Danny stood in front of the mirror and looked at the hairstyles while she ran her fingers through her thinning hair. She took Claire’s suggestion of taping the drawings to the mirror so she looked at them every day. She hated the idea of an ugly cut, especially facing her son in two months. Her eyes darted from one drawing to another but she always went back to her favorite. She thought about all the events since meeting her four young friends. How they stood up to challenges without a second thought and wondered if she would ever feel that way again. Well, she thought, it was bravery she admired in her young friends and she supposed that might start with a new hairstyle. She pulled the drawing from the mirror and went to find Claire.
Claire’s eyes were as big as saucers looking at the drawing Danny chose, “you want to what?”
“Go to one of those fancy salons in Beverly Hills and have that done to my hair.”
Claire was excited over Danny’s choice and agreed to get an appointment as soon as possible.
“Tell them it’s for Sepora Meyers and only their best artist.”
“Um, yes I will be sure to mention it.”
When the work was done for the day, Danny reminded Claire to call for an appointment and chuckled all the way to her room on the lower level. If only she could be a fly on the wall when Claire calls.
“Hello, I need to make an appointment for a cut and color for my friend, but it has to be this week sometime. Is that possible? Not until next Wednesday? Well, ok. Her name is Sepora Meyers. Excuse me? Yes, Sepora Meyers of New York, why, do you know her? Tomorrow at one in the afternoon works very well. Thank you.”
Claire clicked off her call and looked at the stairs going to the lower level. She was shocked the receptionist knew who Danny was like she was shocked that Sam Elliot would be her date for the party. Her curiosity got the better of her and she spun her laptop to Google Sepora Meyers. For the next hour, Claire read about Danny’s incredible life. There were three full pages of search results, starting with her debutante year going forward to the present. Aside from a grainy picture of their wedding, there wasn’t much said about her marriage and she never married again. She was the wealthiest woman in America, third richest overall. Claire looked around at the grand saloon dripping with luxury and was grateful she could get to know Danny before learning just how wealthy she was. The Danny she knew was down to earth, loving, and concerned about everything except money. She would spare no expense to help the crew or the four of them, including new tuxedos, beautiful dresses, and now Maia’s engagement ring. It filled Claire with warmth thinking about all she had done for every one of them.
The following day was girls’ day out and Darius tendered them to the dock and waved. His eyes lingered on Maia and she giggled before turning around. That was the last sane moment of the day. They shopped Rodeo Drive before finding the salon where Claire and Maia would bite their fingernails waiting to see the change in Danny. They lost themselves in magazines for an hour and a half until Claire heard Danny’s voice and looked up.
“Oh, my God. Oh, my … Danny it’s perfect!”
Danny heard the sincerity in their voice and agreed, this cut and color took ten years off her looks. The stylist kissed both of her cheeks and promised to fit her in anytime she was in town. The other stylists fawned over her, and Danny beamed.
“Maybe I should get my hair cut and colored blonde.”
Claire linked her arm in Maia’s and pulled them both out of the salon to hail a cab for lunch at Spago. The taxi driver promised to stay against the curb because without reservations they would never be seated. After waiting for ten minutes, he finally pulled away. Danny was recognized instantly and they were seated in the middle of the dining room for all to see. After an amazing lunch, they were off for more shopping at the famous Beverly Hills stores.
A lifetime of the same hairstyle and natural color defined Danny’s life. Moderate, safe, little consideration for herself. Despite her wealth, she lived for the benefit of others. Mousy brown hair, parted down the middle, hanging straight just to her shoulders. Now it was bobbed and swept provocatively to the side in three tones of the new gray. Reflective surfaces were everywhere in Beverly Hills providing Danny with a continuous shock when catching her reflection. She no longer felt invisible.
Darius pulled up to the dock at four o’clock that afternoon and looked at the space in the tender, worried that all the bags wouldn’t fit. Three happy women piled in and Darius helped get the bags settled before really looking at Danny. He stared at her smiling and reached for her hand.
“You are stunning, Danny.”
She smiled her gratitude and the happy conversation was back. Darius looked at Maia as if to say, are you alright, did you have fun, did you miss me? Maia jumped out of her seat and kissed him hard, making the other two laugh at her blushing face.
