Friday, May 22, 2015

RMS Mary Queen

[Updated 13NOV2022]

I have returned my dear! Can you feel my presence? Finally. 

Finally. I kiss the wind and close my eyes to remember the bliss of heels against the deck and the whistles and the laughter and calls from passengers from years ago. I see lovely red lips from gorgeous women smiling from under white, brown, and baby blue cloche hats, and strong-jawed men– immaculate specimens of my own class – with pipes lit from under stiff panamas and their familiar aromas of applewood or cherry. I can see the handsome crew in their perfectly tailored uniforms and eager to serve and ready to aid the new guests on their journey to the other side of Neptune's realm. I absorb the chaos as I remember them so clearly! It was here on this deck, here near the onboard ramp, where I first set eyes on you. Or, did you seek out mine? You and your lovely smile and assertive nod to my friends and their questions borne of leisure and wealth and power; and me, with my guarded inspection of your fine good looks as I pondered for the first time – with quite some guilt and reticence – those finer details of a man of your class. OH! I remember everything. I remember your wink as you caught my long stare; the spark and the vibration it sent down my entire spine. Enchanted, that moment…! Until….

Until I open my eyes and take instant note of the feverish seagulls hovering over the deck; their shrill laughter mocking me like all of West London as of late. I also find myself breaking against a wave of annoyed and glaring passengers trying to get beyond me and my dreamy stupor. What nasty looks I now receive from them. Forgive my people, my dear. They must sense that I am now an outcast. Some might recognize my face from the papers – I am not sure yet. But, how could I care? They relish in gossip. They would have known of mine, to be sure, whether they knew me personally or not. They would be fine if I had fortune left to ride the scandal – or dark funds to quiet it down some. Yet, they know that I have little treasure left of me and my name. My love, I will explain everything once I find you. Such nasty looks! They love to know of a man who’s come to ruin, yet to be sure from a safe distant to take it all in and to watch the fall, for they are quite thankful it is not them whose good name has turned to rot. They would regard me as the sacrificial lamb to ward off their own downfall, as if it were cyclical. My former class would do anything to be an island of only themselves. They make all their worth on the back splitting work of the lower classes, such as yours; though they would never spend a moment’s time with them in any meaningful way. Time is money. And, your class has little of that. Yet, I am now free from their poison, my dear. I am no longer chained to their ways. I am free to see my dreams come to fruition – and very soon. I have returned to you; returned to us! My having lost fortune has gained me precious time. New freedom. What remainder I have of either is all for you.

So, no worries, sweetheart, what rumors you’ve might have already heard. Ignore them all, and do not get yourself involved with my former colleagues. Serve them, and be done with them. Whatever they think of me… whatever they think of us; they are of no consequence. I have finally learned to ignore their prejudices, for the want of you is greater than my want for them and its luxuries. I have returned to the sea to find you! We have been so many years apart… too many years away from each other. Oh, but the shame they would have us feel. I don’t care anymore! I have returned to you in a perfect state of brokenness for you to put back together, in your image. I have segregated my soul from material things and come to reclaim my wealth in the treasure of loving you. 

Where might you be? I take in so many faces on the docks as I lean against the rail, my face away from the passengers, in the case that they recognize me in the daylight. I’ll wait until they thin out before I proceed to gather my room key. I wonder where you might be doing at this time? Perhaps you are where I had last saw you… in your compartments; the same room, the same occupations. I remember, you had said it was difficult to ascend in ranks. Perhaps you have the freedom to –.

I heard my name spill from under a woman’s breath. I am sure of it. Curious how she might have recognized me. If you can sense my presence, then you must be quite shocked at my ruffled clothes, my starkness in comparison of my perfection of years back. No longer do I wear a ruffle, nor a handkerchief. My hair is longer and barely kept. I have a beard, now. It has grayed. You may see that I have brought with me only one luggage case, for I do not intend to stay for long. I have come to claim your hand, to take you back with me. I had failed you before… and I am deeply sorry for my cowardice. I have come to set this right. You are coming with me, and I will take care of us, and forever. So, I won't need to stay long. I am rich in a moment’s infinity. In fact, I have a plan to rescue us, once and for all. We won’t need anything else but us.

