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part II Chapter II Exploring the City

from the book THE WEEKEND: Love, Ambition & the Lisbon Dream

Welcome to Part II of our audio Sunday listening adventure in “The Weekend: Love, Ambition and the Lisbon Dream”! In this chapter, we join Paige as she discovers a hidden gem, the Gin Lovers Bar & Restaurant at the beautiful Embaixada, located in the iconic XIX New Arabian Palace on the Principal Road.

Sitting at the bar next to grandiose windows overlooking a mature garden, Paige is greeted by an attractive bartender who offers her a delightful array of gins and refreshing drinks. As she indulges in the Pink Gin with Champagne, Paige’s evening takes an unexpected turn when she strikes up a conversation with two locals who run tourist tours in Lisbon. They share their insights into city living and the vibrant nightlife, including tales of apartment maintenance and the influx of tourists during the summer season.

As the evening progresses, Paige finds herself captivated by the bartender, Dini. A spontaneous offer leads them to his cozy apartment on Rua da Bica de Duarte Belo, where their night becomes a passionate Lisbon dream. Waking up to the bustling sounds of the street, Paige and Dini marvel at the view from the window, appreciating the charm of one of the world’s most beautiful streets.

Exploring the vibrant neighborhood together, the couple enjoys breakfast at the Time Out Market, immersing themselves in the diverse culinary offerings from around the world. With plans for shopping and further adventures ahead, Paige embraces the vibrant energy of Lisbon and the endless possibilities it holds.

Join us as we delve deeper into Paige’s journey in Part II of “The Weekend: Love, Ambition and the Lisbon Dream” and experience the enchantment of Lisbon through her eyes. 🌙✨

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Chapter II – Exploring the city

from the book The Weekend: Love, Ambition & the Lisbon Drea

Saturday morning, Paige walked towards Oeiras station and took the local train for a 20-minute ride with a sea view towards Cais de Sodre Lisbon station. She passed by little towns such as Praia de Caxias, Alges, and Alcantar Mar, looking out the window at the glistening sun hitting on the surface of the ocean, the water’s azure blue waves of all sizes breaking, and bare rocks and shores with sandy beaches.

The train came to a stop in Torre de Belem, and of course, she looked at the famous Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. The Tagus River bridge connects the city of Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, to the municipality of Almada. Paige took in the breath-taking scenery.

Continue listening to the audio and imerse yourself in the heart of the city of Lisbon

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The Weekend: Love, Ambition & the Lisbon Dream

OUT NOW!

Listen to Chapter I – JANUARY

Lisbon, Portugal — March of 2022 Paige is sitting at her desk in her retro loft apartment, a 19th-century mansion in the trendy Real area. She looks across the room and remembers her early days in Lisbon.

Seven years had passed since she’d first set foot on the fabled West Coast after deciding to uproot her life and head elsewhere. On January 4, 2015, right after the new year began, she accepted a job offer from a major international technology company to work as an online advertising client adviser.

 By the time she had been picked-up by a company employee who took her to the business complex’s apartment. She would live with other employees in a flat share. The neighbourhood was described as a good middle class district in a suburb of Lisbon named Oeiras, but the sight of the ghetto-like multi-storey apartment houses with a few palms and a supermarket in the middle was shocking.

Get your FREE Kindle ebook copy today (only til 21.05.)

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Listen to Chapter I “First days in London” – part III from the book Blossom Hill

Mia felt as if she had hit an iceberg while on board the Titanic and all her love was drowning. All she could do was let go and keep herself together.

Mia unwrapped her arms and with a fresh, friendly smile, said: “Alright, the light’s on, now you find the lock with the right key, it’s a really cool house.” Bo opened the apartment door, but the light switch inside didn’t work. The electricity in the house used a point system, which meant you had to purchase credit and charge on a meter in the corridor. With the help of her lighter, Mia made it to the bathroom. Bo, opening the bathroom door, said: “Ah, here you are.”…

Happy Sunday & Cheers 💕

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Sunday Listening – part II

Listen to Chapter I “First days in London” – part II from the book Blossom Hill

The two exchanged addresses, phone numbers, and paid using the man’s card. Mia was surprised that someone was so generous and thanked him. On her way-out, she noticed that only one other car had stopped at the gas station, a shiny Porsche 911….

When she arrived, Bo was standing with his landlady, an attractive African woman from the same country as him. Bo grabbed his one suitcase and they drove over to Lordship Road to move in….

Enjoy your Sunday, Sunday lovestory,

Sunday Cheers 💋

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Sunday Listening

Listen to Chapter I “First days in London” – part I from the book Blossom Hill

Join Mia on her journey to a new life….

Mia had just left the shutlle at Folkestone after passing through the Euro-Channel from Calais and traveling the fifty-mile route through the world’s longest underwater channel by train with her car – thirty-seven miles undersea in just thirty minutes. She was excited….