Back on the yacht, Claire pulled each of her treasures out of bags and boxes, hanging them up or putting them in drawers. She and Jamie had reservations for dinner in two days, just the two of them, and she had the perfect outfit now. She couldn’t wait. The last thing she pulled out was a short nightgown and matching robe made out of luxurious satin and the softest lace. It looked extravagant and felt like heaven, accentuating her curves with a plunging neckline that exposed enough breast to make a man crazy. Or so she hoped. She needed some Jamie time and this was her catalyst.
Claire could not forget the amazing sex the day Jamie had two orgasms. The next morning, she made sure she woke up early enough to rub her backside against her husband, knowing he woke up eager and willing. Later, she ran up the stairs to the upper saloon where the movie library was kept. She saw two bumps under a blanket and heard Maia giggle.
“I won’t be but a minute.”
Searching the movie titles turned frustrating when she couldn’t find anything with sex scenes. When she started back at the front of the first row, Darius told her the interesting movies were in the back on separate shelves. In her embarrassment, she grabbed the first one she saw and blasted out of the saloon. After a relaxing bath, she slipped the satin nightgown over her head and ran her fingers down the sides. Then she picked up her phone and sent a text to Jamie inviting him to a movie in their room.
She spun around hearing someone knock on her door and looked down at her skimpy satin robe. Feeling brave, the belt was pulled tight and Chef was let in with a large tray of sushi which he placed on a side table, looking at the walls and the ceiling in his haste to get away. She dabbed lip gloss on her lips and touched a drop of Opium perfume behind her neck before Jamie came bounding into the room with a big smile on his face. His expression went straight to her brain yelling Bingo! He watched her cross the room and bring him a sample of sushi, although she doubted he tasted much the way he looked at her.
“Shower before the movie, or should we just start it and eat?”
He said not a word as his clothes came off and he jumped under the water before it was warmed up. Claire giggled at the sound he made when freezing water hit his flesh. She put the tray on the expansive bed and cued the movie feeling Jamie’s arms circle her waist and pull her to him.
Jamie took the remote from her hand and dropped it on the bed, “I’d rather not have the distraction Sassenach because I have things to do, and I will explain as I go. First, I will kiss you deeply while I investigate your robe and what’s under it with my hands.”
The way he spoke and looked at her took Claire’s breath away. Deep kissing and exploring hands left her panting and when he broke the kiss, she dropped to her knees pulling the towel from him. She teased and played with him while he watched, seeing her arousal leap to the next level. His big hand held her lower jaw to slow her down, and he felt his heart melt when she looked up at him.
Jamie pulled Claire to her feet and removed her robe, admiring her perfect curves, wanting to pull the teddy off with his teeth. “We’ll come back to that, love. Let’s eat.”
There were good intentions behind suggesting they eat. Jamie was starving and Claire was too far ahead in their dash for release. Food was replenishing and grounding and he would enjoy pushing her arousal back up. He inhaled the sushi and Claire picked at hers with eyes that burned into his soul. Jamie looked up as the fourth piece went into his mouth and he almost choked at her blazing eyes, wet lips, and obvious struggle.
“If you stop eating, mo chridhe, I stop too. Do you understand?”
He pushed the sushi toward her mouth and settled between her legs, watching her come undone. Whatever plans he had to control the dash went out the window as he pushed her to the mattress and pulled her hips to his mouth. When he felt her warm, wet mouth around him they were locked into the carnal need of the other. Hearing Claire whine and plead was like rocket fuel to Jamie, and they crashed into the pulsing erotic zone together.
Claire could feel Jamie’s arms quiver when he pulled her to him. She pressed her face into his neck and held him close, feeling him drift into sleep. The aroma from something delicious drifted to her nose, making her stomach growl loudly. She needed a plate full to restore her.
“Jamie, love, aren’t you hungry?”
Claire looked for clothes to put on for dinner and felt Jamie come up behind her, holding her favorite lounging dress.
“Leave that on Sassenach and pull this over it. I’ve not had but a minute to feel it.”
They joined the others for a delicious Mediterranean meal with all the side dishes Maia, and Darius loved. Chef was still celebrating their reunion the only way he knew how, fabulous food. With the party still a long way off, dinners were low-key and conversational. Chef continued to feed them until they held hands up to protest. Any leftovers were wrapped in the refrigerator and consumed by the first person to find them the next day.
