Friday, April 28, 2006

Author Note of Gratitude

Thanks to everybody for following the stories on my blog. I can't tell you how encouraging your comments and emails have been to me. I treasure each and every one of you.

Special thanks to those who saw fit to buy a book every now and then. One reader (Latrice) bought every book I had for sale. And she didn't even utilize my Friday 2 for 1 special either. Now that really humbled me.

Again, THANKS EVERYBODY...for everything!


Suprina

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Author Question (s)

As many of you know, Friday Date Night is due to start again soon (May 5th). I wanted to see if you all are ready for it? Or if you would like another long preview like I did this month?

The reason for these questions is because I still have tons of editing deadlines to meet (April went by much faster than I thought). It would be much simpler for me to simply post chapters of a book that's already written, then to have to write new installments of an ongoing story every week.

However, if yall are really missing Friday Date Night, I will gladly take the time to do it. LOL. It was fun having you guys decide how each storyline should end. And the interactions were priceless.

Let me know something by Sunday (April 30th), okay?

Be blessed,

Suprina

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 12

By mid-December the island buddies were growing antsy. They’d been shipwrecked for over three months now and the hope of them ever leaving the island was slowly dissipating with each day. Nevertheless, the love they felt for each other was growing by leaps and bounds.

Unfortunately, neither of them had confessed that love to the other yet. And although the loving looks they shared at times told some of the tale, it was just a matter of time before their lips filled in the blanks and told it all.

***

Early on Christmas morning Jamaal awakened before sunrise and went to the captain’s quarters. He was determined that this day would go the way he planned. When he found what he was looking for, he purposefully made his way to Angel’s cabin.

Jamaal had had enough. He’d had enough of withholding his feelings for Angel. Enough of looking, but not touching her. Enough of lying in bed alone at night when he could be holding her in his arms.

If I have to be on this island, cut off from civilization, at least I can be happy with the woman I love, Jamaal thought, knowing that he definitely loved Angel.

Angel’s bravery, perseverance and ability to rise above adversity had endeared her to him forever. Jamaal even adored and respected the fact that there were moments when she went off by herself. Who didn’t need a little solitude every now and then? Those times helped to refresh a person. And the fact that Angel was beautiful and had legs as shapely as any Olympic gymnast didn’t hurt, either.

“Tap, tap,” Jamaal’s mahogany knuckles sounded on Angel’s white cabin door with thick anticipation.

She immediately answered it, looking as radiant as ever. Her sandy hair was healthy again and it was picked out into a full afro. The jeans she wore were formfitting and had been literally stoned washed in the sea once a week with their other garments. The white t-shirt she wore said, ‘I’m blessed’. That declaration was true. Angel was blessed. Very blessed. She had to be in order to have made it this far.

“Hello, Jamaal…”Angel began. Her voice soon trailed off as he swiftly went down on one knee in front of her.

Martinez scrambled out the door and joined Jamaal there on the floor. He looked inquisitively from one human to the other as he wagged his tail enthusiastically. It was as if he could since the excitement of the moment.

Before Angel could say anything else, Jamaal proposed. “Will you marry me, Angel? I love you and if I’m not mistaken, I believe you love me, too,” he said. Even now he remembered catching her staring at him on several occasions with that special look that a woman only gives a man she loves. His mother used to look at his father that way, as if every word he said was precious and important to her.

Jamaal also remembered the sweet terms of endearments Angel had uttered when he was ill. Endearments that removed any doubt in his mind concerning her love for him. Now he just needed for her to say it.

Angel’s green eyes grew wide and glossy with emotion. She nodded. “Yes, I will marry you. And you’re right. I do love you. I have loved you for months now. I was just too afraid to tell you.” Happy tears slid down her cheeks as a smiling Jamaal slipped a thick gold clustered ring on her finger.

Angel was completely unaware of the significance of this particular ring. First of all, the ring had been passed down through the Norris family for three generations. Grandpa Norris gave it to his son and Major Norris gave it to his son on his deathbed. Yet the fact that Jamaal was viewing the ring as a precious wedding gift and not just as another unpleasant reminder of his past gave the ring its most significance. For the giving of this ring was a positive sign of his emotional recovery.

Over the last few months, Jamaal has finally come to grips with the fact that his father was just human. And that as such was subject to error like anyone else. No parent is perfect and they shouldn’t be expected to be.

Major Norris raised Jamaal the only way he knew how – with strict adherence to order and discipline in a world often devoid of both. Although Jimmie’s methods had been a bit excessive at times, his motives had originated from a pure place in his heart. He’d wanted to rear up a strong, capable, responsible young man who would be an asset to any community. Jamaal was most certainly that. In fact, it is a documented fact that Lorenzo Beach’s homes are safer because of his security company.

“But how will we get married, Jamaal? There’s no one here to marry us,” Angel said, still trying to take it all in. The wide smile on her face was joy wrapped up in layers of happiness. She was ecstatic.

Jamaal rose from his knees and smiled down into her face. “There was no man around to marry Adam and Eve either, remember? Yet all of the principal parties were there. All of the principal parties are here, too, Angel – me, you and God. And even though we don’t have a man around to witness our nuptials, we will recite our vows to each other before God. He’s the one that matters the most anyway.”

Then Jamaal produced a piece of paper. “This is a marriage certificate that I found in the captain’s quarters. I guess he kept them on hand in case people like us wanted to get hitched,” he said. Jamaal reached over to stroke her smooth cheek and added, “We’ll sign this as an outward symbol of our commitment after we say our vows, all right?”

Angel nodded in agreement. She knew Jamaal wasn’t doing this as some deceitful way to get her to sleep with him. If he was that kind of man, he would have jumped her bones months ago. It wasn’t like there were any police around to stop him from forcing himself upon her.

No, Jamaal was a man of integrity. A man who (with God’s help) had policed himself all these months that they’d been on the island together. Yes, Angel was more than happy to marry a man like that.

But still there was a question she had to ask. “What happens to our union, if we get off this island?”

When we get off this island, we’ll renew our vows in a formal ceremony with as many witnesses as we want. Don’t worry, our marriage will be honored in the sight of God and man,” Jamaal said reassuringly, wrapping his arms lovingly around her.

Those confident words consoled Angel as she relaxed in Jamaal’s embrace, enjoying the way his strong arms enveloped her softness. It was her heart’s desire to do things right this time. One bad marriage was enough.

“I need time to get ready,” Angel said after a few more delightful moments in his arms.

“And time to write your vows,” Jamaal added as he released her. I guess I can wait just a little bit longer to have her.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, April 17, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 11

The rain finally stopped early on Thanksgiving morning. When Jamaal awakened that morning it was to sunlight and to breakfast in bed.

Besides opening the curtain to let in the blessed light, Angel had prepared fish cakes fried in a touch of olive oil and hominy grits that she’d been saving for a special occasion. The silver tray she carried even had a red wildflower on it for extra oomph. A nearly fully recovered Jamaal was more than pleasantly surprised to see her standing over him with this delightful treat.

She must have been up pretty early to do this, he mused, thrilled to no end.

Without asking, Jamaal knew that Angel had gotten the fresh fish from the trap that he’d concocted from various ropes and placed at the end of the boat that was still emerged in water. In hindsight he realized that the idea to make such a trap had been yet another form of God’s provision. The trap caught more fish than the homemade palm tree fishing poles they usually used. Plus it freed up more time for them to focus on other things.

But the most important thing that Jamaal liked about the fish trap and the other contraptions he felt led to make (and had shown his shipmate how to use) was the fact that they brought a level of security with them. Even in his weakest moment, Jamaal felt secure that he’d left Angel with the means to survive no matter what happened to him.

That must be why people take out life insurance policies, he mused, momentarily thinking of his family back home. By now Marla Norris was probably rolling in dough. But knowing his mother she’d simply add Jamaal’s insurance settlement to the money that she uses for her philanthropic ventures. And that’s if she decided to collect on the policy at all. Without a body to bury, Marla would most likely refuse to receive any funds until at least after a year had past.

As Jamaal made room for Angel and the tray on the bed, the green covers he was under slid down to his waist. Soon a muscular mahogany chest with pecks made for loving were revealed. At a glimpse of that wonderful sight Angel almost dropped the tray in her hands. Fortunately, a quick-acting Jamaal kept it steady and guided it safely down to his lap.

This man is always so calm, Angel mused. She could only recall Jamaal losing his composure once. And that was understandably during the worst of the storm. No human being could have stayed calm during all that tumult.

Inwardly, Angel wondered what Jamaal would be like at his rawest given a different situation. A most pleasurable situation where he could be at his rawest while delectably entwined with her.

But Angel didn’t know just how tormented Jamaal was right now sitting beside her, wanting to touch her, wanting to feel every part of the woman who’d nursed him back to health. Yet he refrained from any appearance of passion, quietly keeping his hands and his desires in check.

Yet if she’d only checked his eyes, Angel would have found love and desire holding hands and exchanging kisses the way Jamaal wanted to do with her. Except she was suddenly too nervous to do anything but accept his thanks and hasten out the door to the emotional safety of her room. Angel didn’t even look back at him for fear of what her own eyes would reveal.

***

From that day forward, Jamaal and Angel continued to work together to survive the trial that they’d been placed in. They needed each other. But their relationship had definitely incurred a few significant changes. That much was clear to the both of them and yet neither of them knew what to do about it.

The most obvious change occurred in their dialogue. It became limited to necessary conversation only. The only time Jamaal or Angel expounded upon anything was during Bible study. That was their safety zone. But after awhile, the mounting unuttered feelings between them were even starting to put a strain on that time, too.

On the first bright sunny morning of December, Angel went walking along the seashore with Martinez. Jamaal was busy repairing some of their fish nets at the water’s edge.

As Angel continued to stroll at a leisurely pace, she picked up a few smooth pebbles along the way and began to skip them across the water. A few of them skipped several times before sinking to the depths below. The longest skip touched down on the water six times.

Proud of her accomplishment, Angel clapped her hands with delight. Thinking she was beckoning him, Martinez came closer to her side, leaping excitedly upon her shins.

