Tilisha visits Cancun with a friend & meets a gentleman - 3rd place Quotation Inspiration
|The beach hut's thatched awning shaded its patrons from the sun's glare but did little to alleviate southern Mexico's stifling midsummer heat. Tilisha slumped against the bar as if she'd downed a dozen cocktails rather than nursed the same glass since she arrived. She examined the fancy beverage Jolene had ordered for her, which looked like a tumbler of Sprite stuffed with leaves. Taking a sip, she winced at the saccharine sweetness overpowering a more subtle mint flavor. Lord, she wished she were somewhere else.|
“What's this called again, Jo?”
“A mojito,” slurred her friend, then downed the last dregs of her sixth—an impressive tally before noon.
Noticing that red patches had appeared on Jolene's freckled shoulders, Tilisha frowned. “You sure you applied enough sunscreen?”
“Don't mother me, Tili.”
Given her ginger-haired friend's fair complexion and skimpy bikini, she should be careful. Thankfully, Tilisha's chocolate-colored skin provided natural protection, which was just as well given her bathing suit didn't cover much more than Jolene's.
“We should head back to the hotel.”
“Tili, you've just turned twenty-one. Let's celebrate.”
“My birthday was yesterday. Today, I want to relax and recover.”
Jolene gave her a playful shove. “Aw, you ain't no fun.”
In all honesty, she didn't want to return to their room either. What she'd really like to do was visit the nearby Mayan site of El Meco. The opportunity to visit pre-Columbian ruins was the main reason she'd agreed to vacation in Mexico. She'd love to walk around the remains of a two-thousand-year-old building. Typically, Jolene didn't share her enthusiasm for history.
Two guys in their mid-twenties wearing swim shorts and little else wandered over, their beer bellies wobbling.
“Hey, ladies,” said the tallest. “Ebony and Ivory, huh?”
She cringed. Like she'd not heard that before.
Jolene beamed. “Well hi, y'all.” Maybe she'd had more than six mojitos.
“Can we buy you ladies a drink?”
Tilisha pointed to her full glass. “I'm good, thanks.”
“Don't be a party pooper.” Jolene leaned closer. Her breath stank of rum. She whispered, “These guys look hot.”
"Okay, you've officially had enough to drink." Tilisha hopped off her stool and attempted to tug her friend from hers. “We need to go. Now.”
“No.” Jolene pushed her hand away. “I didn't come to Mexico to stare at no hotel ceiling.”
What could she do?
The shorter guy edged over and tugged on one of her dreadlocks. “Hey, gorgeous.” He grinned, revealing his own ebony and ivory collection. “Want some milk in your coffee?”
“Ugh!” She pushed the jerk back and faced Jolene. "We don't know nothing about these guys."
"There's been disappearances and such in Cancun. That's one of the reasons marines patrol the beach."
"Jesus. Stop being so paranoid, Tili."
“I ain't hanging around to see you make no fool of yourself, y'hear?”
Jolene grabbed her arm and pulled her close. “Tilisha May Jefferson, you gotta learn to live a little. Twenty years from now, you're gonna look back on this moment and wonder why you was such a boring old Mary Ann.”
She broke from her friend's grip and blinked back tears. “Jo, please.”
Jolene turned her back on Tilisha, focusing all her attention on the guys.
Tilisha clenched her fists. Should she make a scene and drag her friend back to their room? In truth, she wasn't certain she was strong enough, but a short while ago a marine patrol had passed by. If she found them, perhaps they'd help. She stormed out of the beach hut in the direction the patrol took.
Everywhere, she saw scantily clad holidaymakers suffering various degrees of sunburn. Nowhere to be found were the camouflage pants and blue T-shirts of marines. After she'd walked at least half-a-mile, she found herself on a secluded portion of the beach. It must be too far from the bars for tourists. The patrol had eluded her, and it seemed pointless returning by herself to rescue Jolene. She might not even be there now. With a groan, Tilisha flopped onto the warm sand near the water's edge and dropped her head into her hands. She was a terrible friend. This time, she couldn't prevent the tears falling.
The roar of an engine caused her to glance up. A Jet Ski approached, headed over from a large yacht anchored offshore. A white guy with broad shoulders and an honest-to-God six-pack straddled the thing. He was much older than her, maybe mid-thirties, but super hot. To her surprise, he beached the machine and jogged over. Except for a pair of swim shorts so tight they should be illegal, all he wore was a gold wristwatch.
“I'm awfully sorry to bother you,” he said in a sexy British accent. “I couldn't help but notice you crying.”
She blinked at him, then looked over at the yacht. “You done saw me from all the way over yonder?”
He smiled. “Gosh, I love your marvelous Southern drawl.”
Her cheeks warmed, and she averted her gaze. Lordamercy, was this hot guy hitting on her? “Er…thank you, Mister.”
“I was using binoculars,” he explained, “trying to locate a store where I might resupply my ship's larder.”
“Oh.” That sounded reasonable, she supposed.
“I say. I don't wish to sound forward, but I hate to see a pretty lady in distress. Call it my white knight complex. Would you perhaps care to join me aboard the Louise for a tipple?”
Well, she might not be a genius, but she knew this was too good to be true. Some hot and super-rich British guy wouldn't try to hook up with a small town, Southern girl on a whim. She glanced at his left hand. No ring.
“You name your boat after your girlfriend?”
He laughed. “My mother, actually. I'm single.” At her frown, he added. “Honest.”
