The air around me seemed to stand still. Everyone was silent. The tension strangled me. Lena, my bride, stood in front of me staring at me, awaiting my response. Her look was one of concern and anger. I had hesitated, and that was frowned upon when standing in front of the altar. Thou shall not hesitate. The truth is, I wasn't simply trying to buy time, I was wondering how the hell I was going to get myself out of this situation. When I saw her walking towards me, my future father-in-law proudly boasting his gorgeous daughter on his arm, I wasn't filled with excitement for our lives together. I was filled with the urge to flee, to get away as fast and as far as I could.
My parents never said anything and for that I was grateful. We returned home after the failed nuptials. As we sat at the kitchen island eating wedding cake that would only go to waste, my parents waited for me to start speaking. There was no parental book on what to say when your son gets cold feel on his wedding day, I suppose. Here I felt it again, the stiffening silence. I cleared my throat awkwardly and made eye contact for the first time since we sat down.
"I need to get away," I said, and I was filled with guilt as I saw a tear glisten on my mother's cheek. The day had taken an unexpected turn and a heavy toll. They both looked at me, waiting for more. The lack of response forced me to continue.
"I was thinking of doing some travelling. Finding myself, just for a while," I added hoping that this would end my monologue and that they would join in. Nada.
Putting my hand through my hair I went on still, "A bit of sailing would be good. I'll work on a yacht, make some money, see a bit of the world. It'll be great."
"You're being very impulsive, Jamie," my father spoke finally. His voice sounded strained and unusual. "I'm sure you can still make things work with Lena. She's a lovely girl," he caught my mother's eye as he said these words and she nodded in desperation, approving of his love of his would-have-been daughter-in-law.
"That's not what I want," I said as I shoved the remaining wedding cake to the side. It had lost it's taste.
"Well, you be sure to let us know when you find what you're looking for, son," my father said, hurt and saddened. I hated hearing the emotions in his voice.
A month later I had completed my training and arrived in the Caribbean. The air seemed different here, sweet and fresh. The water was unlike any color I had ever seen, the bluest of blue. I felt different here, too, alive. I was bursting with excitement. A fresh start, a fresh me.
The yacht, The Zartan, was gorgeous and huge. Our crew would consist of three stewardesses, three deckhands, an engineer, a chef, and of course, the captain. I had been lucky to secure a position as a deckhand so quickly after training ended. It was going to be hard work, but being here in paradise would make it all worth it. We all got aboard and had a meet-and-greet.
The three stewardesses were cute as buttons. They were the kind of old country gals that could make millionaires drink more champagne than they intended to just with their big, friendly smiles. The three deckhands included Jake, Travis, and myself. Jake was the bosun, which meant he told me how high to jump. He was of a similar build and had an open and friendly face. The engineer was quiet and seemed to prefer the company of computers. The chef came across as a diva naturally. The captain was an older man who had kind eyes and spoke in a professional yet caring manner. We would be hosting bored rich people on the yacht for five days. After that, we would have two days to clean and rest, and the new guests would arrive. This would be my summer. Bending over backwards for rich pricks, and damn, I couldn't wait.
I was bunking with Jake. Being an only child, I have never had to share a room, much less a space slightly bigger than a closet. It was going to be interesting. Jake was warm and made me feel at home from the very first moment I met him. He had a sincerity about him that was refreshing. He had been on the yachts for four years and he knew the ropes. He was what you'd call a yacthie. He showed me around the deck and carefully told me what my job would entail. I enjoyed being in his presence and he made me feel safe. It was strange to feel this way around someone I had just met, but I felt like I had known Jake my entire life.
We were all lined up like dominoes, dressed to perfection, waiting for the arrival of our first charter guests. They were rude, bratty and ridiculously rich. While they sat eating caviar and drinking champagne we worked in the shadows. We didn't exist. On the third day when the day became long and the sun took its toll, I bitched about the riches. Jake smiled, his big white smile, and say, "Jamie, just enjoy the moment that you're in. Look here." He leaned over and I smelled his musky scent as he pointed to the horizon. The sun was setting over the crystal clear water. It really was a perfect picture, and my mind went further for a minute adding that he, too, was perfect.
What the hell was going on with me?
Why was I so entranced by this man?
I didn't have the answers to these questions, mostly because they scared the hell out of me.
That night as I heard Jake fall into the rhythm of sleep, I leaned over my bunkbed and watched his silhouette. His face was relaxed and carefree. He was spectacular.
The days flew past as we worked on the yacht. Jake and I were inseparable. We worked our butts off, but we also found time for a laugh. There was something undeniable between us. At night at our crew meetings before we went to sleep, I'd stare at Jake. His cheeks were sun-kissed and his hair had streaks of blonde now, proof of days spent working in the sun. He'd return my gaze and smile.
Just after our sixth competed charter the captain told us all what great job we had been doing. We earned the three days off and we should make the most of them. As we went back to our room, Jake asked, "How do you feel about surfing? I heard the surf's good here." He seemed nervous suddenly and I felt butterflies like never before. I was short of breath, so I simply shook my head.
We swam to shore and the water felt cool on my skin. We hired surfboards and caught a lift with a local surfer to the best spot. We spent the day in the water. Surfing and falling, surfing and falling. Jake was extremely athletic and he kept his balance better than I could. As the day came to an end the sun started to set, he told me about a small cave nearby. We floated on our surfboards into the cave. The sunset reflected on the water and it made a cave a cozy light pink shade. We laughed as we shared stories of our childhood, until the vibe changed. Jake looked at me suddenly serious, and moved his board away gently. I also moved around my board and I stepped closer to Jake. The water reached our shoulders when we stood engulfing us like large sapphire blanket. Jake placed both hands on my face. "Jamie," he said softly and it was all I could handle before letting go of my self-control. We kissed and time seemed to stand still.
This was real.
This was me.
This was Jake.
This was us.
This was the moment that my life would never be the same. I'd have my person by my side until the end.
That night curled up in Jake's arms, I grabbed my phone and started sending a message to my parents, "Mom and Dad, I've found what I've been looking for."