Enjoy Sunday 。. ♡ .。.:

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New Beginnings

For the New Year another repost from the book Blend 37 – Pippa Bow – CHAPTER Three “New Beginnings”

A week had passed. Pippa had worked all week on the designs for an event agency that had planned a massive opening party in spring. Pippa had created the whole concept, including the artwork. These were the kinds of jobs you could get on the internet. You would work for like a hundred hours not knowing if the client would finally approve the work, and if he did, you would end up with a few hundred bucks, paying a tenth of what the work would be worth.


Pippa was proud of her piece of work, which had been approved. But these jobs would not be enough to keep her running during her study, and she would not have the time to work non-stop on a project since she also had to do the homework for the study. She had also applied for a part-time job with one of the most prestigious event agencies in London. She would start in two weeks. The job paid well for a student job, enough to pay the rent and avoid the risk of starving. Tonight, she had planned to go for dinner with Tess, and later on, they would meet some friends in a bar.

Tess and Pippa had enjoyed their dinner at the Arcadia, a colourful restaurant with Italian food. They were enjoying their tiramisu and a cup of cappuccino while Tess reported on her last date that she got through her dating app. The first date had been a nightmare, but the latest guy in her dating series somehow blew her away. She was sitting there full of excitement:

“Wow, you did not recognize the guy?” Pippa was laughing.

“No! He was wearing a suit, and on those pictures on that app, he had been wearing more casual T-shirts and sunglasses.” Tess laughs.

“Was it a disappointment without sunglasses or does he look that good?” Pippa questions with a bright smile on her face.

“He is handsome, damn handsome, he looks amazing – he actually is amazing.” Tess couldn’t stop; she was absolutely impressed by the guy.

Tess had gone on a date with Gibson on Tuesday, and they had had a great time. He was one of those financial sharks who worked for one of the prestigious financial companies. They had met again just the day before and had spent the night together. She had left his Belgravia apartment this morning as he was heading off on a business trip.

Tess was sitting opposite Pippa, flying on cloud seven and swarming about Gibson like a teenager. They both giggled, while Tess was talking about what he had done to her last night. Gibson had also sent Tess an email just before she left the house to meet Pippa, saying: “I hope you give me a reason to come back.”

The two women finished their drinks and moved on to meet their friends Michelle and Alexa at the lobby bar at the foot of The Strand. A shiny, light-filled space with classy drinks and an even more classy clientele. The four of them took a sophisticated break. As they haven’t seen each other since the last semester, they had a lot to tell. All of them had had major changes in their relationships and were now single except Alexa, who had just gotten engaged, flashing off her ring, and was about to marry in the summer. Michelle was already flirting with one of the guys on the neighbouring couch while Alexa, Tess and Pippa disappeared on the dance floor.

By the early morning hour of around five, Tess and Pippa arrived at their apartment house, standing in the corridor. ”I will see you tomorrow?” Tess murmured while leaning at the door.

“Yes, good idea, or maybe the day after tomorrow, in case I sleep a little longer.” Pippa grinned, opening her apartment door and disappearing.

The weekend had past and Pippa was sitting on another project for the event agency. She worked online and was on the last edits as the deadline was set for five p.m. in the afternoon. She had worked out the whole marketing plan, including the graphic parts, venues, contacts, and much more. So, her rent was saved for this month. The following day university started again, and in the afternoon, she had her first day at her new job at the prestigious event agency. The receptionist opened the door for her, and she got introduced to the team. Two girls, both around their early thirties, one from South London, the other with an Eastern block country accent. The head of digital was not in, as on most days he would delight with his absence. Last but not least, Pippa was introduced to the digital director’s assistant, who, on the other hand, would shine even brighter with his presence. He would be the one Pippa would work closest with, to her delight, which she already knew the moment he shook her hand with such a soft, arrogant, dismissive handshake.

“Welcome Pippa, we are already expecting you. I got lots of projects already waiting for you. Show us how you will delight us here.” Toby, the assistant, pointed to his desk. “Well, you might want to have a seat.”

Pippa could only feel how her stomach acid rushed up and she swallowed it down. Yes, this was exactly what she was looking for; working with the asshole assistant.

“Thank you, Toby.“ She smiled. “Nice to meet you, I am so excited.”

Pippa took a seat, and Toby started explaining his role, since when he was in the company and what important work he was doing, which prestigious clients he worked with and that Pippa’s forerunner had been from the Netherlands and had returned to his study, and he wasn’t really sure if Pippa had what it takes to talk with his important clients.

“But we will see, I have several projects in mind you could work with and then we will see where you fit best,” Toby suggested. Pippa agreed in a friendly manner and repeated.

“Yes, well, let’s see what fits best.” She was impressed by what an asshole this guy was, how someone his age could talk with such arrogance, and she wondered what else he could do besides talk nonsense. It seemed like as more asshole the people to work with, the better the pay. Pippa had forgotten about the idea of simply looking for another job because it was difficult to find one that fit the hours and paid well. Otherwise, she would need to ask her father to support her with her living costs which she wanted to avoid under all circumstances. She was so glad not to need to ask him to support her, despite the fact that, of course, he would pay her lots of extras that made life damn comfortable and allowed her to live in such an area. She would rather have to find a way to get along with this assistant director. Toby kept talking himself into heaven. In between, he was looking at Pippa.

