The sound of Sinatra lingered through the hallway as I walked alongside Ric.
Dear God, it was Killing Me Softly indeed.
“Adrian, are you sure he’ll be here?”
“Why wouldn’t he? He wouldn’t miss a cruise like this for the world.” I answered as I adjusted the cuffs of my shirt.
“It’s been three years since we all decided to go our separate ways and you still haven’t let go of this motive, Adrian. So much could have happened if you just had let go of it. Maybe you could have found someone, settled down, plan to start a family.”
I stopped in my tracks and turned to Ricardo with a weary frown, “Where’s the justice in that? Can you forget what happened? How can you let that go? I must be insane to let the devil be without drowning him in his own blood.”
“I’m not saying that.” He scowled upon the memory. “No one can forget what happened, no matter how hard each of us tries to. However, that’s not what I meant. You know I support you in this. We all do.”
“I know, and I know what you’re trying to say but the last thing I need in my life right now Ric is a wife.”
“My,” the sound of a rather feminine voice trickled through the air and a woman of immaculate presence clad in a form-fitting red gown stood near us. “You men seem quite caught in a conversation. Can’t even notice a poor little lady’s presence right next to you.”
“Forgive us.” Ric apologized as I turned and walked forward.
“Is he always this… rude?” I heard her ask him as we walked into the casino and towards the bar. He seemed quite taken by her presence which was something I had yet to see with him.
“My name’s Liane.” She smiled and shook his hand as they sat near each other.
I, on the other hand, swallowed the agony of this horrid conversation down with a glass of wine.
I’m going to need more than one glass for this love shit.
“You’re going to need something a little less dollhouse than wine if you want to forget her, son.” The bartender poured me another drink.
I arched an eyebrow and shot him a sarcastic smile, “Please, just do your job and don’t suggest anything to me.”
There was a loud cheer coming from the blackjack table at the side and I could have spotted that charm which drenched off one of the individuals from a mile away. The ambiance of the room danced in tune to the music which played and game lights around flickered melancholically along to the theme. The crowd surrounded the table, yet I made my way towards it.
And there he was, our very own Donnie with two women he held by the waist either side of him, one studying the game and the other pouring the bottle of liquor into his mouth. At least this was a more appropriate image than the last we found him in. Noticing me at the side, he kissed one of the girls on the cheek and brushed his way out of the crowd towards me, grinning in glee.
“Thereeee he is. Adrian Vandermir finally lost that uptight monotonous stick up his ass and decided to enter my humble but amusing world.”
“That stick you occasionally confuse, Donnie, is called a spine and it does not fall out of my ass. Can’t imagine how bending over must be for you these days.”
He looked at me in such despise and tried to keep a straight face but burst into laughter and embraced me, “I missed you too, buddy.”
“Just so we’re on the same page,” Donnie stated as he pulled away, “I’m still straight. You too right?”
“Okay great. Not that being gay is wrong. That’s totally cool. Woohoo! Gender acceptance and equality.” He chuckled and cheered his glass midway as we walked back to where Ricardo was seated with Liane.”
“Wow, I see Ric met Liane. Amazing girl honestly, she’s a painter from Venice. There was an exhibit here last night. Her work is mind-blowing.”
“Something’s nothing right.” I frowned.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m having this gut feeling.”
“Oh God, you didn’t try the shrimp here did you? I had diarrhea for days, man. Pretty shitty food here if you ask me, pun intended.”
“Not about that.”
“You think we’re being watched?” Donnie’s expression turned a bit firmer.
I turned to him slightly and frowned as I noted Liane and Ricardo behind him, “Only time will tell.”
“She’s a sweetheart, Adrian, she wouldn’t hurt a fly. Plus, look at Ric over there, I’ve never seen him this intrigued by anyone before and they only just met?”
She was indeed petite and proper yet there was a warm gesture that melted off her. I felt nothing negative in her regards but why was this uneasy feeling arising in me? I couldn’t explain it.
“Where’s the next stop for the ship?” I asked as we walked out of the casino, leaving Ricardo behind.
“And that’s where Finny is?”
“Last I heard, yeah. Our boy was there taking in the arts of all shapes and sizes.” Donnie chuckled.
“I’m sure your context and Finny’s are quite differed, Donniel.”
