*Sam*The dining room is bustling with fellow passengers, accomplished ladies and fine gentlemen, graciously nodding to one another as they pass on the way to or from their seats. At the head of one table sits the middle-aged florid-faced captain, smiling courteously as passengers are escorted to their tables, occasionally rising to escort a dowager to her seating and smile condescendingly at the younger unattended misses.The tables are already spread with a substantial amount of food—washed fruits, some peeled by the kitchen staff or plucked from their stems, hot breads and delicate saucers of molded pats of cream butter, interspersed with tiny settings of sugar and cream, low bowls of various sauces and crystal goblets of iced water beside flutes for champagne. Along the periphery of the lavish room, ice sculptures set in extravagant floral arrangements full of hothouse orchid and lily blooms finish the decorations, their soft fragrance drifting lightly in the air as if scenting the
*Sam* To say that was a daunting conversation with Andrew James is an understatement. He’s a fine man, certainly, but fierce, determined, with an unstoppable drive to achieve. Which is intimidating to say the least as a man but reassuring as Juliet’s husband— he's nowhere near her type, if I'm a fair judge. Despite the obvious—flexibility, lacking a better term—I’ve seen in my brief and sickening introduction to the people from Juliet’s former high-society existenence, Mr. James is very much and very happily married, and while he may or may not be a decent friend to my wife, has no more designs upon her than in a friendly capacity, much to my relief. In fact, he’s as determined to see I’m restored to her good graces as I am. Thankfully. Unfortunately, beyond reminding me what I already know about Juliet, he can’t help me undo all the egregious mistakes I’ve managed to make in a single day and night of blind stupidity beyond escort her safely from the ladies' salon to our stateroom.
*Juliet*“The chief engineer, assisted by the second or assistant engineer, is responsible for the steamer’s machinery and operation,” Captain Blake explains to Mrs. James trailing along at his side. “The firemen or stokers are under their supervision and responsible for feeding either wood or coal fuel into the furnaces to keep the steam up in the boilers.”“So,” using her dainty hands, Mrs. James repeats the hierarchy to Captain Blake for confirmation, the level of her hands descending like rungs on a ladder, “Engineer and his assistant, then oilers and firemen. And working together, they comprise the heart of this marvelous monster?”“Assuredly, Mrs. James. While he must take direction from myself regarding maneuvering, the engineer’s also subject to dispatches from headquarters, but only as to speed and the consumption of fuel.”Behind Mrs. James’ shoulder, Mr. James gives a knowing smile. “Much like a civil government contractor—under you as Captain, but somewhat independent of yo
*Juliet*“Did I hear a knock at the—oh!”Hurriedly emerging from our state room’s bathroom in the morning to keep someone from waking Sam, I find my efforts in vain discovering him reading through a hand-delivered note as he slowly crosses the antechamber. He’s dressed only in his sleep pants, his hair tousled and his head down as he skims the words on the page, and though we’ve been together for over a decade now, he’s still the most handsome man I’ve seen.As his eyes slip over the words on the paper, mine rove this broad muscular chest and shoulders appreciatively, creep along at the hard lines of his midriff to where they narrow at his waist. I was doing something. I remember that much. But there’s no telling what that was now because the sight of my muscly and perfectly chiseled husband, sleep-disheveled and half-nak
*Sam*As we near the pier and the Isle Royale at dock, Juliet rubs the hinge of her jaw in the small space before one ear and casts keen eyes towards the horizon. Though it's sunny, strong squalls are dragging hard at protective tarps strapped down over awaiting cargo on the docks. Men cling to their hats, and women to those and their billowing skirts and I see several clots of sailors watching the surface of the lake with a weather eye."I feel it too. Climate's shifted." Outside, the vicious sporatic winds have the flags along the pier and on nearby buildings snapping wildly, often standing stiffly from their grommets as though laid out horizontally rather than hung vertically.The driver negotiates the car as close to the dock as he can get, then bids us wait and charges down to the Isle Royale's extended gangplank, the wind pushing at his back as he holds his cap i
*Sam*The Isle Royale tosses fitfully on the rough waters long after I soothe Juliet into an exhausted sleep.Alert to the subtlest changes in the steamer and the violent squall outside us, I lay awake the next several hours listening to the high hum of the engines at full. Against this storm, even this early in the season, I don’t anticipate much chance of survival were the Isle Royale to go down—I don’t even anticipate much opportunity to try—but if there is one, I’m ensuring Juliet gets it. God knows I’ve seen people survive worse and compassionate though she is, she’s a fighter.Into the soupy blackness pierced at intervals by the ship’s great spotlight sweeping about it in a circle, the whistle continues to sound regularly, accompanied by the random calls of sailors—“Ice floe to starboard!”— and fro
*Juliet*When Sam wakes a few hours later, we dress and wander the interior decks, just for the sake of walking. The salon market is considerably subdued, though the newsstand, refreshed with new material since our stop in Chicago, still does a brisk business, as does the soda vendor, through primarily in his stock of candy, particularly the sour drops, which seem to help those afflicted with sea sickness.“Mr. Hammond, Mrs. Hammond,” the captain greets as we make our way past the crew’s quarters. “I trust you’ve had more enjoyable travel today than yesterday.”Captain Blake falls in beside us, and though his stride is brisker, Sam urges ours to keep pace. “You’re looking better rested. Does that mean conditions are improving?”“I’ve only just received word there’s ice in the str
*Sam*It’s frigid in the bathroom when I wake later, even with the steamer’s heating blowing with a soft whooshing through the vents. Beneath me, Juliet’s still fast asleep, mostly sheltered from the worst of the chill by my body and the thick pile of towels underneath us. I watch her for a peaceful moment, the relaxed line of her lush full mouth, the rise and fall of her chest, the gorgeous tumble of raven hair about her head.A single bright sterling strand peeks from among the silken darkness surrounding it—it’s the first gray hair I’ve seen on her head. Given our ages, it’s not a surprise in any capacity beyond I wonder what took it so long. I’ve been going gray since my late twenties.I blame Julia, even though she’s only four.With my entire body, not just the part directly impacted, I objec