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Fiction Holiday

TW: suicidal ideation

The sun was shining, the warmth of it enveloped me like a blanket as though keeping out the winter chill, yet the chill remained nonetheless. I took a deep breath and dived from the pier. I did not notice the chill of the water, so intent was I on my task. Slowly the rhythm of the butterfly stroke (not to mention the determined jaw), ensured that all else on my mind was controlled and I could feel the action regulate my breathing. There, away from the holidaymakers, I swam with more energy than I’d had in a while. Needing a rest but not ready to join the crowd, I floated, watching the meringue-like clouds cluster and divide according to their whim; or more accurately, nature. Then, just to prove it was not a dream, I made a move preparing to swim a little longer, so that I could really trust myself to go forward. I swam closer to the shore stood up and from that moment was determined to move forward, or rather, to stand up and be counted.

 

A MONTH EARLIER

I don’t know when it was that Hugh mentioned the possibility of our going somewhere different for our annual holiday. Bali was considered, Hawaii was also considered, then Fiji was booked, supposedly as a surprise.  What was I going to do there? I did not really want to see British colonial information, or sleep in a dormitory, or play “Happy, Happy All The Day” games. Sure, I loved the beach, I knew it would have been cheaper to have gone to Adelaide and spent a few days at Glenelg; but Hugh was adamant. I wondered why then thought no more of it, after all, it was only a week I could survive that, especially as Hugh was paying.

“Bula,” said the air hostess, as we left the aeroplane. “Bula” I replied  I had heard that like ‘Aloha’ in Hawaii, the word ‘Bula’ was  Hello and Goodbye but in actual fact, really meant “Life”. If you believed the posters and advertisements life was to be lived in Fiji. The beaches were pristine, and in October the weather was beautiful. When we got to our hotel room, Hugh had not stinted on luxury. It was airconditioned comfort, a big room overlooking the sea. A kitchenette and ensuite, plush towels, nibbles, red and white wine, soft drink plus the usual supply of tea and coffee.  I tried to hide my shock. Twin beds, twin single beds. My face fell, and Hugh noticed.

 

“It is only a week darling,” he said taking me in his arms and kissing my cheek lightly. “I could have sworn we were to have the last Queen room.” he smiled “Oh well, we are here now.”

“Perhaps we can change later,” I said, none too convincingly, as though resigned to my fate.

Hugh suggested a little walk before dinner, or alternatively a little rest with a drink before dinner. I smiled, together we left the room. A door opened and a woman I judged to be about thirty emerged.

She smiled at me, then, presumably addressing both of us said “Hi”

We responded but she dropped her bag and Hugh being Hugh stooped to pick it up and laughed with her about something. Was it just me or was it too friendly? It was me surely.

 

The restaurant was filling and we were escorted to a table. On the way the waitress stated that they had had a bumper booking, because of a convention; would it be possible if we could share a table for this evening only, with Miss Hobson and Mrs Parker?

“Of course,” I said

“Oh, thank you, Mrs Steed,” the waitress said, “and Mr Steed.”

“No worries,” said Hugh

Expecting two older spinster ladies, I chose the best seat, the one where I could view the ocean. Hugh automatically sat beside me. Moments later, the young lady we met in the hallway approached us

“Hi," she said again “I’m Debra Hobson, I prefer Debbie. I believe I can join you. My aunt has met up with a friend and is dining elsewhere. I guess I could sit …

“It is our pleasure to meet you again Debbie. Please stay with us.” 

Hugh was oozing charm, the way butter oozes from cooked corn; it seemed unnatural for him, perhaps I had known Hugh too long.

 

“Yes perfectly, Oh Hugh, that fish dish you mentioned I’d like to try that.” I hurried off in the direction of the Ladies room. I did not want anything to eat I was sure there was something going on, but as there was no proof, yet; I could do nothing. I looked at the haggard face of Mrs Hugh Steed and took a deep breath. I touched up my lipstick, put on a fake smile and returned to the table

The G and T was there, and so was another lady

Debbie smiled “Oh Jane Aunt Pat returned earlier that she thought “just as well we kept the seat eh?”

“Yes,” I said “just as well. Have we ordered?”

