Chapter 8 – AMPLE MAKE THIS BED. March 3, 2020

by admin on March 3, 2020

A novel for grownups A novel for grownups

The latest installment of AMPLE MAKE THIS BED.  Chapter 8Spike finally gets his boat to Bridewell and meets some of the local community theatre company and they talk shop about a possible joint project with Ama’s theatre in Arcadia. Ama arrives and she and Spike make up for lost time together in the Mongoose and hatch plans for his arrival at her theatre.

 CHAPTER EIGHT

Fortunately there was a lull in the usual horde of summer visitors to the little port of Bridewell and they found a spot at the public dock. They squeezed the Mongoose in between two gleaming cocktail cruisers, whose owners watched nervously as Spike tied her up with her new mooring lines. Fergus shut the engine down and joined Spike on the wharf.

‘Let’s have a sun-downer before we eat, shall we?’ said Spike. ‘I’m still feeling shaky after our little escapade today.’

‘Me too,’ said Fergus. ‘The Sail Loft pub has a patio deck on the waterfront.’

They finished their meal and sat drinking the last of the wine, content to observe the summer crowd of sailors and tourists while Spike tried to identify possible members of the local theatre company.

‘Looks like we’re out of luck, Fergus. I’d say this bunch is mostly summer sailors, judging from the bits of conversation I’ve been hearing. You go ahead and check out the other pubs if you like. I’m going back to the Mongoose. Had enough excitement for one day.’ He returned to sit on the rear deck and promptly fell asleep. He awoke later at the sound of voices, with a foul taste in his mouth.

Two figures approached along the dock, deep in conversation. One of them looked up and called out.

‘Spike – is that you?’

Spike turned to see an unsteady Fergus being helped up onto the deck by the other lanky man with him.

‘Thought you were having an early night?’ said Fergus. ‘Spike, this is Justin, a fellow actor. Met him at the pub.’

‘Pull up a cushion, Justin – it’s too nice to go below,’ said Spike. ‘I’ll fetch some more glasses.’ He went back down the steps to the cabin.

‘There’s half a bottle of Armagnac on my bunk while you’re there,’ called Fergus. ‘Had enough beer for tonight. What do you think of the Mongoose, Justin? Not quite the usual yacht that ties up here in Bridewell, is it?’

‘To me they’re strictly scenery,’ said Justin. ‘Look but don’t touch. Never had the money to get in with this crowd. I am just a poor player. They occasionally invite us for a drink after the show for a peek at how the other half lives.’

‘Are they keen supporters of the theatre?’ asked Spike, pouring out the brandy he had brought up.

‘They’re mostly a transient bunch, looking for amusement,’ he said. ‘Reluctant supporters is a better description. Let’s just say they don’t come here because of the theatre, but if they’re bored with eating and drinking and swapping yarns, they come along to see us.’

‘Justin and his partner, Emily, runs the old Majestic theatre as well as playin’ the lead roles in Taming of the Shrew. I thought he’d be interested in meetin’ you, so I brought him back for a drink,’ said Fergus.

‘Fergus told me about your plans to help restore the old Regency Theatre,’ said Justin. ‘Perhaps we could do a joint co-production with Arcadia.’

‘Maybe I should phone my partner, Ama, to drive over to meet you and Emily and see the show,’ said Spike. ‘I think I’d better call her now so she can sort out her plans for tomorrow.’

‘Okay, I’ll leave you to it,’ said Justin. ‘Come by the theatre in the morning and let me know and I’ll save you some tickets.’

 

In the morning, Spike was woken up by Fergus walking about on the deck above his head. He crawled out of the vee-berth and surveyed the disarray in the cabin. Fergus appeared on the companionway steps and beckoned him up on deck.

‘Come and have a look at this.’ He crouched down near the bow and pointed under the waterline as Spike joined him. ‘A little souvenir of our encounter yesterday.’

‘God, that looks a bit ugly,’ said Spike.

The two of them studied the long gash in the paintwork below the Plimsoll line, where the bare planking showed a deep gouge with rough splintered edges in the raw wood.

‘Do you think I should do something about that before I leave, Fergus?’