“I didn’t want you, silly puppy,” Angel said, laughing as she bent down to pat his head.

“Perhaps you wanted me then,” Jamaal suddenly injected from the large rock he sat on nearby. A small smile played at the corners of his mouth.

You bet I want you, Angel mused, looking his way and hoping that her thoughts didn’t register on her face. No such break. Angel’s thoughts were displayed all over her face as if written in neon ink, prompting Jamaal to stop what he was doing and come to her. She could feel her heartbeat thumping excitedly in her throat with each step he took towards her.

Standing before her, Jamaal looked down into Angel’s green eyes and repeated his statement. “I said, perhaps you wanted me then. Do you, Angel? Do you want me?” His voice was soft and husky. His nut-brown eyes were full of love.

Before Angel could answer, a sound from above caught both of their attentions. It was a plane. Quickly reaching for the flares that he always carried in his pants pocket, Jamaal promptly lit them. He hoped and prayed that someone up there would see the signal and rescue them.

Unfortunately, the plane was too high up to see them. And the time of day was such that the flares could not be easily seen due to the glare of the sun.

Unbeknown to Jamaal and Angel, there was another obstacle to their rescue. Even if the plane was lower it would have still been difficult to spot the white boat due to the fact that it was now almost completely hidden by several rows of low hanging trees and thick undergrowth.

Disheartened, the two adults went back to their separate rooms. They forgot for the moment all about their little romantic encounter, the fish net, and the skipping of any pebbles. Even the puppy was quiet, drooping his ears and his tail all the way back to the boat.

***

After landing his plane at a small Floridian airport, Walt Sims took out his phone and dialed Melvin Truxton’s number. After a month of close contact, he now knew the number by heart. Walt was not looking forward to delivering another round of bad news. After weeks of searching, he was starting to feel guilty taking the grieving man’s money, building up what might very well be false hope of ever finding Melvin’s missing daughter.

Walt sighed and waited for someone to answer, knowing that in just a few seconds he’d be advising his client that it was time to give up the search.

***

After hearing the depressing news, Melvin put the phone down. Then he went into his private bathroom and leaned against the wall, crying deep silent tears of grief.

No matter what they say, Angel, you’re not dead to me! You will never be dead to me! Mr. Truxton’s heart lamented from a place of deep anguish.


Angel’s Scripture:
“For thou will light my candle: the Lord my God will enlighten my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Happy Easter!

Just wanted to share a poem with you on Resurrection Sunday. Enjoy it below:

The Promise Made, The Price Paid
Jesus died on the cross for you and for me.
The curse of sin was broken and we were set free.
He paid the price of sin as only He could.
He rose again as He said He would.
The angels asked the women at the empty grave.
"Why look for the living among the dead? Remember the promise He made!"
That He must be delivered into the hands of sinful men,
Be crucified and on the third day, be raised again.
His Life for ours, He freely gave.
So that we could freely choose not to be sin's slave.
(c) 2006 Suprina Frazier

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 10

Three days before Thanksgiving Angel awakened to the sound of Martinez barking loudly next door. He’d slept in Jamaal’s cabin last night. It was odd that the puppy was still inside. With daylight breaking, he and Jamaal would have usually had their early morning walk by now. And though it had been raining for almost a week now, they would have just walked the length of the ship like always.

Rain never deterred Jamaal. And it certainly hadn’t stopped him from going out to gather food for them. In actuality, it seemed to motivate him to find new ways to get the things they needed done. Using the recent rain as inspiration, Jamaal created an efficient way to catch fish so that they wouldn’t have to go out in the elements quite as much.

Angel splashed some water on her face from the bowl she kept on the dresser and then hurried next door. Since they never locked any doors, she knocked the customary three sets of five to signal her presence before going right in.

As soon as Angel opened the door, Martinez scurried outside, eager to relieve himself. Jamaal lay on the crumpled white sheets of his bed, tossing and turning. He even coughed on occasion. His white tank shirt was thoroughly soaked with sweat.

Angel immediately rushed over to him and felt his moist forehead. As suspected, he was burning up with fever. She shook him.

“Jamaal, baby. Please wake up!” Angel watched as his eyes fluttered opened just a little at the sound of her voice. Then to her dismay, they quickly closed again as if it had taken everything in him to even do that. Jamaal was obviously very sick and that knowledge shot a quick dose of panic through Angel’s stomach.

What to do, Lord? Angel prayed, her innermost being instantly reaching out for higher help. Miraculously, before she even finished praying, a prominent thought leaped inside of her spirit. Get the ship’s medicine box.

Fortunately, Angel knew exactly where it was. The medicine box was conveniently located right underneath Jamaal’s bed. She quickly retrieved the black box and opened it. At first glance all she saw was gauze, bandages, allergy medication, and antibiotic ointment. Finally, Angel found cough medication. Quickly scanning the label for ingredients, she discovered that it also contained something for fever and pain.

Lord, I pray he’s not allergic to any of the ingredients, she mused, unscrewing the red bottle top.

Then after pouring Jamaal a glass of water from the glass pitcher on the four-tier oak chest of drawers, Angel forced his head up, cradled it in her lap, and deposited one red and white tablet into his mouth. Thankfully, Jamaal swallowed it along with the water she tipped into his lips. She repeated the action, giving him another pill to complete the recommended dosage for adults. Again, the sick man swallowed successfully, although he could do little else to help his impromptu nurse.

Next, Angel put Jamaal’s head down and straddled him. She had to get him out of those wet clothes. If only he wasn’t so big. The navy shorts were easy, but it took almost all the strength she had to remove his shirt.

It took a different kind of strength altogether not to stare at his delicious muscular frame as she rumbled through his dresser, looking for more clothes. Now was no time to be gawking at the man. Jamaal was sick and in need of someone with a level head.

As Angel concentrated on her task instead of on his body, she realized that she was that person. She was more than capable of putting Jamaal’s needs before her own. The spare blanket that she paused to drape across his body helped out a lot, too.

Then after another brief struggle, she redressed him. Now comes the really hard part, Angel mused as she thought of an effective way to change the damp bedding. Then she had another thought. The cot.

Quickly going to her room, Angel retrieved a green denim cot and wheeled it into Jamaal’s cabin. Then she made it up with clean linen. Next, she pushed the cot right up to the side of the bed and prepared for her next task – Operation Transfer Jamaal.

“Okay, baby, try to help me if you can. I need to move you over to the cot,” Angel whispered in the sick man’s ear.

Jamaal’s lips moved as if he was trying to say something, but nothing came out, except a moan. Angel tried to stay encouraged. She had to get him off of that wet bed.

Okay, God, I need Your help again, she prayed as she positioned her body between the sick man and the wall. Then with mustered up strength, Angel pushed Jamaal over until he lay on his side.

Suddenly, something extraordinary happened. Jamaal used whatever strength he had left to scoot closer to the cot even though it was clear that each movement brought him great discomfit. This man is incredible. I can’t believe he’s actually helping me while he’s in this weakened condition!

After that, all Angel had to do was help lower him safely onto the cot. Finally Jamaal was comfortably positioned on the intended destination. As she sat on the floor to briefly catch her breath, it became crystal clear to Angel that God had helped them once again by pouring strength into Jamaal’s body at the exact moment that they needed it the most.

Thanks, God, she mused with tears of joy streaming down her cheeks. With Phase One now over, it was time for the Watch-as-well-as-pray Phase.

***

Throughout the day, Angel stayed close to Jamaal’s bedside, praying and quoting scriptures pertaining to health and healing. Scriptures that he’d taught her during some of their many Bible study sessions. The only time she left the room was to take Martinez out for another break and to gather tomatoes for the vegetable soup she cooked.

In addition to doing those things, Angel was very careful to give Jamaal more of the cold medication every four to eight hours as prescribed. She was so relieved when his fever finally broke and when his cough quieted down to an every now and again thing. She saw both of those things as positive signs of Jamaal’s recovery.

Around noon Angel sat on the bed reading Jamaal’s Bible and meditating on the truth that God is our Healer and Deliverer when she suddenly had a revelation about her own life. Angel realized that she had been afraid to live alone these last few years and that that fear had been imbedded into her subconscious from her marriage.

Sean had hated Angel’s times of solitude due to the fact they destroyed the ego trip he’d had about her needing him. And because it made him feel left out. In retaliation, Sean went out of his way to discourage Angel from continuing that ritual. He even predicted that if she didn’t stop, she’d end up old and alone in a big empty house without anyone to visit her but stray cats looking for food.

In order to prove Sean wrong and to deal with the secret fear that maybe he was right after all, Angel made it a point to always keep a roommate until she finally moved back home with her parents. Now that no longer mattered. Angel was practically on a whole island alone now and she was doing fine. And even though Martinez and Jamaal were here as well, she now knew that it was God’s presence on this island that made all the difference. HE was the reason for her current peace of mind.

Still in that peaceful frame of mind, Angel looked over at the sleeping man in her midst and smiled. Get better soon, baby, she mused affectionately. She found it interesting that the fear of living alone never even crossed her mind when it came to her reasons for wanting Jamaal well.

Angel’s reasons for wanting Jamaal to recover stemmed from a purely unselfish and fearless place. She wanted him well so that he could live out the rest of his days in peace.

Angel also wanted Jamaal to have peace in his soul. She’d seen those faraway looks and quick flashes of pain that usually crossed his face whenever she talked about her family and how close they were. Those painful looks were especially noticeable when Angel talked about her relationship with her father.

Jamaal hadn’t said anything to her yet, but Angel suspected that his years of growing up as an only child in a two-parent home had been far from ideal. Possibly even very painful. Her heart went out to him.

Heal every hurt he has, Lord, Angel prayed, hoping that one day Jamaal would feel free enough to share more of his story with her. So far she’d only gotten the basics out of him.

***

Around 3pm, Jamaal opened his eyes and enlisted Angel’s help by pointing to the bathroom. Although he didn’t say anything, his eyes revealed the abundance of gratitude he felt as she assisted him to his destination. Then after she helped him back into bed, Jamaal’s eyes never left her face. When Angel spoon-fed him tomato soup, his nut-brown pools seemed to intently peer into her soul, as if searching for something.