“Yes darling,” said Hugh “Pat like you wants the fish, Debbie wants a chicken salad but intends having dessert, and I have chosen the….” he looked at the menu “the totally unpronounceable chicken.. blah blah”

So” said Pat as we had settled “are you Hugh’s sister, Jane?”

“No, his wife.” I corrected her noticing her embarrassment.

“We have been married for fifteen years, no children and there’s not much likelihood of that.” I finished. It was not the best evening I was glad to say goodbye to the two ladies. Hugh came in later, and pretty soon the only communication was his snoring. I lay awake for hours my suspicions running in highs and lows, like a Haydn symphony. 

 

Two uneventful days passed Hugh was solicitous and caring but the faraway look spoke volumes. I was more and more convinced I should not be there. I entered the hotel after a lonely walk along the beach Hugh and Debbie were in the foyer laughing then he reached down to kiss her. It was lingering. A few paces away from me yet close enough to be seen Pat was watching, open-mouthed. Then she approached me, took my hand and suggested coffee ad cake because it was too early for alcohol. Seated in the café, Pat looked at me.

“It might be nothing,” she said but conveyed her doubts by expression.

“What do you really think, Pat?” I asked

“Jane, I think under the circumstances, I can say this. Your husband is a prize fool, but my niece is…” she took a sip from the cup “a man-eater. I am so sorry love.” she sipped again “Hugh is another of Debbie’s prizes.”

I sat stunned the tears threatened, I wiped my cheeks, hurriedly, grateful that the café was empty.

“Don’t cry publicly, love. Never give them the satisfaction of knowing you are hurt.” Pat said, “revenge can be done in a ladylike manner, and I have an idea…”

 

We had to keep appearances up, over dinner, though I was never a good actress. Pat and I had planned a surprise She hid in the hotel lounge, I prepared for bed, and just in case I had got it wrong sat up in bed with a novel, cheap and trashy; on reflection that was appropriate.

Hugh did not make an appearance. About ten-fifteen, I left our room and meandered down the corridor. Pat, sitting on the chair outside the room gave the signal.   I knocked on Debbie’s bedroom door and went in. What a sight met my eyes; the kind of thing that should be private but thanks to the modern idea of entertainment flashes on our television screens all too often. This however was no stage setting. Slowly I tiptoed up to the bed, my presence close to the bedside lamp casting a shadow on the wall. Hugh distracted saw me and gasped. I raised my hand, and with all my might, slapped his cheek, then for good measure slapped the other one also. I turned on my heel and walked out. I had not told Pat that Hugh had other contests too. 

 

I went back to the room, took off the nightie, and put the dress I had worn that evening on, with an old pair of walking shoes. Taking my bag, I walked out slowly to the beach and along to the pier. I was crying and shaking, seeing my sham of a marriage disintegrate before my eyes. I hesitated before climbing the steps. It took only a moment to act, I walked determinedly. Standing at the edge I dropped my bag. My heart was racing, I could hardly breathe. I was ready to jump, but strong arms prevented me. Pat had been my shadow.

“No love, not this way you are not a coward. A chapter may be over but a new one begins the moment you decide to stand up and be counted.” Pat was strong physically and emotionally, but she was glad that a young man from the island came forward. His English was limited but he knew what to do. Lifting me in his arms, he beckoned Pat to follow as he carried me back not only to the beach but the hotel. Tears blurred my vision, nausea swamped me. I walked into the hotel, to find that Pat had arranged for my holiday “things” to be moved to another room, which she and I would share.

 

I saw Hugh and Debbie when I returned from my swim; Hugh thought better of approaching me, Debbie looked embarrassed. I walked on Later Pat told me that Hugh had arranged an early flight with Debbie, Pat asked if I would mind if she travelled home with me. I hugged her.

 

I never really wanted to go to Fiji but even if I had acted on my hunch, it would not have achieved the desired result. As I looked at a Fiji night sky for the last time full knowing Australia has beautiful skies, I told myself again that life has its twists and turns. I had turned the page in a new chapter full of stars planets and candles; I deserved it, but this time I was going to stand shine and be counted.

 

March 05, 2021 05:21

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1 comment

Claire Tennant
05:33 Mar 12, 2021

I'm sure I did not put the words suicidal ideation in this It cannot be erased now that it has been approved. I'm not cranky I just want to clarify a point

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