My Friends' Wives And Me

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Chapter 17

Liz nudged me and said, “I’ve made you a coffee, it’s nearly 8.30, you’d better get up.” It took me ages to come round and realise where I was. “I’m going to leave some clothes washing while we’re out and I’ve just found a piece of paper in your top pocket with an address on it. Can I throw it away or do you want it?”

Still rubbing my eyes, yawning and tasting my tongue, I eventually answered, “Leave it on the side in the kitchen, I’ll have a look when I come down.” I heard Mick in his bedroom getting dressed and, while I was drinking my coffee, he came into the bedroom.

“Come on, Dad, we’ll be late, I want to be the first on the boat. Is it fast?” I felt sick again. He reminded me of the day I had ahead of me, as I nodded.

It wasn’t long after that I walked into the kitchen; Liz was making sandwiches and flasks of coffee for the picnic. “I don’t want any breakfast, thanks, but I will have another coffee.” Mick was eating Cornflakes on the other side of the table as I sat down.

“Are you all right? You look a bit pale,” Liz said, as she placed my coffee down in front of me.

“I think I drank too much last night.”

We started to load the car. “Is everything here?” I asked as I placed things in the boot.

Liz shouted, “Yes, course it is!” Then she got in the car and slammed the door.

“Where're the remote-controlled cars, then?”

“Don’t bother with those, they’ll have enough to do ... if we ever get there,” she said sarcastically.

“I’ll get them. I spent all night last night charging them up for the kids to play with,” I shouted back and went in the house.

After I carefully placed them in the boot, we eventually set off, just after 9.30. I checked that the yellow chip was still in the door pocket as we drove down the road.

We were the first to arrive at the Bear Inn car park. All the others came shortly after and we started the journey to the lake in a convoy. It was a nice sunny day for the time of year; we had a good journey, except Liz and I didn’t speak all the way there. We pulled up at the lake a little after midday; Mick was hanging out of the window looking at all the boats moored by the side of the grass. As we went in the entrance, there was someone reversing a Range Rover backwards down the jetty. The trailer was submerged under the water and the boat was floating off with someone else steering it.

We carried on along the long stretch of grass that ran out between the lake and the moored boats, past all the parked cars and caravans around the edge, and parked at the end on a nice big piece of grass, next to another jetty, from where the water-skiers started.

Lucy, Sandra, Denise, even Julie, had come. It was nice to see Julie; it had been a long time. All I needed now was Debbie for the whole set. The girls spread out all the blankets, food and booze, while Andrew sorted out the small barbecue. Then I went off to find John and his boat. I walked along the rickety old wooden jetty to the end. John was out on the lake speeding around the small island that was in the middle. I noticed he had some other people with him, so I stood on the end waving, trying to attract his attention. Mick and some of the other kids had walked up behind me, and then they all started shouting at the top of their voices. Eventually, he waved and carried on, so I went back to the others and sat down on a blanket with a can of beer.

After ten minutes or so, I could see John’s boat crawling along slowly as it came in on the other side of the grass. I could see him fastening it to the side, smiling and talking, and then he came over with the other people that were with him in the boat. Here we go, I thought, I must make it look as if I like him. I stood up and introduced him to the people he didn’t know and he introduced the others. We all sat down and they picked up a couple of drinks. I noticed John didn’t.

We talked for a while and I heard Simon talk to John about the boat. I heard him say something about the size of the engine then John replied, “I’ll show you in a while.” I started to panic in case he found the device that had been fitted to it.

It wasn’t long before I heard him say to Simon, “Do you want to have a look, then?” As they stood up, I started to worry. I decided to go with them and pretend I was interested too. I stood up and looked around; everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves. Even Liz was smiling, but then she was talking to Andrew while he cooked beef burgers on the barbecue for the kids.

As we walked, John looked down at his watch. “Where’s Debbie?” I asked.

“She will be here later. She had to go into work for an hour or two.”

The nearer we got to the boat, the more I panicked, trying to think of a way of stopping him opening the engine compartment. “When do you take the boat back out?”

“Now, actually,” he said, looking at his watch again. “Can I show you the engine later?”

Simon stopped. “Yes, no worries,” he said, as I breathed a sigh of relief.

“We only get thirty minutes on the lake before I have to come off and let the other boats go on. It’s like a rota system, so we all get a fair go,” John explained to Simon. “If anyone wants a go at skiing, tell them to meet me on the end of the jetty. I’m just going to warm the boat up.” We walked back to the others as John started the boat and slowly pulled out onto the lake.

“Are you going to have a go?” I asked.

