Dinner at the Essington-Smith house was always a time of conversation, whether about how the world works, politics, or funny things that happened in their day. Today the topic was how people’s parents met.
“Cassie’s parents met at a New Years eve party. It was love at first sight.” Sadie, the second oldest, said with a dreamy sigh. “Isn’t that so romantic?”
Alyssa, the oldest, rolled her eyes. “No way, Eric’s parents have the best ‘how we met’ story ever. Eric’s mom left her coat at a bar and Eric’s dad found it and gave it to his girlfriend at the time. Two years later when they broke up, Mr. Jefferson decided to look for the owner and that’s how they met.” Alyssa leaned back in her chair. “Now that’s a romantic story.”
“Ugh, that’s the lamest story ever.”
“No, it isn’t! You’re lame!”
Ignoring his fighting sisters, Calvin, the youngest, turned to his two moms. “Mom, Mamma, how did you guys meet?”
His moms shared a smile.
“That, honey, is a very interesting and romantic,” At the sound of the word romantic, Alyssa and Sadie both stopped arguing and leaned in, hanging on to their mom’s every word, “story. It all starts with a bargain vacation that I took to the Bahamas’ in the spring of 2008…”
After several hours of being squished inside a tiny dark plane, stepping outside and being in the Bahamas was like walking into a whole different universe. The island I was staying at was surround by clear sparkling water that was the bluest of blues and the sun was warm on my face.
Every moment I spent on the island made me more and more glad that I had seen the add on Facebook for a bargain vaca’ to the Bahamas. A week of being in the Bahamas at a four-star hotel for half the price? All I could think was, Score!
The bus ride from the airport to the hotel showed all the interesting tourist sites, but the thing I was most excited for was the beach. All I had planned to do on that trip was relax and take a break from the stress of my job. But those plans flew out the window as soon as I arrived at the hotel.
I walked into the hotel lobby and was greeted by the sounds of a woman yelling. The yelling seemed to be coming from the front of the line of people waiting to get checked in. Everyone was grumbling and trying to get a glimpse of who was causing the disturbance. I, on the other hand, was fine with standing in the beautiful lobby, though I wouldn’t mind getting my room so I could take a nap. I was pretty jetlagged.
I stood in line waiting until someone called my name. “Excuse me, everyone, if I could have your attention please.” One of the workers had started talking on the intercom system. “Could Catherine Essington please come up to the front desk? I repeat: could Catherine Essington come up to the front desk? Thank you.”
Being the shy anxious person I am, my brain kicked into hyper drive of all the problems there might be. It only got worst as everyone stared at me while I moved up the line. When I finally reached the front, there was a woman around my age, who I assumed was the one causing all the ruckus, and a young man who looked like he was moments away from tears.
“Um, hi, you, uh, called me? I’m, uh, Catherine Essington.” I stammered. Uncomfortable conversations where not my strong suit.
“Oh, yeah.” The young man turned his focus toward a computer next to him. He typed something in and turned back to me. “You booked room 567 with our bargain deal, correct?”
“Well, Ms. Julia Smith,” He gestured to the women. “is your room mate.”
“What he’s saying is that you’re the bastard who I’m apparently sharing a room with.” The woman, or Julia Smith crossed her arms. She was wearing a turquoise shirt that read ‘fun fact: I don't care’ and camouflaged shorts. Her dark hair was pulled back in a braid and her eyes seemed to shoot sparks with every word.
“Um, what?” Two minutes into that conversation and I was already feeling my hopes of a relaxing vacation slipping away. “No, no, can’t be right. When I paid for my room it never said anything about having to share it with a stranger!”
“Well actually,” the young man pulled up the hotel website on the computer and turned it around so we could see. He pointed to some tiny print in the terms and conditions section, “Right there it says that guest buying the bargain deal, which is half price off for one week of staying at Dolphin Cove, will share a two bedroom with another guest. You can have your own room, but you need to pay full price for it.”
“Oh no, no, no. I’m not paying for anything else at this stupid fucking hotel.” Julia yelled. “I want a full refund. And a plane ticket home. Miss whatever-this-chicks-name-is can do whatever the hell she wants, but I’m leaving.”
The clerk wiped the sweat (or tears, I couldn’t tell.) from his face. “Yes, Ms. Smith, we can give you a refund and arrange a flight for you. The only problem is that the next flight available is a week away.” He snaped his eyes shut and tensed as if waiting for her to hit him. Thank goodness she didn’t. Instead, she called him some very creative names that are not appropriate to say in front of children.
When she finally ran out of names that insulted the clerk’s mother and his manhood, Julia mumbled, “Fine, considering I have nothing better to do, I might as well enjoy my vacation.”
The clerk let out a small breath of relief and turned to me. “What about you, Ms. Essington?”
