This cruise was Nadia’s reward to herself for surviving seven years under the heel of an oppressive boss at a terrible PR firm in the crappiest office in Kansas. She’d struggled to rise through the ranks and as soon as she’d achieved some level of management, some respect in the industry, she could take that respect to a new and better company and start making the sort of salary a woman of her tireless devotion to excellence deserved. Last week she was hired by the best PR firm, with the best management team in the nicest office in Kansas and she finally felt like she could cut loose.
The original cruise plan was just to be a girls trip. She and three of her friends from her book and dieters club had made all the arrangements for a seven day cruise to explore all the debauchery they could handle. But then, Shelly couldn’t go because her son had a severe ear infection and had to go to the hospital, and then Mary decided she couldn’t really afford the trip and backed out, Brenda was the worst though because she flatly told Nadia that, “if the rest of the girls weren’t going then neither was she”. It turned out Brenda just didn’t like Nadia. That was fine with Nadia because she thought Brenda was a snob anyway. So, in the end, Nadia decided she’d go by herself.
Nadia was initially nervous when she first boarded and wound her way through the long twisting corridors of the Ocean Dream Liner. She’d never travelled anywhere by herself before. It was a completely new and daunting experience for her. There was an allure to it though. She imagined on her plane ride to Florida that maybe she might finally meet that special man on this trip; the one man that could look past her weight issues and her driven career woman dreams. She had been working so hard for the last seven years that she’d let her weight get out of hand and she never dated because she thought it was time wasted. She’d rather date and look fabulous once she’d achieved her dreams of financial freedom. Although she was now 44 years old and the idea of finding that special someone and building a family seemed more remote than ever.
The music stopped on the dance floor and the DJ made a few announcements about all the fun activities planned for the next six days. He had one of those velvety strip bar announcer voices and Nadia snorted loudly when she imagined him saying something like, “Please welcome Candy Cane to the stage, give it up for Candy Cane”. This drew some unwelcomed glances from some of the fuddy-duddies that were patiently listening. Nadia looked at her empty margarita glass and decided it was time for a re-fill at the bar.
She tried to move elegantly through the crowd, but she wasn’t used to wearing the espadrilles and she stumbled a bit. She didn’t fall but it was pretty clear that she wasn’t too good on her feet. She met more scowls of disapproval as she moved forward. She made it to the Tiki Hut themed bar and sat down on the first available stool. She tried to get the bartender’s attention but he seemed busy flirting with a waitress that was showing a lot of cleavage. Nadia almost whistled to him but decided that if this bartender liked breasts then maybe she would just have to let her girls do the talking.
She unsnapped the top button of her sundress and squeezed her breasts together with her arms. She admitted that the weight she had put on over the years had certainly added to the ample bosom she now exposed. The bartender must have ears for large cleavage because as soon as her girls were on display he turned right to Nadia.
“What can I get you,” he asked, never actually look up at Nadia’s face.“I’d… I like… the fruity ones… with the fruit…that’s what I like,” said Nadia.
“I’m sorry miss, what was that,” asked the bartender.
“The drink, with the, you know, fruit in it, I been drinking it all day, you know, the one, do you like my breasts,” said Nadia.
“I’m sorry ma’am I’m having a difficult time understanding you. Did you just ask if I liked your breasts,” asked the bartender.
“It’s okay, I know you like them. You’re a man and men like boobs,” said Nadia.
Nadia started giggling uncontrollably and she undid another button on the top part of her sun dress exposing her bra, a bra that was a size too small for her.
“See… see… I can tell you like ‘em,” said Nadia as she winked at him.
The bartender picked up a bar towel and tossed it on his shoulder and leaned in toward Nadia.
“Miss, I think you’ve had too much to drink this evening and I don’t think I should give you another. It’s our policy on Ocean Dreams to make sure our guests have a wonderful time but responsibly,” said the bartender.
“Are you saying you, you don’t like my breasts,” said Nadia.
Nadia looked down and she felt herself start to cry. The bartender cleared his throat and leaned in toward Nadia again. Nadia didn’t look up at him.
“Miss, please, I don’t want to spoil your fun but it appears to me that you’ve been over-served and I can’t in good conscience provide you with any further alcohol. I can get you a coffee if you like,” said the bartender.
Nadia didn’t want to hear it. She closed her eyes.
“Miss, I’m sorry. Why don’t you head back to your room and get some rest. Tomorrow is a whole ‘nother day for fun,” said the bartender.“You’re right. You’re right. I don’t even know what, what I’m doing on this stupid cruise. I’m old, I’m fat, I don’t have any friends, I wasted my life. I should just jump overboard,” cried Nadia.
