All of us are silent in the small dining area when Zoe finishes reading the article. My head spins and I feel like I can’t breathe.
“He doesn’t have a lot of time for me, and he’s been ignoring problems that have been staring him in the face for months. I’m not really looking forward to going back home, where reality is going to crash like a bull in a China shop, and he won’t be able to ignore things anymore. At work or at home.”
Mackenzie’s words from the night we had dinner at Rhythms on St. Croix come crashing back into my head. She told me…I just didn’t listen. I never imagined she had something so huge resting on her shoulders. Something that would make her hesitant to make promises to me or scared to take hold of something she wanted when her father’s life was falling apart. Of course she lied and told me her life was perfect. Why in the hell would she be honest with me when I didn’t take her problems seriously?
“There are things going on in my life back home. Things I can’t—”
I hear her voice in my head the night in the wheelhouse. The night I told her she made me want to change all of my plans. I could see the fear and uneasiness in her eyes, and I thought it was because she just wasn’t sure about me. Wasn’t sure about us. She was trying to tell me and I cut her off. Then I stopped her from talking to me AGAIN a few days later and took her on a tour of the ship instead. I didn’t listen, and I didn’t give her a chance to explain because I was too afraid she’d list all the reasons why this couldn’t work between us. I was selfish, and I let Allyson bring forward all of those insecurities until I pushed her away.
She needed me and I fucking pushed her away.
“Marcel, Mackenzie said something to me in French the other night. Demande-moi de rester. Je ne veux jamais te quitter. S’il te plait, demande-moi de rester,” I tell him, repeating her words that have been playing on a loop in my head ever since she said them. “What did she say?”
Her voice was so quiet and sad, but I just assumed she said something to turn me on, because she knew what the sound of her speaking in French did to me. But I couldn’t stop thinking about the way she said those words. It was different. It meant something more; I can feel it in my gut.
“You dumb shit,” Marcel curses, shaking his head and glaring at me.
My hands start to shake, and I know. I know what he’s going to say next will break me in half, but I need to hear it. I need to know what she whispered. What she wanted me to hear, but at the same time, didn’t want to say.
“What did she say, dammit?!” I shout, slamming my fist on the table, making Zoe jump next to me at my outburst.
Marcel rolls his eyes at me, but gives me what I want.
“She said, ‘Ask me to stay. I never want to leave you. Please, ask me to stay.’ You dumb shit.”
Everything in the room fades away until all I can hear is the rushing of blood and the pounding of my own heart in my ears. Ben is muttering under his breath, Zoe is calling me an idiot, and Marcel is back to cursing at me in French, but I don’t hear any of it. All I can hear is Mackenzie’s voice, begging me to ask her to stay.
“Goddammit. GOD FUCKING DAMMIT!” I shout, crumbling up the printed article and throwing it across the room, sliding down the bench seat to get the hell out from behind this table.
“Move. FUCKING MOVE!” I yell at Ben when he doesn’t get out of my way fast enough.
He scrambles out from behind the table and backs up against the wall, holding his hands in the air to give me room. I take off running down the hall, ignoring Jessica, Ashley, and Eddie when they open their bunk doors and ask what’s going on as I race past.
Ben, Zoe, and Marcel all follow after me as I fly up the stairs, through the guest quarters and out onto the deck, running as fast as I can to the bridge still hooked up to the dock.
“Declan, where the hell are you going?” Ben shouts after me as my feet pound across the wooden planks.
“I’m going to find Mackenzie!” I yell back to him, jumping onto the dock. “I’m going to apologize, and then I’m going to fucking beg her to stay.”
I hear everyone let out a cheer back on the deck of the boat, but I ignore it and keep on running. I never should have let her go, and there’s no way in hell I’m letting her leave this island without telling her.
“Is everything okay, Mackenzie?”
My head comes up from staring at my plate where I’d been pushing my food around to give my dad a smile.
“It’s fine. I’m fine,” I reassure him, even though nothing is fine and I don’t know if it ever will be again.
He knows I’m lying, but he doesn’t argue with me, thank God. I’ve cried enough tears in the last two days that if he says anything about the man who made me shed them, I won’t be able to stop myself from breaking down again. The only bright spot in getting off the ship was not having Allyson and Arianna there with us. They left before the rest of us woke up, and by the time my father, Brooke, and I made it back to the hotel where we were staying until our flight home tomorrow morning, the local authorities already had them in handcuffs and were escorting them out of the hotel and into awaiting police cars.
The only time I smiled in the last two days was when Allyson saw us standing there watching them being taken away, and she turned on the waterworks, crying and apologizing and begging for us to help her. Hearing my father tell her to “Fuck off and go to hell” was one of the best moments of my life, and I couldn’t have been more proud of him.