“Are you ready yet?” she called from downstairs. “We haven’t got all day, you know.”
“I know, I know,” I muttered. “Be there in a sec.”
I tossed the last couple of items in my case and made sure I had my wallet, phone and keys.
It had been a long time since we’d been on a holiday, and I mean a real one. Not just the quick weekend trip down the coast but a journey which would take me far from home, for at least a good couple of weeks. I was looking forward to it.
I grabbed my bag, fairly sure I had everything I needed and headed downstairs.
“About time,” she commented. “What took you so long? Never mind, put your things in the car so we can get going.”
“Bossy.” Taking a cursory glance around the living room, I headed out the door and put my suitcase next to hers in the boot of the car.
She locked the house and we headed off.
I get such a wonderful sense of freedom when I’m on the road, especially from work and life and routine in general. I could feel all my tension falling away, leaving it behind me on the road. I smirked as I considered how it could be classified as a hazard to those following, certain there would be damage should they run into my tension lumps.
It was going to take us a few hours to reach the docks but I didn’t mind. I enjoyed driving, especially at this hour of the morning. It was forecast to be a hot day later but for now, the temperature was still mild with the golden glow of the sun peeking over the hills turning the sky from a sleepy blue to a welcome-to-the-day orange.
Cathy sat in the passenger seat and pulled out her phone and charger and plugged it into the USB port, resting her phone in the console. Replacing my bottle of water with hers in the second holder, she put it in her bag saying, “If you need your water, just holler and I’ll pass it to you.”
“You can’t leave it in the console?” I asked.
“No, I need mine there and the other spot has my phone charging,” she said.
My tension crawled back up to my shoulders…
“You didn’t charge it overnight?”
“I thought I had until I unplugged it this morning and realised I hadn’t turned the power switch on.”
“Oh.” It was too beautiful a morning for an argument and I didn’t want to start our trip on the wrong foot.
We had only travelled eight minutes when she said, “Why did it take you so long to get ready this morning? Weren’t you already packed?”
Here we go again… “Almost. I just had to pack some last minute things and make sure I had everything,” I said.
“You’re always running late. We can never get out the door when we plan to.”
“You know how thorough I am, and you’ve been thankful for it in the past.”
“You mean that time I’d forgotten my keys but you’d remembered yours?” She asked.
“Yes, and also when we travelled to your mum’s place and I had remembered to bring that blanket she so loved, and the tools to fix her washing machine.”
“Yeah, yeah. I remember. If you hadn’t, she’d would have been in dire straits with all the dirty laundry she’d accumulated. I don’t think she’d washed for a month!”
“Yup, so I wasn’t the bad guy then, huh?”
“No, she loved you for it. But you still don’t get out the door on time.”
“We have plenty of time,” I remarked. “It’s a four-hour drive to the terminal and the ship doesn’t leave until two-thirty this afternoon. That gives us seven hours to get there, park the car and get on board.”
“You know how I stress when there’s a deadline. Regardless of how much time we factor in.”
“You worry too much. And besides, you’re always stressed.”
“Not without good cause,” she muttered.
I let that one go. It wasn’t worth the trouble.
Cathy and I had been together for the past six years. We’d had our good times and our bad, like every couple does I guess, but it seems the longer we stay together, the worse things are getting. She nit-picks everything I do, demanding perfection and precision at all times. But life’s not like that, and nor am I. Being the owner-manager of a small plumbing company, I know how to organise, prioritise and complete tasks on time. But she can’t see that not everything has to run to her schedule. She has become very demanding and controlling over the past few years, and it is clear to any outsider that we are beginning to struggle. This is why I organised our little getaway, to hopefully bring the focus back on us instead of sweating on the small stuff life wants to throw at us.
Nearly two hours went by and my stomach was reminding me I hadn’t fed the beast within.
“I need a break,” I said. “Let’s get breakfast.”
“I don’t need anything. Can’t we just keep going?” Cathy asked.
“Neither of us have had breakfast, and I need a coffee.”
“We can’t afford to waste time. Keep going,” she demanded.
“Cathy, we’ll be fine.”
“You never know what’s up ahead. There may be an accident or roadworks which will cause us to be delayed. We don’t want to miss our deadline.”
“Stop worrying. It will be alright. Besides, we won’t be long,” I said, pulling into a roadside diner.