Jamaal was searching for something. He was looking for any signs of Angel’s true feelings towards him. He’d heard this magnificent woman pray earnestly for him for hours. He’d listened with his eyes closed to her soothing voice as she offered up heartfelt prayers on his behalf, petitioning God to manifest His healing touch in his body.

But Jamaal had heard other things, too. Things that led him to believe that Angel shared his feelings. Things that made him want to get well speedily.

Three hours later, Jamaal mustered up enough strength to speak. His voice was low and hoarse. “Water,” was his simple request.

Angel immediately poured him a glass of the requested liquid and cradled his head in her lap as he drank. When Jamaal was finished, he looked up into her beautiful face and whispered, “Thanks, Angel.”

Her eyes watered as she nodded in acceptance. “You’re welcome, baby.”

Baby? There’s that word again. Jamaal thought he’d imagined it earlier. He thought he’d been hallucinating due to his high fever. But he didn’t have a high fever now and his mind was very clear.

Now Jamaal knew for certain that Angel had uttered both endearments. His heart soared. He wanted to hold her in his arms, caress her lovely face, do anything besides lay here feeling so weak, so frail. Jamaal became more determined than ever to recover now. He had to. Love had found him again. This time God had brought it through his own personal Angel.


Angel’s Scripture:
“Surely He shall deliver thee from the snare of the fowler, and from the noisome pestilence.” Psalm 91:3

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 9

The next day, Angel carved out an hour of her time just to take a walk in the woods. Whenever there was a crisis-free day she regularly indulged in her old habit of seeking solitude.

Angel needed those times alone to think and reflect about her life, really about life in general. Few people in her life understood that need to be alone. Many deemed her anti-social, unsociable even. Fortunately, Jamaal wasn’t one of them and that pleased her immensely.

Walking in between several rows of tall palm trees, Angel smiled at the green leaves swaying in the gentle breeze. By now she knew every inch of this island, every palm tree, what plants to avoid, which to enjoy. She also knew where most of the slimy creatures liked to parley and which trees the visiting birds liked to sing in as they made their presence known each day.

Continuing her stroll, Angel soon came upon the fresh spring. It gurgled on her right beyond a large mass of flint-like rocks. These were the same gray rocks that Angel and Jamaal used to build their campfires with each night. Pleasant weather, delicious fish, good clean water, and except for the narrow bay and jagged outer shoreline, this patch of land could have been a wonderful island paradise or at least a great vacation resort.

I wonder why it’s not inhabited, Angel mused, finding a safe seat by the gushing water. But like most things in her life right now, she’d have to find that answer out later. In the meantime, Angel was going to enjoy what knowledge, peace, and comfort she’d been blessed with today.

***

In Lorenzo Beach, Melvin Truxton hung up the phone and reached for his black checkbook. He’d just finishing talking to a pilot that he’d hired to fly over certain perimeters of the Atlantic Ocean in search for his daughter. Mr. Sims was coming by to pick up his deposit in an hour. Melvin wanted it to be ready for him when he did.

Not satisfied with the depressing results of the official search that had been conducted by the authorities, Melvin thought it necessary to perform his own search. He needed to do this for his own peace of mind and for the peace of mind of his wife.

After two months with no encouraging news, Annie was slowly, but surely slipping into depression with each passing day. Melvin couldn’t just stand by and let that happen.

Hopefully, Sims will provide us with better results, Melvin mused, trying to remain optimistic in the face of such overwhelming despair. Someone in the family had to keep their heads up.

After signing his check, Melvin looked over at his sleeping wife’s frame and wondered how long Annie would sleep today. She hardly ever got up early these days, sleeping sometimes until well after noon.

Please let this nightmare end, the exasperated man lamented, feeling his whole world unraveling at the seams. Tearing up the check, Melvin wrote out a new one. He hoped that somehow this larger amount would make the pilot and his team search even harder for his baby girl.

***

One chilly November evening, Jamaal and Angel sat on his bed playing cards. It was raining outside and the steady, almost hypnotic sound of the raindrops was luring her to sleep, hours before her bedtime. It was just 6pm. Martinez was already asleep on the floor. Any time was the puppy’s bedtime.

Jamaal smiled behind his cards as Angel yawned again for the fourth time. “Why don’t you just go to bed early? You know you’re sleepy.” He laughed and put down two red kings.

Angel self-consciously snapped her mouth shut, cutting off another enjoyable yawn as she endeavored to deny the obvious. “Am not! Just tell me how many more cards you need, man.” She wrinkled her nose playfully at him before readjusting her t-shirt and blue jean-clad body on the bed. Then Angel strained her eyes to focus on her own hand of cards.

“Now I know you’re sleepy. I put my cards down a full minute ago. By the way, I have twenty.” Jamaal pointed a long finger to the two red-faced cards on the bed. “What’s in your hand?”

Angel shrugged nonchalantly and put down a red ace and two black tens. “Twenty-one.”

Jamaal erupted into rich laughter. “I don’t believe it! You’re almost half unconscious and you still beat me,” he said, leaning forward to pull down the bottom of his gray jogging pants again.

Jamaal found those pants in one of the previously occupied rooms and the fact that they kept riding up his long legs made it obvious that they originally belonged to a shorter man. But Jamaal didn’t care. Fashion wasn’t a principle thing on this island, beneficial function was. And these pants were crucial to satisfy his need for clothing.

Angel shifted again and stretched out her legs. “Yep. It’s true. I can beat you in my sleep. Shot, man, I can beat you with one hand tied behind my back.”

The handsome man sitting across from her arched his eyebrows in challenge. “Oh, so you’re bragging now?” When he reached for Angel’s arm in fun, he was suddenly jostled by the force of the chemistry between them. It was as if an electrical outlet had been touched with a steel pin. Their attraction was just that strong.

Angel felt it, too, and shuddered from the sheer joy of Jamaal’s touch. It felt wonderfully different from all the other times he’d touched her. Before, his touch had been friendly mixed with deep concern. Now it was electrifying, almost energizing. She wanted his hand to stay and at the same time was afraid that it would and then send them both into the land of no return.

“I…think I will go to bed…I mean to sleep now,” Angel stammered out, quickly getting up. She didn’t know what else to say as her pulse raced and a taut, sensational change began in her body.

Then as she hurried off to her own room, Angel realized that she was suddenly wide awake. Who could sleep after such a powerful encounter?

Jamaal remained where Angel had left him. He’d seen the flame of raw desire lapping upon her. He’d seen it blaze hotly in her smoldering green eyes as they stared at each other, urging him to take her into his arms and love her senseless. But Jamaal refrained. With heavenly help he refrained, because there was no humanly way that Angel could have left his cabin otherwise. Even now his hands were aching to touch her again, even in the smallest of ways.

Strength, Lord, strength, Jamaal requested as he went outside to take a long walk. It mattered little to him that it was still raining. The brisk downpour might do his aroused body some good.

Angel’s Scripture:
“It is God that girdeth me with strength…” Psalm 18:32

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Author Note

Yall kind of quiet out there. Let me know what you think of this month's book. If you like it, don't forget to tell a friend. 'Preciate it. (huge grin). Now back to the story...

Suprina

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 8

The next morning the sea seemed to be in a playful mood. It gurgled, foamed, and gently smacked against the back of the boat that was still partially immersed in it. Except for the birds flying overhead, the island was pretty quiet today.

Suddenly, a loud shriek ripped through the air. Jamaal threw his fishing pole down and ran from where he sat on a raised grassy cliff to see what was the matter. Martinez was fast on his heels.

Lord, please don’t let Angel be hurt. I haven’t even told her that I loved her yet, Jamaal prayed as he sprinted to where the cry resonated from. He didn’t even care about the stinging nettle plants that brushed against his shins and ankles as he ran. Only Angel mattered now. He would just have to put some ointment on his lower limbs later.

Jamaal made it back to the boat just in time to see Angel crouched down at the edge of the seashore, trying vigorously to wash shampoo out of her hair. She was in a ball of tears again. This time it was due to the condition of her long sandy locks.

Angel’s copper highlights were fading and for weeks her hair had been breaking off in clumps. She’d already tried everything she could think of to stop the breakage, but nothing was working. Because this trip was just supposed to be for the weekend, she hadn’t packed enough of her regular hair care products. Thus her usually chemically processed hair was suffering tremendous damage. Jamaal didn’t have this problem. He’d simply taken to shaving his head bald every week.

Jamaal arrived at Angel’s side just as she completed the final rinse. “What’s wrong?” His mahogany face was the mirror of concern.

She paused and held out a clump of hair in both hands. Her eyes were puffy and red from crying. “It’s snapping at the new growth. I don’t know what to do.”

Jamaal looked at the wet patches of hair in Angel’s hands and frowned. Suddenly realization sunk in. “Have you been washing your hair in salt water all this time?” He leaned his head to the side, his eyebrows arched in question.

Angel nodded, trying hard not to cry again. She’d cried enough last night and she was tired of it. “Yes, I didn’t want to use up our drinking water.”

Oops! I thought she knew, Jamaal mused. Angel caught on so quickly to everything else that he took it for granted that she knew certain other things. In fact, he’d never seen anyone load or unload a weapon as fast as her. Angel would have made an excellent soldier.

Suddenly a smile played at the corners of Jamaal’s mouth. He extended his arms to her. “Come here, Angel.” Pleased by how unpretentiously she entered his tender embrace, Jamaal looked down into her troubled face and added even more warmth to his smile.

Angel tingled all over as she looked up into his warm nut-brown eyes. She felt caressed. Then when Jamaal spoke again, his voice was just as warm and just as soft as his gaze. “From now on, use some of the drinking water. Salt water has a dehydrating effect on the body,” he advised.

Angel’s green eyes instantly shined with enlightenment. “Oh, I see. Well, so much has come out now that I know I’m going to have to cut it.” She ran her hands through her uneven locks. More hair snapped loose in her fingers. Involuntarily, a new set of tears sprung to her eyes. A sob of self-pity escaped her lips. Even still Angel kept her tears from falling as a rush of hot embarrassment washed over her.