‘Not much you can do until you get to Arcadia, Spike and nose her up onto a dry-dock ramp for repair.’

‘Will she start to leak, I wonder?’

Fergus shook his head. ‘No, these old boats is double planked to handle abuse. It’s only surface damage to the outer layer. I’d say it looks worse than it is.’

Fergus tidied up onboard while Spike went to find the marina laundry with his sheets and towels. He passed a tiny gelato ice cream shop and on impulse went in. The teenager dishing out huge scoops asked him what flavour he wanted. He explained they were on a boat and he had no freezer, only a cooler.

‘No worries, mate. We can deliver,’ said the youth in a strong Ozzie accent. He pointed to an old-style delivery boy’s bike outside. ‘We get lots of you yachties ordering for dessert.’

‘Are you just here for the summer?’ asked Spike.

‘Yeah, I been here for a couple of weeks, part-time. I crewed on a sailboat from Perth. Plan to go to Uni in Dartmouth in September,’ he said. ‘I’m Travis.’

‘I’m Spike. I’m on the Mongoose, the old wooden fishing boat, amongst all the plastic yachts.’

Travis laughed. ‘Spike – I like it.’

‘I’m looking for a launderette, is there one in the marina or nearby?’

‘Sure thing, mate. It’s opposite the old theatre. I pass it every time I go to meet my girlfriend.’

‘She works in the launderette?’

Travis laughed again. ‘No way. She’s got a summer job backstage at the Majestic. Wants to study acting when she finishes her uni degree.’

‘I’m going to the theatre myself as soon as I drop off this laundry. Maybe I’ll meet her there. What’s her name?’

‘Anna-Lise. She’s French-Canadian, from Montreal. I don’t speak any French but her English is near perfect. Real sexy accent.’ Travis grinned. ‘I love French girls. Don’t meet many in Oz.’

‘Sounds great,’ said Spike. ‘I love them, too. Why don’t you bring her down to our boat for a drink after the show? Meet my partner, Ama. She runs the theatre in Arcadia. I’m heading down there to work with her – soon as I get my boat fixed.’

He told Travis of their near miss with the reef and the problems with the autopilot. Travis said he could come down and have a look at it, then directed him to the theatre and launderette and they agreed to meet later.

Ama arrived in time for a drink before the ‘Taming of the Shrew’ performance. She had dropped everything in response to Spike’s call and driven over from Arcadia in her old Toyota. Justin and Emily had met with him after rehearsal and both seemed excited at the prospect of a joint production. They gave him complimentary tickets for the evening show.

At the tiny old Majestic Theatre, he and Ama finished their drinks and then sat in the small balcony. They watched the stalls fill with summer visitors dressed casually in shorts and tee shirts. There was a sprinkling of people more formally clothed like themselves.

‘I think those must be locals,’ said Ama. ‘Dressed for the occasion.’

Spike looked around at the elaborate decoration and gilded ceiling. ‘Is this like your theatre, Ama?’

‘It’s older and smaller. Our balcony is much bigger and there are box seats on the sides.’

‘Late Victorian and well preserved,’ Spike said. ‘Even at this size, I doubt if they’re often sold out.’

The first half of the play moved at a lively pace and the audience enjoyed Katharine, the shrew, stealing the show as Ama had predicted. She made a few notes before Spike remembered he was supposed to be doing the same thing. But by the intermission he had only jotted down three or four phrases to remind him of where he thought the audience might be puzzled. As they planned to meet Justin and Emily for a post show drink at the pub, they stayed in their seats and compared notes. They had discussed how to assess when the audience might be struggling with the Elizabethan language, expressions and phraseology and to make notes during the show. Ama had the most.

When the second half began, Spike paid more attention at first and wrote down several points, but as the struggle between Justin and the red-haired Emily grew fiercer, he became caught up in the action and forgot his notes. As they left the theatre, she pulled him aside.

‘I want to look around backstage, Spike.’

She gazed up to the fly-loft at the flown scenery and sighed. ‘If only ours was functioning again. I love watching scenery flown in – it’s magical.’

‘What’s wrong with yours then?’

‘Condemned by the fire marshal. Too dangerous.’