Can you feel my presence? As I feel yours?

A faraway ship’s horn has startled me. I now move with the flow of my former class fellows on holiday and their wives and children and nannies walking almost single file behind their provider. I have the strength to ignore the many smirks and suspicious glances; gossip-gathering spies peering from under bonnet-graced and painted straw hats, their brims wide and useless as they are tipped back so far as to expose their pretty faces. Surely, by machination. And the men! Such hard grimaces… smoldering cigarettes and fat cigars only alienate their humanity. Handsome, though; I admit. A sort of Hollywood-handsome. Yet, they are treacherous men indulging in all forms of leisure in these modern times. They seem out of place; almost bored on this old ship of yesteryear. They are much worse today than before the War, these Hollywood men. They don’t like the old charms in this old way of travel nor the rules of engagement once on board. They act like this is a game, a hunt; and not a time to relax, to chat. I don’t dare look too directly at them, for they frighten me. They are a duplicitous generation! Prowlers for wealth; of wealthy women – and men, no doubt; anyone of higher stock than their birth. Self-made wealth, they say. New money. Oh, certainly! They’ll hire for love and turn a deaf ear on those who suffer from their indulgence, their secrecy. 

Blackmailers! Filthy animals! I don’t belong here among the men of today. I want to return to you; to our time; to our old charms out on the sea. Oh, sweetheart! How I go on! I’ll turn my thoughts on us. I live, now, for you and in the light of day. I – I am myself a different man, my dear. Can you see that now? I shun the wealth and the hunt. I’ve come to be with you and find my home with your class. I see the service crew who, collectively, haven’t seemed to age at all– but where are you?

I enter the ship's lobby that feels much more orderly. Ah, but with some disdain of my own, as I look about, for it occurs to me that you and your service detail were never to be seen here. You had taught me of the ship’s strict categories and rules; the classes within classes; even the layered rights of those within the underdeck. Terrible how men treat other men, whether by wealth or by birth or by labor. 

I am shoved through the entrance, and I gain my footing as I cross the lobby as the others race around me. I realize the shine on the floor has been dulled by the years, when times before – our time before – it was quite bright and fresh… quite new and elegant and sparkle. I wonder for a split second if the Queen Mary has treated you as poorly for all these years. Has she dulled your keenness? Your beauty? Has she worn away your dimples? Aged you by square? Devilish of me to wonder, for you will always be magnificent. You are as much caught in the time of your youth as I am chained to the memory of it! This is fact. Of course, I am well aware that you should not have changed by a moment’s duration. I am sorry that I could not have stopped my own aging. Forgive me for worrying about this, but will you still find me attractive?

I have no choice but to take the risk of presenting myself to you as the broken man that I’ve become. Only you can make me whole again.

I pass the same shops that I had perused some twenty years ago where I gleefully bought you treasures and treats from under those superior noses. Gilded things! Probing my every purchase. Who’s the lucky lady, they would ponder. Your missus would find this set more permissible in good company…. Such gobbledygook! It was all for you. Every pound handed over: all for you. My sin, nearly exposed with every luxurious purchase; my sin in giving them to you – and I adored the ruse and the risk equally so! I brought you many beautiful things, for you were more than worthy of them. I see the same pens displayed behind the window. The same Waterford crystal set rotating on the same walnut pedestal. The same brands of cigar, the same Lafite Rothschild, the same fruit confectionaries whose recipes haven’t aged in centuries – all had touched your lips, met your tongue, delighted your senses; these same gifts that I would have retrieved for you again, if time allowed and if I had the money. And, what is that which greets me? I pause, quite purposefully to the annoyance of an old gentry fellow who harrumphs as I break his meager stride. But, I caught something quite familiar. What –? My love! I know that scent. The same Acqua di Parma that you let me trail under your chin and dab the best handkerchiefs: it’s there on the glass pedestal. Someone has left a trial strip out for all to be placed under its spell. It has worked. I am smitten by the taste of your skin. My favorite gift to you above all. You loved my gifts. I loved your gifts!

