I sleep well anywhere. My cot below deck aboard The Constellation was no exception.
I woke instantly when a steward made rounds for wake up calls at first light. I dressed and ducked out into the narrow passageway. Lally stepped out of his own compartment and we saw each other as we secured our respective doors.
Bleary-eyed, he cleared his throat of post-sleep hoarseness and said, “Hey, g’morning.” He drifted away toward the mess hall ahead of me, but then turned back and hugged me.
Startled, I said and did nothing.
“Thank you for being here, Mesa,” said Lally. “I mean it.”
Uneasiness crept through my chest when he remained attached to my neck, and so I patted his back until he let go. I may have grumbled something that was probably vaguely reassuring as I shepherded him in the direction of the clinking of ceramic dishes and aroma of strong coffee and savory breakfast things.
The mess hall was all tables, brass, and white bulkheads with a buffet set up at end near the bustling galley. We piled plates with mouthwatering fare and chose a table with a view. Stomachs growling, we unwrapped our silverware from pressed white serviettes when we noticed Hunt standing over us noiselessly with a plate in her hands, though I think Lally flinched harder than I did.
“M-Ms. Hunt, good morning,” Lally said. He fumbled to casually tuck the serviette in his collar. He flicked a glance across at me. “What can I do for you?”
Her eyes roamed the compartment but she appeared disinterested in sitting. A familiar laugh drew my attention past her. Two tables over, Zvonko was dining with a few friendly crewmen.
Lally looked, too, and his shoulders relaxed. “Why don’t you join them? There are still some empty seats at that table.” He chuckled sympathetically or something. “You don’t need to force yourself to sit with us.”
To my well-concealed mortal terror, Hunt slumped down into the seat beside Lally. “I don’t want to become a bother by constantly inviting myself into his company.”
I felt a stab of annoyance.
Hunt’s unconfessed love for the dimwit Zvonko was nearly as well known as her hate for me, and it was completely unnecessary. Just as Hunt had only ever had eyes for Zvonko, he also had only ever had eyes for her. Mutual admiration and respect. Why they weren’t already wedded or at least been going together for the last several years didn’t make a lick of sense.
Will you marry me, Zvonko? How hard is that to say?
Face lowered, Lally sighed. He didn’t understand either.
This is stupid. I stood and glared down at Hunt even though she wasn’t looking at me which was fine because if she was, I’d probably be dead. “Here,” I said. “I’ll ask him for you.”
Hunt and Lally looked up as I walked away to the other table where my presence paused thier conversation.
“Excuse me,” I said to Zvonko, “but I have a question to ask you on behalf of Hunt.”
“Ms Hunt?” He looked past me toward Lally’s table. “What question?”
” ‘Will you marry me’?”
The sailor beside Zvonko spewed coffee all over the sailor across from him.
[to be continued…]