‘Couldn’t you put in new ropes?’

She shook her head. ‘It’s not that simple. The wooden staircase is rotten with woodworm and the roof timbers won’t support any heavy weights. Have you any idea how much a new roof costs?’

‘A lot.’

‘A fortune. It’s out of the question.’

‘What will you do? No sense looking at me. I’m hopeless with heights.’

She took his arm. ‘My secret weapon. My new designer who performs miracles on a daily basis’

‘What’s her name again?’

‘Claire – but I call her my goddess of clever ideas.’

‘I remember now – she does it all with smoke and mirrors.’

‘Still wish I had a fly-loft, though. Let’s check out the Green room and find your new friends. I’m anxious to meet up.’

They found them in Emily’s dressing room, removing their makeup and arguing fiercely.

‘Are you rehearsing?’ said Spike, ‘or are we interrupting something.’

‘No. This is a proper full-blown argument, not a rehearsal,’ Emily said. ‘Didn’t you see the way he deliberately kept upstaging me, mugging to the audience?’

‘It wasn’t deliberate and I was only playing for laughs – it’s supposed to be a comedy,’ said Justin.

‘A comedy, not a stupid knockabout farce,’ she said, scrubbing her face makeup off and glaring at the mirror. ‘And don’t roll your eyes at them behind my back.’

Justin appealed to Ama. ‘You saw for yourself, she’s an inveterate scene-stealer and whenever I try to get a laugh, she accuses me of upstaging her.’

Ama laughed. ‘Well I thought you were both wonderful.’

‘Spike, don’t just stand there grinning – tell him I was right,’ said Emily, after they were all introduced.

‘You’re both right and you were both outrageous. Perfect. I loved the ending.’

Emily’s frown changed to a smile. ‘And you’re both cowards. Afraid to take sides.’ She embraced each in turn. ‘You’re supposed to say, loved her, hated him.’

‘Absolutely agree,’ said Ama. ‘I hope you give him hell every night, Emily. He deserves it.’

‘This could turn nasty, Spike. Shall we go and have a drink?’ said Justin.

‘Spike’s coming with me,’ said Emily. ‘We actors have to stick together. You two directors can re-hash the play on the way to the Sail Loft.’

Although it was after ten o’clock, the air was still warm and the sky was light enough to see where they were walking. Ama and Justin were already talking animatedly and Spike and Emily dawdled behind.

‘Okay, Spike, now he’s out of earshot you can tell me honestly – did you feel it worked or not?’

‘As a hardened feminist, I think the play’s flawed,’ he said.

‘Of course, and Shakespeare’s a flawed playwright, no question,’ said Emily.

‘I happen to think he deliberately wrote it to be controversial,’ Spike said. ‘He sets us up to think one thing, then turns it upside down to be something else – and I thought you got the balance about right. In the end it’s the two of you in a compact against the rest of us – outsmarting everyone and having a good laugh at us into the bargain.’

‘I wanted to sidestep the battle of the sexes thing. Play it as two opinionated people resisting falling in love, and in denial almost to the end. Did any of that come across?’

‘And a lot more besides,’ said Spike. ‘After all, it’s Shakespeare.’

‘Pity he’s such a flawed playwright.’ She took his arm. ‘But enough about Shakespeare, let’s talk about me. Did you like me?’

‘Adored you, couldn’t get enough. I want to come and see you every night,’ he said.

‘You’re such a discerning critic, Spike. Why can’t Justin see me like you?’

‘Well if you will persist in hanging out with callow youths, what can you expect?’

‘You’re right, I need a mature older man.’

‘Much older, like me.’

‘Like you.’

‘About forty years older, in fact.’

‘Mmm… Perhaps I should wait until I’m  more mature.’

‘Perhaps. Besides, I’m already in love with Ama. She wouldn’t approve.’

‘Neither would Justin – he’d upstage me even more.’

‘He’s young, you can train him.’

‘I suppose. Let’s catch them up and have a drink.’

In the Sail Loft, it was standing room only but Travis and Anna-Lise waved them over to their table. Emily and Justin were almost immediately surrounded with friends and well-wishers. Ama and Spike sipped their drinks, smiling and nodding to everyone introduced to them, unable to sustain a conversation above the din.