I hear the horn. We all rush about to return to the deck and wave off our loved ones left on the shore. Yet, I must hurry to our room, dodge the finely dressed children of dukes and lords and celebrities who run up and down the stairs. Their joy is found in the simplicity of their freedom, and their freedom mocks us, too, without knowing. No matter. Soon, I will find you again and untether us from our chains. We will have more than just a taste of it, I can promise you that, my dear. We will come out from the shadows, hand in hand, and in the presence of the light for all to see.

Here! Finally. Our room! I should be dreaming, but no. I reserved for us our old room where we had first made love, and made love many times thereafter to America and back; and the compartment is exactly how I remembered it! Yes, it cost me a significant amount of money and some wrangling with the ticket master. I might’ve killed someone to get this place back, for this is our room. This is – ah! Look at our bed! We were so happy here. So very happy. I smooth my hand over it like its a consecrated object, and I can perfectly imagine you under its covers. 

It is consecrated. It is my sanctuary. It is our sanctuary. 

And where are our linens? Lavender comes to mind. Where…? There! Yes. White linens like the ones you had brought when I first called the red light. White linens that made a perfect excuse for our first meeting. I owe my life to that moment. You left me with such a state. You kept your promise to meet me that night. I had to feign sea sickness to my friends. They never suspected. Yet, a clumsy fool has stacked them on the luggage rack. A shame that they are not stacked on my dresser as you had always done. Perhaps the quality of service has been lacking since the early days? No matter. They will be wrapped around our naked skin soon enough, as we had done many a secreted night. The satin ribbon that binds the linen is tied with a green bow? And, not purple? That is fine, too. I must touch it, play with it… pull on it and set it free; twirl it gently around my shaking hand. Satin. Do you remember, my dear, after our third lovemaking, when I tied the ribbon round your lovely, bright neck? Your salt and the satin about your neck like a ribbon of sea for my lips to drink. The satin burned you, so I feared; yet, you became intense, again. Ah! Lavender! Blessed lavender.

Our room is dimmer than before. Perhaps it was always like this when you were not present? I remember the bathroom door jammed. Yes, it does still! Our room, for certain. I kneel here beside the tub and dip my hands into the cold basin. Too cold, too unreal, for the many times this tub was filled with your heat; filled by your magnificence! Your head, here; your knees bent there; and your feet – your toes – against the corners, here. I –

I pull my hand back quickly, and I wonder why. Oh, you need not worry! I promise you it was not from fear of you! Yes, it must be from the chill of the cast iron. I needn’t worry at all with my silly reaction. The heat – it will be magnificent, once again. I only need to believe that. I might return us here when I find you again – perhaps near the pool? Or, near your quarters by the culinary? We will be taking our baths together once more despite the chill of the iron. I don’t recall the red water that I think I see. I must leave for now.

I sit at the large vanity; the blonde wood, tri-mirrored vanity where you sat many a nights and imagined you a duke; your lovely face – my pleasure to have three of them smiling up at me as I gazed at each perfect face, desiring your visage for eternity. May I, if you don’t mind for I know it is very soon that I have boarded; may I take off my clothes? Just to nap a bit? See myself in the mirrors from our bed and… see you there with me? As before? Too many years have I longed for this opportunity, my love; and I apologize for my sudden wickedness and heady want -- so, perhaps I will only nap in the nude for just some hours and do what’s proper before I come find you again? You must be starting your shift soon, and I shouldn’t keep —.

