The Longest Day

I started to smell bad. How do I know? The number of emails I’d sent to Lulu’s deputy headmistress, Mrs. Griffiths without a response. Sure sign of stinky-stalker’s syndrome.

What was my subject? All the possible ways that Lulu could come back to mainstream school in the middle of her two-year GCSE programme. It’s not advisable to do it; swapping curriculums in the middle. It means lots of catching up, sitting tests… and of course in Wales – learning mandatory Welsh.

Still, this crazy option is my plan B. Therefore, I officially love it. It means that if things don’t work out on Quest, we can go home and go back to normality.

But alas, after email number three, I hadn’t heard back from Mrs. Griffiths. This meant it wasn’t looking good… and time to consider plan C. Plan C: we wouldn’t go back to Quest at all.

‘That’s fine,’ Jack said surprisingly quickly after I’d explored the idea of plan C with him, ‘you and the girls stay here at home. I’ll go to Quest on my own.’

He followed this up by a frankly, well-thought out plan. He’d already figured out, for example, how he was going to work the dinghy (buy a smaller outboard). He had a new system of raising and lowering it solo completely sussed. And he was going to sail Quest back home to Wales, potentially on his own.

I crossed my arms. ‘So, since you have it all worked out, when do you plan on leaving for Quest?’

‘Well, there’s no point hurrying,’ he said without hesitation, ‘since Quest won’t have been used for almost a year-and-a-half. She’ll probably need pumps we don’t know about as well as the things we already need to change. So, I’ll stick to the plan and go to her before the season starts.’

Eyebrows raised my end. ‘Yeah but if you sail her home, you wont need to leave the Caribbean until the end of May. What are you going to do for all that time before you have to cross the Atlantic?’

Eyebrows down his side. ‘Make my way up the island chain.’

Hmm. I’ve spent enough time in the Caribbean on Quest to know that a. anchoring is almost impossible to do safely on your own and b. Jack would probably be sailing home with a young, possibly South American woman on his arm. It would be the end of my marriage time. Hmm.

Wait a second. Even allowing for eyebrows at neutral level here, I couldn’t let him go on his own. Was this for fear of his safety? For holding onto my marriage? I wish. It’s because of the promise I made to his dad.

‘Look after my baby.’ Grandpa said to me – a lot. And as much as that’s old-school stuff, well, turns out I’m old-school. His dad was good to me and we both knew it. This made his request a fair deal. And especially as Jack’s dad isn’t here anymore, I do have to look after his baby. I have to. This means plan C was aborted years ago.

Still, don’t think Jack was so pleased about plan C being aborted. He sulked for two hours straight. As well as saying, ‘You’re wrong, I wouldn’t have a terrible accident on my own.’

‘Well, you are your father’s son.’

‘What does that mean?’

‘You remember when our bungalow was flooded and your dad reacted by jumping up, falling down the stairs and breaking three fingers?’

‘Yeah, so? What does that situation have to do with this?’

‘It means I can’t leave you on your own. Just take it for that.’

The next morning, I woke up in our bedroom (which is also our living room) and took in the situation. I was relieved in some way. Yep, going to Quest is going to be hard. I’m going to be teaching the girls at different and unpredictable levels of independence. One of them will be doing tests which will help to decide her future. The other one is on the brink of being proud of her academic success. I need to be there for both of them in different and potentially impossible ways. Meanwhile, my husband told me he couldn’t promise to help me. Even though we were going to make sure he wasn’t alone. What was I relieved about again?

Maybe I was relieved about the situation being decided. Even if Mrs. Griffiths didn’t email me back, at least I wasn’t waiting for her to anymore. And that we’d be together – all of us.

I went to make coffee and Lulu’s breakfast. Yes, I still make Lulu’s breakfast. Despite her not promising me anything either.

Jack ambled into the kitchen. He said, ‘I had the craziest dream.’

I sipped on my coffee. ‘What’s that?’

I dreamt you’d become the headmistress of two different schools. You were super busy juggling it all.’

I leant back. ‘And were you in this dream too?’

He nodded sleepily and turned his juicer on. ‘I was the caretaker.’

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