‘I know we were going to compare notes after the show,’ said Ama, ‘but I don’t think I could concentrate with all this noise. Maybe we can do it over coffee in the morning.’

‘I’m ready to call it a night, too,’ said Spike.

They excused themselves and walked along the dock toward the Mongoose, which was swallowed up in the darkness. They tiptoed on board, past the unfinished deck saloon were Fergus was snoring and down the steps to the cabin, where Spike switched on the bare light bulb over the sink.

‘Let’s have candles instead, Spike. That light is too stark.’ She found some candle ends on the counter and lit them with the gas igniter by the stove, carrying them over to the vee-berth. He waited until she had climbed onto the bunk, then turned out the bare bulb, took off his jacket and shoes and sat beside her to remove his pants. She handed him her dress to put on the chair and lay waiting for him.

‘I feel suddenly shy taking all my clothes off, it’s been so long.’

‘Not that long.’

‘I know but it seems like it.’ She pulled him down beside her and they embraced in silence for several moments before kissing. ‘It’s just like I remembered.’

‘Better.’ He kissed her again, more thoroughly this time.

After a while she said, ‘I guess we can finish undressing now. I’ve stopped feeling shy.’ She rose on one elbow so he could undo her bra, then lay back and raised her hips for him to slide her knickers down her legs. She kicked them off and pulled his down to his knees. They lay naked in the candle light stroking each other, feeling the warmth of the summer night on their bare skin.

‘This is enough for me but I suppose you want more,’ she said running her hand down his thigh and onto his groin, coaxing him semi-erect.

‘And I suppose you’d prefer to talk,’ he said kissing his way down over her breasts to her stomach.

‘That would be nice. But this is nice, too. Which will it be?’ she asked, gripping him firmly.

‘I’m in your hands, as they say,’ said Spike.

‘In that case, we’ll talk later.’ She swung her leg over his and pulled herself on top of him. They made love with long languid couplings, before collapsing together in a loose embrace.

A shiver from her made him draw the newly-laundered sheet up over them, as the perspiration cooled on their bodies. She sat up and reached across him to blow out the candle stubs, then lay back down in the hollow of his arm.

‘“Put out the light and then put out the light.” I always think of that line whenever I blow out a candle. It’s so sad.’

‘Are you feeling sad now?’

‘Only a little – and not about you. Just residual stuff about my daughter. I’m sorry, Spike.’

‘Don’t be. We can’t help how we feel.’

‘Can’t we? Sometimes, if I catch myself in time, I can stop certain feelings. But sometimes they sneak up and wash right over me.’

‘Is that what happened just now? You didn’t seem sad when we first arrived.’

‘I wasn’t. I was so excited about being alone with you again.’

‘Me too. I didn’t want to compare notes in the pub with the others. All I could think of was getting you back here to myself on the Mongoose,’ Spike said.

‘Yes, it’s lovely being naked with you and holding you inside me again. What I’ve been dreaming about since you left.’

‘And then something changed,’ he said. ‘You left me. Why, what did I say or do to put you off, Ama?’

‘Nothing – nothing, you were wonderful, it was wonderful…’

‘Then what?’

‘Just old stuff. It was a feeling that snuck up on me.’

‘You scared me. I thought you’d gone off me. We hardly know each other and here I am, pushing myself on you as if nothing had happened in the years since we separated. Do you think we’re making a mistake, rushing back into it?’

‘Now you’re scaring me, Spike. Are you having second thoughts about us?’

‘Only when I feel you moving away from me. Then I get worried. We barely know anything about each other’s lives in all those years. Why’s that, anyway?’ he said.

‘I was afraid I’d swamp you with all my old baggage. I’m not proud of my failed marriages. Some parts were sordid and degrading. It took me a long time and quite a few therapy sessions to get my self-respect back. My daughter is about all I’ve salvaged from my train wreck of a life.’

‘No good friends?’

‘Some good, very dear friends. Or I wouldn’t be here to tell the tale.’

‘Anyone in particular I should know about?’

‘If you mean, men, only one at present. And not in the way you think. We’re not having an affair or anything.’

