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“It’s so nice to get off the ship!” Adrienne twirled on the little Semarang dock letting her t-shirt fly up around her stomach exposing just the barest hint of skin to Cleo.
“We were in port the day before yesterday.” Cleo gave out a tiny giggle as Adrienne twirled past her again. The usually reserved woman seemed to have found her inner child.
“I had to work. This is my first time getting off since we left Brisbane.”
“What? You’ve been on there for two weeks?”
Adrienne shrugged. “I grew up on boats. It’s kind of normal.”
“Your version of normal and mine are very different.” Cleo looked around at the picturesque port, she’d traveled with her family throughout her childhood but never anywhere like Semarang. Her parents had been focused on ski trips to Aspen, summer in the Hamptons, Italy in the spring; anywhere the other rich families spent their vacations.
“I’m just glad I don’t get seasick,” Adrienne joked.
“Yes, that would’ve made it a little more difficult.” Cleo looked around the dock, many of the other women from the ship were disembarking or waiting for tours. “Where are we headed? You said it was a surprise. Can you tell me yet?”
Adrienne shook her head. “No, hopefully you like it. Our boat should be here soon.”
“Ooh, we’re going by boat?”
Adrienne nodded and pointed to a tiny speedboat dwarfed by the huge cruise ship.
“Right there. Come on.” Adrienne had sent a note to her room the previous afternoon asking Cleo to accompany her to Semarang the next morning along with a list of things to take. On the whole, it had been a relatively sensible list including a swimsuit, and flip flops. Cleo had opted to wear them hoping that there wouldn’t be too much walking wherever they were going. She had noticed that her partner for the day had a slightly larger bag, branded with the Cruiseify logo, but not the same bag they’d received at embarkation.
Adrienne remained something of a mystery to Cleo. She kept mentioning that she’d grown up on the sea but Cleo still had no idea why, or even what that meant. Did her parents go on a lot of cruises? She’d never been very good at asking people those kinds of questions and usually just waited for them to explain what they meant. Adrienne hadn’t. Instead, she kept acting like Cleo should already know.
“Ma’am, are you Ms. McCoy?” Adrienne sauntered up to the boat owner, dragging a slightly more apprehensive Cleo along by the hand.
“Yes, it’s just the two of us today. Do you have the supplies I asked for?”
“Yes Ma’am. We should be there in one hour. Please relax. Enjoy a drink.” Cleo noticed the Indonesian man spoke English very well. She blushed a little as he gestured to the loveseat and a jug of some kind of fruity cocktail. Okay, it was more of a bottle than a jug, but it looked delicious.
Adrienne gestured for Cleo to climb down first.
Adrienne smiled then climbed down next to Cleo.
“Margarita?” Cleo nodded. She didn’t usually drink at eight in the morning, but it was a special occasion.
“What would you have done if I’d said no?” Cleo asked as she sipped on her margarita. It was freezing cold and far more alcoholic than she would have made it herself.
“You wouldn’t have said no.”
Cleo wanted to glare at Adrienne for the cockiness of her statement, but somehow coming from Adrienne it was actually a little endearing.
“Well, I’m glad I said yes, though I wish you’d tell me where we’re going.” Cleo waited for Adrienne to answer. When no answer was forthcoming, she continued, “Can you at least tell me when we’ll be back?”
Adrienne nodded. “Not until close to boarding time. Should be around six.”
“But the ship leaves at six thirty.” As they spoke, the little speedboat had pulled away from the dock and begun a journey into the ocean. Cleo looked to their ship, shrinking in the distance.
“The ship won’t leave without us. I promise.”
Cleo nodded, her nerves decreased a little, to a tiny pool in the pit of her stomach that she could mostly ignore.
The two of them settled into a comfortable silence as Cleo pulled out her book and tucked her legs under her to read, all while taking periodic sips on her margarita. If Adrienne disapproved of her reading, Cleo didn’t notice and Adrienne didn’t say anything.
The next thing she was aware of was a gentle hand rested on her knee.
Cleo nodded, and wordlessly slipped her book back into her bag before glancing at where their little boat had stopped.
“Oh my god. This is… wow.” Cleo didn’t have the words to explain the wave of beauty that filtered into all of her senses. From the gentle lapping of the waves on the shore to the towering jungle.
“It’s a national park. Nobody lives here. We can go to some of the other islands too. And there’s a lunch basket, with snacks, and there are snorkels too. We can do whatever you want. I’m so glad you like it. This is one of my favorite places to go.” Adrienne fell into silence as she caught sight of the grin spread across Cleo’s face.
“You’re so cute when you babble.”
“What would you like to do?”
Cleo glanced around the area, she really didn’t know. Swimming sounded nice, but so did sitting on the beach with a book. Or talking with Adrienne. Nobody had ever done anything like this for her before.
“Maybe we could walk along the beach?” Adrienne suggested.
Cleo nodded, glad that Adrienne had made a suggestion to save her from thinking of something.
The beach was nothing like the area they’d docked in, it was all white sand and towering jungle. Cleo walked alongside Adrienne darting forward to dip her legs into the lapping water whenever they got too hot.
“This is so nice.” They had looped most of the island already.
“Yeah. I noticed you’re not reading the book club book. Are you finished already?”
Cleo shook her head. “No, to be honest, I expected the book club to be reading something a bit more interesting than the Davinci Code.”
Adrienne nodded. “Yeah, I know what you mean. I thought there might be some feminist literature. At the very least some lady loving romance.”
“I don’t read that much romance.”
Adrienne stopped. “What? I love romance. It’s honestly my favorite genre.”
“Wow. I just… I didn’t expect that.”
“Why not? Because I’m single?”
Cleo shrugged, and Adrienne fell back into step beside her.
“No, I don’t really know why. What do you love about them?”
Adrienne smiled. “I just love love. You know? I think that’s why I’m still single. I love the part where the couple is still getting to know each other and they’re still not sure of everything. Plus all the romantic gestures.”
Cleo was silent for a few moments. “I love that too. But, I don’t think that’s all there is. I think what comes after that is just as interesting, even if they never show it in romance movies.”
“I wouldn’t know.” Adrienne shrugged, her attention on her bare feet as water lapped over her toes.
“You’ve never been in a relationship?”
Adrienne shook her head. “I travel too much.”
Cleo looked out across the ocean. There was so much world to see, and it seemed like Adrienne had seen all of it.
“Anyway,” Adrienne’s voice interrupted Cleo’s thoughts. “I was going to ask you how you’re enjoying Lord of the Rings.”
Cleo grimaced. “The writing is a bit stuffy for me. I love fantasy, and I actually loved the Lord of the Rings movies, but the books… I don’t think the writing style is for me. I don’t understand why everyone loves them so much.”
“Oh, I totally understand. I think that about a lot of classics.”
Cleo nodded. “Everyone always says I’m a picky reader. They’re wrong. I just know what I like.”
Adrienne laughed, a loud belly laugh. “I like you, Cleo. I’m going to say right now that you are by far the most interesting person on this cruise.” Cleo blushed, she could never say it aloud, but she thought Adrienne McCoy might have been the most interesting person she’d ever met.
You can read January 16 here.
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