Empty – Part 1

Emma arrived at her cabin and looked around at her accommodations. She noticed it was a bit on the small side but she could work with it. At least she didn't have to live below the water line, which is where her original cabin was supposed to be. Thankfully her threats to leave the ship had softened Mr. Moseby into agreeing to give her a cabin near the students. After noting that it had its own bedroom and bath as well she was finally ready to unpack.

Emma thought about her life as she placed her few belongings on the bed. Mostly about her mother's comments after she'd notified her of her plans to work on a cruise ship. She hated leaving her parents house on a bad note, but the argument was one that couldn't be avoided.

According to her mother she was running away from the failure of yet another relationship. Heck, maybe if Emma had been more accommodating to the fact that the sleaze bucket was cheating on her things could have been different. After all men stray, it's in their nature. Shouldn't she have realized that by now?

Well, her mom may have given up on herself respect and ideals but Emma wasn't going to be like her. She just wished she could make her understand that she wasn't running away from anything, she was running to something. She pulled out her book and thought about Marianne. She knew in her heart of hearts that she would have done the same.

She was startled out of her thoughts when the intercom roared to life and she was being summoned to Mr. Moseby's office. Sighing she grabbed her key and headed out to the elevator. She had wanted to get all the packing undone so she could slip into a nice warm bath. Unfortunately it seemed that would have to wait.

Mr. Moseby was sitting at his desk with several files in front of him when she entered and was asked to take a seat. Being her first visit she naturally found herself looking around. The room was modestly decorated with special touches in every corner. The office was clear of clutter and she wondered if this man was a perfectionist or a neat freak. It had a female touch but not overly so. With the dark monhagony furniture it was definitely male. Still the room had a welcoming feel which reminded her of her father's study.

"Do you approve?" The man asked noting her examination of her surroundings.

She blushed a bit unsure why she felt like a child who had just been caught with their hand in the cookie jar. "It is quite warm and inviting." She replied thinking of her father and the life she left behind.

"Thank you, I try," he replied with a warm smile.

She couldn't help thinking that he was rather attractive when he smiled, and forced herself to remember that he was her boss and that wasn't why she was here. When he slid the folders in front of her she was thankful for the interruption.

"Those are the students that will be attending this semester. As you know this semester is a trial of sorts to see if the school can stay afloat," he grinned at his own joke and she found herself smiling.

"There's only a hundred students?"

"Yes and we have four instructors," he stated. "Like I said it's a trial run and if this goes well, the school will be a permanent fixture on the ship."

"That's wonderful."

"I assume that everything we discussed is in order," he replied.

"So far so good."

"Wonderful, you have amazing references and an immaculate resume so I have no question that you will be a great asset to this program," he paused. "But, I do have one small topic to discuss with you."

Although Emma couldn't figure out what that might be, her stomach suddenly knotted up. He noticed this so tried to put her mind at ease. "Don't worry this has nothing to do with you."

"That's a relief," she replied.

He laughed and continued to explain who London Tipton was and why she was attending Seven Seas High. She could tell by his tone that he held great affection for the girl. As he continued she looked over the girl's files and realized she was quite a bit older than the average junior. Curious but not wanting to interrupt she waited until he finished.

"What kind of issues?" she asked referring to his reference about the heiress's problems with school in general.

After he'd finished explaining further she realized that the girl was thought of in many circles as simpleminded. She wondered if maybe the girl was not receiving the patience needed for her to understand her assignments. Emma had always felt that if a student failed it was just as much the fault of the teacher as of the student. Could this be one of those cases.

"Now she's a smart girl, I believe she just hasn't had the instruction she needs to stay motivated in her courses," he explained echoing her thoughts. "I want to be honest with you. Mr. Tipton arranged this school program in the hopes of giving his daughter a better education. He feels that if she is isolated from other distractions she will have a chance at a better future."

"I'm not sure I understand?" she asked. "So what you're saying is Ms. Tipton…"

"Is his primary concern," he explained. "But, I feel that although she is an important part of the student body, she is also one of a hundred children who need just as much attention and care as you can spare."

"Why didn't he just hire a private instructor?"

"I don't pretend to understand why Mr. Tipton does anything. But, I do believe the rest of the student body will be an asset to his pocket book, while at the same time giving the school a more legitimate feel," nothing more was said for a few minutes as her mind reeled with the news. But, she did sign a contract and gave her word that she would be giving one hundred percent, and that's exactly what she meant to do – with all the students.

"Well, it looks like I will have my work cut out for me."

"It appears so. Don't worry, I've had this same conversation with the other instructors and I'm sure between the four of you everything will turn out wonderfully," he stated handing her the files on the incoming students and asking her to look them over.

"I'll look through them tonight," she promised.

"Sounds great, on that note, I know you've just boarded so I think we should save the classroom tour until tomorrow. Shall we say around nine?"

"Nine it is," she replied standing up and shaking his hand, thanking him once more for the great opportunity, before leaving the room and heading back to her cabin for that much needed bubble bath.

Emma waited for the elevator as she organized the folders in her arms. Dropping a couple she sighed and bent down to pick them up when she bumped into a shoulder. Placing her hand to her forehead she looked up to find out who she'd bumped into. The person standing in front of her was the most beautiful man she'd ever seen in her life.

He was muscular and lean. Tall with brown hair and beautiful brown eyes. And a smile that made her weak in the knees. He tapped her shoulder again and she wondered if she'd been staring at him. Clearing her throat she looked away and quietly thanked him before returning her attention to the panel on the elevator wall.

"Carl Grayson," the man extended his hand offering to hold some of the files for her. "I'm one of the new instructors here. I would guess your Ms. Emma Tutwiler."

"Yes, how did you know?"

"Well you have the whole teacher vibe going on, or more accurately I noticed your picture on the faculty wall."

"We have a faculty wall?" she asked surprised. "It's such a small school that I didn't think there would be one."

"Actually it's in the main hallway leading into the teacher's lounge."

"They think of everything," she smiled.

"Apparently that's true," he commented before they stepped off the elevator.

"So what made you decide to teach onboard a ship?"

"I guess I could ask you the same question."

"Touché," he chuckled and Emma found it infectious. "I was teaching Science in Pittsburgh in an overcrowded high school with students that didn't pay much attention and a faculty that didn't care. Since I didn't feel like I could make a difference I opted to take six months off to recoup. Then a friend of mine who I'd worked with some years back told me about a great opportunity. That's when I found out about Seven Seas High and applied. Thankfully they called me back and the rest is history."

"That's very commendable, and I'm very much impressed."

"So what brings you onboard?"

Emma had to pause for a moment. What was she going to say, I'm feeling like I'm suffocating in a life that seems never changing. That would certainly go over well. He'd probably recommend a shrink.

"What can I say, I'm drawn to adventure," that seems a bit better. She thought to herself.

"Well I do hear that living a life on the open sea can be quite adventurous. Different ports, different faces, different scenery, it's quite an experience."

"I guess we'll find out," she replied. "Anyway, here's my cabin," she added walking over to her door.

Mr. Grayson placed the folders in her hands as she placed her stack on a table beside the open doorway.

"Mr. Grayson."

"Carl, call me Carl," he stated as she turned toward him.

"Call me Emma," she added and he nodded with a smile before making his exit.

Emma closed the door and stood there for a minute thinking about the young man she'd just met. He had definite charm and she found him to be quite attractive. Still she had to remind herself yet again that this was not a leisure cruise. She was here to do a job and nothing else. Yet, something told her she'd be reminding herself of that fact quite often.

The next morning Emma awoke to the sound of seagulls and waves crashing against the ship. For the first time in awhile she actually slept through the night. It was a feeling she enjoyed, and for that reason contemplated whether or not she should stay under the covers when her alarm reminded her why she had to get up. Sighing she got up took a quick shower and was dressed and out the door by eight thirty.

Stopping by the ships bakery she ordered a coffee and a bran muffin before making her way toward Mr. Moseby's office. When she arrived he waved her inside. From what she gathered he was apparently talking to his mother about his relationships or lack thereof. So she sat down and patiently waited for his conversation to end. When it did he turned toward her with a bit of a frustrated expression on his face.

"I'm so sorry about that," he offered his apologies before taking a seat behind his desk. "My mother can be quite overwhelming at times. Anyway, are you ready for the tour?"

"Yes of course," she replied standing up and following him out the door. "I'm excited to see where everything is."

For the next half hour she let the older man show her around the school. She found out where the classes will be held, where the school cafeteria was set up and where the students would be bunking. Boys on one floor, girls on the other of course. She had to admit, she was impressed. Mr. Tipton put a lot of money and effort into making this school a success for his daughter. She had to admire him for that. Three entire decks were refurbished for the benefit of the students at Seven Seas High and she found she couldn't wait to begin.

As they neared the sky deck they once again ran into the instructor she had met the day before. "Seems like we're always running into one another," she didn't reply simply nodded with a smile.

"Wonderful , you two know one another," Moseby inquired.

"We met yesterday."

Moseby nodded noting the looks that were currently being exchanged by his two companions. There was something about the man that still puzzled him a bit and left him feeling slightly suspicious. Yet, he couldn't put his finger on it, and since his recommendations and background showed no sign of a red flag then he had no real cause to feel the way he did. Still he couldn't shake the feeling that something wasn't quite right with the fellow. He made a mental note to make a few more inquiries when he returned to his office.

The ship's manager continued to watch the reactions between the two and finally decided to take his leave. Feeling a little bit like a third wheel Moseby politely excused himself and let Mr. Grayson show Ms. Tutwiler around the rest of the ship.

Carl and Emma quietly walked around the various decks for awhile, comfortable in their silence. When a seagull sat on one of the railings she pulled out her camera phone and couldn't resist snapping a picture of the animal. She always had a fascination for learning about various living things and filled one of her many photo albums with pictures. Her family thought it was a bit strange but Emma didn't care. Being the black sheep of the family there were many small idiosyncrasies she possessed that her family didn't understand. For one the love of the arts, music, painting, there was also literature and her fascination with the classics. Being sports minded and more at home in a campsite then in a library she could understand why they felt that way.

"Are you alright?"

Emma turned toward Carl not realizing she'd been ignoring him. "I'm fine, just glad to be here," she added taking a deep breath and inhaling the sweet ocean breeze.

"Me too," Emma turned toward him and they exchanged a quick glance before they continued on their way.

AN: Okay not much going on yet, but I think you can guess where this is going. Sorry if this chapter dragged on a bit, but I wanted to lay down the foundation for what's to come.

Please read and review! Thanks. :)