1 Bon Voyage

The sun was barely visible behind the gathering storm clouds. 'There wasn't any mention of rain in the forecast for today; stupid app.. I hope it doesn't ruin the trip..'

 The thought echoed within Serenity's mind as she stepped onto the deck of the ship. It was her first time going on a cruise, but not her first time near the ocean. Her uncle owned a fishing boat that took tourists out for deep sea fishing.

 Nearly every weekend and every summer, she would work as a deck hand, or a disgruntled waiter when she had to. This was nothing like her uncle's boat; neither in size or smell.

 The cruise had been a spur of the moment decision with some of her college friends. Most were already onboard, but one always took his sweet time. As Serenity looked around, she spotted her friend trying to make his way through the crowds of people gathered to wish the travelers Bon voyage.

 Matthew had been her best friend since grade school, and the first boy she had ever liked. Serenity's parents had gone through a nasty divorce with a heated custody battle. The experience had nearly turned her off of romance altogether, but her feelings for Matt never changed.

 He was kind, positive, and listened to her constant rants and complaints about her parents. He'd literally saved her sanity over the years by being her rock.

 Their solid friendship was the exact reason Serenity could never tell him how she felt. Matt was the best kind of guy, but she always thought that he saw her like a sister. The chance of her freaking him out with her confession was too high, so she'd never told him. She couldn't bear to lose him..

 Reaching the top of the gangway, Matt dropped the five bags he was carrying with a huff; "Why did NO ONE help me?! Did you see the crowds?!"

 Serenity grinned broadly; "Hey, I helped by grabbing my own bag. You're the one that lost the bet, not me. You should appreciate my mercy, not hold their lack of it against me."

 Matt stared at Serenity flatly; "That's cold, Ren.. That's just cold. After all I've done for you-"

 "Do you really want to get into who owes who? I believe I have a juvenile record because of you! Now move it! You're blocking the way for the last few people trying to get on."

 As Matt followed behind her, he bellowed; "It was a curfew violation! It's not like you got caught with weed or anything!"

 Finding a clearing, Serenity replied; "And do you remember how black and blue my dad had left my ass for that?!"

 Matthew visibly flinched at his best friend's rebuke. He could never forget the week-long harassment from the teachers because she couldn't 'sit in her chair properly'. Then the subsequent child abuse charges that were filed against her father. She hadn't seen him since, and didn't want to.

 "Come on, let's go find the others and start having some fun! We're all gonna be swamped with work and studying when we get back, so we need to cram as much fun in now as we can! Come on, I'll help!"

 Matt grinned at his best friend and the love of his life. He was planning on finally asking her out while they were on the cruise, but remembering his failure made him doubt she'd reciprocate.

 He knew he was responsible for not only Serenity's beating, but the events that had followed after. He didn't know if she would accept his feelings, but he had to try. The warmer it got, the more competition he'd get.

 Serenity had long, curly red hair, a curvy body, and eyes so crystal blue that they nearly glowed at night. They had mesmerized Matthew the moment he'd met her, but her personality is what made him fall in love with her.

 She was intelligent and opinionated, but never insulting. She was also the kindest and most laid-back person he'd ever met. Watching movies and playing board games were a few of her favorite things, but she also deeply loved the ocean.

 Serenity was studying Marine Biology, and was specializing in Coral Ecology. She wanted to figure out a way to stop the reefs from disappearing. She wasn't sure yet if she wanted to go the genetics route, or stick to pure study(MUCH less school), but Matt would support her in whatever career path she chose. He wanted her happy.

 His major was in the Marine Sciences as well, but specifically Cetology('whaleology'). He was currently studying Western Grey Whales and their migration patterns. Originally, Matthew had wanted to study Spade-Toothed Whales, but they're far too rare. Only two specimens had ever been found in the past one-hundred and forty years, or so. Which was fine with him since he just wanted to be near the ocean, and Serenity.

 Finding their friends in the crowds took forever. The ship was pulling away from the dock by the time they'd all met up. People waved and yelled to their loved ones as their faces and details slowly obscured, then disappeared into the distance.

 Serenity felt a little strange waving goodbye to random strangers, but her friends had told her it was a weird tradition to wave regardless.

 Watching the shoreline shrinking away had suddenly made Serenity feel very nervous. 'Maybe it's the storm clouds? I've been out at sea a million times, so why do I feel like something bad is gonna happen?'

 As the crowds thinned, Serenity pulled out her phone and spoke; "Hey, did anyone's weather app say anything about rain today? Mine is still saying clear skies, but that's obviously crap."

 All six friends looked up at the ash-colored sky. The farther away from land they sailed, the closer the clouds became. The ones in the distance looked as dark as night, which dampened the spirits of the hopeful collage students.

 A lot of the first day activities were on the deck. They were lucky the cruise line had indoor events that could be swapped out in case of bad weather. After all the passengers found and set their things in their rooms, the staff went over the extensive safety drills and precautions.

 Afterwards, a lunch buffet was prepared. The friends shared a rounded table with an elderly couple from Ohio that talked a Lot about their grandkids. Serenity found it sweet, but her friends found it slightly annoying after the first three dozen pictures and stories.

 Matt watched Serenity politely continue talking with the elderly woman while the man read the table, and sat quietly eating. The four other friends with them began conversing amongst themselves.

 Taylor and Maria had been dating since their freshmen year of high school, and he was planning on proposing in a couple of days. Michael and Layla were paternal twins, and in the middle of another argument when the Captain's voice came over the intercoms.

 "Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for joining us for your vacation! I apologize for the cancellation of the First Night Luau, but we promise to make it up to you over the next five days. Until then please enjoy our wonderful food and drink buffet!"

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 As he went to step away from the microphone, a staff member ran over to him and whispered something in his ear. He was sweating, and his shirt collar was a bit disheveled. The look on the Captain's face when he pulled away caused Serenity's heart sink, and her stomach to knot. He looked like he'd seen death.

 After saying a few hasty words to the other man, he quickly ran off with panic in his eyes, and sweat on his forehead. The foreboding feeling Serenity had earlier reared it's ugly head again as the Captain did his best to look nonchalant.

 Most didn't notice, but his hand shook slightly as he grabbed and adjusted the microphone. Serenity looked over at Matt, whom had noticed the tremble as well.

 As the Captain began to speak, the two directed their attention to the front; "I'm sorry to say this folks, but we're about to experience some rough weather. The clouds we've sailed most of the way through have begun to turn into a tropical depression. I urge you all to return to your rooms, secure your belongings, and be ready to follow proper safety procedures."

 Murmurs brimming with doubt and panic began to fill the room, prompting the Captain to continue; "We will keep you up to date as the system develops, and we steer clear from it. Don't worry, I've sailed through worse on smaller ships. My crew will keep us all safe. I bet my life on it."

 Most of the passengers seemed put at ease by the Captain's words, but not Serenity and Matthew. They shared a nervous look as the rain began to beat down on the skylight windows with fury. Lightning flashes began to increase at an alarming rate, and the claps of thunder were growing louder and louder. The entire thing seemed like the opening to a disaster movie to them..

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