keep her primed. Alyssa looked completely out of touch with what was going on and was just following the crowds lead as to what to do next. Kelsey took a deep breath and let it out slowly before she made her way through the crowded room. 'This isn't going to be fun.'
Kelsey took a deep breath and made her way through the crowded room of partygoers and slid in between the revelers that surrounded the table Alyssa stood atop. 'Here goes nothing!'
"Well roomie, I think you've had enough excitement for one night." The tall raven-haired woman reached a hand up to help Alyssa down off the table, but her arm was jerked around stopping her. Spinning around quickly, Kelsey faced a blonde-haired man and the look on her face gave him reason to think twice about what he was doing.
"Hey, no harm mate. We was just having a spot of fun with the 'newbie'. He raised his hands in a mock surrender and backed off. Kelsey looked at the group around the table before resting her eyes on one of the women that she knew was behind this. "I think this 'newbie' has had enough. I don't want any trouble, I just came to collect my roommate."
"Maybe she isn't ready to go, isn't that right love?" Karen reached up to hand Alyssa another drink and looked back at Kelsey challengingly. Kelsey shook her head slowly and looked up at the blonde to see if what Karen said could possibly be true. Alyssa's expression was one of confusion as she first looked toward Karen and then at Kelsey. The full affect of the alcohol was finally beginning to hit her. Kelsey watched as the confusion turn to fear and then something else that triggered a response in her. Kelsey quickly pushed the drink away from the blonde and reaching up again, she pulled Alyssa down off the table and over her shoulder firemen style. Turning, she roughly pushed her way through the crowd, her stride and demeanor dared anyone to stop her. Even carrying the weight this way, was a struggle for the strong woman, but she kept moving until the fresh air hit her in the face and she began to hear Alyssa moaning. Quickly setting Alyssa on her feet, she followed the blonde as she ran for the rail, and almost climbing over it in her attempt to litter the high seas. Kelsey held on to Alyssa so that she wouldn't fall overboard and waited until the woman could stand on her own on the deck.
"Feeling better?" Kelsey asked sarcastically, keeping her arm around the woman's waist to steady her.
"Just peachy!" Alyssa responded snidely to Kelsey's tone of voice wiping her mouth with the back of her hand.
"Good, because you are going to feel a lot worse come morning." Kelsey replied dryly and began leading the blonde back toward their cabin.
Alyssa didn't feel like commenting on Kelsey's humor and stumbled along until they reached the cabin where she quickly threw herself down on her bed.
"I wouldn't do….." Kelsey called out to the prone woman. Alyssa lay still for only a few moments before jumping up and running to the bathroom.
"…that." Kelsey shook her head and began to get changed for bed. After about twenty minutes and no sign of Alyssa, she went into the bathroom to find the woman sitting on the floor sound asleep with her head resting against the vanity.
Leaning down, she lightly shook Alyssa and grasped her by her arms in an effort to pull her to her feet. "Come on, time to get into bed."
"No, this is good!" Alyssa slurred sleepily. "I like it here."
"Come on...I promise you will like it better in bed." Kelsey replied and tugged the woman to stand and steadied her by grabbing on to her belt in back, and began directing Alyssa back toward the bedroom.
"Oh yeah…I will?"
"Yes, I promise." Kelsey replied as she fought to maneuver the tottering woman through the narrow bathroom door without sending both of them down onto the floor in a heap.
"With you?" The garbled response caused Kelsey to stumble and almost drop the young woman. She stopped dead in her tracks and she looked down at Alyssa, whose eyes were still closed in a dreamy haze of alcohol induced sleep. Kelsey knew that if Alyssa actually knew what she was saying she would definitely be embarrassed. Thinking about it, a mischievous smile crossed her lips and she figured paybacks were in order.
"Is that what you would like?"
"Will you be nicer to me or mean like you have been?" Alyssa's voice was raspy and slurred, but her words cut through to Kelsey's heart. She hadn't really been very nice to the woman and it wasn't entirely Alyssa's fault. She didn't understand why she touched off this spark of anger either.
"Yes, I will." Kelsey murmured without realizing she was actually speaking the words out loud.
"Good…then oh yes, that's exactly what I want!" Alyssa's voice sang out loudly as she tried to propel herself toward the bed and only succeeded in stumbling and almost falling. Kelsey grabbed her and held her tightly against her as she tried to get Alyssa to the bed without dropping her. Kelsey was beginning to feel guilty about the conversation and decided to stop it right here. Finally, getting her positioned next to the bed, Kelsey let Alyssa fall backward onto the bed.
"Well, why don't you get some sleep and ask me again tomorrow." Kelsey removed the woman's shoes and lifted her legs onto the bed.
"Chicken!" Alyssa giggled and was sound asleep before Kelsey pull the covers over her.
"You got that right!" Kelsey murmured and turned to get into her own bed. Sleep did not come as easily for Kelsey as she lay listening to the light snoring of her roommate. Finally, her mind was so exhausted from tormenting itself that she fell into asleep to the rhythm of Alyssa's heavy breathing.
Alyssa was rudely awaken to the sound of two short, but very loud, blasts of the ship’s horn and sat up quickly. Instantly regretting this action, she fell backwards on to the bed with a thud. "Oh….My….God!" she moaned.
"Good morning Ms. Party Animal!" Kelsey's voice sang out wryly. "And how are we feeling today."
"Just shoot me now!" Alyssa's voice was a thick plea from beneath the pillow she had pulled over her face to block out the world. Her head was playing a tune that only her stomach seemed to understand and she wished they would both just be quiet this morning.
Kelsey leaned down and lifted the pillow slightly watching Alyssa's eyelids clench tighter as the sunlight hit them. "Unh-uh, that nice little horn you just heard was the warning that the passengers will be boarding in an hour. You have approximately 30 minutes to get to your duty station. So, I 'd get hopping into the shower if I were you." Kelsey let the pillow unceremoniously drop back down and turned to tie her shoelace. Alyssa had a clear view of a long tanned leg attached to the foot that rested on the other bed. Following the long leg upward, she noticed that her roommate was dressed in what must be her working uniform of navy shorts and a white polo shirt with the cruise line emblem on it.
Alyssa moaned more at where her mind seemed to be wandering than at the banging that was going on in her head. Slowly she sat up contemplating her distress. Kelsey pick up her agenda and notebook and turned toward the noise, she wondered if maybe the woman wasn't going to be able to handle the after effects of last night after all.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"Just ducky! I think I need a cold shower!" Alyssa replied trying to smile to offset the sharpness of her words. Her stomach was doing a fast dance in time to the pounding in her head and the flush that accompanied her new thoughts was not helping the situation.
"I wouldn't take a cold one…unless you love shocking your system to death. I usually reserve that pleasure for the coffee they serve in the ODR." Kelsey chuckled and turned toward the door to leave. Alyssa would be okay, definitely hurting, but the wiser for her misery.
Alyssa sat on the edge of the bed with her head bowed wishing Kelsey would hurry up and leave so that she could be sick with a modicum of dignity, but if the woman didn't hurry, this was not going to be the case.
"Good luck today!" Kelsey called out as she opened the door and closed it softly. Chuckling at the sight of her roommate, she made her way down the hall toward the Officer's Dining Room.
The door slammed loudly and Alyssa was up and running to the bathroom to make good on her prediction. 'Oh, God and they call this fun! I think I can do without all this excitement in my life!' After a few minutes of rest, she rose to her feet shaky, she turned the water on and stripped for her shower. Alyssa let the warm water run down her body until she felt reasonably human and finished her shower. Dressed and ready for duty, she looked in the mirror and marveled at how the uniform made her look more mature and confident. 'Amazing what a uniform will do for your morale!'
Alyssa spent the majority of the morning working alongside the Chief Purser until it was time for the Passenger Orientation in the Lido Lounge. She sat with her group to the side of the stage and noticed Kelsey sitting on the other side of the podium talking with a striking blonde. She briefly wondered who the woman was, but was soon distracted by the audience that filled the room. The passengers were excited and impatiently waiting to get this mandatory orientation to be over so that they could start their vacations. There were only two mandatory meetings for the passengers, this one and the lifeboat drill, which would happen later that day. The room soon hushed as the Cruise Director took the stage and introduced himself. He did his usual welcoming bit and then began introducing his staff. As the introductions went along, Alyssa soon found out that the striking blonde was the Sports Director and also Kelsey's boss. The woman spoke briefly before introducing Kelsey. As the tall raven-haired woman took the stage, Alyssa noted how beautiful she actually was, as applause and whistling from the audience followed her introduction. She was obviously a favorite with the passengers, many of whom seemed to know her. She waved to a couple of them and took over the microphone, describing the activities available and telling a few anecdotes that had the audience relaxed and enjoying themselves. The woman was obviously suited to her job and Alyssa was amazed at how personable her roommate could be, thinking "yeah, too bad she wasn't more personable to me!'
When it came time for her own introduction, Alyssa just stood and smiled at the audience until she heard a loud wolf-whistle from the back of the room. Embarrassed, she looked to the back and saw Karen standing behind the bar smiling innocently. She looked down at her feet as she felt the heat rise up her face and looked back up to find two very blue and very serious eyes staring at her from across the room. Not liking the feeling she was getting from the look, she returned her focus to the floor for the remainder of the orientation and fretted. 'What did I do? Why did I get that look? I didn't ask Karen to do that! Damn, what's her problem anyway?'
The Orientation was finally complete and Alyssa went back to her duties. She didn't finish until almost 11 PM and gratefully made her way back to the cabin. She hadn't even wanted to think about eating anything but aspirin the entire day. Feeling nauseous and closed in, she felt the need to get some air and took a walk around the deck, but found herself continually stopped by passengers asking if she could help them cash travelers checks at that late hour. Finally, tired of saying no and apologizing, she headed out to the top deck up to the bow of the ship where the winds were the strongest. It was quiet up here as most of the passengers preferred the gentle winds from the sheltered lower decks, but Alyssa like the way the rough breeze whipped her hair back and smelled strongly of the sea. She went as far forward as she could and leaned against the rail looking up at the multitude of stars in the sky. She could hear the slap of water as the ship parted the seas before them. She looked down over the rail to watch as the bow cleanly sliced through the dark waters. For no particular reason she began to think of her mother and felt a bit homesick. She missed being able to tell her mother about all that had been going on and what she was doing. She didn't really miss her brothers or father in the slightest because they represented the oppression that she was trying to escape. Her mother was different. She had always been the one to praise and encourage her in whatever endeavor she chose. Alyssa also know that it was due to her mother's efforts that she had been allowed to do some of the things she had, like college and taking this job. Her father would have rather she just settle down and get married or continued [tjg1]working at the library, but Alyssa had wanted so much more out of life.
"You aren't going to jump already are you?" Alyssa started when she heard the deep voice behind her until she recognized its familiarity and turned to see Kelsey sitting in a deck chair in the shadow of a smokestack.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know anyone was up here. I hope I didn't disturb you." Alyssa hesitated moving as the woman stood and began approaching her. She wasn't sure what personality she would encounter this evening. The woman was so confusing, one moment she was helpful and the next angry with her for some unknown reason. She'd be darned if she could ever figure her out.
"No, I don't own the space, I just come up here to enjoy the view." Kelsey instantly wished she hadn't been so flippant with that remark but, it was said and, she couldn’t take it back. Alyssa fell silent unsure of how to respond to the woman and just kept looking out over the star filled night.
"See that? That's the North Star, it's the brightest one, so sailors use it to navigate by." Kelsey wasn't sure why she was giving the blonde an astrology lesson, but just felt the need to slow down and break the ice.
"Then what about that one, it's just as bright?" Alyssa pointed to another light in the sky and heard a soft chuckle from next to her.
"That's a plane. If you watch it long enough, you will see that it moves."
Alyssa strained to watch it and sure enough, it moved. "Wow! I never realized you could see planes way out here."
'You'd be surprised what you can see on a clear night."
The two women fell silent again, Alyssa trying to think of something to say that didn't sound stupid and Kelsey debating how she should approach the issue of Karen and her little buddies. Finally, Kelsey just took the bull by the horns and started talking frankly.
"I need to tell you something and as your senior officer, its kind of my job to do it. This is your first cruise and well, things aren't always the way they seem. We are all thrown together for a long time, in close quarters, and it's easy to misconstrue feelings and friendships. I think you need to be careful with the people you associate with on the ship. They aren't always what they appear to be." Kelsey tried to explain things without really mentioning any names and realized that it wasn't coming out the way she had intended.
Alyssa almost thought that Kelsey had known some of her thoughts earlier that morning, but soon realized she was talking about Karen. At first she felt stunned when she thought Kelsey was talking about her and then when she realized that wasn't the case, she felt the familiar walls of constraint and recrimination that she would get from her family and it rubbed her the wrong way. These all added up to her taking offense to everything and answered her roommate a little too hastily and harshly. "If you mean earlier today, I had no control over that situation. As for my friends and the other night, it wasn't their fault that I didn't watch how much I was drinking. I think I'm old enough to take care of myself right now and I take full responsibility for what happened. Does being senior officer give you the right to tell me who can and can't be my friends?" Alyssa bit her tongue on the last barb and couldn't believe she had actually said it. But, when she let her fear and anger take control of her brain it had always spelled disaster for her and this time was no exception.
Kelsey's eyes narrowed at the backlash she was receiving after trying to help Alyssa. "As your senior officer it is my duty to help you become adjusted to life aboard this ship and to show you the ropes. I have neither the time, nor desire to play nursemaid to anyone. And just for the record, it is frowned upon for junior officers to socialize with crewmembers during duty hours. What you do on your own time or between cruises is no concern of mine. As far as I'm concerned this conversation is over and my job where you are concerned is done. You are on your own, I hope you enjoy the company!" Kelsey let everything go and even said more than she had realized she was thinking. Taking a step back she almost apologized, but instead, turned on her heels and walked away.
Alyssa stood stunned watching the tall woman walk away from her. She wasn't sure where that all came from, but she knew that most of it she deserved. The last barb had hit home and it made her feel more alone than she had felt in a long while. She stood looking out over the rail for a long while contemplating what to do and kicking herself for being such a jerk. Now, she had a roommate who hated her. 'Why didn't she just keep her mouth shut and let things go!' Because she was tired of always giving in and letting everyone else have control. She needed to make a stand, but she didn't need to stand on top of the person trying to help her. Shaking her head sadly, she made her way to the cabin and was relieved, but secretly disappointed, to find Kelsey had not returned to the cabin. Tired, she stripped and climbed into bed falling instantly to sleep. She slept so deeply that she didn't hear Kelsey come in an hour later. Kelsey had purposely gone to her office and stewed over the events of the evening. She could have handled the situation better, but somehow, the blonde's rebuff had hurt and she had reacted emotionally instead of using her head. But if Alyssa didn't want her help then, Kelsey wouldn't bother her anymore. Slipping into bed she tossed and turned until dawn and finally gave up and took a shower. She was dressed and walking into the Officer's Dining Room as Alyssa's alarm sounded.
Kelsey purposely stayed away from the cabin when she knew that Alyssa would be there, coming in late every evening after the woman was already asleep and leaving the cabin early before she woke up. She had thought, if nothing else, her warning had gotten through when she noticed that Alyssa had steered clear of Karen and her bunch until today, when she saw Karen hand the blonde a note which she read and nodded an affirmative reply. Today was the first Port of Call stop in St. Martaan and Kelsey knew that Alyssa was free in the afternoon to go into town with her friends. Kelsey had a sinking feeling that was exactly what the group had planned. She also knew exactly where they would take Alyssa during her first excursion. There were two sides to the island, the French and the Dutch. She knew the group would head to their usual hangout on the French side where the beaches were a bit more colorful, to say the least.
Finishing her duties, Alyssa hurried back to the cabin to change. She was excited about her first excursion into town. She had never been out of her own state before, let alone to a new country. She was thrilled when Karen had invited her to join them for a beach party. She put her bathing suit on under her shorts and tank top and grabbed her bag with a change of towel and long sleeve shirt, and ran down the corridor toward the launches. Karen, Pam and another woman were waiting for her at the gangway and they boarded the tenders to shore. Climbing toward the back of the launch, Alyssa didn't notice Kelsey until she was seated and the vessel was underway. Kelsey looked briefly at her and then turned away to look out over the water. Alyssa felt a pang of regret, but quickly pushed it down and turned to the group that was already laughing and carrying on.
As expected, Kelsey saw Alyssa board the tender along with Karen and her usual entourage. She tried not to stare, but caught the blonde's eye briefly before looking away. She kept her eyes focused on the shore until they boat docked and they were going ashore. She could see that Alyssa wore her bathing suit under her khaki shorts and white tank top, and it confirmed her suspicion of exactly where the group was headed as they boarded their bus. As much as she hated to, Kelsey turned and boarded the bus heading in the opposite direction. She just hoped that Alyssa knew what she was doing and would be all right. Kelsey spent the two hours going through the shops and having lunch. Finally, bored with her solo excursion, she headed back toward the ship. She went directly to the cabin and showered and changed before going down to her office to check on things. It was dinnertime and growing dark and Alyssa had yet to return to the ship. The last launches left the island at 7 PM and it was 6 PM already. Kelsey made her way to the deck above the launch docking and looked down at the passengers disembarking and noticed Karen and the other two women, but no Alyssa. She scanned the group and wondered if she had missed the blonde earlier. Heading back down to the cabin, she still found it empty with no sign of her roommate.
"She's a big girl and can take care of herself. It is not your responsibility to watch every step she takes. She is probably down in one of the crew cabins thumbing her nose up at regulations!" Kelsey paced the cabin talking to herself and reminding herself to stay uninvolved. "You don't need this kind of trouble. Things are just starting to go smoothly and you don't need to get yourself involved with anyone!"
After a few moments of self-incrimination and berating she spat out, "Bite me!" and went out of the cabin down to the crew's lounge where she found Karen and her crew still partying.
"Excuse me, have you seen Alyssa?" Kelsey stood her whole 5'10" above the group with her hands on her hips and a no bullshit look on her face. Karen looked up and smiled, but somehow the smile didn't look very receptive.
"Well, let's see…." Karen drawled in her English accent while a smattering of nervous giggles could be heard from one of the other women with Pam. "You could say we all saw her!" Karen broke out into laughter at that comment and it set Kelsey's blood boiling. She picked up Karen by the collar and pulled her out of her seat sending the chair flying backwards.
"What did you assholes do to her?" Kelsey's blue eyes were almost black, but Karen was just drunk enough to stupidly see it as a challenge.
"What the hell is it to you…you don't have exclusive rights to her…or do you?" Karen was grinning and looking over at her friend and winked. "Didn't seem so today, did it Pam?"
Before anyone had an idea or thought process to answer the question, Kelsey had Karen up against the wall and was definitely 'in her face'. "I'm going to ask you one more time. Where is Alyssa?"
Karen sobered at the intensity of Kelsey's actions and knew she was playing games with the wrong woman. Her stomach knotted, but she wasn't about to let her friends see her back down to anyone. "How the hell should I know! We were having a party and she split!"
Kelsey tightened her grip on Karen's shirt and looked Pam directly in the eye. "Is that all?" The woman paled visibly and replied, "We didn't see her when it was time to come back to the ship. I don't think she's come back yet."
"Damn!" Kelsey swore under her breath and pushed Karen back against the wall and hurried from the room to the launch area. She was at the gangway when she heard someone calling her name and turned to see Pam running toward her.
"What? I don't have time right now!" Kelsey was angry and was ready to throw someone over the side, it didn't really matter whom at this point.
"Hey, I just want you to know that I tried to stop what was going on, but I was outvoted. We were at the beach sunbathing, you know the nude one…..and everyone was partying and drinking and Karen was trying to get Alyssa drunk again and succeeded in getting her to loosen up enough to go topless. She seemed to be having fun so I didn’t think too much of it and then I went with Kellie to get more beer. When I got back, I could tell that Alyssa was upset, she had put her top back on, but I knew something had happened. Karen acted like nothing was going on, I tried to talk to Alyssa but she wouldn't say anything. We were sitting having another beer when the bus pulled up at the stop and Alyssa just jumped up and grabbed her bag and ran for it. I tried to go after her, but Karen said to let her go and I'm sorry, but I did."
Kelsey watched the woman look away regretfully, but it didn't matter to the tall woman, she was seeing red about that time. "So, you just let her go because Karen told you to? My God woman, don't you have a brain? I don't know what happened, but you can rest assured I'm going to find out and if any of you have done anything to Alyssa….you all had better start growing wings, because someone's leaving this ship without benefit of a ride!" Kelsey turned and walked down the gangway and took a seat. She was only one of two passengers headed back to the island. The crewmembers had been listening to the entire conversation and looked at Kelsey worriedly.
"Let's go!" She barked and they quickly launched the tender back to shore without comment.
Kelsey jumped from the boat before it had even been secured and headed down toward town where the buses unloaded. She wasn't sure where to even start looking when she saw blonde hair walking up the street slowly, her head bend looking down at the sidewalk and not where she was going. Kelsey stopped and waited for the woman to reach her without moving or saying a word. Alyssa almost bumped into Kelsey when she realized someone was in front of her looking up and seeing familiar blue eyes was all it took unhinge the blonde and she pushed the tall woman away crying.
"Well, go ahead! Say it! 'I told you so'!" Alyssa's eyes were red from crying as she spat the words out with a vengeance.
"Hey, I came looking for you because I was worried, not to reprimand you!" Kelsey tried to keep her voice even to calm Alyssa down.
"Well, don't worry! I can take care of myself!" Alyssa moved past Kelsey and began walking down the street, this time with a purpose.
Kelsey turned and in two quick strides had caught up to the woman's shorter legs. "Why are you mad at me…I'm not the one who hurt you!"
Alyssa stopped dead and swung around to face the taller woman, "Who said anyone hurt me? Is that what they said? What did they tell you?"
"Easy!" Kelsey replied and grabbed Alyssa by the arm to stop her. This turned out to be a mistake and Alyssa pulled back quickly whispering through gritted teeth, "Don't touch me!"
"Okay! I won't touch you, but slow down for a moment and talk to me. What the hell happened today?" Kelsey waited for a response from Alyssa, but all the blonde did was turn and begin walking back toward the boats.
"I don't want to talk about it. Nothing happened." Alyssa threw over her shoulder and picked up her pace. Kelsey kept right along side easily and kept pushing the issue. "If nothing happened, why are you so angry and why are you out here alone?"
"What do you need to hear it? Okay, you were right! They weren't nice to me and they aren't my friends, okay! I was just the butt of someone's joke. Does that make you feel any better?" Kelsey could see that there was no reasoning with the woman and just pushed her to board the launch back to town.
"No, it doesn't make me feel better in the least." Kelsey whispered under her breath and sat down opposite Alyssa and didn't say anything more. The ride back was in done in silence and when they re-boarded the cruise ship Kelsey walked Alyssa back to the cabin and then went in search of some answers.
Alyssa was glad when Kelsey left, she wasn't in the mood to relive the afternoon's events. It had been Alyssa's first experience at a nude beach and between the beer and the encouragement from the other woman, she had stripped off her top along with the rest of them. It was a wild but exciting experience for her. She had been careful not to drink as much as she had the other night and was feeling slightly buzzed, but no worse. Pam and Kellie left to get more beer, leaving Karen and herself alone on the beach. They group had settled away from the other bathers and Alyssa had been relieved early with the privacy. It wasn't long before she felt a shadow over her and opened her eyes to see Karen leaning over her. Before she could say anything Karen's lips had descended upon hers and she was trying to deepen the kiss. Alyssa hadn't fought the new sensation until Karen's hand began to pinch and roll her nipple hard. It hurt and when Alyssa tried to push Karen off, Karen increased the intensity of the kiss. Finally, pushing Karen away, she sat up breathlessly and grabbed for her top. Struggling into it, Karen watched laughing and remarked, "Oh my God! You're a virgin! Jeez, what are you doing saving yourself for Kelsey? Well, forget it honey…she ain't interested in your type!"
Alyssa didn't answer, but she could feel her face growing red. Karen continued laughing and when the others had returned she was afraid that Karen would say something and they all would be laughing. As the conversation went on, the tension was building and Alyssa was sure that every time Karen opened her mouth she was about to ridicule her in front of everyone. When Pam asked her if she was alright, she tried to ignore the comment in hopes that Karen hadn't heard it either. Finally, she couldn't take it anymore and when she saw the bus pull up, she just grabbed her things and ran. She didn't care where it was headed as long as it was away from that group. She rode around the island the remainder of the day, crying and berating herself for being so blind and stupid. What she couldn't explain was the fact that, at first, the kiss hadn't bothered her. It wasn't until Karen had added pain to the sensation that she had reacted against it and Karen. By the end of the day, she was tired, confused and headed back toward the cruise ship wondering just what did Karen meant by, "not interested in my type". Was it women, or me in general? It saddened her to think that it would be either. When she had seen Kelsey and knew she had been looking for her, she had exploded and all her fears had come to the surface. She struck first before she allowed anyone else to hurt her again.
Alyssa stepped out of shower and dressed for bed, still relieved that Kelsey hadn't come back. Maybe she just didn't want to be with her right now. Whatever, the reason it didn't matter, Alyssa curled up into her bed and made a promise that she wouldn't get involved with anyone, not even as a friend. She would do her job and stay strictly to herself. She fell asleep thinking, 'it didn't matter what she did or where she went, nothing would ever change for her. There must be something wrong with me.'
Kelsey found Karen, as usual, in the staff lounge with her friends. She noted right off that they were not drinking and were huddled together talking. The room was fairly crowded and noisy, but as soon as Kelsey stepped through the doorway, all conversations quieted and everyone watched her as she walked directly toward Karen. Karen looked up cockily, but Kelsey saw her flinch when she got close and knew that she had her attention. Kelsey calmly sat down at the table with the three women, when Pam attempted to get up and leave, Kelsey leveled her a look and quietly said, "Sit down!" Pam’s response was to drop back down in her seat and look back at the tall women in fear.
Turning her attention back toward Karen, Kelsey moved her chair closer to the woman in an attempt to intimidate her and she could tell by the woman's demeanor that it was working. "Now, that I have your attention, I want to know exactly what happened on the beach today! Don't get smart with me either because I'm in no damn mood right now!"
Karen just looked at Kelsey and didn't respond, but Kelsey could see that she was gearing up for a full-blown battle and wasn't about to be very cooperative. "Who the bloody hell do you think you are strolling in here and demanding anything from me!" Karen's voice was loud enough for the entire room to hear clearly and all talking stopped as their attention was on the table in the corner.
Kelsey leaned forward a little more and kept her voice at an even timbre, but there was no mistaking her anger. "I'm not looking for a fight, but if you want trouble, I'll be your worst nightmare! That's who I am!"
Karen’s laugh was more like a sharp bark. "Let me tell you something, Miss High and Mighty! Your little girlfriend was flaunting herself all day on the beach and when someone called her bluff, she panicked."
"Let's get one thing straight. She is my roommate and assignee, not my girlfriend. I'm here as a senior officer, to find out what happened. I have no personal stake in this at all!" Kelsey's patience was beginning to quickly drain away and she wanted nothing more than to remove that smug look from Karen's face. She looked at the blonde and held her breath as she saw a malicious look cross her face.
"Yeah right! You must be losing your touch to let a virgin get away from you, or is that what you are so mad about?" Karen stood up laughing and challenging Kelsey's patience to the max. "That's it! You think I got there ahead
of you and you're pissed!"
Kelsey stood up and towered slightly above the other woman. "What the hell is it with you? Does every woman you meet have to be a conquest for you?"
"Look whose talking!" Karen looked around Kelsey to the group at the table and shrugged her shoulders. "I'd say that's calling the kettle black."
Kelsey realized that she was not going to get anywhere with Karen, except make a scene, which is exactly what the woman seemed to want. Kelsey just shook her head sadly at Karen. "You really are one sorry excuse for a woman. I feel pity for you." Kelsey looked at the women at the table to let them know that she included them in the same statement. The other two women looked away sadly and Kelsey almost felt sorry for them, but it was their choice to be friends with Karen, no one had forced them into the situation.
"You pity me? I pity you…you've got your work cut out for you with your girlfriend. She doesn't know what the hell she wants, but I will say, she is a fairly decent kisser and she really has nice tits!" Karen smiled smugly and cupped her hands making a gesture to let Kelsey know that she had first hand physical knowledge of both of these facts.
Kelsey's anger was hotter than she could remember it being in a long time and didn't like the way she was feeling. She didn't need this hassle, nor did she think that she should feel this strongly about the situation. She hated Karen and everything that women like her stood for, but that was no reason to get into a fight. With her hands clenched into fists at her side, she stiffly turned and began walking away until she heard something whispered loudly behind her that sent her over the edge.
"Too right! Perky little tits they were too! I tell you, I had my hands on them and she was beginning to respond nicely…half a chance and I could have had her singing my praises!" Neither of the women were looking at Karen as she talked to them, all attention was focused on Kelsey's response. Karen had gone too far this time, and they both knew it. They were quickly becoming ashamed and embarrassed to be associated with the woman, she had never really acted this badly in front of everyone before. They both knew that she hated Kelsey because since the woman had joined the crew, Karen had tried everything to get Kelsey to notice her and she had flatly refused and never hid her feelings of dislike for the blonde. This had been a bone of contention for the past three years and now, it was going to a head, a nasty one for sure.
No one expected Kelsey to do what she did, but afterward, they had to admit that it was the perfect reply. Kelsey turned around and just backhanded Karen across the face. Karen fell backward into her chair from the full effect of the blow. Kelsey's voice was razor sharp and there was no mistaking what she was saying. "If I ever see you near Alyssa or hear you speak of her or any other woman in that manner, I will personally tear you apart. I suggest you go back to your cabin and start packing because before I'm through, you will have one-way ticket back to England! We don't need your kind aboard this ship!" Kelsey spun on her heels leaving Karen sitting surprised and dazed holding the side of her face. A few cheers were called out to Kelsey and she walked out and Pam and Kellie quickly got up and followed her out the door. They weren't about to lose their jobs for Karen or anyone else for that matter.
