Excitement filled the air as we boarded the cruise ship. Artemis and I were on a mission, but the thought of getting away with her filled me with hope amidst the heartache. I laced my fingers with hers and exchanged a smile. I think she felt it, too.
So much had happened since that fateful day when Sayeh sacrificed herself for us against Ourea. For me alone, I’d cut my hair for the first time in centuries, found a home, and a love, unlike any other I have had before. My face flushed at the thought of the wild woman at my side. What a pair we make. Perfectly matched and yet opposite in all the right ways.
I came back to the present as the staff whistled for us to start moving again. We unlaced our hands and grabbed our bags. One thing we had in common was how lightly we packed for an adventure.
We made our way through the lines and to our room. I threw my duffle bag on the floor and took her in my arms. Looking her in the eyes, I pulled the band from the end of her braid and ran my fingers through her hair, letting the locks cascade down her back. “Give me one day with it down, yeah?” She smiled in return and shook her hair loose.
“Deal, but it goes back up when we get on land, okay?”
A twinkle hit my eye as I ran my hands through her hair again, twining my fingers through it and gripping the back of her head, pulling her close. “Agreed,” I mumbled before I kissed her, lighting up the room with my glow.
Later that day, we made our way to the lido deck for dinner. She had a strappy little sundress on, and my eyes kept drifting to the swish of hair on her back. I ran my fingers through her hair again while we waited in line for our turn at the buffet. Leaning forward I whispered in her ear, “I keep forgetting we aren’t alone on the ship, Akti.”
She giggled and glanced back at me, color on her cheeks in a display of embarrassment. “Me too, Selini.”
We filled our plates and sat down at a table, nibbling on our selections while watching the mortals and immortals mingle together. The mortals were completely oblivious to our presence, and that suited us just fine. I glanced over at Artemis and noticed she was just shifting her food around on her plate again. The last few months, she had barely eaten. Her worry over Sayeh affected her appetite. Remembering the way I ran my hands over her body earlier, I reached out and moved an errant strand of hair off of her shoulder. I closed my eyes and sighed, feeling bone beneath my touch, instead of the strong muscles I was used to seeing and feeling there.
“Akti,” I began, “please, eat.” My voice broke. “You won’t be strong enough to help Sayeh if you don’t feed your mortal form. Look at yourself, my love. I’m worried about you,” I pleaded. “I understand the worry. I understand the lack of appetite, but you have to eat.”
She turned and looked at me, a sad smile creeping across her face. “I know, Selini. I have tried.” She shook her head, looking down in sadness. “I get ill when I do. I just…can’t.”
“Look, try some for me, and I’ll hold your hair if you get sick.” I smiled at her, trying to lighten the mood.
Nodding, she grinned weakly at me and took a bite. Her face wrinkled as she swallowed but managed to get in about half her plate of dinner.
We finished dinner and headed to a comedy show, and by the time it was over, evening had come. We walked out on the deck to watch the sunset over the horizon. I stopped at the bar to grab a couple of drinks for us, leaving me a few steps behind her. I paused upon my approach and watched as Artemis leaned against the railing, looking down at the water below. The sun streaked through her windblown hair as her face lit up. Closing the distance between us, I saw what she was smiling at. Looking down over the railing with her, I saw a pair of dolphins playing in the wake made by the ship. A smile crept across my face, and I handed Artemis her drink.
“Aren’t they spectacular?” I asked her. “And so intelligent, too. That one is the Atlantic Saddleback dolphin. See the white markings on its back by their dorsal fins?” She nodded, excitement growing between us as we watched them play.
We finished our drinks while we watched them play until the sun had set completely. The deck lights came on, and the dolphins became too hard to see below us. We often talked about animals. It was one of the many things we had in common. We walked along the deck, hand in hand as we spoke. A green scarf flew past us on the wind and caught Artemis’ eye. Her face dropped again as she was reminded of Sayeh, and she shivered. I let go of her hand and wrapped my arm around her.
“We’ll get there. Look, we are on our way now, aren’t we? I know you wish you could have teleported there, but this way we get to spend some time together, as well. Remember? Come on, Let’s go back to the room. I am sure I can distract you…” I dropped my arm and tickled her ribs in an attempt to make her laugh. She smiled at my feeble attempt, took my hand from her side, and pulled me back to her.
“Ok, distract me,” she said with a grin, and we walked back to our room.
We spent the rest of the cruise similarly and met up with a few friends along the way. Persephone, Urania, Athena, Medusa, and Morpheus were all there, too. We met up for dinner and drinks a few times, but Artemis and I spent most of our time together.
On the last day of the cruise, I was in the shower while Artemis slept, and that’s when it happened. There was a huge explosion that rocked the entire ship. Artemis yelled from the room as I turned off the water and grabbed a towel.
Artemis was pulling on clothes when I entered. “What the hell was that?”
“I don’t know, but it can’t be good!” Artemis answered as she threw a pair of pants at me.
I caught them and draped them over my shoulder as I dried my hair with the towel.
She dressed and grabbed a quick kiss on her way out the door. “I’ll see you out there, promise, but I have to go see what’s going on.”
Returning the kiss, I replied, “Yeah, no worries, Akti. Be careful.”
“Of course, Selini.” She nodded and ran out the cabin door.
I didn’t see her again after that.
By the time I made it on deck, it was pandemonium. Mortals running around, screaming in panic as the crew and immortals tried to maintain order. I was attempting to get a small group of mortals to the lifeboat loading area when the sky blackened and the wind whipped with hurricane force. Before I could even react, a wall of water came at the ship and…