“No, I don’t think so, it’s too cold and dirty. I’m not that good. If I keep falling into that water I will probably be ill.”

“John said, if anyone fancies a go at skiing he will meet you on the jetty in five minutes,” I shouted.

I sat and watched him as the boat lifted at the front and took off at high speed across the water. I stood up. Now was a perfect time for the anorak man to appear - John was on his own.

It suddenly occurred to me that Mick wasn’t playing with his remote-controlled car and that the batteries must be flat. Quickly I went to the car, opened the boot and placed both cars on the ground and next to them the handsets. The yellow chip I placed in my pocket and sat back down.

After a couple of laps, John came into the jetty. All the kids waited patiently at the end for a go in the boat. Andrew was trying to force a wetsuit over his legs, with Ivor helping him, as John placed some of the kids in the boat and took off again.

Nervously, and holding the yellow chip in between my fingers in my pocket, I sat watching the boat go across the water. Then it came back in and John swapped the kids, then took off once more. I watched terrified in case something went wrong. They all waved, laughing as they went past us. Andrew walked down to the jetty, with a water-ski under his arm, and waited. I wanted to shout, “Don’t go!” but I couldn’t because everyone would know there was something wrong.

Those thirty minutes were the longest I’d ever spent in my life. I was so relieved as the boat came back in and John tied it up again.

I calmed down as we sat talking and Mick asked me if he could play with the cars. I felt my pocket. I could feel the chip was there so I said, “Yes, let the others have a go.” I looked over at Liz. She was still engrossed in a conversation, this time with Simon.

“Dad, this one doesn’t work!”

“Leave it there and I’ll have a look in a moment.” I started to look round for anorak man because John was sure to warm the boat up again soon. I went over to the other remote-controlled car and pretended to look at it, slipping the yellow chip into the handset and put the Ferrari in the boot.

By now I was starting to fall apart. My hands were shaking. I looked at my watch every five seconds. Where’s this bloke? I continually said to myself. I walked over to the jetty, hoping he would see me, and then I walked back to the car and waited - nothing. I had to calm down so I walked on a bit further, back towards the entrance, pretending to look at the boats moored at the side. Just to the left of the entrance, I noticed a clubhouse, so I went in. “A double whiskey, please.” As the girl poured it, I looked around the room and sat on a stool by the bar. Every time someone walked in, I stared at them. I was going out of my head; losing the plot. After the second double whiskey, I paid and walked back towards the others, feeling a bit more relaxed.

“Where have you been?” Liz shouted as I got closer.

“Looking for a toilet.”

John pointed and said, “There’s one in the clubhouse.”

“I found it eventually,” I answered.

Then I heard Liz say under her breath, “The toilet, or the bar?”

I sat down and started to talk to Henry about work. I needed something to take my mind off it all. Then he told me about the house he and Sandra were buying, in great detail. Still glancing around, I tried to listen to him. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Andrew holding the Ferrari in his hand; I jumped up as he placed it back in the boot, thinking of an excuse quickly. “I’m sorry,” I said screwing my face up. “I’ve got the cramp in my leg.” Henry laughed.

I glanced over at John as he looked at his watch first, then the entrance, to see if Debbie had come yet. I noticed Mick’s car was still going strong. Some of the other kids were having a go with it over the bumps and into the grass.

“It’s time to ski again!” John said aloud, as he stood up. My stomach turned over slowly.

Liz had been drinking quite heavily by now and I heard her say, “Can I come in the boat?”

“It’s not a good idea, you will probably fall overboard,” I said.

Luckily John didn’t hear her and carried on walking towards the boat. Liz glared at me. “I need some fresh air,” she said angrily. As I watched him untie the rope and pull away slowly, I looked around. Still no anorak man. Then I noticed the car had been abandoned. Mick and all the other kids were looking for fish at the water’s edge.

Time was passing by now and I was getting very frustrated again: there was no sign of Debbie or the anorak man. I watched John go around the island again and then he came into the jetty to pick up one of his friends that wanted a spin.

It was about 3.30 when Debbie’s car pulled up on the grass at the other end of our cars. I watched as she got out, collecting a few things from the boot. She came over and sat down. John’s boat pulled up at the end of the jetty and, as he came over, I heard him say, “It’s about time.” Debbie smiled at him nervously and carried on talking to Liz, who was well on her way by now.

Where is this man? I asked myself, still looking all the time. I decided to go for a walk again toward the clubhouse. I heard Ivor and Henry say they would come with me, and Liz shouted, “Don’t be a long time!” Her voice grated as we walked off.

As we entered the club, Henry said, “Anyone for a drink while we’re here?”