After everything I’ve gone through, I can’t believe I’m crying over something as trivial as hair, Angel mused, forcing self-pity away with those thoughts and replacing it with gratitude. It was a miracle that she’d only lost hair when so many others had lost their very lives.

Before she could say anything else, Jamaal said, “Let’s go trim your hair right now.” Then he escorted Angel to her cabin where he proceeded to cut her long tresses until all that was left was a short, sandy-colored natural afro.

“You look gorgeous,” Jamaal said, admiring Angel’s new hairdo. It was a total complement to her green eyes, high cheekbones, and bronze skin. “Go see for yourself.”

Then while she darted to the bathroom to see her reflection, Jamaal mashed up some wild berries that he’d found in the woods, pausing only to add in several ounces of extra virgin olive oil that he’d gotten from the galley. The stainless steel potato masher was doing its job. Soon the red juice was draining slowly into the bowl and mingling with the clear oil.

When he had enough liquid, Jamaal called Angel back into the room and gestured for her to return to the pillow on the floor while he sat in his previous position on the side of the bed. “This should help with the breakage,” Jamaal said as he began to massage the mixture into her hair and scalp.

“I hope it does. I know it feels good,” Angel replied as she relaxed in Jamaal’s touch. In spite of the circumstances, this had been one of the best relationships she’d ever had. She and Jamaal not only connected mentally, but spiritually also. Angel especially loved their Bible studies most of all. Suddenly she realized that that wasn’t the only thing she loved. She loved Jamaal, too.

When did that happen? Angel asked herself, closing her eyes as she reclined her back against his strong legs.

If Angel thought hard enough, she’d realize that the seeds of love had been planted ever since that night Jamaal stood up for her on the boat. His strength and sensitively made him highly appealing from the moment they meet. The only thing missing now was the solace and convenience of civilization. On this secluded island Angel didn’t dare complicate things with her romantic notions. No, she would keep her feelings to herself. For now.

***

That night Jamaal lay in his bed, staring at the dark ceiling, listening to the gentle waves lap against the boat. Ordinarily that would soothe him right to sleep, but not tonight. Angel was on his mind. He’d been bombarded with romantic thoughts of her ever since yesterday and didn’t know how long he was going to be able to suppress his feelings for her.

Angel, with her stunning natural beauty, her endearing conversation, and her ability to quickly grasp and adjust to even the hardest of things, was simply too wonderful for Jamaal to resist on his own. He’d never met a woman like her before and he seriously doubted if he ever would again.

God, I’m gonna need Your help again, Jamaal prayed, wishing that he’d met Angel under different circumstances. Sometime later, after much soul searching, he finally surrendered to slumber.

***

In the cabin next door Angel also sat in the dark. Instead of looking at the ceiling, she stared out of the small window on the right. The sky was clear tonight. Stars twinkled and winked at her. Under different circumstances, Angel might have winked back, but not tonight. Tonight she had other things on her mind. Finding the Big Dipper, her eyes followed its trail to the two end stars in the bowl that pointed to the North Star.

I wish we could have seen you weeks ago. Then we could have been home by now, Angel mused, referring to the constellation that had previously been hidden from them.

Then sighing out loud, Angel wondered what it all meant. These intense feelings for Jamaal, the shipwreck, all of those innocent people dead, just everything. She was almost afraid to ask God why for fear that His answer would only lead to more questions. Questions that her limited human mind probably wouldn’t be able to handle the answers for anyway. So Angel prayed for something else instead. Lord God, please send us some help soon.

Angel’s Scripture:
“The Lord is on my side; I will not fear…” Psalm 118:6

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Monday, April 10, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 7

Back in Lorenzo Beach, South Carolina, Melvin Truxton and his wife returned from their Las Vegas trip early only to hear the worst news possible. The yacht their daughter was on had been lost in a vicious storm that had suddenly arisen in the Atlantic Ocean. The luxury boat had no doubt been swept out to sea. As a result, the whole Truxton family was distraught.

Marla Norris was basically in the same shape. She was so devastated by that news that her sister Mildred and brother-in-law, Seth, had to stay with her for a few days. Mildred did what she could to talk Marla through the unbearable guilt she felt at Jamaal’s disappearance. After all, Marla had been the one to suggest the trip to her son in the first place. Already a widow, it pained Mrs. Norris even more to know that she may have lost her one and only child, too.

Angel’s friend, Kenya, was also dealing with guilt. She’d stayed home all day on Saturday, waiting for Angel’s promised call. But it never came. Instead, Mel Jr. came by her house early Sunday morning with the disturbing news of about his sister.

Unfortunately, Kenya collapsed from the impact of that horrifying report and from a massive case of overwhelming guilt. She was the one who’d felt that deep sense of dread before the trip. And even though she’d shared her concerns with Angel, in her heart of hearts Kenya wished that she’d protested more intensely. Then maybe her best friend would still be alive.

Scared senseless by her reaction, Mel Jr. immediately took Kenya to the nearest hospital to get checked out. She was like another little sister to him and he didn’t want to lose her, too. When the doctors finally released her, Mel Jr. took Kenya to her parents’ house, so that they could monitor her through the night. All and all, Jamaal and Angel’s loved ones were reacting basically along the same lines as the loved ones of all the other ill-fated voyagers.

***

In another part of Lorenzo Beach there was someone with a totally different reaction to the distressing news. Richardene Sanders was exactly gloating as she sat in her modest apartment, putting on a pair of red high-heeled pumps.

That’s what you get, Jamaal. God don’t like ugly, Richardene mused smugly, completely applying her own meaning to a popular religious phrase. Her negative attitude was a clear sign that she was still bitter about Jamaal’s rejection of her.

Completely satisfied with the latest turn of events, Richardene crossed her legs, opened up her compact, and began to meticulously apply an extra coating of red lipstick to her full lips. She had a hot date tonight.

***

The next few weeks didn’t get any better for the families of the missing voyagers. In the Truxtons’ case, they stopped traveling altogether and stayed close to home in hopes of hearing further news concerning their daughter. Even Mel Jr. slowed his traveling schedule down to a crawl.

Marla Norris’ life also seemed to have come to a standstill. Although she was taking baby steps towards accepting what had happened, she still felt deep down inside that her son was still alive. Marla didn’t know how, but like the Truxtons, she just couldn’t give up hope.

As if functioning off of the same sense of optimism and despite the advice of concerned friends, both families refused to conduct memorial services for their children. The Truxtons and the Norris’ couldn’t bring closure to this chapter in their lives. Not just yet anyway.

Kenya was also having a hard time bringing closure to this situation. While trying to work through her grief, she found it extremely hard to continue working at the travel agency. Yet in honor of her friend’s memory, she kept it open and simply hired an office manager to man the day-to-day operations while she took some much needed time off.

Besides prompting Kenya to make changes in her professional life, losing her best friend also caused her to start making changes in her personal life. The first thing Kenya did was finally break up with her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Saul.

After two years of dating, the man still hadn’t told her that he loved her. Nor had he given her any indication that he was even remotely interested in a commitment. Kenya wanted more out of life than that. She deserved more out of life than that.

Surprisingly enough, Kenya soon found out that she really didn’t miss Saul at all after their breakup. In fact, she regretted not breaking up with him a long time ago. Then as she persevered to go on with her life, Kenya even gave up her secret crush on Mel Jr. The same crush she’d had since he showed her how to slow dance in preparation for her first school sock hop. No longer would Kenya hold onto false hope concerning any man. Mel Jr. only saw her as a sister-type and she finally decided to accept it.

But the most important decision Kenya made of all was to renew her commitment to Christ. Although she’d never been a promiscuous woman, she had conveniently ignored the importance of remaining celibate in her quest for love. Now she was saving herself for the total package – marriage. And it felt good doing so. Kenya just wished that Angel was here to share the good news with her.

***

On a small patch of land out in the Atlantic Ocean, the days turned into weeks. Soon the weeks slid into a month and still Jamaal and Angel were on the island. By October, the two island dwellers had established an efficient coping routine. During the day they fished, cultivated the garden that they started from the dried seeds they’d saved from the yacht’s produce, and explored the island together.

Sometimes in the evenings Jamaal and Angel played various games to pass the time away. Games like group story, letter games and tic-tac-toe. They’d even found a deck of cards to play with. Those cards provided hours of good clean fun and prompted interesting conversations, drawing them even closer together.

Another thing that drew them literally together was the fact that they moved into two previously unoccupied cabins on the far end of the boat. This was a good move due to the fact that the rest of the yacht carried too many traumatic memories. For practical reasons, the closer they were in proximity to each other, the better. This way, if one needed the other right away, they wouldn’t have to travel the length of the ship to get there.

The only time Jamaal and Angel were not together was when they had to do personal hygiene things or whenever Jamaal had to work on the backup generator. By now he’d become almost an expert in keeping it running. At times, he joked about feeling like the professor on Gilligan’s Island. Especially when he found a way to keep the ship’s toilets working by rerouting some of the plumbing and making sure that the water tanks kept a fresh supply of sea water in them for flushing purposes.

Angel once asked Jamaal if he saw her as the girl-next-door, Maryann, or the sophisticated woman, Ginger. He claimed that Angel was a little bit of both – she was wholesome and classy, a lethal combination to any man’s heart.

Besides the miracles of surviving the poisoning, the storm, and the island itself, another miracle occurred. Jamaal found a way to provide them with more electricity and some heat, which they only used while they slept on the boat at night. He even found a way to patch up most of the holes in the boat, thus insulating it from curious snakes seeking heat from the cold nights the island frequently encountered.

Angel was glad that the snakes were the non-poisonous kind. Otherwise, she’d have to sleep with a gun strapped to her hip at night.

Although the island’s daytime weather was breezy and mild - almost always at least seventy-five degrees - the nighttime hours were often chilly and brisk as mentioned before. This drop in temperature often required more than the customary blankets to keep them warm.

An up side to the island’s daytime and nighttime temperatures was the fact that it kept the insect situation down. Angel was particularly grateful for this blessing. She’d never been a fan of mosquitoes anyway.

