“Maryam,” Jacob whispered as loud as he could while trying to keep anyone else from knowing he was there. He’d been discouraged from coming down into the crew deck, but he felt compelled to see her again.
She was leaning against the wall near the crew’s galley talking to a couple other ladies who all seemed to be taking a break or done for the night. The staff had been diligently taking care of used plates and glasses and helping as needed. But there probably wasn’t much to do until the party was over and they could spend a few hours cleaning up the mess.
“Jacob?” She turned to him, not lowering her voice like he’d been. “Come in here. Meet my friends.”
“Am I allowed to be down here?” He stepped all the way into the galley and nervously shoved his hands in the pockets of his formal slacks. He felt very overdressed away from the party and wished he’d thought to change into some cargo shorts or something.
“You own this yacht,” Maryam said. “I’m pretty sure you can be anywhere you want.” She seemed much more confident down here surrounded by her friends than up on deck with the intimidating royals and dignitaries. Jacob had to admit he liked this laid-back environment also.
“In that case, I want to ask you to go on a little walk with me in the moonlight,” Jacob said. “I promise to be a perfect gentleman.”
“Ooh, a walk in the moonlight,” one of her friends said. “Sounds very romantic. I’m Hannah, by the way.” She reached out to shake Jacob’s hand and Maryam seemed to stiffen beside him, like she was jealous. Interesting.
“And I’m Ivy.” The other friend also reached out her hand.
Jacob made a point to maneuver himself closer to Maryam in the process of introducing himself to her friends and slid his arm around her lower back. He almost rested his head on her shoulder when he spoke softly. “What do you say? Want to come with me for a romantic, moonlit walk?”
Maryam turned toward him, inadvertently wrapping herself within his arms and flirting with those mesmerizing eyes. “I’d love to.”
“Nice meeting you, ladies,” Jacob said as an afterthought, still gazing into Maryam’s speckled aquamarine eyes while backing her away from her friends.
“We’re going in the wrong direction,” Maryam said. “This is the hallway to the crew’s quarters.” They were still locked gazes and arms intertwined and wrapped around each other’s waists.
“Well then, I guess you’ll have to show me your stateroom real quick before we go up on deck.” Jacob was surprised how fast he was getting caught up in this girl he barely knew. If he wasn’t careful he’d end up kissing her the first day they met and that would not be a good idea. “You already know what my room looks like. Show me yours.”
“I don’t exactly have a room. I have a bunk.”
“That could be cozy,” Jacob said. “Show me.”
Maryam reached under a top bunk and flicked on a light, illuminating a bottom bunk that did indeed look cozy. She had already taken the time to make the little space hers, even though she’d only been on the yacht a few days longer than Jacob.
“I love it,” he said.
“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes.
“Now I’ll know how to picture you in my dreams tonight.”
“Now you’re just being silly,” she said.
“Tell me you won’t be doing the same thing,” he challenged.
“I can’t tell you that.” She bit her lower lip and averted her gaze.
“Let’s go for that walk and get to know each other so we’ll know what to talk about in our dreams also,” Jacob said, taking her hand. “How about if you lead the way since you know this ship better than I do.”
She pulled him gently back toward the galley and then up a small set of stairs and out into the night air. “Where would you like to walk?”
“As far away from the party as possible?” He raised his eyebrows playfully. “How about back near the little boat garage on the stern? That seems like the perfect spot to hide from our parents and sit on the deck looking at the ocean and gazing at the billions of stars overhead.”
“Right this way, sir,” Maryam said in her most professional tour-guide voice. “Although, since we’re still at port, we’ll mostly see the lights from the city.” They didn’t try to hold a conversation while walking to the back of the boat, but they did hold hands.
“Dubai is beautiful, so that’s okay.” Jacob had been right. This spot was secluded and dark and as far away from the party yet still be on the same boat. They didn’t bring a blanket to sit on and the night had gotten cool, so the deck had a sheen of condensation. Jacob removed his sport coat and spread it out for them to sit on.
“Why thank you, kind sir.” She carefully sat down on his coat and he sat next to her. “I don’t want to ruin your nice coat.”
“It can be replaced,” Jacob said.
“You rich people say that a lot.” She let her accusation hang in the air and Jacob wasn’t sure how to respond. “Like everything’s disposable.”