You lead me to our bed. Admittedly, I am confused as to your attentions. Is this really happening? Are you here with me? I pull down the covering and I stretch my naked body over it. I long to feel your legs entangled with mine. I nearly cry remembering your probing hands and… your small body, though full of muscles – tight; under my exacerbating quake. Ah! Yes! You are here with me again! I can feel you now climbing on top of me, kissing my forehead, grabbing my shoulders, squeezing my bones so hard – my bones crushing to pieces in your grip! I feel you diving under my skin with ease as if I were liquid; feel you seep under my ribs. Oh, my love, my love. After all that has happened! Here. Again. After all the time that has passed, you are here with me again! Together. Together. We are making love. Oh! This is why I had to…! This, why I had to return, to – Dear God, yes!

I lie, exhausted. I can sleep a hundred years. I am so grateful to be here, my Mary Queen. Ha, ha, ha, ha! Yes, do you remember when I used to tease you with that term of endearment, and to no end? Even when you hushed me by the pool… and hushed me again in the company of that terrible roommate of yours. Mary Queen. My Mary Queen. I have come back for you, and let this be our last voyage! I have agonized over this waiting for so very long, abiding the years in London with devoted misery and worthless privilege that kept me from returning to us. Have you been waiting for me, too? Abiding your time most recklessly, as I have done? Oh! I love you. I wish to only dream of you. For one more hour… in our bed… is all I ask. My love.

I have lost track of time. Where have you gone? I must have slept too long. You are on your shift? Forgive, my dear. I lie naked here, in the dark. The ship must have left port hours ago. I see that a storm is brewing above our metallic island. I can also see a faint hall light spilling from under the door as the late afternoon storm prematurely darkens our voyage. Gentle voices pass by the door and slip inside and dissipate like a light breeze. But only for a while will I stay in bed. I have some more waiting to do, but only until the evening’s darkness has reached its maximum tide. Six hours out to sea – an anniversary of sorts honoring that last night when we made love with only our blessed one hour of freedom before you were to start your next shift. And so I wait here for the afternoon to be swallowed by shadow; tricked by the hall light. And I will wait to go search for you. But, that is fine. I can now have the pleasure to think back on our affair. I can wander in your beauty until we are well out to sea.

Do you know how our final evening on this ship had changed everything for us? I admit that I was quite desperate. Unreasonable in my demands. Yet, it was out of my love for you – and you seemed to have understood it on some level. Or, so I had hoped? Before our little disagreement, you had told me your shift was now poolside. I asked you to repeat yourself, for you demurred – and I wondered why you had done so. I wondered if Thomas –. I was unsure if you meant for me to wait there at the pool for your shift to end, or if you were warning me away. I was so confused, my dear. So angry and confused. I did come by, you may not have been aware. I stayed there for another two hours. And when you failed to show, I then reasoned that, perhaps, your shift may not have allowed you to come visit me. I left when the drunken laughter of the young wealth had dimmed and the pool stilled to glass. I sat hidden in the dark behind the large, potted Ficus when the service came to tidy the room; they ignored me and feigned to answer my probing questions of where you might be. I walked the deck a half dozen times, alone and greeting people who were once in my circle of friends – and my hate for them grew as fast as my disappointment in you for not greeting me!

Where were you, my dear? That last evening before I departed the ship? Where were you? I wished to dine alone – my worry turning to anger quite rapidly. Yet, my circle were too persistent and insisted that I join them. At the First class grill, I hoped that I would see you walk by the entrances and I even prayed to myself that you might glance in as you had done many nights prior. As I waited for that divine moment to see your lovely face, I avoided conversing to my dear acquaintances, declined many offered drinks, and I went dead with the fear that each demur caused me to miss your seeking eyes. When only the clink of the bartender’s hanging glasses kept me from drowning in a murk of grief, I then took to the reflections of the nightfall windows and wished myself the rags of a vagabond than this bow tie and suit which kept me tied to my privileged decks and made me inappropriate to be found on your work staff levels. I teethed on my cigar, unlit and toxic, as I strolled the promenades for hours wishing you could step foot there and relieve this separation. Yet, when the spray began to sting and with many a stupid warning calls from the stewards, I had to return to our cabin and sulk on this very bed and toil those wicked hours staring into that hideous hallway crypt… startling at every turning of a knob from somewhere… imagining at my sliding under the door and searching the scent of your skin with the Acqua di Parma that I had begged you to cling to your marvelous body. My Mary Queen! I wish you understood the pain of my horrendous longing for you! 