Cathy sighed as loud as I think she possibly could and followed me into the diner. We each ordered a bacon and egg burger with coffee, nothing which would take too long to prepare. We scoffed our burgers and returned to the car with coffees in hand.
“I’m driving,” Cathy stated. “You need a break.”
“You need to be in control,” I muttered, being careful she didn’t hear. “I’m fine, but if you want to.” I tossed her the keys.
Continuing up the road, I commented how she was consistently driving over the speed limit. “We don’t want a speeding fine, or worse,” I said.
“I know what I’m doing. I’m a good driver,” she replied.
“Be that as it may, you need to slow down. You are twenty above the limit.”
“Now who’s worrying?”
“Cathy, I mean it. Slow down,” I ordered.
“Fine.” She reduced our speed by ten. “Satisfied?”
“No. Take it down another ten so we are doing the limit,” I said.
“They won’t stop us if we’re only ten above,” she said. “It’s calculated at ten percent of the limit.”
“How do you know? Are you willing to risk it?” I asked.
“It’ll be fine. Have a sleep or something.”
This time it was my turn to sigh heavily. I figured if I did go to sleep, then I wouldn’t have to put up with her panic driving. Hoping the caffeine in my system wouldn’t keep me awake, I turned my head towards the window and watched the world fly by. With the sunlight filtering through the trees, I soon felt sleepy and allowed myself to drift off.
It was the altered movement of the car which woke me. As I opened my eyes, I realised Cathy was pulling over to the side. “What’s up?” I asked, trying to come to my senses quickly.
Looking in her rear-view mirror, she said, “Cops.”
“What?” I looked out the back window with bleary eyes and saw a police car behind us. “Shit, Cathy. What did did you do?” I sat up straight, ready to meet our impending doom.
Cathy turned off the motor and a moment later an officer was standing at her window. Opening it, he informed her she was driving at thirty-two kilometers per hour over the limit.
“Cathy!” Getting over the initial shock, I wished I could say, “I told you so,” but that would have to wait.
“Sorry, officer,” she replied, “but I need to get to the docks before our ship leaves.”
“There is never an excuse for speeding, ma’am,” the officer said. “At the rate you were driving, you have a high probability of wiping out not only yourself, but that of the gentleman beside you along with other road users.”
“But I’m a good driver. I won’t have an accident,” Cathy insisted.
Never wise to argue with a police officer, I thought, her attitude irritating me.
“Good drivers keep to the limit, ma’am. The risk of having an accident multiplies significantly for every kilometer you are over the limit.”
“But I watch-“
“Cathy! Leave it!” I ordered, now exasperated. “Let the officer do his job so we can get underway.”
Cathy looked at me very tight-lipped.
“Ma’am, I am going to have to issue you a fine. I would like to see your licence,” the officer said.
Cathy begrudgingly handed him her licence. After a quick check, he returned with her licence along with the fine.
“What?” she said, looking at the piece of paper in her hand. “Seven hundred dollars?”
“And four demerit points,” he stated. “You were doing more than thirty kilometers over the limit ma’am. That’s the fine for this infringement. You have thirty days to pay.”
Cathy stuffed her licence along with the fine in her bag and said,
"You’re all the same. You just want to make quota.”
“Cathy! Shut up before you get another one!” I warned.
The officer bade us good day.
Restarting the car, she pulled out onto the road and we continued along our way.
“Stupid cops,” she said. “They just nab anyone who is even just slightly over the limit.”
“They’re just doing their job,” I replied.
“No, it’s more than that. I wasn’t going as fast as he said,” she stated.
“They have radar, Cathy. They know.”
“They just want to exert their power over others.”
“Oh, for God’s sake, Cathy. Just leave it.”
“Don’t tell me what to do. I am in the right here,” she declared.
“What? For endangering our lives?” She was speeding again. “Slow down!” I said.
“It’s fine. I’m only a few above.”
She was fifteen.
I’d had enough of both of her reckless driving and her attitude.
“Right. Pull over. I’m driving,” I said.
Shit! “Cathy! Pull the fuck over right now!” I yelled.
She rolled her eyes and sighed. “Ok, ok. No need to get all snitty about it.”