“Well, other than people, everything is disposable.” He turned and brushed her hair off her shoulder so he could see her face better. “You are more important than a coat.”
“True, but you can care for both the coat and the person if you try. And then you can use the money saved to do something good in the world.”
“A valid point. I have a feeling I’m going to learn a lot from you,” Jacob said.
“And I from you.” She nudged his shoulder.
“Tell me about yourself. Where did you grow up?”
“You’re looking at it.” Maryam spread her arms wide. “I’ve lived on private yachts all my life.”
“Seriously? That sounds glamourous.”
“If you like the sea,” Maryam said. “I’d kind of like to put down roots one of these days.”
“You’ve been around the world dozens of times. If you could live anywhere, where would you want to live.”
“I want to live in a forest, in a big house that has lots of windows and lots of light, and a big kitchen that’s at the center of the house where all the family can gather.” Her voice had taken on a soft musing dreamlike state.
“How many children do you want to have?” he asked.
“I grew up an only child, so I’d kind of like my children to have siblings. How about you?”
“I grew up with too many siblings. They fight a lot, and they have a variety of different opinions about life.” Jacob gazed up into the stars. “If you disagree with a friend, you can walk away and never see them again. But if you disagree with your brother, you can’t just walk away, because they’re your brother.”
“You’re an adult now. You can live on your own.” Her voice was soft, no doubt thinking something similar to what he was thinking. The time wasn’t far off when they’d both want to live on their own… but with someone they love, like someone they’re married to. “What about you? Where do you want to live when you grow up and move away from your parents?”
“As of about three minutes ago, I’ve decided I’d like to live in a forest, in a big house that has lots of windows and lots of light, and a big kitchen that’s at the center of the house where all the family can gather.”
“Very funny.” Maryam giggled.
“We should do some exploring after we dock in Mexico,” Jacob suggested. “Travel either into the United States or south into Belize and Guatemala and Honduras and then keep going down through Panama and into South America.”
“Have you been to any of those places?” She raised her eyebrows in disbelief.
“No, that’s why we would need to go exploring. Have you?”
“Not really,” she said. “I’ve been to some of the ports, and many of the islands. St. Lucia, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico.”
“I’ve lived in Jerusalem my entire life,” Jacob said. “Until this past year when we moved to Dubai and my dad bought the yacht company. Brought it back from the brink of bankruptcy. He does that; swoops in to buy up businesses that are failing for pennies on the dollar, waves his magic wand and rakes in millions.”
“Is it true your family are billionaires?” she asked.
“Yeah, I think if we divided up our father’s wealth, we’d each be billionaires.”
“Maybe I’m exaggerating a little,” he admitted. “But close to it. My dad has a gift with businesses. He does great things with the money, too. Starts up endowment funds, donates to charitable causes, hires thousands of people to work in good-paying jobs.”
“Like a yacht captain and his family.”
“What do you want to do when you grow up?” Maryam asked.
“Well, I’m helping run the family’s businesses.” Jacob thought for a minute. “I might want to get more involved in government service or something. I’ve seen how local laws can make or break a company’s ability to prosper.”
“That’s a lot to understand when you’re as young as you are,” she said.
“I didn’t have a traditional education. My mother sent me off with my brothers and father to learn how to run our companies. She encouraged me to learn a myriad of languages and math. Ugh, I hate math.”
“Everybody hates math.” She chuckled.
“What about you? What do you want to be when you grow up?”
“I want to be a mom, and a wife, of course.”
“Wife comes first, mom comes second,” Jacob agreed. “I’ve watched two of my brothers forced to get married because they chose to reverse those. I want to get married because I love my wife, not because I got her pregnant and had to marry her.”
“I want that too.” Maryam laid her head on Jacob’s shoulder and they sat that way for a long time, watching the waves lap the shoreline and the giant skyscrapers of the city of Dubai. That night would be their last night at port before heading out into the open ocean for a 29-day journey at sea.
They sat that way for a little while longer before helping each other up and peeling the wet sport coat off the deck. Jacob walked Maryam back to the entrance of the crew quarters, kissed her on her cheek and then made his way up to the deck where his state room waited for him.
While drifting off to sleep, Jacob imagined Maryam in her bunk two levels down, crammed into that tiny space when he had this giant bed to himself. His imagination shifted and he could visualize her right there beside him. He wrapped his arms around one of the extra pillows and fell asleep that way.