“You are in the third year of your design studies, aren’t you?”

“Yes, and in programming as well.” with her proud voice.

“Very good. I need your help with this then.” Toby nodded. “We are working with a designer and programmer who are specialized in this, and I need a list of all those activities and the payments. “Can you work with Excel?”

Wow, what an eloquent question! Pippa was stunned, sitting on her chair, trying to fake her politeness with a smile.

“Excel? What is this?” she asks jokingly.

“Well, we do a lot of calculations; what did you study?” Toby was asking with his missing sense of humour.

“I was just joking, it is like asking a drawing student if he knows a pencil, isn’t it?” Pippa replies.

“Like a pencil?” Toby repeated. He was lacking the link to Pippa’s comparison, and she thought, let it be.

“Well, yes, I am quite familiar with Excel, Toby. I work daily with the program, for calculations, forecasts, budget calculations, and things like that.” Pippa explained and couldn’t hide her lack of excitement about calculations.

“Good, we will see.” Toby replied. “But entering some data shouldn’t be too difficult, I guess.” He commented. “Well, I have a meeting now. You will come tomorrow afternoon. Here is what you can start with; you will sit at the side of Rebecca at the reception, and she will show you the computer.” Toby finished.

Pippa couldn’t believe her luck with this new job. This was going to be like working in hell. She said goodbye and left the office, texting Tess: “Ready for a drink? Meet me at Kay’s Bar!”

A Victorian bar in South Kensington that somehow had become Pippa’s second home during the last summer semester.

“I will be there at around six. I’m with a client here.” Tess replied.

“See you, there. Drinks waiting.” Pippa wrote.

Pippa was on her second Martini when Tess arrived.

“Hi sweety, how is it going? You are impressed by your new job as I see, aren’t you?” Tess asks ironically.

“Yeah, I’m so impressed, you can’t believe what kind of asshole this assistance guy is who I have to work with, unbelievable, a total sexist!” Pippa states this with anger.
“Well, you better get used to this, when you enter the working sphere, that’s the first thing they will pick on, after all it is all about competition, honey.” Tess tries to calm Pippa down. “You have no idea what I experience with my colleagues; even in our law firm, half the energy goes into fighting against our colleagues. Jim lately sued Kathrin for dealing with one of her clients, and that’s within our own firm. Imagine that!” Tess keeps going.

“How do you get through that?” Pippa asks. “When I look in the mirror in the morning, I tell myself, “This is the best time. You can do this, if you want to drive a Maserati, you better be a bitch.” Tess said.

“You say what?” Pippa laughs out loud.

“Yes, that’s what I tell myself every morning, and it works.” Tess says, “and don’t take things personally, darling. That’s rule number one. People don’t do all this because they are against you, they do it because they are for themselves.” Tess continues.
“Well, I was thinking changing this job, looking for another one, but this again takes time, and I am in my final year now, so I don’t want to waste too much time on job hunting.” Pippa says.

“You know most of these bricks are just insecure or feel intimidated by you in some way; they might not appear to be that smart. That’s the main reason why people bully. There is always that one jackass who ruins everything. Get your own strategy on how to get along with those morons, and you will find your way. This event company is good for you to work with. Rise above it; you’re not doing this for him; instead, you should focus on your studies and your bright future; and, of course, the money. You’re doing it for greater things ahead. Always know your “why”!

They both have another drink and change the topics. Tess is again reporting the details and latest news about her new lover and they are big. “He asked me for a boat-trip. Can you imagine?” Tess giggles.

“A boat-trip?” Pippa asks and was astonished by that idea as most guys would simply ask for a weekend-trip to the country-side.

“Yes, he suggested a turn from Mallorca to Ibiza, he has an invitation on a party in Magaluf, one of his friends is throwing a party there. It sounds amazing and I really would love to go there, but I have this case with that merger running so I don’t know if it is a good idea to take the whole week off.” Tess says hesitating.

“Well, come on, you are almost through with this case, can’t your associate do this paper stuff, you will be back at the opening day. Imagine what a great time you will have there, go for it, girl!” Pippa keeps motivating her as she has worked so hard since the break-up and really deserves a good break.

“Yeah, you are right. It is just the paperwork that needs to be sorted, and the form of order sought is already here. I should go for the trip.” Tess agrees with a big, triumphant smile on her face. “I’m going.” Tess was working on a merger between a global media company and an Asian production company, and it had taken her endless nights to finally get the deal together, but it was all set, and it seemed like it was never the right time for taking time off for a holiday, so if it wasn’t now, then when.

Want to read the full story? Get the book Blend 37 – Pippa Bow

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Between the years

Pippa arrived at her Belgrave apartment. She knocked at her neighbour’s door. Tess, her neighbour, opened the door.

“Oh, Pippa, Merry Christmas, you are back, that’s great!” Tess looked at Pippa but she did not seem very happy.

“Hey, how are you? Would you like to come over for a chat and a glass of wine?” Pippa asks.