She pulled over and we exchanged places. Continuing down the road, I asked, “What’s wrong? Why are you so aggressive?”
“What? No I’m not!”
“And contrary,” I added. “Just listen to yourself. You are constantly
getting pissed off when I don’t do exactly what you tell me to. And you’re always trying to pick a fight.”
“No I don’t,” she said.
“Cathy, you do. Just look at how you handled the fine.”
“He was an asshole.”
“Am I an asshole too?” I asked.
“Fuck, Glen. Well, you can be sometimes, but not always,” she said.
“Really? Like when?”
“Like now. You are so determined to get your own way all the time. You always make mountains out of molehills.”
“What? Me? I think you’ve got that backwards,” I said.
“You do! You’re always doing what you want to do, and then you get pissed when I point out what actually needs doing,” she said.
“According to you.”
“Yes, according to me.”
“Cathy, you have been so controlling now for the past few years, and you are getting worse. We need to talk about this,” I said.
“Me? Controlling? I’m just trying to help you prioritise properly. Like getting out the bloody door on time.”
I could see it wouldn’t be long before we would be yelling at each other. Besides, this conversation was going nowhere, so I shook my head and just concentrated on driving.
The next couple of hours went silently by, for which I appreciated. We pulled into the parking station at the docks, removed our luggage from the boot and locked the car.
Heading out to the dock, we could see there were a couple of ships berthed, one on either side. “This way,” Cathy barked. Well, she’s still pissed. I decided to follow silently like a good little puppy. Anything just to keep the peace.
Arriving at our dock, the ship was a mountain looming over us, much larger than it seemed in the travel brochures. We joined the back of the queue waiting to board and to keep myself occupied, I counted the decks. There were at least twelve from what I could see above water. The ship seemed to glow brightly in the hot sun and as we waited our turn to get out of the heat, Cathy whinged about the lack of efficient service. It was nearly half an hour when we neared the front of the queue when suddenly the ticketing officer’s attention was distracted. As he turned his back to us, Cathy’s temper got the better of her. “Come on, we’ve waited long enough,” she said, striding into the foyer. There was no point in me remaining in the queue, she had the tickets.
Following along, I said, “We’re supposed to show our tickets before boarding.”
“What for? We’re not stowaways. We’ve paid,” she replied. “Besides, it’s too hot to just stand around out there.”
“That’s not the point.”
“Urgh, you are such a stickler for the rules,” she said.
“I’m just trying to do what’s right.”
“Fine,” she said. “Then do what’s right by me. Here’s my bag,” she dumped it at my feet. “Check us in and go find our room. I’ll be waiting for you in the bar.” She walked off.
“Really?” Which one? I wondered. This is a big ship with many bars. I decided then that a drink was also my priority so I stashed our bags on the trolley in the foyer and headed in the opposite direction.
The ship pulled out of port and I wondered how I’d turned into such a loser, drowning my sorrows. as soon as I’d boarded. That wasn’t like me. If things were different between us, we’d be on deck, saying farewell to all those left behind, excited for the adventure which lay before us. But now, I wished I was one of those waving from the dock. This holiday hadn’t started how I had planned, with the two of us barely talking. I wasn’t sure how we were going to resolve our issues.
It was almost dinner time when Cathy found me downing my fifth ale. I steeled myself for her next onslaught.
“Did you find our room?” she asked.
“Not yet. I needed a drink first,” I replied.
“Well, I want to tidy up before dinner,” she said.” Where’s our bags?”
“At the foyer. I’ll come with you,” I said, swallowing the last of my longneck.
We retrieved our bags and spoke to the clerk. “My name is Glen Sanderson and this is my partner, Cathy Miles. We would like to check in please.”
“No problem. May I see your tickets?” the clerk said.
Cathy pulled the tickets out of her purse and handed them over. He read the tickets carefully and checked the computer.
A couple of minutes passed and we hadn’t progressed any further. I asked, “Is there a problem?”
“It seems so, sir,” the clerk replied still checking his computer. “It appears you are on the wrong ship. Your ticket is for the Pacific Princess. You are aboard the Island Princess.” The blood drained from my face. “I believe your ship set sail an hour before us and by now would be well on its way out to sea.”
I shook my head in disbelief. It was now apparent that not only had I boarded the wrong ship for our holiday, but in my relationship as well.