Kelsey opened the cabin door to darkness and tiptoed to the bathroom. Closing the door halfway, she flipped on the light and used it as a nightlight to see in the main cabin. Kelsey walked over to Alyssa's bed and saw that the woman was sound asleep. In sleep, Alyssa's face was unmarred by the events of the day and she looked at peace, but the box of half-empty tissues on the nightstand told another story. 'Damn it, why couldn't you listen to me!' Kelsey thought angrily and grabbed her things to go into the bathroom to change. Climbing into her bed, her mind was racing, but her body was exhausted from the adrenaline rush of earlier and she finally fell into a restless sleep.
As hard as Alyssa tried she could not get out from under the heavy darkness that pressed against her. She was finding it hard to breathe and was beginning to panic. She tried pulling at what was holding her down, but only grabbed air. It seemed to wrap around her body of it's own accord and she could feel it pressing against her face cutting off her air. She could feel her lungs burning as they became starved for air and she could hear her heart beat loudly in the darkness. She began to fight in earnest and screamed as she could feel the darkness tightening its hold on her and her world began to quake.
"Alyssa, wake up! Alyssa! Your dreaming…wake up, honey!" Kelsey had grabbed the thrashing woman to try to calm her down before she hurt herself. Her arms and legs were flailing and twisting with the sheet. Kelsey realized what Alyssa was fighting and began pulling the sheet away from her body and freeing her arms and legs, once that was complete she could feel the blonde's body began to relax and she pulled her into her arms and called to her. Green eyes fluttered once and then opened and Kelsey smiled when recognition lit up in them.
Alyssa was fighting with all her strength and suddenly the cloth began to lift and she could feel the cool dark air caress her overheated body. She felt a comfort from the darkness, it touched her but, she wasn't afraid and it was then she heard someone calling her and followed the voice. Opening her eyes to semi-light, she looked directly into blue eyes that changed from worried to relieved.
"Are you okay?" Kelsey heard the deep soft voice ask and she felt confusion cloud her mind. "Huh?"
"You were having a nightmare, do you remember?" Kelsey watched as the confusion turned to remembrance and the eyes closed against the memory. "Its okay, it' over now."
"Damn." Alyssa whispered and opened tear-laden eyes. "That was so real." She took a deep breath and tried to slow her breath and her heart rate down.
"Do you want to talk about it?" Kelsey continued to sit on the edge of the bed leaning over Alyssa. Her hands still holding the woman's arms lightly and debating moving, but she didn't want to let go of the connection. The hip that she rested on was beginning to cramp, but she didn't care and remained still.
Alyssa thought for a long moment looking up at the ceiling. She wasn't sure how to explain what had happened to her. It seemed so real, but yet she felt so foolish now. Kelsey shifted to try to alleviate the ache that was now running from her hip down to her foot. Alyssa sensed her distress and shifted over closer to the wall in an unconscious effort to give her more room to sit. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to make you sit all hunched over like that."
"It's Okay." Kelsey smiled and shifted further up on the bed to get off her hip and looked down and realized she couldn't see Alyssa's a face in the darkness at this distance. Kelsey finally just switched hips and leaned down on an elbow on the bed so that she could see her face and waited for Alyssa to speak. When Alyssa didn't answer for a bit, she lay her arm along Alyssa's as it rested across her waist.
"If you don’t want to talk, I understand."
Alyssa shook her head but kept her focus on the ceiling as she began to explain. "I was trapped in the darkness and it wrapped around me and I couldn't breath. The harder I struggled the tighter the darkness held me until I could feel my lungs burning." Alyssa voice was still shaky from the experience and she didn't look at Kelsey until the end when she added, "I feel really stupid now. I don't know what came over me. I don't normally have nightmares!"
"Hey, it's not stupid at all given the circumstances today." Kelsey hadn't meant to let Alyssa know that she knew more about what happened today or what she had done in the staff lounge earlier. She didn't want the woman to get offended by her protective attitude. She was still trying to deal with that one herself.
"You talked to Karen didn't you?" Alyssa focused her attention on Kelsey's arm on top of hers and wouldn't look the woman in the eye. She kept her voice neutral, as she wasn't really sure how she felt about it.
"Yes, are you mad?" Kelsey hoped the answer would be no and she didn't give out any more information than necessary.
"I guess not. So, she told you, huh?" Alyssa could feel the flush rising in her cheeks and wanted to look up to see if Kelsey was laughing at her and wondered 'So, are you going to make fun of me too?'
"I don't know exactly what happened except that she hurt you and that was enough." Kelsey answered and thought about her next step. "And, I don't think you will have to worry about her much anymore. I'm going to see that she is dismissed and sent packing to England!" The bitterness in Kelsey's voice was unmistakable and Alyssa shivered wondering if she was mad because it happened to her, or that it happened in general.
Kelsey moved closer and squeezed the arm she held. "There is nothing more to worry about. I don't think you will have any trouble from Pam or Kellie either."
"No, Pam and Kellie weren't even there when it happened." Alyssa's voice was low, almost a whisper as if speaking of it made it more real.
Kelsey's anger spiked as she thought about all the possibilities of what actually did happen. Finally, she took a chance and asked, "Did she hurt you?"
Alyssa looked up surprised at Kelsey. 'Karen didn't tell her!' And when she noticed the worry begin to creep back into the blue eyes, she quickly shook her head and looked away. "It wasn't that bad."
"At first she just kissed me and then things progressed until she pinched my…umm...you know…umm…boob really hard." The flush fully infused her face and she wished it wasn't so warm in the room.
"Is it okay?" Kelsey asked quickly looking from the green eyes down to the chest and back up. Alyssa grinned as her face reddened and shook her head affirmative. "It's just a little tender that's all."
"I'm sorry." Alyssa looked away afraid to see the anger and disappointment in the other woman's eyes. She had wanted to prove herself to everyone and had, instead, shown how naive she really was. 'I'm such a jerk!'
Kelsey's anger waned at the catch in Alyssa's voice and she lifted the blonde's face toward her. "No, you have nothing to apologize for, you did nothing wrong."
"You tried to warn me, but I was too stubborn to listen."
Kelsey stood up and smiled down at Alyssa. "Unfortunately, we all do that sometimes."
"I guess so. I just wanted to prove I could take care of myself and instead, I prove just the opposite." Alyssa shook her head disgusted.
"Well, it's your first tour and we all learn the hard way. Now, I think it's time that Karen learned a valuable lesson." Kelsey moved toward the door and stopped when Alyssa called out.
"Wait! What are you going to do?"
"I'm going to have a talk with the Staff Director about a one-way ticket for Karen."
Alyssa shook her head, she just wanted to forget the whole matter and not have anyone else know about what happened. It was bad enough she had to tell the story to Kelsey. "I really rather you didn't get involved and just let this go."
"It's too late, I'm already involved. As your senior officer, I have a duty to report Karen, and it's about time she was put in her place. There is no room for people like her on this crew." Kelsey turned toward the door with a purpose. She wasn't thrilled that Alyssa was still trying to cover for Karen and wondered, "She can't still want Karen?'
Alyssa bristled at the comment reacted harshly. "Well, I wouldn't want you to shirk your duty or anything, but I'd rather things were just forgotten."
Kelsey looked back at Alyssa and her blood flared at the rebuff. "Well, you should have thought about that before you got yourself involved in grown up things you weren't ready to handle."
Kelsey walked down the corridor unsure of whom she was madder with, Alyssa or herself. 'Maybe Alyssa isn't gay!' Kelsey thought suddenly stopping in her tracks. Every signal indicated Alyssa was interested, then again, maybe she is just beginning to figure it all out for herself? 'Damn! Not a great introduction.' Now the anger was finally focused on who it needed to be...Karen. Picking up her step once again, she headed to the Staff Director's Office with a purpose.
Alyssa fell backwards on the bed after the door firmly closed behind Kelsey. 'Man, all I keep doing is mess things up. But, what is Kelsey's problem? Why does she always take everything so personal?' Alyssa lay thinking for awhile but all she was getting in return was a headache. She got up to shower and dress, and then headed out for an early morning walk on the deck. She was sure that any moment she would be getting a call to report to the Director's office. Stopping at the rail she looked out over the wide expanse of ocean and shook her head. "Great soon everyone will know what a dolt I am." 'But, I don't appreciate the comment about not being grown up. Just because I'm not experienced doesn't mean I don't understand.'
"Damn! I'm from a small town, people didn't run around with Lesbian tattooed on their foreheads!" It was one of the reasons she had taken this job, to get away from the small town mentality and the need to meet different people. "Well, I can't say I haven't fulfilled the latter wish. I've certainly met some different people, very different indeed!" Frowning, she leaned against the rail and let her mind reflect over her current situation. After a silent inner argument, she came to the decision that enough was enough. She was tired of always being on the short end of everything. 'I'm going to show them I'm no one's patsy anymore!' "You wanna play hardball, well then Let's play! I'm going to give as good as I've been getting!" Talking outloud to no one and everyone, she slapped her palm against the top off the rail, spun around and headed down toward the Officer's Dining Room for breakfast. 'Gotta fuel up for battle!' Alyssa thought smiling at her decision.
Kelsey emerged from the Director's office and headed out toward the deck. She needed some fresh air after her go-around in the Director's office. Standing against the rail she took a deep calming breath and let the early morning breeze wash over her. After all the arguing and complaining, Karen would still be able to stay aboard with only a warning and loss of shore privileges for the next two weeks. Kelsey had been livid, but was beginning to calm down burdened with the futility of it all. "Well Alyssa, it looks like you are going to get your wish after all." Feeling a sense of loss she turned and headed down to the cabin to shower and get ready for work. Luckily she would be busy all day with a sporting contest. They were to be at sea for the day and had scheduled a shipboard athletic contest to keep the passengers amused. It was usually a fun day and anyone who didn't want to lay in the sun or stay indoors usually showed up for the function, either to participate or cheer on the various teams.
Kelsey watched as the contestants vied for points laughing at their antics and announcing the winners as they finished. During one particular race, she leaned on the rail and looked down at the pool area instantly regretting her actions. Karen looked up from serving her drinks and saw Kelsey looking down at her and waved, the smug smile on her face said it all. Kelsey started to turn away until she saw Alyssa walking along the pool headed toward Karen and herself. She quickly wondered which one of them it was. Alyssa wore a loose fitting black tank top over gray sports bra and a pair of white shorts. Kelsey subconsciously appreciated how the shorts accented her newly tanned legs. Karen saw the change in Kelsey's focus and the look on the taller woman's face. She turned to see Alyssa walking past her station and quickly moved to intercept her.
"Hey girl! How are you doing?"
Alyssa was stopped short of her goal when a figure stepped in front of her blocking her progression. She hadn't seen the Karen until now and instantly regretted coming this way. She put on a fake smile and began to play the game. "Me, Oh, I'm doing great!" Until now, her day had past smoothly and the dreaded call to the Director's office had never come. She began to wonder what exactly had happened with Kelsey's threats. After her shift had ended her curiosity got the better of her and she went back to the cabin to change out of her uniform before heading over to the forward deck to where the Shipboard Olympics were being held.
"Oh, that's not what I heard this morning in the Director's office. Seems your girlfriend doesn't think so either." Karen was pushing all sorts of buttons to get a rise out of the young woman. She owed her for the trouble she had caused her. She had almost lost her job this morning and wanted a little paybacks.
"Jealous?" Alyssa countered back spitefully. She just wanted to get Karen off her back permanently and let the woman know that she wasn't interested in playing her games.
"For what, keeping you virginal?" Karen whispered laughing at the barb.
"Who said I was?"
"Ha! Don't go and try to tell me that you and her have gotten together. No way!" Karen replied looking at Alyssa closely for a hint of the truth in her eyes.
"No? Well, maybe you should ask her that." Alyssa smiled a coy smile and looked up to see Kelsey looking down at them with a scowl. Against her better judgement she waved up at the tall woman and blew her a quick kiss. She heard the intake of breath from the woman next to her and she knew that her action had the desired effect.
Kelsey had been watching the interaction between the two women intently until Alyssa turned her attention upward toward her. What happened next completely floored the dark-haired woman and she took a step backward as her breath caught in her throat. 'What the hell.....'
As Karen looked from Alyssa up to Kelsey, the blonde could tell that the woman next to her was becoming extremely irate. Alyssa quickly winked at her and attempted to walk around the waitress.
Karen grabbed Alyssa's arm tightly and stopped her dead. "Well, since you are giving it up for that trash, how about you and me get together tonight after my shift."
Alyssa tried to pull her arm free, but the woman had a tight grip on it and Alyssa could feel the anger rising within. She stopped for a moment and looked at Karen coolly before responding. "With you, why ever would I want to do that? What makes you think I would settle for less?"
Alyssa sidestepped Karen when she shifted backwards in surprise at the blonde's rebuff. She quickly headed on shaky legs toward the stairs and began to climb to the upper deck. Reaching the top of the stairs she came face to face with Kelsey and looked up in cool blue eyes.
"I'm not even going to ask what that was about, but are you okay?" The low smooth voice held a faint quiver and Kelsey bit her tongue to keep her voice from cracking.
Green eyes continued to stare blue and the blonde shrugged her shoulders replying, "Yes, I'm fine." Alyssa didn't break eye contact, which disconcerted the taller woman and made her stammer. "Are you...you sure?" With a quick nod of her head, she moved away toward the far end of the deck and Kelsey watched as she sat down at an empty table and looked out over the ocean. 'Damn, what the hell was that all about?' Kelsey heard her name called and turned her attention back to the contest. She didn't have time for this right now, she had a job to do. During the course of the next hour she couldn't help but glance over where the blonde was sitting.
Alyssa's legs were still shaky, she took each step carefully focusing on walking away coolly without giving away her weakness. She couldn't believe what she had just done and the look in Kelsey's eyes had floored her. She had expected anger and a lecture from the tall roommate, but instead she saw a flicker of something she just couldn't put her finger on and it made her stomach flutter. Reaching for a deck chair, she sat and focused her eyes on the water, afraid to look toward Kelsey for fear the woman would still be watching her with that look. Finally, Alyssa diverted her attention from the ocean to the competition being held. After a bit her eyes wandered toward the tall woman in charge and she watched in rapt attention at the way Kelsey carried herself. There was an assured grace that showed she was comfortable in her own skin. 'I wonder what that would feel like, to actually be at the point in life where I have that kind of confidence?'
Alyssa's mind wandered over these thoughts until she felt an unfamiliar sensation and her eyes refocused to find the object of her musing looking straight back at her. She quickly averted her eyes blushing. After a few of these episodes, Alyssa kept her focus out over the ocean until deciding it was time to eat lunch and then do some laundry.
Kelsey checked with the office and finished locking up the equipment before heading back to the cabin to find Alyssa already there. "Hi, I decided it was time to do some laundry." Kelsey nervously greeted the blonde as she came out of the bathroom.
"You too?" Alyssa lifted the towels and pointed toward the laundry bag on the bed. Both women laughed and Kelsey offered, "if you wait a minute for me to get my laundry I'll join you."
"Sure, sounds good." Alyssa sat down on the bed and waited while Kelsey hustled around getting her things together. The two women headed down the crew laundry and found that they weren't the only ones with that idea. All the machines were taken and Kelsey groaned silently when she saw Karen, Pam and Kellie sitting on top of the running machines talking. The chattering stopped instantly as the three's attention became focused on the two women in the doorway.
"Well, well....look who's here. The big bad wolf and her pet!" Karen called out smartly. Pam and Kellie looked at each other and sighed tired of their friends behavior. "Karen come one...knock it off." Pam replied offhandedly. Karen gave her a look of pure venom before sliding off the machine and leaning against it boldly. "You 'doing' her laundry too?" Karen asked Alyssa who at first began to shrink behind the taller woman, but then knew that she needed to stand on her own now or forever suffer this abuse.
"Bite me." Alyssa stood her ground against her desire to hide behind Kelsey. Kelsey looked down at her grinning as Pam and Kellie chuckled softly in the background. "You go girl!"
"Ooh spunky little thing aren't you. Guess we all are when we're in the middle of it." Karen replied looking sharply at her two friends' lack of support. Pam and Kellie shrugged their shoulders in indifference to the woman's attitude.
"Karen, I'd stop while I was ahead if I were you." Kelsey laughed and leaned against the doorjamb.
"Why? What are you going to do about it?" Karen stood defensively in front of Kelsey. Her demeanor asking for the taller woman to start something.
"Me? I'm not going to do anything, but I can't speak for Alyssa."
"Ha! Her, little Miss. Innocent couldn't raise an eyebrow let alone anything else!"
Karen brushed off Alyssa as a minor nuisance and no big threat. This infuriated Alyssa and she stepped around Kelsey. "Maybe that's because you're not worth the effort."
"Oh little girl.....how would you know?" Karen snorted and looked around the room chuckling. The other two women were trying to distance themselves from the conversation and were quietly folding their clothes.
"You don't have to kiss a dead fish to know its going to stink!" Alyssa turned and left with Kelsey staring after her surprised and a little impressed. Grinning back at Karen she left to catch up with her roommate. The chuckling that followed Alyssa's comment was cut short by curt angry words that neither woman could clearly make out. But, the tone of the voice that spoke was enough for them to understand all they needed to know.
Alyssa turned toward the stairs to go back to her cabin when Kelsey caught up and stopped her. "Come on, I know an open laundry that the passengers rarely use so, we can sneak in there."
"Lead the way."
Kelsey and Alyssa spent the quarter of an hour quietly doing laundry. Neither one wanting to be the first to begin the discussion on what had just happened, and easy easily becoming lost in their own thoughts. Kelsey watched the young woman and saw a new depth to her that she hadn't given her credit for before. She had already counted the blonde off as a bit of fluff fresh off the farm, someone she would have to spoon-feed through her first cruise. But, after today, she saw a strength of character that she was totally unprepared for. There was still a naive quality about her, but that only made her seem more genuine and desirable. 'Jeez, did I say that....desirable?' That thought made Kelsey squirm uncomfortably as she hadn't seen the emotion coming, or maybe she had and had just tried to ignore it. Kelsey came out of her reverie to find two green eyes staring straight at her with slightly bewildered look.
"That's what I asked. You were staring at me and I thought you wanted something." Alyssa's response was an innocent one, but the play on words wasn't lost on the older woman and she groaned silently.
Shaking her head quickly, Kelsey was relieved that her dryer took that moment to stop and she moved to retrieve her clothes. "No, just off daydreaming, sorry."
"No problem." Alyssa went back to folding her clothes with the feeling that Kelsey wasn't totally truthful and a strong curiosity to know why. She took the opportunity to check out her roommate and realized that when they weren't fighting, they got along very well. 'I guess that's an oxymoron if I've ever heard one.' Alyssa's thoughts were in a whirl with possible scenarios until she finally got hold of her senses and returned to the present.
"Last load?" Kelsey asked motioning to the washer that Alyssa had just started.
"Yes, thank God! I can't believe how many dirty clothes I've accumulated in less than a week!"
"It seems that way because you don't bring that many on board to begin with. So we tend to run out quicker." Kelsey's attitude was pleasant and friendly and Alyssa wondered what had happened to the woman of earlier, the one she had first met at Bayside that had basically blew her off. She sat reflecting on how different Kelsey actually turned out to be. She had tried to warn her about Karen and had even been there when she had gotten drunk. Alyssa realized that she had been looking at everything in a negative light and that Kelsey had actually gone out of her way to be kind to her. 'But why?' The possibilities were flying through Alyssa's mind and she wondered if the tall, blue-eyed woman actually cared more than as a mentor. 'You're living in a fantasy world again, get a grip. She's not interested in that way! Is she?' Alyssa's mind was in a whirl and she tried to convince herself she wasn't being realistic in these thoughts.
"I asked if you were going to sit here all night?" Kelsey watched the changing expressions on the young woman's face and would have given anything to know what was going on behind those smoky green eyes. She was both intrigued and unsettled by the look she saw there. It was as if she was looking right through Alyssa to herself and disconcerted Kelsey quickly spoke up breaking this connection.
Alyssa looked up surprised to find that so much had passed around her without her knowledge. She wasn't usually this dense to her surroundings. 'No, just the last two times she was around this woman. First on the pier in Miami and now!' Embarrassed with this knowledge she lowered and shook her head quietly saying, "Actually, I was just thinking about getting something to eat."
"Interested in some company?"
"Sure!" Alyssa stood up and got her things together. "Where shall we eat?"
"Well, we have two choices." Kelsey replied as she turned to lead the way off the deck. We can eat in the ODR or pizza down at the back grill."
"It's such a nice night, how about pizza outside?"
"Works for me! Let's drop these off in the cabin first." Kelsey led the way back toward their cabin and then down to the grill on the lower leeward deck of the ship. The Pizza station was situated in the corner of the restaurant and open 24 hours. They got their trays and found a table outside near the rail. The night was balmy with a light tropical breeze and the sky was full of stars. They quickly ate and decided to take a stroll around the deck to unwind before heading back to the cabin. They spent the next hour walking and talking about themselves and life in general. Actually, Alyssa did most of the talking with Kelsey's occasional reply of understanding. Their rapport, for once, was comfortable and easygoing.
Leaning against the rail and looking out over the cloudless sky, Alyssa questioned Kelsey about the names of the various stars. When the conversation lagged for a bit, they just stared out at the sea and stars in companionable silence until Kelsey spoke up breaking the quiet.
"Can I ask you a question?"
"Sure." Alyssa turned to face the raven-haired woman and waited for her continue.
"Why did you sign up to work on a cruise ship? It can't possibly be for the pittance they pay us! You obviously have a college education and you could have worked anywhere, why here?" Kelsey leaned on her elbow against the rail, which brought her on a closer eye level to the shorter woman.
Alyssa looked out over the sea for a moment before answering Kelsey. "I come from a very small town where everything is set according to tradition. Things are complacent and always happen in the same fashion generation after generation. I didn't really fit into their preconceived mold of what I should be. I always knew that I was different and I knew that if I didn't break away quickly, I could easily be swallowed up in that endless cycle. So, I signed on to see new places and meet different people."
Kelsey nodded her head in understanding before smiling. "I guess you've met quite a few 'different' people since coming aboard." She wasn't exactly sure if Alyssa's definition of different was the same as she had in mind and decided to throw out a line and see where it led.
Alyssa looked into blue eyes and saw the questions waiting behind them and didn't bat an eye when she responded, "Different yes, but technically the same. I've known that for a long time".
"I see." Kelsey voice was no more than a whisper as she looked into sober green eyes. She had her answer, now what was she going to do with it.
Alyssa looked up from her paperwork surprised to see Kelsey standing in front of the counter. She had left early that morning for her shift while the taller woman still slept. "Good Morning!"
"You were up and about early." Kelsey had heard the blonde leave that morning, but had fallen right back to sleep until her alarm woke her.
"Yeah lucky me, I got the early shift today." Alyssa's smile was infectious and Kelsey couldn't help but respond to it in kind. "That means you get off early then, right?"
"Yes, I'm finished around noon, why?"
"I was wondering if you wanted to go snorkeling in Trunk Bay this afternoon?" Kelsey had been hesitant in asking the young woman unsure of what her response would be after her last outing with Karen.
"Sure, I'd love to. I've heard that it's one of the best spots in St. John." Alyssa was excited at the prospect of spending the afternoon snorkeling, but more excited about who she would be spending it with.
Kelsey's eyes lit up at the positive response. "Great, but I don't get off until 1 PM. How about we meet back in the cabin around 1:15 PM?"
"Okay, sounds good to me."
"Great!" Kelsey replied drumming her fingertips on the desk. The two women stood in silence for a moment, both at a loss of what to say next. Kelsey stood shuffling her feet and finally broke the silence. "Well, I...I better get to work. I'll see you around 1:15 PM."
Alyssa watched as Kelsey headed toward the stairs before calling out, "Kelsey!" When the raven-haired woman turned back toward her expectantly, she felt tongue tied at what she wanted to say and quietly said, "Thank you for asking me."
"My pleasure!" Kelsey replied instantly relieved as the tension flowed out of her muscles. With a quick wave she turned to head up the stairs to the sports deck. "My pleasure indeed.'
Alyssa knew that there was more to Kelsey than just a beautiful face and she desperately wanted to get to know her better. "That's putting it mildly!" Alyssa whispered to herself. "You want to get to know her 'a lot' better." Smiling at these thoughts she began whistling as she shuffled through her paperwork and helped passengers throughout the morning. Even when Karen sauntered by later that morning, Alyssa's good mood could not be shaken.
The redhead leaned against the counter with a cocky attitude and asked, "So, you want to go swimming with me this afternoon on deck?" Alyssa did everything she could to catch herself from laughing, but a twitter of mirth had already escaped, as she shook her head no. Karen's posture shifted and the blonde could tell that the woman before her wasn't in the least bit pleased with her attitude. "What does Ms. High and Mighty have you doing some more chores for her?"
Alyssa stiffened at the comment, she was tired of the woman's demeaning attitude toward her. "Actually I'm going ashore to do some snorkeling. Oh, but that's right, you can't go ashore can you?" Alyssa voice dripped of sarcasm as she stood face to face with her tormentor. She could see Karen's face change to a deeper shade of red and knew that she was playing with fire, but didn't care. She was going to give this woman as good as she had gotten in return.
"Now if you will excuse me." Alyssa moved down the counter glad for a passenger's interruption. Karen didn't hesitate long before stalking away. Alyssa hoped for good, but she knew better.
They boarded the crowded tender to take them to shore. Kelsey could feel the heat of Alyssa's thigh on her own and inwardly groaned. They were forced to sit closely, as the tender was full of passengers. Not that Kelsey really minded, but the presence of the blonde was very distracting and her thoughts kept roaming to areas best left alone given the present circumstances. She tired to focus her attention on answering Alyssa's questions and giving her a brief sightseeing tour as the launch headed toward shore.
The noise in the open boat was loud and on more than one occasion, Kelsey had to lean closely to answer the blonde. The warm breath on the blonde's ear sent a shower of goosebumps down her arm. 'Breath deeply, take it easy, just breath!' Alyssa kept reminding herself and focused on the soft timbre of the voice next to her. As the boat came closer to the shore it lurched with the tide and Kelsey quickly put a hand on Alyssa's thigh reflexively to protect. Alyssa could feel the touch of skin on skin and the heat reaction tingled. Kelsey didn't remove her hand until the tender was completely docked and they got up to follow disembarking passengers. Alyssa could still feel the warmth from the hand that had lain on her thigh and she was sure if she looked down a handprint would be seared onto her flesh. She followed the tall woman toward the side of the boat and Kelsey got off first and turned to reach out a hand to help the blonde out of the boat. The bus trip to the bay was quiet between the two women as they pretended to concentrate on the tour guide's presentation. Kelsey had heard it so many times she could recite it in her sleep, but she didn't move her eyes from the man and listened as though it were for the first time.
Reaching the bay, there were only a few passengers who disembarked to go snorkeling. The two women collected their gear and picked out a spot on the open beach, stripping down to their bathing suits they headed toward the water. Alyssa appreciating the view of Kelsey in her one-piece navy blue suit. It suited her dark hair and long body perfectly. When Kelsey turned to help Alyssa with her gear, Alyssa's breath caught at the shade of blue in the other woman's eyes. All this was not lost on Kelsey as looked down at the blond woman and smiled. Kelsey had been doing all she could not to get caught checking out the blonde, but it was hard. She looked very good in her two-piece sport suit. 'Damn! If I didn't know better, I wouldn't think she had a shy bone in her body!'
Kelsey dove underwater to cool her overheated thoughts and motioned for Alyssa to follow her. The two soon set up a smooth rhythm and floated lazily along enjoying the underwater beauty that surrounded them. At one point, Kelsey caught hold of Alyssa's hand and drew her attention to a school of brightly colored fish that swam slowly around a sea urchin rooted to a clump of coral. She kept hold of Alyssa's hand as they swam along the rock wall where an arch was cut out it and the sun's rays shown through the water behind the arch lighting up the sea life that lived nearby. Alyssa nodded her head enthusiastically in silent appreciation of the sight before her. They continued to snorkel around the site until Kelsey motioned she was going back up.
"That was so cool!"
"I thought you would like it. Someone showed it to me about a year ago and it's become my favorite spot." Kelsey replied pushing her snorkel gear up onto her head. "Ready to head back and relax in the sun a bit?"
"Yeah, sounds like a good plan."
Alyssa swam behind Kelsey until they reached the shoreline and she fell into step next to the taller woman. Kelsey spread out the blanket she had brought and looked over at Alyssa digging her towel out of her bag.
"Want to share?" Kelsey motioned to the blanket next to her as she rolled her towel to use as a headrest.
Alyssa looked over at Kelsey and down at the towel in her hands, as a stab of uncertainty shot through her. Kelsey's eyebrow quirked up in question causing Alyssa to finally react. She dropped her towel and sat slowly down on the edge of the blanket. Alyssa kept her focus digging through her bag nervously. Finally, she knew it was in vain and looked over at the taller woman who lay back with her eyes closed. She shrugged at her silliness and rolled her towel as Kelsey had and lay back enjoying the suns rays. As the sun warmed her body, Kelsey roused herself to realize she had fallen asleep. She felt a light pressure on her hand and squinted to look down to see Alyssa's last two fingers entwined with hers. She wasn't sure who had initiated the movement, but couldn't help smiling in response. Looking over to her left she was met by two green eyes squinting back at her.
"Hey, I must have fallen asleep." Kelsey's voice was deep and slightly husky from sleep.
"Me too. What time is it?" Alyssa murmured. She could feel the touch of the woman next to her and didn't move for fear the connection would be severed. Kelsey leaned over to retrieve her watch out of her bag and Alyssa could feel the woman's hand sliding away and instinctively squeezed her fingers trapping the other fingers. Kelsey looked down at their hands and then back up at Alyssa hesitating briefly before moving her fingers to completely grasp the woman's hand. With her other hand, Kelsey pulled her watch out of her bag and rolled over to face the blonde. "It's almost 4:30 PM. We will have to head back soon. Hungry?"
