Unraveling, Part 6
Eleven years before…
The morning sun tickled her face causing her to stir. Was she dreaming or was she still dancing to the most romantic version of “Jamaica Farewell” she had ever heard?
Last night could only be described as one of the best nights she had ever experienced. She enjoyed dinner and dancing, their moonlit stroll on the beach, and spending a romantic evening with Kevin. She felt like such a grown up, and she liked it.
He hadn’t pushed her about spending the night, which only added to the romance. In fact, he kissed her hand and thanked her for a wonderful evening when he walked her to her hotel room and left it at that. At that moment, he had won her heart.
She looked at the clock on the white washed wicker bed stand. It read 9:30 a.m. and she jumped up feeling wide-awake. She wanted to take an early morning stroll on the beach before she met Kevin by the pool at 10:30, but she missed her opportunity. Seconds later, a loud knock on the door startled her.
“Hotel security, miss. Are you in there?”
She jumped up and tied a robe around her pajamas, then opened the door to a tall, well-dressed man with an odd look on his face. In the background, she noticed people scurrying about in chaos.
“What’s going on?” she asked.
“Hurricane’s comin’,” the man said. “We must insist that everyone to come to the hotel dining room quick as possible.”
She looked at the sky and noticed the thick dark gray storm clouds moving in. The air was also blowing strong and most of the foliage planted throughout the resort seemed to vanish in a whirl of high winds. It was quite a different picture from the day before.
“Will we have to evacuate?” she asked feeling slightly scared.
“Don’t know yet, miss. Please be in the main dining room inside the hotel within 20 minutes.”
“Wait!” she shouted as the man began to walk away. “Should I pack my things?”
“No time for that, miss. Just take a few necessities with you, and we’ll send someone in to get the rest of your things. We want to make sure you are safe.”
She closed the door and began to get dressed immediately. The writer in her couldn’t help but be excited about the experience to come. About 25 minutes later, she carried her backpack filled with essentials into the grand dining room inside the hotel. She’d dressed comfortably in a pair of shorts and a short-sleeved blouse, but packed a sweatshirt and long pants in case it got cold.
The dining room was buzzing with excitement. Jess scanned the large room hoping to see Kevin. and decided to settle at a table in the corner alone. She’d have a better view of who came in from there.
“Ladies and gentlemen, there is no reason for concern,” the hotel manager called from center stage and he held a portable microphone. “The hurricane is expected to hit us about 2 p.m., but you will all be safe inside the main hotel. We ask that everyone stay inside the dining area, or the general lobby.”
“I thought it was supposed to miss us,” a man shouted from the crowd.
“The storm took a turn last night, and it looks like it’s headed towards our island,” the hotel manager answered. Noise and buzz took over instantly and the announcer tried to regain order inside the large room.
“Please remain calm. There is no need to worry. We just want everyone to stay here so we can keep an eye on you.”
“Will we evacuate?” another man shouted.
“No, it’s too late to get everyone off the island safely, so we’ll stay put and batten down the hatches. We’ve been through this before,” the manager tried to assure the crowd, “so we are prepared.”
Jess’s stomach began doing flip-flops. She couldn’t help but worry about the employees rustling around the hotel complex packing for all of the tourists. Who was at home for them making sure everything they had would be safe? Where was Kevin and why wasn’t he in the room with the rest of the crowd?
Seconds later, she saw him. Like Kismet, he spotted her, too, and their eyes locked. He whispered something to his friends, and they smiled and patted him on the back while he walked away. They settled at a table on the other side of the room while he walked towards her. Then, she felt at ease.
“Good morning,” she said shyly.
“Despite the chaos around us, it is a good morning,” he said. “How are you holding up?”
She shrugged. “Me? I’m fine. I’m tough, remember? How are you?”
He grinned. “I’m a bit shaken up. I was woken out of a lovely dream I was having about you.”
“Mind if I join you?” he asked.
“I’d actually have to insist that you did.” She smiled. “Who else will keep an eye on you? I actually enjoy being the hero in this relationship.”
He laughed. “You know what that means don’t you? Saving someone once is good, but if you save them twice, they are yours forever.”
Bravely, she reached for his hand and she kissed it gently, just as he had done with hers the night before. It was a move that her grandmother would have called brazen, but it felt natural.
Over the next several hours, it appeared as though the hotel management had acted prematurely. All tourists were present and accounted for, and all of their baggage was out of harm’s way, but nothing had happened to cause any alarm. The winds were strong and you could hear them whipping around outside, but the rains hadn’t started. The tourists were growing anxious, and a few were even upset that they weren’t allowed to venture outside.
The staff tried to make everyone as comfortable as possible and kept passing around coffee, Danish, soft drinks, and sandwiches. The Reggae band was performing now, and while no one was dancing, it certainly added a bit of cheer. The words of the crooning singer added to their hope. “Don’t worry ‘bout a thing cause every little thing’s gonna be all right…”
As the hours passed, they sat alone at their own corner table, and discovered they had a lot in common. Both were raised in similar households, and were from families of four children. He had three older sisters, and she had three younger brothers. Both went through 12 years of Catholic school, determined they were fine despite it, and had the same Irish-German heritage.
When the rains started pounding the island later that afternoon, the windows in the hotel began to rattle. You could hear gasps when the group spotted a few beach chairs outside flying around that had gotten loose, but mostly everything was taken inside to avoid a problem.
The hotel manager came back out with his microphone for his hourly update. “The storm is just about here now,” he said, “so we recommend that everyone bring their chairs to the wall and sit around the parameter of the room. You’ll all be safer there.”
Suddenly everyone started to buzz, but it wasn’t quite a panic. By then, they had all submitted to the experience of the hotel staff. Everyone, including the hotel staff obeyed and found spots along the wall.
Jess and Kevin found a perfect spot near the doorway. It wasn’t as secluded, as she would have wished, but it could be considered semi private. He held her hand tightly, and although she wasn’t afraid, she was grateful to have his warm body right next to hers.
Within minutes, the eye of the storm slammed into the hotel as a few of the windows shattered, and the hotel lost electricity. Sitting in the dark wasn’t a comfort for the children in the crowd, and many of them started to cry. To Jess, however, it was paradise. Kevin put his arm around her, gently turned her face towards his, and kissed her softly. It was a moment she knew she’d remember for the rest of her life.
To be continued on Wednesday, September 18…