“Please, Adrian Vandermir and all his high and mighty power doesn’t once think dirty? What, are you too busy for the world outside of your head?”
“I only have one motive, it keeps me preoccupied from the nonsense you so ravish in.”
Entering the lobby, Donnie ran midway up the stairs and shouted in a laugh, startling some of the passerbys, “I curse theee! Thy Vandermir shalt meeth with a woman who’s complete and utter nonsense and thou shalt spenth the resth of his lifeth with that beast he so hateth.”
“What the hell are you doing?” I seethed annoyed as he ran back to my side.
“Wanna know the plot twist?”
“There’s more shit I missed from you?” I scowled.
He chuckled and pat me on the back with a wink before leaving to his room.
Leave it to Donnie to gain everyone’s attention in an unforgettable manner. Now I know why we all separated in the first place.
Back in my room, I sat at the desk and turned the laptop on and off. This restlessness never left me since I got on this cruise. I was tired but I could never sleep and that was an exhausting feeling on its own. Shutting the laptop close, I paced around the room until I decided to attempt the dreaded thing I was trying to do peacefully for years. Sleep. I tried to close my eyes and let the soft plush mattress consume me.
I’ll do it better next time. I promise.
Just give me one more chance. Don’t hurt her.
I shot up at the edge of my bed, sweat dripping off me. I peeled my soaked tee-shirt off and tossed it at the side while combing my hair away from my face with my fingers. Get it out of your head, Adrian. Forget it. Focus. Looking at the time on my phone, I frowned. It felt like an eternity but I was only ‘asleep’ for ten bloody minutes. Pushing myself off the bed, I sat at the desk again, opened the laptop and kept myself preoccupied whilst I completed some work.
The sound of the alarm on my phone went off and a knock on the door alerted me as I pushed myself off the desk that I fell asleep on. Somewhat. Throwing back my shirt on, I opened the door to face a well suited Ric.
“You’re not dressed yet.” He observed.
“Hell, I’m not. Sleep was a bitch.”
“And a migraine,” I sighed. “I’ll meet you and Donnie outside.”
“Alright, we docked in the port already. The faster we get out of this ship, the better.”
“My,” I smirked. “I thought you were actually enjoying the company.”
“Our being here is dangerous, Adrian.” He stated seriously.
And that, I agreed on, I was getting tired of this place anyway. The faster we get Finny, the better.
The cool air of Italy tousled through my shirt as I stood leaning over the bridge, looking over the water below. Ricardo and Donnie stood at the side of me as the crowds of individuals walked by. Children, families, laughter- what a foreign thing that must be.
“If I didn’t know any better, Adrian, I’d almost think you’re contemplating jumping off.” The sound of a soft male voice chuckled behind. Finny stood there with his signature kind eyes and boyish smile. Same as he’d always been. “Sure didn’t expect you all here.”
“We missed you too much, kid.” Donnie winked.
“Adrian wants to complete where we left off.” Ricardo filled in. “We can’t keep living in fear of endangering those around us. It needs to end now.”
“Pack your belongings, Finny. We’re heading back.” I addressed him who held a worried frown but gave a small nod in agreement.
It wasn’t long until we all gathered back to the ship and discussed our tactics over dinner. The air felt weary and cold and something was dead about the atmosphere. It was almost as if the light was gone and the sun wouldn’t shine again the next morning. I turned to look at the ocean out the glass window near me. Something was wrong. In that brief moment, I saw paramedics rushing across the room through the reflection of the mirror. Excusing myself, I followed them to one of the near rooms when I saw the body of the young girl lying slumped to the floor of her room, blood bathing her carpet. They quickly put her on a stretcher and for that glimpse of a moment, she locked eyes with me.
I wasn’t sure if at that moment I was in shock at who it was of because he seemed to mouth my name and raise her finger to point at me. Ricardo rushed into the room but as he approached and touched her hand, the last of her spirit left her body.
“Ric…” Donnie breathed softly in respect to what just happened.
“She was stabbed to death.” Finny inspected as the paramedics carried her now dead body out.
I turned to them all and frowned deeply unable to bring my voice to say the harsh truth, “They saw her with us. It was nothing but a warning.”
Although my words came out soft, it threaded needles through our spines and we all never been on the same page as this in years. It was time we ended it.