“Oh, yes, or maybe two, you won’t believe what happened. Ryan and I broke up.” Tess tells upset.

“Oh, no, seriously? Come over, you got to tell me, what happened!”

Two hours later, Pippa and Tess are sitting on Pippa’s sofa. An empty bottle of wine and a pizza box with one slice are on the table.

“Yes, who is Ryan anyway!” Tess rustles, now shamelessness. Tess had told the whole story of how Ryan cheated on her throughout their three-year relationship, which also explained why he did not show much interest in Tess’s effort to get a child.

After she had lost her six-month pregnancy in a car accident when she was on a summer holiday with Ryan. He had often found reasons why he would not make it for the weekend. He always had an excuse for having no time. Now she had found out the real reason. Another woman was actually lying in Tess’s bed when she returned earlier from her Christmas break, which she had spent with her mother in Madrid. Tess was devastated because she was nearing the end of her 30s and had invested so much hope in this relationship, but she was clearly just a comfort zone for this guy in a popular city, making the guy’s lifestyle easy. So the best she could do now was to forget about Ryan, he was just not the man for a relationship or family planning.

Tess and Pippa were now spinning alternate scenarios about a 39-year-old single female who wanted a child but couldn’t find a man on the sphere. They were running through plans from “Made in Mallorca” which was a clinic specializing on fertilization, to going back to her ex-boyfriend, who would just wait for her to come back, which would be the next drama as there was a reason why she had left him. The night ended with the idea that Tess would throw herself back into the dating market. The two were scrolling through the internet for the best dating site options in town, creating a new profile on one of the most popular dating apps. Just an hour later, the first hearts were flying in, and Tess had arranged two dates for the forthcoming week.

While Pippa was looking for some extra income and had applied for some online design jobs, she had closed the deal for two projects for an event agency and would be busy for the days up to New Year’s Eve with some designs.

Want to read the full story? Get the book Blend 37 – Pippa Bow

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Christmas Day

because it’s Christmas time – I repost the first Chapter of the book Blend 37 – Pippa Bow

Sitting on her flight back to London, Pippa was glad to have kind of survived the family Christmas celebrations, which had turned out to be a more stressful event running from one Christmas party to the next all within three days.

The Christmas day had started with a lunch with the neighbors, followed by a late afternoon celebration at her brother’s house, and with the third destination being the Christmas dinner party at her father’s girlfriend’s house, including the girlfriend’s daughter Bea, whom Pippa had not met within sixteen years. Contrary to Pippa’s brother’s description of Bea as an annoying person, which was unsurprising given her mother, she would have no other choice. Actually, Bea had turned out to be a really nice, witty and sympathetic woman. She was joined by her once lover but now ex-boyfriend and a good friend who seemed to also be a very charming, likable guy. Next to Pippa was Izabella, her brother’s girlfriend’s daughter, who had also arrived from London only four days ago by surprise, joined by her mother. On the opposite side, Pippa’s brother, her father, and his girlfriend had taken a seat at the table, and a little Whity was underneath the table, one of those little terrier mix dogs who Bea and her then lover and now good friend had found on a Sicily holiday as a lost dog and had brought the little animal over.

They all had enjoyed a very delicious Christmas goose as the main course and closing with a variety of desserts and sweets from cinnamon parfait with a hot plum mouse, coco pudding with mango sauce to an untraditional Christmas pudding made with Jameson whiskey. They had all spent a joyful evening filled with festive cheer in their own way, but it was nothing like the Christmas Pippa remembered from her childhood.

She remembered a Christmas when they were still were the picture-perfect portrait family. Her grandmother, who had spent the year before Christmas Eve with one of Pippa’s aunts, one of her mother’s sisters, with a quite chaotic Christmas party experience, where the tree had caught fire and the Christmas night had turned out to be one of their typical family fights where none of the family members would talk to each other for at least a week.

That year grandma had been sitting on one of the black leather Ray&Charles Eames chairs in her typical flower dresses that she used to wear. The one for Christmas differed only in the color as this one was black with golden and white flowers, unlike her usual flower dresses that showed painful color combinations of lilac, blue, yellow and turquoise. In addition, she was wearing some black flat ankle boots that came together with some skin-color knee-high socks. In her grandma-style, she was commenting the Christmas night with her little sarcastic bits and bites. While the family was singing Christmas songs in the shimmering light next to the Christmas tree which was lighted with real candles: “Oh, that Christmas tree, a noble fire and the blond Pippa on the piano, this is a Christmas,” and she added cynically “so typical German.”

*

The next day Pippa visited her neighbor, who was having a Christmas party with a three-year-old, the grandchild, and a single mother who was having trouble with the kid’s dad and where communication was only possible through the courtroom. They had reported one triumph but would have the next battle about more holidays sharing with the kid.

Pippa made a quick visit to her brother’s wife before she had another dinner with the family. Her brother and his girlfriend would head off to Cannes, the girlfriend’s daughter had a flight to Moscow, her father’s girlfriend’s daughter with good friend would take off to Bangkok.

