Henry Wilson, was recently bereaved. His wife Joy had died a few weeks previously and their children were concerned he was retreating into his shell. He seemed to have no interest in anything. Henry and Joy had planned a cruise months before, and at the due time paid their final payment with still three months to the sailing date. Henry had resigned himself to losing all the money as little or none would be refunded now. The children however took control and said he should go, it would do him good, make a break, get him out of himself and all the other euphemisms for them to stop worrying about him for a bit. He knew this and allowed himself under protest to agree to their suggestion and so he found himself in Sydney boarding a cruise liner sailing around New Zealand for a fortnight. Henry was almost glad not to have the kids fussing over him when they had their own families to worry about.
He was pleased with his cabin, even though it was really meant for the two of them, he was happy with the food, the helpfulness of the crew and the friendliness of everyone on board who knew not one thing about him. He soon found the library and spent hours in there or in many of the other hideaways that he found on the ship to do exactly nothing, alone. He quite enjoyed that.
That was until the night of the high seas and the closing of some of the open decks the next day. Henry retreated to the library as usual and happily read a Kurt Vonnegut book. A few people came in but stayed just a few minutes. Then a girl limped in. Henry had to admit she was stunning. She plonked herself down at the librarian's desk, sighed and opened the register which recorded the books borrowed. Henry returned to Kurt Vonnegut. A few minutes passed and the girl sighed again. Henry looked up at her and saw that she was crying.
"Are you all right?
Her sniff turned into a sob and Henry was concerned. He drew up a chair close to her and asked if her bandaged ankle hurt . She shook her head and looked at him for the first time. She produced a very weak smile and said "It was all my own fault. I'm one of the dancers in the show and was careless in the rough weather last night in the late show and sprained my ankle. Everyone is furious with me." There was a long pause, then "It does hurt a bit"
Henry patted her shoulder and said. "It's all right, it'll mend soon and you will back with them again."
She moaned sadly, "No, no, I've messed everything up. The other girls aren't speaking. What do you think it's like in our cabin? There are four of us crammed in and they are all being hateful."
They talked a bit, she recorded the infrequent books borrowed by the library's users, and Henry even went to get them both a coffee from the bar a short walk away. He even mentioned Joy and the pressure from his kids. He found out that her name was Hazel. Later as her shift came to an end she sighed again. "Back to the bitches she said" and then a little later, "The trouble is I am expected to go to the rehearsals to watch and contribute. I just can't escape."
Henry then did something that was quite uncharacteristic of him. He became involved.
"Well if you want to hide away for a bit when your are not busy you can always use my cabin."
There was silence for bit. Then realising he may have said something very foolish, he came out with. "When I'm out of course, or on shore." He paused then said, "I'm sorry I am being silly, it is not ethical is it? You are so pretty and look so sad and I feel that way too. No that's not right, I am not pretty am I?" She laughed at Henry's jumble of words. Then she looked at him as if weighing up the proposal and it's implications. "I am as daft as a brush too," she said, "but I am going to take you up on that offer. But it won't work if you go ashore as they identify you with the card as you leave the ship."
So that very afternoon, Hazel used Henry's cabin. She luxuriated in the spaciousness, sat for a while on the balcony, read a magazine and before long lay on the bed and dozed off. Henry meanwhile went to a wine tasting which was awful, sat in on a art auction where the pictures were kitsch and mass produced and then took afternoon tea and cakes in the Bayou Dining Room which was horrible because everyone seemed to be starving! He left quickly and checked his watch.
He went back to the cabin expecting it to be empty, but Hazel was sound asleep on the bed. He sat in the chair for a while then he too lay out on the bed. He could sense her femininity, close to him, he breathed in the fresh perfume of her body, and closed his eyes and remembered when he was young and free. He settled down and careful not to touch her gradually drifted of to sleep himself.
Hazel woke and felt Henry on the bed, and also felt his hand gently holding her ankle, so they lay like that for some time. She remembered the film "Lost in Translation" where Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson lay on a bed too, with him just holding her foot. This is a very nice man she thought, thank heavens it is only a short trip otherwise I might do something really silly. What did Henry say in the library? "It's not ethical." To hell with that, she mused as she leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. She eased herself off the bed and put her shoes back on, grabbed her crutches and let herself quietly out of the cabin. "I'll ring him in the cabin tomorrow."