Yet, by two in the morning, I admit to you now, that it only dawned on me then what had transpired. Your words, belated in its prescience, finally made it confirmed across my ear.

You said no to my invitation to taking you with me back to London. I thought you were being na├»ve. You laughed, and I thought that was confirmation. Yet, you did not let me kiss you before your shift. I thought you were hurried; perhaps, worried that you’d be late. Was I wrong? Yes. You had once mentioned that man’s name some days prior. He was more than friend, you had claimed. You had even introduced him to me, quietly, shamefully, I dare say; and he grinned like the Devil himself. He was abusive to you – you had confided after our lovemaking that night. He demanded things of you. Took your pay… sold your things and dithered to share the profits. How was he ever your lover?  

No matter. I treated him like past tense, for what could be greater, more promising, more truer than our bond? So, that second when I thought you were about to repeat the man’s name after my inviting you to return with me -- for I had a feeling that he was on the tip of your tongue – that second was only a stupid waste of precious time, for we were meant to be together, no matter. There was no Thomas. Only us. Forgive my anger, my dear. That night, I was quite desperate. I pulled on you, perhaps, too hard. Demanding you come to London with me – a bit too unequivocally. I am a man, and I…. I cannot blame you for your reaction. You pushed me back into my room with equal force, and then said nothing more beyond a careless, ‘have a good rest of your trip, sir’ – of which I assumed, was no different than the other odd things declared before, was for show and to prevent scandal in the presence of the passengers leaving their rooms for the theater.

 I only thought you were hurried. Worried you’d be late. The pool.

Your threat to rescind our considerate and fond moments, depart our many deep kisses, erase our breathless, all-consuming lovemaking, kill our romance among the whitecaps of this ignorant sea; it was all too real, substantiating the death of us. And for why? Because of my status? No. You had admitted having other affairs with higher men than even me. Because of your fear living in London, with me? No. You were raised there and you said that, before your position gained as a stewardship, you had a profitable collector’s worth of clientele in West End. You were no angel, by your own account. On active duty, my kind would jest. Yet, I never allowed your past come betwixt us. Remember when we perused New York City for three blissful hours on port-of-call? You confessed how you had made some profit there, too. I remember thinking that was the past, as well; yet, was it, my dear?  

Ah, but what does it matter then or now? I never let myself judge nor bothered that you slept for profit. Did I not make myself clear to you during our affair? How devoted I was to you? I thought that I had finally understood why you told me not to come find you anymore. Your words, belated in my understanding, spoke harshly to me during our disagreement that terrible night – I was foolish to not hear them and let them settle. I finally knew what I should have always known: Thomas. Or, his power over you? I now understand what I did not admit twenty years ago. Your profit was Thomas’s profit. His power over you had kept our blossom from opening.

The fool!

You must know, my love, that I went through great lengths in search of you that night when the cabins were sound asleep. I shadowed many corners and hid in several closets and covets, slamming into walls by tremendous swells that seem more treacherous as I dived further down the lower class depths: all to reach that terrible hum of engine and shuddering chill of the service quarters. I then found your Thomas leaving the scullery, with great shock at my presence and of my privilege near such areas. He confirmed, reluctantly, that you were, indeed, in your cabin. Imagine my anger when he then warned me back to the upper deck with an authority disguising, thinly, his jealousy; his face a permanent mask of sweat and steam and of lines and grooves in his face expressing only his power over you! 