"Starving!" Alyssa lowered her head embarrassed at her quick response to the question. Kelsey gently lifted the blonde's chin with her hand and smiled into sparkling green eyes.
"Did anyone ever tell you that you were cute when you blushed?"
"No, they usually just laughed." Alyssa grinned lopsidedly and Kelsey chuckled lowly.
"Well, they don't know what they were missing." Kelsey's voice trailed off to a murmur as she leaned in and softly placed a kiss on the overheated cheek. She could feel the temperature rise under her lips and she moved to place a similar kiss on her lips. Alyssa shivered in response and Kelsey pulled back and looked into her eyes concerned that she had moved too fast. Alyssa shook her head slightly saddened for the loss of the soft lips upon her own and pulled Kelsey back to renew the connection. The bond was instantaneous and neither one knew who was the aggressor, nor did they care. The kiss deepened dangerously as the afternoon sun began to wane. It wasn't until they heard the beeping of a horn did they break and become aware of their surroundings. The beach was empty and Kelsey looked down at the watch that lay discarded on the blanket.
"Oh shit! It's nearly 5:30 PM. The last tender to the boat is at 6." The raven-haired woman jumped to her feet pulling Alyssa with her, together they scrambled pulling on their shorts and shoes and gather their belongings.
"Will we make it?" Alyssa asked worriedly and looked up toward the empty road.
"If we can catch the next bus, we just might make it. I know they give the last tender fifteen minutes longer just in case a passenger is late." Kelsey grabbed the blanket and their bags and led the way up to the road and the bus stop. They were up to the middle of the incline as the silhouette of the bus appeared over the rise of the hill.
"Hurray!" Kelsey reached back and grasped Alyssa's hand and pulled her up the hill behind her. Their feet kept slipping on the rocky trail threatening to send them skidding back downward at any moment. Kelsey looked up to see the bus stopped 20 feet ahead of them and renewed her effort to reach the top. "Great just what we need now to miss the tender and lose our jobs!' They finally reached the bus breathless and laughing. They ran to catch the tender back and the short trip was spent in reflective silence as the reality of their situation fully hit them.
"Are you okay?" Kelsey whispered as the deckhands docked the small boat to the large cruise ship. Alyssa winked over at her causing Kelsey to chuckle as she proceeded to gather their things. Kelsey moved toward the ramp and waited for the blonde and helped her out of the boat. They walked down the gangway and onto the ship with Kelsey following behind Alyssa. The corridor was empty and Kelsey reached over and tickled the blonde causing her to jump. Chuckling softly she attempted to avoid retaliation from the blonde as they chased each other down the corridor. Laughing and teasing they barely came up short at the main intersection to their cabin and almost ran into a fellow officer.
"Hey, Kelsey! I was just by your cabin. Mary's been looking for you. She needs some help with tomorrow's scheduling." Alyssa and Kelsey sobered quickly trying to keep from giggle as the officer remained waiting for Kelsey's response. Kelsey turned to Alyssa and grimaced apologetically. "Do you mind taking my stuff back to the cabin? I need to take care of this, tomorrow is out last full day at sea and it's one of the busiest for our department."
"No problem, give me your stuff and I'll catch up with you later." Alyssa took her roommate's things and headed down toward their cabin. Kelsey turned to the officer and motioned for her to lead the way before turning back to watch Alyssa's figure move away.
Alyssa turned back toward the tall woman questioningly. "What?"
"This shouldn't take too long. If you aren't starving and want to wait for me, we can get some dinner together and maybe do something afterwards." Kelsey looked at the blonde and thought about how the later sounded and almost blushed. "I mean.....get a drink or catch a show."
"Only that huh? Well, okay I'll shower and wait for you to get back." Alyssa called back and turned without waiting for a response from Kelsey. She knew that Kelsey was watching her and made sure she gave her something to see.
Kelsey stood speechless at Alyssa's reply and inwardly groaned as she watched the young woman walk away. 'Jeez, I think I'm in trouble here!' Kelsey turned back toward the other officer grateful that she was far enough ahead not to have noticed their conversation. Shaking her head amused she turned to follow the other woman.
Alyssa had fallen asleep on her bed when Kelsey quietly entered the cabin. Smiling she headed for the bath and quickly took her shower and returned to the cabin. Alyssa still hadn't stirred as she quickly dressed and decided to wake the sleeping woman. Leaning over she gently shook the woman who awakened and sighed.
"Hey, sleepyhead! Are you hungry or would you rather just go back to sleep? Which is it food or sleep?"
"Food!" A sleepy voice called out as Alyssa roused herself and sat up.
"Then food it is, let's get going before they stop serving in the DOR." Kelsey held the cabin door open and waited for the other woman to proceed her.
"Well, what are you waiting for?" Alyssa joked as she hurried out the door and down the corridor. "I'm right behind you!" Kelsey called out and hurried after her.
The dining room was fairly crowded as they made their way to an empty table. Dinner was an informal affair, but shorts were frowned upon in the dining room after 5 PM. They both wore Dockers with polo shirts, Alyssa favored navy pants and a white shirt, and Kelsey khaki pants and a black shirt. Conversation over dinner was easygoing with a heavy dose of flirting and both women were thoroughly enjoying their evening. They finished their meal and decided on moving the party to one of the piano bars to listen to the music and talk.
They found a table toward the back and ordered bailey's and coffee to complete their meal. The crowd in the bar was fairly noisy and they had to lean over their mugs to hear each other. Alyssa's eyes glistened with tears of laughter as Kelsey regaled her tales of passenger mishaps from past cruises. Kelsey's hand rested lightly on Alyssa's as she spoke. Neither woman noticed the arrival of Karen to the table until she stood holding a tray and looking down at them.
"Oh, how cozy! Don't you two look sweet!"
Kelsey jerked her hand back and looked up at the smirking woman. Their mood instantly dampening with the arrival of the redhead.
"What do you want Karen?" Kelsey's voice was laced with disgust as she looked up coldly at the woman.
"Oh, I was just seeing if you wanted anything...but I see you have the situation pretty well in hand, so to speak."
"No, thank you. We are fine!" Alyssa's voice spoke up for the first time causing Karen to turn surprised in her direction. She had almost forgotten about the blonde, so enrapt in her encounter with Kelsey.
"I'll just bet you are!" Karen's voice laced heavily with sarcasm suddenly set Alyssa's nerves on edge.
"Oh Bite me!"
"Is that an invitation?"
"Don't you wish!" Alyssa snorted in contempt at the redhead and looked over at Kelsey. "Are you about ready?"
"Oh wait! We haven't finished our conversation yet." Kelsey turned to Karen and snarled. "I think we have."
"Oh, but we haven't talked about this interesting relationship which, by the way, won't set very well with the boss. You know the one about senior officers fraternizing with junior ones." Karen smugly wrapped her arms around herself. She was pleased with the turn of events. It was time the ice queen got a little spark of reality shoved in her face.
"Don't even go there Karen. It's not a place you want to be!" Kelsey's voice was low and tense as she stood face to face with the shorter woman. Looking directly at the redhead, she didn't blink until the other woman looked away nervously.
Kelsey turned back to Alyssa and. "I'm more than ready to leave, this place seems to have developed a stench." Following Alyssa from the table neither woman saw the narrowed eyes and the look of pure hatred that was focused in their direction.
"How about a walk on the deck? I think I need to unwind." Kelsey looked at Alyssa questioningly and when she received a nod, she led the way out into the night air. They walked silently along the rail as the light evening breeze ruffled their hair and raised goosebumps on their arms. Neither woman noticed as they were each lost in their own thoughts. Kelsey thought about the truth in Karen's taunts and knew that her relationship with Alyssa was frowned upon for many reasons, one of which being that the blonde was under her supervision. The difference in their rank didn't matter as much as the perceived possibility of sexual harassment claims. Kelsey knew that this worry was unfounded, but what would her superiors conclude. She also knew that Karen wouldn't let this chance go, and retaliation was just her ticket.
"Penny for your thoughts?" Alyssa asked over the steady hum of the large smokestack as they looked down onto the bow of the ship. Kelsey looked up into the bright light that shown behind Alyssa shadowing her face and causing the tall woman to squint. Reaching out for the short blonde, she gently pulled her into the darkened recess of the large stack and held her in her arms.
"Hmmm, not sure I should say."
Alyssa felt the deep throaty chuckle as her ear lay against Kelsey's chest. "Oh really?" Alyssa looked up at the shadow of a grin that edged the taller woman's face. She knew that it wasn't the real reason for the quiet, but didn't want to add more tension to the already heightened nerves. She wanted to give Kelsey the time she needed to make her own decision without her influence. 'If I had my way, I would influence her right back to the cabin!' With a grin of her own her looked up to where she knew blue eyes sparked in the darkness.
"More than anything. I want you to know that, but.....we may have a problem." Alyssa's heart sank at the verbal acknowledgement of the situation. Somehow if they didn't talk about it, it wouldn't make it real, but now, it was and she was afraid of what the outcome would be.
"What are we going to do?"
"The only thing we can do. We have to step back and take things easy." Kelsey replied, dropping her hands and stepping back to demonstrate her meaning.
"For how long?" Alyssa's voice quivered at the thought that she may lose Kelsey just as soon as she had found her. Alyssa barely knew Kelsey and, until now, hadn't realized how deep her feelings actually went. The one thing she did know was, she didn't want to lose her now.
"I guess until I'm no longer your supervisor." Kelsey sighed and moved out of the shadows to lean against the rail looking out over the water.
"That would mean all season....I don't want to lose you...I can't." Alyssa's voice crackled out as no more than a whisper, but the raw emotion underlying her words could not be missed. Kelsey immediately returned to the shadows and drew the short woman into her arms once again. The blonde's muffled voice touched a cord in the taller woman that she could not deny. "There must be another way."
"We'll figure something out. I don't want to lose you either." Kelsey's lips sought out Alyssa's and their uniting spoke more than words would ever convey. They remained locked in each other's arms until Alyssa shivered against the night air and Kelsey could feel her own flesh goosebump against the evening chill.
"Come on, let's go back to the cabin. It's getting cold up here." Kelsey moved out of the shadow's first and keeping a short distance from one another, they walked back toward their cabin.
Getting ready for bed was a quiet affair. Alyssa was unsure what she should say after her outburst on deck. She knew they were in a hard situation and her behavior would only make it harder on Kelsey. Kelsey had been right, they had to remain uninvolved or jeopardize losing their jobs and Alyssa wasn't ready to do that to her friend. Shutting the bathroom light, Alyssa came into the semi darkened room and saw that Kelsey was already in her bed. Sighing, she looked at her bed, closed the lamp next to it and prepared to crawl under her covers when a hand reached out to stop her.
"Hey, come here." Kelsey's voice was no more than a whisper and her hand gently pulled Alyssa over toward her bed. Alyssa heard the rustle of covers and Kelsey tugged on the blonde's arm until she lay down onto the bed.
"Stay with me tonight." Alyssa lay down onto the bed and Kelsey immediately spooned herself against the woman's side. "Sleep, tomorrow we will sort it all out." Alyssa nodded and swallowing hard rolled over onto her side. Kelsey quickly adjusted and molded herself against the shorter woman's body holding her close. Kissing Alyssa's cheek they both lay quietly content in their new arrangement. Sleep was a long time coming for Kelsey as she felt Alyssa's breath finally even out as the woman fell asleep. Her mind raced with possible solutions to their current problem, none of them very satisfactory. Finally, she began to doze off, her mind wrapped around the only possible answer she could find.
Alyssa awoke with a start in an unfamiliar bed. She felt cold and empty and realized that Kelsey wasn't with her. Looking around she realized she was alone until she heard the Shower running in the next room and relaxed back into the pillow with a relieved sigh. Closing her eyes she thought about the night before and never heard the bare feet that padded toward the bed, until soft feathery kisses were placed long her lips and she shivered with delight. Opening her eyes she came full faced with the most beautiful blue she had ever seen.
"Good morning sleepy head." Kelsey's voice purred deeply against her lips and she pulled the woman closer to deepen the teasing kiss.
"Umm, I wouldn't mind waking up every morning this way." Alyssa replied and stretched within the confines of Kelsey's arms.
"Well then, I'll just have to see what I can do about that won't I!" Kelsey replied and got up off the edge of the bed. "You'd better get moving if you are going to have breakfast with me before our shifts."
Alyssa jumped out of bed quickly and hurried toward the bathroom as she spoke. "I'm up! I'm up...wait for me! I promise I won't take more than ten minutes!"
"Take fifteen, but no more!" Kelsey chuckled as Alyssa saluted her and ran into the bathroom closing the door. True to her words, Alyssa was showered dressed and ready in fifteen minutes flat.
Kelsey drew her into her arms for a quick kiss before opening the door for her and following Alyssa down to the ODR for breakfast. They kept a conscious distance between them throughout the morning and on numerous occasions Alyssa had caught herself almost reaching out to touch Kelsey as they talked over their meal.
Parting to go to their separate duties, Kelsey felt a tightening in her chest and had to remind herself, "Get a grip! You are on a ship together and share a room! She isn't leaving!' Shaking her head nervously, Kelsey watched the blonde as she walked down the corridor and disappeared around the corner. Turning, she went down to her office to start her day, but she couldn't deny she was shaken by her intense feelings. 'Oh Boy! What are you going to do now Kel?'
Alyssa spent the day trying to focus on her job and not let the worries that shrouded the two of them interfere with her duties. She was successful in conquering her thoughts until late afternoon when things were slow and she was looking over her totals for the day. Her mind began to wander as she thought about Kelsey and the new avenue her life was taking. 'Isn't this why you took this job, to be free to live your life? Isn't this what you have been looking for all your life?' Alyssa unconsciously bit her bottom lip in concentration as she stared out over the desk.
"Trouble in paradise already?"
Alyssa jumped at the voice and focused her eyes on the woman in front of her. "Oh, Karen...what do you want?"
"Nothing, you just look so sad. What's the matter, disappointed already?" Karen's smile was pure condescension as she looked over the counter at Alyssa. Alyssa remained mute and just glared at the woman.
"Oh, wait! She didn't dump you already, did she?" Karen laugh boomed out loudly in the empty atrium. Alyssa wanted nothing more than to wipe that look off the woman's face. But, she kept her peace for fear of loosing her temper totally and causing more trouble. "Honey, you are just out of your league!" Karen's chuckle was cut off instantly at the sight of Kelsey standing at the end of the counter. She hadn't heard the tall woman's approach.
Kelsey walked over toward the two women, her eyes never leaving Karen. Stopping inches before Karen, Kelsey turned toward Alyssa. "Are you finished up here? Ready to go?" Turning back toward Karen she paused before asking. "Is there something specific you want? Or, are you just looking for trouble in general?" Karen's snicker had turned into a sneer as she looked up into intimidating blue eyes and tired not to show her discomfort.
"Why, do you know where I can find any?" Karen's mouth was running faster than her brain could register the danger in this confrontation.
"Oooh, now I'm scared. I really am!" Karen looked over at Alyssa in all her bravado and winked. Kelsey took a step forward and got directly in to Karen's face. "Oh, you don't know how scared you really should be....I've had just about enough of you and your attitude!"
Karen leaned back against the counter in an attempt to look nonchalant, but more in an attempt to get away from the taller woman's intense stare. "Well, maybe you should do something about it!"
Kelsey laughed dangerously and pushed Karen backward hard against the desk. "Don't tempt me!" Movement behind the woman caught Kelsey's attention and she looked over saw fear in the wide green eyes. Kelsey quickly moved over to the side of the desk and softly spoke, "Okay? Let's go."
Alyssa looked from the tall woman to Karen and noted the hatred in the shorter woman's eyes and shivered in response. Kelsey touched Alyssa's arm lightly in question and looked at the blonde worried. Alyssa smiled and touched the hand on her arm before moving from behind the counter toward the stairs. 'This is never going to end. Karen is never going to leave us alone.' Alyssa tried to push these thoughts away and lighten the mood of the two women, but it continued to hang over them like a dark cloud.
Kelsey followed Alyssa back to their cabin in silence. As soon as the door closed behind them, Kelsey reached out for Alyssa. "Are you sure you are okay?"
"Oh yeah, Karen's just worries me. She doesn't seem willing to let this go, does she?"
"I know and to be honest, I'm not sure what to do about it." Kelsey pulled Alyssa close and kissed her forehead before the blonde snuggled against her neck.
"I suppose throwing her overboard is out of the question?" The muffled request tickled Kelsey's neck sending a shiver down her spine as she chuckled.
"It's a tempting thought, but I wouldn't want to pollute the ocean, the fish don't deserve it!"
Alyssa laughed and pulled back to look into deep blue eyes. "What are we going to do about her?"
Kelsey watched as the bright green eyes because clouded with worry and leaned down with a whisper. "This." Kelsey meant to touch the woman's lips in a light kiss of comfort, but she could no more hold back her desires as she could what happened next. The women were instantly locked in an embrace as lips and tongues raced across each other in a fevered rush. "Oh God!" Alyssa moaned as Kelsey nipped along her neck and moved back toward the two lips she wanted badly. Oh, yes!"
Kelsey pulled back and looked into smoky green eyes for confirmation that Alyssa knew what was happening. What she saw told her more than words ever could and she slowly began to unbutton the shorter woman's uniform. She slipped the white shirt back over the blonde's shoulders placing a kiss on the creamy skin of her shoulder. Alyssa pulled Kelsey's shirt loose from her navy shorts and slowly pulled it up over the taller woman's head rising on her tiptoes laughing. Kelsey quickly helped by yanking her shirt the rest of the way and pulling Alyssa into her arms groaning at the touch of skin on skin. She couldn't remember ever feeling this way from just the mere touch of a woman. This wasn't just some woman, this was more, and she knew she was hopelessly lost. There would be no running from this encounter in the morning.
Alyssa gave in to the sensations that ran through her body. She had never felt so alive and so on fire as she did from Kelsey's touch. This was what she had left home in search of, this was what she had been denied growing up in her hometown, and this was so much more than she ever anticipated. She was falling and falling hard for Kelsey.
Kelsey pushed the shorter woman backward toward her bed and pulled her down with her to lie on the bed. She looked down into the heavy-lidded green eyes and paused. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, I am."
Kelsey smiled at the response and slowly slipped a bra strap down along soft skin until a creamy breast revealed itself. Leaning down she ran her tongue gently along the warm flesh causing Alyssa to shiver in response. Alyssa could feel a hot flush run through her body and she reached up to unhook Kelsey's bra behind her. After a few awkward attempts, she successful pulled the bra toward her and watched in fascination as breasts dangled down toward her. Her thoughts were focused on how it would feel to just touch the darkened raised circle before her. She began to reach out until a loud knock sounded on the door causing her to instantly pull back as though caught doing something wrong.
Kelsey jumped up and grabbed her shirt quickly pulling it on and motioning for Alyssa to do the same. Alyssa grabbed her shirt, as a knock sounded again, and ran for the bathroom. Kelsey looked around and saw Alyssa's discarded bra on the floor and kicked it under the bed as she went to answer the door. Opening the door, she came face to face with her supervisor.
"What's up?" Kelsey asked stepping back into the room to allow the woman to enter the cabin.
"I don't know. I was hoping you could tell me." The Activities Director took a seat on the edge of the bed and looked up at the raven-haired woman expectantly. Kelsey looked back unsure of what exactly the woman was asking and kept her face impassive.
"I'm not sure what you mean."
"I'm here because the Staff Director wants to see you in his office immediately. He sent word to me that I was to find you and send you there as soon as I did." She looked at Kelsey in anticipation, but before she could continue Alyssa stepped out of the bathroom.
"Oh, I didn't realize you had company." Alyssa's voice was calm and even as she tried to control her knees from shaking. She had heard most of the conversation from behind the door and thought it would be best to reveal herself.
"Alyssa, this is my boss, Nancy. Nancy, this is my roommate." Nancy smiled at the blonde and looked back at a nervous Kelsey curiously. 'Hmmm, this is an interesting little scenario. I don't think I've ever seen Kelsey flustered before.'
"Hello, I didn't mean to interrupt. I'll just grab my things and wait out on deck." Alyssa looked at Kelsey who nodded and grabbed her jacket and left. After the door closed behind the blonde, Kelsey turned toward her boss. "Did Hank tell you what this was all about?"
"No, but he didn't seem real thrilled and Karen was just leaving his office too. Now she, on the other hand, seemed extremely pleased and that didn't make me feel too comfortable." Kelsey drifted away in her thoughts as Nancy waited for her to respond she noted that Kelsey's blouse was misbuttoned. It didn't take a rocket scientist to know what was going on given what she knew about her friend's background. "Is there something I should know?"
Kelsey shook her head and looked into her boss' face. "No, I'll handle this." "Are you sure?"
Kelsey nodded her head and sat to put her shoes on. "Yes, I don't want you to have to get involved."
"Well okay, but if you need my support, you have it." Nancy looked sincerely at Kelsey and let her eyes tell the woman that it meant more than just the obvious. Kelsey smiled at the redhead and replied, "Thanks".
"Hey, you are one of my best employees. I'd be a fool to let anything happen to you!" Nancy chuckled as she got up and headed for the door. Pulling the door open, she paused and turned back toward Kelsey. "I'm serious, let me know if you need my help."
Kelsey got up and moved toward the door. "Thank you, I will." Nancy stopped her before she got very hard and Kelsey looked up at her questioningly. Nancy pointed down to the missed buttons on the shirt and grinned, "I think you'd better fix that first."
Kelsey looked down at her shirt and realized what the woman was talking about. A flush crept up her face as she studiously rebuttoned the shirt without looking up. Hearing a chuckle, Kelsey's headshot up to find Nancy shaking her head in mirth before turning to walk down the corridor. "Just great, already everyone knows!" Kelsey walked slowly down the corridor toward the Director's office and felt like she was walking the last mile. The slow pace gave her time to analyze her feelings and know exactly how far she would go as she weighted the possibilities. 'Okay, worst case scenario......' She stood before the director's door and without a doubt or hesitation knocked, she knew exactly what she was willing to risk to keep her job.
Kelsey sat for the next hour listening to the Staff Director tell her of Karen's accusations. Although, they were basically the truth, it was the context in which they were presented that made Kelsey angry. The Director had known Kelsey for the past three years and knew that she was a good employee. Sexual preferences had never been an issue with the cruise line, but relationships between senior and junior officers were a bone of contention. It was feared that harassment might result if these relationships were allowed and that was something the cruise line liked to avoid. Being a junior officer under a senior one was not an easy thing to do, and that accompanied with the possibility of forcing someone to trade favors for favors had led to the incorporation of rules against such relationships. He stood with a dilemma before him. One of his most troublesome employees had brought allegations against one of his best employees and he had to take some form of action. Personally, he would like to send Karen packing back to England, but she hadn't given them just cause. She had come close, but there were never any corroborating eyewitnesses. Case in point, it was Karen's word against Kelsey's, but this time, Karen swore she had someone who would back up her story. He had his doubts and knew that it would be a fabrication on the eyewitnesses. He told Karen as much, she could either prove her allegations or face the consequences of false accusations against a senior officer. In a perfect world, Karen wouldn't be able to find anyone to lie for her and he could dismiss her on the spot. But, it was anything but a perfect world and all he could do was get a handle on the situation and warn Kelsey of what was pending.
"So, that's the whole of it. You and I both know that Karen is a troublemaker and a detriment to the staff, but I have no solid proof to fire her. I want you to know what was happening and to find out your side of the story too. Personally, I think the whole regulation is stupid, but I have to abide by it or lose my job. I have to ask, are Karen's accusations grounded? Is there something going on between you and your junior trainee, Alyssa?"
Kelsey looked directly into his eyes and without skipping a beat replied, "Yes".
Hank rubbed a hand across his face in reply. "I was afraid of that." He slapped his hand lightly on the desk finally having to come to a decision. "Well, I say bully for you. But, the company says otherwise I'm afraid." Drumming his fingers lightly on the desk, he watched Kelsey thoughtfully pausing and sizing up the situation. Finally, a thought came to him as he watched Kelsey nod her head in defeat. She had remained stoically quiet during the entire ordeal and he knew she would take whatever the outcome and not bring anything to bear on her trainee.
"Well, then the only recourse Karen thinks I have is to let you go." Kelsey's heart dropped at those words. She knew that she had been willing to let that happen to protect Alyssa. She was sure she could get a job on one of the lesser Cruise lines if it came to that. She wanted to protect Alyssa but, either way, it meant they would be separated. Karen had ultimately gotten what she had wanted.
"But, I'm not ready to give up just yet. I have an opening with another senior officer who has asked me about the possibility of training a junior officer. I told her that I might just have someone for her." Hank smiled pleased with himself and the look on Kelsey's face was almost priceless. If he hadn't felt so bad for what she must be going through at this moment, he would have chuckled at this outcome.
"Who?" Kelsey's voice was a raspy whisper and she cleared her throat in irritation.
"Nancy. She asked me just before you came in here." Hank's face broke into a slight grin when the realization hit him that a certain Activities Director had just duped him. Kelsey signed in relief knowing that things had already been taken care of and that Hank and Nancy were actually working with her, and not against her. But, she couldn't help replying, "Nancy? I thought she had it in her contract that she didn't train new recruits?"
"Well, let's just say that she has had a change of heart all of a sudden and thought it would be fun to try her hand at it again." Hank tried hard to hide the grin that was quickly breaking into a smile.
"I think I'm out numbered here, and out smarted. Maybe, I should just keep my mouth shut and let you two handle everything." Kelsey shook her head wryly smiling.
"Good idea! Now, do you want me to tell Alyssa or will you?" Hank stood up relieved that disaster had been adverted and wanted to have a talk with Nancy. She had set him up and hadn't even seen it coming, he liked that and thought, "I wonder if she is seeing anyone?'
"No, I'll tell her but, what about Karen?"
Hanks grin faded immediately and his face took on a frown. "I'm afraid there isn't much I can do about her. Until she does something publicly or blatantly against regulations we have to put up with her. My advice is for the two of you to stay as far away from her as possible and try not to put yourself in any situations." Kelsey bristled at the advice and stood up, but before she could respond Hank cut her off. "I know it's not fair, but my hands are tied."
Kelsey just bit her lip and nodded. She may not like it, but she saw the truth in what he said and didn't envy his position.
"Listen Kelsey, eventually she will make a mistake, they always do. Don't think for a moment that I won't send her little but packing back to London!" Hank stood up and slapped the manila folder shut on his desk for emphasis. Kelsey half smiled and nodded again opening the door and turning back to Hank. "Thanks for what you have done. I really appreciate it."
"No, problem. I happen to think you are worth it and this is just one of those instances where the rule doesn't fit the situation, but we all have a duty to follow it."
"I understand sir. Alyssa and I are going ashore and I'll explain it all to her. Thanks." Kelsey slipped out of the office and headed down toward shore tenders to see if Alyssa was waiting down there. They really never said exactly where they would meet up when she left the cabin. Rounding the corner, she saw the blonde leaning against the rail watching the passengers come and go from shore. The worry was etched clearly on her face, marring her otherwise, soft features.
"Hey!" Kelsey spoke softly from behind her and Alyssa spun around to face the woman she had been waiting, waiting for all her life.
"Kelsey! What happened, I was getting worried. I saw Karen go ashore about twenty minutes ago. I guess her restrictions have been lifted, am I right?" Alyssa looked up into blue eyes expectantly and saw a cloud drift across them. She bit her lip in angst and waited for the woman's reply.
Kelsey knew that she would have to tell Alyssa everything, but didn't want to do it on the disembarking deck. "Later, let's just go ashore and get something to eat, I'm starving." Kelsey led the way onto the tender momentarily avoiding the inevitable.
On the ride over to the island Kelsey tried to change the subject by giving Alyssa a brief overview of the private island owned by the cruise line. Pleasure Island, aptly named for it's lush vegetation and lack of commercial growth. The island consisted of one small town where restaurants and bars dotted the streets. The locals lived either in town or in small homesteads that dotted the hillside. Kelsey chose one of the less crowded restaurants off the beaten track so that they could talk in privacy. After they had ordered, Kelsey took a long pull of her beer and leaned her elbows on the table to look at Alyssa.
"Okay, I guess we need to talk now."
Alyssa's attention immediately focused on the serious woman in front of her as her insides trembled in response. "So, what's the verdict?" She sat back trying to appear calm, but kept her hands clenched tightly around her beer bottle to keep them from shaking.
"It's not as bad as that!" Kelsey grinned at Alyssa's serious composure and reached across to squeeze her hand lightly. She could feel how tightly the blonde held the bottle and she gently stroked the back of her hand to ease her tension. Alyssa grinned and set the bottle down to grasp Kelsey's hand in her own. They kept their fingertips touching. "I thought when I saw Karen going ashore like that, that we had lost."
"No, not really. I mean it still makes me angry that she is getting away with this shit, but the director seems to be on our side." Kelsey's hand subconsciously clenched Alyssa's fingers tighter when she talked about Karen and the blonde instantly responded by wiggling her fingers. Kelsey's attention was caught and she apologetically winked and returned her touch to its original light caress.
"So, what did the director say?"
Kelsey sat back and ran a hand through her hair hesitantly. She wasn't sure how Alyssa was going to respond to the news that she would have to move to another cabin. She looked up into questioning green eyes and replied, "He thinks it would be better if you were reassigned to another senior officer for the rest of your training."
Alyssa swallowed hard, but kept her gaze firmly on her tall friend. "Who?"
"My boss, Nancy. It seems she has gone against her oath of not training anymore to ask for this assignment." Kelsey smiled widely and Alyssa seemed to relax. "She is really a nice person. The only bad thing is that you have to move to her cabin."
Alyssa's spirits dropped, but she was determined to remain upbeat about the situation. It could have been a lot worse, they could have been separated permanently. "The important thing is that we kept our jobs and don't have to separate permanently."