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On the Star Clipper – part II

Chapter III from the book DESTINATION DESIRABLE

Jules was busy conversing with Nia, and Walt asked Lulu if she would like to join Paula and him for a drink at the Piano bar.

A chilled version of the song “Killing me softly” was playing.

Danny was already sitting at a table, so the three sat next to him.

“How about Dirty Martini?” Walt asked.

“Well, I stick with champagne,” Danny replied. Cheering his glass accompanied a smirky smile on his lips. His eyes were already on the piano player.

“Okay!” Walt replied and walked over to the bartenders.

 “You and our captain know each other, right.?” Paula asked, curious. They all had recognised that Lulu seemed mental somewhere else since they had met the captain at the table. Although they all knew Lulu’s co-star from the movie “Celebrity”, they did not associate the captain with the celebrity as he had been known as Julian with his official name. Lulu was not sure if she should explain the situation or not. She had come to this cruise to leave her past love affairs behind and focus on her career remake. Now an even deeper past which she had tried to bury a long time ago surfaced. If she would now explain that Jules had been her film partner, they all would get involved in the hype of their than love romance. But, as Jules also had not given any explanation or had attempted to link their connection, she decided to do the same.

“Why do you think that we know each other? I don’t think so.” She looked at Paula. “But well, he is a damn attractive guy, isn’t he?”

“Well, yes, I wonder how old he is,” Paula replied with a guessing look.

“He is, indeed! And straight,” Danny added. 

“Ah, you already checked this out?” Paula wondered

“That was not necessary, the way he had his eyes on Lulu.” Danny had a dreamy look in his eyes. He admired Lulu and adored her looks.

“Ah, just like you have your eyes on this piano player, don’t you?” Paula teased.

“Well, I hope he doesn’t disappoint me with a straight note, either.” Danny sipped on his Champagne.

“I think your chances are good.” Paula tweaked an eye. Walt was still at the bar and lost in a chat with a young woman.

 Nia and captain Jules joined the piano bar while still discussing the ship and Nia’s environmental project. Jules suggested meeting some excellent contacts and friends at their next Singapore stop. If she was interested, he could arrange a dinner. They both stood not far away from Walt, who was still busy with his flirt, while Paula and Danny exchanged their dreams about what they wished to experience on the trip or the nearby future. Paula told Danny about the time with Walt in the middle east and that Walt wanted to settle down while she did not really were in for settling, not yet.

“I see some couples like our neighbours where the husband is all day out and the woman is busy all day running after their kids, everything she is talking about is oh my husband, and I have to do this for him, he wants it like this, what will my husband say, will he like this. Or she talks about what she has to do for her son, her daughter or again for her husband.” Paula tried to explain her feelings. “All she talks about and does is like her husband and kids like she has no own life like she somehow does not exist.”

Danny listened and nodded. He knew this feeling just too good. After his first star height when he had won a casting show, he had experienced the same feeling. Suddenly everything he did was just about to maintain the image the management wanted to sell. And after a year, he had felt so burned out. He could not see himself anymore. The person he saw on stage or when he looked in the mirror, he hardly had recognised himself anymore. Everything he had to do or say was about matching the image the management had created. Even the music he had to sing was not what he wanted anymore. He had felt trapped in a situation where the management would not allow him to grow anymore.

“Do you think I am too egoistic?” Paula asked, “But I hear this from all those mothers, and I somehow don’t want to give up my own life. I love the work with such environmental groups or humanitarian work. Yet, I feel like I would need to give this all up, not having time for myself anymore and submitting myself completely, running after other people’s interests. Is this what life should be?”

Danny laughed, and Paula had to laugh out loud, too.

“I understand very well what you mean. I had a perfect friend, one of my besties, to be honest. But, once she married and had her first kid, there was no time for anything else anymore. We almost lost contact. We might meet once around Christmas time, and that’s it, and then it is all about the kids, and it feels like there is no connection anymore.” Danny agreed.

“Well, this is what women get told that if they want to follow their interest, they are egoistic,” Danny added thoughtfully.

“That’s so true!” Lulu agreed, “But then when you take care of your kids only, people will tell you, what don’t you have something on your own to do like you have no own life.”

“Either way you do it, it is not right.” Danny laughed. “But you almost vanished from the big screen after you had your children, didn’t you?” He asked Lulu.

“Yeah, that’s right, while they were young and up till my husband’s first official affair, which later became his second wife,” Lulu explained cynically.

“Oh, dear, the way you say this sounds kind of bitter.” Danny wondered.

“Yeah, this was a nasty issue at the time.” Lulu looked up.

“I don’t want to be too indiscreet, but what did happen at the time? I remember an interview where you said the kids would stay with their Dad.” Paula asked.

“Yeah, that’s right. This whole story inspires the script I am preparing for at the moment.” Lulu sighed. “This woman blackmailed me. She claimed that I had stolen jewellery from her, pieces that my Ex-husband had gifted her. She had manipulated a scene and had made it look like I had it taken, and my great than-Husband believed her. They were threatening me that if I insisted on the custody, they would press charges against me and end my film career.” Lulu told.

“They did what?” Paula and Danny were shocked.

