Friday, November 23, 2012

Part Three of Story Eleven from "A Symphony of Short Stories" - The Conclusion


Sandra had escorted the Stamp sisters – Pandora, Paloma, Patisse and Paris to the Canyon Ranch Spa Club on deck 7, to ensure that the ladies were formally introduced to the Spa Manager, Denise. The ladies would be pampering themselves to a full day’s spa program - starting with the Canyon Ranch’s signature Rasul Ceremony, and concluding with a mani and pedi each. Also, a special spa lunch would be prepared for the ladies as well.

During the first three days aboard QM 2, the sisters had chosen to stay indoors as Paloma Stamp was not feeling well. As it turned out, Paloma had always been prone to seasickness. The ship’s doctor was summoned, and Paloma was prescribed with some medication. None of the sisters wished to leave their suite for it meant leaving Paloma behind. So, they insisted that all the food and fun were served in their suite instead. This way, they could be together and have a wonderful time. They ordered light meals, board games, card games and movies to be delivered to their suites. Most of all, lavender scented candles were lit, as these were Paloma’s favourite. Such was their brand of sisterhood – “one for all and all for one”.

Being an only child, Sandra did not have any idea what it would be like growing up with sisters or brothers. However, looking at the Stamp sisters and the way they interacted with one another, she could not help but feel a pang of envy. All four of them were unreservedly at ease in making fun of one another - to the point of playing pranks on each other. Furthermore, they were just as comfortable in poking fun at themselves. There was no shortage of devotion, nor a hint of shyness in the way the sisters communicated with one another. This led Sandra to believe that only siblings who truly shared a deep bond could be that accustomed to each other’s eccentricities, as well as, comedy. Before Sandra left the ladies in the capable hands of Denise, she reminded them of Captain Benjamin’s personal invitation to dinner at the Queens Grill Restaurant.

It was customary for Captain Benjamin to host dinners with a selected group of guests onboard QM 2. In this way, the Captain would get the opportunity to meet with some of his passengers, as well as, to introduce them to others. On that very night, Captain Benjamin had invited the Stamp sisters, Ms. Mabel Shaw and the “Reunion Party” guests.

On the previous night, the Captain had hosted a dinner with Richard and Amanda Tan, Edward and Josephine Lone, Douglas and Samantha Ferhad, Ms. Melissa Ranter and Mr. William Tent. Sandra was glad that Mr. Tent had made the effort to get out of his suite to join that dinner. She had arranged for him to be seated with Edward and Josephine. Their positive outlook on life must have rubbed off on Mr. Tent, as he seemed to have abandoned his dark somber moods. On the very next day, Mr. William was seen spending some time out of his suite. He even had lunch with Edward and Josephine, went to the gym and played at some tables at the Empire Casino. To Sandra, that was progress!

By 8pm, all of the Captain’s invited guests had arrived at the table reserved for them - except Ms. Mable Shaw. The Stamp sisters and Ms. Jennifer Li were seated together on one side of the long rectangular table located in a quiet corner of the Queens Grill Restaurant. Captain Benjamin was seated at the head of the table, being the perfect host – introducing everyone to one another and initiating conversations. The rest of the guests from the “Reunion Party” were seated on the opposite side of the table – Henry Park, Hanson Park, Harry Park and his wife, Sophia. The seat next to Hanson was empty, and awaiting for its rightful guest, Mabel Shaw.

Fifteen minutes after eight - Ms. Mable Shaw waltzed towards their table, while everyone was cheerfully conversing with each other. She was dressed in an alluring aquamarine long dress. For someone who was late, she did not quicken her steps nor rushed. Every movement she made was puctuated with relaxed grace. When she arrived at the table, she apologised for her tardiness and took the seat beside Hanson Park. She offered no explanation for her lateness, nor felt that she needed to. There was no air of arrogance about her, but a sense of regality. Hanson did not take his eyes off her from the moment he saw her. Although she was clearly much older than his 38 years of age, there was just something very captivating about her which he could not deny.

Once Mabel Shaw joined the table, their dinner dialogue escalated with witty humour, diversity and depth. She had a striking aptitude for entertaining the group with her travel stories. Each and everyone forgave her delayed arrival after that. Just before dessert was served, Captain Benjamin had to excuse himself. Ms. Austina came at the Captain’s side, and informed him that there was something urgent at hand. Their mystery guest of the Sandringham Suite had arrived. It was a he, and he wanted to speak with the Captain immediately. After the Captain had left, his dinner guests continued in their revelry. Sandra realized that an excellent host would be one that was no longer needed nor missed at his or her own party.

Mabel further shared that her home was now in Tuscany, and that she had partnered with an Italian designer to produce her own line of leather products – such as hand bags, shoes and clutches. Then, she presented the clutch bag that she was carrying for the evening on the dining table. Naturally, all the ladies at the table fell in love with it at first sight. Before the night was over, every person at the table had become well-acquainted friends. Hanson Park would not have minded to be much more familiar with the enchanting Mabel Shaw. However, he kept very silent throughout the dinner. After their coffee, tea, pralines and dessert, most of them decided to try their luck at the Empire Casino on deck 2. Mabel politely declined to join them and left. After everybody started to depart from the Queens Grill Restaurant and made their way towards the gambling club, Hanson Park trailed Mabel’s steps. He finally found her on deck 13, sitting alone at the sun deck with her cigarillos.

There were no moon or stars in sight - just a delicious cool breeze and the sound of the crushing waves amid an air of electricity between two people. Mabel was about to light one of her small cigars, when Hanson came forward to ignite it for her. As the tip of the rolled tobacco sparked brightly with red heat, Mabel drew in a long slow breath.  Her dark eyes did not leave Hanson’s face. Then gradually, she turned away as she exhaled into the bewitching night. Without saying a word, she left Hanson’s side and moved towards the railings of the balcony that wrapped around the sun deck. Undeterred, Hanson joined her.

“Is there something you need from me?” She asked when Hanson appeared by her side.

Hanson replied casually - “I am still deciding.”

Mabel did not turn to look at him, but maintained her gaze into the vast darkness, “Deciding on what?”

Hanson said - “Deciding on whether it is something I need from you, or something I want to give to you.”





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