Fort Lauderdale, Florida. 11:30pm local time. 4:30am UK time. We are here! The girls and I successfully dragged three suitcases; a hundred-and-fifty-pounds in weight from airport to motel. The motel has a pool and waffle-maker downstairs and a slightly mouldy bathroom and two large beds in our room. We live in Borth, Mid-Wales. It hasn’t stopped raining since Christmas. This will totally do.
The truth is though, I’ve had mixed feelings about this moment. We went home last June having spent two years away, sailing from Wales to the Caribbean. At the end of our time away, life had become difficult on our sailboat, Quest. Living onboard has challenges that living ‘normally’ doesn’t face. And here my husband, Jack will say that I’m moaning.. Ha! He may be right but I still felt it. From our time away, I’ve learnt that kids for the most part want to live normal lives. They want friends and routine and fun in a big, bright mix. The life we had on Quest had some of these things but not often at the same time. Especially compared to the steady, small-town life we have back home.
On the first morning in Fort Lauderdale, we got up for breakfast and lay in the morning shade by the pool. I wasn’t expecting it. Warmth. Not the boiling, sun-glare kind but the relaxing, serotonin-making stuff. It was transformative.
I turned on my side. ‘I could get used to this.’
The girls stretched out. ‘Yeah.’
Later on, we caught a series of Ubers. This was a series of interesting meets. Like we were getting into peoples’ cars and opening the windows of their lives. We car-pooled with a Russian called Sergei who wanted to be an Uber driver himself. Our driver, Romnay instantly gave him his card and told him to call. It was Valentine’s Day: surely, we were watching a bromance unfold! Next, we shared a ride with Roger who lived in North Wales for years. He told us he started the pony trekking industry in Snowdonia. Been living in Florida ever since. For some reason, Delphine didn’t like him much. ‘Fishy,’ she muttered.
We went to Aventura mall; the poshest one around. Delphine and I left Lulu to browse the make-up in Nordstroms while we sat next to the Jimmy Choo’s. I took out Delphine’s reading book. As Delphine worked her way through, I caught people going past. Here it wasn’t too friendly. Mouths pointing downwards, attached to people wearing expensive-looking yet somehow unattractive clothes. Were they throwing us disdainful looks? Or perhaps they just looked like that all the time?
Lulu came back to us as a sultry and smoky-eyed twelve-year old. I swallowed then we shopped. We ate lunch, bickered and listened as the store-people flitted between English and Spanish like bird-song. Finally, we went home and discovered that seventeen people had been shot dead in a high school only an hour-and-a-half away from us.
Early the next morning, we returned to the airport to catch our flight to Trinidad. A Broward County police officer stood guarding the entrance to Fort Lauderdale airport.
I took a breath. I had to say it. ‘I’m sorry what happened yesterday in your county.’
Behind his green, sheriff’s county uniform and shiny badge, he blinked.