Kelsey shook her head firmly and leaned back crossing her arms over her chest. "I wouldn't have let that happen."
"You wouldn't, huh?" Alyssa replied as a slightly devious grin edged the corner of her mouth.
"Nope!" Kelsey replied nonchalantly looking at her watch and scowled. Picking up the check she rose to her feet and fished in her pocket for her wallet. "We're late, we better hurry and get back to the ship?"
"We didn't have much time did we?"
"No, that meeting took up all our time."
Kelsey laid two bills on the table and led the way out of the restaurant. The two women walked side by side, their shoulders occasionally rubbing as their gently swinging hands brushed against each other. The tone of their recent banter firmly etched upon their minds as they walked back to the ship. The sound of music grew louder as they passed an open deck bar. The island was dotted with such places. The little cafes main draws were there outside decks covered by palm leaves. Ceiling fans swirled the tropical breezes, cooling patrons as they sipped exotic drinks and listened to the music of the islands.
A loud shout turned the attention of both women to the entrance of the patio and saw Karen leaning against the post with a beer in her hand. Kelsey could tell right away that she had been drinking quite heavily. "Well, well 'lookee' here. Ms. Bitch and her pet, having one last fling before you have to part? My, how romantic!" Karen laughed and tipped her bottle to drain the last of the brew. Wiping her chin sloppily with the back of her hand she motioned to the bartender for another round before turning back to the two women on the sidewalk. "Well, why don't you let me buy you a drink to celebrate!"
"Come on Kelsey ignore her, she's drunk!" Alyssa tugged lightly on Kelsey's sleeve to try to get the tall woman moving again. Kelsey nodded and they turned to move up the street once again.
"Well, color me surprised. I never would have expected you to be 'pw' type!" The grating voice brought Kelsey to an instant halt. Her jaw clenched dangerously as her face turned to a stone mask. Alyssa stopped a few steps ahead and looked back at her friend nervously. Suddenly, the sound of Kelsey laughing brought a surprise look to the blonde's face. Kelsey broke into a grin and looked back at Karen and then to Alyssa. "Go ahead and hold the launch, I promise I'll be right along."
"What do you mean?"
"Trust me, I'm going to have one drink with my buddy here and we will be right behind you." Alyssa looked at Kelsey utterly confused and when the woman motioned her along, she mutely complied and walked down the street toward the waiting ship tenders.
Kelsey watched until Alyssa turned the corner before turning back to Karen who watched her warily. She walked calmly past the woman into the interior of the bar and looked around. Catching the attention of the bartender she nodded and walked over toward him and had a few words. Karen slowly made her way back into the bar and watched from the other end of the bar. Kelsey turned back from the bartender smiling and nodded in Karen's direction before turning to leave the patio.
"PW'd all right!" Karen muttered to herself and gulped her beer in a rush to get back to the ship. Turning, she moved to exit the patio only to find her path blocked by a trio of women.
"Excuse me, I've got to get back to my ship!" Karen demanded and sidestepped to go around them. Her heart dropped when the women smiled and moved in unison with her.
Alyssa breathed a sigh of relief when she saw Kelsey's figure hurrying down the street toward her. Her face broke into a smile when the tall woman winked and walked past her to jump aboard the tender. Turning, Kelsey gallantly held out her hand to help the blonde step down onto the waiting boat.
"I was worried about you," Alyssa whispered as they moved to take their seats. Kelsey nodded toward the skipper in thanks and turned toward Alyssa. "No worries, I promised you I'd be right behind you." Alyssa responded to Kelsey's good humor with a grin while they quietly enjoyed the ride back to the ship. When the tender bumped along side the ship, they quickly scrambled aboard. The deck hands worked to hoist the tender back onto the deck, and the ship prepared to get underway.
Laughing and running up the stairs, the two women made their way toward the upper deck railing to watch as the ship sailed out of the bay under a full sunset.
"It's beautiful isn't it?" Alyssa said, softly laying a hand her friend's arm. Kelsey turned to agree with her, but the words died in her throat as she watched Alyssa's countenance suddenly change. The blonde quickly jerked her attention back toward the rapidly fading shoreline and stepped up onto the bottom rung of the railing as the island grew smaller in the distance.
"Wait! Wh---where's Karen?" Alyssa asked leaning farther out over the railing until Kelsey restrained her from further movement. She quickly back down and looked up at the tall woman worriedly.
"Don't worry I didn't touch her!" Kelsey replied with a chuckle, 'at least not personally'.
"Then what happened?"
"I think she was detained by some friends. You know, I told her that her partying would get her in trouble one day." Kelsey leaned her elbows on the railing contentedly and breathed in the fragrant night air.
"And I suppose you didn't have anything to do with it?" Alyssa asked sarcastically and bumped her shoulder against the taller woman.
"Who me?" Kelsey's look of innocence was comical causing Alyssa to burst into a light laughter. "Yeah, you!"
"I guess you could say she missed the boat one last time." Kelsey tugged on Alyssa's arm and headed inside. "Come on, let's go eat. I'm starving!" Alyssa shook her head and followed, curious, but more surprised that she didn't feel a bit guilty about what had happened to Karen. Walking with her friend to the Dining Room, she finally concluded, 'What goes around comes around, and sometimes it comes around and smacks you right in the face!'
As Kelsey and Alyssa finished dinner, Hank approached the table. Alyssa apprehensively watched him draw nearer and looked at her tall companion who sat completely relaxed and smiling.
Hank sat down next to Kelsey and nodded toward Alyssa in acknowledgement before turning back to the tall woman. "Kelsey. Have you by chance seen Karen? She didn't show for her shift and no one seems to know where she is?"
Kelsey looked over at Alyssa who sat wide-eyed and nervous. She winked calmly and looked back to Hank. "The last time we saw her she was down at Trader Jacks with some friends."
"Damn! Do you know if she made it back to the ship?" Hank was getting tired of all the trouble Karen was causing this cruise. Secretly, he hoped she had missed the ship so that he could send her sorry ass back to England. But, outwardly, he appeared concerned regarding one of his employees.
"I don't think she did. We saw her on our way back to the ship, and I warned her that we were sailing soon. But, she was her usual colorful self, and I finally just left the bar and headed to the dock. Alyssa and I were on the last tender from shore, and I know she wasn't with us."
Alyssa listened, amazed at Kelsey. She had told the basic truth, but somehow it sounded a lot better than it actually was.
"Well, I guess I had better go put a call in and fill out a report. Looks like Karen will not be rejoining us." Hank stood up, a ghost of a smile edging his lips. "I may need your input in my report; where can I find you later?"
"Either in my cabin or Nancy's. We have to move Alyssa's things," Kelsey replied with a grimace. She still wasn't keen on the plan, but it was out of her hands.
"That's not necessary. I said that her direct supervision had to change, not her location. Actually, at this point, it seems to be a moot issue." Hank grinned and saluted the woman before strolling off to his duties.
Kelsey looked over at Alyssa whose mouth hung agape in surprise. She reached across and gently pushed up on the woman's jaw to close her mouth. "Save that for later." Kelsey chuckled and stood up. "You ready to go?"
"Where?" Alyssa asked. She was totally confused with everything that had been happening since they passed Karen at the bar.
"I thought maybe we could take a walk on deck before turning in." Kelsey suggested leading the way out of the Officers Dining Room.
"So then, I don't have to move?" Alyssa asked
trying to keep her voice low as she hurried to follow the tall woman in front
Alyssa finally caught up with Kelsey's long legs and grabbed her arm to turn her around. "Will you stop for a minute and tell me exactly what is going on? Does this mean the Director knows about us?" Alyssa bit her lip at this sudden realization and for a moment worried about the ramifications of being "out". She had a momentary pang before she realized that it really wasn't such a big deal. She looked up at Kelsey and knew instantly that she would shout this knowledge from the deck of this very ship if it meant she could always be with the woman before her.
"Come on, not here." Kelsey grabbed Alyssa's hand and pulled her down the deck toward the bow of the ship. It was a chilly night and not many passengers were milling about. Most were either at the late seating for dinner or at the final show that was beginning in the Promenade Club. They went as far forward as possible, and Kelsey pulled Alyssa behind a lifeboat divet to protect them from the strong cool breeze that blew over the water that evening.
"Now, what were you saying?" Kelsey whispered huskily and pulled Alyssa into her arms. Their kiss began slowly and hesitant, but soon built up speed and intensity as their arms passionately wrapped around one another in their attempt for a closer union.
"Whew! I guess that answers my question." Alyssa's voice broke and she cleared her throat in response.
"I'm sorry. Am I going too fast?" Kesley asked, worried that she was making the blonde feel uncomfortable.
"No, just trying to put all the pieces together." Alyssa replied and lay her head against Kelsey's chest. She could hear the steady rhythm of the heart that beat within her chest, and it comforted her.
"Can I ask you something?" Kelsey asked softly as she kissed the top of the blonde head. "Hmmm?" Alyssa murmured nodding her head slightly, not wanting to move from within the warmth of Kelsey's arms.
"Does it bother you that others, like Hank, know?" Kelsey hadn't allowed herself to dwell on the negative possibilities. She had just gone with the flow and pushed the rest down out of her conscious thinking.
Alyssa looked up into the dim light to see two blue eyes look intently back at her. She knew the question was an important one and that she needed her answer to be an honest one for both of them. Taking a deep breath she settled her arms around Kelsey and looked directly into the worried blue eyes.
"I'll admit when it first hit me that I was scared for a moment, until I thought about exactly what "being out" meant. I find that I am not so terrified about everyone knowing as I would be about losing you. I know that I may not know everything there is to know about a relationship between women. I just know how I feel when I am with you and how I feel about you. I know what love is. I know that I love you, and I am definitely not ashamed of that fact. I would stand up there on the bridge and announce it to the entire ship if that is what you want me to do." Alyssa kept her eyes focused on Kelsey's and in the dim light she saw the worried edges soften as she spoke of her feelings to her friend.
Kelsey's lips quirked into a smile, and she leaned down and lightly kissed the upturned lips. "I don't think that will be necessary, but thank you for offering."
"No problem." Alyssa smiled and snuggled back against Kelsey's warm chest.
"I love you too."
Alyssa heard the whispered words and felt the arms around her tighten. She sighed and felt the tears as they edged her eyes. She hadn't felt this connected to anyone in her life. This was the closest she had ever felt to anyone other than her mother.
"I never thought I would get this close to anyone, let alone this quickly." Kelsey's voice was low and steady as she looked out over the blonde's head and watched the moon faintly illuminate the waves as the ship passed through them. "But, for some reason this just feels so right for me."
"I know, it's hard to explain. The only way I can describe it is that I don't have that dull ache in the pit of my stomach that I've always had in the past. I feel like I'm where I'm supposed to be." Alyssa tried to explain what she was feeling, but felt she was falling short in describing all the emotions that passed through her and shrugged her shoulders. "Does this make any sense?"
"Oh yeah, it makes perfect sense!" Kelsey replied laughing and easing the tension between them.
"So, I take it we still get to share a cabin right?" Alyssa asked coyly and stepped out from the shelter of the lifeboat. The wind instantly sent a chill up her spine and she shivered. Kelsey nodded and let Alyssa take the lead of the conversation. She knew what she wanted, but she also knew that it was Alyssa's decision that had to take precedence. "I'm freezing! What do you think the chances are of going down there and warming up?"
"Ooh, I think the chances are looking very good." Kelsey reached out for Alyssa's hand and they began walking back toward the stairwell. "Just how warm are we talking?"
"Well, I guess that depends on you, now doesn't it?" Alyssa replied and grasped Kelsey's hand tighter. Kelsey nodded, momentarily speechless but recovering quickly, she led the way inside and took the shortest route back to their cabin.
Closing the door behind her, Kelsey suddenly felt nervous about what they were about to do. 'You would think I'd never done this before.' She thought about Alyssa and realized, 'but she hasn't'. The ramification of her responsibility made her feel inadequate at best, and she sighed. 'Nothing like a little pressure to spark the ole romance.'
"What's wrong? If you don't want to do this, it's okay." Alyssa's voice was trembling with embarassment. She hadn't wanted to pressure Kelsey into anything. She had thought the tall woman had the same feelings she did but, 'maybe I've read things wrong?'
"NO! I mean...no that's not it at all. I want to be with you more than
anything. It's funny but I guess I'm a bit nervous about it too," Kelsey admitted and grinned, slightly embarrassed.
"I'm ready to jump out of my skin, but I never would have thought you'd be nervous. You are so experienced!" Alyssa cringed at how that must have sounded and apologetically shrugged. "I mean, I've never done this before, but you have right?"
"Yes, but it's because you haven't that I guess makes me nervous. I want your first time to be very special and...what if I can't make it that?" Kelsey voice trailed off quietly as she voiced her greatest fear.
"I don't really think I have any expectations that just being with you hasn't already filled. The physical part is just another dimension to who you are, and, yes, I want to share it, but I don't think it would ever be as important as what I feel just being in the same room with you. Does this make any sense?" Alyssa looked at Kelsey for some sense of comprehension to what she was trying to explain.
Kelsey smiled a bit relieved and nodded. "Yes, actually it does. It makes me feel a little more comfortable too, thank you. How do you always seem to do that?"
"What?" Alyssa drew closer to Kelsey and allowed the taller woman to put her arms around her and hold her closely. She loved this part more than anything, so far. The warmth and security that Kelsey offered was just one of the things that Alyssa treasured about their relationship. It didn't hurt, either, that the woman was a total knock out, too.
"Always trying to make things easier for me." Kelsey snuggled closer to the shorter woman and kissed the top of her head. She could smell the sweet smell of Alyssa's shampoo. It was a fresh smell that would always remind her of the young woman in her arms.
"It comes naturally I guess." Alyssa smiled and looked up into deep blue eyes, and her next thoughts were instantly blown away. As Kelsey's lips drew nearer, Alyssa's thoughts ended abruptly. 'Holy Moly!'
The touch of their lips was like the first time for Kelsey. She reveled in the softness and outlined the contours of those lips with her tongue before gently asking for permission to enter. This permission was eagerly granted and both woman were soon swept along in a flood of emotions and sensations. Pulling back, Kelsey's breathing was erratic and with a raspy voice asked, "Do you want to slow down?"
"Only when we get to the good part. I'll let you know when that is."
Alyssa's voice was husky as her lips cut off further conversation and her body pushed against Kelsey's. Kelsey began walking backwards toward the bed with Alyssa firmly planted against her. When the back of her legs hit the edge of the bed, she slowly sat down drawing Alyssa with her.
Kelsey slowly unbuttoned Alyssa's shirt, slipping it off her shoulder and she chased the departing garment with her lips. She quickly followed each article of clothing with lavish attention to the bare skin that appeared.
"Oh my god!" Alyssa called out as Kelsey's tongue and lips encircled her breast and moved their way across her body. There wasn't a part of her skin or soul that Kelsey hadn't touched and brought to new heightened awareness.
Kelsey pulled back and looked up worriedly into smoky green eyes. "Do you want me to stop?"
Alyssa smiled sexily and huskily whispered, "Oh no, you can just slow down now."
Alyssa pulled Kelsey back toward her and began to kiss her long and deep. As their passions rose, Alyssa quickly found herself sprawled across the taller woman's body. Surprised how well their bodies molded together. Alyssa felt sensations that she had never experienced before and she was moved to a boldness that she wouldn't have expected. Kelsey hadn't expected it either, but her surprise turned to enjoyment as the smaller woman took charge of their lovemaking.
Alyssa nipped lightly along Kelsey's collarbone, sending shivers down her spine. And, when the blonde's fingers fumbled with the buttons on her shirt, she reached up to help. Her hand was quickly brushed away, and Alyssa shook her head no and continued on with her exploration. "Let me."
Kelsey nodded and lay back allowing all her senses to feel and react to everything that was being done to her by this incredible woman. 'Now, who was the inexperienced one?' Kelsey's inwardly chuckled at her thoughts as the novice left her inhibitions behind and taught the older experienced one what love could be.
"Good morning, sleepy head."
"Mmmmm" Alyssa moaned, smiling, and blinked her eyes awake to the deep throaty voice above her. The first things she focused on were the bright blue eyes of her new lover. "Good morning, yourself."
Kelsey leaned down and kissed Alyssa lightly on the lips. "How are you?"
"Perfect!" Alyssa groaned as she stretched her body out, causing the raven-haired woman to lightly run her hand down the taunt body before her. At the touch, Alyssa instantly wrapped herself around Kelsey and began kissing her neck.
"Whoa honey!" Kelsey pulled away from the sensations that the blonde evoked in her body. "We have to get ready for docking. Remember, we're back in Miami today."
"So soon?" Alyssa moaned and released Kelsey's body reluctantly.
Kelsey leaned over kissing Alyssa more intently and looked down into deep green eyes. "Unfortunately, yes. We have a lot of work to do before we can leave the ship tonight."
"Why leave?" We could just stay in tonight," Alyssa drawled sexily.
"Yeah, we could. But, I thought you'd like to see something of Miami before we have to leave again," Kelsey replied offhandedly as she sat up on the side of the bed.
"You know Miami?" Alyssa sat up surprised and extremely curious about her new lover. 'Actually', she thought, 'I don't know very much about her background'.
"You didn't think I was born on this ship did you?" Kelsey slipped on a button down shirt, standing up as she began to button it and, thinking better, just shrugged and left it open.
"No, I just didn't give it much thought," Alyssa replied, mesmerized by the long legs that seemed endless as they grew past the hem of the shirttail.
"Hello? Are you still with me?" Kelsey snapped her fingers with a smirk on her face. Alyssa shook her head and looked up flushed.
"It's okay, but if you want to see more...you'd better get up and get in the shower with me," Kelsey threw back as she walked toward the bathroom. Her parting gesture before closing the door behind her was to remove her shirt and throw it back onto the bed hitting Alyssa square in the face.
The blonde quickly scrambled to get off the bed and pulled the shirt out of her eyes. She hurried to the door and hesitated briefly before pulling it open and slipping inside. Kelsey was already in the shower with the water running and Alyssa cautiously opened the curtain and found herself being pulled inside and into strong arms. They spent the next hour soaping each other, kissing freshly cleaned skin until they both became water logged, and hurriedly dried each other off. Rushing around trying to dress, the two women giggled like kids as they tripped over each other. Finally dressed, they grabbed their portfolios and literally ran down the corridor, late for their duties.
"Glad you could join us." Nancy called out as Kelsey tried to slip into the back of the room. The older woman tried to keep her face blank; but, when the corner of her lips curled, she turned back to her clipboard and continued calling out assignments.
Kelsey quickly took an empty seat and pulled the bill of her cap down farther over her eyes. 'Great! Now I will never hear the end of this one! At least no one saw us together.' Kelsey sat back and started to relax until she saw Alyssa peek her head into the room and wave at her.
The raven-haired beauty groaned inwardly and refused to look over at her boss. But, she heard the woman cough in her attempt to cover up her mirth.
"Excuse me." Alyssa softly spoke and headed toward Kelsey.
"You have my portfolio." Alyssa pointed toward the case on the floor next to Kelsey's chair. Kelsey sighed and leaned down to pick up the case to hand it to the blonde.
"Sorry." Alyssa whispered and handed Kelsey her case. Kelsey felt bad and could hear the hurt in the blonde's voice. 'Damn! It isn't her fault.' Kelsey touched her hand and smiled. "It's okay." Alyssa's countenance lightened and, nodding briefly, she hurried out of the room.
Kelsey put the case on the floor next to her chair and looked up for the first time. She noticed the room was quiet and everyone was looking back at her, including Nancy.
"What?" Kelsey barked out loud causing Nancy to snicker. Kelsey just shrugged her shoulders and shifted lower in her seat to brood. Having sympathy, Nancy gathered everyone's attention and finished her 'end of cruise' instructions and everyone began to file out, leaving just herself and Kelsey in the room.
"Go ahead say it! I know you are dying to!" Kelsey barked before Nancy had a chance to even turn around. Nancy slowly shifted back on her heels and looked at her friend and coworker. She noted the rosy cheeks and the sparkle in the deep blue eyes. She had to admit that the young woman was looking better than she had in a long while. Outside of the obvious irritation, there seemed to be a relaxed calmness about the tall woman. 'Looks like someone has finally come full circle.'
"The only thing I've got to say to you is, it's about damn time!"
"I said it's about time you joined the rest of the human race and got a life!" Nancy chuckled at the bewildered look that turned sheepish, an endearing look that she had never seen on the tall woman.
"Don't even go there!" Nancy quickly interrupted Kelsey and looked her in the eye. Kelsey backed down laughing, "Okay, Okay I give up!"
"So you two serious?"
Kelsey paused for a moment reflectively before looking up and strongly acknowledging, "Yes, I believe we are."
"Good! Now get your butt moving and finish your assignment so you can take your woman off this bucket." Nancy waved her hand at Kelsey before turning back to her inventory checklist.
Kelsey walked over and hugged her friend briefly. "Thanks for stepping in to help us."
"No problem." Nancy tried to shrug off the deed as though it was no big deal. But, Kelsey knew better. She knew how much Nancy valued her hard won status, and to be recognized as upper management meant she didn't have to supervise anymore. "Yes, it was, and we appreciate it."
"You're welcome. Now get going before I make you find all the missing inventory before you can leave." Nancy waved her clipboard at her threateningly.
"I'm outta here!" Kelsey waved and hustled out the door and down to her office to finish her paperwork and get ready for tomorrow's new passengers. They had one night free before sailing on a new cruise.
Locking her desk and tossing her final tally report in the Chief Purser's in-basket, Alyssa smiled and headed out of the office. She hurried down the almost empty corridors, the passengers had all disembarked and only the housekeeping staff could be found as they methodically cleaned and prepared cabins for the next cruise.
Alyssa arrived at the cabin to find that housekeeping had already changed their linens and towels. Kelsey hadn't returned yet and she quickly packed what she thought she might need for overnight. Not knowing what Kelsey had planned for them for the evening, Alyssa changed into Khaki pants and a white polo shirt. 'This should cover just about anywhere we might go.' Alyssa thought as she looked over her shoulder in the mirror to make sure her shirt was tucked in.
"Nice view!" Kelsey's deep throaty voice drifted over from the doorway and Alyssa looked up surprised to see the woman. She hadn't heard Kelsey arrive as the tall lanky frame leaned against the open doorway grinning.
"Kelsey!" Alyssa could feel her cheeks flush as she turned away from the mirror. Kelsey chuckled and closed the door as she came fully into the room.
"What? Can I help it if I was just appreciating the view?" Kelsey pulled the embarrassed and squirming blonde into her arms and kissed her until she felt the woman stop trying to get away. Pulling back Kelsey looked down into deep green eyes. "You aren't use to someone paying you attention are you?"
Alyssa thought for a moment before replying. "No I guess not. My brothers enjoyed the attention more than I did. I'm use to being seen and not heard."
"Too bad, you miss a lot that way." Kelsey kissed the tip of the shorter woman's nose before releasing her and moving to grab her duffel bag.
"Well, when it came to the male attention in our household, it was probably better that way." Alyssa sarcastically replied zipping up her bag.
"A bit overwhelming?" The tall woman asked without turning around and continued to pack a change of clothes.
"You could say that. My father had a firm belief of a woman's place in this world. Let's just say it involved being barefoot in a kitchen." Alyssa sat down on the edge of her bed waiting for Kelsey.
"Yikes, I feel sorry for your mother." Kelsey grabbed the handles of her bag and turned to pick up Alyssa's bag. "Ready?"
"Yep! Lead on, my tour guide!" Alyssa's frown of a minute ago turned into an instant smile as she looked into sparkling blue eyes. Kelsey paused for a moment and looked down at her new lover. "Did I tell you that I'm glad you decided not to stay in the kitchen and go sailing instead?"
"I'm glad I did, too," Alyssa replied, reaching up to lightly touch Kelsey's cheek. Kelsey's eyes locked with Alyssa's and given the choice, she would have stayed there forever lost in the deep green pools. Finally, shaking herself out of her reverie, she moved toward the door and opened it. "Let's go have some fun!"
"I'm right behind you!" Alyssa grabbed her backpack and followed her raven-haired beauty down the corridor toward the gangway to the pier. She didn't say anything as she followed the tall figure down the dock toward the back parking lots. As they passed the guard shack, Kelsey waved and moved toward a jeep parked in the corner.
"Here we are." Kelsey unlocked the doors and threw their bags in the back. "Come on, hop in."
Alyssa looked at the vehicle. It was exactly what she had expected Kelsey would drive and slid into the passenger side. "Nice jeep."
Kelsey grinned and started the engine. "I know, it seems kind of foolish to have a car when we are at sea so much, but I like having the freedom when we are in Miami, and I hate cab drivers." Kelsey pulled out of the lot and headed down the pier past the cruise ships and out onto the Boulevard. Neither woman said much as they drove along the water. Alyssa sighed disappointedly when the road turned away from the water. After about twenty minutes of driving, Kelsey turned down a side street of modest homes and when the road ended, she stopped. Hopping out of the Jeep, Kelsey ran around and opened the door for Alyssa. Following behind the tall woman she walked up to the old house.
The style of the house was a southwestern adobe hacienda with the exception that in back an addition had been added to the top of the otherwise flat roof. Kelsey opened the gate that led within the surrounding walls. and Alyssa found herself in a little garden of tropical foliage. The sound of water falling drew her attention to a fountain in the middle of the garden. The woman atop the fountain had her arms upturned to the heavens as the water cascaded from her hands and down into the pool at her feet.
Kelsey turned to see the blonde's reaction and smiled when she encountered the look of awe on Alyssa's face. "Wow! You live here?"
"Yes, Come on." Kelsey grabbed her hand and pulled her through the archway. Before her eyes could adjust to the cool dark interior of the courtyard, they were greeted by a cheerful voice.
"Ola! Did you have a pleasant sail?"
"The usual." Kelsey shrugged her shoulders as a dark haired woman came out from one of the doorways and gave her a big hug. Stepping back Kelsey pulled Alyssa forward and made the introductions.
"This is my Aunt Katherine. Aunt Katie this is Alyssa, my friend from the ship." Alyssa noted that Aunt Katherine had the same raven hair as Kelsey, but she was shorter and her eyes were a paler blue. Katie looked Alyssa over and smiled, "A good friend, I hope!"
Alyssa blushed, and Kelsey rolled her eyes at the woman and laughed, "You are bad! We're going up to my place." Kelsey pushed Alyssa ahead of her to continue through the courtyard.
"I will get to see you again before you leave, won't I?" Katie stood with a hand on her hips and a twinkle in her eye. Her lips twitched with mirth as she loved to tease her niece about her escapades. Women were one weakness they both had in common which is probably why they had been friends since the day Kelsey had come to live with her.
Watching the two young women ascend the stairs to the back apartment, Katie could see the slim waif that had arrived on her doorstep many years ago. She was a tall gangly child with large expressive blue eyes, eyes that had seen too much pain for such a young age. Kelsey had been a solemn eight-year-old who didn't say much for the first few months, which was understandable. Kelsey's parents had basically abandoned her along the roadside in their quest for the ultimate good time. Luckily, they had left her with friends of Katie's, after a few months and no word from Katie's sister and her brother-in-law, they called her.
Katie immediately sent a plane ticket for her niece and it wasn't until after Kelsey arrived in her home did she learn of the couple's death in a car accident up in Canada. Her sister, Rachael, had always been a free spirited soul with a love of life. Katie had hoped when Rachael had met Ben and became pregnant that it would settle her down. Her hopes of a stable life for the baby seemed to be coming true until Kelsey turned five. Rachael and Ben began leaving the child with friends more and more as they traveled farther and longer, until they stopped coming home altogether. Katie looked at the two as they disappeared inside and shook her head sadly. She also knew about Kelsey's fear of getting hurt again. 'Maybe one day.' She thought as she went back to her writing.
Kelsey led the way up the stairs to her apartment. Crossing the living room, she walked to the French doors to the balcony and opened them to let some fresh air into the closed apartment. "It's not much, but it has a great view." Stepping out onto the balcony she motioned Alyssa to follow her.
Alyssa stepped out into the blinding sunshine and looked out over the treetops to the ocean behind the next row of houses. "Nice!" Alyssa leaned both hands on the rail and breathed in the slightly salty air. Kelsey came to stand behind her, her arms encircled the shorter woman's waist and she kissed the side of her neck and murmured in agreement, "Mmmm…yes, it is nice."
Alyssa twisted herself around to face Kelsey without breaking out of the circle of her arms. Leaning up, she began to nibble on Kelsey's bottom lip. Kelsey responded to the subtle teasing and captured the blonde's mouth with her own. After a few moments of rapt concentration, Kelsey pulled back and looked around her. "I suggest we move inside before the neighbors get more of a show than they bargained for!"
Alyssa giggled and moved back inside the apartment. Kelsey quickly followed and pulled the blonde back into her arms for a more intensive exploration of her each other's senses. Slowly and sensually they left a trail of clothing on their journey to the bedroom. Lying under a lazily swirling ceiling fan, their body temperature rose dangerously close to erupting into a fire of lust as they kissed and teased bodies until they were weak with spent passion. As their bodies slowly cooled down, Kelsey held Alyssa in her arms and absently drew circles on the woman's bare back as they talked.
"You never talk much about your family. Is your Aunt your only family?" Alyssa rolled over and rested her chin on Kelsey's breast and looked her intently in the eye.
"The only family that counts." Kelsey replied, quickly looking away. Alyssa could sense the tension that suddenly infused the body beneath her. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean to pry. If you don't want to talk about it, it's okay."
Kelsey sighed and shook her head slightly before losing herself in deep green eyes. "It's not that, it's just that I really never had a family until I came to live with Aunt Katie. My parents weren't the nurturing kind."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, my parents didn't like to be tied down to one place too long. I'm surprised they stayed as long as they did. When I was five, they had finally had enough and left me with friends and took off exploring. That was the last time I saw them and the first time I met Aunt Katherine. She was my mother's sister, but they had fought a few years before I was born and it wasn't until then that I got to meet her. I've been with her ever since."
