Jimmy walked onto the elevator like he owned the place. He studied the buttons. Promenade Deck – P, Bridge Deck – B, Lower Deck – L.
“Oh, I get it, Mom, each deck is a letter, neat. So, ours would be U for Upper Deck.”
Jimmy had waited excitedly for this vacation. Not because he would see the Bahamas or Mexico, not because he would have no baseball practice for a week, and not even because he would have no homework. No. Jimmy’s enthusiasm stemmed from five little words: “Teen Room/No Adults Allowed.”
His parents could do their thing, Jimmy could do his. And Jimmy planned to make the most of it then return home to Altoona Junior High School to brag about his trip.
“Alright Dad, I’ve got my key. I know, Mom, I’ll be home at 6:00 to get ready for dinner. Don’t worry, I can’t get lost, we’re on a ship in the middle of the Caribbean, remember?” Before his parents could respond, Jimmy bounded down the hall and off to find the Teen Room.
He wasn’t disappointed. The room looked like a Las Vegas infomercial. Big screen TVs flashed images on the wall; pool, foosball, and ping pong tables lined one side of the cavernous space. On the opposite side stood a row of old-school pinball machines with blinking lights and electronic whirling sounds. There was even an Xbox section set in the back.
The “bar” offered a variety of sodas and snacks and the young stewards who worked there looked cool enough to know how to play every game. Yes, Jimmy thought, this is a dream vacation.
It didn’t take long for Jimmy to immerse himself into the cruise ship life. He would eat breakfast, stroll the deck, and join the water volleyball game that started each day at 10:00am. He would eat some more, test out the water slides, and finish his day challenging this guy or that girl to various gaming competitions. He sometimes won.
But Jimmy never played the best gamer on the ship, Heather, who was fifteen and already in high school. She had wavy brown hair, a sunburn line over the middle of her nose, and smelled like lilacs, whatever lilacs were. Whenever Jimmy stood near her, he feared he was seasick.
Then it happened, the most embarrassing thing ever. Jimmy finished his morning breakfast. He took his stroll around the deck. He played volleyball. He wrapped himself in a towel, and headed towards the elevator. He pressed the button.
When the doors opened, Jimmy stared straight into the hazel eyes of Heather.
“Well, are you getting on the elevator?”
“What, oh yeah,” he said hoping to keep his rapidly increasing breath under control.
“What floor do you want?”
Jimmy couldn’t believe his luck. He was having a conversation with Heather, the high school girl who could beat everyone at any video game. He knew his face was red, but he hoped she’d think it was sunburn.
“Well,” she said again, “what do you want?”
Confidently, Jimmy said, “I want U.” Then his genuine smile turned plastic, had he really just said I want you? Oh, the humiliation!
Heather looked at Jimmy. Her lips parted into a small smile; she blushed. Heather turned and pressed the proper button. The doors closed and silence filled the elevator.
Afraid of what to say next, Jimmy waited for the doors to reopen, which they did, and he watched Heather leave.
The next day, Jimmy and his parents packed their belongings and left the ship leaving the encounter with Heather to haunt him daily. Haunted, that is, until he met Danielle, the long-legged blond with dimples in her cheeks.
*A fictional story of true events