‘So, why’s he special?’

‘He’s an old beau from way back. A lawyer who’s helping me find Ocean and bring her home. I’ve only recently met him. He had a runaway daughter himself and he agreed to help me.’

‘Should I be jealous of him, Ama?’

‘Envious maybe. He has an elegant French-Canadian wife, who is a juvenile court judge, three adult children and three beautiful grandchildren.’

‘Now I’m envious as well as jealous. Will I get to meet him to see if I’m still in with a chance?’

‘Seeing as I’m lying here stark naked in your bed and he is a happily married man, I’d say you have nothing to worry about. It’s me who should be worried.’

‘What about?’

‘Like you say. I know almost nothing of your past life, except when we were together and your behaviour then was not above reproach, as I recall.’

‘I freely admit I was a callow youth in those days and not immune to the occasional bit on the side. But if we are going to get into mud-slinging, there was plenty to go around.’

She turned in his arms and looked into his face for a few moments, then smiled and lay back with one hand on his cheek. ‘It’s fun to joke about our youthful indiscretions. They were harmless enough, I suppose. I’m talking about more serious relationships, longer lasting ones with baggage attached. Don’t you think we should discuss them at some point?’

‘Make sure there aren’t any unexploded mines which could blow up on us, you mean?’ he said.

‘At least if we knew where they were, we could avoid stepping on them, couldn’t we? Although I’m not sure I like the idea of living in a minefield.’

‘Well, speaking for myself, I don’t know of anything that would cause serious damage. More like embarrassment or discomfort than pain. Do you think we should have full disclosure right away? Why not on a need to know basis?’

‘Okay,’ said Ama. ‘Is there anyone in particular I should know about, Spike? Currently, I mean, not past history, over and done with.’

‘Family, that’s all. And my ex, who I keep hoping is over and done with, but she has a way of reappearing in my life at unexpected moments.’

‘You mean she’s not over and done with you yet? Do you think she might surface again if you and I get back together, Spike?’

‘She’s always been a sort of loose cannon ever since we split up. Hard to predict what she may do. However, she’s in another country with an ocean between us.’

‘So does ex mean divorced or only separated?’

‘She doesn’t want a divorce and won’t agree to one. As I had no plans to re-marry, I haven’t bothered pushing for one. Contested divorces are expensive. So, she remains Mrs. Drummond.’

‘Sounds as though you prefer us to remain under the radar.’

‘Not a bad idea for the time being, don’t you think, Ama?’

‘I’ll take you on any terms, Spike, I’m so glad to have you back in my life.’ She hugged him close and pressed herself against him.

For awhile, they lay silent, content to stroke and kiss each other, then curled together on the vee-berth, feeling the slight movement of the boat beneath them.

‘When will you be able to bring the Mongoose down to Arcadia, Spike?’

‘I’m not sure and neither is Fergus. The autopilot broke down and I don’t know whether I can get it fixed here or not. Travis said he’d come and have a look at it.’

She burrowed closer to him. ‘I don’t want to go back home without you, Spike. It feels so good having your arms around me again.’

 

In the morning, sun pouring through the porthole above the bunk woke Spike up, bathed in sweat. He crawled out of Ama’s sleeping embrace and had a quick shower in the tepid water from the storage tank. He put the coffee on while he prepared fresh fruit for the pancakes he was planning. Although he tried not to wake her, she was sitting propped up with pillows in the vee-berth when he brought the tray from the galley. He placed it across her knees and went back for the coffee. She patted the space beside her for him to sit.

‘Mmm, perfect,’ she said, kissing his cheek. ‘Will it be like this when we live aboard properly?’

‘The menu may change from time to time. Porridge one day, kippers another.’

She shuddered. ‘Perhaps I’ll have the continental option on those days, just coffee and croissants.’

‘Wait until the snow and ice is a foot thick on deck, then you’ll change your finicky foreign ways.’

‘Maybe. Aren’t you having any, Spike? They’re delicious.’ She fed him a fork-full from her plate.

‘Not hungry yet. I’ll just watch you eat while I have my coffee,’ he said. ‘I want to remember you like this, maple syrup dripping off your chin.’ He reached over to lick it off, then kissed her sticky mouth.

