“How dare you!” Maryam pushed Jacob’s chest hard enough that he stumbled backward and almost fell onto one of the deck chairs. The sun shone down on the sparkling white deck of the yacht, but the chair was protected under an awning. Jacob was suddenly hidden from view from everyone other than Maryam. “Who is she? What’s her name? Is she one of the kitchen helpers? One of the maids? Who?”
“Who are you talking about?” Jacob held up both hands in surrender.
“Exactly!” Maryam turned with a flick of her ponytail and stomped away. Jacob wasn’t far behind.
“Please, Maryam, tell me what I did wrong,” Jacob pleaded.
“Oh, so you don’t think it was wrong?” She turned on him and narrowed her eyes. He took a step back; afraid she was going to push him again. She held up a little gray wrapper. “Would you like to explain this?”
“Did you go through my trash can?” He wrinkled his nose.
“So, you admit it was yours?” She turned again and started walking away. “That’s typical. I thought you were different, that you weren’t like other guys.”
“How many other guys have there been?” He hurried after her again.
“How many other girls have there been?” She whirled on him again.
“You,” Jacob said, trying to reach for her hand but she pulled away and folded her arms across her chest. “There’s never been anyone but you.”
“Then who did this belong to?” She held up the offending little wrapper again.
“My brother,” Jacob tried to explain.
“Are you so daft that you think I’ll believe your brother walked all the way across the boat to sneak into your stateroom and have sex with someone?” Then she gasped and held her hand to her mouth. “Is he cheating on his wife?”
“I hope not,” Jacob said. “I don’t know.”
“Why else would he be hiding these?
“He wasn’t hiding them. He gave them to me.”
“Them?” Maryam raised her eyebrows, still with pursed lips and daggers in her eyes.
“He gave me a whole box of them.”
“Why?” Her stance softened a little.
“He thought,” Jacob mumbled, barely audible, even to himself. “You and I might want them.”
“That’s…” Maryam gulped. “Presumptuous.”
“I agree,” Jacob said. “That’s why I told him I will never use them.”
“Well, I’m not planning to do… that… until I’m married, and then once we’re married, we won’t need them.”
“That doesn’t explain why one of them is open,” Maryam said.
“I wanted to see what one looked like,” Jacob explained. “I’d never seen one before.”
“I never have either.” She looked down and scuffed her shoe on the deck.
“There are forty-nine more where that came from if you’d like to,” Jacob mumbled.
“Yeah, he gave me a box of fifty.” Jacob snickered. “I don’t know why he thought we’d want that many.”
“It’s only a four-week trip from Dubai to Cancun.” —Maryam glanced from side to side— “Do you think that’s how often married people…”
“I dunno. I’ve never been married.”
Maryam giggled. “Me neither.”
“Good to know.” Jacob took a step toward her and reached for her hand. She smiled at him shyly.
“So,” Maryam said through clenched teeth. “Can I see one?”
“They’re really gross looking,” Jacob said.
“I don’t care.” She squeezed his hand gently. “I still want to see one.”
“Sure, why not.”
“Aren’t you supposed to be working?” Jacob raised his eyebrows.
She raised hers right back at him with a little smirk. “I was cleaning your stateroom.”
“That is true.” He raised his shoulders. “And you just happened to have a question for me.”
“And so, I sought you out to ask you the question.” With a coy smile Maryam pulled his arm gently, walking calmly in the direction of Jacob’s stateroom.
They didn’t see a single person, crew or family member, on their way back to Jacob’s room. He pulled the door closed behind him then stepped over and opened the dresser drawer.
Neither of them reached for the box; they just stared at it for moment. Finally, Jacob reached down and pulled out one of the rows of five condoms and held them out to her.
“I don’t wanna touch them,” Maryam whispered. “You open one.”
Jacob ripped one off the strip and grasped the little wrapper between his fingers. He found it easier to open the second time and he wasn’t as afraid of the slimy little ring. Until it suddenly slipped out of the wrapper and they both jumped back, and Maryam yelped.
They both snickered as they stared at the flesh-colored ring sitting on the floor of his stateroom.
“You’re right. That’s totally gross.” Maryam put her hand across her mouth to keep from laughing too loud.
“I warned you.” Jacob leaned down and picked it up and placed it on the palm of his hand. “I don’t understand how that is supposed to ‘protect’ anything.”
“You have to put it on first, silly.” Maryam giggled.
“I’m not putting it on! You put it on!” Jacob took a step back in shock, realizing what he’d just said. Not appropriate. At all. He flung the thing off his hand and into the wastebasket. “I’ve never even kissed you before, and I’m certainly never doing that until we’re married.”
“Are you saying” —Maryam stopped and cleared her throat. “That you think you’d like to marry me someday?”
“Yeah, I’d marry you today if I could.” Jacob stepped closer to her now that they weren’t discussing the mechanics of prophylactics.
“Why?” She rested her hands on his arms as he placed his hands on her hips. “You barely know me.”
“We have a connection this is undeniable and unexplainable, and you feel it too. Admit it.” He looked down into her speckled aquamarine eyes that captivated him the first time he’d stood in this very spot and gazed into them.
“You are mistaken,” she said, stepping closer.
Jacob was confused. If she disagreed about their connection, why was she closing the distance between them. “Wh-what?”
“You said you’ve never kissed me before,” she whispered, lifting her chin and hypnotizing him. “But you kiss me every night in my dreams.”
“What a coincidence.” Jacob could barely breathe. “You kiss me every night in my dreams too.”
“Maybe we should try kissing each other while we’re both awake,” Maryam said.
“That is a really great idea.” He hesitated, inching his face closer to hers. He’d never kissed a girl before and he didn’t care if he ever kissed any other girl for as long as he lived. He whispered her name, “Maryam.”
Jacob drew closer and closer to her, his breath increasing and his heart racing. Finally, she lost patience and pulled him to her, connecting what little space had been left between them.
Instinct took over. His hands gripped into the silky waves at the nape of her neck. He pulled her closer even as he pushed her body against the desk where his iPad sat idle. Knocking it to the floor, he lifted her onto his desk, and she wrapped her legs around his waist, gripping tighter, her hands in his hair and down his neck to the collar of his shirt, pulling him closer.
Jacob was reminded of the words his brother had said when he gifted him that offensive little box. You’d be surprised how fast never becomes right now when you’re in the arms of a beautiful woman.
That was precisely the moment the door to his stateroom opened and Maryam’s mother blocked the sunlight, fists on her hips. “Get your hands off my daughter.”