Eric Jones cursed as he looked at himself in the mirror, trying to decide whether to shave the forest of red hair off his torso or not. Damn this complexion of mine. I can never get a decent tan. All I ever do is burn. Fucking red-headed, green-eyed bastard! Since all he was going to do was go to the lounge for a few drinks and listen to the entertainment, he decided against shaving and simply got dressed in a pair of snug dress jeans and a cobalt-blue button-down shirt. Combing his hair, he declared himself ready and headed out.
The lounge was crowded, but he managed to snag a table in the corner next to a small stage. “Can I get a vodka cranberry with a splash of orange juice please?” he asked the perky, attractive cocktail waitress. As he sipped his drink, he turned his mind inward. Why did I let those idiots I call friends talk me into taking a cruise on the gay version of the Love Boat? What a waste of time. Looking around the lounge at all of the happy couples, his thoughts turned bitter. How can I get over breaking up with Chad when all I see are happy couples? Three years. Three fucking years. I thought he loved me for me, not my wealth. Obviously he didn’t, since he demanded I buy him a Porsche or he was going to leave me.
After they were together for a little over two years, Eric decided to tell his boyfriend who he really was. Eric Vincent Johnson III, son of a multi-billionaire. He did his best to hide his true identity by living way below his means, three states away from his family, in a simple two-bedroom apartment. He volunteered as an orderly in a local hospital. Only his two best friends, Tommy and Sandy, knew who he really was. They didn’t care if he was rich or not. They liked him for who he was.
Suddenly, the lights slowly went out in the crowded seating area. In fact, there were only two open seats in the entire lounge, both at his table. Eric jumped about fifty feet in the air at an unexpected tap on his shoulder. He looked up to see a petite blond woman in uniform standing over him. Remembering his manners, he immediately stood.
“Hi, I’m Lisa, the cruise director.”
“It’s very nice to meet you. I’m Eric. Would you like to have a seat?” He smiled warmly as he shook her hand gently.
“No, but thank you. I’m here to ask a favor of you. Do you see that man standing over there?” She pointed to a man standing off to one side of the room. “He has a bad hip and can’t stand very long. Would you be so kind as to allow him to sit at your table?”
I hope this isn’t a matchmaking attempt. I’m not looking for Mr. Right, or even Mr. Right Now, he thought. Remembering what his grandmother went through when she broke her hip and had to have it replaced, his innate compassion kicked in. “Of course. Bring him over.”
A spotlight lit up a corner of the room where a man appeared. Without realizing it, Eric started checking him out. He appeared to be about six-foot two-inches and in good shape. He had shoulder-length jet black hair and emerald green eyes, flawless olive skin, and a perpetual five o’clock shadow. When he smiled, adorable dimples adorned his face. “Hi, I’m Anton. I’ll be entertaining you for a little while. I’d like to start by taking you all somewhere this cruise can’t take you.”
At that moment, Julie reappeared with the slightly limping man in tow. “Eric, this is Tim. Tim, Eric.” The two men shook hands and exchanged pleasantries as Julie left them alone.
Eric groaned as the opening measures of “Over The Rainbow” began to play. Oh great, he thought. Another Judy Garland wannabe. His distaste quickly took a backseat to his fascination with the quality of Anton’s voice, which held him mesmerized throughout the entire performance. ‘The Impossible Dream’, ‘Somewhere’, ‘500 Miles’, ‘Exodus’, ‘A Time For Us’, all songs that formerly belonged to his parents, were his now. Wow. I could listen to him sing all day.
Two wonderful hours later, Anton announced, “I’d like to close the show with a song I personally feel would be an awesome National Anthem.” This announcement was followed by the most incredible rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ Eric had ever heard. He found himself in agreement. It would indeed make an awesome National Anthem. Eric found himself chanting “Encore! Encore!” with just about everyone in the room. Anton came back out and brought the house down with a song he’d sung many times during his time with the Air Force Travelling Entertainment Showcase, ‘Tops In Blue’. By the time he finished singing “God Bless The USA” there wasn’t a dry eye in the house.
“Wow. That was incredible. He’s fantastic. I wonder if he has any CDs available.” Eric was totally in awe.
“I don’t know. Excuse me, I have to use the bathroom.” Tim left and came back a few minutes later and handed him a CD. “Here. This is for letting me share your table.”
Eric accepted the CD, saying, “You didn’t need to do this, but thank you.” It was strange being on the receiving end of a gift. The two men chatted the afternoon and evening away; enjoying dinner and getting to know each other. Tim seemed completely genuine, open, and down-to-earth. Eric found himself becoming attracted to the other man, an attraction that appeared to be mutual.
“Tomorrow we dock at Hawaii. Would you like to tour the island with me?”
“I’d love to, but I’m not sure how much walking I can do with my hip.”
“We can worry about that tomorrow.”
“It’s a date.”