This is the unedited version… And it is a WIP so it will probably change but I thought I’d give you a sneak peek on the next project.
I watch the horizon and try to see the point where the sea turns into the sky. Sometimes it is a crystal line, as if someone has reached down with a giant hand and engraved a line, and of other times it is hazy and undistinguished. Today is a hazy day. If I had been back home in Wales it would be called a soft day, but I’m not. I smile and touch my tongue to my bottom lip, loving the taste of salt; the taste of the sea. If I had thought for one moment that I’d be on a boat hopping between the Canary Islands just two weeks after losing my job, I would have laughed at them. It was crazy.
I’d answered an ad in the local paper. It had been a few short lines; wanted, crew mate for journey of a lifetime. That had been it. But I’d been facing the prospect of moving back in with my parents. I’m almost forty and had no wish to go back to the purple and pink teenager cave. I was more than that now. I was used to my own front door, my own living room, my own house. It had been the point where I’d started to itemise my belongings, trying to work out what I could keep and what had to go. My job had been gone for almost a week and because I’m not a great saver I was looking at no cash to pay the next rent. I’d been tearfully looking at my cherished china polar bear collection and wondering if I could part with it when the phone had rung.
“Hello?” I said and I could hear the tears.
“Mum?” I may have sounded a little shocked. I mean, my parents knew I was coming back, but we had chatted all the night before. “What’s wrong?”
“We have been talking…”
It was those words and the waspish tone. I knew that meant that something had gone terribly wrong, that my life was not going to be a happy family reunion. I mean, I only live five miles down the road so there was no need to worry about me not getting on with my parents. Okay, maybe we had fought when I’d lived with them, but that had been years ago. Surely they wouldn’t hold that against me. I was grown now. They had to take me back. Wasn’t that a parents job? To always support you, no matter what?
I’d stood in my small flat looking out on a flat grey sea and feeling a heavy ball of ice form in my gut. “What about?” I asked, but it was barely a whisper.
“We think that it would be a bad idea…”
She said more but I zoned out. Who wouldn’t? I wanted support and instead they were rejecting me. A few phrases came through. They were remodelling the house and my room was meant to be the new luxurious bathroom, with a claw-footed bathtub. And they didn’t think it would work. Did I not remember the last time? Mum had giggled then, laughed as she tore the bottom out of my life.
“No, Mel, we think it would be good for you to stand on your own two feet.”
And that had been that. I was cast adrift. I had looked at the empty shell of the handset in my hand. She had gone with a breezy love you. I had no time to argue that I was going to lose my flat or that with no job I had no money. Mum had mentioned paying the next month’s rent. In fact, she’d informed me that she had put the money in my account.
It wouldn’t cover it. I paid over the odds for my quirky flat and its sea views. I had barely been able to afford it when I’d been working. So when Dad had asked how much it was I’d dropped a hundred and fifty off the price. So the sum Mum had gifted me wouldn’t help.
I’d given a small bark of humourless laughter, at least I could eat. I was down to a quarter of a pint of milk and a few ounces of cheese, but I would be on the street by the end of the month and it was the twentieth now. I supposed I could wait and not pay, go into arrears and then get evicted, but it would kill my credit rating. Once I had a job I wanted to buy a house. I wanted to do so many things.
I had simply sat in front of the display case and cried. At some point my tears and harsh breathing had subsided. I’d found myself lying in the living room, on the newspaper I had put out to package up the bears. I was going to lovingly wrap each before placing them in a box. I knew that they would have to be sold, but even now my little collection couldn’t help me. They maybe an investment but there was no way I was going to be able to sell them in ten days. Another tear leaked from my eye and ran down my cheek. I felt it and wondered if I was going to escape this?
No answer came to me but the soft splash of my tear hitting the newspaper. Finally I started to peel myself from the paper. My cheek has become stuck and I remember laughing in a sort of maniacal way, the kind reserved for the insane. It struck me that my face was probably covered in print and that seemed hilarious. I balled up the offending soggy page and threw it at the bin. My soaring paper ball didn’t make it but I ignored it. What did it matter if I littered? I was losing the place anyway. I remember standing and reaching down for the rest. I put it on my tiny table and watched the view, not caring that I looked a sight with bloodshot eyes and a reddened nose.
I sat and continued to watch the sea with its slow ebb and flow. I wanted to escape.
At some point I must have changed went from looking out to looking down. The paper was open at the ads and there it was. I could leave. I reached for the phone and dialled the number, too numb to feel excited or fearful.
“Hello?” A deep voice spoke.
“I read your ad…” My voice was flat and toneless.
“Um…” I could hear the hesitation. “Yes. Can you sail?”
I thought of the two weeks learning with the school. “Sort of.”
“Do you have much experience?”
“About two weeks.”
“Was that continuous?” he asked and I could hear the excitement in his voice.
“Can you meet me?”
“Where?” I asked.
I looked out of my window down onto the marina. I could see a man standing out there with a phone to his ear. “Okay.”