Yeah, right. She'd heard that one before. “Sorry, but I don't know you from Abraham Lincoln.”
He dropped to the sand beside her, mirroring her seated position, then held out his hand. “How do you do? I'm Charles Cavendish.”
She giggled and shook his hand. “Mister, that sounds like a fake name.”
“No, seriously.” He smiled. “You can Google me, if you like.”
She gestured to her swimsuit. “I ain't brought my phone.”
“Of course. How silly of me.”
His chagrined expression was so cute, she decided to trust him as far as offering her name. “I'm Tilisha Jefferson.”
“Jefferson like the President?”
“Same spelling, but he ain't my great-great-great-grandpappy."
Just then, a marine patrol appeared, marching along the beach in their direction. Charles faced them and held up a hand. One of the marines waved back and smiled. This was her chance. She could ask for help to rescue Jolene. But then Charles turned back to her with a hopeful expression. She sighed. Surely, Jolene could take care of herself for one afternoon.
“So, Charles, you working in Mexico?”
“No. I'm retired.”
She snorted. “Right. I can see all them gray hairs.”
“I'm thirty-nine, but I was a professional footballer.”
That would explain the muscles. “Quarterback?”
He shook his head. “Proper football…what you would call soccer. I was a striker for Manchester United.”
She didn't know much about Britain or soccer, but that name sounded familiar. "Ain't that a famous team?”
That explained his wealth and early retirement. If British football players were paid anything like NFL stars, he must be a multimillionaire.
"What about you, Tilisha?"
She lowered her gaze. "I work on the checkout at Walmart."
"Hey, don't look like that. It's a respectable job."
"It ain't interesting like no athlete."
"You're interesting to me."
Her heart warmed.
“So…” He gestured out to sea. “Want to join me on the Louise?”
She squinted at his yacht. Charles was the hottest guy who ever hit on her. She bit her lip. It was still too much of a risk.
"Sorry, Charles. I really like you, I do. But you could be anybody."
His shoulders slumped, and he turned back toward his Jet Ski. Then he spun back. "Wait. I can prove who I am."
She tilted her head. "How?"
"My Rolex is engraved."
He tugged off his wristwatch and showed her the back. Sure enough, there was an inscription: To Charles "Thumper" Cavendish. Congratulations on your first hat-trick for United. It seemed he wasn't lying about his name or his job. She imagined Jolene's face if she heard Tilisha went for a drink on a millionaire's yacht. That would prove she was a Ginger, not a Mary Ann.
"Just one drink?" she confirmed.
“Really?” he pumped his fist in the air.
She laughed. “Hey, you ain't scored no goal yet. I only agreed to one drink.”
“That's good enough…for now.”
The scorching look he gave her melted her through to the core. Maybe she wanted more than one drink.
He took her hand and led her to the Jet Ski. After pulling it into the waves, he jumped on and patted the seat behind. “Coming?”
She climbed on and wrapped her arms around his waist, pleased to find his stomach was as firm as it looked. As he set off at speed, the wind and waves rushed past. She had to cling on tight, but she wasn't complaining. She rested her chin on his shoulder and savored the sweet smell of his cologne.
Disappointingly soon, they arrived alongside his yacht, and he assisted her to climb a short ladder leading to a low portion of the deck. She didn't mind at all that he was forced to touch her in interesting places. His yacht was unbelievable—at least a hundred feet long by twenty wide—with a polished wooden deck and fancy brass fittings everywhere. She stood at the rail and gazed back at the beach. From so far away, the tourists looked like ants. His yacht hadn't appeared all that far out, but it was bigger than she'd imagined making distance difficult to judge.
He placed a hand on her shoulder. “Could you do me a favor, my dear?”
He pointed to a door. “Just through there are steps down into the storeroom where the wine is kept. Could you select a suitable vintage?”
"I don't know nothing about wine."
"Whatever you choose will be fine." He winked. "I'll be in the galley, searching for the corkscrew."
The door was a kind she'd seen on ships in movies but never in real life, with a round window at the top and a wheel in the center. After pausing to think a moment, she turned the wheel and it opened. Behind, she found the steps but was immediately repulsed by the stench of rotting flesh. She gagged. Had his refrigerator broken?
Somebody pushed her from behind. She tumbled down the steps and landed on something that squelched. Ignoring a sharp pain in her ankle, she scrambled up and examined what she'd fallen on—a man's naked corpse. She screamed.
Charles stood in the doorway at the top of the stairs, blocking the light. “Meet the real Charles Cavendish. Poor Charlie had a little accident.”
He wasn't Charles. Tilisha's heart thumped. “Wh-who are you really?”
“A good question, darling. You may call me Jack.”
“Jack's your real name?”
He laughed and made to close the door.
“Wait!” She trembled, huddled as far from the corpse as she could in what appeared to be a confined area. "What do you want from me?"
He smirked. “Ask Charlie. He knows what happens next.”
The door slammed shut, and she heard a lock click. What did he mean, ask Charlie? As she grew accustomed to the dim light, she noticed more details about the corpse—burn marks on its chest, one arm twisted at an impossible angle, a missing eye…Ask Charlie. He knows what happens next. Her stomach churned, and she threw up. Jolene had been wrong. Twenty years from now, Tilisha wouldn't look back on today with regret she hadn't lived a little. By then she would be long dead.
Word Count: 2000
Third place "Quotation Inspiration: Official Contest" April 2018
"Short Stories Newsletter (June 27, 2018)"