I hope you see, now, since I knew where you were hiding; you understand how I could not let your friend bequeath such evidence? Of our love affair? For, Thomas now had power over me, and I could not allow him that privilege. We of West End are too versed in the illegal trade.  How – how could I allow your Thomas to hold ransom over me? No doubt, as he did you? He would have demanded – exposed me, blackmailed me for having ventured into your class… and of men?

I had little will to be held back by such a lowly fiend! You must understand, my love, how I could not let him hurt me; for, him hurting me would also hurt us. I came to rescue you, and  –. Yes! That’s what I did. I came to rescue you and to take care of you and to – to give you a better life, with me, and –! Take you away from the likes of Thomas and the dirty labor of a ship’s crew. I could even buy you much prettier things than even a royal ship could muster and to keep you safe from your past life. I wished only to share my life with you, and I wanted only to find you and tell you… explain this to you… convince you. Yet, that scoundrel Thomas; he –!

I made it clear to him that I did not appreciate his demeanor and that he had no God-given right in asking why I needed to find you. Forgive me, my dear, for pulling rank on that dirty swindler. I am not a snob, yet I felt quite offended. He then said that he knew perfectly well, and that he was quite safe to know it. You see, my dear? My threats to have his position terminated with such demeanor was perfectly acceptable in the context. I made sure he understood my name and position in government, for I could have him dismissed and also report to the authorities his ill gains. Yes, I did revel in his begging for my forgiveness! He was frightened – it was thrilling! – and his aura had changed so quickly that it surprised even me. My threats even drove him to the desperation of offering himself to me. Can you imagine that? Your Thomas? Such a squid! And, that I would find pleasure in a filthy thing as him? Ha! I was instantly enraged! Forgive me, sweetheart; I was as offended as my class should be! 

I made sure to carry on the idea of the transaction he put forth, coaxing him to the deck– near where deck chairs were stacked and chained under the dim last quarter haze of the satellite; an appropriately dinge atmosphere where he thought we would commit our crime; where the wind ferociously beat him against the ship and bloodied his ugly head; where the salt spray cut into him like a hundred wicked blades into his many wounds; and where he was finally claimed by Neptune, Himself!

Myself bloodied and nauseous, I went to your quarters with new and bothersome doubts of our love. I admit to you now, at that very moment, when I stumbled in delirium down those many cavernous halls, worried that I had smeared Thomas’s blood along the rails; panicked that I was marked and exposed and ruined;  I admit that I became angrier as I got closer to your door for, I thought, to leave you there, sound asleep, for good, and unpunished and free to return to your trade and what pleasure would come for years to pay for your rent; well, I sadly admit it, my love, that that premise was simply not acceptable to me at that moment. 

Yet, even with my justified anger of you, I found myself hovering about outside your door and imagining your nakedness on the other side. I imagined you alone and needing my company; needing my presence as I needed my Mary Queen. I realized quickly that your door was not locked, and it took great energy for me not to burst through and grab you! Instead, I took measured breaths and leaned against your door and tried to walk through it with my mind. I saw you there; your legs pulled away from the blanket and raw. I pressed my lips over your thigh. I kissed your skin until I met your belly. I then woke at the sight of Thomas’s blood smeared by my cuff along the door jamb – and panicked! I returned to the deck by the chained up chairs and waited nearly half an hour to talk myself out of my delirium. I failed, my dear. I failed. I failed. I made a final return to your cabin and pushed into your room with some surprise at my determination. It was so freeing! Exhilarating. Oh…. I can feel it all over again. I was sure that I made too much noise, yet I found you sleeping. Asleep; like an angel, though you… you were no angel. You were a man of the night? Asleep; and in your bunk next to Thomas's; and you, waiting for his return? And, and… asleep; and so magnificent your face; your long, long dark eyelashes clasped in a spreading line of perfect rays, as if drawn by a thin, sharp line of charcoal? Asleep, and as pure as the last time we kissed; the last time you wanted my lips against yours? 