‘Let me finish my breakfast first, Spike.’ She pushed him away and wiped her mouth and then his, with a napkin. ‘Sit still and talk to me, till I’m done.’

‘What shall we do this morning, Ama – go for a walk around the port?’

‘I’d rather lie on the deck in the sun. I feel like I’ve been non-stop since I came back from the wake. Have we got any deckchairs on this ship?’

‘Only boat cushions – I can spread them on the hatch, will that do?’

‘Perfect. I’ll lie on the cushions and you can entertain me.’

‘With everyone watching us? I’d rather stay right here.’

‘I was thinking more of you reading to me, while I sunbathe. Nothing too strenuous in my weakened state. I need to regain my strength. Is there any more coffee?’

‘Yes. I’ll have some too. I feel dehydrated after all that alcohol last night.’

‘It was a lovely evening, Spike. Lovely dinner, lovely acting, lovely play.’

‘Yes, we need a copy of the script to make sense of our notes. I can probably borrow one from Justin.’

‘But not now, Spike, I want you to myself for today. Then I really must go back, or I’ll get fired for abandoning everyone in mid-rehearsal.’

He took the tray back to the galley to clear up, while Ama was in the shower. He lay on the vee-berth, waiting for her to come out. She emerged with a towel round her and drying her damp hair. He removed the towel from her and slowly dried her off as she stood in front of him, then pulled her down on top of the tangled covers. For over half an hour they rolled about, first one then the other on top until finally they lay side by side fingers interlaced, replete.

‘Ama, I know you have to go but I don’t want you to. Couldn’t you stay another night?’

‘And then another and another,’ she said. ‘What’s the use, we’d only keep thinking about having to part and spoiling our time together. I must get back, I promised.’

‘You’re a hard woman, Ama, I’d forgotten that part of you. I was always the weak one, making promises and breaking them.’

‘Don’t joke, Spike. You know it was exactly the opposite. I was the promise breaker. But I’ve changed. I try to keep my promises now. People depend on me. Don’t make me let them down.’

He turned to face her and saw tears on her cheeks. ‘I’ve made you cry. I’m sorry. I’ve become more selfish in my old age, always thinking of myself first.’ He wiped the tears away with the corner of the sheet.

‘It’s not your fault,’ she said, ‘I keep thinking of those lost years when we might have been together, had children together, worked in the theatre together. Now I really am going to cry.’

‘But we have children, Ama, you have a daughter, I have a son. We can’t un-wish our children. If we hadn’t separated, they wouldn’t exist.’

‘Oh, I know that, but sometimes I wonder what our children would have been like, don’t you?’

‘It’s too late to wish for that, but we could pretend any grandchildren are ours, couldn’t we?’

‘I hope so, Spike. Somehow, I doubt if Ocean will ever have a child. But your son might grant our wish.’

‘Well, Patrick has been with Caroline, his live-in girlfriend for three years and nothing’s happened yet.’

‘Perhaps we can go and visit them and urge them to get started,’ Ama said.

‘They live in a small flat in London behind King’s Cross Station. They have a tiny garden that backs onto the Regent’s Canal. They’d have to give it up if they had a baby.’

‘Maybe we could buy a canal boat and moor it at the end of their garden. It would be like an extension of their flat and we’d stay in it when we came to visit,’ said Ama. ‘I loved the old canal boat we rented that summer.’

‘Bit different from the Mongoose, floating through farmer’s fields, stopping at canal-side pubs for lunch. Remember that time we took it to Stratford and moored up in the basin beside the theatre? What was the play we saw?’

‘Measure for Measure but don’t ask me who was in it.’

They talked for awhile about his arrival in Arcadia and whether they would live aboard the Mongoose, or stay in Ama’s big rambling house-sit. They tentatively decided to begin at her place, while he worked on fitting out the boat.

‘I suppose if we’re going to eat with Justin and Emily, we’d better get some clothes on, Spike.’

‘They’ll be expecting us to turn up at the theatre to go over the notes with them from last night,’ he said. ‘But I don’t want to do either. I prefer to stay here and massage your breasts all afternoon and then take you below and do all sorts of unspeakable things with you.’

