Any Port in a Storm

Started by Lucian MacLeod at Apr 30, 2020 3:12 PM
January 26, 1924
143 Views
10 Posts

Lucian MacLeod

Club Owner, Coffee Importer
40
?Years Young
27 Posts

Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...


It was early morning and promised to be a gorgeous day. The weather report called for clear skies and temperatures in the low eighties. With the steady trade winds blowing, it would be ideal for outings on the island or just hanging on the ship's open decks and enjoying the sun. The SS Chanteuse was docked at Port Nassau on New Providence Island, one of the islands in the Bahamas' chain. There were two other cruise ships docked there as well, one out of New Orleans and one from Savannah, Georgia. It did not matter, there was plenty to see and do for the Chanteuse's passengers. The ship's staff and crew would rotate out, going ashore. As long as enough of the ship's employees remained aboard to take care of the passengers, it was up to Club Lorelei's floor manager to determine schedules.

Lucian MacLeod was taking advantage of the fact that most people were busy cleaning up and preparing the club for the evening or had disembarked to the island. He was relaxing on the stern deck, enjoying the sunshine, and letting his very large green iguana sun herself on a nearby warm wooden lounge chair. Normally, he left Imelda at home, but this weekend, the local teenager that normally cared for her was grounded due to getting up to trouble at school. It was not a major problem to have the reptile aboard ship, she was a familiar sight for regular passengers. She was also very gentle and a vegetarian. At the moment, in between sunning herself, Imelda was eating from her low-sided dish that was filled with salad greens, fruit, and hibiscus flowers.

Footsteps alerted Lucian to the imminent arrival of someone else. He hoped it was the coffee and breakfast he had ordered from the kitchen before settling on the deck.

Imelda the 4-foot green iguana

Imelda, Lucian's 4-foot long green iguana.


Bessie Dooley

Hostess
42
?Years Young
12 Posts

"Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy;
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me."


Bessie stepped out onto the deck, carrying a tray with a coffee and breakfast plate for Lucian. It was a gorgeous day. It would have been nice to be ashore at the moment, but she'd get her turn later on in the day. One of the cooks had stopped her as she went by the kitchen and handed her Lucian's breakfast order, and it hadn't been hard to find him.   

"I brought your breakfast, Mr. MacLeod. Sorry. I mean, boss." She flashed him a quick smile as she set the tray down on the table next to Lucian's chair. She took a step back and her eyes fell on Imelda.

She'd heard the other staff talking about Lucian's pet, but hearsay was different than actually seeing the four-foot, bright green creature that confronted her now. She gasped and backed up against the railing, her heart pounding as she pointed at the iguana.  "Mr. MacLeod!"


Lucian MacLeod

Club Owner, Coffee Importer
40
?Years Young
27 Posts

Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...


Lucian looked up as Bessie set down the tray on the table next to him. He was preparing to thank her and remind her that it was quite alright to call him by his given name when she uttered his name in alarm. Bessie had obviously spotted the huge green iguana who was happily grazing on her breakfast in the lounge chair nearby.

Imelda paused in the consumption of her favorite treats - wild plums. She fixed the newcomer with a mildly curious, golden-eyed reptilian stare, then promptly went back to eating her breakfast. The iguana had been socialized early on in her life and found humans to be non-threatening.

"Let me tell you about Imelda," Lucian continued, his voice soothing in tone. "A ship from South America put into port in Zamboanga while I was there. Part of their cargo was a cage full of half-starved baby iguanas. The creatures were dirty and afraid of people because of the crew's cruelty. Most were destined for the pet trade. I am sure it did not do much good, but I reported them to the authorities and paid an exorbitant price for one of the baby lizards. They told me it was a female, so I named her Imelda. Honestly, I have no idea if she is a female or a male."

Hopefully, his gentle voice was calming Bessie down. Lucian smiled and continued, "Imelda was not tame at first. She was so frightened, and in such ill health, I really thought she would die. Fortunately, the man that acted as my guardian when I was a boy knew quite a bit about caring for reptiles, and with his help, I tamed her and got her healthy."

