It hits me. She lied. She didn’t want to be here last night. I wasn’t really on her list of sisters to call for help. This was a set up.
“We knew you would forget,” my mother clarifies. “This is an important trip for your father. He’s been working hard, and we want our entire family present. If that meant having Daisy spend the night so you can’t run off in the morning, then so be it. But now you’re awake and we have to go. Rose and Poppy are already waiting at the plane.” I assume we have to fly to Florida in order to take the yacht to the Bahamas.
My head spins, excuses resting on the tip of my tongue, anything to avoid a family event. Even if it is my father’s birthday, they should have never tricked me into going.
Lo runs his hand along my arm. “You okay?” he whispers so only I can hear. Maybe he thinks I’m going to throw up again.
I nod even though the news slapped me in the face.
He says, “Put on a smile. You look horrified, Lil.”
I do as he requests, offering my mother a small one. Her shoulders stay tense, but her lips twitch in acceptance. Good enough.
It isn’t until we leave the apartment that it dawns on me. I haven’t had sex in over twenty-four hours, and Lo hasn’t consumed his usual amount of alcohol since he watched me all night. And we’re about to be sequestered on a boat. With my family.
This just got a whole hell of a lot worse.
* * *
I try thousands of excuses before boarding the yacht. Lo and I planned a double date with Charlie and Stacey. I’m failing economics (true) and I need to cram for the upcoming exam (truer). None stick.
After I puke over the side of the boat, I admit to being hungover and layer on the “drank-to-much-wine-last-night” defense. My mother looks less than thrilled by my behavior, but it gives me free reign to openly sip Lo’s hangover brew. I never ask what’s in the brown liquid, lest I barf again.
He nurses a glass of Fizz in his right hand. I accompanied him earlier when he slipped the bartender five hundred bucks to serve him three-fifths bourbon whenever he orders soda. That also covers the liquor bottles he requested to be sent down to our cabin. He’s a stealthy one.
I admire the tenacity, but I’m not feeling incredibly supportive. I lie on the yacht’s sun deck with a nauseous belly and a pounding migraine. I put a towel over my head to block the radiating sun from my tender eyes and pull a corner up so I can vaguely see my surroundings. The rays beat on my fair skin. Even after applying SPF 15, I know I’ll roast in the heat. And I secretly hope I’ll burn. Maybe it’ll get me off this f**king boat.
“Feeling better?” Poppy asks, dragging a lounge chair next to Lo’s. I make a great effort to not stare at his abs and toned body that bakes in the sun. He probably won’t get much of a tan because he has on SPF 90.
Poppy spreads out her Ralph Lauren towel and puts on large, engulfing sunglasses and a floppy hat before sitting down.
“No,” I tell her. “Where’s everyone else?”
“Still eating lunch inside. Are you sure you don’t want anything? I can bring you a sandwich.”
I groan at the thought of potent smells.
“That’s a definite no then.”
I nod. “Definitely no.”
Rose and Daisy have both earned official Brutus badges for tricking me when Rose announced my “pregnancy” scare secret, and my mother keeps shooting me sharp looks. She probably hopes I’ll turn to stone.
“Do you think they’ll notice if I jump overboard?” I ask, sitting up and plugging my nose before taking a much larger swig of the hangover drink. I stifle a gag. Gross.
Lo doesn’t say a word because he’s fast asleep, his Fizz-bourbon still wrapped in his fingers. I wonder if he stayed up all last night, taking care of me. I gently pry the glass from his clutch so it doesn’t spill all over him.
“It’s not so bad here,” Poppy says, cracking open a hardback. She relaxes, and if I was her, able to enjoy the sunshine, to read, to stare off and drift and dream about anything, I’d think this was pretty lovely too. But as I gaze at the wide, vast and endless ocean, I imagine my body rocking on someone else’s. I recreate the blissful feeling of reaching the highest peak in my mind. The elevator. The man in a suit. Thrusting. It’s all planted there, telling me to feel a familiar sensation again and again and again.
But I can’t. Not here. And so I’m left craving something that will never come.
The sliding door whooshes open, and Rose walks out with a tequila sunrise. She spends a great deal of time bringing the lounge chair in front of everyone’s, the legs scraping against the hard flooring. When it’s just right, she spreads out a light blue towel and sits, facing me.
“Do you want me to get you one?” she quips, raising her alcoholic drink.
“Very funny,” I say, my stomach gurgling, still unsettled.
Lo could have easily downed fruity drinks all night without too much suspicion, but he hates sweet mixes. And he’d rather not draw any attention to himself. He puts away drinks too quickly that people are bound to be suspicious or worried that he’s returning to those old, inebriated, party-filled years before we got together. Of course they never really ended, maybe the prep school parties, but not the drinking. No one knows that though.
“Did he get you drunk?” Rose wonders, eyeing Lo’s sleeping body like she could stick him with voodoo needles.
“No,” I lie. “He actually tried to get me to stop.” Semi-true.
