48 hours, 6 arguments, 12 nappies and a minor mental meltdown.
Ben grabbed the suitcase that Aubrey had packed with a certain amount of hostility then walked downstairs with it to the reception area as he had done with some many guests to Amazing and Graceful. He was upset and so was Aubrey. Today she was leaving and it felt to Ben that she might not come back. It had not been a good 48 hours leading up to her departure and the car ride to the airport had all the signs of being equally as chilly. Aubrey came down the stairs holding Zara in her arms and she went over to Agnes in the office with a few last minute details about guests staying for her to take care of. She then cast a disdainful look toward the mirror, the fire place and the chair. Everyone watched as she came over to them with the giggling Zara in her arms and waited for her to say something to them.
‘I am leaving for a holiday in Australia with my parents; I need a change for a short time to think.’ No one moved, not even the chair.
‘Please look after Ben for me and make sure he doesn’t end up like you guys okay?’ said Aubrey and that being said she turned and walked toward the front door. The Dunmours all waved and said goodbye, Raphael said goodbye in French and Hambone made the longest unhappy growl ever heard in Amazing and Graceful. Hambone was really going to miss baby Zara and Aubrey. His feelings were a little hurt that he had not been asked to go with them just to make sure they would be safe. He was giving Ben the saddest eyes possible to see if he would tell him to keep an eye on his wife and daughter in the land down under. Hambone had already been there before with Ghost Zara and he liked the place. It was warm and there was lots of sunshine, unlike Amazing and Graceful that was cold and unfriendly, especially today.
Ben unhooked a boat from out front and bought it alongside the stone steps and then Aubrey and Zara stepped into it confidently. He placed the luggage behind his seat and stepped into the boat casting long and mournful looks at his daughter who was looking at him as well with sorrow in her eyes. Baby Zara sensed that something was wrong as well. Maybe it was because her mother held her differently or there was something in Aubrey’s voice that set her off but she knew there was something amiss. They all felt the boat scrape the pebbles on the shore and Ben tucked the oars into the boat and commenced to unload his wife and daughter onto the land.
His heart was very heavy. His response time to everything was delayed and almost contrite. Aubrey got into the front seat next to Ben after she fastened her daughter into the jump seat staring straight ahead, not even looking back at Amazing and Graceful to say goodbye. Benjiman started the car and pulled away out of the dirt road and onto the road to the airport. He tooted his horn to say goodbye and heard Hambone let out a massive howl that filled the countryside and could be heard over the sound of the engine in the car. Ben was sure Aubrey heard it also and out of the corner of his eye saw her cringe, just a little. Basically it was a small frown of acknowledgement to the sound but a cringe all the same.
It wasn’t a pleasant ride to the airport. ( Please excuse me if I don’t elaborate on the tearful goodbye at the airport as I have had a few of those kinds myself. They are very strong, very powerfully sad episodes if the heart is that way inclined, so let’s just move to where Ben decides to lift his spirits by buying a double aqua lung and new wetsuit from D-Mac in town.)
Ben was back on the road listening to the weather report on the radio with a new wetsuit and aqua lung in the back seat of his car. He also had a compressor with which to fill the air tanks in the cellar downstairs under the office. Peebles put it there in one of his many visits, bottles of red and pool championship battles with Ben. The car felt strangely empty all the same and Ben knew Aubrey and Zara would be just about to board their flight.
Ben almost missed the turn off to Amazing and Graceful.
He was sad. He was missing them already.
He bought the car to a stop, took the key out and put it into his pocket.
He leaned up against the car and looked at his home but in his mind he was sitting in the aeroplane next to Aubrey holding her hand and making sure Zara was side tracked enough with books, ear phones (thanks to Victor) and ready for that ‘being squished into the back of your seat feeling’ you get when a 747 jumbo takes off. Instead he was lowering, no dropping the tanks and wetsuit into the boat.
Zillath and her companions heard a sound under the water and it made them swim to the front of the jail to see what made the noise. They all stuck their heads around the corner of the rock underwater and saw what looked like a turtle swimming on its back splashing its way back to the stone steps Zillath had already sat on days ago. They watched the turtle stop near the steps and it seemed to give up its passenger and they watched as he put his cargo onto the steps, tie the turtle up and walk away with arms full of a floppy skin and two long shiny eggs in his arms. Something was going on up there and while Zillath and her friends wanted to find out, they thought it would be prudent to stay underwater for now and let things just unfold a little more before they made more of an impression on our unsuspecting hero.
Ben walked in and dropped his new toys into the office, waved at Agnes then walked up the stairs toward his bedroom to have a rest. It had been a stressful morning and his nerves were just a bit brittle. Hambone followed him up the stairs, along the hallway and into the bedroom coming to a humph and a very sad faced end on the rug near the fire in the bedroom. Hambone wasn’t happy either.
Both boys lay down and went to sleep.
Hambone dreamed of sloppy well chewed tennis balls while Ben dreamed of falling into the Dx4H and the world around him becoming very, very dark.