Staying in survival mode, Jamaal and Angel’s clothing now consisted of any t-shirts, jeans and sneakers they could find to fit. They also utilized any other ship supplies needed for their personal use. Their diet included a variety of delicious fresh fish that they caught each day, canned vegetables that they steamed over an open fire, and fresh water that they carried from a clear water spring they found while out exploring one day.

Amazingly, the few pounds that Angel wanted to lose around her midriff disappeared. They were replaced with strong abdominal muscles that derived from all the strenuous work that she and Jamaal did on a daily basis. She was fitter than she’d ever been and that was still another blessing right there. These days Angel persevered to count every blessing she could while she could. Especially since her future was still so uncertain.

***

One starlit night the island dwellers sat in Jamaal’s cabin, talking and sharing a can of pineapples after a rousing Bible study. Between forkfuls of the sweet citrus fruit, Angel’s fingers absently played with a patch of white fur on the head of the sleeping dog in her lap. Meanwhile, her mind played with an issue that had been plaguing her for weeks now.

“Jamaal, what if we are never found? The yacht isn’t seaworthy and even if it was, it’s too big to squeeze back through that tight bay without encountering further damage. What do we do then?” Angel’s hands paused over the puppy’s fur. Her back stiffened as she sat at the foot of bed, waiting for Jamaal to answer.

Jamaal looked into the anxious green eyes of the woman who’d become his best friend and smiled reassuringly. “We continue to live one day at time.” Then he reached over and smoothed out the wrinkles in her forehead.

“Brave lady, we’ve made it this far. God will see us the rest of the way. I don’t know how or when, but I just have this unexplainable peace about it.” And he did. Jamaal wasn’t just saying words to appease Angel. He really did have the peace of God ruling in his heart concerning this situation. Somehow he just knew that God was going to come through for them.

Although Angel was comforted by Jamaal’s words and his gentle touch, there was still a pocket of fear left in her mind. Acknowledging that it was there, she told on herself. “I’m scared, Jamaal. Pray for me to have that peace, too,” Angel said with eyes welling up with moisture.

Suddenly, Martinez lifted his head and looked up into her tearful face. Then he got up from her lap and lay down at her feet. Once there he looked up at Jamaal, as if urging him to respond, as if trying to communicate that Angel needed another human’s touch now. As an animal, he couldn’t fill that need.

As if on cue, Jamaal reached for Angel’s left hand. Then he gently pulled her into his arms at the head of the bed and proceeded to rock her like a baby as she cried anxious tears. His heart went out to his beautiful shipmate. He would give anything to take all of her fears away, to deliver her home safely to her family - the same way he’d done his troops in Desert Storm.

Later as Angel drifted off to sleep in his arms, Jamaal realized that he was starting to feel more than compassion for her. More than a sense of duty. I love her, he mused with complete certainty, his eyes resting on her sleeping features.

That thought or rather that revelation sent Jamaal’s pulse racing. Now more than ever he longed for the comfort of Lorenzo Beach. There he would be able to court Angel properly. There Jamaal wouldn’t have to be constantly concerned with more important things like survival.

Exhaling slowly, the frustrated man let out a long breath of exasperation. Show me what to do, Lord, he prayed.


Angel’s Scripture:
“The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.” Psalm 118:14

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 6

The next morning it was as if the sky and the sea had never been angry. The Monday sun shined brightly and birds could be heard in the distance. It was those same birds that awakened Angel.

Instead of being on the control room floor where she’d fallen asleep after their long ordeal, she was surprised to find herself back in her cabin. Jamaal had obviously carried her there some time during the night or in the early morning hours. And from the looks of things, he’d slept in the room with her on the cot next to the bathroom. Obviously he hadn’t wanted to be alone, either.

Angel got up and made her way to the bathroom and washed. She tried not to use too much water, especially since she didn’t know how much they had to spare. After she finished, she dressed in a pair of jeans and a red t-shirt that she’d thought pack at the last minute. Angel frowned as she took a brief moment to look at the other garments she’d brought with her.

No use wearing all of those sexy clothes now, Angel mused, promptly discarding the sexy gold dress she’d worn for the last two days in the first wastebasket she encountered on her way out the door. She and Jamaal were survival partners now. As such, they both needed clear, unencumbered-by-romance heads to make it through this trial.

Going up on deck to find Jamaal, Angel spotted him returning back on board. A black do-rag was on his head, a shovel was in his arms, and he was wearing a green army t-shirt and jeans. He immediately approached her with greetings.

“Good morning, Angel. I let you sleep in because I knew you needed it.” Although he’d been exhausted from yesterday’s toil, too, Jamaal’s ragged emotional state wouldn’t allow him to sleep for very long. As a result, he’d been up for quite a while.

“Thanks, I really did need it,” Angel said, attempting to smile. They were both still alive. That was a good reason to smile, wasn’t it?

Jamaal tried to smile, too, but what he’d just been doing had robbed him of all joy. His face suddenly grew very serious as the frown inside of him found its way to his mouth and forehead. Jamaal had to give Angel a status report of their situation and it wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I explored the island and saw no signs of people. Not even animal tracks. Only birds.” He’d tell her about the snakes he saw later. There were other dire things to talk about now.

Jamaal propped the shovel across the back of both of his shoulders and sighed before continuing with the bad news. “I’ve buried the majority of the bodies in the woods, but I’m gonna need your help to carry the rest of them. I buried most of the five women on board together. I tried to do the same for the seven men.” Then Jamaal cleared his throat uncomfortably before going on. “I had to bury your friend with those two guys. It was…a little difficult…to get them apart.”

Angel almost gagged at his words. I know Montez betrayed me, but surely she didn’t deserve to die like that, she mused sadly. Then catching herself slipping into depression, Angel shook her head to try to clear it of all troubling thoughts. Thoughts that she had no answer for.

“Who’s left to bury?” Angel asked, trying to appear braver than she felt. Her green eyes shined with unshed tears of grief.

Just then, Jamaal realized that he could muster up a genuine smile for the courageous woman in front of him. He was so proud of Angel. The fact that she was trying so hard to push past what had happened to all of them made him admire her that much more.

“We still have to bury the causes of this mess,” Jamaal answered, solemnly referring to the captain and the passenger he now knew to be Scott Reeves after having searched the man’s pockets for identification. But who was Scott Reeves really? And why would he and the captain be dead in the same room?

“Okay, let’s go get it on over with,” Angel said, eager to rid the boat of all signs of death. Besides being depressing, it was also unsanitary to have dead bodies lying around.

***

An hour and a half later the corrupt captain and the drug dealer were buried together along with their drugs and money. The drugs themselves took up most of the grave due to the fact that boxes of them had been found in the ship’s storage area. Several guns had also been found, providing further proof of the gravity of the failed drug deal.

Jamaal thought it best that they kept the weapons and ammunition they found. He deemed them necessary in case some unsavory characters visited the island, looking for their lost ‘merchandise’. He even agreed to allocate some time each day in order to teach Angel how to use the weapons.

Jamaal believed that they both needed to be on guard. Especially since whatever organized crime ring that was responsible for all of this mess had clearly thought it necessary to get rid of all possible witnesses. Why else would they try to kill everyone on board?

***

Back on the mainland, someone was missing that shipment. A very dangerous someone named Ray Sucio. And he wasn’t happy about his shipment being two days late at all. Ray didn’t understand why Captain Wilton was not at his agreed upon destination. Quincy was never late with a shipment and he certainly never failed to pick up the rest of his money.

But that wasn’t Ray’s only point of concern. One of his loyal employees hadn’t reported in yet, either. In actually, Scott Reeves was more than an employee to him, he was also Ray’s brother-in-law by his younger, slightly overweight sister, Sofia. And whatever worried Sofia, worried her older brother.

But besides bearing his sister’s concerns, Ray also had to bear his own. After all, Scott was his right-hand man. The eager recruit had learned the business quickly and had easily advanced through the ranks. Then when Scott proposed to Sofia last year, Ray had been in total agreement. Dedicated men like him were hard to find, especially in their line of work.

Now where is he? Ray thought angrily as he sat on the black leather couch of his elaborately decorated condo. And where is my package? He picked up the black cordless phone beside him and dialed.

***

On the island, Jamaal and Angel began to take a more thorough inventory of their surroundings. After the tight squeeze between the narrow rocks, the ship was badly damaged on each side. In short, it was no longer seaworthy and may never be again.

On a more positive note, there was more than enough untainted fruit, packaged bread, and canned goods on the ship for the two of them. And if they rationed it properly and found a way to supplement their diets with other things, it might last for at least three months. The water supply was fairly adequate, but it would not last beyond a month of bathing, cooking and drinking, if it lasted that long. There was limited electricity so they would need to eat as much of the perishables as soon as possible.

It was a great moment when Jamaal and Angel discovered that they could eat those perishable items from the galley. They thanked God that their diet need not be limited to only canned goods and water, but could also include bread, fresh fruit and vegetables, and a few dairy products. When they’d gone to clean up the debris from the storm and the remnants of Friday’s party, they’d made that great discovery. Only that which had been catered by some place called Sofia’s Restaurant had been tainted. All of the catered food had turned a sick-looking green color. Even the opened beverages had turned green.

Together Jamaal and Angel donned plastic gloves that they’d found in the kitchen and collected all of the contaminated material into black garbage bags. Then they buried that, too. By sundown, the two survivors were more than dog tired and famished. And although they clearly had a lot of obstacles still standing in their way, it was not a completely dire situation. They still had God. They still had each other.

***

On her way to meet Jamaal for dinner after a quick wash-up, Angel heard whimpering noises coming from one of the cabins. It sounded like a baby. Now I know there’s no way we could have missed a baby, she mused, thinking about how thoroughly they’d checked the cabins during their inventory period.

Angel and Jamaal could not have missed a baby during their thorough search, but they could have missed a puppy. Especially if it had been scared and hiding from them in every tight space it could find. Quickly opening the door, Angel found a small, black and white patched puppy hiding under the cabin’s bed. With his short legs and thick fur, he looked like a chow/shepherd mix. The collar on his neck said that his name was Martinez.