Rose looks doubtful and she kicks his lounge chair, waking Lo up from his nap.
He jolts, startled. “What the hell?”
“Rose,” I say with the shake of my head. “He was tired.”
“Really? I hadn’t noticed.”
Lo pushes his hair back with his hand and mutters a few insults under his breath. Then he raises his lounge chair to a sitting position. “Look what the wind blew in.”
“What?” Rose snaps.
Lo’s eyebrow rises, confused. “What what?”
“What did the wind blow in? Finish what you were saying if you have the balls.”
“You’re right, I’ve lost my balls. You win.” Lo scans around his area for his drink. I hand it to him, and he looks appreciative that I kept it safe. He chugs down half.
He doesn’t need to finish his statement. I’m almost positive he meant to call her a bitch, or at least implied it in the vaguest way possible.
Poppy says, “I think you’re getting burned, Lily.”
Oh great. My plan to burn alive has been ruined by Poppy’s maternal worry.
She tosses me a bottle of suntan lotion.
“I’m fine, really. I burn and then tan. And I need the color.” I push my aviators further up my nose.
Rose snorts. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve heard in a while.”
“That’s not true,” I retort. “I’m pretty sure Maria said something about the color of the sky actually being orange. And you were there.”
“I’m excluding children from this.”
Lo smiles. “Ooh, Rose, showing favoritism towards children. What is the world coming to?”
She glares at me. “I still hate that you brought him. Poppy had enough sense to leave her husband and child at home.”
Lo finishes off his drink. “I’m right here, you know.”
Rose ignores, waiting for me to respond.
“It’s not like I have a child that Lo needs to look after. If Maria wasn’t born, Sam would be here, right Poppy?”
Poppy looks impassive. “I’m not getting into this.” Sometimes, being Switzerland during family tiffs is super annoying for everyone else.
Lo sets down his drink and then picks up the suntan lotion. I think he’s going to apply more to his Irish skin, but he stands and then pushes my legs up to my chest. He straddles my lounge chair, not noticing how his movements cause my chest to cave, my breathing to shallow and my heart to race.
With only a thin bathing suit on, I feel ready for something more. The sun soaks my skin, the heat intoxicating, dizzying my thoughts, a headiness I drift in. My toes curl inward as I try to suppress my feelings that will surely volcano sooner or later. I need him. I need to release all of this, but I don’t know how to ask without it being awkward. This is so different than supplying him with scotch and rum. I’m asking for his body. That’s not okay.
“I can do it,” I say, my breath ragged as he pops the lid.
Rose adds, “This doesn’t make me like you any better, Loren.”
“I know,” Lo says, his back to her. “And frankly, I don’t really care, Rose.” Yeah, emphasizing her name does not have the same effect. Lo squirts lotion in his hand, and I recoil.
“Really, I can do it myself.”
His eyes widen like we’re supposed to be together, ding bat. Oh right. “Let me get your shoulders.” He scoots forward and takes my arm in his large hand. His fingers knead into my tender skin.
My eyes shut while he rubs the lotion lower on my ribs, lifting a side of my bandeau black bikini top to apply beneath the hem. He can feel the way my chest rises in and out, my breathing heavy and strained.
He turns my body around and leans my stomach on the lounge chair. Then he hovers forward and starts spreading lotion along my shoulder blades and lower back. He unclips my bandeau, and I fade away with his touch. Holy…
The sliding door whooshes again. “Can I help any of you?” a server asks. He wears a white collared shirt and black pants, the yacht service uniform. In his late twenties, he has golden hair and an angular face, making him too angelic, too handsome, and too desirous for my throbbing body.
“I’ll take a drink,” Poppy says. No. Make him leave! “What do you have?”
While he starts listing off the expansive menu, Lo presses his thumbs down in a massage pattern. Oh…that feels good.
I grip the towel underneath my head, my body starting to build towards something bad. I want to tell Lo to stop, but I’m not sure I can say the words without being breathless.
I clench my teeth as his fingers dig deep and then lightly flutter over my skin, playing with my needs. I hate him right now. I hate how I want this so, so badly.
My gaze finds the attractive server, and I lose it. I keep my back from arching, my body from bucking, and I snap my eyes closed before they roll back. A muffled noise escapes, and I think my sisters have missed it as I begin to come down. But when I open my eyes again, more than embarrassed, the server briefly meets them, scanning the length of me. Knowing.
I bury my face in my towel. Disappear, I order.
“You,” I hear Lo’s voice.
The server’s shoes clank on the floor, coming towards us. Oh my God?! What is Lo doing? “What would you like?”
“Stop staring at my f**king girlfriend,” Lo says, topping it off with a bitter smile. “That’d be great, thanks.”
“Lo!” Poppy shrieks.
Rose is actually laughing. The world has gone mad. And I refuse to look at it, hiding underneath the covers, topless, my chest still pressed on the lounge chair.