The Lido lounge pulsed with drinking passengers, most of whom smoked cigarettes on deck as well. I had thought that only about thirty percent of the population still smoked, but the sample of humans we had aboard the M/S World Discoverer was a bit more jaded than that figure seemed to indicate. I sat at the bar in my usual corner, waiting for the staff crew to gather for our afternoon stand-up. I also expected Marlys, even though I was unsure of exactly why I was waiting for her to appear, or who or what she really was. That small shrine in her room had unnerved me.
The night before, in my cabin, her youth, innocence and ignorance of the world had seemed totally persuasive. I reached down to my pockets. My left one still contained about eight ounces of Aguiak Island gold, but it was the right pocket in which the dolphin anklet reposed. I touched its shape from the outside. It seemed to burn with an interior heat. I pulled my hand back up to the safety of the bar. I looked up.
My coffee glass had been replaced with a ceramic bowl. Marlys stood before me, wearing a white blouse. The necklace she had sported when I first came aboard adorned her neck. Her blouse was cut low. She leaned slightly forward, seeming to accede to my desire to see more. I looked away.