“Hey, cutie. It’s nice to know that someone else survived, too,” Angel said in a soothing manner to the scared puppy. He was so adorable. Unfortunately, the poor thing was also dehydrated and hungry, too.

Then sprinting to the kitchen and back, Angel lured Martinez out with a bowl of milk from a carton that she found unopened in the refrigerator. When he was done, she took the puppy to see Jamaal where he was further treated like a welcomed member of the crew.

***

After a meal of canned beans and stewed beef chunks from the freezer cooked over an open fire, Jamaal pulled out his green pocket Bible and began to read from Psalm 46:1-3. “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed, and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea; though the waters thereof roar and be troubled, though the mountains shake with the swelling thereof. Selah.”

When Jamaal finished, he stared at Angel by the light of the fire. “Isn’t that one of the scriptures you quoted from during our most dire time? I’ve held on to that passage ever since. It really was a word in due season. It gave me comfort. Thanks for saying it.” He smiled at her.

Angel slipped the puppy some chunks of beef and smiled back at the man across from her. “It was what came up inside of me. God knows I haven’t been to church in years, but somehow that passage stuck to me.”

“I’m glad it did. Thank God for whoever planted those scriptures in your heart. The harvest of consolation it brought was right on time.” Then he thought of something else. “You mentioned something about not having been to church in years. Well, I don’t know why you’ve been absent from church for so long, but you need to know that if you are a Christian, you are the church.”

When Angel looked confused at his statements, Jamaal put the Bible down and closed his hands together in illustration. “When believers are together, they are the church gathered.” Then he separated his hands and wiggled his fingers in further demonstration. “When believers are apart, they are the church scattered.”

Although Angel nodded in understanding, his comments had prompted a question. “But I was taught that going to church was important. As a matter of fact, I was taught that if you didn’t go on a regular basis then you were in sin. What do you think?”

Jamaal smiled. He’d heard people say that, too. “Yes, I agree that we should go to church regularly. In fact, I’ve been known to be there every time the doors open. But what if we can’t? What if something prevents us from doing so?” He pointed to each of them as a perfect example. “There aren’t any other people on this island, much less a church building to go to. So where does that leave us? Are we no longer Christians? Have we forsaken the assembly of the believers because we don’t have a building to attend?”

Jamaal answered those questions for himself. “No, whether we go to a building or not does not determine who you are. And to forsake or leave something behind implies a certain attitude of the heart, a willful course of action. We didn’t choose to be here. It wasn’t our will to be here at all. Our will was to be back home by now.”

Jamaal leaned in closer to Angel. “Furthermore, we haven’t forsaken anything. And guess what, Angel, we haven’t been forsaken, either. God knows exactly where we are.”

“Are you a minister or something?” Angel asked, before she drank the last of her bottled water. Her facial expression was a mixture of amazement and respect. “I feel like we’re having church right now.”

Jamaal leaned his head back and laughed heartily from his belly. It felt good to do that, especially after all that’s happened recently. “No, I became a Christian seven years ago after I left the military. I also attend a good church that believes in encouraging its members to practice good personal Bible study.”

Military background, strong faith, Angel silently noted. Those two facts explained a lot about Jamaal’s solid and serene personality.

“I’ll have to visit your church when we get back,” she said aloud. Suddenly her eyes misted over. “Will…we ever get back, Jamaal?” Angel asked softly as if whispering the question somehow made it less dismal. She knew the boat’s condition as well as he did. Jamaal had shared everything with her, withholding no information.

He reached for her hands and squeezed them in comfort. “Somehow, someway, God’s gonna get us home. This island may be deserted, but we’re not. Have faith, Angel.” His dark sincere eyes shined brilliantly by the light of the fire.

Angel nodded through tearful eyes. She believed him. Oh God, let it be true, she prayed. Then from that point on, she resolved to practice more personal Bible study for herself. Maybe reading a scripture a day will help keep the blues away, Angel mused, thinking that reading the Bible certainly seemed to be working for Jamaal.


Angel’s Scripture for that night:
“I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.” Psalm 118:17

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Friday, April 07, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 5

Around sunset, Jamaal had gotten some of the equipment working again. He could turn most of the lights on and the yacht’s engine was working fairly well under the circumstances. Unfortunately, the compass was riddled with bullets, so he was still at a loss for direction.

Getting an idea, Jamaal went to the large viewing window ahead and looked up in the sky for the telltale constellations. He knew that if he could just find the North Star, he’d be able to steer them back towards the coastline.

At first glance, he didn’t see any stars. His hopes instantly drooped with disappointment, but his spirit stayed strong. I wished I’d gotten the engine working sooner, then I could have just followed the setting sun, Jamaal mused just as Angel called out him.

Finding her standing at the bottom of the stairs near the westward entrance, afraid to come up, Jamaal went down a few of the stairs and extended his hand towards her in reassurance. “There’s no one up here anymore but me.”

Believing him, Angel took his hand and slowly made her way up the stairs. She stopped short in the doorway, still too anxious to enter all the way in. “I finished taking inventory of the galley,” she said, using the boating term for the word ‘kitchen’ that Jamaal had uttered earlier. She was obviously a fast learner. “There were lots of canned goods and cases of unopened bottled water, so I included those, too.”

Angel held up a hastily scribbled on yellow sheet of paper. As the list went on, the handwriting improved which was a clear indication of the emotional process she’d gone through to complete it. Now her bronze face looked sedate as if she’d finally begun to accept her fate.

But the most disturbing thing about all that was the fact that Angel didn’t know what her fate was. She didn’t know if God wanted her to live or die. Although one thing was certain - she was still alive at this moment in time. She still had now and Angel suddenly became very determined to make the most of it.

“Thanks, Angel. The engines are working now and there’s still plenty of fuel, so hopefully we’ll be able to make it to land soon.” Jamaal looked upwards again, still trying to search the increasingly dark sky for direction. “The compass is broken, so we’ll have to find our way the old fashioned way - through God and the stars He’s given us.”

Angel looked upward, trying to search the sky, too, hoping that it had changed from what she’d seen a little while ago. One look into the starless sky caused her heart to droop with discouragement. Nothing had changed. Now she was faced with telling Jamaal what else she’d seen.

“Jamaal, when I was outside, I noticed that the air was very still. And the sea looked dull and gloomy, like it was sulking or something,” Angel said in a shaky voice, trying to stay as calm as she could.

That was not good news. Jamaal immediately went out on deck for a better look. The sky was dark and cloudy and no stars were showing. Not even a glimmer could be seen. He could even smell rain in the air. This was not good news at all.

Almost as if waiting to display its power, the angry sky suddenly opened up and started to pour down torrential-like rain upon them. A strong wind came along to visit them as well, making it impossible to see. Jamaal and Angel quickly ran back inside to escape the heavy downpour.

In the small control room, Jamaal placed himself at the helm as he tried to remember some of the things his father had taught him. It had been six years since he’d gone sailing. More years than that since he’d even allowed himself to think about sailing.

The way his strict, disciplinary father had drilled him unmercifully as a kid, had made Jamaal go in the opposite direction as an adult. He’d wanted nothing to do with boats for years. As a matter of fact, this weekend cruise was inspired by his psychologist of a mother.

Marla Norris had encouraged her son to take this trip to resolve some of the residue issues he had concerning his father. She felt that her son should finally bury the past, the same way she’d buried her husband six years ago – with forgiveness and with no regrets.

Jamaal struggled to remember his father’s advice as he fought to gain control of the now rocking ship. At the helm he could almost hear his father’s stern voice yelling, “Keep the wheel straight, son! Port is left, starboard is right!”

Sweat beaded on Jamaal’s upper lip as his emotions raged within him. He felt like a hurting child again. If only he could block out Jimmie Norris’ severe tone and, at the same time, maintain his focus on remembering the instructions he’d been given.

Feeling almost completely overwhelmed, Jamaal suddenly shouted to the only truly loving father he’d ever known. “Father God, please help me!”

Also overwhelmed by the spiraling downward turn of events, Angel scrambled over to a corner. She sat with her knees pulled tightly to her chest. She was so afraid. She was also in awe of the strong man before her.

Despite his initial outburst, Jamaal seemed to have nerves of steel as he sought to maneuver the yacht in the raging storm. First, it was man and machine against nature. Then it became a man relying on his God to either calm nature down or guide him safely through it.

Then for the next few hours, Jamaal prayed aloud, and not always in English either, as he skillfully worked with the controls that were still operational. The storm seemed to wage war with the small ship all night. By midnight Angel, too, had joined Jamaal in vocalized prayer. She’d also rededicated her life to Christ. Why wouldn’t she? She knew just as well as Jamaal that only God could help them now. Their own strength was not enough to make it through this horrific ordeal. They both needed Someone greater than them. They both needed a Savior.

***

Around daybreak on Sunday the rain slowed and there was considerably more visibility. Because the wind was still very strong, Jamaal lowered the top sail and let the ship run before the gale.

Angel had long since abandoned her corner of fear and had joined the strong, resilient man at the helm. During the long stormy night, she’d drawn strength from their prayers and from the fact that God and Jamaal had not given up on them yet. They were still alive after all that had occurred so far.

Because they were still alive, Angel decided that as long as she had breath in her body, she would praise God. She would also do whatever she could to help this strong man beside her, Jamaal - her wonderful survival companion. In fact, Angel even ventured back to the galley to get a can of beans and some bottled water. She spoon fed him the beans and gave him the water at different intervals as he continued to guide the boat.

Now that the sun was up, Jamaal knew exactly where east was, so he steered the yacht to the west in hopes of reaching land. More hopefully, he wanted to reach American soil. At noon, the weary man rubbed his tired eyes and stared straight ahead. He strained to see something off in the distance. He blinked and rubbed his eyes again. It looked like land up ahead on the boat’s right.

“Is that land I see?” Jamaal asked the woman beside him.

Angel began to jump up and down excitedly. “Yes! I see it, too! Can we make it?” Oh God, I pray we can make it. Please let us make it, she prayed with renewed hope.

Jamaal turned the yacht to the right and headed towards land. All the while he prayed, Lord, please help us get there.