The bartender didn’t respond. He turned to another customer and took his drink order. Nadia buttoned up her open dress and stood up from the barstool. She tried to straighten her hair and wipe the tears from her cheeks. She stepped carefully in her espadrilles toward the exit, only stumbling once, and made it out side onto the deck.
The ocean air was instantly refreshing on her teary face. She left the noise of the club room behind her and drifted aimlessly toward the ship railing. She looked out over the dark water and remembered her college boyfriend Ricky and she caught herself wishing he was there with her. He would have held her hand as they stood there, looking together out over the water. She looked up and saw the bright moon peeking through thin lines of clouds. She sniffled.
“Are you alright miss,” said a man in an Ocean Dream Liner polo shirt.
He had startled Nadia and she turned quickly to face him.
“I’m sorry ma’am I didn’t mean to scare you. I saw you in the club and I wanted to make sure you were alright,” said the man in the polo.“I wish everyone would stop calling me ma’am. That’s what I wish,” said Nadia.
“Yes, miss, I can understand that. I don’t like it when people call me ma’am either,” said the man and he smiled.
Nadia caught the joke and she snorted. She got embarrassed and covered her mouth and nose with her hand.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to snort,” said Nadia.“It’s alright. Can I walk you back to your room this evening,” asked the man.
“What’s, what’s your name,” asked Nadia. She straightened her back against the railing and tried to look at least a little sexy.
“My name is Merrill. It’s our policy here on Ocean Dream Liners to make sure that guests that may have had a bit too much fun be safely escorted back to their rooms”.
“Oh. Yeah, I guess you would have to do that I suppose,” sighed Nadia.
“And you’re name?”
Nadia stopped trying to be sexy and let her shoulders slump. Merrill was handsome but he was far too young for her. He probably had some sweet 22 year old girl back home; all hot and sexy and always in a bikini. Nadia sighed and turned sideways from Merrill.
“My name is Nadia.”
“That’s a nice name. I haven’t met a Nadia in a long time. It’s nice to meet you,” said Merrill as he extended his hand.
“Yeah. Charmed,” said Nadia and she accepted his hand limply.
“So, Nadia, may I walk you to your room?”
“I guess,” she said.
Merrill stepped up next to her and gently ushered her forward toward the room section of the ship. Nadia stepped alongside of him and started to move forward.
“I mean, you don’t have to go back to your room if you really don’t want to,” said Merrill, “we’re certainly not forcing you.”“No, no. It’s fine,” sighed Nadia.
“I mean, you could always jump overboard,” said Merrill.
Nadia sort of chuckled at him. He said it in such a Bill Murray-esqe way that it seemed funny.
“Or I could throw you over,” said Merrill.
Nadia stopped walking and turned to look at Merrill. He was smiling but there was something wrong with his smile. It was too wide for his face. His cheeks looked like they were wrinkled up, like it was a smile wearing a suit made of skin.
“What,” said Nadia.“I said I think I’ll throw you overboard. Besides, no one will miss you. You’re fat, you’re old and you don’t have any friends. Yeah, I think I will throw you overboard,” said Merrill.
Nadia started backing away, back down the deck toward the club.
“You’re crazy,” she said.“No. No. I’m not crazy. I’m here for you Nadia. I’ve come to take you from all this pain and suffering,” said the thing in the Merrill suit.
“What? Take me away? No, no. I’m fine,” said Nadia.
She continued to walk backwards carefully, holding onto the railing, over the dark ocean.
“You’re hardly fine Nadia. You wasted your life in the pursuit of money, of things, of unfulfilled dreams. We hate that,” said the growing monster.“I lead a good life. I do. I do. What do you know?”
“Everything about you Nadia. Everything,” said the beast.
Nadia turned to scream but the beast, now snarling and towering over her, grabbed her and flung her over the side of the ship like a baby tosses a rattle. Nadia screamed out over the water and she splashed down far from the lights of the cruise liner. The shock of the water hitting her was like being punched in the kidneys and for a moment she didn’t know what had happened. She started to shout for help but the ship just kept pulling away from view. There was nothing but blackness all around her. She felt something nibbling on her arm.
“Miss, Miss… Miss,” said a voice, shaking Nadia, “You can’t sleep here miss. You have to go back to your room. The bar is closed.”
Nadia sat up from the bar, the bartender from before was shaking her. Her sun dress was still unbuttoned.
“What happened,” she asked.“You fell asleep at the bar after I told you I couldn’t serve you anything more. Now please, I let you stay to sleep it off but now you really must get back to your room,” said the bartender.
Nadia carefully stood from the stool and steadied herself. The dream was already fuzzy in her mind. She started to turn from the bar when the bartender called after her.
“And miss, by the way, I do like your breasts,” he winked at her and smiled.
Nadia blushed and waved him goodnight.