"What happened to your parents?" Alyssa asked softly, not wanting to interrupt the reverie she saw the dark woman's eyes.
"They were killed in a car accident in Canada." Kelsey replied, shrugging her shoulders slightly. Alyssa noted this gesture was one that Kelsey adopted when she was hurt or embarrassed.
"Don't be, they died doing what they loved the most." Kelsey grinned slightly and kissed the tip of Alyssa's nose and moved down to capture the lips. Rolling Alyssa under her, she quickly cleared her mind of unpleasant memories and lost herself the soft, warm body beneath her.
Kelsey awoke to darkness and a started at the unfamiliar pressure against her chest. Looking down to see blonde hair splayed out across her body, she gently stroked the soft hair to still the low moaning coming from Alyssa. As her heartbeat slowed back to normal she continued stroking the hair. "Shhh....it's alright" Kelsey soothingly whispered, but couldn't stop the thought from entering her head. 'I really hope so.'
Morning dawned bright and sunny like a typical South Florida morning. Kelsey realized the weight on her chest was gone and quickly looked around for Alyssa. She found the blonde curled on her side next to her still asleep. Kelsey couldn't resist and again reached out to stroke the soft blonde tresses that lay against the pillow next to her. She marveled at the silkiness and strength of the hair and how it matched the woman next to her. There was a quiet strength beneath the inexperience and naivete of the young woman. Alyssa was quickly growing on Kelsey, which was something she hadn't let anyone or anything do in a long time. There was not the usual burning lump in the pit of her stomach that had accompanied the ones before the blonde. Kelsey was feeling totally comfortable and at peace, and this scared her.
Alyssa cracked open an eye to the early morning sunshine and looked up at the figure lying next to her. She had awoken to the sensation of someone touching her hair and she realized that Kelsey was absently stroking her head. She looked up to find a face deep in thought but, etched in sadness. Alyssa felt an instant let down. 'Have I disappointed her somehow? Is she having second thoughts now?' Alyssa's heart pounded in her fear of failing and losing Kelsey. The fear was real and genuine, she had come to feel that the woman was a part of her now. She couldn't see herself or her future without seeing Kelsey there.
Kelsey felt the sensation of eyes on her and glanced over toward Alyssa. The look she saw in the far away green eyes struck a cord deep within her. She saw a tear develop and teeter on the blonde's eyelid. 'Shit!'
"Hey, what's the matter? Are you okay?" Kelsey slid down in the bed to get closer to Alyssa. All of a sudden it was imperative that she find out what the problem was.
"Nothing." Alyssa quickly reached up to wipe the tear away and rolled over onto her back and looked up at the ceiling. She was afraid to look into the blue eyes, afraid that her worst fear would be realized.
Kelsey pulled the woman toward her and leaned down to peer into her face. When the blonde tried to look to the side Kelsey gently grasped her chin and pulled the face to look at her. The green eyes she would always drown in, looked lost to her now and she found herself pleading for an answer. "It's not nothing, please talk to me."
Alyssa saw fear register in Kelsey's blue eyes and she sighed. 'I guess it is better to know now than to fool myself any longer.'
"You are having second thoughts about us aren't you?" The questioning green eyes bored into Kelsey for any hint of a response and the tall woman knew she had to handle this carefully or risk losing Alyssa.
"Why do you ask that?"
"Because I saw the look in your face just now. I'm not what you are looking for. You need someone sure of who they are and knows how to make you happy. I just seem to always be causing you trouble." Alyssa took a deep breath and continued before Kelsey could open her mouth. "I won't make it hard for you. I won't hold you to anything."
Alyssa moved to get up and get dressed, but Kelsey grasped her arm tightly and pulled her backward onto the bed. "Wait! Is that what you want?"
Alyssa just looked at the raven-haired woman. She was torn between wanting to scream no and Kelsey's look that was seared into her conscious. She pulled away and got out of the bed wrapping the blanket around herself. She walked toward the window and looked out. Her heart gave-way to her mind and she gently shook her head without turning around and asked, "No, but what about you?"
"I'll admit I was having some concern about our relationship, but it was never about not wanting you. It was just the opposite. I've never felt so at peace with anyone before and the thought scared me. Not because of you, but because of me. I don't want you to go anywhere, but I won't stop you if you want to go." Kelsey finished softly laying her heart on her sleeve and waited for the stabbing sensation to begin.
Alyssa slowly turned around to face the raven-haired beauty. "No, I don't want to be anywhere but here. I didn't want you to feel you were trapped in something you didn't want."
Kelsey reached out her hand to Alyssa and the woman slowly waked toward the woman as she reclined on the bed. "Oh, I think I want this more than I've wanted anything else in my life. For the first time I don't feel a gnawing pain in my gut that always made me feel I wasn't in the right place. Now, I actually feel like I'm where I belong, with you. Does that make any sense?"
Alyssa looked down into Kelsey's blue eyes and replied, "Perfect sense." Alyssa leaned down to kiss Kelsey softly until the woman pulled her into her on top of her and returned the kiss with a fervor that surpassed their lovemaking of the night before. She unwrapped the blanket that encased Alyssa, and the early morning hours were spent showing and confirming just how much they meant to each other. Exhausted, they soon fell asleep in each other's arms and didn't wake until the late afternoon shadows descend upon the room.
Kelsey looked over at the clock and groaned causing Alyssa to stir within her arms. "What's the matter?" She asked hoarsely rolling off Kelsey and onto her side.
Kelsey grinned and stretched. "It's almost 4 PM, my aunt will be calling up here soon to see if we are still alive and invite us to dinner."
"Don't you want to have dinner with her?"
"Sure, do you mind?" Kelsey asked hopefully.
"No, not at all."
Before Kelsey could respond they heard her name being called out. Alyssa giggled as Kelsey got up wrapping the blanket around herself and opened the front door.
"Don't be a smart ass young lady. I just want to make sure you come up for air occasionally." Alyssa could hear Kelsey's aunt's voice tauntingly respond. "Dinner will be in an hour. Give the poor girl a break and feed her!"
Alyssa burst out laughing as her cheeks flushed red at the woman's total unabashed attitude of the situation. She buried her face in the pillow when she heard Kelsey chuckle. "We will be down at 5." Kelsey closed the door and ran back to the bedroom leaping onto the bed and Alyssa.
"So you find that funny huh?" Kelsey began tickling the blonde as she writhed beneath her in her attempt to evade the questing fingers.
"Stop! Stop! You are going to make me wet myself!" Alyssa cried out trying hard to control herself.
"Ohh, we wouldn't want that now would we? We have to sleep in this bed again tonight!" Kelsey nipped lightly at Alyssa's ear and in a warm, sexy voice whispered in her ear. "Sleep, being an optional word!" Kelsey kissed Alyssa soundly before releasing her and watching her run quickly toward the bathroom and shut the door.
"Don't be too long, we need to be downstairs in an hour and I want to take a shower." Kelsey called out as the door closed. She stretched her long body out on the bed and signed contently. She lay there thinking about how things had turned out and smiled to herself. 'Maybe things will be okay, Alyssa's different.'
"Hey, you keep day dreaming you are going to miss out on your shower." Kelsey looked over and sat up quickly when she saw a naked Alyssa standing in the doorway of the bathroom and heard the water running behind her. She stood casually leaning unashamed against the doorjamb.
"Well don't just sit there with your mouth open, come on!" Alyssa laughed and turned back into the bathroom. Kelsey heard the shower door open and close before she came to her senses and rushed to get off the bed. Cursing under her breath, she fought with the bedclothes that threatened to keep her trapped and away from the blonde in the shower. Ripping at them haphazardly she finally freed herself and ran to the bathroom. The room was fogged in steam and she couldn't see the blonde through the shower doors, but she knew she was there. Pulling open the shower door she quickly entered the steamy shower and reached out for the woman she desired.
Hurrying down the stairs, late as usual, they ran across the courtyard and entered the house to the aroma of freshly cooked tomato and garlic. Alyssa's stomach growled in response to the enticing smells causing Kelsey to chuckle and push her forward into the house.
"Well, it's about time!" Kelsey's aunt stood at the stove with one hand on her hip and the other shaking a wooden spoon at the women.
"Sorry, we got detained." Kelsey replied smartly and approached her Aunt giving her a quick peck on the cheek.
"So I gathered." Kelsey turned in the direction her aunt was looking to find Alyssa blushing furiously. Kelsey chuckled and walked over to Alyssa and pulled her forward.
"Don't worry honey, you are among friends here." Aunt Katie turned toward the stove and motioned with her head for the women to join her. "Kelsey do me a favor and strain the pasta and Alyssa could you get the bread out of the oven and slice it for me?"
"Aunt Katie's had a few romps of her own when she was young." Kelsey informed Alyssa as she lifted the steaming pot and carried it to the strainer in the sink.
"What do you mean, 'when I was young'?" Katie swatted the tall brunette in the backside with her spoon. "I'll have you know that I can still turn a few heads!"
"Aunt Katie, when was the last time you had a date?" Kelsey asked quickly avoiding another swat from her Aunt's cooking utensil.
"What?" Kelsey stopped with the bowl of pasta in her hand and stared at her Aunt in disbelief. Alyssa looked from one woman to the other, totally confused.
Katie pointed to the table where four places were set and waved her spoon threateningly at both women. "And I'll expect you both to be on your best behavior, especially you Kelsey. I'll have none of your practical jokes this time!"
Kelsey brought the bowl of strained pasta toward the stove where her Aunt began ladling sauce on top of it. She watched her Aunt's expression and smiled. She noticed her Aunt had a rosy glow and the usual worry lines were gone, replaced by upturned lines of happiness. Katie looked up into her niece's face and frowned. "What?"
"This is a serious one, isn't it?"
"At my age honey, they are all serious....but yes, this one is very serious." Katie took the bowl from her niece and walked over to the table to set it down. Kelsey looked over at Alyssa and saw the confused look on her face.
"It's been a long time since my Aunt has dated, let alone brought someone home." Alyssa nodded her understanding and watched as Kelsey turned her Aunt around to face her. "Too long."
Katie scoffed at the remark but couldn't resist hugging her niece tightly when Kelsey put her arms around her. "I'm glad you are and Alyssa and I promise to behave tonight." Kelsey winked toward Alyssa.
"I'll bet! Let's just wait and see!" Katie pushed Kelsey away nervously and continued putting the food on the table as she glanced at the clock.
"Now, would I do that?"
"Yes!" Both Katie and Alyssa spoke out in unison and the three women burst into laughter. They continued laughing until the doorbell sounded and Katie almost dropped the plate she was holding.
Kelsey walked over and took the plate gently from her hand and pushed her Aunt toward the door. "Go let her in and we will finish up in here."
Katie smoothed her top and pushed back her salt and pepper hair and took a long look at Kelsey before leaving the room. Kelsey watched and grinned at her Aunt's obvious nervousness, but when she continued to stare at her, Kelsey grew concerned. Before she could remark, Katie turned and let the room quickly. Kelsey looked at Alyssa and shrugged at her Aunt's bizarre behavior. It had definitely been a long time since she had seen her Aunt act this way toward anyone, maybe she was finally coming out of her self-induced exile.
"What's going on?" Alyssa voice asked quietly next to Kelsey. The tall raven-haired woman hadn't realized her lover had moved closer and reached out to put her arm around her and squeezed lightly.
"It's good to see my Aunt dating again. It's been a long time since she has been out with anyone and longer since she's invited anyone home."
"Why?" Alyssa asked then quickly regretted prying. "Sorry, it's none of my business."
"No, it's okay. I just don't talk about it in front of Katie. It was too upsetting...it's been a long time." Kelsey looked through the doorway and didn't see any sign of her Aunt or her guest. She returned back to Alyssa and as they put the rest of the food on the table she relayed her Aunt's story.
"When I first came to live with my Aunt she had a partner. They were together for almost twenty years. I always thought of them as a matched set and I thought they would always be that way. I mean Jean was a much a part of my life as my Aunt. She knew things about me before my Aunt did. She had this uncanny way of knowing when I had something on my mind and asking blunt questions that usually hit right on target and I could talk to her."
"What happened to her?"
"One day I came home from college and found my Aunt sitting at the kitchen table crying. When I asked what happened, she handed me a note from Jean. It seems Jean had met someone and decided to follow this woman to California. I didn't even know there had been any problems between the two of them." Kelsey shook her head still not believing after all these years.
"Your poor Aunt." Alyssa felt sympathy for Katie and could understand where Kelsey got her reluctance to trust others. She had seen the damage first hand with her Aunt.
"Aunt Katie was devastated, she knew they Jean had been reserved for awhile, but she just figured they were getting older and settling down. It seems that Jean thought they were settling down into old age and didn't want any part of it. It wasn't bad enough that she left, but she left with someone ten years younger than Aunt Katie with nothing more than a note of good-bye. After that my Aunt just gave up and withdrew into her own world here. I came home as often as I could to visit, but it was even hard for me to be here. Finally, we were able to put it behind us and go on." Kelsey looked over at Alyssa and frowned slightly .
"Did you ever hear from her again?"
"No, and I wouldn't want to. After what she did to Aunt Katie, I don't want any part of that woman!" Kelsey put the last of the food on the table and leaned against the doorway deep in thought.
Alyssa walked over and put her arms around the taller woman's waist and looked up into deep blue eyes. "So, it makes sense now."
"Hmmm, what does?"
"Why you were so reluctant to get involved with me. Are you always suspicious of everyone you meet?" Alyssa asked smiling to take the edge off her words.
"I guess I am. I saw what my Aunt went through and I swore no one was going to do that to me. I wasn't going to let anyone mean so much to me that I would be devastated like that." Kelsey replied firmly and looked down into green eyes and her features instantly softened. "I guess that theory is out the window!" Leaning down she captured Alyssa's soft warm lips and gently kissed away and uncertainty and fear she felt. They were locked together in their embrace of arms and lips until they heard throat clearing from behind them and both women jumped apart.
"Don't you two ever give it a rest?" Katie entered the room chuckling softly followed by a woman about the same height as Katie and Kelsey. Alyssa sighed slightly at the thought of being the runt of the group, but her attention was quickly focused on the new woman. She was a striking blonde with golden highlights and bright green eyes that twinkled with mischief, but her demeanor was smooth and controlled. Alyssa thought she was probably one of the most beautiful women she had ever encountered. 'How wonderful for Katie, she is a very lucky woman.'
The voice was soft and silky with a deep resonance that made Alyssa drift along with it. Her day dreaming quickly ended as she was jerked back to the present by the audible intake of Kelsey's breath. Alyssa looked up at Kelsey and shivered at the look on her lover's face before Kelsey turned and abruptly walked out of the room.
"Kelsey???" Alyssa called out but the tall woman didn't stop, her shoulders were stiff as she walked out the door. Alyssa turned to Katie confused. "I'm sorry, I don't know what's going on?"
"That went well." Jean replied sadly and blew out the breath she had been holding. "But, I guess it was to be expected."
"Alyssa, this is Jean. She is an old friend of mine." Katie introduced the blonde woman and Alyssa stood stock-still. 'The Jean? This is the woman that walked out on both of them.'
"I take it Kelsey told you." Katie watched the expression on the young woman's face and knew that her niece had already told her about Jean. Alyssa nodded without saying anything.
"I...I..." Alyssa didn't know what to say, part of her wanted to run and find Kelsey but, the other part was afraid of what she might find.
"It's okay, we didn't think this would be easy." Kate replied and reached out to grasp Jean's hand as the other woman's eyes teared from Kelsey's rebuff.
"I've hurt her badly. I've hurt you both so badly." Jean turned to Kate and eagerly allowed herself to be engulfed in a hug from the tall older woman. Looking over Jean's shoulder, Kate looked directly into Alyssa's eyes and Alyssa could see both the torment and the pleading in the blue eyes. "Go find her, she is going to need you. She doesn't know it and will fight it, but she does need you. This is going to be hard for her to accept."
Alyssa nodded and hastily left to find her tall lover. She looked around outside and couldn't find any sign of Kelsey. Finally, she decided to go up to the apartment to check for her and to wait, if need be. Opening the door she came face to face with a very angry woman who hastily threw clothes in her overnight bag.
"Kelsey! I've been looking everywhere for you! What are you doing?" Alyssa tried to stop her from packing to talk with her. Kelsey whipped her arm away angrily.
"I'm going back to the ship, you can either come with me or stay, it's up to you!" Kelsey moved around the small apartment pulling together her things.
"You can't just leave like this," Alyssa replied concerned. "What about Jean?"
"What about her? I told you I didn't want anything to do with her ever again. Just because my Aunt wants to fool herself, that doesn't have anything to do with me!" Kelsey tossed Alyssa's bag on the bed toward her.
"Kelsey, I know you are upset, but you just can't leave without talking to your Aunt." Alyssa pulled her bag toward her, but did not begin to pack hoping that time would help Kelsey calm down and be reasonable.
"I can't, huh?" Kelsey replied grabbing her duffel bag.
"I would hope you wouldn't." A voice from the doorway called out softly. Kelsey and Alyssa both looked up to find Kate standing in the door with Jean just behind her.
Kelsey's eyes softened for a moment, but she didn't move nor respond to her Aunt. Alyssa thought for a brief moment that Kelsey was ready to calm down and talk, until Jean spoke up. "Please Kelsey, give me a chance to apologize and explain."
Kelsey's face-hardened at the sound of the woman's voice and she tightened her grip on her bag replying, "You have nothing to say that I want to hear." With those words, Kelsey pushed passed the two women and ran down the stairs toward her Jeep, tossing her bag into the vehicle she climbed in after it. In a few seconds, the Jeep roared to life and the sound of squealing tires heralded Kelsey's departure.
"Damn!" Alyssa breathed and quickly threw her few things into her bag. "I've got to get back to the ship!"
"Wait! We will drive you!" Jean replied and looked to Kate for her response. Kate nodded and they waited for Alyssa to pack her bag and the three women headed down the stairs toward Jean's car.
Alyssa didn't see the Jeep in the employee lot as they drove toward the crew's entrance to the ship. Luckily, there was only a skeletal crew at the boarding area and the three women slipped onto the ship easily. Alyssa tried to control her steps and she hurried toward their stateroom with the two women close behind. Throwing open the door she whispered a prayer which fell on silent ears as she found the cabin empty.
"Shit!" Alyssa breathed out and sat down on her bunk. "Where do you think she went?" She looked up at Kate for some answer to what was happening. It tore her up inside that Kelsey had so easily pushed her aside and left. Alyssa knew the woman was hurting, but she had hoped that, just maybe, she had meant enough to Kelsey so that the tall woman would at least talk to her.
"I don't know, with Kelsey it could be anywhere. She is a very closed person." Kate replied sadly and sat down across from the blonde. Jean sat down next to Kate and placed her hand on her past lover's knee. "She has a lot of hurt bottled up inside of her and I'm the cause of a good part of it, I'm afraid."
Alyssa looked at the older blonde and saw the sad look in her green eyes. They looked older than their actual years and brightened only slightly when Kate took her hand in her own and squeezed it. A tear slipped down the smooth cheek as watery eyes looked up at Alyssa in a need to explain.
"I was growing older and thought I needed more out of life. Then a young woman began to pay attention to me, at first, I felt flattered. Slowly I began to deceive myself that it was love and that she really loved me. It didn't take me long to realize that real love was what I already had with Kate and Kelsey, but it was too late. I had already burned my bridges and couldn't face what I had done, so I just stayed away."
"What made you come back?" Alyssa's voice was hesitant in it’s request.
"It was a combination of things really. I had finally stopped running and realized I was going to be 50 and I was alone. I'd been alone ever since I left Kate and it was my pride that was keeping me alone. So, I took the chance and I called Kate. We talked for a few months before we agreed to meet, we've been seeing each other for three months now and I have to say I'm more in love with Kate than I was the first day I laid eyes on her." Jean reached over and kissed Kate lightly on the cheek as a spark light up the sad green eyes. Alyssa watched it set off another spark in familiar blue eyes and felt a pang in her chest. A deep sense of loss had filled her and she wondered if she had lost the chance for a love that deep. 'Would Kelsey ever realize, like Jean did, before it was too late?'
Alyssa looked out the window as the two women hugged and kissed. She was feeling like an intruder and wished she knew where Kelsey had gone. They continued to wait until the afternoon shadows began to deepen and finally, it was time for Kate and Jean to leave the ship. It would sail in a few hours, with or without Kelsey. Alyssa waved as the two older women walked toward their car and went back to her cabin. She stopped along the way to ask if anyone had seen Kelsey, but none had. The cabin was still empty when she returned and she threw herself down on the bunk and cried herself to sleep. She didn't care if she attended the new cruise orientation or not, nothing mattered at the moment except Kelsey.
Kelsey roared down the street until she could get herself under control and eased off the gas pedal. She let the car hover around 60 as she whipped down the causeway toward the docks. The cruise ships came into view along side of her, but she roared on past them and didn't stop until she came to her favorite hideaway. Parking the Jeep she pushed through the door into the darkened smoky interior. She could hear a clicking from the darkness and headed toward it.
"Well, well! Look what the cat dragged in! Long time no see Kelsey." The tall woman briefly smiled at the face across the pool table.
"You still here hustling the baby dykes?"
"Very funny. I don't remember you complaining!" The other woman replied with a laugh. She was blonde, tall and leaned against her cue stick with the ease of a self-assured woman. Kelsey walked around the table and gave the blonde a hug. "It's been awhile, Linda."
"That it has! So, you here to reminisce or shoot pool?" The blonde grinned and handed her a cue.
Kelsey and Linda finally conceded the game in a tie and retreated to the bar as the place began to fill up. "You're still good! I didn't think they had pool tables on your yacht."
"They don't, and it's a cruise ship not a yacht." Kelsey remarked as she leaned against the bar looking out over the room. A couple of women caught her eye and smiled and she returned the smiles, but didn't linger. Tempting, but she didn't want to be bothered tonight. Linda nudged her shoulder and indicated a table full of women looking her way with undisguised interest. "God, we're we that young once?"
Kelsey chuckled lowly and looked away from the table of women to her old friend. "Yeah, but we were never that free to be who we really were."
"Ain't that the truth. So, when do you ship out again?" Linda pushed a beer in front of Kelsey and waited for the woman to answer.
Kelsey peered down and pulled her watch toward the light to see the dial. "About an hour ago."
Linda watched the taller woman and was startled at her calm response. She watched the struggle cross her face briefly and then fade again, replaced by the familiar stoic facade.
"Well, then....you want to go around again?" Linda decided that Kelsey was a big girl and also knew that if her friend wanted her advice, she would have asked for it. She saw the telltale signs of flight, but that was Kelsey's baby and none of her business.
"Yeah, go ahead and rack'em. I've got to make a phone call first." Kelsey walked off toward the payphones as Linda watched the tall figure appreciatively. Sighing she got up and headed toward the pool tables muttering to herself. "Give it up girl, she's out of your league."
Alyssa woke to the gentle rocking of the ship. The room was dark and she squinted to see the alarm clock on the nightstand next to the bed. It was 1:20 a.m. and she sat up quickly and looked over at the empty bed next to her. Her eyes were tired from crying herself to sleep and the fresh tears that were forming did nothing to help. Laying back down she realized that Kelsey was gone without even giving her a chance to understand.
Alyssa closed her eyes as a tear slid down the side of her face and lay uncaring, praying for sleep to over take her once more. Weary from emotion and tears, it wasn't long before Alyssa was fast asleep.
The cabin door creaked open as the morning's light just broke over the horizon. The ship bumped gently against it’s moorings and from the porthole you could see the first sliver of orange when the hot tropical sun began to rise over the island. Walking over to the sleeping woman, Kelsey looked down at Alyssa and saw the swollen face and knew that she had been the cause of it all. She felt a pang burn through her chest, but she quickly put all feelings inside and locked them away.
Weary of everything, Kelsey walked over to her bunk and sat down. Running a hand over her gritty eyes, she planned what she needed to do. First, a shower and then check in with everyone. She had to call in a few favors to reach the island before the cruise ship. She had flown out just before 3 p.m. and had landed just as the ship pulled into port.
She had made up the excuse of a death in the family to keep her from getting fired for missing the ship. In a way, she hadn't lied; there had been a death of sorts. Her trust in letting someone get close to her had died when Jean walked back into her aunt's kitchen. She couldn't believe that after all they had been through at that woman's expense, Kate would welcome her with open arms. 'Well, maybe Aunt Kate, but not me!' Kelsey pushed off the bed and went to take a shower.
Alyssa awoke to a funny sensation and looked around the bright cabin. Everything seemed to be in order, but yet something felt strange. Shaking her head she looked over at Kelsey's bed and sighed. Getting up she headed toward the bathroom. Pulling the curtain to the shower back she noted that the walls were wet. "What the heck?" Looking around she found a damp towel hanging from the back of the door. "Could it be?" With a hitch in her chest and a smile on her face she jumped into the shower and finished in record time. Dressed, she hurried down the corridor in search of Kelsey.
Kelsey entered Nancy's office when she heard the response to her knock. "Hello, glad you decided to join the cruise!"
"Better late than never!" Kelsey grinned and sat in a chair across from the desk.
"Are you okay?"
"Sure, I'm fine." Kelsey looked out the window and focused her attention on the far away horizon.
"I was told there was a death in your family, someone close?" Nancy watched Kelsey's evasiveness and knew that everything wasn't so fine.
"Nothing to worry about. I'm back and everything is fine." Kelsey stood up and walked toward the window. "I just have one request. Do you think you could find alternative accommodations for Alyssa? It's just not working out." Kelsey looked everywhere but into Nancy's discerning eyes. "Okay, care to tell me what is going on?"
"Nothing, we are just opposites and I think Alyssa will be more comfortable with someone her own age." Kelsey walked toward the door.
"Okay, I can take care of that, but....?"
Kelsey interrupted by quickly asking, "So what do you want me to start on?" She just didn't want to talk about it anymore. Kelsey just wanted to get on with life, such as it was.
"Okay, you can start with passenger orientation and then we'll follow the usual schedule." Nancy knew that Kelsey had deliberately changed the conversation and that could only mean one thing. She wasn't about to let it slide this time and called Kelsey on it. She waited until Kelsey had reached the door before speaking. "And Kelsey, don't think this conversation is by any means over."
Kelsey turned quickly and looked back at Nancy, a rebuttal burning her lips, but when she saw the look in her friend's green eyes, she just nodded stiffly and left. Kelsey knew that Nancy wasn't going to let this one go, but she would deal with it later. Right now, she just wanted to focus on her job and forget about everything and everyone.
Alyssa hadn't found Kelsey anywhere and no one seemed to have seen her either. She was stuck in the Purser's office most of the day and had to cover half of the next shift due to the illness of one of the crew. They had split the shift between her and another Assistant Pursuer. She didn't get back to the cabin until almost 9 p.m. and hoped that Kelsey would be there. Alyssa opened the cabin door in anticipation, but her heart quickly dropped when she saw that the one side of the cabin was completely empty. Closing the door behind her, she noticed a piece of paper lying on her pillow and hurried over to pick it up, instantly recognizing the handwriting. 'I knew it! She is onboard!' Her brief happiness quickly reverted to pain as she read the note.
'Sorry, I didn't get a chance to talk to you first, but I got in early this morning and you were still asleep. As you can see I've asked to be assigned to another cabin. I thought it was best before things got out of hand between us. I didn't want you to be hurt thinking things were other than they are. My Aunt's behavior has reminded me of my promise to myself. I'm not looking for anything permanent because it only brings grief and never works for me. I've talked to Nancy and I think it would be better if you roomed with someone closer to your own age and interests. I'm not what you need.'
Alyssa read and read the letter and each time she grew more livid until her cheeks burned red. Slamming the paper on the nightstand she left the cabin with a resounding banging of the door and marched down the corridor. She was a woman on a mission and nothing was going to stop her from having her say.
Kelsey sat back in her chair in corner of the crowded staff lounge. It was a rare occurrence for her to be sitting with her staff and they were amazed at first when she had accepted their invitation to join them. But they had always gotten along and she was actually enjoying their company, it kept her from having to spend the evening in her own company alone. The shots of Tequila had gone around quite a few times and Kelsey was feeling pleasantly mellow. Drinking by the crewmembers was definitely not encouraged, but officers were usually left to their own devices as long as they kept it below decks.
Kelsey had sensed before she had seen the blonde when she entered the room, turning she watched the short figure move with a purpose that could only spell trouble. Kelsey downed the shot in her hand and waited for fate to reach her. She kept her eyes focused on the glass in her hand when Alyssa stopped just off her right and nudged her shoulder. Looking up blurry blue met bright green and she winced at the daggers that were being thrown in her direction.
"Can I speak to you?" Alyssa voice was sure and steady and belied the anger that lay just beneath the surface.
"I'm a little busy at the moment. Can we talk in the morning?"
"No, now would be a better time."
Kelsey's eyes narrowed at Alyssa's attitude and she could feel her hackles rising, before she could stop herself she blurted out a retort.
"I think not! I'm busy right now!"
"Yeah, right! Too busy, or too chicken to face me. Instead you leave me some lame note have the gall to tell me what I need and what I don't need. If you haven't noticed, I'm old enough to make up my own mind about what I want in my life. You have no right to tell me whom I can and can't love!" Alyssa could feel the tears stinging her eyes and quickly turned and left the room before she embarrassed herself more than she already had. She could feel all the eyes upon her back as she exited the room as quickly as possible. When she turned the corner of the corridor she broke into a run and headed out on deck. She needed some air, it was getting hard to breath.
"What are you going to do now?" Nancy leaned over and asked quietly. Kelsey shrugged her shoulders lightly and kept her eyes lowered. "I never pegged you for a quitter!"
