PUBLICATION DATE: January 3, 2017
After Marigold Shadd’s parents disappeared during a mission trip, she and her sister Ixora moved to Mapleville, a rural community on the shores of Lake Erie.
Their grandmother Annabelle “Big Momma” Henson adored them but Marigold had lost faith in everything including God.
Marigold’s best friend Logan van Basten became the silver lining in her life. Days after their high school graduation, they ran off to New York and took up cruise ship jobs.
Time may heal all wounds but the decade spent at sea did not fill the void in Marigold’s heart.
When Logan revealed that his wife Alena was unable to carry a child and asked Marigold if would consider acting as their surrogate mother, she said yes.
Marigold saw Logan’s request as an opportunity to prove her sister Ixora wrong. Ixora had always said she was selfish. What could be more redeeming than her carrying a baby for a woman she didn’t even like?
March 2015. New York City.
Marigold Shadd woke up to loud beeps from her cell phone alarm. Even though she was reluctant to leave the warmth of her bed, she had somewhere important to be. There would be plenty of time to catch up on lost sleep after she’d disembarked from the ship.
She turned off the cell phone, parted the nautical themed curtains on the lower bunk, and swung socked feet onto the worn blue carpet. The dim light from the table lamp her cabin mate, Buyisiwe, had left on guided her towards the bathroom door.
During Marigold’s first work contract on a cruise ship, she’d walked into a closet-sized crew cabin whose thin walls vibrated the hum of the ship’s engines and wondered how she and a stranger from Colombia would spend eight months in such close quarters.
Each year brought a new work contract, a different ship, and a cabin mate from another part of the world. It was like working for the United Nations on a minimum wage pay.
There were some squabbles over clutter and personal items being moved without permission. But, for the most part, she’d been blessed with awesome cabin mates.
In the bathroom, Marigold covered a yawn as she listened to Buyisiwe’s loud snores. Most of Buyisiwe’s time in the cabin was spent staring at the picture of her teenage daughter, a beauty with an impressive afro. The young lady attended a private school in their home country of South Africa thanks to her mother’s ninety-hour work week sacrifice.
After she’d brushed her teeth, Marigold changed into a pair of jeans and a T-shirt and rubbed some shea butter lotion on her washed face and exposed arms. When dry, her hazelnut-coloured skin took on a hated ashy tone.
Marigold stepped out of the cabin and took the elevator to the fifteenth deck. The ship’s corridors were empty of passengers. The wild “Last Night of the Cruise” party was hard to recover from.
She pushed open the swinging door of the main dining room, walked in, and exchanged a silent nod with the breakfast server sorting through a large bin of cutlery.
Marigold stood in front of the dining room’s floor-to-ceiling windows and placed her hand on the cool glass. Situated near the ship’s bow, the room offered the perfect spot for her to watch their vessel glide towards the New York Harbor. The imposing figure of Lady Liberty welcomed her from the distance. It really was the end of her decade at sea.
“Good morning, Mari.”
She turned at the sound of the voice and watched as her best friend, Logan van Basten, strolled across the room. Long-limbed, Logan moved through spaces as if he had all the time in the world. Walking with him forced her to take slower steps.
“Are you all packed?” Logan asked when he reached her side. At five-feet-ten, she still had to tilt her head to look at him.
Marigold sucked in her cheeks as she nodded. They’d been together for an entire decade. During year five, they’d agreed that whenever either of them said it was time to return to Canada, they would both hand in their resignations.
Logan was ready for a wife, a couple of kids, and a thirty-year mortgage on a fixer-upper condo. In spite of many sleepless nights, she didn’t know what she was ready for. For now, she would go wherever Logan went.
He reached out and held her hand. “We’re going to be fine.”
The way Logan stressed each word brought Marigold a sense of calmness. He’d always been good to her. Back in high school, Logan had asked her to be his girlfriend. Caught up in her grief, she’d said no. By the time they’d settled into their nomadic lifestyle and she was open to a relationship, it was clear that he had moved on. They became family. She couldn’t ask for a better brother.
“We’re going to be fine,” Logan repeated as she continued to stare at his freckled face.
She tightened the grip on his hand. “I hope so Logi. I really do.”