Jen sat on a deckchair and clutched her knees to her chest. The pungent smell of the ocean hung on the chilly north wind stifling her senses, while the occasional spray of salt water accentuated her misery. “What was I thinking?” She gazed through the galley window at her friends as they enjoyed a small buffet of snacks. She gasped as the boat rose onto the crest of a swell and dipped again.
“Are you okay?” Mrs. Harvey strolled across the deck, trying to balance herself on the pitching vessel. “Why are you out here by yourself?”
“I feel sick.” The teenaged girl’s lips quivered. “I should’ve stayed home … not signed up for the trip.” She buried her face.
Mrs. Harvey rubbed Jen’s back. “Oh, sweetie.” A spray of seawater crossed the deck as the boat plunged down from the undulating current. “Lift your head up … you need the fresh air.”
A commotion bellowed from the mess hall as the boat heaved upward on an enormous wave. A bevy of multicolored Jell-O cubes and pretzels ricocheted off the window as the members of the youth group tried to maintain their balance. A chorus of laughter broke out.
“Oh … I hate this. I thought …”
The dining hall door flew open. “Hey, guys. You should check this out.” Patrick poked his grinning face around the corner. “Bradley tried to save the salsa and it dumped down his shorts.” He couldn’t contain a chuckle. “Then the bowl landed on Becca’s head … it was a hilarious, man.” He slammed the door as he popped back inside.
The boat continued its relentless rolling.
“Mrs. Harvey …” Jen embraced the elderly lady. “I don’t wan’a …”
“Shhhhh. Let’s see if we can find something to settle your stomach.”
“I only signed up so Trevor would notice me.” The youngster’s voice quivered. “But I don’t wan’a be the hurling girl from the island cruise…”
“Ahoy, maties.” Pastor Harvey sauntered across the floor. “Are we having our own private party out here? You should be inside, enjoying the festivities.”
“Jennifer doesn’t feel well.”
“I hope it wasn’t my roasted garlic dip.” He tugged on the lapel of his jacket as the ship lurched over another swell. “Can you believe my old navy uniform still fits?” He twiddled with the brass buttons, which quivered under the stress of his age-acquired paunch. “I haven’t worn it since…”
“We need something to relieve her nausea, dear.” Mrs. Harvey helped the weary girl to her feet. “We can reminisce another time.”
“Oh … you’re right, Stella.” Pastor Harvey gestured toward the front of the vessel. “The medical kit is up near the bow.”
The three braced themselves as the boat dropped downward once again.
“Come on, honey.” The pastor’s wife placed her arm around the youngster’s shoulders.
The galley door opened, and Trevor walked over to the rail.
“Oh, no.” Jen stopped in her tracks, her voice nearly squeaking as she tried to stay quiet. “I can’t let him see me like this.” She hid her face in her hands.
“Nonsense,” Stella whispered. “Just say hi as you walk past and he won’t think anything is unusual.” She nudged the hesitant girl forward.
The group proceeded toward the front again. The young girl grabbed the rail for support against the rising incline of the deck as the boat ascended a large wave. “Mrs. Harvey … It’s getting worse.” The nose pitched downward. Jen lost her balance and lunged forward, crashing into a surprised Trevor and knocking him to the floor. “Oh my … I … I …”
“Jen?” The young man pulled himself to his knees. “Why are you …” His eyes grew wide as the color drained from his cheeks. A flood of nachos and cocktail weenies sprayed across the deck and Jen’s shoes.
Pastor and Mrs. Harvey ran to the youngsters’ aid, trying to minimize the damage.
“Oh, no.” Jen turned her head, trying to cover her mouth. It was too late. A colorful blast of cherry punch and lime Jell-O spewed out, splattering on Pastor Harvey’s chest.
“Oh, my.” Mrs. Harvey blotted her husband with a handkerchief.
“Jen … You okay?” Trevor staggered to his feet. “Sorry ‘bout the shoes.”
Jen forced a bashful smile.
Pastor Harvey uttered a deep chuckle. “You know …” He flicked green gelatin particles from his uniform. “I think this might be the most memorable trip we’ve ever taken.” The chuckle bellowed into a boisterous laugh.
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