Meals were always served by the crew. Danny had ordered Cici to work in the kitchen, below deck, and avoid interacting with Maia and Darius. A rare directive Danny allowed herself in the light of Cici’s destructive behavior. If Darius noticed her absence he covered it well.
Claire flopped onto the bed with a groan of overindulgence and felt Jamie pull her up and lift the dress over her head, slipping her arms into the little robe he held.
“You’re done in little love, so let’s watch the movie and when you fall asleep, I’ll hold you until morning.”
Claire’s brain was not fully functional due to fatigue and too much food. As soon as Jamie laid down, she cuddled up to him and fell asleep as the movie started. Jamie moaned when he slid his big hand down her back, “so soft.” Within the first ten minutes of the movie, Jamie realized it was more soft porn and punched buttons on the remote trying to stop it. Claire’s hand came up and pushed the remote to the bed, apparently annoyed with his movement. Jamie exhaled and resigned himself to listening to the movie until he fell asleep. He cuddled his wife and closed his eyes while the dialogue drifted into his ears and dreams for the duration of the movie. When his eyes popped open at three o’clock in the morning, there would be no earthly object or verbal objection that would stop him. He devoured Claire in a thrilling, mind-bending assault until the first rays were coming over the horizon.
Jamie looked at his wife, covered in sweat, already asleep, and felt his love welling up inside him, wondering if he would burst from the pressure. Grabbing a towel from the bathroom, he dried her face in dabs and pulled the towel down her arms and chest, trying not to disturb her too much. She spoke in French, something she did when exhaustion made her talk in her sleep, rather than wake up. He loved listening to the few words he could understand, like peering into her unguarded mind. Claire felt strong arms hold her in the swirl of images that danced in her dream.
“Mon amour a accroché la lune ... une ét ... ma dévot...” She twisted in his arms and pressed her face into his neck, “plus proche!”
“Oui, mon amour, toujours.”
Darius almost stumbled down the stairs and shook his head to wake up. How could he not notice the one thing that was missing this morning, Jamie? As constant as the sunrise, Jamie was up at dawn, always, and his contribution of work far outweighed the rest of them as a result. Whatever kept his friend in bed this morning deserved a phone call to reschedule their meeting with the engineer until later in the week. Darius pushed buttons on his phone, giving Jamie a pass for the rest of the day.
San Diego is known for beautiful weather in early November, and today was no exception. Danny requested Chef prepare a lunch to be consumed with one hand if the other was busy with a fishing pole. Darius was excited about a day of fishing and turned to Google to find the best locations and Google did not disappoint. Jamie and Claire emerged from their rooms almost bumping into the crew making way to depart their anchorage. Danny laughed and squeezed Chef’s arm at the trays of finger foods that were carried to the foredeck by the crew.
Jamie’s smile was radiant, “Looks like we’re fishing today!”
The sunny day, and exciting excursion, filled them with happiness as pole after pole was baited and cast far from the boat. It felt like playing hooky, adding to the list of features that defined this remarkable day.
The lounge chairs, warmed by the sun, felt like heaven as each reclined, lazily holding their poles. Food and frothy beer were an arm’s reach away, and the conversation was laced with humor. Not Danny. She stood and watched the water where her line went under, diligently, unwaveringly. Steven removed the trays, squinting his eyes from the stinging sun bouncing off the water. He was back in a few minutes to push Danny’s sunglasses to her face. Not a word between them, Danny smiled her thanks but never took her eyes off her string going into the water.
Danny was first to feel the jerk of a fish on her line. She let out a whoop of glee and Claire moved to help but was stopped by Jamie. He picked up her pole and whispered not to help, this part was the most fun if Danny did it alone. Claire reluctantly took her pole but kept eyes on Danny. Jamie burned the image of Danny’s face into his brain and likened it to the first ride on a roller coaster.
Danny’s lips moved as she counted the seconds before pushing the reel into the locked position to drive the hook deeper into the fish. The pole jerked so hard it flew out of her hands, right into Jamie’s fist as he grabbed for it. Even he had trouble hanging onto the jerking pole and called for Darius to assist.