Soon they were approaching the island’s narrow bay. The closer they got to the entrance, the more they realized just how narrow it was and that the surrounding shores were full of jagged rocks. If they were going to get on this island, it had to be through that narrow strip. Trying to hold onto every thread of hope he had left, Jamaal positioned the boat directly towards the middle of the tight entrance.

Suddenly, the wind increased as they grew nearer to land. The rain began another angry downpour. Wind and rain both seemed motivated by a sinister force.

Determined not to be moved, literally and figuratively, by the wind of adversity coming against them now, Jamaal persevered towards that opening. He turned the engines to full speed, praying that they wouldn’t give out on them from his hasty wiring job.

Angel thought she would pass out from holding her breath as they seemed to race against the wind. Then when Jamaal swerved to avoid a sandbar, she instantly thought of several passages she’d been taught as a child in Sunday school. She began to pray aloud.

“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for Thou art with me.” Angel’s voice got even louder as she endeavored to be heard above the wind and noisy engines. Jamaal’s ears desperately needed to hear these words. Hers did, too, because their eyes were definitely declaring how hopeless the situation looked and their morale was dropping rapidly because of it.

“God, You are with us, be a very present help to us in this time of trouble,” Angel said, almost shouting now in her prayer.

Suddenly, they were at the entrance. Almost miraculously the ship had traveled the extra distance it needed to reach the small opening. With the sound of crushing metal against hard rock, Jamaal wedged the yacht through the narrow strip. Then he drove the luxury boat right upon the shore.

After turning the engines off, he slumped to the floor on his knees and thanked God for helping them get this far. Jamaal could only hope that the distance they’d traveled had brought them that much closer to home.

With muscles tired from over ten hours of physical toil, a mind emotionally ravaged from having to remember long forgotten boating techniques, and having to fight off the painful memories associated with them, Jamaal could do no more. He was spent.

Angel immediately sat on the floor with him. Then not really knowing what to say or what else to do, she put her arms around Jamaal and just hugged him tight. Together they cried open tears of relief while the storm continued to rage outside. Angel and Jamaal stayed that way until well after sunset.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch. 4

Saturday 2pm
Angel awakened to the sound of loud banging on her cabin door. She struggled to get up from the bathroom floor.

Did I sleep in here all night? Her head was pounding and each step she took was as if she had heavy elephant legs. What is wrong with me? Angel held a hand up to her tepid forehead. I didn’t drink that much, did I?

She finally made it to the door. Opening it, Angel stumbled into the strong arms of Jamaal. His eyes were bloodshot and his face was unshaven. He also had on the same clothes from last night. Angel looked down at herself. Her outfit was the same as well.

What’s going on here? Angel mused, really confused now. Especially since she never wore the same outfit two days in a row.

“Are you okay?” Jamaal asked, cutting into Angel’s thoughts. His deep voice was filled with enormous relief and concern.

Jamaal had already knocked on her door once with no answer. In fact, Angel’s door was the first one Jamaal knocked on when he realized that something was terribly wrong on the ship. Only God knows what made him double back after checking on the others. Maybe it was the fact that Angel was the only person he’d connected with on the whole boat and he desperately wanted, or rather needed to make sure that she was alright. Either way, he was glad that she was alive. How well she was, he didn’t know yet.

Angel nodded. “I guess I’m alright. But my head feels awful. What about you?” She looked up into his compassionate eyes.

“My head feels the same. But I don’t know about the other people on the boat. Nobody else is answering their doors. The phones don’t work. The crew is either gone or de…” Jamaal stopped mid-sentence. He didn’t want to frighten her.

But Angel was already growing anxious. Something was dreadfully wrong here. The ship was too quiet and there was an eerie feeling in the air.

“Are people dead?” She shivered with fear. I hope Montez and the others are okay, Angel mused, thinking that although she was through with Vincent relationship-wise, she certainly didn’t want him dead.

Jamaal nodded. “People are dead. Some are shot. Others seemed to have died from food poisoning. I think we’ve all been poisoned.” Suddenly, he embraced the now trembling woman, holding her close to his pounding chest. “Angel, I’m so glad you’re alive,” Jamaal said with intense emotion, more emotion than he ever intended to display.

Only allowing himself a few short minutes of this, Jamaal quickly reined in his emotions and released Angel. Then he looked down into her troubled green eyes and willed her to rein in hers, too. They both needed clear heads right now.

“Do you think you can make it to the bridge? I want to see if the instruments are still functional.” He’d noticed earlier that the boat seemed to be floating adrift at sea.

Drawing strength from Jamaal’s calm behavior, Angel nodded and left with him. Together they walked hand in hand through the narrow corridors, holding onto each other out of sheer desperation. Their grip would involuntarily tighten when they would encounter a lifeless body in a lounge chair or see someone sprawled in an awkward, motionless position on deck.

Although Jamaal had seen some of the horrors already, it didn’t make the scene any less surreal. The eerie silence that lingered about the white ship now seemed to envelope it like a tight surgical glove. Overhead they could hear sea gulls flying. The water below was smooth like glass, almost too smooth. No land could be seen on either side of the boat.

Still Jamaal and Angel steadily made their way up to the control room. Something inside compelled them to get there even faster now, as if it was the Promised Land or something.

Entering the control room via the eastward door, they saw broken equipment, spliced wires, and large bullet holes in the walls obviously put there by some type of automatic weapon. Upon further exploration, they saw Captain Wilton, dead of a gunshot wound to the chest. Beside him was a black suitcase full of money. Several feet away, another man lay dead next to a black satchel filled with bags of a white powdery substance. Drugs. A semi-automatic gun was in the man’s right hand.

Having reached her breaking point, Angel ran from the room - via the westward door - gagging and gasping for breath. Before she made it back down to the guardrail, she tripped over two more bodies, both male, both dead. The sight them lying there with their unseeing eyes open caused her to heave the rest of her stomach contents out until the hot acid burned in the back of her throat.

Oh, God. This can’t be real. It must be a nightmare, Angel thought, wishing she would wake up soon.

Jamaal followed shortly thereafter and helped her up. Hearing something jingle as she leaned over the white banister, Angel looked over and saw that he had a set of keys in his hand. She quickly turned her head away, knowing that he most likely retrieved them from the captain’s dead body.

“Angel, I know it looks bad, but try to hang in here with me. This was obviously a drug deal gone awry. I guess poisoning all of us was a part of the plan, too. Thank God you and I lived.” Then he held up the keys. “I got these so that we could double check all of the rooms and see if maybe anyone else survived, too. We need all the help we can get now.” Jamaal gently tugged at Angel’s arm to follow him.

God, please help us, he prayed as they found their way back to the cabin area.

One by one Jamaal and Angel unlocked doors, finding no survivors. Even the chef had been killed. He’d been shot once in the neck near one of the serving trays on deck. Surprisingly Vincent’s room was empty.

When they came to Montez and Bobby’s room, Jamaal tried to shield Angel from looking in, but she pushed past him, determined to see if her friends were alive. Inside the cabin she quickly realized what Vincent had meant about ‘getting his freak on’. Montez’s nude body was abominably sandwiched in between the two equally bare men. All three were dead.

For the second time that day, Angel ran to the guardrail. She was gasping for air and feeling sick to her stomach again. This was all just too much. How had all of this happened? Why had all of this happened?

Suddenly her mind raced back to something Kenya had said. This trip had been doomed from the beginning. And Montez hadn’t been the friend that she thought she was.

Kenya was right about everything, Angel mused, now wishing she’d listened to her one true friend.

Jamaal came up behind Angel and just held her while she cried deep heartrending tears. She’d not only lost three people she knew and cared about, she’d been deeply betrayed by them all. Not to forget, she almost lost her own life, too.

Absently stroking Angel’s sandy hair in comfort, Jamaal paid no attention to how delightfully her copper highlights sparkled in the evening sunlight. He was too preoccupied with his own thoughts to notice. Neither of them said anything as they stood holding each other, glad to be alive, grateful that they weren’t alone.

Moments later, Jamaal led Angel to an empty lounge chair to sit down. Still they said nothing. Besides the two of them, everyone else was dead. That much had been confirmed by their thorough search. Even Phoenix, the nice cruise director, lay dead of food poisoning.

I didn’t even see him eating or drinking anything, Angel mused sadly, trying hard to get the lifeless image of him out of her mind. The whole thing was just too overwhelming.

What Angel didn’t know was that Phoenix had been nibbling on the catered crab cakes in the kitchen and the poison in them had interacted with his diabetic medication. She also didn’t know that before Phoenix died he’d made peace with his Maker – Lord and Savior, thereby removing the sting of death and assuring his name a place in the Lamb’s Book of Life. If Angel had known those things, then she’d also know that all was now well with the cruise director’s soul and that there was no need to worry about him.

As he sat there with furrowed brow, looking out over the immense sea, Jamaal’s mind began to switch to survival mode. The first thing he did was carefully assess the situation. We have no idea where we are, our food supply can’t be trusted, and we have no means of contacting anyone, he reasoned.

Fortunately, all of this seemed to cause his military background to arise within him stronger than ever been. Jamaal’s ten-year stint in the army had prepared him well for such a time as this. Besides that, his father had been in the navy for many years and had taught him a few things about boats. Some Jamaal remembered easily, others he would have to really focus hard to recall.

Jamaal got up and sprung into action, talking out loud as he paced to and fro near the lounge chair. “The boat has obviously veered off course. Earlier I noticed that one of the lifeboats was gone, so somebody got away. I don’t know whether it was a good guy or a bad guy though. If it’s a good guy, hopefully he or she will let someone know where the ship is, even if they don’t think that there were any survivors. If it’s a bad guy, well…” Jamaal paused as he turned to a bewildered Angel.

Seeing that she was still in shock, he went over to Angel and touched her arms, rubbing them in hopes of bringing comfort. When Jamaal gazed down into her face, his voice was gentle as he spoke. “I know that all of this is a bit much, but I need you to go the galley…I mean to the kitchen and gather as many canned goods as possible. They’re the only things we can trust to eat right now.”

