“Mother! This isn’t how it looks!” Maryam gasped.
Jacob realized it looked even worse than imaginable. Ripped condom wrappers, the dresser drawer open revealing a whole box of them waiting, his iPad knocked off the desk where Maryam was still sitting with her legs wrapped around Jacob’s waist. Yeah, this looked bad.
They disentangled themselves from one another and straightened their clothes. Jacob rushed over to pick up the wrappers and discard them in the trash, closed the dresser drawer and shrunk away from the intimidating woman still standing in the door to his stateroom.
“Do you have anything to say for yourself young man?”
“Um… I’m sorry?”
“How long has this been going on?” she demanded.
“About thirty seconds?”
“That was at least a minute,” Maryam mumbled.
“I don’t know, I’ve never kissed a girl before,” Jacob said through clenched teeth. “It happened so fast I couldn’t think, especially not about the clock.”
“That was your first kiss?” Maryam straightened and faced Jacob, an awed smile across her face. “I was your first kiss?”
“Yeah…” Jacob smiled at this beautiful girl standing before him, momentarily forgetting her mom was in the room. He reached out and laced his fingers through hers. “I kinda hope you’ll be my last too.”
“You do?” She melted closer to him.
“I’m still standing right here.” Valerie Arnold, Captain Arnold’s wife, Maryam’s mother. Forget waiting to ask her father. Jacob leapfrogged right to the woman in charge, turning to her with confidence.
“Can I marry your daughter?” Jacob blurted out.
“What?” Mrs. Arnold asked, her jaw dropped.
“What?” Maryam whispered, covering her mouth with her hand, eyes wide and sparkling. “When?”
“As soon as possible,” Jacob said, pulling Maryam close again. He lifted his hand brushed his thumb across her lips, remembering how they felt connected to his. “Ever since we started talking about getting married, I haven’t been able to think of anything else.”
“That was twenty minutes ago,” Maryam whispered.
“What a long twenty minutes,” Jacob whispered back.
Maryam reached up and placed her palm against his cheek. “Are you sure you’re not just thinking with your… feelings?”
“I was thinking about marrying you before I kissed you,” he said, leaning closer to her ear. “This isn’t physical. Okay, it’s not just physical.”
“On deck,” Mrs. Arnold demanded. “Both of you!” She held the door open, waiting for them to leave his stateroom, clinging to each other’s hands.
She marched them to the stern of the yacht, while calling out to her husband and Jacob’s parents in a firm, insistent voice. Her bellowing drew the attention of crew members as well, but one look at her face and they shrunk back into whatever job they could find somewhere else on the boat.
Nicholas and Adele emerged from their stateroom, mother sat up from a lounge chair on deck, removed her floppy hat and sunglasses, and set down the paperback novel she’d been reading, father and Captain Arnold stepped from the control room, Liam came out of his stateroom holding a beer bottle, but quickly tucked the bottle back into his room and flicked the butt of a strange looking cigarette off the side of the railing into the ocean, and his wife sat up from a lounge chair wearing a bikini swimsuit that was not flattering on a pregnant woman. Jacob looked away and shuddered.
“What’s the matter, Valerie?” mother asked, a crease in her brow.
“Your son has been doing things with my daughter that are completely inappropriate!”
“Score,” Liam said with no apparent remorse. “I knew those babies would come in handy.”
“I have never, nor do I intend to use those!” Jacob insisted.
“Come on, man, please don’t tell me you did it without one. Have you learned nothing from your older brothers?”
“I have learned the most important thing from my older brother, Nicholas,” Jacob said with confidence. “To wait until I’m married!”
“What are you two talking about?” father asked, turning to Liam. “What did you do?”
“I gave him some protection, that’s all,” Liam said. “Which is a heck of a lot more than you gave me.”
“Pr—protection?” mother stammered. “What do you mean by that?”
“Jacob has a whole box of condoms in his state room!” Valerie said. “And one of them was open while they were… well… I don’t even want to think about what they were doing.”
“We were kissing, mother! Kissing. Fully clothed,” Maryam insisted. “And it was open just because I wanted to see what one looked like.”
“Liam,” father interrupted. “Don’t you blame your poor choices on my unwillingness to teach you anything short of complete chastity prior to marriage.”
“Thanks, dad, that works in theory,” Liam said. “That’s not the reality of life. Once you’re in the heat of the moment, theories fly right out the window.”
“Which is why we don’t allow ourselves to get in those situations in the first place,” Nicholas said.
“Shut up, you self-righteous jerk,” Liam said. “You think you’re so much better than the rest of us? How long did it take you to get married once you and Adele got back together? Two weeks? Three? Try waiting a few weeks or months after falling in love and see how quickly you get into ‘situations’ like that.” Liam actually used air quotes and sneered at their brother.
“When you know you’ve met the right woman, and you want to be together forever, you get married.” Nicholas nodded his head once definitively. “You don’t allow yourself to be tempted by one another.”
“Which is exactly why Maryam and I want to get married.” Jacob stepped confidently forward, still clutching Maryam’s hand.
“You want to what?” Captain Arnold asked.
“I’m sorry I didn’t ask you first, Sir,” Jacob said. “But Mrs. Arnold was standing right there, and I figured even if I asked you, you’d need to ask her, so I just skipped a step.”
“We have been at sea for ten whole days and you think you know my daughter well enough to marry her?”
Jacob turned to Maryam and softened his expression. “Of course not. But love grows over time and many things about her I won’t learn until we’re married anyway, so why wait?”
“Exactly,” Maryam agreed in a quiet, contemplative answer. She squeezed his hand and gazed into his eyes.
“You’re too young for us to even have this discussion,” mother said.
“I’m not too young,” Jacob said. “I’m old enough that if Israel ever called me to serve as a soldier I’d be compelled to fight on behalf of our country.”
“Well, you’re too young to get married.”
“By whose definition?” Jacob asked. “Would you rather have us sneaking around and getting into trouble? I’d rather do things the moral way and be legally married first.”
“That would be difficult since we’re on a boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean,” Nicholas pointed out.
“Actually,” Maryam corrected him. “My father is legally ordained to perform marriages in the United States of America, which applies to all international waters as well.”
All eyes turned to Captain Arnold, who shrugged. “Back when I was captain on a cruise ship it made complete sense. I’ve performed many at-sea nuptials. It was a good idea at the time. Certainly never thought I’d be officiating at my own daughter’s wedding.”
“Why not, daddy?” Maryam asked. “You’re the man I’ve looked up to my whole life. You and mother have shown me how a true marriage should work, and I hope to someday emulate the relationship you have. You’ve been my anchor in stormy seas.”
Captain Arnold’s shoulders relaxed, and he reached out to touch his hand to Maryam’s cheek in a gesture of affection.
“Speaking of stormy seas,” Liam’s wife Rachel spoke up for the first time in the discussion. “That storm sure looks like it’s going to cause rough seas.” She pointed behind them at the dark clouds.