Kelsey's eyes flashed upward in warning at Nancy, but the woman wasn't phased in the slightest. She held her challenging look until Kelsey's resolve began to fade. She realized what she had done was wrong, she should have told Alyssa to her face and not left a note. She thought for a moment and realized, 'What are we talking about here, that's not what's wrong. What is wrong is that she blamed Alyssa for everything she couldn't cope with her own life. She continually pushed people away in an effort to hide from her own feelings and fears. Now, she realized she had pushed the wrong person away.'
Nancy watched with a slight grin on her face as Kelsey move quickly in the direction Alyssa had fled. Whispering to herself in silent prayer, "Don't blow this one Kel."
Alyssa leaned backward against the cabin door and realized that her knees were actually weak. So much had happened in the past 24 hours that she wasn't sure where she was anymore. The one thing she did know was that Kelsey was back and willing to try again. A sliver of doubt began to creep in and Alyssa couldn't help wondering if she could be what Kelsey needed. Could she match up to the high degree of loyalty that the woman would demand? All her life she had always found a way to mess up a good thing. Would this be any different? Would one misconstrued action or wrong word mean instant betrayal to Kelsey?
Worried, she pushed off the door and headed for a quick shower and a long sleep. When the tension drained out of her so did her strength and she found herself extremely tired. Last night's tossing and turning and lack of sleep left her with no reserves to run on. Turning on the shower she began to shake the negative thoughts from her head. Alyssa was determined to do whatever it took to keep Kelsey, this was a promise she made to herself. She took courage whenever she reminded herself of how far she had come in the past month. She wasn't the same person that left her family and small town to strike out on her own. She had found her own sense of identity and had been able to live her life freely and openly for the first time.
Alyssa no longer had to feel her father's sense of disapproval, as if she were defective because she didn't fit his idea of a woman. She hadn't been interested in settling down with a local boy and raising children. He hadn't liked her going to college and working at the library, but had given up on her by the time she had left home to join the cruise ship. Only her mother had supported her desperate attempt to get away. Alyssa knew what her father would say if he knew about Kelsey, but she wondered how her mother would feel. With these thoughts in her mind she finished her shower and got into bed.
The brightly colored hues of dawn edged their way over the horizon. Kelsey leaned against the railing and closed her eyes. If she concentrated hard enough she could almost feel the sun's warmth penetrating the darkness and chill of early morning. She opened her eyes and watched as pink turned to red and then to yellow when the bright sun broke fully over the distant horizon giving color to the once blackened sea. Dawn had always been Kelsey's favorite time. It was a rebirth, a second chance to change whatever had happened before and the last chance to do something right then at that moment. She continued to watch the ship cut through the waves as a breeze lightly ruffled her hair. It was going to be a nice day and the weather would be perfect for their first port of call.
Looking at her watch, Kelsey wondered if Alyssa would be free to go into town today. She didn't think it would be wise to take her snorkeling. 'Especially after what happened last time!' The tall raven-haired beauty chuckled to herself remembering the two of them on the beach and how they spent their afternoon. Coming back from her revere, Kelsey stood up fully realizing that she needed to take things slowly this time. She wanted to romance and court Alyssa, to show her that she was serious about their relationship. As nervous as she was about the step she was about to take, she knew that it was time to let her heart begin again. Time to take it out of the mothballs and let it live again. Shivering slightly at the fear she felt, she swallowed pushing the feeling down and shook her head. 'No, no more looking back, only looking forward!' With this resolution in her chest, she confidently took the first step to go down to the deck below and wait for her future.
Alyssa hurried up the stairwell toward the promenade deck. She was late, as usual. Opening the outer door she found Kelsey leaning against the railing with her arms across her chest as if protecting herself from some unforeseen attack. Kelsey's eyes were focused on the door as she waited for Alyssa. The angst that was written on Kelsey's face quickly disappeared when the blonde head poked out of the doorway. 'Whew!' A silent breathe of air slipped out of Kelsey as she waited for Alyssa to join her at the railing.
"I'm sorry, I'm late. I overslept!" Alyssa apologized breathlessly.
"What happened to your alarm?" Kelsey asked, a slight grin tugging at her lips.
"It doesn't matter how loud or where I put that stupid thing, you know I never hear it until it's been playing for a good twenty minutes. I should just set the darn thing ahead so that I will wake up on time!" Alyssa replied frustrated with herself.
Kelsey chuckled and tugged Alyssa toward the stairs and opened the door for her. "Let's go eat, I'm starved".
"Food? Lead the way. I'm right behind you!"
Kelsey let Alyssa ramble through most of breakfast only half hearing what the blonde was actually saying. She had let her mind wander as she thought about how she should ask Kelsey to spend the day with her. Alyssa's chatter continued and Kelsey smiled and nodded at the appropriate intervals. When Kelsey realized what she was doing, she quickly sat up thinking, 'God, what was she talking about? What have I been agreeing with?'
"And so, after we take over the ship, I think we should sail it to Tahiti. Don't you?"
Alyssa couldn't resist and began laughing at the look of terror on Kelsey's face. "I was wondering when you would actually join the conversation."
"I'm...I'm sorry. I guess my mind wandered." Kelsey looked down sheepishly feeling her face slightly warmed by her embarrassment.
"Am I that boring or did you have something on your mind?" Alyssa watched Kelsey's eyes snap up to meet hers and she knew it was the latter.
“NO! I mean No, it's not you. I was just thinking about something." Kelsey shifted uncomfortably in her seat and wondered why she felt so awkward and nervous. It was like she had never asked a woman out before!
"Care to share?"
"I...well, I was wondering if you would like to spend today with me on the island sightseeing or something?" Kelsey reined in her nervousness and looked up at Alyssa squarely waiting for an answer.
"Oh, I wish I could. I would love to, but I'm on the schedule from noon until 7 p.m. today." Alyssa was saddened by the prospect of having to work instead of spending the day with Kelsey. Even though she had wanted to take things slowly, she still wanted to spend as much time with the woman as possible. "Damn, it's not fair that I have to work!"
Kelsey grinned at Alyssa’s frustrated anger and reached across the table to touch her hand. "Well, then how about a late dinner after you finish your shift? Maybe we could take in the late show or something in the lounge?"
"Yes, that would be great!" Alyssa's gloom faded quickly at the prospect of seeing her blue-eyed beauty later that evening.
"Okay! How about I pick you up at your cabin around 8 PM to give you time to change?" Kelsey looked at her watch and realized that she had to get down to her office to unlock the equipment for the morning's activities.
"Sounds good to me. I take it you are working this morning then?" Alyssa replied motioning toward Kelsey looking down at her watch.
"Unfortunately yes! We have our own version of a mini Olympics competition up on the sports deck this morning. There is a college track team on this cruise and it seems they challenged the crew to a series of events. So, guess who was volunteered to play?" Kelsey grimaced as she made the last statement causing Alyssa to laugh.
"Do you mind if I come up and cheer you on?"
"No, not at all! We can use a cheering section, although I have to warn you, our cheering section will probably be outnumbered by theirs. I think they brought all their relatives with them on the cruise!" Kelsey smiled pushing her chair back and standing up. She waited for Alyssa to walk in front of her as they headed out of the dining room and out on deck toward he stairs. They proceeded up the first flight of stairs toward the sun deck.
Kelsey paused with her hand on the railing as Alyssa began to climb the second flight upward. "I have to unlock some equipment and get a few things ready. How about you go on ahead so you can get a good seat and I'll see you on deck in a few minutes?"
"Okay, I'll make sure I get a front row seat." Alyssa chuckled heading up the stairs to the top deck. Kelsey watched the blonde with rapt fascination until she realized that she was beginning to get strange looks from some of the passengers. She quickly turned and headed back inside and down the corridor to her office.
Alyssa sat comfortably in the shade of the upper deck looking down upon the basketball court ringed by a track where the events would take place. Kelsey was right about the other teams cheering section. They were already spread out and across the deck and making noise. Alyssa looked around her at the smattering of crew that showed up for the event. Seeking friendly faces they gathered together around one table and sat chatting as they waited. Alyssa looked up when someone took the chair next to her.
"Hello Nancy! How come you aren't playing?" Alyssa asked smiling brightly at Kelsey's boss and friend. Although she really didn't know her that well, she liked this woman.
"Oh no! That's one of the privileges of rank. You get to select who has to enter and then sit back and watch the whole damn thing. I am too old to play games, I'd be tripping over my own feet." Nancy laughed and sat back comfortably as the players began to assemble out on the court.
Alyssa’s breath caught in her throat when she saw Kelsey walk onto the court tossing a basketball lightly between her hands. She was wearing a cutoff shirt and boxer shorts that left a lot of her long tanned legs exposed. Between the never ending legs and the bare midriff, Alyssa stared at the exposed skin and watched as muscles moved beneath their well-tanned exterior.
Nancy heard the catch in Alyssa's throat about the same time she saw Kelsey enter the scene. She had to admit that the tall raven-haired woman was definitely stopping a few hearts at that very moment. Looking over at Alyssa's pink cheeks and open stare she leaned over and whispered, "Uh honey, close your mouth or you're going to start drooling!"
Alyssa quickly snapped her jaw shut and looked at the grinning woman. She could feel her cheeks flush red with embarrassment and began to stutter, "I...I..."
"Don't worry Alyssa, I already know." Nancy smiled warmly and placed her hand on the young woman's arm. "And I think it's done a world of good for that one." Nancy's head nodded in the direction of Kelsey, who was walking toward them. Stopping just below the railing, Kelsey shaded her eyes from the sun and looked up at the two women standing there. "Will you hold something for me?" Alyssa quickly nodded and Kelsey removed her watch holding it up to Alyssa. Their fingers touched briefly and Alyssa felt a spark run through her arm and she took a sharp breath inward. Kelsey grinned and winked up at the blonde before turning her attention toward her boss.
"You know, you should be down here too! This is not at all fair!" Nancy laughed and replied, "Who said life was fair. When you're the boss then you get to sit back and watch everyone run around."
"Very funny! Well, I had better go and get this over with, but you owe me!" Kelsey called over her shoulder jogging out onto the court.
The game turned out to be a close one, much to everyone's surprise. Even the crew that thought the odds were against them, but the closeness of the game gave them renewed determination and they fought down to the last basket. The final score was 46 to 50 in favor of the college team. The next event was a 15-point volleyball game, which the cruise crew easily won by a score of 15-10. The final event was the obstacle course. The team with the best time would win not only that event but, the series. So far the college team was in the lead by 3 minutes. Waiting for her turn to run the course, Kelsey came up on deck and sat next to Alyssa, her chair in the sun. The rays glistened off the sweat on her skin as she wiped her face with a towel and took a couple of sips of water.
"A little, but don't let those kids hear that!" Kelsey whispered conspiratorially. "They're whooping our butt!"
"You guys still have a chance to win!"
"Maybe, but we had better make up some time. They have me running last and I'm not sure I have enough strength left to get through the course let alone do it running!" Kelsey chuckled and looked out over the rail as the next heat began. There were two more and then it would be her turn. She looked up at the board and saw that they still had two minutes to make up. The women cheered each heat as the crew made up 1:30 of the 2:00 minute deficit.
"Well, here goes nothing!" Kelsey muttered standing up flexing to loosen her stiffening muscles.
"You can do this Kelsey!" Alyssa encouraged the tired woman. Kelsey just grunted in reply as she walked down the stairs to the deck below. Alyssa stood up and leaned down over the railing to catch the taller woman's attention. Kelsey approached warily, but with a grin on her face. "What?"
"Just do your best Kelsey that's all anyone expects. Win or lose you guys did a terrific job today." Alyssa looked down sincerely into blue eyes.
"Maybe I just need a little incentive." Kelsey replied teasingly and watched the blonde's expression change from sympathetic to playful.
"Oh yeah? Just what incentive would it take?" Alyssa's mind raced with the possibilities of what Kelsey would say next. She couldn't keep the excitement out of her eyes anymore than she could fight the upward curve of her mouth.
"Well, let's see.....how about a backrub tonight after this is all over."
"That's it? A backrub?"
"For starters!" Kelsey chuckled backing away from the surprised blonde. Alyssa saw the challenge in the blue eyes and countered, "You're on! But, not only do you have to finish....you have to win!"
"Ohhh, you are going to have to pay dearly now!" Kelsey's low laughter followed the tall woman as she walked toward the starting line.
"I'm counting on it!" Alyssa whispered out loud to no one in particular. She sat back down when she heard Nancy chuckling from behind her. She had forgotten that they were not alone. Turning to look at the other woman she shrugged her shoulders in reply.
"Oh-oh, look who Kelsey is racing against!" Nancy's smile turned into a grimace. Alyssa looked down on the track to see the captain of the track team warming up for the final event. He was a cocky jock with a 'win at all cost' attitude. This afternoon's events were more than just games to him, it was a matter of school honor. He had been playing rougher than his teammates and Alyssa didn't like the feeling she was getting.
Kelsey smiled up at the small group that was cheering them on and waved at Alyssa. She looked over at her opponent and let out a silent groan. 'Just great, Mr. Testosterone!' Turning her concentration to the course in front of her she knew that she would have her work cut out for her. She would have to watch her footwork through the tires, crawling under the makeshift limbo pole and then walk the length of a balance beam. The next segment required that they successfully make three baskets before reaching the barrels where they would lift four of them, one at a time, and place them on a platform. It wasn't that they were heavy, just big and awkward with no handles to hold on to. The final leg of the race would be running around the track three times.
When the whistle signaled the start Kelsey took off like a shot and maneuvered the tires without a hitch. She almost threw herself onto the ground as she frantically began crawling under the limbo pole. At the balance beams they were even until they hit the barrels. Kelsey dropped one giving the team captain the advantage and he had a lead over her of a few feet as they began running around the track. She knew that she needed to catch him before the last lap or she wouldn't have the strength for that final push. She could feel her lungs straining as she pushed her tired muscles to go faster thinking, 'I'm going to regret this in the morning!'
The captain looked back and found that Kelsey had just about caught up with him and as they rounded the final turn toward home she had pulled into step next to him. Frustrated, he kept watching her instead of the track and he missed a step stumbling into her lane taking them both down hard onto the track. Kelsey tried to untangle herself, but he had landed on her ankle and when she moved it, the pain shot right to her brain. Finally, detaching themselves they both tried getting up to finish the race. Kelsey gritted her teeth at the burning pain that shot through her leg and she tried to hobble toward the finish line. Nearing the tape she made a last ditch effort and threw herself toward the plastic ribbon, but came in just seconds behind her opponent.
Kelsey lay breathing hard and afraid to move her foot too far. Alyssa and Nancy were down the stairs in a shot and standing over the fallen woman. Nancy touched Kelsey's leg causing the dark haired woman to swear under her breath. "I thought so." Signaling to a crewmember she sent him to the infirmary for a wheelchair to transport Kelsey down there.
"Are you okay?" Alyssa blurted out and kicked herself simultaneously when she saw the strained look on Kelsey's face. "Dumb question huh?"
"No, and no." Kelsey replied gingerly trying to sit up. Gritting her teeth she had almost stood when the chair arrived and she was ceremoniously dropped into it. She knew it wasn't broken because she had this feeling before. It was just going to one heck of a sprained ankle. "I'm okay. I don't need a wheelchair!" Kelsey's complaints could be heard all the way down the corridor until they reached the infirmary and Nancy looked down at her and said, "Shut up, we’re already here!"
The ship doctor examined and x-rayed her ankle giving her the news that she already knew. It was sprained but not badly, three weeks on crutches and she would be fine. Kelsey surprised everyone when she looked up grinning at Nancy and Alyssa. "Guess this means we switch places for the next three weeks!" Nancy's jaw snapped shut when she realized what this injury would mean. She would have to cover all of Kelsey's events while the raven-haired beauty sat behind a desk doing paperwork.
"Paybacks are a pain aren't they?" Kelsey's voice trickled into a deep chuckle when she saw the comprehension on her boss' face.
"Yes, yes, yes! I guess you will have to referee that basketball game tomorrow afternoon. Those kids can sure run up and down that court now can't they!" Alyssa tried hard not to laugh at Nancy's predicament, but when the older woman groaned in mock agony, her laughter mixed with Kelsey's.
"Roll over." Alyssa asked nudging Kelsey's shoulder as she sat next to the reclining woman on the bed. Kelsey looked up questioning for only a moment before complying and rolling onto her stomach carefully lifting her foot and settling it gently back on the elevated pillows. The raven-haired beauty groaned when fingers kneaded her shoulders deeply.
"I thought you said I had to win?"
"Well, I think under the extenuating circumstances, you did win! If he hadn't of almost broken your ankle you would have beat him!" Alyssa's voice and hands betrayed the anger she felt at the young man and Kelsey grunted painfully. "Hey, easy honey.....I tried to win, honest I did!"
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to hurt you." Alyssa leaned down and gently kissed the bruised shoulder.
"Yes, that's better!" Kelsey sighed and gave in to the wonderful sensation of Alyssa's fingers running down her back and across her neck, now gently easing tired and tight muscles. With every touch and stretch of her aching muscles, the stiffness and tired feeling faded and Kelsey's body became alive with renewed awareness. Alyssa's fingers blazed a trail of fire across her back until Kelsey couldn't take anymore. Slowly she rolled over onto her side and grasped the young woman's hand, slowly bringing those burning fingertips to her lips placing feather light kisses across them. Kelsey's eyes never left the green eyes next to her intently watching for any hint of displeasure. Instead, the cool green eyes turned into brilliant pools of jade as they deepened with desire. Kelsey rolled to her back pulling Alyssa down across her chest.
Alyssa followed her heart and leaned down to kiss the lips beneath her. Their taste was sweeter than anything she had ever experienced. She wanted more and deepened the kiss with slow and steady deliberation. She wanted nothing more than to be lost in this warm and inviting world forever. A moan escaped from between their lips and neither woman knew who was responsible, or if it was a joint affirmation of what they were both feeling. Alyssa leaned up and looked deeply into blue eyes that blazed with unspoken passion.
"Are you sure this is what you want?" Alyssa's voice was husky with desire and need.
"Yes. I am, are you?"
Alyssa paused for a moment and took a deep breath as tears stung her eyes. "Yes." The quiet yet strong reply was followed by a silent admission, 'more than you will every know!' The women's lips rejoined in their haste to sense, touch and taste everything about each other. Hands moved in random fashion across flesh and became frustrated at the barrier of clothing. Deft fingers worked buttons and snaps until both women were tearing clothes off themselves in an effort to feel the touch of flesh on flesh. Naked and consumed in their passion they touched each other, committing to memory the feel and the responses evoked from their exploration. Kelsey gently rolled over taking Alyssa with her, the briefest flinch of pain crossed her eyes when she moved her leg and Alyssa stiffened in response.
"No, it's nothing." Kelsey gently replied and rolled over onto Alyssa's body and felt the familiar groove of where their bodies fit so perfectly. She leaned down and began placing kisses on the blonde's face, lingering at the corners of her mouth before taking possession of it. Alyssa's hands idly drew circles across Kelsey's smooth skin and ran her hands down as far as they would reach across the taller woman's hips, ruing the fact of being too short to cup the smooth cheeks and pull them toward her.
Kelsey's hands cupped the breasts beneath her as her tongue gently toyed with each nipple. Alyssa’s breathing caught in her throat as her body responded and her nipples hardened in anticipation. Kelsey drew a nipple deeply into her mouth and sucked gently, until she felt the blonde shiver in response. The sensation brought an instant heat to the Alyssa's core.
"Oh my God!" Alyssa moaned and ran her fingers through the long, soft raven hair, gently pulling the head closer to her breast. Kelsey ran a hand down Alyssa's side and gently guided it over her heated sex. She could almost feel the throb of blood as it rushed to the woman's core and with each stroke of her hand it brought her closer to her goal. Alyssa shifted to allow freer access to her body as she craved more of Kelsey's touch.
Kelsey continued to divide her attention between the two creamy breasts that she loved and the hot sex beneath her hand. She pulled up to kiss Alyssa as she made her way toward her final goal, pushing into her body with her finger and her tongue. Her tongue mimicked the movement of her finger as it crossed over sensitive nerves and lightly rimed her entrance. As Alyssa moaned and moved in time with Kelsey she thrust her finger into the entrance with a steady rocking motion that Alyssa quickly picked up with her whole body.
Alyssa could feel the pressure building and her body temperature rise to the point of explosion and she moved her hips faster in response to the frenzy her mind was feeling. Her one goal to crest the peak and plunge over its rocky top was matched by Kelsey's desire to take her there.
The final moment came in a rush with both women crying out in joy with the release. Kelsey could feel Alyssa throbbing all around her fingers, she stilled their motion and gently withdrew to cup the aching mound. Hugging Kelsey closely to her body Alyssa waited for her breathing to return as a tear gently tracked down her face.
Kelsey looked up in time to see the tear and gently caught it with her tongue and smiled. "I don't know if you are ready to hear this or even want to, but I love you!"
Alyssa's eyes darted quickly and intently to the questioning blue ones above her. Nodding through her tears she replied, "I think I've been ready to hear that since the first day I met you!"
Kelsey rolled over onto her back to ease the stress on her ankle and brought the blonde along cradling her to her chest. Alyssa listened to the strong steady beat of the heart beneath her and looked up resting her chin on Kelsey's chest. "So, are you ready to hear that I love you too?"
Kelsey smiled broadly, "I never thought I would be able to say this to anyone....Yes, for once in my life I truly am!"
"Good! Are you ready for me to show you?" Alyssa's eyebrows arched up and down adding emphasis to her statement. "After all I did say whatever you wanted was yours. Is this something you might want?"
Kelsey awoke to a dull throbbing in her ankle and slowly stretched out her leg to find a comfortable position. It was going to be a long week ahead of her trying to maneuver around the ship. Looking down at a still sleeping Alyssa, she drew the blonde body closer to her and regretted that she wouldn't be able to go ashore for awhile. She knew the injury well, the less she moved around on it now, the quicker it would heal. It wasn't as bad as the last time, she estimated she would be up and around, albeit limping, in about a week. 'Just call me gimpy!' she sighed thinking about being stuck behind a desk for the entire week.
"Are you okay?" A muffled sleepy voice asked from her shoulder as Alyssa began to awaken.
"Yes, I'm fine, just whining to myself about having desk duty for the next week!"
"Well, at least I'll always know where to find you!" Alyssa's eyes were still shut but her lips curved into a mischievous smile.
"Oh yeah? Don't be so sure!" Kelsey retorted sassily. "I'm pretty good with crutches, I've had lots of practice!"
"Yeah, but can you run with them?"
"No, not very well." Kelsey looked down questioningly. A green eye popped open and she saw the twinkle in them and knew Alyssa was having fun with her.
"Well, then I guess I won't have to worry about chasing you too far!" Kelsey could feel Alyssa chuckling softly over her statement.
'Cute, very cute.' Kelsey thought before replying. "Who said I'd be running 'away' from you?"
"Touché!" Alyssa replied and kissed Kelsey softly on the lips.
The next three weeks passed uneventfully, and no matter how much Alyssa tried to reason with Kelsey, she would not contact her aunt and talk with her. Sensing that Kelsey was getting angry, the blonde backed off of the subject, for the time being.
Kelsey could tell that Alyssa was growing restless from spending their weekends aboard ship. The topic of her aunt seemed to increase as each weekend approached, but she had no intentions of contacting her aunt now or in the near future. When she found a new place, she would send for her things, but in the meantime she was sure her aunt would keep them for her. It was the least she could do!
Finally, after being badgered enough to make her almost lose her temper, Kelsey suggested they spend the weekend in a hotel near Bayshore and just relax and catch up on their sleep. True to her words, the two women spent a lazy Saturday lounging around the pool and enjoying the nighttime activities down at Bayside.
Later that night they languished in bed talking about their childhood, their families and their coming to this point in their lives. Alyssa tried to explain to Kelsey what it was like growing up in a small town and in a household where women were considered only good for one thing. She didn't want to be someone's wife or mother; she wanted more. At the time, she wasn't sure exactly what it was she wanted, but she knew it wasn't what her mother had. Alyssa told Kelsey about how her mother had fought her father so that she could go to college.
She also told her about the scene with her father when she had left to take her current job on the cruise ship. The day she left, she had come outside with her mother and her suitcase. Her father had been working on the lawn and when he saw them, he just scowled and walked back into the house. He had never once, in her entire life, complimented her on anything she had accomplished, but was always the first one to recognize a mistake or a shortcoming. It seemed her whole life, she had fallen short of his expectations, but Alyssa couldn't change her heart, even if she tried.
Her brother was no better, he was cut from the same mold as their father. Growing up in their small town, if she turned down a boy who asked her out, her brother found out quickly. As soon as she got home, he would always confront her in front of the rest of the family. This little bit of information, never sat well with her father and was considered just another disappointment from his daughter. Alyssa couldn't help wondering why her brother felt the need to report these happenings to their father. He was always her father's favorite and she had grown to accept it but, for some reason, Tom always felt the need to reinforce that attitude.
In her father's eyes, Alyssa was a total failure because she had not been able to do the one thing that he expected of her, to secure a husband and a family of her own. So, that day, Alyssa had set out to prove him wrong, and from them on, to take care of herself. She would make something more out of her life and then maybe, one day, he could be proud of her.
Her mother had driven her to the station and saw her off on the bus to the airport. Her mother had hugged her tightly and smiled knowing that she would have done the same thing if the opportunity had been afforded her when she was young. Sighing, she smiled and waved as the bus pulled out. If Alyssa could have seen behind the bus, she would have watched a much older woman walk wearily back to her car and slowly drive home.
Kelsey, on the other hand, had to be prodded into talking in any depth about her family. It wasn't one of her favorite topics, although it did seem easier talking about it to Alyssa. Kelsey tried to paint her childhood in a positive light, but the blonde could see through the facade to the loneliness that had surrounded the young woman for most of her life. Kelsey's parents had done the best they could, given their lifestyle and penchant for wandering. Having a child was the wonderfully right thing to do, but they soon discovered it had come with a price. Something they proved unable to pay in the end, and left their daughter behind to be raised by someone else.
'Some couples are not meant to have children', Alyssa thought, 'they were definitely one of them!' She almost commented as much outloud, but stopped suddenly when the thought struck her, 'but then, there wouldn't have been a Kelsey.' That was something Alyssa didn't want to think about right now and focused her attention back on Kelsey.
Kelsey awoke to the light streaming in the window and stretched lazily. She felt Alyssa shift next to her and the young woman's hand snaked across her chest and held on to her. Kelsey smiled at this subconscious action and looked over at the alarm clock.
"Wha-a, what's wrong?" Alyssa sat up in bed quickly as the body under her arm jerked upright and jumped out of bed. Kelsey ran a brief hand through her hair and began running around the room picking up her clothes.
"We're late! Hurry up and get dressed or we are both going to be out of work!"
Alyssa looked over at the nightstand and blinked a couple of times to clear her vision. She could'nt believe what she saw and rubbed her eyes to look again. The time hadn't changed and the clock read 4 PM.
"Damn, how did that happen?" Alyssa was out of bed throwing on the nearest clothes she could find as Kelsey started throwing their clothes haphazardly into their two duffle bags.
"I guess we forgot to set the alarm last night." Kelsey chuckled as they raced around trying to find their shoes and the rest of their things.
"We're not going to make it are we?" Alyssa asked worriedly as she rang for the elevator.
"We'll make it!" Kelsey replied pushing Alyssa into the arriving elevator car. She punched the button several times in a futile effort to make the doors close quicker. As they exited out into the lobby, Kelsey gave Alyssa her keys and told her to go get the jeep as she headed for the desk to check out.
Blinking, momentarily blinded by the afternoon sunlight, Kelsey spotted Alyssa parked near the curb and sprinted toward the jeep. Alyssa slid over into the passenger seat as she saw Kelsey coming her way. Kelsey slid behind the wheel, threw the jeep into gear and sped away from the curb.
Heading down the causeway they saw that the first of the passengers were already arriving and Kelsey squealed the jeep's tires as she turned into the employees lot and beached the vehicle in the first available space she found. The women took off at a run with their duffle bags in hand, headed for the gangway and trying to avoid the passengers mingling about. Heading up the passageway they both fished through their bags until they found their ID's and put them on. There were no officers around, so their lateness went unnoticed except by the crew who laughed and told them to hurry.
Racing down the corridor toward their cabin, Kelsey fished out her keys and unlocked the door pushing Alyssa quickly inside and following her. Tossing her bag and herself onto the bed, Kelsey sat down out of breath, and began to chuckle as she rubbed her ankle.
"I don't think I was suppose to exercise it quite so strenuously this soon!"
"Are you okay?" Alyssa asked and sat down next to her concerned that she may have reinjured the ankle.
"No, I just have to get use to sprinting again. We had better hurry and get cleaned up. We probably should have reported for duty an hour ago!" Kelsey grinned and began stripping off her clothes as she left a path heading for the shower. Alyssa followed suit and soon both women were vying for soap in an attempt to shower together.
"If we had more time, we could have almost enjoyed this." Kelsey replied and kissed Alyssa lightly before stepping out of the shower and wrapping a towel around her. "No kidding!" Alyssa replied and turned to shut the spray off. She accepted a towel from Kelsey and wrapped herself up and followed the taller woman out of the steamy bathroom.
Throwing things around in their haste, they quickly dried off and donned their uniforms for work. "Ready?" Kelsey called out as she stood with her hand on the doorknob waiting.
"Almost!" Alyssa replied as she hopped around trying to get her foot in her shoe and tuck her blouse into her slacks at the same time. Unsuccessful, she tottered over and fell into Kelsey causing both women to start giggling. The giggling continued as Kelsey scrambled to help Alyssa finish dressing and slapped her on the butt lightly as they headed out the door.
Alyssa jumped into the hallway and turned around with a devious smile. "Oooh, paybacks!" Kelsey waved her hands in front of her in an attempt to ward off the approaching blonde. "Don't forget, we are late for work." The taller woman maneuvered to keep herself out of reach of the blonde who continued to pursue her in a threatening manner. Alyssa was just about within striking distance of the tall raven-haired woman when her chuckle of triumph was cut short due to Kelsey's backward momentum being abruptly halted as she crashed into a solid figure. Alyssa instantly crashed into Kelsey forcing the tall woman backward into the figure again. Chuckling, Kelsey righted Alyssa before turning to apologize to the man who looked at them strangely. Before she could open her mouth, Alyssa was standing next to her stammering.