When Angel hesitated, his voice softened even more. “Don’t worry, there are no bodies in there. I checked earlier,” Jamaal said, believing that giving her a mundane, yet extremely important task to do would go a long way towards helping to calm her nerves down.

With Angel off on her assignment, Jamaal went back up to the control room to see what could be done, if anything. First, he tediously removed each of the four bodies in the room and locked them in the captain’s quarters. Jamaal did that more for his own sanity than anything else. Knowing that the men were dead was one thing, trying to work with the dead men in the same room with him was quite another.

After that, he began the task of trying to reattach most of the wires. Somehow he had to make this boat maneuverable. Blue with blue, green with green. Now I wish I had listened more carefully to my father, Jamaal mused as his hands moved cautiously over the colorful wiring.

Among his many tasks, Jamaal needed to also find some way to communicate to the outside world. He had no idea how long they’d drifted or how far they’d veered off course. The Atlantic Ocean was a big place to get lost in. Who would even know where to start looking for them?

© 2006 Suprina Frazier

Upcoming Blog Changes

I wanted to update everybody on a few changes that I've decided to implement on the blog. The first is the Friday Date Night.

Due to an unexpected increase in editing deadlines, I will be running the Friday Date Nights only on a quarterly basis from now on.

This means that Friday Date Nights will run from Jan - March, May - July, and finally from September - November.

This leads to the second thing I wanted to talk about. The other months (April, August, & December) will be months that I run full samples of various books. That's right. During those three months, a different book will be featured in its ENTIRETY. Keep in mind that after those months are over, half of those books will be taken off the blog.

Finally, I ask you all to pray for me during this time. I'm a one-woman team (in desperate need of an assistant), which means a lot of the editing, order processing, and basic day-to-day posting falls on my shoulders. Though I love every minute of it, some days there just doesn't seem to be enough hours in the day to do everything...including working on new projects, homeschooling my daughter and ministering to the rest of my family's needs. So I really welcome your prayers.

Oh yeah, before I forget. Since April is one of the full feature months, look forward to seeing a new chapter each day (Mon-Fri). My weekends will be spent doing some of the other things I mentioned earlier.

That's all for now...

Suprina

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Turbulent Journey - Ch 3

At the party, Montez scanned the deck for signs of Angel. She’d been gone for a long time now. Although it was getting late, there were still people dancing under the multi-colored lighting. They seemed reluctant to let the party die, intent on partying to the end.

Still there were other couples, some very serious couples – from various cultures and with various sexual preferences - who decided to take the festivities to another level. These couples reclined on the desk’s white lounge chairs with their bodies entwined in several sensual positions. The whole scene was like a before picture of Sodom and Gomorrah.

With the wanton mood of the evening spreading abroad the ship like a wild fire, Bobby went ahead to their room to wait for Montez, while she continued to peruse the area in search of her friend.

I see Vincent, but where is my Angel? Montez mused, spotting the handsome lawyer sitting at the open bar. She took a step towards him and stumbled. Fortunately, she saved herself from falling just in time by holding onto a nearby lounge chair.

I must have had one too many glasses of wine, she mused, feeling a bit lightheaded. Trying again, she finally made it over to him.

“Vincent, go find Angel and bring her to my room. Bobby and I are about to continue the party there.” Montez smiled seductively at the man in front of her. She stared deeply into his eyes while sensually licking her full ruby lips, hoping that he’d get her unspoken message. Her mocha face was inviting as she ran a hand through her long black tresses.

Vincent’s lustful eyes and wide smile said that he had gotten Montez’s message loud and clear. “Right.”

I knew she was feeling me. What woman ain’t? he mused brazenly as he leaned forward and licked those same ruby-colored lips of hers, taking his time to do it right. Vincent smiled when he felt Montez shiver with pleasure. Oh, yeah.

Then before he walked away, Vincent leaned close to Montez’s ear and whispered, “Don’t start the party without us.” After that, he left to go find his missing girlfriend.

When Angel slipped away earlier, Vincent had barely missed her. There were too many other fine, single women around to keep him company. But now it was time for bed and he wanted to make sure that he did what he’d come on this boat to do – sleep with the beautiful Angel Truxton. And now that Montez had added an extra twist to things, Vincent couldn’t find Angel fast enough.

I just hope we can get her to cooperate, he mused.

***

Angel leaned against the lonely white guardrail and watched the moonlight dance on the dark water below. Her long sandy hair blew in the gentle breeze, flapping upon her shoulders as if conducting an orchestra. The copper highlights of her tresses shimmered in the night lighting despite the surrounding shadows.

Angel wrapped her arms around herself. It was starting to get cold out. Now almost an hour into her hiatus, she regretted not stopping by her cabin for a sweater or at least a shawl. She rubbed her arms up and down for warmth, still not ready to go back to the cabin quite yet.

It would be just my luck to run into Vincent. Or worse, find him camped outside my door, she mused.

Just then, Angel felt something warm drape around her shoulders. It was a man’s blue jacket. She quickly turned around, expecting to see Vincent. Instead, her eyes lighted upon the most handsome man she’d even seen in her life. Oh my, Angel mused, looking upon her generous companion in the moonlight.

This stranger had deep mahogany skin that glistened with natural sheen and dark eyes that twinkled with intelligence. His attractive features exuded strength and the short haircut he wore reminded her of the ones her brother used to wear when he was in the army. Inside Angel sensed that this man was a person with many interesting stories to tell.

Perhaps he’ll tell me some of them this weekend, she mused, starting to have second thoughts about cutting her trip short.

“Thanks. I was getting a little cold.” Angel smiled and extended her hand towards him. “By the way, I’m Angel.”

Yes, you are, Jamaal mused, shaking the soft hand offered to him. The thick gold clustered ring on the third finger of his right hand sparkled brilliantly in the moonlight. No rings were on his left hand.

“And I’m Jamaal. I didn’t mean to disturb you, but I was out taking a walk and saw you out here alone. Is everything okay? Or are you just not the party type like me?” Jamaal slowly released her hand and stood beside her. Are her eyes green? He couldn’t tell for sure in the dim lighting. Either way they are just as beautiful as she is, Jamaal quickly decided, feeling an urge to get to know this woman better.

“I’m not the party type and I think I may never be. Too bad I didn’t realize that sooner,” Angel said. On second thought, if I had realized it sooner, I might never have come on this cruise. Thus, I would have missed meeting this beautiful man, she added to herself.

Angel momentarily forgot that she already had a boyfriend as she admired the way the navy shirt emphasized Jamaal’s broad shoulders and muscular chest. His khaki pants bore the evidence of muscular legs.

He must work out a lot, Angel reasoned, remembering days when that was all she did, too. But those days were behind her now. She barely made it to the gym these days. And although Angel wasn’t out of shape by any means, she definitely wouldn’t mind returning her midriff to its previously toned state.

Just then, Vincent staggered up. It was obvious that he was heavily intoxicated and extremely angry by the why he walked and by the way he glared. Seeing his girlfriend out there alone with another man incensed him. “Angel, it’s time for bed. Tell your friend you have to go,” he said, tugging roughly at her arm.

Angel snatched her arm away and moved a few steps to the right to add more distance between her and her irate boyfriend. Her soon-to-be ex-boyfriend. “You have your own cabin, Vincent. Feel free to go to bed alone if you’re tired.” She put extra emphasis on the word ‘alone’.

Jamaal stood silently by, watching, waiting to see what would happen next. Although he did not know Angel very well, he would not leave her alone with such an angry man.

At Angel’s words, Vincent’s normally attractive pecan-tan face turned into a drunken scowl. “No, what I’m tired of is you holding out on me. I’m not going to bed alone tonight. You’re coming with me, baby,” he slurred as he reached for her arm again. This time more forcibly.

Angel’s voice rose angrily. “Let go of me, Vincent! It’s over between us.” She would not tolerate being manhandled like this.

As Vincent tightened his grip, Jamaal grabbed his arm and flung it away. “The lady said let go!” His mahogany face was menacing as he stood in front of Vincent, towering over his 5’10 frame. Jamaal had to be all of 6’3 with zero percent body fat to boot.

Vincent staggered backwards, almost losing his balance. Fortunately, his hand grabbed hold of the guardrail and prevented a nasty spill. When he’d collected himself enough, he looked up, glaring angrily at the two equally irate people in front of him. Although intoxicated, Vincent assessed his options by mentally sizing up Jamaal and evaluating his chances of winning against the sober, robust-looking man.

I have no win here, Vincent mused, seeing the futility of the situation. Then in a last ditch effort to salvage his wounded pride, he angrily dismissed Angel with a wave of his hand. “The ice princess is all yours, player. I’m going somewhere else to get mine.” Then Vincent swaggered off singing, “Get your freak on,” by some female rapper he knew of, but couldn’t quite recall now through the thick fog in his head.

When Vincent was gone, Angel turned to Jamaal and handed him his jacket. “Thanks for everything. I think I’ll be going to my room now. I think I need to lie down.” She was starting to feel sick again. Her hands instantly went to her stomach.

I don’t understand this. I’ve been sailing dozens of times and I’ve never been seasick before, she mused.

“No problem. I’ll walk you. I’m headed to my room, too,” Jamaal said. His stomach wasn’t feeling all that great, either. Although he’d avoided the rest of the party, he had eaten a tuna fish sandwich from one of the catered serving trays earlier. Now he didn’t know if that was such a good idea after all.

As Jamaal walked Angel to Cabin 115, he started to feel sicker than ever, but she would never know by how pleasant he seemed. How concerned he was for her well-being instead of his own. However, that mahogany man of steel wouldn’t be able to hold onto his composure much longer, because as soon Jamaal made sure that Angel was safely inside her cabin, he hurried to his room and emptied out the contents of his stomach with deep heaves of nausea.

***

Meanwhile, Angel was in her room vomiting as if there was no tomorrow, too. It certainly felt like it as she held onto the clean white toilet bowl for dear life. She stayed that way for what seemed like hours. Then as Angel slowly slipped into unconsciousness, she thought she heard the sound of fireworks going off in the distance.

Darn, I’m missing the fireworks display. And then there was darkness.

© 2006 Suprina Frazier