I glanced at Julia. Sharing a room with her seemed like a nightmare, but what choice did I have? It was either her or paying full price for a room, which I could not afford.
I sighed. “I guess I’ll be staying in room 567, too.”
I seriously underestimated how jetlagged I was. When I finally woke up, it was almost one. Last night after a quickly unpacking and changing into my PJs, I had hit the pillow like a rock and was out in a few minutes. I didn’t notice Julia leave, come in, or do anything at all. I briefly wondered where she was, but I got distracted with getting up.
Using the fancy hotel soaps and conditioners, I drew a nice bath and relaxed for about an hour before deciding to go looking for food. I put on my favorite tank top, (yes, kids, the lime one with the pasta stain.) and shorts before heading out.
The hotel website had advertised this nice-looking restaurant and bar, so I thought I would try it. The restaurant was a causal, but nice with tropical flowers the tables and giant glass windows showing the shimmering ocean. Everything was peaceful, except for the bar, where it seemed like a party was happening.
A waiter led me to a table that had an amazing view of the ocean and brought me a glass of wine while I ordered the lobster. I was just about to dig in when a very drunk looking Julia plopped down in the empty seat across from me.
“Hey, Roommate-y.” She said, her words slightly slurred. “You should come party with us."
“Why do you want me to come?” I asked. It seemed suspicious that she would randomly ask me to come and party with her after she called me a bastard yesterday.
“I don’t know. You seem like you’re a huge push over and I need someone to pressure into doing stuiped drunk stuff with.” Julia giggled. “Shit, I wasn’t supposed to tell you that."
It stung me a little to be called a pushover. I mean, just because I’m quite and go with the flow doesn’t mean I’m a pushover.
“No,” I said, “I’m not drinking with you.”
“Yes, you are.”
Julia grabbed my arm and started pulling me towards the bar.
“Hey, let go!” I yelled. I tried to pull away, but she had an iron grip. I started shaking my arm, trying to loosen her hold. She finally let go, sending us toppling into the tables. Food and drinks went flying and I’m pretty sure an old woman fainted.
After several seconds of slipping on the spilt wine and stained tablecloths, Julia and I stood up, covered in pasta and lobster. Standing before us was a shocked crowed, a couple confused waiters, and an incredibly angry manager. And that’s why, kids, Mamma and I aren’t aloud in the Dolphin Cove Hotel restaurant and Bar.
I spent most of day two trying to find a new place to eat. It took a while to find store that hadn’t heard of me and Julia’s infamous banning from the hotel bar, but luckily the island had some out back shops that seemed pretty cut off from everyone.
I ate a banana and a sandwich for dinner while watching the sunset. It was probably one of the most beautiful things I’ve ever seen, even to this day.
Once the last hints of orange had faded to purple, I walked back to the hotel and went up to my room. I scanned my room key and was about to turn the knob when I noticed a sock hanging from it. A sock hanging from a door was girls universal signal that they had a, um, guest in their room and they wanted privacy. Of course, Julia was rude enough to bring someone back to our room and make me sleep somewhere else.
I swore. Where am I going to sleep now? I thought as I made my way back down to the lobby. I sat down on one of the waiting couches and the idea came to me. Why not just sleep on one of these couches? So, I laid down and closed my eyes.
It was the worst sleep I’ve ever had.
Besides the horrible sleep I had because of the light, people walking around, and random ocean noise, day 3 of my vacation wasn’t that bad. I woke up/was already awake at 7 and went out for breakfast.
I realised halfway through my bagel that I still hadn’t done the thing I came there to do: relax on the beach and read. I had brought The Book Thief by Markus Zusak after having it recommended to me by a co-worker and had been dying to read it for months.
I got directions from one of the hotel staff members to a popular beach and quickly ducked into my room to grab a towel. Lucky, no was there.
The beach was sunny and a little crowed, but I was still able to find a spot to sit. Kids screeched and laughed, splashing in the waves while tired parents called after them, making sure they had put on sunscreen. Some teenagers had started a game of volleyball and it sounded like it was a heated match, judging from all the swearing and yelling.
I opened my book and instantly got absorbed into it. It was a little slow at first, but I loved Death’s narrating and how he foreshadows everything. The characters where amazing, so was the plot and I loved it so much and I’ll stop because I know you kids hate it when I go on book rants.
Anyway, I read for a few hours before Julia came over and interrupted me.
“Oh my God, are you reading The Book Thief? I love that book so fucking much!” She said, sitting down uninvited on my towel.
“You, um, read?” I asked. Julia didn’t strike me much as a bookworm.
“Of course.” She rolled her eyes. “Just because I’m loud and swear doesn’t mean I don’t like books.”
