"You cannot be serious!" Lynette Olsen rolled her eyes & stared down her nose at the Nigerian waiter who had just handed her a tray. The haughty American newlywed easily managed that feat despite the man's being at least 18 inches taller. She pushed the oval plate aside, "I am not holding my plate. Follow me." She swept into the buffet, pointedly ignoring the man's grimace. He waved another waiter over to take his place, a Filipino woman who frowned but took the tray to follow the American bitch.
Just three days into the 14 day cruise, the 24 year old newlywed had reached nearly legendary status, & not as a polite or generous cruiser. While many of the Americans-- most according to the more cynical staff-- were self-absorbed to the point of being unknowingly rude, the petite blonde seemed to go out of her way to cause trouble. The security had been 'too pushy' and 'too rough.' The room wasn't sufficiently clean. The food was too hot or too cold. There was too much ice in her drink. The coffee was old.
Cruise staff did everything short of running to hide when she swept out of an elevator onto their floor. Even so, they managed to paste a smile into place, hurrying in the fruitless effort to comply with whatever the little bitch demanded. And it wasn't just the staff to whom she'd become notorious.
She butted into lines, pretended to ignore others in the shops, demanding attention from the clerks. She brushed aside towels on the pool deck, taking choice lounges. & she arrived late to the shows, & left early. The first day she'd laughed at the man standing before her in the line to board the boat. He wore a worn T shirt & frayed cut-offs, & carried an old duffle bag instead of any real luggage. When it became obvious the man had heard her & taken offense, she had laughed to Mary, who'd been standing beside her, that at least he couldn't be called 'white trash.' A black man at least 20 years older than the young cruisers, Mary had at least had the grace not to laugh at her friends bigoted comment.
In fact, in general the rest of her group weren't frankly evil, though no one stepped in when she was delighting in torturing the staff, either. Her parents had obviously spoiled the little bitch rotten, & those around her-- including her husband-- knew better then to rock the boat, so to speak.
Seeing the cruiser she'd offended while boarding the boat staring at the scene she'd just made, Lynnette sniffed & turned, pointedly ignoring the man's condescending frown as she followed the hapless waitress, pointing impatiently at what she wanted to eat.
Having seen the latest display of selfish arrogance, Marlin Day shook his head & turned his attention back to the remainder of his meal. Considering all that he'd already eaten at breakfast and lunch, he knew he would have to spend a fair amount of the afternoon at the gym if he wanted to be able to have dinner. For a moment he smiled, imagining Cheri would have loved the wealth of everything on his vacation.
That quickly reality crashed in on him again. Cheri was the reason he was on the damn cruise, something they could have never afforded. But as amazing as the service and availability of nearly everything was, he bitterly considered he would have never traded his marriage for it. He got up, his appetite gone.
In contrast to the little bitch thoughtlessly pushing through the other cruisers in the buffet line, Marlin Day had already developed a quiet appreciation among the ship's staff. He was quiet and patient and polite. He tipped well, adding to the 15% already attached by the cruise line. Deng, a Vietnamese waiter stepped forward as the big black man got up from his table.
"Don't like the food?" he asked, more than ready to resolve any issue the passenger might have. Marlin looked at him in obvious surprise, then managed a troubled smile.
"No, it's all great," he assured the worried waiter, eyeing the man's nametag as he did so, "Thank you, Deng, but I guess I'm not as hungry as I thought I was." He had slipped a five dollar bill under his plate, and in an easy handshake transferred another to Deng's automatic response when the passenger held up his hand. "Thanks for looking out for me, though. At least I know there's no shortage of food on board." He wandered off, as Deng collected the tableware, sharing the additional tip with the second waiter working that area of the dining room. He wondered just what ghosts were haunting the quiet passenger.