She only smiled, pushed his hands away and went into the toilet cubicle to run some water in the hand basin. He lay on the vee-berth watching her through the open door as she soaped her torso. She finished washing and came back to stand in front of him. He sat up and put his arms round her naked waist and pressed his face to her breasts. ‘I’ll promise you anything, Ama, as long as I can hold you like this.’

‘Okay, promise me you’ll make the hard decisions about how irresponsible we are to everyone from now on.’ She pushed him back down on the bed and lay on top of him, kissing his face. ‘Do you think I wouldn’t rather do this all day than have to go and eat lunch with the gorgeous green-eyed, flame-haired Emily?’

‘Hmmm, when you put it like that, I see where my duty lies.’

He rolled her off him and kissed his way down to her feet, then stood up and put on his clean shorts and shirt. He picked up the damp towel and snapped it at her bottom.

‘Up you wanton and make yourself decent. Up, up, I say.’ He snapped the towel at her again. ‘You want discipline, I’ll show you discipline.’ He continued snapping the towel in the air as Ama dodged off the vee-berth, clutching her clothes and ducked into the toilet cubicle, locking the door. He brushed his hair, found his notepad and rapped on the door. ‘I’ll be waiting for you on deck and if you’re not topside in five minutes, I’ll break the door down.’

‘Please yourself, it’s your door,’ she called.

‘Don’t you sauce me, my girl, or I’ll have you over my knee,’ he called back, as he climbed up the companionway steps to wait for her.

She reappeared a few minutes later in her new summer dress and sandals. She hoisted her dress up to show him a pink welt on her thigh. ‘I don’t think much of your new self-discipline.’

He bent down and kissed it. ‘Sorry, I got a bit carried away with my new role as captain. I have to maintain the great traditions of the navy. Rum, sodomy and the lash.’

‘Next time, I’ll just have the rum, please.’ She took his hand and he helped her ashore.

They wandered up to the theatre but Justin and Emily were rehearsing some new business they wanted to try out. The four of them chatted briefly about the possibility of a joint production of Shakespeare in modern English and Spike and Ama shared their notes of where they felt the audience lost them because of the language.

‘We won’t disturb you any longer now,’ said Spike. ‘We can catch you up another time.’

‘Yes, let’s arrange to meet again in Arcadia when Spike gets there and we can have a proper talk about working together,’ said Ama.

‘I love the idea,’ said Emily, hugging them goodbye.

‘And I think we’d make a great team,’ Justin said. ‘Let’s make it soon.’

 

They left the theatre and walked out to the point and sat staring out to sea, beside the red and white lighthouse.

‘When do you think you’ll arrive, Spike?’

‘I don’t know – in a few days probably. In the meantime, I’m going to dismantle the autopilot to find out what’s wrong.’

‘I wish I could help but I’m not much use, am I?’

‘You will be, once you get familiar with the Mongoose. She’s not high tech, Ama, you’ll catch on in no time.’

They lay sprawled on the smooth cushiony lava rocks around the lighthouse a while longer, then strolled back to the Mongoose to gather Ama’s belongings and put them in her dusty old red Toyota.

‘Make me go, Spike, or I’ll just stay here hanging around your neck forever.’

‘Suits me,’ he said, leaning against the car and holding her close to him.

‘Exert some of your new self-discipline,’ she said, ‘I can feel mine evaporating.’

He opened the door for her but she made no move to get in, clinging to him.

‘Don’t start crying, Ama, or I’ll never let you leave.’

‘I can’t help it, Spike. I don’t want to go back alone. You’ll have to be brutal to me – tell me I’m old, ugly and fat and you’ve had enough of me.’

He eased her into the driver’s seat and buckled her seat belt. ‘You’re younger than me, more beautiful than I deserve, slimmer than I remembered and I can never get enough of you.’ He closed the door and kissed her through the open window. ‘Now go before I change my mind and lock you below deck.’

He stepped back away from the car and waved her off as she drove along the quay and turned the corner by the Sail Loft, to disappear from his view. He stood staring at the empty street before turning to walk back to his boat.

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