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CHELSEA PIERS, NEW YORK CITY
I CAME TO New York for a wedding; I never imagined I would bear witness to two deaths. Strange the turns life takes when one least expects it.
A cool breeze ruffled my hair as I stood on the deck of our cruise liner, watching the city grow closer. Before us lay Chelsea Piers, and, behind them, the buildings of Manhattan rising proudly against the cloudless blue sky. It gave me a thrill to look at that skyline. It was almost as though I could feel the energy increasing with every passing moment. Already the soft silence of the sea was fading as faint yet distinctly urban noises of the city began to be carried out across the water on the wind. Gulls soared and dipped above, calling raucously as if welcoming us to their lively domain.
“It presents a pretty picture, doesn’t it?” my husband, Milo, said as he came to stand beside me at the rail. His normally smooth black hair was tousled by the wind, his eyes were far bluer than the water, and his complexion had been darkened by his time spent on deck during the voyage. He looked handsome, relaxed, and well-rested.
I felt none of those things. Though this was not my first trip to New York, it had been the least pleasant voyage thus far. The waters had been choppy, and I had spent most of the four days at sea in our stateroom feeling ill. I was immeasurably glad that land was in sight.
“I’m almost sad to see the voyage end,” he said, in direct contradiction to my own thoughts, as he leaned against the rail. “Perhaps we should take a pleasure cruise when we return to England.”
“Perhaps,” I said, without any great enthusiasm. The water had been so unkind that, at the moment, I didn’t want to think about taking a bath, let alone another voyage.
“But first things first,” he went on, turning his back to the wind and cupping his hand around a cigarette to shield it from the damp gusts of sea air before flicking on his silver lighter. “We haven’t been to New York in some time. When this dull business is over, we’ll have some time to enjoy ourselves.”
The “dull business” in question was the marriage of my old friend Tabitha Alden. It was this event which had drawn us to New York. While I was very much looking forward to seeing Tabitha and taking part in her wedding, Milo had accompanied me grudgingly, enticed more by the promise of riotous nightlife than by any desire to sit in a pew beside me on the special day.
“You needn’t make it sound as though it’s going to be a chore,” I said. “Tabitha’s wedding is going to be lovely.”
“With alcohol illegal in this country, I don’t see how it will even be tolerable.”
I laughed. “Surely you don’t mind weddings as much as all that.”
“The only wedding I’ve ever wanted to attend was ours,” he said, blowing a stream of smoke into the wind.
I turned to look at him, quirking a brow. “Indeed? No one had to drag you to the church? I’ve always wondered.”
“I was there before you were,” he replied. “I half expected you to change your mind, and it wasn’t until you reached the altar and I looked into your eyes that I felt I could rest easy.”
His tone was light, but he appeared perfectly serious and I was touched. Milo was rarely sentimental, and the unexpected moments when he revealed a hint of sincerity always caught me off guard.
“For that lovely sentiment,” I said softly, “you needn’t ever attend a wedding with me again.”
His eyes met mine. “I’ll follow you into as many ceremonies as your heart desires, my darling,” he replied. Then he tossed his cigarette overboard and leaned in to kiss me.
For the next few moments, my seasickness was entirely forgotten.
* * *
OUR ROMANTIC INTERLUDE concluded, I went back to the stateroom as we prepared to dock. I wanted to make sure that everything was in order. My mother would have been shocked that I had stood on the deck as long as I had; she disapproved of looking as though one were a vulgar tourist overanxious to reach New York. Not for the first time, I felt a traitorous sense of relief that a prior—and more prestigious—social obligation had prevented her from joining us on this trip.
The stateroom was paneled in dark wood, decorated in a tasteful, modern manner. If we hadn’t been lurching from one side to the other for several hours of each day, the furniture, mercifully, bolted to the floor, I might have almost believed that we were in a small hotel suite. I hoped the voyage home would find less tumultuous seas and I might enjoy it a bit more.
I walked through the sitting area with its geometric-print rug and dark blue sofa and chairs and into the well-appointed bedroom, avoiding, as I had done for the entirety of the voyage, the view of moving water visible through the glass doors that led onto a balcony.
Winnelda, my maid, looked up as I entered. “Oh, there you are, madam,” she said, closing the suitcase that lay on the bed. “I’m nearly finished, I think. I’ve left your lighter coat, as well as your hat and gloves, in the wardrobe along with your handbag. Parks has gone to see about the trunks.”
Milo’s valet was sure to have everything well in hand. Between his rigid efficiency and Winnelda’s rather more relaxed organizational style, we were quite well taken care of.
Copyright © 2019 by Ashley Weaver