Yet, was it all transactional on your part? I did wonder! That glistening chest; that chest, exposed and perfect, yet empty; empty, as if missing a heart for the likes of me or a heart solely for the pretty things it received? My rage was one of jealousy! Forgive me, forgive me, forgive me, my dear; yet, I must!

I thought to turn myself in at Southampton. Those hours before the docking were the most miserable six hours any man could have survived! Yet, even then I worried how such a scandal would suffer me, how shame would plague my family, my position; strangely, if not for our sinful love, then for our cruelly disparate repute. So, I retrieved my luggage and all my treasures from America; and I walked past the authorities, and I never looked back. My angel! I learned to regret nothing of my crime and learned to savor only us and our romance -- for it is eternal. For, who is the criminal, my dear (if you allow me this question)? The thief who stole your heart? What is the true crime, my Love? My having stopped the flow of air to your lungs in a passionate heat? No. Not me. Not us. The crime is the the castes that kept us apart!

The time has come. We are now six hours out to sea where I had left you behind. I will find you now. You are here, for I do feel you. I do feel you on the ship. I get the luggage. It has all the pretty things that I had bought for you in America yet hadn’t the chance to give you. I leave our room now, and I know you are here with me, my Mary Queen. Hello! You have returned to our room after our lovemaking. Oh, you do look magnificent in your service attire! You are as handsome as I remember; as exceptional, as desirous as –! What a sin to find you so attractive. I cross the line again that delineates us. I kiss you. Deeply we kiss, and we kiss again. Deeply. I can’t breathe. Deeply. Together, finally, again.

We leave for the deck, and in the bow of the hull we climb. I apologize to you for the many years it took to return to you and to this old ship. I am so sorry to leave you so alone, all these years. But you must know that I have been without you, just the same. Lonely, without you. Yet, we are lonely no more!

The cabin doors in front of us gently flow towards us; I pull you closer to my side as you now trail your finger against the veneer yet hold a grin. I know what you are thinking. You are entranced in the wonderment of our endless possibilities, as am I. You are – What is that, my love? You want me to tell you specifics? You want to know more about our fairy-tale life soon together? Ah, your grin! I lean down to kiss you, and you stop me in shock. No, no, no. No need for that, sweetheart. We are now free, you must understand. Free to show our affection, in the light. Kiss me. Now. Here, in the ship’s hall for all to see! Yes. Again. Yes. You see? We are free.

I lead us forward again and pull you towards me. I kiss your curls. I smell your shampoo. So, you wanted to know specifics of what comes next? You will know soon enough our fairytale ending. It will be a precious one. You only need to trust me. 

We enter the emptied lobby and stroll past the jeweled shops; stop at the confectionary and admire the beautiful pastries and chocolates. I see our reflection in the glass. Even your face reflection is worthy of a kiss – and I do. Yet, you look concerned? What’s that, my dear? Ha, ha! No worries, sweetheart. You are with me, and you are free to be here at these luxurious shops! You are worthy of it; a Prince of all princes. You can be seen here among this gilded deck with no shame.

We walk up the stairs, too late in the night for children to greet us. You take my hand, and we all hand in hand, and we want whoever passes us to witness and to know of our no longer secret love. As we enter the promenade, I ask you to confirm that you belong here with me. You nod your lovely head, and you declare with a shiny grin that I am your vagabond; and you are my Mary Queen. We lean against the ship’s rail, and I pull you closer to me as a sailor walks by with his gal. I bend down and smell Acqua di Parma on the back of your neck, under your black curls that fall from your hat and now dance across the bridge of my nose. The couple is nearer; they are kissing at the fore. I lift your chin and offer the same. You hesitate – but no! No, my love, you needn’t ever worry again. You belong here, under the gas light, in the cool breeze, among the sailor and his gal – for you belong with me. We are free to love just as they. We can love and never feel shame again.

One last kiss; the deepest kiss we have ever shared, and we fall into ourselves once again as we find Neptune’s welcoming nymphs!


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