"The end of the story is that I have a very large and very boring lizard as a pet," Lucian chuckled. "Most days, she hangs out in the trees I have set up in various enclosures on my boat, eats her fruits and vegetables, and sleeps. She does have teeth, but they are designed for grabbing and chewing vegetables and greens. Her main line of defense is that tail, which she can lash like a whip. But, Imelda does not view humans as a threat."

Lucian paused, and a teasing note entered his voice, "Imelda even likes Jameson," he said, his dark eyes glinting with humor as he mentioned his brother.

"Imelda will not hurt you, Bessie. Please sit down, join me for breakfast. The chef always sends far more than I can eat," Lucian's voice was warm and inviting.


Bessie Dooley

Hostess
42
?Years Young
12 Posts

"Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy;
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me."


Bessie watched Imelda doubtfully while Lucian tried to soothe her fears. It was just sitting there...waiting to pounce on her, she feared.

It was a sad story, one that might have drawn her sympathy for the creature if she hadn't just been frightened out of her wits by it. She eyed first Imelda's teeth, then tail as Lucian mentioned them. Mentioning the iguana's defenses was not the best way to reassure someone, in her opinion. But maybe he thought it would help her understand the animal better. She wasn't sure she wanted to. Imelda was a lot like a snake with legs, and to Bessie the only good snake was a dead snake.

She forced a small smile at Lucian's joke about Imelda liking Jameson. Again, it would have been funny if Imelda hadn't been sitting right there.

Lucian ended Imelda's story with a final reassurance that Imelda wouldn't hurt her, and then an invitation to share his breakfast. Bessie considered. There was a lot of food on that plate; plenty for both of them. But she wasn't sure if she could eat anything while the iguana was around.

She took a few steps closer, then came to the chair on the other side of Lucian, still eyeing Imelda doubtfully. "Thank you. I...I might eat something." She sat down, smoothing her dress down.

 


Lucian MacLeod

Club Owner, Coffee Importer
40
?Years Young
27 Posts

Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...


Obviously, Lucian thought as he began unloading the tray, the chef assumed that he and Jameson would be breakfasting together, as was often the case. They liked to meet early before the passengers began stirring. This morning, however, Jameson was likely still abed as he had taken the late-late shift in the club the night before. Still, it was convenient that the chef had sent two of everything, including an extra dish of cantaloupe and honeydew melon chunks for Imelda.

Lucian handed the extra plates, silverware, and napkins to Bessie while he removed the lids from steaming scrambled eggs, rashers of bacon, biscuits, and gravy. There were little extra touches such as fresh dill sprinkled on the eggs, fresh ground pepper in a crystal shaker, and fresh ground Mediterranean salt. Club Lorelei's chef never did anything in half measures.

Once he had everything situated, Lucian took the melon and dumped it into Imelda's dish. The reptile immediately forgot all about soaking up the sun in favor of scarfing down the additional food. "You are a glutton," Lucian told her. The iguana looked up at the familiar voice, blinked her golden eyes, and returned to eating. 

Before handing the food to Bessie, Lucian bowed his head to say grace in a quiet voice, "Bless us, O Lord! And these Thy gifts, which we are about to receive from Thy bounty, through Christ our Lord.

Amen." Quickly, as if it was second nature, which it was, Lucian crossed himself and then set the dishes of food within reach for both of them.

Inhaling the aroma of the coffee as he poured Bessie a cup and then one for himself, Lucian asked conversationally, "How was your first night at sea?" Bessie had been hired on the 22nd, started work on the 23rd, and the ship headed out of port en route to the Bahamas on the afternoon of the 25th. Lucian had received positive reports about her, but he wanted to know how she was feeling about it since it was a completely different line of work to what she had done previously.


Bessie Dooley

Hostess
42
?Years Young
12 Posts

"Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy;
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me."


Bessie watched as Lucian divvied up the food, unsure whether she should let him do it or offer to help. She was a hostess, after all. But he seemed to be completely capable of doing it himself, so she simply waited until he handed her a plate, silverware, and napkin. Then she served herself small portions of everything, taking two biscuits because biscuits were a weakness of hers.

Imelda did seem quite tame, she had to admit. If the iguana was tame enough for Lucian to sweet-talk her like one would a normal pet, maybe Imelda wasn't so bad. She smiled a little, warming slightly to the reptile.