"Da...Dad, what are you doing here?"
Kelsey felt her stomach drop and chest tighten in response to Alyssa's greeting. Looking up she noticed that there were three other people standing behind the tall blonde headed man. The older woman looked around her husband and her eyes lit up at the site of Alyssa and she walked around the stoic man toward her.
"Alyssa honey...is that really you?"
Kelsey looked up at Alyssa's father who just stood watching his wife hug their daughter. His face showed only sternness and when he turned his attention toward her, she felt a chill run up her spine. Irritated she straightened up to her full height and looked back at him until he looked toward his daughter again. Looking past him, Kelsey noted a shorter version of Alyssa's father with the same condescending look on his face and cold blue eyes. Next to him stood a mouse of a woman with brown hair who smiled nervously at Kelsey before turning her attention back toward the family.
"I didn't know you were all coming down to Miami." Alyssa looked nervously from her mother to her father.
"Your mother thought it would be a good idea if we took a vacation and came to see exactly what you do here. I'm not so sure myself." Alyssa's father's voice was one of belittling condescension, which instantly irritated Kelsey. Kelsey noted the rigidity in Alyssa at her father's voice and saw the slight fear creep into her eyes. She slowly stepped sideways toward the blonde and put herself effectively into the situation.
Alyssa's parents looked over at Kelsey as her brother and his wife looked on curiously from behind. Alyssa gratefully pulled on Kelsey's arm to further include her into the group and introduced her to her family.
"This is Kelsey, my um-roommate." Not looking up at Kelsey she kept her focus on her parents. "This is my mother, my father, and that is my brother Tom and his wife Amy."
The silence was awkward until Alyssa's mother spoke up. "It's nice to meet you Kelsey. I've heard a lot about you from Alyssa's letters. You are her senior officer, I believe? I'm glad we finally get the chance to meet you."
Kelsey smiled over at the woman warmly. She liked all she had heard about her from Alyssa and knew that she was a good person. "Yes, I am and it's good to finally meet Alyssa's family too." Kelsey looked from the kind green eyes up into cold blue ones as she looked at Alyssa's father challengingly.
"Yes, well, I think we should find our cabin now. I'm sure that Alyssa has a job to do, right?" Mr. Anderson replied effectively dismissing the two women and turning to continue their journey down the corridor.
"Yes, actually we need to go report for duty." Kelsey replied and tugged on Alyssa's arm to get her into motion. The girl stood in shock looking back and forth between her mother and Kelsey as though she were trapped in a dream.
"Maybe we can all get together later when you are off duty." Alyssa's mother replied hopefully. Tom stepped past them to catch up with his father to discuss which direction their cabins were in. Without further comment to the women, they two men headed off down the corridor leaving Alyssa's mother and sister-in-law behind. Alyssa's mother patted her daughter's arm and soothingly replied. "You two go on to work and we will get together later. Don't worry about it."
Alyssa nodded and gave her mother a brief hug before smiling at Amy and giving her a hug too. "I'm glad we got to come and see you. I've missed you." The young woman whispered as she returned Alyssa's hug. Alyssa pulled back smiling at Amy, "Me too. I'm glad you are here." Kelsey looked at her watched and cringed, they were seriously late now. Orientation was in about twenty minutes and neither had checked in for their staff meetings. Kelsey smiled warmly back at the two women and gently tugged on Alyssa's sleeve to get her to follow her. "Come on, were late."
Coming out onto deck and leaving her family in search of their cabins, Alyssa had a sudden attack of claustrophobia and quickly walked toward the rail taking in large gulps of air. Gripping the rail tightly, she felt like she was going to be sick. Kelsey immediately stepped next to her and put her hand on her back, lightly rubbing it. "Are you going to be okay?" Alyssa's face was white with a light sheen of perspiration and Kelsey was sure the blonde would be leaning over the side soon.
Alyssa nodded briefly and took another deep breath of air before speaking. "I'm okay, it just took the wind out of my sails I think. I really didn't expect to see them here of all places. Why are they here? Why didn't they write and tell me they were coming. What are we going to do now?"
"Take it easy, there is nothing to do now, but get to work. It will be okay, I promise. Come on, we have to get going before we really get into trouble. We will handle the rest later." Kelsey replied soothingly and released the young woman. It wouldn't pay to start people talking again, not now, especially with Alyssa's parents aboard. They were going to have to be careful, for Alyssa's sake.
Kelsey stepped out onto the deck momentarily blinded by the sun's rays as it made its slow decent across the afternoon sky. Slipping her sunglasses down from their perch on top her head, the tall raven-haired beauty looked around cautiously until her eyes hit upon a lone blonde sitting at a corner table on the patio. Satisfying herself that the woman was indeed alone, she began to walk in her direction. As she got closer, her steps involuntarily halted when she noted the look on Alyssa's face. Alyssa stared out over the ocean with such a look of sadness that a stabbing pain went straight to the pit of Kelsey's stomach causing her to wince. She had a good idea what was causing Alyssa's despair, but what she didn't know was, how much a part she played in that emotion. 'Kelsey! It doesn't matter because we are going to see this through to the end. You are not going to quit, this time you fight for what you want.' Kelsey straightened up to her full height; with deliberate strides she walked up to Alyssa and put her hand on her shoulder looking her straight in the eye.
"Are you okay?"
Alyssa blinked out of her fog of thoughts and looked up at the contact she felt at her side. Blue eyes looked back at her intently. It took Alyssa a few moments for her brain to register that she was being asked a question. "Huh?"
Kelsey quickly dropped into the chair next to her and put her hand over the clenched fists that Alyssa held in her lap. "What's wrong? Did something happen today?" Alyssa looked down as her fingers that somehow intertwined with Kelsey's and didn't respond right away. Her thoughts were a jumble of confusion and fear; she wasn't sure what she wanted to say. Alyssa wasn't sure how much fear she wanted to admit to Kelsey. She loved this woman, but it didn't stop her from feeling fear at the thought of her parents finding out about their relationship. The guilt that was associated with that admission is what Alyssa was fighting at that very moment. 'If she truly loved Kelsey, it shouldn't matter what her parents thought, should it?'
"Come on Alyssa talk to me." Kelsey pleaded softly. Her own fears giving rise to insecurity and thoughts that maybe her love ashamed or having second thoughts about their relationship. "Talk to me, at least give me that much."
Alyssa looked up at the last remark and tears began to form in her eyes. She tried to blink them away as they began to blur her vision of the two beautiful blue eyes that were locked on her own. "You don't understand."
Kelsey's stomach hit bottom at those three words and she knew that her fears were realized. "I see."
"No, you don't see." Alyssa tried again, but couldn't face looking Kelsey directly in the eye. She took a deep breath and tried to refocus on what she needed to say. How she needed to explain how hurtful her family would be to them.
"Yes, I think I do. Your little adventure is over, you've had fun, but it's over and you hope I won't make a scene. Well, don't worry about that, I won't say or do anything in front of your family." Kelsey pushed her chair back and stood up slowly, every part of her being ached with a loss that seemed all to familiar to her. First her parents, her aunt, and now Alyssa. Kelsey was suddenly jerked back to the present and had to catch herself when she found her arms full of this blonde woman that clung to her like a second skin.
"NO! NO! That isn't the way it is at all!" Alyssa's muffled sob into Kelsey's shoulder hit the taller woman in the gut again and she tightened her arms around her lover holding her tightly. "Talk to me then Alyssa, please!" After a few moments of quiet tears, Alyssa extracted herself from Kelsey's hug and moved over toward the railing looking down into the water. Kelsey followed and stood next to her, not touching, but waiting for the blonde to speak.
"I will admit that I am afraid of telling my family about our relationship, but not for the reasons you think. I love you. I am not ashamed of you or my feelings. I just know though what my family is capable of and how hurtful they can be. I don't know if I am strong enough for that."
"I am not afraid of anything they will say or do. Trust me, it wouldn't be the first time I've heard those things. I've developed a pretty thick skin over the years." Kelsey replied lightly before sobering and asking, but what about you. Are you ready for what they might say or do?"
"I don't know?" Alyssa looked up into Kelsey's eyes trying to relay her sincerity and fear without saying it outloud. "You know you don't have to say anything to them if you don't want to. I'd have no problem with that."
"But, then it would mean that I don't love you enough or think seriously enough about us to stand up for who I am." Alyssa finally began to edge around the real reason for her fear. "Who told you that?" Kelsey shook off the question when she saw the confused look Alyssa gave her.
"Listen to me. I am secure in who I am and whom I love. I don't feel the need to wear a sign proclaiming myself gay any more than a straight person does to proclaim themselves hetero. I don't do labels. So, if you do not feel comfortable telling your parents about us, then don't. If the time comes when it is right for you, you will tell them and I'll be right her along side you to support you in every way I can. Do you understand?"
Alyssa nodded through her tears and looked up wondering what she ever done right in her life to find someone like Kelsey. "I love you, you have to believe that. I know that they will never understand, nor accept any of this. I know that I'm being foolish because that should be their problem and not mine, but I just can't hurt them either. For as much as I need them to be okay with who I am, I know that it goes against everything they have ever believed in and were taught to believe. They are extremely religious people and I know they will never change. I'm not sure I can face their rejection or hurt just for the need to tell them I'm gay. I know if the time ever came where I would have to choose I would without hesitation. And, you don't have a problem with this?"
"No, It is more than okay. As long as we are together, I don't care who knows and who doesn't. I just want to be with you." Kelsey smiled coaxing a similar response out of Alyssa. The blonde grinned and began to chuckle looking out over the water.
"Now what?" Kelsey asked warily as she watched Alyssa's grin widen. "Well, I'm glad you feel that way because my family has invited us to have dinner with them tonight and I sort of said yes."
"Sort of, or did?" Kelsey asked grimacing at the thought of an evening with Alyssa's father.
The sound coming out of Kelsey's throat was a cross between a growl and groan as she rolled her eyes and resigned herself to her fate for the evening.
"Thank you! I promise I will make it up to you...anything, you name it!" Alyssa enthusiastically replied and hugged the taller woman tightly before releasing her and stepping back, suddenly registering where they were.
"Oh, count on it honey! I will extract my payment...later!" Kelsey growled threateningly and looked predatorily at the blonde woman.
"Promises....promises!" Alyssa teased finding herself excited at the prospect of Kelsey's threats.
"Oh trust me dear, I always make good on my promises!" The tall women leaned in close and whispered in Alyssa ear, the warm breath causing the shorter woman to shiver. Kelsey chuckled happy at the response she was always able to elicit from her lover.
"Oh yes!" The whisper escaping the young woman's lips before she could stop it, causing Kelsey's chuckle to deepen.
"If we are going to have dinner with your family, I suggested we go get cleaned up. Anyway, I think you could use a cold shower!" Kelsey replied and turned to go inside. "Very funny!" Alyssa replied dryly as she followed the taller figure to their cabin.
Kelsey sat between Alyssa and Tom, which put her directly across the table from Alyssa's father, Mr. Sands. The evening seemed to be going smoothly with Alyssa and her mother carrying most of the conversation. Kelsey was getting use to being stared at by Alyssa's father as she answered Tom's questions about the ship and their duties. 'Maybe this won't be so bad afterall'. Kelsey concluded as they sat over dessert and coffee.
"So, Kelsey is it?" Mr. Sands' voice rose over his wife's conversation and the table instantly silenced. Alyssa stiffened perceptively as Kelsey lay down her fork and her cool blue eyes looked up cautiously.
"Yes, it is." Kelsey made an effort to keep her voice level and even turn the corners of her mouth upward in an attempt to smile.
"You seemed to have traveled quite a bit for your age, which is nice I'm sure, but don't you think its time you get a real life and settle down." He lifted his napkin, wiped his hands as if touching something detestable, then folded it neatly and set it down next to his plate before looking up to hear her reply.
"This is a real life Mr. Sands." Kelsey answered, her voice seemingly calm, but her hands gave her away as they clenched themselves into tight fists in her lap. She felt more than saw Alyssa shift uncomfortably in her seat and knew she had to remain in control for her sake. Kelsey knew that letting this get out of hand would only hurt Alyssa in the end, but yet, she wasn't going to let him walk all over her either.
Alyssa's father snorted at the reply and rebuffed her answer as a silly response. "Be sensible, this is no life for a young woman. You should be thinking about doing something real."
"Mr. Sands, I am perfectly happy with what I do for a career. I have no desire to find a husband and settle down as you put it." Kelsey's voice ended with a slight edge to her words and that was not lost on the older man. Alyssa watched her father straighten his back and knew that this conversation was far from over. Closing her eyes she held her breath and said a silent prayer that Kelsey wouldn't allow him goad her into losing her cool.
"And I suppose these are the type of thoughts you fill my daughter's head with? It's no wonder she hasn't come to her senses yet." Alyssa's father looked at his daughter to emphasize this last point.
"No, actually I think your daughter is old enough to make up her own mind and decide what she wants to do with 'her' life." The inflection in Kelsey's voice clearly pointing out whose life they were talking about. She then had to almost bite her tongue to stop from saying anything further.
"I'm sure you think that is true, but you've known her all of what three months? I think her family is the best judge of what is best for her." Alyssa's father chuckled at her naive assumptions.
"Sir, I mean no disrespect, but don't you think Alyssa is of an age when she should determine the course her own life takes?" Kelsey asked with a sharp edge to her question. She knew she was egging him on to make a bigger ass of himself and that he would eventually come right out and say what she was expecting him to say.
"Unfortunately, that is what is wrong with today's society. We leave too much freedom in the hands of our children and they make a mess of everything. I believe that it is a parent's responsibility to guide and direct their child in the right paths. Without this guidance, we will have a total breakdown of the morals and values that has taken generations to build." The righteous indignation was evident upon his face as he sat forward in his chair expounding his beliefs.
"Does this apply equally to your son too?" Kelsey asked, putting one more log on the already kindled fire.
"I believe women are not capable of making the same rational decisions that men do. My son for example, knows exactly what is expected and needed from him and there is little direction that he requires."
"I see, so what you are saying is that Alyssa, being a woman is not smart enough to know what is best for her life and needs you to map it out for her?" Kelsey's voice was now full-blown sarcasm and the women at the table looked back and forth between the two contestants in semi-shock. No one had ever challenged this man on any subject before, especially not one that he felt this strongly about.
Mrs. Sands watched Kelsey take on her husband and although at first, she was nervous, she was beginning to enjoy the woman's strength and determination to fight on her daughter's behalf. Mrs. Sands looked over at her daughter curiously and noted the look of fear and admiration on her daughter's face. A startled noise caught in her throat when she saw the next look that Alyssa gave to the tall woman. Her brows furrowed in concentration as she tried to assess the situation in this new light.
"My dear young woman, you are a prime example of what happens when women are left to make choices for themselves. You drift around aimless on this ship instead of preparing for the future and building a family. I take it you are a headstrong girl and your parents were not able to control you." Mr. Sand's voice ended in a sneer at the slur he cast on her family.
"I assure you after my parents died, my aunt did a very good job of raising me."
"I'm sure 'she' did her best but, afterall, she didn't have the same kind of help then if your father had been involved!" His reply came smugly, proving his point that women were not capable decision-makers.
Kelsey leaned forward on her elbows and smiled fully without a hint of humor. "My parents, like many others, were too self-centered with their own wants in life to worry about me!"
"That's a shame, you can see where that kind of thinking leads."
"John." Mrs. Sand's voice was a quiet plea that was answered with a look of stern disapproval by her husband.
"Yes, I can see where a lot of parental thinking leads these days." Kelsey replied smoothly and gripped the edge of the table loosing her battle of control.
"I think we had better say goodnight and turn in, we both have early call in the morning." Alyssa's voice quivered in her attempt to take control of the situation and end the current conversation before it escalated into something much uglier.
"Yes, lets!" Kelsey replied instantly.
"Alyssa, I think this evenings talk has made it apparent that it is time for us to think seriously about your returning home with the family at the end of this cruise." Mr. Sand's replied looking at his daughter coolly. The look on his face said that there would be no discussion of this decision and that it was more a statement of fact rather than a question. "You have had your little romp of fun and now it is time for you forget about all this childish play and concentrate on your future and settle down."
Alyssa stood up, her checks flush with a mixture of anger and fear. "I have made my decision father."
"Good then, this is settled, you agree with me?" He asked amusingly. He knew that his daughter had never been a match for his authority and had always crumpled at the slightest chance for a confrontation.
"No, not at father, I think you already knew what my answer would be, I've made that perfectly clear! Are you ready Kelsey?" Alyssa walked over to her mother, kissed her lightly on the cheek and smiled at her sister-in-law across the table before turning to walk away.
'Well, how to you do!' Kelsey exclaimed silently as she watched the stiff little figure leave and the utter silence that had fallen across the table. Kelsey also knew that she wasn't the only one surprised by Alyssa's actions. Mr. Sand's face was a rigid mask of angry and disbelief. Smiling, at Mrs. Sand's, Kelsey turned and, for once, was hurrying to follow Alyssa out of a room.
When they reached the outer door to the deck, Alyssa wrenched it open and scrambled though it drawing in great gulps of night air into her lungs. She needed to breathe fresh air for fear she would be physically sick. 'What had she just done? Where had that come from?' Alyssa felt a hand on her back and stopped her forward movement to allow Kelsey to move closer to her. Kelsey put her arm around Alyssa's waist and led her out toward the railing behind a lifeboat davit where they would have some privacy.
"Are you okay?"
Alyssa nodded, not trusting herself to do more than take deep breaths at the moment. Her stomach was doing violent flip-flops and she was afraid of what the ensuing result would be.
"It's okay honey. Just breathe slowly before you start to hyperventilate. Nice and easy now." Kelsey soothed as she lightly rubbed Alyssa's back to calm her down. Alyssa was her idol at the moment. She knew that what Alyssa had just done was nothing short of miraculous for the young woman. Kelsey doubted that Alyssa had ever stood up to her father at any point in her life until this evening. Silently sighing, she also knew what this pivotal point would mean in the coming days. Alyssa had taken a stand and now she would have to be strong enough to defend it at whatever the cost or give in to her father's demands.
Kelsey waited until Alyssa breathing slowed and the young woman leaned backward against her heavily, her short body sagged against the strain that had overtaken it.
"Come on, let's call it a night and go back to the cabin." Kelsey put her hand under Alyssa's elbow and led her down he deck toward their cabin.
"Could we just take a walk first, it's such a beautiful night." Alyssa asked looking up at the star filled sky. Kelsey had to admit that the display of lights was spectacular this evening, without any clouds to mar their view. The deck was unusually quiet and empty this night and when the reached the front of the ship, Kelsey pulled a deck chair out near the rail and sat down, pulling Alyssa to sit in front of her, she pulled the young woman back to rest against her chest. Wrapping her arms warmly around the Alyssa as the young woman nestled her head under Kelsey's chin.
Kelsey whispered softly in Alyssa's ear and pointed out the various constellations that she could find. "Beautiful isn't it?"
Alyssa's head nodded in affirmation and softly, but firmly, replied, "Yes, it is and he isn't going to take this away from me either."
"Okay, honey whatever you want to do. I'm on your side." Kelsey replied and squeezed the body tighter in her arms in an attempt to let her know she was safe.
The reply was barely a whisper and Kelsey almost missed it, but leaned down and kissed Alyssa's temple. "Anytime baby. I love you."
"I love you too!" Alyssa turned her body to wrap one arm under Kelsey's and around the woman's waist. She lay her head on the taller woman's breast and listened to the strong heartbeat beneath her ear knowing she could never give this up. A tear trickled slowly out of the corner of her eye and down her cheek to eventually dry in the soft tropical breeze that blew over the quiet couple.
A shadow deepened, but went unnoticed by the couple as they lay in each other's arms looking out over the sea under the starry sky. A knowing pair of eyes watched for a moment before retreating back from where they had come, but with a better understanding of the situation before them. Their suspicions now affirmed, the shadowed figure walked back inside deep in thought of how to handle this newfound knowledge.
The sun was just peeking over the horizon when Kelsey awoke with a shiver. Through half closed eyes she peered out at the sea as the swells gently lapped the big ship. She felt warmth pressed against her side in the chill of the morning air. Kelsey knew the cold wasn't so much from a dip in temperature as it was the dew that hung in the morning air. Her joints were stiff from lying in one position and Kelsey swallowed a groan as she shifted to look down at the blonde in her arms. She couldn't believe they had fallen asleep out on the deck. Kelsey grinned thinking, 'this is a pleasant change'. She had been drunk and alone the last time she had slept out on deck.
Leaning down she kissed the top of Alyssa's head and murmured in her ear. "Honey, we have to get up now. We really need to get back to our cabin before the passengers see us."
Alyssa's head popped up and looked around sleepy and confused. "Where?" Her voice was thick with sleep as she blinked to fully awaken. "How did we get here?"
”Let me refresh your memory." Kelsey leaned down and captured Alyssa's lips in a sensuous awakening. "Mmmmmm, I remember now." Alyssa's voice drifted off as a grin spread across her face. She stretched carefully and extricated herself from Kelsey's embrace. Standing she put a hand down to help Kelsey to her feet.
"Ugh! I'm getting too old for this romantic stuff!" Kelsey stretched the kinks out of her back. "Well, if you are too old to keep up, maybe I should reconsider my options." Alyssa chided and turned to walk stiffly toward the interior door. Kelsey's low rumbling laughter could be heard across the morning air as she replied dryly, "Somehow I don't think I'll have any problem!"
"I think your right!"
The two women hurried back toward their cabin to get ready for work. "So, what's on the agenda for today?" Kelsey finished dressing and was sitting on the edge of the bed waiting for Alyssa to come out of the bathroom.
"Lunch with my parents and an afternoon sightseeing. Care to join us?" A blonde head quickly popped through the doorway with a hopeful look.
Kelsey tired to look contrite, but couldn't erase the grin from her face and shook her head. "Sorry I have to work until 3 PM today." Alyssa walked over to the dresser without looking at her friend. "So, then I guess we won't see you until dinner." A groan could be heard from behind her and Alyssa turned and walked toward the sound. Sitting in Kelsey's lap she threw her arms around the taller woman's neck and looked at her somberly. "You know you don't have to do dinner if you don't want to."
Kelsey looked up at the blonde in her lap and smiled, she would go through hell to be with Alyssa, so what was another meal with her father? 'Living hell!' Kelsey chuckled to herself and kissed the end of Alyssa's nose. "And miss a meal with my favorite girl? I think not!"
Alyssa stood up relieved and happy that she wouldn't have to face her family alone for the entire day. It meant a lot to have Kelsey by her side through all of the past few days. "I am free for breakfast if you are interested?"
"Are you on the menu?" Kelsey looked up seductively and reached out to grab Alyssa back to her, but the nimble blonde side stepped and stood at the cabin door waiting. "Maybe for dessert later if you are good!"
"Ooh, you ask too much my love!" Kelsey and Alyssa walked out the cabin door laughing and feeling more like their old selves. For a moment they are able to forget the troubles that face them. They knew that the battle with Alyssa's father had just begun. But, for the next twenty minutes, they were able to enjoy their meal and each other's company in peace.
Alyssa boarded the tender with her parents, brother and his wife in relative quiet. Their lunch had been fairly uneventful, but there was the feeling of an underlying tension that ran like a swift current just beneath the surface.
They walked through the colorfully decorated marketplace, toward their tour bus. Alyssa could tell by the look on her father's face that he regarded the merchants and their wares as a nuisance and looked neither looked to the left or the right, but led the family directly toward their goal. Alyssa's mother smiled and pointed at various objects as they walked and she nodded in agreement, but they didn't falter in their steps, but kept moving ahead. 'Oh, this is going to be fun....NOT!' Alyssa thought to herself as she boarded the bus behind the rest of her family. They had paired off as couples and taken seats toward the back of the bus leaving a row between them, which Mr. Sands indicated Alyssa should sit. 'This is not good!' Nothing was said as the bus pulled out of the lot and headed up into the hills to begin their tour. The bus was sparsely populated with the majority of the passenger seated in the front near the tour guide.
"Now, that we are just family, this might be a good opportunity to tell you the plans I have arranged. As soon as the ship docks in Miami, I have a ticket for you to return home with us. Your old job at the library is still available and you can start back there next Monday. The sooner we get this nonsense over with and our lives back on track, the better!" Mr. Sands stated emphatically as Tom nodded his head in agreement. Alyssa looked to her mother, who mirrored her own disbelief. "But John, I thought we agreed that we were going to ask Alyssa if she wanted to return?" Mr. Sands snorted and replied, "That was your idea Linda, I never agreed to anything. Personally, I think its time for a firm hand."
"Dad's right! What's Alyssa doing working on a Cruise ship for cryin'out loud and, what's up with that Kelsey woman?" Mrs. Sands put her hand up to stop her son from any further rhetoric. "What's wrong with your sister working and having friends?" Mrs. Sands looked at her daughter encouragingly. "Nothing, it just seems something isn't right here. I'm just trying to say that they seem pretty tight for only knowing each other six months." Tom looked at his sister with a look that even she wasn't sure what it meant.
"Enough Tom! I think this is something best left between your father and I." An angry grunt turned everyone's attention back to Mr. Sands who looked at his wife with much displeasure. "John, please, let's not make any scenes."
"I'm not making the scene, you are. Maybe you should listen to your son!" The agitation in his voice rose a level causing those closest to the family to look over curiously. The tour director called back concerned, "Everything alright back there?"
"Yes! Just a private family discussion, do go on with your little talk!" Mr. Sands called back dismissively waving him off as an intrusion.
Mrs. Sands looked down embarrassed at her husband's brusqueness. "Oh, John! You can be such a shit sometimes!"
"Excuse me, What did you say?" Mrs. Sands slipped further down in her seat as her husband continued his rude and abusive behavior, focusing his attention on his wife.
"Hold it!" Alyssa's voice cut through the heated air like a cold knife. She had never been one to raise her voice before, especially in the presence of her father, causing everyone to turn their attention back toward the topic of the whole argument. "What about what I want! You have all fail to recognize the fact that I'm an adult with a mind of my own!"
"One you have not used very wisely young lady!" Mr. Sands answered sarcastically looking out the window at their destination. The bus came to a stop as Alyssa rose up and stood looking down at her father. "I think I've had enough of this conversation!" Alyssa turned and walked up the aisle just as the passengers were leaving their seats. For the rest of the tour she stayed away from her family who, in turn, hung back from the tour on their own. Her mother and sister-in-law conversed with each other as her father and brother lagged silently behind them. Alyssa stayed up toward the front with the tour guide, with whom she was familiar with from previous tours. When it was time to return to the bus, she sat in the front seat with the guide and when her family boarded she continued her conversation ignoring their presence. Out of the corner of her eye she could see her father's anger displayed prominently across his face. His brow frowned so tightly that his eyebrows almost met in the middle and by the purse of his lips, Alyssa knew that the real battle had just begun. Sighing softly, she sat back in her seat as the return tour began and looked out the window wishing Kelsey were with her right now.
The rest of the tour went on with Alyssa only hearing the monologue from a distance, she continued looking out the window deep in her own thoughts of exactly how far her father was planning on taking all this. She knew he was capable of many things, but could he actually force her against her will? Probably not, but he could cause enough trouble for her that she would lose her job and worse, she could lose Kelsey. Growing up, she had seen her father in action when someone back home had crossed him in business. What if he caused her to lose her job? She knew Kelsey would not just sit by and let that happen. What would happen if he caused both her and Kelsey to lose their jobs? She couldn't let that happen to Kelsey. She knew how much her friend loved her work. Where would Kelsey go? She couldn't even get Kelsey to talk to her aunt, let alone, go back to her apartment there. 'No! She wouldn't let that happen, she couldn't!' Worse, what if he found out about the two of them. The thought of that brought a sudden chill up her spine causing her to shiver in the warm tropical air. The tour guide looked over at her quizzically and she smiled and feigned attention until he returned to his monologue.
When the tour ended and the bus pulled up to the drop off spot, Alyssa got off the bus first and quickly headed back to the tender. She didn't wait for her family and took a seat in front near the driver keeping a comfortable distance between herself and her family.
As the tender approached the big ship, Kelsey leaned over the railing of the upper deck to watch its approach. As it neared, she could make out the blonde head she had been anxiously waiting for. When the launch came alongside the ship, Kelsey saw that Alyssa's family was seated in the back, far away from her friend. "Oh Boy!" Kelsey muttered under her breath and by the looks on everyone's faces, that was putting it mildly. Heading down toward the disembarking area she looked through the returning passengers for Alyssa, but never saw her. When the blonde's family came into view, Kelsey stepped back into the crew area and waited until they passed by. Up close the faces didn't look any friendly and she had no desire to meet up with them at the moment. Turning down the crew passageway, she made her way toward the stairs and ran up them toward their cabin deck. Nearing the cabin door she could hear shuffling coming from with and upon entering found Alyssa packing her suitcase.
"Hey, what gives? What are you doing?" Kelsey could feel a knot of fear tightening in her throat and her breathing became restricted. Alyssa turned a tear streaked face toward her and just shook her head and looked away. Kelsey walked over and took Alyssa by the arm and pulled her around to force her to face her. "What happened? What did they do?"
"Nothing!" Alyssa took a deep breath and knew she had to remain in control if she were going to be able to do this. "We just discussed the situation and they are right, my place is back home with them."
"WHAT??? I don't believe that for a moment!"
Alyssa turned a defiant face toward Kelsey and pulled angrily away from her grasp. She was not upset with Kelsey, but the world, her family, and what she was being forced to do. "Who am I kidding? Adventure on the high seas! It was a romantic fairytale, but reality is that I don't belong here. I've done nothing but get in trouble and mess everything up. Haven't I already proven that?"