They pushed Danny into one of the straight-backed chairs, bolted to the deck for this very occasion. The butt of the pole was shoved into a special hole attached to the footrest of the chair and her wild hands were guided to hold the pole above the reel. The men let go of her hands cautiously as if she would lose her grip at any second. Darius coached her from behind her seat, ready to grab the pole if she lost it. Danny’s screams of delight brought the crew out, one by one, to witness her battle against what they assumed was a monster fish. Chef came out with fresh beers and stayed to encourage her.
“You won’t boat it from here, Danny. Open your reel, let him dive, five seconds, and then lock it.”
The fish overruled that directive, deciding to end this annoyance, and used his mighty strength to pull the line out with him, as he dove to get away. The zing of the line pulling out against the locked reel intensified and Danny looked from Darius to Jamie for help. They both held their hands in the surrender position, smiling with excitement but unwilling to take over. When Danny realized she was on her own her countenance became militant as she sat back in the chair with a stern face.
Darius watched the reel rapidly losing line and looked at Jamie, shaking his head. He gave her a hail-Mary directive to unlock the reel in hopes the fish would finally stop when the pressure of the hook was relieved. It was doubtful the ruse would prevent the line from snapping once the reel was empty. The zinging sound stopped instantly when she pushed the lock open and the men counted the seconds, watching the remaining line disappear.
Chef was turning red from holding his breath and his loud exhalation made everyone look at the unmoving reel. Darius held his hand up to the others to remain quiet before he instructed Danny to reel in the line as fast as she could.
“Faster Danny, he swam toward us and you have no control until you reel all that line in. When you can feel the fish again, stop. Excellent! You still have him, so let him play until you tire him out.”
The reel now had a healthy layer of line and the pole jerked tentatively like the fish was too tired to fight. Darius fed her instructions to pull the fish toward the boat, pulling with the pole high above her head, and then reel as fast as she could.
Claire watched Danny’s face, bursting with happiness and determination. Stinging tears pressed her eyes for release and she turned her head toward Maia when they spilled over and ran down her cheeks. Maia smiled at the sentiment and pulled Claire’s sunglasses from the top of her head, running her hand down her arm.
Jamie was hyper-aware of Claire’s moods, and he smiled at the back of her head. He had never seen happy tears until he met Claire. In regards to Danny, there were many happy tears. He remembered Claire stopping abruptly right in front of him to watch Danny reading to Adso from a book she ordered on cat breeds, and Adso appeared to be listening. The tears flowed as Claire watched the intimate scene and Jamie wrapped his arms around her and whispered: “you’re a sissy” into her ear.
Claire was an emotional girl, and he loved her for it. She was genuine and unguarded, with him, and with Danny. After she left him in Paris, his love took six months to penetrate the walls Claire had erected to protect herself, but Danny pulled them down the first week they knew her. It baffled him. Danny would make her own way soon, and he worried about Claire missing her. It’s why he painted his latest picture of Claire and Danny, both holding a fishing pole, dissolving in laughter. He showed it to no one and finally finished it the day before. Feeling jubilant, he painted the name and signature into a lower corner; JAMF, “A Moment to Remember.” He was eager to show it to her, but that would have to wait until tomorrow. Tonight he would romance his true love over candlelight and kiss her on the beach until he was king of men in her world.
Noise and excitement pulled Jaime back to the present to see Darius lower their new extended pole and net to the water, looking for Danny’s catch. He saw the glint of silver and unmistakable yellow stripe down the side just before the fish suddenly dove, making the reel zing again. Danny laughed and wiped the sweat off her forehead with her sleeve, holding the pole for dear life.
“Danny, you’re exhausted. Why not let the men bring the fish in?”
“My dear Claire, I would not miss this chance for all the tea in China!”
It would be another hour before the big yellow-fin tuna slipped into the net and was hoisted onto the deck. The crew cheered and Danny beamed as the large fish was placed in her lap for a picture.
The women gathered at the galley sink and giggled while they soaped their hands and handed cut lemon wedges to Danny. Maia cleaned up the galley when Claire helped Danny downstairs for a nap and heard their laughter all the way to Danny’s rooms.
