Freedom of the Seas

“I can’t be late!” I said hyperventilating in the back seat of Lisa’s beat up Kirby.

“Can’t this thing move any faster!” I screeched.

Lisa rolled her eyes at me from the rearview mirror. My cousin Ashton in the passenger side window smirked then looked at Lisa pleadingly to forgive my robust behavior.

“I’m sorry Lisa. But I promised my mom that I wouldn’t be late. We’ve been planning this trip to go to the islands for months now. She told me not to be late for the cruise, and what am I? Late for the cruise.” I slumped further into the backseat of the car trying to soak up some heat from the leather to keep from freezing in the New York weather. The heat inside the car barely reached the passengers in the front seat, let alone the back. I usually loved traffic time in New York as my eyes gazed over the scenery, that was life, progressing all around me. But today, I absolutely loathed it. The cruise for the islands was taking off at 2:00 p.m. in Manhattan, and here I was, at 1:30 p.m. stuck in traffic on Flatbush in Brooklyn. Ashton wanted to hit up Kings Plaza Mall for a gift he wanted to get his mom for her birthday the next day and of course, I decided to go along. But hey, it was normal, a girl wanting to spend quality time with her two closest friends before leaving for a month!

“Hey we are moving now, cheer up! As soon as we pass the bridge, its free sailing from here on out,” Lisa chuckled, probably amused of how she was able to put “sailing” in her sentence since I would be sailing pretty soon. The joke was not funny and what would be less funny was if I missed the trip altogether. Either way I smiled. In actuality, the speed was starting to pick up. By 1:50, we were speeding down the road to the Manhattan shore. I jumped up and down, giddy and then bear hugged my friends from behind.

“You guys are the best!” I laughed as I saw their expression of dealing with a suck-up after a temper tantrum. All of a sudden a garbage truck appeared from a side street and stopped in front of us. You have got to be joking I thought. It was 1:55 p.m. and I was only two minutes away from the shore. Hopefully a ship was like a plane: they waited a couple of minutes for a passenger as they blared their names through the terminal. In NYC, where no one was patient, it was highly impossible.

“Thanks guys but I’ ll drop here! I’ll call you when I get on board,” I said as I stumbled out of the back seat trying to balance my luggage. Lisa and Ashton were speechless as they figured I would be running ten blocks in the freezing city air.

“Be careful!” Ashton yelled to the back of my bobbing ponytail, like only a concerned older cousin could.

“You get ’em girl!” Lisa hyped me on; of course she would have my back no matter what crazy thing I did.

I ran and ran as fast as my skinny legs would let me run. My two huge book-bags smacked bystanders and I yelled apologetically at them as I ran. Seven blocks to go, I thought. I have to make it. I jumped over a cat and a couple of dumpster cans. Thank God I ran track in high school I thought to myself. Two more blocks to go. Up ahead, I could see the large white ship with gold letters imprinted “Freedom of the Seas.” As I made it past the last block, I saw the last few people making it up the ladder as onlookers from below waved at family and friends onboard.

“No!” I yelled. As I got to the make-shift reception desk at the entrance of the ships ladder, I threw my bags on the floor.

“I have to get on that ship now. My whole family is on bored. We have been planning this vacation forever……I never traveled before…..this means the world to me,” my voice came out barely audible as I choked on the cold air that started to burn my lungs.

“Catch your breath first Miss and I’ll see what I can do. However, I highly doubt you will be able to get on at this time. The ship takes off at 2:00 and we are already behind schedule. As you see it’s already 2:10.” The tall, pale conductor in his red assemble turned around and fumbled around with his radio.

There was only a small metal fence that blocked me from the Manhattan shore and the “Freedom of the Seas.” So I did what any other seventeen year old born in Brooklyn, New York would do; I hopped the metal fence and ran for dear life.

“Hey!” yelled the conductor from behind me. All around I saw rent-a-cops chase me as I made my way up the ladder. As soon as I got to the check-in counter on board, a man stamped my ticket and I ran to the deck hoping to get lost in the crowd. I felt the ship start to move and I knew the search for me was most likely called off. At last, I threw my two heavy bags on the floor and made my way to the bar. I was underage for everything in the world, so I took a shot of apple cider…. as I should.

I fished into the pocket of my black Guess jacket for my phone to call my mom. The heck! Where was my phone? Frantically, I searched through my two highlighted green book bags. It wasn’t there. I retraced my steps to front edge of the ship. Maybe someone stole it, I thought. Maybe, it dropped while I was running. Maybe I was being punished by God for hopping a fence. It was only the 10th time I ever did it in my life!….or maybe it’s still in Lisa’s Kirby charging in the front row. I groaned. What could I possibly do with no cell phone access for a month? I went to the information table and said I was looking for a party of four.

“Name please,” the heavy red-haired woman said behind the glass window.

“Ezel Lark,” I replied.

“Party of four for Ezel Lark. She is waiting for you at the information center located on the first floor in the north section,” boomed the red-head’s voice through the ship.

I waited for one minute. Then five minutes. Then five minutes turned to thirty. I paced madly around the reception hall. Here, I risked my life to get on the ship and my mom, dad, brother and sister were nowhere to be found.

I banged noisily on the glass window of the reception counter. The heavy woman returned.

“Uhm excuse me, can you make another announcement. Maybe my family is already in their room and my younger sister Shila was blasting Eminem or something and they couldn’t hear.”

The woman looked at me like I lost my mind. Before I spoke the words, they sounded much better in my head. Frustrated, I pulled out my ticket and jammed it into the opening of the glass window.

“There’s my ticket. I belong here, on this ship, with my family, on Freedom of the Seas, ooooookk,” I said to the woman as if she could not understand plain English.

She took the ticket and then stared at me under her blue-rimmed glasses. “This ship is Freedom of the Seas,” she replied dryly.

“I’d hope so,” I said beginning to be increasingly irritated by this woman.

“But your ticket says Freedom of the Skies.” The woman smiled at me grimly and handed the ticket back to me under the window opening.

I took the ticket in my hand and stared at it for one long minute. It, in fact, said Freedom of the Skies. I was on the wrong ship. My eyes widened as I barely stifled the scream that threatened to escape my throat.

I knocked on the woman’s glass window once more, but gently this time. She turned around in her swivel chair.

“If you don’t mind me asking ma’m, what is the next stop, it wouldn’t be the Bahamas by any chance?” I asked, fear coating my words.

“No. It’s Italy.”

—Shade Akinmorin