"No! This isn't the real reason at all. Talk to me, tell me what happened today." Alyssa walked over to the porthole and looked out in an effort to remain focused on her objective and not give in to the feelings that were coursing through her like tidal wave. "Nothing happened, except that I came to my senses."
Kelsey stood silent for a moment, she could feel the tears burning through her building anger. She couldn't believe Alyssa's attitude. 'Wasn't what they had worth fighting for?' Alyssa was going to just give up and let her family win again. "So, I guess that's it, you've made up your mind. Tell me one thing....what was I? Some experiment, a science project to see if you really liked women or what?" The biting tone of those words caused Alyssa to cringe as her heart burned with an intensity that she never knew existed. "Or do you just enjoy ripping out someone's heart in an effort to make them hurt as much as you do?"
Alyssa's heart burst with useless anger and pain as the tears coursed down her cheeks unfettered, and quickly spun around to deny Kelsey's words. "You know that isn't true!" Looking up into teary blue eyes, Alyssa knew she could not let Kelsey believe these things, she could not do what she thought she must and blurted out the truth. "I.....I love you, that is why I am leaving!"
"You love me?" Kelsey shook her head confused and threw her arms around taking in the suitcases. "Then, what the hell is all this?"
"I have to go, it is better this way..."
"How can you leaving me be better.....better than what?" Kelsey moved closer to Alyssa but stopped when the women put her hands out in a silent plea not be touched. "Talk to me Alyssa, please!"
"You don't understand my father, when he gets something in his head, he will move heaven and earth to get what he wants. I won't let him hurt you." Alyssa attempted to explain the situation, but she also knew that, until you've have lived under his influence, it would be hard to believe what he actually capable of.
"What can he do to me? He can't hurt me!"
"Maybe not physically, but there are other ways. What will you do if you lose your job? He can see to that quite easily!" Alyssa replied emphatically and began to throw more clothes into her suitcase.
"Although I doubt he can do that......I'll can always get another job on one of the other cruise lines!" Kelsey couldn't understand why Alyssa thought that this would make a difference.
"Where will you go in the meantime? Would you go back to your aunts?"
Kelsey was beginning to confirm what she had first thought motivated Alyssa to do what she was doing. She thought about what Alyssa was asking of her and didn't flinch when she responded. "Yes, if that is what it would take for you to stay."
"I can't ask you to do that!" Kelsey blew out a breath relieved that she at least had Alyssa thinking about alternatives. " No one is asking you to. I'm telling you that I would do whatever it takes to keep you with me.......if that is what you really want."
"I don't feel like I have a right to have what I want." Alyssa's arms hung limply at her side as she looked down into the mess she was making out of her packing. "That sounds a lot like your father talking. You do have a right to your own life, you know?" Kelsey's voice had lowered an octave as she regained control over her own emotions and proceeded with caution.
Alyssa nodded her head, "I know you're right. I'm just so frustrated right now!" Kelsey rubbed her hands together in an unconscious response to her delight in being given an opening to offer a plan of action. "Okay, then lets start with this....what do YOU want?" Kelsey took Alyssa by the shoulders and sat her down on the opposite bed, squatted down before her and held her chin up so that she could look into the clouded green eyes. "If you really want to go, I won't stop you."
Alyssa felt a tear slip onto her cheek as and she slowly shook her head. "No, I want to stay with you...here." Kelsey slapped her hands on her thighs and stood up. "Good, then that's what you are going to do. We take this one step at a time. First, we unpack." Kelsey began pulling the clothes out of Alyssa's suitcase and began stuffing them in the dresser drawer.
"Wait! You're going to make more of a mess than I did!" Alyssa began lightly laughing as she pulled the clothes back out to neatly fold them and put them away. She hadn't wanted to leave Kelsey or the ship, but also didn't want to put her friend through any more hardship because of her family. She was going to have to trust her heart and her heart said overwhelmingly to stay with Kelsey.
Kelsey stowed the empty suitcase back under the bunk and turned back to Alyssa. "Okay, what's next?"
"Uhmmm, dinner with my parents?" Alyssa wasn't sure if she was pushing her luck, but she also knew she had to confront them and did not want to do this alone. "Delightful!" The sarcasm in Kelsey's voice was undeniable, but the smile on her face told Alyssa that it wasn't said in anger. Looking at her watch Kelsey's smile turned grim. "We had better get ready it's almost 6 PM." "Are you sure you are ready for this?"
"With you, yes....without you, never!" Alyssa smiled crookedly and looked at her friend, who winked and replied, "Okay, but last one in the shower gets to sit by your father!" Both women scrambled over each other in their haste to get into the bathroom, finally Kelsey lifted the shorter woman off her feet and set her behind her and hopped into the shower first.
"No fair! You cheated!" Alyssa cried out as Kelsey stood fully clothed feeling pretty smug about her maneuver. "You bet! He's your father!"
"Don't remind me!" Alyssa groaned as she slid a deceptive hand into the shower and turned the cold water tap on fully. Kelsey shrieked as the cold water drenched her clothes and scrambled to get out of the path of the icy water. "Ooh, you will pay for that one!" The tall woman peeled off her wet clothing as Alyssa giggled quickly adjusting the water temperature and pushing a naked, shivering Kelsey back under the warmed water. Stepping back Alyssa moved to close the shower door when a hand reached out and yanked her under the water. "Paybacks are a bitch aren't they?" Kelsey's deep rumble vibrated against Alyssa's cheek as she clung to the women in an attempt to get out from under the flow of water. Finally giving up, Alyssa peeled off her clothes and tossed them into the sink and joined her lover in the rapidly heating water. Maybe the cold water would have been a better choice, at least it would have kept them from being so late to dinner.
"Well! Well, we thought maybe you had decided not to join us after your little escapade today." Mr. Sands' voice of welcome instantly set Kelsey's teeth on edge and she ground them together in an effort to remain silent. But, she didn't need to worry as Alyssa surprised everyone by standing her ground and speaking up to him. "We can just as easily leave if you insist on continuing with this discussion."
"You are making a scene! Sit down!" Tom's attempt at authority undermined the small triumph that Alyssa had just won, leaving Kelsey firmly rooted on her feet glaring at him. If looks could kill, he would certainly have been dead.
"Shut up Tom!" Mrs. Sands spoke up and reached up to touch Kelsey's hand breaking her heated glare at Tom. "I'm sorry, please stay?" Kelsey's face softened at the beseeching look she received from Alyssa's mother and knew instantly where the blonde got her baleful looking green eyes. Kelsey looked to Alyssa for a response or a sign of what the young woman wanted to do. Alyssa finally relented and smiled at her mother and shrugged to Kelsey, who without a word pulled out her chair and sat down. Looking across the table she found herself, once again, sitting opposite Mr. Sands. 'Oh, just lovely!'
"I'm sorry mother, but I feel that I have right to an opinion in this situation afterall, Alyssa is my sister. What she does certainly affects the family, but it also affects me!" Tom's voice parroted his father's pompous tones, which were quickly beginning to grate on Kelsey's nerves. "Tom, let's not start this again!" Mrs. Sands rubbed her brow tiredly and looked over at her son in warning.
"What did you expect Linda? He has been embarrassed by this whole situation!" Mr. Sands spoke up on his son's behalf.
"What situation?" Alyssa cried out, "just what am I doing that is so terrible?" She looked between her father and her brother, and a slight tremor ran through her when she thought of her relationship with Kelsey. 'Does one of them know something?' Angrily, she turned away from these thoughts and jutted out her chin in defiance. 'Let them say whatever they want! I don't care anymore!'
Kelsey felt Alyssa's hand grasp her leg under the table and begin to apply pressure. As the conversation continued, the pinch kept getting tighter and tighter until Kelsey was biting her lip in an effort not to shout out. Finally, unable to take anymore, Kelsey reached down pried the fingers off her leg one by one, and returned Alyssa's hand back into her own lap. Rubbing her leg, Kelsey could feel the blood begin to flow back into the affected area and knew that she would have a nice bruise by the morning.
"Where should we begin?"
"No Linda, let the boy speak. He is the only one who seems to have any sense around here anymore!" Mr. Sands sat back in his seat and crossed his arms over his chest and nodded toward his son like a king presiding over his servants.
Tom leaned forward resting his elbows on the table with a false sense of security. He had his father's approval and that was all he needed to fuel his fire. "Mother, you have to understand that I'm only worried for Alyssa. I mean working on a cruise ship, come on! What type of people is she going to meet here? Most of the crew can barely speak English and the passengers are only here for a good time! This job here is a dead end."
"If I chose to believe that, which I don't Tom, why should it matter so much to you?" Alyssa voice was a study in calm anger. She gritted her teeth to speak slowly and clearly in an attempt to keep herself from exploding.
"It matters to him because he is your brother and it's his responsibility to look out for you." Mr. Sands looked over at his daughter shaking his head in frustration. "It is the way it's always been in this family and if you insist on remaining single, it's how it will continue to be."
"You've got to be kidding?" Alyssa stood up at the table and leaned over the table in an effort to keep the level of her voice down. "I don't need a keeper!"
"I think you do!" Her father's voice was approaching a level of anger that she had rarely seen, it made her afraid and angry for being afraid.
"Well, maybe that's your problem!" Alyssa's words poured out before she could stop them. Her father leaned closer to the table, his eyes flashed with anger causing her to step back slightly as a intense wave of fear washed over her. Kelsey noted the slight shiver that ran down Alyssa's back just before she turned and ran from the room. Watching the retreating figure, Kelsey was driven by a need more powerful than any good sense she should have exercised in her effort to protect her lover and friend, and she turned with slow deliberation to face Alyssa's family.
"Not only are you both totally unbelievable, I think you fail to recognize the fact that Alyssa is an adult with the right to chose for herself. Come out of the dark ages and get with reality. I really think this conversation and dinner is way over. Oh but, thank you for the lovely time!" Kelsey turned to follow in Alyssa's direction, but was instantly stopped when Tom walked around the table to intercept her.
"What I want to know is what exactly is your story lady. What could you possibly want with my sister?" Kelsey saw red as her blood began to crest into her cheeks and she knew when it hit her brain she would be off like a shot. In a controlled rage she stuck her finger in Tom's chest and pushed him backwards. "If I were you, I'd get out of my face and my business!"
"Excuse me?" Tom replied standing back up to Kelsey. "I think you better...." His threat was interrupt by the presence of his father who walked over between the two and spoke directly to Kelsey. "I don't know just who you think you are? This is a family matter, none of which is any your concern!"
"She is family!" A voice from behind caused the trio to turn to the two forgotten women behind them. "And at this moment, more family than either of you will ever be!"
"Stay out of this Linda, you don't know what you are talking about!"
"Enough! I've had enough of your bullying and condescension toward me! I won't let you ruin our children's lives too. I've seen what you have done to our son and I won't let it happen to Alyssa. Do you hear me? She is an adult with a life of her own. You do not own her, neither of you! Tom, you had better start rethinking who you are shaping your life after before you lose your wife too!" Amy who hadn't said word up until this time stood up and moved toward Mrs. Sands, "She's right Tom. I love you, but I won't live under your thumb!"
Mrs. Sands shook with anger and fear at her outburst. She had never gone against her husband's wishes, but for once, it felt good and she felt empowered for the first time in a long time. Turning toward, Kelsey her face softened and her flush cheeks dimpled into a smile. Kelsey could see the softened features of Alyssa in a few years and her heart fluttered at the thought of her lover. "Kelsey, go to Alyssa, find her and tell her that I love her, and I just want her to be happy. I know her home is here on this ship with you and that is okay with me, just promise me that you will both keep in touch with me."
Kelsey looked into green eyes that glistened with a knowledge that left the tall woman speechless. 'Does she know? But, how?' Their gaze remained locked until Mrs. Sands winked and stepped up to Kelsey and softly said, "Go to Alyssa and see that she is alright." Kelsey nodded silently and turned to go in search of her love.
Kelsey searched until she found Alyssa on the forward deck. She stood facing out to the sea as the wind whipped her hair back from her face. Stepping up into the soft light that shone from the running lights dotting the top deck, Kelsey could see the tear tracks that ran down Alyssa's cheeks. She felt a pang in her heart from the pain she saw etched on the wet face. Kelsey wrapped her arms around Alyssa from behind and rested her chin atop the blonde head. "You okay honey?"
Alyssa lifted her shoulders slightly, she was at loss to describe the feelings that ran through her tonight. In one moment she felt exhilarated at standing up to her father and in the next, she felt as if her whole world was coming apart. "I don't know how to feel?"
"I guess that depends on what you want to do with your life? I see you have two choices, you can go home with them.....or stay here with me." Kelsey's voice remained steady as the low warm tones soothed Alyssa's jittery insides. "As if there were ever a decision to make!" Alyssa laughed lightly to clear the tension from her voice. "I'm going to miss my mother." This was the only regret that Alyssa would have, that she wouldn't be able to talk with her mother after this.
"Well, there is no reason why you can't keep in touch with her...afterall she is your mother."
"I don't think that my father will allow that after tonight." Alyssa's laugh took a bitter twist and her face slid into a frown along with her spirits. "I don't really think that will be a problem, especially after tonight. You left before the good part, your mother took off after your father and your brother, and basically chewed them a new one!" Kelsey chuckled slightly as she envisioned the sight of the short graying blonde woman standing with her hands on her hips going to town on the two taller men. They had both stood with their mouths agape as this once docile creature became a wildcat. And Amy's first words were just an added bonus. Kelsey relayed the conversation that had taken place in the dining room after she had left.
"Do you really think my mother knows?" Alyssa couldn't believe what she was hearing, but she had always hoped that of anyone, her mother would be the one to understand. As she listened to Kelsey relate her mother's words, Alyssa leaned back into her tall lover's comforting embrace. She knew then that no matter what happened, this would always be her safe harbor.
Alyssa stood watching the passengers milling about as they waited to disembark. She caught sight of her family down on the lower deck when they came out from the forward lounge. All of the passengers had to attend a mandatory meeting in assigned places to fill out their customs declarations. This made the disembarkation run smoother with less need for every piece of luggage to be inspected. Most passengers didn't make purchases over the limited allotment but those that do, can declare them and pay the extra tariff. While this took care of the majority of travelers, there were always a few who tried to slip past customs with either illegal items or more than their allotment. Even though not everyone is caught, the penalties are stiff enough to keep the average traveler on the straight and narrow.
Alyssa watched her family, hesitant about confronting them again but didn't want her mother to leave without at least saying good-bye. Her opportunity came when she saw her father talking to her mother and then he walked back inside. Alyssa took a deep breath, descended the stairs and crossed the deck toward the three figures standing against the rail.
"Mother?" Alyssa voice was soft and hesitant as she waited as the three turned around to face her.
"Alyssa! I'm so glad you're here. I didn't want to leave without seeing you first." Mrs. Sands pulled her daughter aside and enveloped her in her arms. She felt Alyssa's stiff body relax against her, she smiled hugging her daughter tighter and whispered in her ear, "Don't worry darling, everything is going to be okay as long as you are happy. You are happy?" Mrs. Sands pulled back quickly to look down into Alyssa's bright green eyes and knew the answer even before her daughter nodded her head. A tear gently slipped down her daughter's cheek and smiling warmly Mrs. Sands reached up and wiped it away.
"But, how? How did you know?" Alyssa asked one of the questions that had been plaguing her throughout the night. "Who...?"
"I saw you out on the deck that night after you fought with your father." Mrs. Sands confided and reached up to tuck an errant lock of hair behind her daughter's ear.
"You did? Does it bother you?" This was possibly the hardest question that Alyssa had ever had to ask her mother, but she needed to know the answer.
"Well, yes and no. Part of me worries with the path that you have chosen, but the other part sees the love and happiness in your face since you've met Kelsey. I won't deny that I would have wished that love could have been for a man, but only because I know that life won't make things easy for you. You know that I don't ever want you to be hurt but, I am comforted in knowing that with Kelsey by your side, you will be safe." Mrs. Sands sighed at the last remark and hugged her daughter back to her tighter. "And you know that you will always have me in your corner. If you two ever need me, I will always be there! You are my baby girl and I could never love you any less than I do."
"Thank you mother, you don't know how much that means to me." Alyssa hugged and held her mother peacefully until the older woman broke the spell. "I think your brother has something he wants to say to you."
"Does he know? Does Daddy?" Alyssa's rapid-fire questions were immediately halted when Mrs. Sands whispered "No...no, that is our little secret until you feel ready to tell them", and put her arm around her daughter turning them around in unison to walk back toward the waiting pair.
Alyssa nodded her head and looked up at the pair with uncertainty clouding her green eyes. Tom nervously shifted his weight from one foot to the other as Amy smiled and reached out to give Alyssa a hug. "I'm glad we got to see you before we left. It really has been good seeing you again."
"Yes, I just wish it had been under better circumstances." Alyssa apologized. "I'm sorry, that was partially my fault." Tom spoke up causing the three women to turn to face him. He briefly looked out at the water embarrassed and not knowing exactly what to say. Gathering his thoughts, he turned back to his sister. "Look, I'm not going to pretend that I understand what you see in this type of life". Tom paused looking around trying to find something to emphasize his point. Finding nothing, he turned back to his sister contritely. "But, I realize it isn't my place to make that decision for you either. You are an adult and capable of making up your own mind. I'm sorry that I came on so strong and bullheaded. That wasn't fair to you."
"You've been doing it my entire life." Alyssa retorted finding it difficult to let go of her resentment. "I guess I've been listening to Dad for too long." Tom's face broke into a grin and the tension among the small group eased when the women began chuckling. Tom reached out hesitantly, unsure if his sister would reciprocate his affection. But, when she engulfed him without hesitation into a bear hug, he knew they were finally moving in the direction of patching old and new wounds. Stepping back, Alyssa ruffled her brother's hair as Amy slipped her arm through her husbands and smiled up at him. He looked down at his wife and realized that maybe his father didn't hold all the answers after all. He had almost lost something he held very precious because of that misconception. Leaning down he placed a kiss on his wife's cheek and smiled at her apologetically. Alyssa watched the interaction with amusement and thought, 'well what do you know, maybe reality really has sunk in and there was hope for him".
Kelsey was busy with a few last minute duties so that she would be free to go ashore as soon as the last of the passengers has left the ship. Kelsey knew that her friend would be saying good-bye to her family and decided that they needed some privacy. After she finished here, she would head down to the cabin to pack her bag and wait for Alyssa. Alyssa had asked her the night before where they were going this weekend. Kelsey hadn't answered her because she hadn't really thought much about it. During the course of the evening she had tossed and turned with just that question on her mind. Finally, while she took the inventory and locked down the equipment, she began to realize what she needed to do. Maybe it was the past week with Alyssa's family that had shown her just how fragile the bonds of a family actually are. Too quickly they can become irreparably severed for good.
Stowing the last of the athletic equipment away, Kelsey sat down to finish her reports. As the clock ticked the morning away she found herself daydreaming more than working. Her mind kept going back to her childhood and the happiest times that she spent hadn't been with her parents, but with her aunt. On the other hand, so had some of her most painful times. Kelsey couldn't stop her mind from returning to the day that Jean had walked out without telling her why. It wasn't until many years later that Kelsey could finally acknowledge to herself that it hadn't been her fault, but she still carried the scars of that abandonment. She had gone through the normal range of emotions that a child does when a parent leaves. For all intense purpose, Jean had been more a parent to her than her own parents had ever been. Shaking her head to clear these oppressive thoughts, Kelsey put her head down to concentrate on the papers before her. She really needed to complete the inventory and repair forms necessary to prepare for their next sailing. The more time she spent at work meant there was less time she could spend with Alyssa. This thought fueled her resolve and she quickly completed the paperwork and with a satisfied sigh, she left the office and headed back to the cabin.
Alyssa stood at the rail with her family until the last possible moment and she had to return to work. She suspected that her father was staying away purposely and secretly she was relieved, Alyssa had no desire to have another confrontation with him. Alyssa wanted to part with her family on peaceful terms and really didn't feel a need to speak with him before they left. She thought about it and acknowledged that she didn't have anything further to say to him.
"Well, I hate to cut this short, but I need to get back to duty. We have to close the books after each cruise before we can leave the ship." Alyssa turned to face her mother and saw the soft sadness in her eyes. "I don't know when I will see you again." Mrs. Sands replied. Alyssa could feel the tears burning her eyes and she quickly looked out over the water in an attempt to gain control of her emotions. Alyssa felt a touch on her shoulder and looked up into her mother's loving eyes and instantly fell into her embrace. It was as if she was a child again and all was well with the world as long as she was in her mother's arms. Alyssa realized it was one of only two places she had ever felt safe and loved. She instantly thought of her raven-haired beauty and felt the hot tears spring to her eyes.
"You know I love you and I want for you to be happy. I think being here and with Kelsey makes you happy. Don't ever give that up." Mrs. Sands' voice was soft and warm against Alyssa's ear as the tears ran unheeded down the young woman's cheeks. Alyssa nodded unable to speak past the emotions that filled her. The two women just stood in their embrace until Alyssa could regain her voice again. "I love you mother."
Pulling back from their extended embrace, Alyssa hugged her sister-in-law and brother in turn. The three of them stood looking at each other for a brief moment before Mrs. Sands spoke again. "You will come to see us sometime won't you?"
"What about Daddy?" Alyssa asked quietly looking between her mother and her brother for a response.
"Don't worry about your father, I'll take care of everything. It's time he learn that the world doesn't revolve around him." Mrs. Sands' voice was filled with confidence and strength. Tom smiled at his mother's grit, shrugging his shoulders he laughingly replied, "Well, okay then, I guess that settles that!" The trio erupted in smiles and laughter lightening the mood on deck.
Kelsey looked over at her silent passenger and reached out to place a hand on the woman's knee. "You okay honey?"
Alyssa squinted in the late afternoon sun as she looked over at her lover. The sun was to the taller woman's back causing her to be no more than an outline, but Alyssa never felt more comforted by that presence than she did at this moment. "Yes, I am. I was just wondering where we are headed?" Alyssa had been watching the passing scenery and had a very good suspicion of where they were going, but didn't want to believe it until she heard it directly from Kelsey.
"We are going to visit my Aunt......and Jean." Kelsey replied hesitating on the last part. "Can I ask why?" Alyssa asked trying to keep her voice from sounding overly excited. She didn't want to do or say anything that might influence Kelsey or make the woman change her mind. She knew that Kelsey was taking a huge step today toward resolving issues and possibly burying the pain of her past.
"I guess because I realize that life if short and it's not my place to deny my aunt her choices. If this is what she feels makes her happy, who am I to tell her its not." Kelsey answered without taking her eyes from the road. Alyssa could see Kelsey's hands gripping the steering wheel just a little bit tighter and reached over to gently run her finger tips across the whitening knuckles. Kelsey grinned and flexed her hands to relax them before placing her right hand on Alyssa's knee and keeping it there. "I'm glad, I think this is a good thing and, I've missed your aunt." Alyssa professed grinning like a supremely happy cat napping in the sunshine. Kelsey returned the smile as best she could as she contemplated what she was about to do.
Pulling into the driveway as the sun dipped behind the house, and paused in the shadows of the house. Normally, she would have pulled completely into the courtyard, but didn't feel comfortable to do that just yet. Getting out of the jeep, Kelsey was almost positive she had seen someone run into the house from the heavily shadowed side of courtyard. Leaving their bags in the car Kelsey took a deep breath and waited for Alyssa to join her and turned to walk up toward the house. Kelsey briefly looked up at her old apartment and didn't notice that anything had changed. Alyssa slipped her hand into Kelsey's giving it a brief squeeze and holding on to it as they walked. Kelsey had to smile at the simple gesture and the warmth and encouragement that it brought to her. Reaching the last archway to the house, Kelsey paused and Alyssa gently tugged on her arm as she proceeded into the cool darkened patio. As her eyes adjusted, Alyssa barely caught Kelsey's whisper, "Well, here goes nothing."
The two women's footsteps echoed over the flagstones as they made their way toward the kitchen door. Before they reached the doorway, a figure appeared emerged wiping her hands on her apron and quickly brushing her hair back from her forehead. "Kelsey is that you?" Kate's voice broke on last of the sentence as tears sprung to her eyes. She stood uncertainly of what do and then looked over to acknowledge Alyssa who smiled up at her. That smile broke her reserve and she stepped forward to embrace the young woman. "I've missed you Kate." Alyssa blurted out as the tears once again filled her eyes. "I've missed you too." Kate replied pulling back and looking over at Kelsey. "Both of you."
The residual of Kelsey's hurt and anger had dissolved at the sight of her aunt. She had felt a sense of loss being apart from the tall woman and was beginning to feel like she was home again. Kelsey instantly stepped forward into her aunt's embrace. Alyssa noted movement from inside the doorway and looked up to find Jean looking our hesitantly. Alyssa smiled up at the woman. "Hi."
Kelsey stepped back from her aunt's embrace and a shiver ran through her body. She attributed to the sudden lack of warmth from her aunt's departure, but part of her wondered if it wasn't the Jean's appearance and the memories it brought. She looked up at Jean expressionless and watched as her aunt walked over to draw the woman out into the courtyard.
"Kelsey, its good to see you again." Jean smiled at Alyssa to include her, but returned her focus back too Kelsey and waited for her reply. Kelsey looked down at her feet trying to sort through the range of emotions that were tormenting her. Part of her wanted to run, but a stronger part needed some answers. There was a child still left inside of her wondering why she had been abandoned twice, was it some fault of her own? She looked up and her clouded blue eyes told a story all their own. "I need to talk to you."
"I think it's time." Jean replied quietly never taking her eyes from the lost blue ones before her.
"Why don't I go inside and make some coffee. We can have it out here on the patio." Aunt Kate offered and turned to go into the house. "Can I help you?" Alyssa's voice called out hesitantly. She didn't want to leave her lover, but she wanted to give the two some privacy. Aunt Kate turned around with a smile, "Yes, I'd love the company."
Alyssa looked back at Kelsey and whispered, "Do you mind?" Kelsey half smiled and replied, "No, you go ahead. I guess we have a lot to talk about." She looked down into understanding green eyes that were filled with such love that Kelsey felt a burning within her soul. "Yes, you do." Alyssa smiled and gave Kelsey a quick hug before following Kate into the house. Kelsey's eyes followed Alyssa until she was lost in the shadows of the house and finally turned to look at Jean. It was time to face her demons and put them where hey belonged. The two women stood looking at one another in silence until a tiny voice asked, "Was it me?"
"No!" Jean's voice was strong and effective in startling Kelsey out of her shell and she instantly reached out to the young woman. The elder woman's reach fell short of her goal and she looked away shaking her head, the tears quickly filling her eyes. Turning back to the tall young woman she asked, "Is that what you thought?"
Kelsey couldn't trust her voice and she knew the slightest quiver would break the resolve that she was trying to maintain. Instead she nodded her head yes and focused her eyes just above the graying head. "That couldn't be furthest from the truth. What I did was irresponsible. I was young and foolish and I never though about how my leaving would affect you. You and your aunt had each other and I thought you both would be okay, but you weren't were you?"
Kelsey felt the burning in her chest churn up the hurt and resentment that she had kept buried so deeply. "No, we weren't. How could you just walk away like that? How could you leave my aunt just like that, without so much as an explanation? The least you could have done was tell her to go to hell, because that is exactly where she spent that following year!" Kelsey's voice grew stronger as the anger poured out of her.
"And you?" The timbre of the woman's voice was even with a touch of sadness and she watched the young woman struggle for the words to express her pain.
Kelsey turned away and gripped the railing to the patio and looked out into the courtyard. Taking a few moments to calm herself, she turned around and levelly asked, "Do you have any idea what it is like to watch your family one by one leave you, and then wonder if the shell of the woman left before you hated you because of it? I had plenty of time to wonder because there was no one who could tell me that answer?" Kelsey stopped speaking when she realized that Jean stood mutely before her with tears running down her cheeks unheeded. Kelsey could not remember a time she had ever seen the woman cry, even the time she had seen her accidentally cut herself and the wound had required eight stitches to close it. Now the woman stood before her taking the punishment that she felt was due her.
"I am so sorry Kelsey. I never meant to hurt you and make you believe that my leaving was in anyway your fault. I was young and stupid and I ran from everything that had ever meant anything to me. It didn't take me long to realize the mistake I had made, but by then, I was too embarrassed and angry with myself to do anything about it. After that, I just thought you were better off without me and I stayed away. But, believe me, I loved you like my own daughter, I still do." Jean paused a moment to take a ragged breath and wipe the tears from her eyes with the back of her hand. "You know your Aunt is one special lady, I don't think I could be as forgiving as she is, but I'm glad that she is because I don't ever want to lose her again. I'll spend the rest of my life making it up to her...to both of you, if you will let me."
Kelsey looked into the pleading brown eyes and knew that she didn't hate Jean. The hurt was still there and she wasn't sure if that would ever go away, but she knew that she also felt a peace in knowing it hadn't been her fault. "Do you still hate me?" Kelsey's attention refocused on the warm brown eyes when Jean softly spoke.
"I never hated you."
"Can you forgive me?"
Kelsey hesitated and honestly thought about it before replying, "I hope so." Jean stepped forward with open her arm, Kelsey didn't hesitate this time and stepped into the embrace.
"So do I" Aunt Kate's voice came from the doorway to the house as she stepped out onto the patio carrying a tray of cups and a coffeepot. Alyssa followed behind carrying another tray of assorted desserts. Setting the trays down on the table she took Alyssa by the hand and they walked over to where the other two women stood. Kate pulled Alyssa into a group hug with her lover and Kelsey and said, "There has been enough pain and sadness in this family to last two lifetimes. It's time we look at what we have and not what we don't have and just be happy." There were murmurs of agreement from the rest as they hugged one another and began to put the past behind them. Kelsey looked down at the women in the circle, her eyes were caught by glistening green ones looking up at her with love. In many different ways it would be a new beginning for all of them. But for Kelsey and Alyssa, they knew that their beginning and end lie within each other's heart.