“And your Ex-husband believed her?” Danny was shaking his head.

“Yeah, as they say, love makes blind.” Lulu nodded. “But he finally reaped his dark misery with his gold treasure.”

“He got divorced in a bitter rose-war, didn’t he?” Paula asked.

“That’s right, and this went through the press. She claimed that he had beaten her and sued him for an enormous amount. In the second instance, he was finally acquitted and set her upkeep to a minimum. In the end, a video had shown up. She was triumphing, reporting to a friend how she won the claims with her lies and dirty games, her final confession.

“Wow, I had heard about some of the games.” Walt, coming over with Jules, commented and joined the “ladies” at the table. Jules looked at Lulu, offering her a glass of champagne. “Real life or a scene from your new script?” Jules asked with a sweet smile.

“Both, actually. But the real rose war is over now.” Lulu stated and took the champagne glass that Jules offered her.

“Than let’s cheer to new shores.” Danny shouted and they cheered their glasses.

“Well, I will do my best to make your life here on board as pleasant as possible.” Jules promised.

“So far, this is achieved by 100%.“ Danny complemented. “The ship and the service here on board is really excellent.”

“And the ocean views are priceless” Walt added.

“Indeed, they are. Have you finished your little flirt?” Paula was teasing Walt but somehow it did not really bother her at all.

“Sure, I did, and have you finished your elephant research, yet?” Walt replied a little snappy.

“Mmmh, I guess I haven’t really started, yet. So why are you jealous on an elephant?” Paula questioned jokingly.

I met quite some nice human beings here on board so far, as you can see.” Walt looked Paula in the eyes.

Somehow it seemed neither of them got jealous about what the other person was doing, but did they also prefer spending time apart rather than together?

Originally, they had planned the trip to figure out how to plan their future together in London or possibly on a new project. Now it seemed that they preferred spending time on different undertakings, best apart from each other. As the evening got tense between the two, Walt and Danny decided to check out the nightclub onboard. At the same time, Paula had gone back to the cabin on her own, leaving Lulu alone with Jules. It was another awkward moment as they hadn’t left at best terms when they split up and haven’t talked since. The two looked at each other. So many unspoken words were in the air, and neither of them was sure where to start right now — leaving it all behind or initiating talking about old times.

The lightness of their conversation in the group had vanished. Jules looked at Lulu. He was still astonished at how beautiful she looked, so natural. Lulu still had this incredible smile and some sassiness when talking. She flashed the same features on him years later, which he had fallen in love with when he had first met her. He wasn’t sure about Lulu, how she took the whole situation that they would spend the next week together on such limited space.

Lulu was looking at her drink which was almost finished. Somehow, she neither knew how to keep the conversation going. Maybe the best thing was to go back to her cabin rather than start a discussion of old times. Although she would have loved nothing more than to hug Jules and throwing her arms around his neck. She never forgot how good that always had been supposed to feel his body close to her. He had been a fantastic lover at the time and sure still was. Jules did not want to let this moment slip unspoken and then asked.

“Well, you want a little walk outside along the deck, enjoying some of the fantastic ocean views from the railing?” He smiled at Lulu. “I know some of the best spots here on board. “

“Oh, really, you do!” Lulu asked, and she loved the idea of a breath of fresh air, especially with Jules right next to her.

The two walked up the staircase outside through the lounge door, walking along the deck towards the railing where they stopped. Jules was looking at Lulu.

“I was so surprised to see you here on board.” Jules started.

“It’s a situation I had never expected. Sorry that I was so cool at the dinner like I do not know you.”

“I was surprised, too. It sounds like it was no pleasant surprise for you?” Lulu questioned.

“When this came across like this, I am sorry.” Jules took a deep breath. “It is rather the opposite, I guess.” He confessed. “The moment I saw you, it took me all back to the time we once had; somehow, a feeling came up again. It is such a long time ago.”

“It is.” Lulu was quiet.

“You never replied to my calls after that night in Cannes. I even tried to call you later when I already had been here in Thailand.”

“Oh Jules, I know, but I was hurt after I had seen you with this B-tress and singer. She came up to me, smearing her affair with you in my face, and I did not want to hear any of such excuses. You had success with that hit, and she was promoting in all media that she was with you, just as she did at the award night. It was all over the newspaper, the new dream couple, while I thought I was your girlfriend and that we had something special.

“So that’s when you went off with this Italian guy, the next morning?” Jules looked at Lulu “You really believed this and did not even give me a chance to explain?”

“Well, at the time this looked so real that I thought whatever you would tell me would be just lies which I did not want to hear. “Everyone was teasing me with this story that I was not sexy enough for you, that he needed a real woman not such a kid as me “the girl next door” some kind like this.”

Jules looked headshaking at the water than sighing.

“Well, so I thought the best thing to prove was to get away with a hot Italian guy. Was this so wrong?” Lulu looked in the air.

“And you could not think of that this whole thing was a made-up story for the press by this woman?”

“To be honest at the time? No!” Lulu confirmed. “I thought this was it. And by the time the truth came out, you were already gone, and years had passed.”

