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They hadn’t even been on the ship a full week and already Ruby was regretting her decision to continue with the trip. Sharing a room with Gabi was impossible. She was constantly grumpy and wouldn’t even talk to Gabi most of the time. Gabi had taken to spending most of her time outside of the room, sometimes in one of the cafes, or one of the many events held by the organizers. Daily trivia, parties, shore tours, she’d even joined the choir, in part because she knew Gabi never would.
Six days was long enough to find the best places to be at most times of the day. Late night, you wanted to be at Kristen, it was a huge lounge that spanned two decks. It had great views, great drinks, and plenty of sofas to cuddle up on. If you wanted quiet, you were best down on deck 1 at Jodie, part library, part living area, there was an unspoken agreement that if you wanted to do something loud you should take it somewhere else. Shore days were the best times to grab a spot by the pool since most people were off the ship, it was also the best time to get a booking at any of the restaurants. Early morning was Ruby’s favorite time though, she’d stumbled upon the spa on her second morning, totally empty and perfectly serene. That first morning, she didn’t have a bathing suit so she’d stripped down to nothing and slipped into the water. She hadn’t realized just how stressed she was until she slipped into the water and felt the stress fade away. She had no idea how long she stayed, except that breakfast was well underway when she exited. She’d returned every morning since and hadn’t seen a soul.
That serenity was shattered when she pushed opened the thick frosted glass and embraced the humidity that blasted her. Someone was already inside.
Ruby sighed and backed out slowly, she’d have to find somewhere else to spend her morning.
“Don’t go,” the woman called without turning around. “It’s still open, I just wanted to grab some shots before it got too busy.”
Ruby paused but didn’t enter. “It’s okay, I can come back later.”
“No really, come in. Do whatever you were going to do. I’m Lalannah, by the way.” Ruby knew the name immediately and confirmed her suspicions with one glance at the smiling face in front of her.
“My ex follows you.”
Against her better judgment, Ruby found herself wandering in and letting the door swing shut behind her.
“But not you?”
Ruby shook her head. “I’m not super into social media and stuff. Your videos were funny though.”
“I’m a writer actually.”
“Like, fiction?” Lalannah had returned to fiddling with her camera and tripod, which Ruby was thankful for since it took the pressure off her conversational skills.
“Yes, romance actually.”
Ruby laughed. “Yes, I write lesbian romance.”
“But your girlfriend broke up with you?”
“Well, when you put it like that it doesn’t sound good. Besides, I never said she broke up with me.”
“Well, did she?” Lalannah had finished with her camera and shifted all of her attention to Ruby, an intensity in her gaze that made Ruby feel as if this strange tiny woman knew everything there was to know about her already.
“Okay, yes. She broke up with me.” Ruby realized she was still standing awkwardly just inside the doorway so she crossed to one of the daybeds and dropped onto it. .
“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have joked about it.”
“It’s okay. I’m starting to realize it was probably the best thing that could have happened.”
Lalannah held eye contact with her a moment longer, searching for something. Ruby squirmed under her intense gaze.
“Well, I’m glad you’re here.”
Ruby laughed. “We just met, how can you possibly be glad. I could be a serial killer.”
“You’re not.” Ruby fell silent. In five minutes, this woman had become the most interesting person she’d met in months. She was equally intriguing and terrifying. Ruby broke eye contact.
“You never told me your name.”
“Ruby. Ruby Smart.”
“That’s a nice name.”
“Thanks.” Ruby settled into her daybed, she desperately wanted to climb into the water and let it soak away the stress from the previous day, but she didn’t dare strip her clothes off with Lalannah around. She’d become accustomed to her morning solitude.
“So, are you filming? Or just grabbing some photos?”
“A bit of both. I don’t need much footage, so I’ll be out of your hair soon. I’m doing a series on YouTube called My Year at Sea: One Lesbian’s Journey, and I want to film a day in my life.”
“Bit wordy isn’t it?”
“Probably. But I couldn’t think of anything better, so that’s what I’ve got.”
“What about Around the World in 80 Lesbians?”
Lalannah laughed. “Well, it’s certainly catchy, but who are the 80 lesbians?”
Ruby shrugged. “No idea. Anyway, how is it a day in your life when you’re never here in the mornings? I’d know, I’m here every morning.”
Lalannah pulled her thin beach dress over her head in one motion, and Ruby promptly forgot her question. The woman in front of her was even more spectacular in real life than she looked in photos. Ruby vaguely remembered her mentioning her Thai heritage in one of her videos, but Ruby had never given it much thought. Everything from her perfectly braided hair to her manicured toenails was immaculate. The tiny green bikini complemented her light Asian skin and left her glowing.
“I do come here every morning. Just a bit later. I wanted to get here before everyone else, it’s easier to film.”
“Of course. Don’t let me interrupt you. I’ll come back a bit later.”
“No, really. You should stay. I’m the one interrupting your time. I’ll be done in five minutes. Promise.”
Ruby nodded. “So long as you’re sure.”
Lalannah turned and stepped daintily into the pool, Ruby’s heart stopped for a moment as even more glowing skin was exposed, before it was swallowed up by the steamy water. Lalannah crossed the tiny pool and began the recording.
“Here on Sapphire Waves, everything has a unique name. I’m here in the spa which is where I like to start every morning. The spa is known as Portia, literally the best name for a spa if you ask me. Whenever I see Portia I just think about luxury and there is nothing more luxurious than this spa.” Ruby stifled a laugh as she watched Lalannah film her little spiel.
She repeated the process three times before she was satisfied. Ruby watched in awe.
“Okay. I think I’m done.”
“I mean, I thought the first one was good, so I don’t think I’m the one you should talk to.”
Lalannah laughed and Ruby lost the ability to speak as Lalannah rose from the pool. Water dripped off of her, the tiny green bikini left very little to Ruby’s imagination. It was the first time since her break up with Gabi that she’d found anyone even remotely attractive. She knew Lalannah wasn’t available but it didn’t make her any less gorgeous.
“It was lovely to meet you, Ruby. I hope I see you around.”
“Yeah, lovely meeting you too. I hope I see you again.
“I’ve never met a writer before.”
“I’ve never met an influencer before.”
“I hate that word. Influencer. Makes it sound like all we do is sit around and post Instagram photos.”
“What else do you actually do though? Everyone always says the life of an influencer is busy but nobody ever says why.”
Lalannah sighed. “I do the same stuff as you probably. I make content, that’s a huge part of it. Editing and filming. I have meetings with different brands I’m working with, or want to be working with. I go on trips like this, but I’m working most of the time so it’s less of a holiday than I’d like. I watch other vloggers to get ideas, I work with designers on merch, and a million other things.”
“Right. I guess that is pretty similar. Not that I have merch.”
“Oh, I can put you in touch with my merch guy. Merch is great. People love it.”
“Oh, crazy idea. You should come on my channel. Like we could do a special video. You’re an author, I bet heaps of my viewers would read your stuff.” Ruby shook her head.
“No, I don’t really do video stuff. Thanks for the offer though.”
“Why not?” Ruby shrugged. “It’ll be fun,” Lalannah added.
“I’ll think about it.”
“Deal. You have a great day, Ruby Smart.”
“You too, Lalannah.” Ruby liked the way the name rolled off her tongue. La-la-nah. It sounded like a tropical drink or a fruit. When she looked up again, Lalannah was gone.
Read January 8 here.
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