When Lucian bowed his head to say grace, Bessie followed suit and closed her eyes, opening one a bit to keep an eye on Imelda during the short prayer. "Amen," she echoed, watching Lucian cross himself, but not mimicking the action. She'd seen several women at the mill do it since she'd moved down to Miami and guessed that Catholicism was more prevalent here than in her tiny town.

"It wasn't too bad," she said, taking a bite of the eggs and pouring gravy over her biscuits. It was the type of breakfast she'd grown up eating, but much more fancy. "I thought I'd get seasick, but I didn't. I slept like a baby. "

She gave him a smile and tasted a biscuit. The motion of the ship hadn't been as rough as she thought it might have been; in fact, she had found it soothing. And she had been tuckered out from her late night as a hostess.


Cat's Meow! 1

Lucian MacLeod

Club Owner, Coffee Importer
40
?Years Young
27 Posts

Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...


Lucian followed Bessie's actions, adding eggs, bacon, and biscuits to his plate. The only thing he did differently was to put the eggs on top of the split open biscuits and pour gravy over the lot, carefully avoiding the bacon. He would have to walk the meal off later, but for now, it felt good to indulge.

"I find the ship's motion relaxing as well. In fact, it is one reason I settled on living on my boat rather than a house or apartment," Lucian told her. There was something about Bessie Dooley that made her easy to talk to. Perhaps it was the quiet kindness in her blue eyes that put him at ease.

"I have had good reports on your job performance from the club's floor manager and the staff in general. I have been told that you are meticulous with taking reservations and are willing to jump in and help everyone out without complaint when you have spare time," Lucian continued. Rather than give the ship's staff formal reviews, he and Jameson liked to give them feedback regularly and show their appreciation with small bonuses every month. It seemed to keep the relationship between employers and employees open and positive.

"The passengers and club patrons are equally impressed with our beautiful new hostess," Lucian gave her a long steady look and smile, showing that he was sincere and not just uttering baseless platitudes.


Bessie Dooley

Hostess
42
?Years Young
12 Posts

"Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy;
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me."


Bessie wanted to ask Lucian what living on a boat was like and what the other reasons were that had made him choose a boat, but thought that maybe now wasn't the time. It seemed like a question that was too personal at the moment.

As Lucian began to talk about her job performance, her cheeks flushed a little and she looked down, concentrating on her breakfast. It felt good to be praised for doing a job well, especially one she was so new at. Of course, there was a reason her performance was so good. She was seizing this chance Lucian had given her, and didn't intend to let it slip out of her fingers.

And the reason she was so meticulous with reservations was that she wanted to be absolutely sure she wasn't misspelling a name or word. Of course she wasn't going to tell Lucian that, but he could probably guess that was the reason. He was a shrewd man.

At Lucian's last comment, she looked up, her eyes narrowing suspiciously. But he seemed genuine, and Bessie's suspicions eased a little. This was not like going to a meeting with one of the mill bosses, where a compliment could be dangerous.

"Thank you," she said when he was finished, her fingers folding her napkin unconsciously back and forth in her lap. "I promised I'd do my best, and that's what I'm tryin' to do." She smiled at him, a small, satisfied smile.


Liked 1

Lucian MacLeod

Club Owner, Coffee Importer
40
?Years Young
27 Posts

Here among my thoughts of you, I find a gentle longing to be free...


Lucian smiled at Bessie's response. She had indeed guaranteed him that she would do her best if he would just give her the opportunity. It looked as if he had made a good call. She was also a lovely woman that had piqued his interest. There were no policies in place regarding fraternization between employees of the club and the ship. The unspoken rule was that employees needed to not let their personal lives impact their jobs. As long as that line was not crossed, no problem.

Did that unspoken rule cover the owners of the ship and the club? True, there was a layer of management between Lucian and the club's staff. The floor manager ran the club and managed the wait staff, hostesses, and other club personnel. The head chef managed the kitchen staff. He and Jameson did most of the hiring and, if needed, firing. 