Jules turned around, putting his hands on Lulu’s arms. He bit on his lips then swallowed. Then, with ironic laughter, Jules pulled Lulu closer and wrapped his arms around. Lulu’s head was resting on Jules’s chest, and he pulled her even tighter.

“How could I lose you because of such an intrigue?” There was no difference between what he felt right now for Lulu and how he had felt about her when he met her the first time. There was a connection to Lulu he had never felt with anyone else than her. Lulu felt the same about him. He looked at her, then stroking a hair out of her face. He kissed her head, and the two looked at the vast dark sea. Waves splashing against the boat. For a while, the two were standing at the railing while he had his lips close on Lulu’s ear so that she could hear his breath. A feeling so intense as if they would try to fill in all the lost years in one moment. Lulu leaned her head on Jules’s chest, and she felt like coming home. Jules also wished that moment would never end. They both felt so much comfort in each other, and he wondered how such a misunderstanding could get two people to drift so far apart. He had spent his last thirty years with a woman but had never felt such a moment of comfort as he felt right now. He, too, had two grown kids, and their family life had slowly fallen apart after the kids had left the family home and he and his wife were living separated. His wife Jiê preferred living in the city centre rather than at the seaside, and they had hardly seen each other in the last years. Jiê was either travelling in Europe visiting their children or in her Bangkok apartment with friends.

Like they had never been separated when Lulu turned around, Jules pulled her closer and kissed her. So intense, Lulu almost forgot where she was losing herself in his kisses until they reached Jules’ cabin and early sunrise.

Lulu opened her eyes. Jules’s arms wrapped around her. She felt his body close on her like they were one. The early morning sunlight met her eyes, and Jules’s soft kiss touched her hair.

“Do you enjoy the morning view as I do?” The two were looking outside the bullseye from Jules’s master cabin. A smooth blue ocean with a rising sun in the East along the horizon.

“Insane, this is so wonderful.” Lulu was still breathless. Wrapped in silk sheets and Jules’s arms, she felt like in paradise. Jules rolled over and kissed her good morning. Whenever she was with Jules, she felt this intriguing feeling of harmony like nowhere else.

“Today, we will arrive in Singapur. I think you will go on land and take the day tour, don’t you?” Jules smiled at Lulu while already dressed in his Uniform. His shift started at seven a. m., and he had to be on time. They had a strict protocol for the management, especial at the bridge.

“Yeah, I think we leave at eleven o’clock.” Lulu was stretching herself, still covered in silk sheets.

“I would have loved to show you the city. I have some special places there. But, unfortunately, today, I am in charge, and we have meetings with the crew. But the evening, I am off.” Jules explained while he wished nothing more, just taking time off and spending the rest of the day with Lulu.

“How about tonight? We could have dinner. I know some beautiful spots in Singapore, where we could stay overnight, simple but lovely. We have two days here before we move on to Kuala Lumpur.”

“Wow, I book a cruise on a luxury boat, and then you ask me to a “beautiful simple spot” on land.” Lulu laughed.

Jules walked over and sat beside Lulu while stroking through her hair and kissing her.

“You will have more than enough time here on board to explore venues. So think about it and let me know. But this will be the most time off that I have here on this trip, and then I have a week off in Bali. So most of the daytime, I will be pretty busy.”

“I was just joking.” Lulu looked at Jules with a sweet smile. “Of course, I prefer spending the time with you only enjoying the simple things of life on the most basic spot on Earth rather than hanging here on board with a drink lamenting about old times with guests. Despite the group I am here with, they are gorgeous people.” Lulu looked at the blue ocean.

“So, you’re with me? I’ll pick you up here at seven, the time when you guys return from your trip.” Jules smiled.

“Can’t wait.” Lulu kissed Jules before he left the cabin. Time was short and precious.

*

Paula got up early, prepared an instant coffee, and sat in front of her laptop. She read an article about a Singapore-based charity, ShinyCoats, known for innovative production processes and helping fairtrade. Paula had previously contacted one of the organisation’s founders to contact her as she hoped to meet him during their two-day stay here in Singapore.

Walt came out of the shower with his steeled body, only a towel wrapped around his waist. Walking towards Paula, he kissed her good morning, stroking her hair. She looked up with a snappy face.

“And what are you up to today? I will meet this guy here later in the afternoon. I just got a reply. Do you want to join the meeting?”

“Well, I had a different idea in my mind? How about some romantic time along Sentosa Island, we could stay there overnight?”

“Didn’t you hear what I said? I want to meet this ShinyCoats guy from the charity. We won’t have time to get to that island then. We can do this romance thing when we are in Bali, don’t we? There we can have endless times.”

Paula pointed at some photographs with Elephant rides in Bali that popped up as an ad on her laptop screen. Walt also had thought maybe spending the morning a bit longer in bed and kissed Paula gently at her neck.

“Oh, I am not in the mood, Walt. Just let me go through this here. I can book this Elephant ride in the Resort for us if you like.” She pulled her head away and started replying to the ShinyCoats guy.

