Beauty and the Beast

Fairy tales have been a part of my life as long as I can remember, but I only ever felt a connection to Belle because she liked to read books like me. Yesterday, I found myself in France, not particularly in the city where her story takes place, but one in which mine was coming to an end, Cherbourg. On ships, the routine is the law of the land, but once in a blue moon you find a person who is willing to walk away from it to share time with you. Julian left the ship this morning in between tears and goodbyes clutching a letter that I wrote in his hand, just hours before, however, he was smiling and holding my hand on the way to a surprise picnic he had planned for us in France.

Early in the morning I went ashore with friends to explore a museum and was happy to discover that there was a Titanic exhibit inside. Me and Julian have some relation to this story, so I thought it would be a sweet surprise to go see it with him, So my boss Jade passed her ticket along to me so I could surprise him. I had planned to come get him for lunch but while I was ashore he had made plans for our last day together. He told me to get food on the lido deck and grab the picnic items that my boss Jade had gifted me for my birthday and follow him ashore, so I did.

Full of anticipation, we headed out to the city center, we walked about 10 minutes when I spotted a beautiful sailing ship. He took a moment to ask me if I liked the sailboat to which I answered yes. As we continued walking towards it, I heard him ask one of the sailors if our friend was on-board. Turns out our friend Stanley is the chief navigator of the sailboat and Julian had arranged with him for us to have a picnic on-board. It was very sweet and I was touched. Cadets don’t have much free time, especially so close to going home, yet he took the time to plan something so meaningful. We both like ships and marine related things, I don’t know if any other girl would have loved it as much as me, but I was in heaven. I was in France, on a sailing ship, having a picnic with a person who had made the last month and a half anything but ordinary.

Having finished the picnic, we walked back towards the ship to visit the Titanic exhibit. We browsed through the gift store at my suggestion, I was hoping that he would like something that I could get him later, but he didn’t fall for it. Inside the exhibit, we saw and experienced things about the Titanic that we had only ever heard of before. We played with the replica of the engine machinery, but my favorite part was finding the Morse code machine of the RMS Titanic. As we stood by it I told Julian I was going to send him a SOS message instead “I will miss you” is what I typed in Morse Code, as it translated on the screen our eyes met. We were aware our time was running out, we were just pretending it was not.

As we walked out of the museum, I told him that I was staying behind to get some souvenirs. He then returned to the gangway after saying goodbye. I ran back to the store to prepare my parting gift for him. I purchased two replicas of the RMS Titanic Boarding Passes and two commemorative coins. We had been on this voyage together, on board the ship that we work on, just like people were on-board the Titanic making memories.

Unlike Titanic we made it to our final port, and now we had to accept the fact that in a couple of hours we wouldn’t be just a floor away. We would no longer be able to read books together, order room service because nothing seemed appetizing, or go out in ports to find hidden treasures. The Beauty of it all is that the memories made will not be forgotten, but the Beast of it all is that the loss that we are feeling at the moment might be feeling a little overbearing. So like Belle, a lover of books, I ended my story and found my prince, so to speak, in a quiet town in France and when I put my hand in my pocket I found my own version of the enchanted rose. I was holding a shepherd’s heart leaf in between my fingers, the first memory of our last day, a tale as old as time.

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