Reggie Vray was whistling the open bars to “Amarillo Lady” when he walked out on the deck. Some courtesy of the Valor’s staff had placed Reg’s cabin far from the Caitlin-Tucker honeymoon lovings, but Reg heard her calling him as he passed the main floor chapel.
Caitlin Crow and Tucker Thompson were standing near the front of a line, waiting for burgers. “Get in here now, Reg,” Caitlin told him.
“I’m not hungry,” he said.
“Yeah right. Liar.”
Tucker kept his arms folded across his chest and nodded. Reg had played lead guitar in Tucker’s band (along with a handful of other bands) when the two were playing bars in Nashville. Point was that the two dudes were congenial enough until this marriage thing got in the way.
“Oh, there was a four-course breakfast up on the top deck. Pancakes, hashbrowns, coffee, pineapple—”
“They threw the pineapple into the sea,” she told him. “I watched them do it.”
“Naw, they saved some. Guess y’all missed out on it.” He liked watching her mouth pucker in disappointment at this. Caitlin was a tall, skinny drink of water, but she loved her “old time breakfasts.” Or at least she had when she had been running with Reg.
Tucker nudged Caitlin. “Come on, babe. He’s joking around.”
Reggie shrugged and winked at her. “Don’t hurt me. I haven’t eaten since yesterday and I wouldn’t be able to defend myself.”
Finally, the three of them were sitting in deck chairs with a burger each and a bottle of water.
“I feel bad for those poor girls,” Caitlin said. She nodded at the dehydrated-looking group of women from the bachelorette party. Reggie looked over, but the mamacita from the other night was sitting with her back to him. Better that way.
“I can’t imagine how furious my girlfriends would be with me if I dragged them on a cock-up of a cruise like this one.”
“Don’t worry about them,” Tucker told her. “Our agents are going to be wayyy more pissed about the fact that we were on this thing.”
“God, I really wanted to sing tonight,” she said. She shook her head at Tucker and then at Reggie. “It was going to be a goddamn beautiful night.”
“Let’s do it anyway,” Tuck said.
“Naw, it’d be lame without amps, bro,” Reggie told him. “No one would hear a thing and then all the fat ladies in the back would start yelling, ‘What? Hey! Tucker! Louder!’”
“Maybe we could rig something up,” Tucker said to himself. He squinted at Caitlin for a minute and bit his lip. He stood up quickly and walked away. Caitlin watched him go and grinned.
“That man does not let the grass grow,” she said. “Not one bit.”
“I’ve been working on a song for my hometown in Texas,” Reg told her.
All day, a crew worked to clean out the small indoor amphitheater. Only about 200 people would fit inside and once the Captain announced that the show would go on that evening, fans started lining up outside.
Caitlin, Tucker, and Reggie rehearsed inside the honeymoon cabin. If this was an odd experience, the three of them did not linger to examine it. Later in the day, the Captain announced that by the morning, the Valor would be close enough to a harbor for everyone to be bussed and flown (at no cost to them) back to their homes. This news cheered the passengers and, Caitlin said, made the three country singers’ music even more important.
“Let’s send ’em off right,” she said.
Sometime after she pitched Reggie overboard, romantically, that is, Caitlin had picked up the banjo and become addicted to traditionals. Tucker had always been pure country and Reg couldn’t figure out when she’d started listening to Joan Baez and Emmylou Harris. They would play some of Tucker’s songs (which Reggie knew), some of Caitlin’s (which Reggie had either written, or could pick up on), and a last traditional that Caitlin helped them arrange. “Amarillo Baby” was quietly tabled.
The night had cooled by the time the three of them stepped back out of the cabin. They walked up to the top deck to drink a whiskey before the show and watch the sunset.
“Sure, it smells like shit, but I’ll miss this a little,” Reggie said. The country music couple laughed at him.
“Unforgettable, most def,” Tucker said. He hummed a little, as the three of them so often did instead of speaking, and pulled Caitlin into a waltz with him.
Reggie looked at the sunrise and sighed. His drink was almost empty. Show time in just a few minutes. Zero prospects when he returned to land. Why had he thought a moment under the Northern Lights with a tequila was the release from love? The idea disgusted him now.
Onstage, Tucker and Caitlin sang, In her arms, I trembled electric.
Curse me, darling, but never despise me, Tucker sang, alone.
Cursed, Caitlin sang in the background and plucked along on the banjo. The next four lines, the two men alternated, starting with Tucker, while Caitlin harmonized singing “cursed.”
In a spell cast with her palms extended, Tucker sang.
Cursed love is never ended, Reggie sang, picking out some finger work around the ninth fret.
Cursed arms are never closed. (Cur-say-ay-ed, Caitlin added.)
Cursed me never despised.
And the crowd went wild.
The above song, “Cursed Sleep,” was written and performed by Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy.