“Just say what you want.”
My husband was concentrating on fitting a life jacket on our daughter and did not hear me remain resolutely silent.
“We'll do what you want,” he uttered, fiddling with buckles, “you just have to say. How's that,” his half baked inattention evaporated he concentrated totally on our daughter, “tight enough? See how that is.” He tugged at the life jacket and our seven year old daughter ran off to join her two older brothers waiting in the boat.
Finally he looked in my direction; I could feel the condemnation: “Tell me what you want. I've never been able to read your mind.”
I turn as if walking back up the slipway to the car but only manage a few steps. Looking at the ground the desired words become jumbled and inarticulate, they stick in my chest with a harsh stabbing pain.
“Just relax, it'll be fun,” he pleads, already frustrated. He looks so out of place here in the open and only goes red and blotchy when left in the sun. And he'll only come back redder and sunburnt – serves him right, I think, though he'll expect me to go all medical. The open sea is no place for someone like him.
“You go then,” I say, hoping he'll know what I mean, and knowing he won't.
“We've hired it now, and the kids are excited, wouldn't want to disappoint.” All three of his statements are indeed true if highly misleading. He'd hired the boat, not we, I was never consulted. And what a boat it was. A tiny rust bucket which the faded blue and white paint failed to disguise, all battered, scraped and dented. Where he's hired this death-trap from was hard to imagine. He always tries to do things on the cheap, to get that deal, and never realises he always comes off worst. It was he who had absconded during breakfast in the tawdry boardinghouse where we are holidaying, another of his cut price deals. Then arrived back in the middle of a badly cooked English breakfast with burnt toast and under cooked eggs. Arrived with his usual fanfare and this wreck attached to the back of our car. Before I had uttered a word he's managed to rouse the kids enthusiasm, fine salesman that he is. He knew how much I hated it when he does this sort of thing. And he knew I would never go out there, out on the open sea, no matter how sunny and calm he pretended it was.
They pushed the boat out to wild shouts of joy from the boys and a look of intense concentration from our daughter. The rope was cast off and the boat drifted as my husband attempts to start the motor. Anything remotely mechanical is beyond his comprehension. After numerous incompetent pulls it hissed into life, sounding like a belligerent ancient lawnmower. My mumbled cries to stay are quickly drowned out. The boat chugs off, so little progress for so much noise.
A little way out and I feel it safe to wave, to distract their attention from what seems so precarious a manoeuvre. For a few seconds they turn their heads landward and wave back, a final flourish before I disappear from their memory. Disappear into uncharted territory.
Lonely and forgotten I watch as the boat shrinks and becomes even more insubstantial; it drifts away, bobbing on the gentle waves. My family merge into a single, undifferentiated, speck. They become indistinguishable from the birds, nearer inshore, skating across the bay and disappearing momentarily as they dive for scraps.