There were all of the other potential issues. Lucian probably had at least ten years on Bessie. They had only met a week ago, was it too soon to ask her out.? By now, she knew that the Club Lorelei served alcohol, even in port. 

"Bessie," Lucian finally said, having made his decision, "I want to ask you something, and you are free to say no. It will not impact your employment here, you have my word on that," he paused and swallowed uncomfortably, "Would you consider having dinner with me, maybe see a movie when we are back in port?"

Imelda stopped munching on her chunks of melon and looked up as if she was also interested in the answer. She was not truly concerned, just tired of chewing her meal.


Wow! 1

Bessie Dooley

Hostess
42
?Years Young
12 Posts

"Somewhere after midnight
In my wildest fantasy;
Somewhere just beyond my reach
There's someone reaching back for me."


As Lucian started talking again, Bessie's heart beat a little faster. What was he going to ask her? Her stomach flip-flopped a little as he promised her answer wouldn't affect her employment. That wasn't reassuring at all, even though it was meant to be.

There was a tense silence for a second, then he asked if she would go out with him.

She unconsciously balled her napkin up in her lap, her face showing shock and bewilderment. "Lordy," she said breathlessly. "Mr. MacLeod...Lucian...you sure do know how to catch a body by surprise."

She paused, looking out across the harbor, her mind whirling. It wasn't as if there was anything wrong with Lucian. He was kind and handsome in his own way, though different from her late husband. And he was the owner of a very lucrative business.

That was what tipped the scales in her mind. She'd gotten this job intending to make her life better, and going out with Lucian could only make things look up...even if it was only temporary. She wasn't sure what would happen when he got tired of her. She was sure he would; it was the way most business owners were. But for the time being, it would be pleasant.

A breeze ruffled her hair and made her look back at Lucian. "Of course," she said finally. "As long as Imelda won't be watching us while we eat." She glanced at the iguana, then flashed a smile at Lucian.

Lucian was a bit surprised that Bessie had accepted his invitation for all of the reasons he had thought of earlier. Despite that, he smiled, "Perfect! I promise that I do not take Imelda on dinner dates with me."

Bessie smiled. "It's a deal, then." She looked over at Imelda. "Hear that? You're not coming to dinner with us." It was the sort of sing-song tone she would use with a child, or that a more wealthy person might use to talk to their pet.

Imelda focused in on the sing-song voice and blinked her eyes. Lifting one front leg, she moved it in a slow circular motion in a reptilian greeting. Finally sated with as much food as she could hold and thoroughly warmed by the sun, Imelda slid off the lounge chair and got beneath it, relaxing in the shade. She would prefer a tree or even a dip in the sea, but that would have to wait.

"Listen, Bessie," Lucian said, "since we don't know each other well, perhaps you would like to join me for a shore excursion? I promised my sister that I would look for a silk scarf in the market. She got one from there some time back and wants another one. I also need to get some fruit and fresh greens for Imelda." Despite the fact that the kitchen had plenty of vegetables to share with the reptile, she preferred her meals even fresher. Lucian tried to keep a small supply for his pet.

Bessie watched Imelda as the reptile waved, her face showing a little bit of shock still. She turned her attention to Lucian's question. "I'd like to go. I haven't been ashore yet, so it should be fine." She didn't want to get in trouble for going ashore out of turn, especially when she was so new.

But then she realized she probably didn't have to worry about getting in trouble. She laughed a little after she answered, leaning towards Lucian a bit. "What am I sayin'? The owner of the boat's asking me to come with him, so of course it'll be fine." She smiled, growing a little more comfortable.

Lucian smiled, relaxing as well, "And I will clear it with Gustav since I do not make it a habit of interfering in his schedules."

"Thank you." Bessie gave him a relieved smile. She would have asked Gustav if it had come down to it, but was happy Lucian was going to do it instead. "Do you think I should bring along any money? I've never been anywhere like this before."

"We will be avoiding the high-priced tourist traps, so you might want to bring a little with you, just in case," Lucian told her. He knew that Bessie probably did not have much extra cash but he did not want to start out with her feeling dependent on him for everything. He would endeavor to make sure she did not have to spend her money if possible.

With their plans for the day set, conversation became light and general while they finished their meal.

~*~ Finis ~*~