Safely away from the crowded dining room Marlin climbed above the pool deck and settled uneasily into a lounge chair, tilting his long worn UAW baseball cap down to cover his eyes. Letting the breeze ruffle his T-shirt, he realized why the uppity bitch he'd just seen in the buffet line had so easily angered him ... She'd made him feel like a pretender the day they'd boarded the boat, & had almost openly sneered at him when passing him as he'd left the dining room after dinner the first night, wearing his gray Under Armor collared shirt & black Dockers. He'd taken to avoiding her whenever possible, even staying off of the veranda of his cabin after he'd found out she was in the state room above his. The last thing he wanted was to have her say or do something to drive home how out of place he was on the cruise, alone. She was a too vivid reminder of the person his wife actually turned out to be, rather than what he'd thought.
It'd barely been 8 months since his life had been turned upside down. He'd come home to find Cheri lugging suitcases into the garage, loading the already burdened Acura SUV she had leased.
"I'm leaving you," she'd said without any sign she cared if he was hurt by her decision. He'd stood watching her, barely able to comprehend what she'd said ... He hadn't known they had any problem. Thinking back, he remembered sagging into the nearest kitchen chair, wracking his brain for what had happened to bring it about. He could come up with ... nothing.
True, he was no high profile lawyer or doctor, but he had always provided for them. If Cheri wanted something, she got it, including the imported high end SUV. His rise from the hourly wage line employee to a salaried manager with Chevy had been earned through hard work, but even so, it had hurt his chances to rise farther faster when word had gotten out that his wife was driving a non-American product ... then the new Z3 by BMW. The pointed comments & veiled threats hadn't bothered Marlin; the smile he'd seen the day she'd come home in the little silver convertible had enough he would've gone back to the line if that's what it would've taken. The point was, he did not live to work ... he job was merely the means to see more of Cheri's smile.
"What did I do?" he'd asked when she came back in the last time, obviously checking for any last item she'd left behind. He hadn't yet checked the house to see just how inequitably she'd 'divided their assets.' Though he'd come to believe she'd actually paused just praying he would ask that, she had provided an Oscar worthy performance. She had paused for a moment in practiced consideration, lifting her head, rolling her eyes, before staring down at him imperiously.
"It's not what you did," she'd sniffed, "It's what you don't do." Marlin could remember thinking she was implying he had been ... lacking in his abilities in the bedroom. "You don't DO anything," Cheri had sneered, "We don't go away except to the lake with your friends." He had always thought it was their friends. "We don't have adventures. We aren't what you promised me." He still couldn't understand her point. "I won't stay locked away like this ... I've got a chance to live, & I'm taking it."
"Cheri," he'd stood up, reaching out for her, "I can give you what you want ... All you have to do is ask ... Tell me what to do." She'd laughed at that. & then she'd been gone. If she'd told him he wasn't 'doing the job' in bed, maybe he would've just tucked his tail & run. Or if she'd told him there was someone else he had tried to convince himself he would've written her off as spoiled goods. Instead, he'd sat in the kitchen, in the over decorated house that no longer felt like his own, emptying beer after beer. Stripped of his usual inhibitions-- he didn't usually drink more than a single beer-- Marlin had listened to what Cheri had told him replaying in her head. & he'd found himself becoming angry that she'd lied.
Like most line employees turned management, Marlin's successes were borne out of self-control & organization. As the former fled on the tide of a twelve pack bender, the latter had proven to be Marlin's salvation, or so his friends put it.
Marlin had stumbled into the den, digging out the lease paperwork, including the codes for the overpriced European knock off of On Star that was incorporated into her SUV. He called, rambling that he was unable to find his wife, unnecessary subterfuge given his appropriate codes, & scrawled an address on the blotter before passing out.
The next morning, he'd ignored the headache driving to what he'd assumed would be a hotel or a girlfriend's house. Instead, he'd found a bit of the truth. She had traded up to the assistant VP, a notorious womanizer whose wife had finally gotten fed up & had left him in the year before.
.... There is more of this story ...