“Sorry.” I rushed. “Um, you said that you read The Book Thief?”
“Oh, yeah! I read it last year and its my most favorite book ever! My fav’ character is Death probably. Or Rudy. I don’t know why but I just fucking love him.”
“Oh my gosh I love Rudy, too! I hope…” I won’t bore you with the details, but we talked about The Book Thief for hours. I didn’t end up finishing it until after the trip, but when I did, I cried. It’s Number two on my Hardest-I’ve-ever-cried list. The first being when Papa died and the third when the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley cup.
I just love that book.
My vacation was coming to an end and I was starting to get stress about going back to work. In the Spring of 2008, I was working a big corporation in the city. It was a great job, but it was also stressful. So, I smoked to take the edge off things. (Yes, I smoked. I know, shocking, right?)
I sat on the balcony, smoking a pack of cigarettes, letting the nicotine sooth me. The stress seemed to fade, and the sun shined brightly overhead. I tilted my head, closed my eyes, and let out my breath. Ah, peace and quiet.
Then, because the universe sucks, Julia came out on to the balcony. She looked at me and announced, “Damn, I didn’t know you smoked. What the hell are you doing? Don’t you know that smoking is shit for your health?”
“Its not that bad,” I mumbled, “its not like I’m an addicted or anything. I can stop whenever I want.”
“Ok, then stop.” She put her hands on her hips.
“Uh…” I didn’t know what say.
“Come on, you said you could stop, so stop.”
Suddenly, she grabbed the cigarette out of my hand and chucked it over the side of the balcony.
“Hey! What the heck?”
“You shouldn’t smoke.”
“I know, but you can’t just grab something from me and through it away!”
Julia shrugged. “You weren’t going to stop on your own, so I thought ‘why not get the ball rolling?’ Besides, why do you smoke anyway? You seem too smart.”
It was my turn to shrug. “I don’t know… I guess my job is super stressful, so smoking helps me cope with it.”
“Do you like your job?”
“Yeah, I guess. It isn’t what I thought it would be.”
“Why don’t you quit? If it makes you stressed enough to smoke and you don't love, it seems like a bad job.”
“I…” Jeez, she was asking some really hard questions.
“There has to be something else you rather be doing that doesn’t cause smoking and stress.”
“Well,” I sighed, “when I was younger, I wanted to be a writer or journalist.”
“Why didn’t you that?”
“Because it’s a hard job to actually make money at! I needed a stable job that would keep me afloat.”
“Well now that you’ve done that, why don’t you try accomplish your dreams? Just think about it.” Before I could response, Julia abruptly left, leaving me alone with my thoughts.
It took a while to figure it out, but as you know, kids, after that vacation, I quitted smoking, my job, and became a successful journalist, like I’d dreamed. All thanks to your mom.
“Oh my gosh! Why is all your stuff everywhere?” It was the last day of the vacation and I was losing my mind with how messy our room was. Julia’s stuff was spread all over the beds, in the bathroom, and even on the balcony. “Why can’t you keep it all in like one pile?”
“Sorry, bossy-pants, but I don’t roll like that.” Julia called from the bathroom.
“I don’t care how you roll; can you just clean up your crap?”
She came out of the bathroom. “Why do care?”
“Because its my room too and I don’t like living in a pigsty!”
“It’s been like this the entire time and you haven’t been bothered!”
“It’s been bothering me the whole time! Along with your attitude, swearing, and how you treat me!” I yelled. We stood there in silence before I stormed out of the room.
I spent the rest of the day exploring the island, trying not to think about Julia and how annoying she was. It was late when I finally got back, but I was still ticked off.
I was just about to open the door when Julia came out.
“Oh, uh, hey.” Julia said, looking down at her feet.
Julia let a breath. “Look I’m really sorry for being such an asshole to you. Can I make it up to you? Maybe buy you dinner?”
I thought for a moment. “Sure, but on one condition.”
“You don’t get use kicked out of the restaurant this time.”
Julia laughed. “I’ll try.”
So, we had a lovely dinner (we didn’t get kicked out of the restaurant.) where I learned that Julia was from Seattle, she loves all James Dean movies, and is gluten free. And the rest is history.
“And that, kids, is how me and Mamma met.” Catherine finished. she turned to her daughters. “Is that a romantic enough story for you?”
“Eh, it had a lot of extra detail and you guys met at the beginning of the story.” Alyssa commented.
“And Mamma was really mean the whole time.” Sadie added.
“I liked it.” Calvin said.
“I liked it too." Julia said. She then leaned over kissed Catherine.
“EWW!!!” Calvin, Sadie, and Alyssa all squealed
Julia laughed and kissed her again. It had been a long road since that fateful vacation, but everyday Catherine was so grateful that she got to go do it with Julia.