A day off in the sun was a tonic to them all so Claire was not disappointed to postpone dinner ashore with Jamie. She didn’t want to rush through getting ready because it was half the fun of going out on a romantic date. She suggested a postponement to Jamie and was curious about his excited smile. He bolted for the studio, happy for the opportunity to unveil the painting. Claire laughed at his retreating back and shook her head, wondering what task he was hellbent on doing.
Everyone on the boat seemed to enjoy some private time, to read, or nap or any other pursuit to keep them in their respective rooms and away from the saloon. The large picture was placed on the arms of a dining chair and draped while Jamie paced, waiting to show it. One by one, they drifted back to the saloon for drinks before dinner, eyeing the draped shape, excited to see Jamie’s new painting. Claire laid on their bed, book on her chest and felt Jamie take her hand, pulling her to the surface.
“What is it? What’s happened, Jamie?”
He smiled and apologized for waking her as he pulled her to her feet. “Come Sassenach,” was all he said and pulled her toward the dining room. Adso was perturbed at being awakened by his mistress getting out of bed but dutifully followed, feeling strange and happy energy in the air. They joined the others and waited for Jamie to remove the drape. When he pulled it away the room was silent, causing him to look from one to the other with dread.
“What is it called?”
Jamie heard the quivering voice of his love choke out the question. Her tears flowed freely as Danny moved to her side and held onto her hand.
“It’s remarkable,” whispered in awe as Danny squeezed her eyes to focus.
Jamie’s brilliant smile lit up the room as he exhaled in relief. Darius watched him with a look of bewilderment dawning on his face. Maia had moved to the women and Darius continued to stare at the relief in Jamie’s face.
“You have no idea, do you?”
Jamie looked at Darius, trying to figure out what the question meant. “About what?”
Darius continued to stare, and Jamie was feeling self-conscious again.
“It is a cruel trick of nature when the truly gifted doubt their ability, and they are everywhere, the truly gifted, in all walks of life. Like a stunning beauty that’s insecure about her looks, a brilliant composer who never dares to hear his own music, or a …”
“Gifted captain, and leader of men, who never takes command,” Danny finished his sentence and then looked at Claire, “Or the purest heart fears she can’t be loved so she becomes the unloved, by nefarious means.” Danny reached for Maia’s hand. “Another, rare and innocent, stands ready to fight for her share because the mirror reflects the undeserving.”
Claire, Maia, and Darius had backed away from Danny when their truth wrapped around their heart.
“Oh my, I didn’t mean to throw a wet blanket on everyone. Jamie dear, I collect art, always have. The walls of my mansion are covered with every period and master, and I love each of them. You could paint a cow on her period and it would evoke emotion in all who saw it. It is a stunning and brilliant painting that will forever take us back to that special day.”
The four of them laughed at a cow on her period, breaking the somber mood. Danny implanted a painful seed in three of them and covered the wound with humor as only she could. Her instincts told her it was time to heal four extraordinary people and pay the miracle of her gift forward. She glanced at Jamie, feeling sad that his seed of truth was coming tonight, but it was a giant oak, fully grown, that would tear his soul apart. She squared her shoulders and prayed that the purest heart would pull him through it.
The crew filled the table with dishes of food to pass, person to person, family-style. It was one of Danny’s rules. Communal dining, no matter how busy they became hosting the parties around the world. The mood turned jovial and conversation continually turned back to the painting, making Jamie very happy.
Chef came to the table with dessert, delighted to share time with these cheerful people.
“Look at that beautiful painting! Danny is surely blessed to find the four of ya before you start popping babies out. Another year and she would be making this trip alone.” He smiled brightly and passed desert to each of them before returning to the galley.
Jamie wasn’t smiling anymore. He stared at the cake in front of him with unfocused eyes as the torment took root. He felt fear, somewhere deep inside, and struggled to understand what was happening. Danny knew exactly what was happening and was helpless to stop it.
“I’m sorry, Sassenach, I’m not feeling well suddenly. Please excuse me, Danny.” He left the table and Claire left shortly after to check on him. Once her eyes adjusted to the dark she could see Jamie laying on the bed staring at the ceiling.
“Jamie, are you alright?”
“I’m fine, Sassenach, just a headache that I need to sleep off. Go back to dinner.”
“But I could…”
“Please love, I’ll be right by morning.”
When the door closed quietly behind her, a tear rolled down the side of Jamie’s face. His torment had begun in earnest.