“Wow, is this how this trip is going to be? You hanging in front of your laptop looking for charity projects? I thought we would take this time for us to get clear about settling down.”

Walt was disappointed he had imagined a different reaction from Paula. He put some training stuff on and went to the cruise gym. He would try turning his anger into positive energy in the gym for the next two hours.

*

Danny woke up in his King size bed, stretching his body within the silk sheets and felt full of comfort. Still stunned by the cabin’s interior, everything looked so perfect. After taking a shower, he stood in front of the mirror, having some self-talk. “Today is the day.” So he was telling the face in the mirror. While others had booked sightseeing tours and beach parties for their stop in Singapore, he had scheduled a doctor’s appointment. He would use the two days for a bit of surgery that would help him to transform his life and leave the past behind. He got dressed and went to the deck for his breakfast. There was a small outside café that also served breakfast to guests. Paula and Nia were also sitting outside. Paula absorbed her research for ShinyCoats, while Nia wrote a blog post for her lifestyle blog. Reporting about last night’s events, the dinner, the piano bar, and of course, she served her other social media channels with stunning views from her breakfast table.

“Good morning, ladies!” Danny greeted the two girls. “This is what you girls do? Digging your head into your laptop screen, you should enjoy this one-shot sea view, ladies!” Danny swung his arms in the air, throwing his head back to strike a Diva-like pose near the railing. “Oh, this is my sky, my cool, my skin, my shining.” Danny enjoyed his pose for a view more seconds before he joined the girl’s table.

“So, how are you girls going to spend your Singapore time? Have you booked any exciting trips?” Danny asked.

“Well, I am going to meet the guy from this ShinyCoats project, and then we will see. I am sure we have a lot to discuss. “Paula finished her first cup of coffee.

“Oh, well, this guy probably has some insider tips on what to do in Singapore,” Danny replied.

“Yeah, I think so, too. We will see. Walt is not so excited. He wanted to go to one of those phoneys, tourist islands, exactly not my idea of a local Singapore night.”

“Well, I am invited to a party at Sentosa Island tonight, and I am going there. I can’t wait.” Nia was excited she had a special invitation for a party at a luxury resort. “I actually can bring a friend if someone is interested?” Nia asked with a shiny spark in her eye, and her lips pointed.

“We definitely won’t meet tonight but thank you, Nia. These phonies are so not my cup of tea. I wonder that you are going there.”

“Well, I would love to join.” Danny interrupted, “but I already have a rendezvous tonight.”

“Oh, you have a rendezvous?” Paula questioned, “Who is the lucky one?”

“Well, that’s a secret.” Danny did not want to share the real reason, but he would need to stay overnight for his surgery.

The girls finished their breakfast. Danny stayed a little longer and then decided to visit the boutiques on the first level where he had seen such stunning dress the day before when they had checked in. 

The boutique displayed designer, haute couture dresses. Danny couldn’t get enough of it. He loved such glitter, silky fabrics, and he went straight to the black Strapless gown with side split and sweep train, a dress designed by Scarlett Perla with a feather-trimmed décolté. Exactly the kind of dress he had dreamed of, and he already knew on which occasion this dress would have his premiere. The salesgirl came over with a smile on her face complementing the dress and its exclusive materials. 

“The figure-flattering silhouette of the gown highlights the natural curves.” The salesgirl put on her sales talent. 

“Oh, I love how it flares into this elegant sweep train with this knew-high side split.” Danny was ecstatic.

“Would this be the size of your girlfriend?” The sales assistant asked.

“My girlfriend?” Danny asked, surprised, then he flashed a smile. “Oh, my girlfriend, yes, it is a present for her, and yes, this fits her size a perfect 10!”

 Of course, the salesgirl could not imagine that this dress was not for another woman but for his new transformation, his new life that he was planning carefully and what this trip was for. He wanted to leave his old life behind and start fresh as Chloe. Therefore, he planned his surgery to transform his body and get some breast implants. When they would arrive in Bali, he would get some cosmetical corrections and then return as Chloe to Bangkok with a new life. As he had quite an androgen physical shape, his face also had some feminine features. Therefore, it did not need much makeup to look like a woman. Almost a year ago, he had started a Youtube channel with cosmetic tips and had built up quite an audience. No one had questioned if he was a woman, and he also had snatched a contract with a cosmetic company as ambassador. So now, he wanted to complete his female image by getting his body into the right shape with DD for his chest size. He planned to disappear on this travel and return as Chloe the Fashion/Beauty Influencer.

Danny purchased the evening gown and had the sales girl wrap it as a gift for his future self. Then, he returned to the cabin and placed the box in the cupboard. While Danny would have loved to try on the dress and shoot some photographs for his Instagram channel, time was short. He had to rush to pack a bag for his stay in the clinic.

Singapore – Exploring the city

At eleven o’clock, people left the cruise ship for their land trip. Paula and Walt went with a separate coach to the ShinyCoats organisation. Paula was highly excited, explaining to the taxi driver the reasons for their trip. Walt pretty pissed off, biting his tongue. He could not understand why they were now spending all day talking about a charity project.

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