“…a white jumper. I can see you.” Looking back this was completely stalker-ish, and he immediately started turning on the spot, looking for me. “I’m in the flats.”
“Oh,” he said and turned. I knew he wouldn’t see me, but he waved anyway. “Can you be here in ten?”
Of course that ended up with me running around like a loon, trying to get the newsprint off my cheek. Makeup remover is a wonderful invention. I started to put on a skirt and then stopped. This guy was into boats and if I was going to be scrabbling in and out of a yacht then I needed to be dressed right. Reaching into my wardrobe I pulled out a pair of never-been worn trainers. They would do. I had bought them so I could join a gym thinking it would make my new year’s resolution harder to break. Blowing dust off the immaculate white leather I gave a rueful smile. That didn’t work, but now they would.
Grabbing a pair of jeans I popped on a t-shirt and a cardigan. I was then out of the door and running toward the dock. On the wooden boarding I saw him. Up close I realised that he was older than me, but well-built. In fact despite the smattering of grey in his hair, he could be any age. He saw me and smiled. I smiled back and hurried.
“Careful,” he called. “The wood can be slippery.”
I nodded and adjusted my pace. I could feel my trainers sliding a little but luckily I kept my feet. That wouldn’t have been a great start to an interview, to end up sprawled at his feet.
He held out his hand. “Rob.”
I took it and shook, trying to give a firm handshake, one that said I knew what I was doing. “Mel.”
“So you can sail?”
I looked away. He had the most stunning blue grey eyes. I wondered if they changed colour. No, I could not be attracted to my new boss. “Sort of.”
“Um?” he asked and started to walk away. I followed after a moment hesitation.
“I did a course once.”
“Where?” he asked, sounding a little more optimistic.
“I forget. The Lake District?”
We had come to a stop next a long white boat, the top deck a light pine colour. He turned to me and looked with a frown.
“How old were you?”
I gulped. “It was a few years ago.”
He simply raised an eyebrow.
“I was in school,” I said with defeat. I didn’t wait for an answer, I just started to turn.
“Where are you going?” he asked.
“Because I know nothing about boats…” I said, waving an arm at the sea.
“Yet you answered the ad?”
I knew what he wanted. He was hoping that I’d tell him why. I looked at him, truly looked and saw that he was lined, but not with marks that denoted anger or frustration. No Rob’s face showed only laughter lines and a confidence that seemed innate. He wanted to know because he was interested.
So I told him. He listened and at some point we ended up inside the small living quarters of the boat, sitting opposite each other with a table between us. He said nothing and when I was finished he got up and fetched a map from a cubby hole.
“The journey is from here to Portugal, Morocco and then the Canary Islands. After that I have plotted to come back, but it depends…”
“Okay,” I said, not really understanding why he was saying this.
“I want you to come with me,” he said.
“Why?” I had asked and he had just smiled.
Now gazing out at the horizon I still wondered why he had said yes. We were going at a fair clip toward Funchal, our stop off before returning to England.
“What’s wrong?” Rob asked from behind me.
I was lounging on the top deck whilst he pointed the boat in the right direction. Really the boat could almost sail itself, but for the moment I was meant to be in a state of readiness in case we needed to take down the sail.
“You looked worried,” he said with a smile that made his eyes the colour of a stormy sea.
“I was thinking about the day we met.”
His smile widened.
I look at him with my very serious expression. “Why am I here?”
For a moment he seems confused and then smiles. “That just happened…”
I roll my eyes. It had taken about three days before we had become a couple. But it wasn’t that. “No, I mean why let me come with you in the first place?”
His face goes serious now. “Why say yes?”
He sighs. “You needed a break and you had been the only one to tell me the truth.”
“Yes.” His smile is back. “One guy actually came sailing with me. He managed to collapse the mainsail and knot the rope to such an extent I had to go back using the engine.”
I wrinkle my nose at that. I hate the engine. We always make sure that it is ready to go in an emergency but I hate the thing. It is noisy and smelly.
“So you didn’t like him?”
“No,” Rob says in a deadpan voice. “And I really didn’t fancy him.” He gives me a wink and ducks as I take a playful swipe at him. I can’t help but smile though. When I’d got back to my flat I found a message on my phone. My parents had reconsidered again and they were willing to offer me my old room until the remodelling started. So I could stay for a few months. I stood there and looked out toward that horizon and I’d picked up the phone.
“Oh, Mel, I just left a message…”
“I know,” I said, “but I’m not going to be here for a while.”
“I’ve had a job offer, and I’m going to be travelling.”
“Where?” Mum had asked.
“The Canary Islands.”
“On a cruise ship?” She sounded excited and I started to wonder if she was thinking about discount tickets. Sure enough… “Your father and I have always wanted to go on one, but you know the expense…”
“No, it’s a small boat.”
I had smiled. “I’m putting my stuff into storage.”
“I think it’s a good opportunity,” I said. Mum had said very little after that.