“A large whiskey, please,” I said walking towards the toilet, looking around the room again, while Ivor sat at the bar. I walked back into the room, still worried in case the anorak man didn’t turn up. We sat there for a while before we went back to the others and I had another couple of drinks.

“You’re knocking them back a bit, aren’t you?” Ivor said, a little concerned.

“I’ll be all right!”

As we walked back slowly, I could see that John’s boat was tied up again. We got back to the others. By this time, I had to sit down. I felt a bit light-headed; it was a mixture of not eating, fresh air, nerves and, of course, the amount of alcohol I’d had.

“Anyone coming for a ski?” John shouted. My heart came up into my mouth again. I stood up looking around. It must be this time, I said to myself.

I heard Andrew say, “Not yet, I’ll have a go next time.” Then I heard John say, “This is the last time, I will have to take the boat out of the water after this.” I walked around frantically looking for the orange anorak man. The kids were all playing by the jetty, looking into the water and trying to splash each other. Liz was slurring a bit and so were some of the others. Time was running out - I was panicking.

John put some petrol in the tank of his boat from a big green jerry can then started it and slowly went out onto the lake to warm it up. Debbie kept catching my eye, with an inquisitive frown on her face. It was at this point I thought about doing it myself. It was a perfect time. He was on his own, no one else was on the lake and the boat was full of petrol. I watched him go around the island in the middle. I thought I had enough drink inside me, but I just couldn’t pick up the receiver. I looked over at Debbie. She still stared at me with the same inquisitive look. I was shaking from head to foot. Henry was trying to put Andrew’s wetsuit on, balancing on one leg. Everyone was laughing as he lost his balance and fell backwards. Andrew had disappeared. I looked out to the boat to see if he was on it. I couldn’t be sure; I could only see John. Again, I looked for the orange anorak and then decided to walk up to the clubhouse. I walked quickly. Everyone by now had drunk too much and wouldn’t notice if I disappeared. I hurried to the club. Where is he? I kept repeating it to myself. It must be done now. If that boat comes out of the water Debbie will have to go home with him and I will have failed. I made my mind up to do it; something inside me snapped. I turned back, looking out to the boat. I was almost sprinting. Nothing else mattered and all I could see in my mind was the lever on the handset. As I approached my car, my head was pumping. I was shaking with fear and anger - I wasn’t sure what it was. I reached into the boot and moved the cover that I’d laid over the car. I froze when it wasn’t there. I pushed the toolbox to one side, threw the blanket out of the boot - it was gone. I looked around the inside of the car - still nothing. As I turned, I could see Andrew on his knees with his back to me and the Ferrari was next to him on the ground. I started to rush towards him as he stood up and slowly pulled the aerial up, out of the handset.

I looked out to the boat, but it had disappeared behind the island. I waited. It seemed to take ages to come out the other side. I looked back at Andrew as he gingerly kicked the back of the Ferrari.

Everyone turned as the boat exploded into millions of bits. Andrew unknowingly had done it.

I looked out at the lake. There were bits of boat everywhere landing in the water. Everyone stood up to see what had happened. There was a deathly silence all around; even the kids stood and looked out at the rubble dropping from the sky. All except Mick. I couldn’t see Mick. I looked to see if he was with Liz. She wasn’t with the others.

“Who was on the boat?” I screamed.

Ivor shouted, “I saw your Mick, Liz, and John on it just now.”

No one spoke, no one could speak, including me, and the tears welled up in my eyes as I started to run towards the jetty. I ran and ran and dived into the lake, swimming as fast as I could towards the island. All I could think, was what have I done to my own family? I swam, still crying as I got slower and slower. I thought about Mick and when he was born, all those years ago, and how we idolised him. It was the only other time I could remember crying as Liz held him in her arms for the first time; all the work we had done to make him into a little man with a personality of his own. The first word he said was “Dad”, and the first steps he took were towards me. It was all gone. I had killed him and Liz, all because of a stupid game I had to play.

I was foolish to even think I could do something like this. I was beginning to feel like a lead weight by now and very tired. My arms had stopped, my legs were hardly moving and I was taking in vast amounts of water through my nose and mouth. I tried to stand on the bottom, but the water was too deep; I couldn’t feel it. I couldn’t feel anything with my feet. I tried one last effort to get my head out of the water. I pushed my heavy legs and arms once more.

It worked - my head just popped out of the water long enough for me to hear Mick shouting, “Hang on, Dad, I’m coming!”

I opened my sore eyes. I could just make out Liz standing on the island, looking into the water. Then I swallowed more and more water. I was drained. I felt myself sinking slowly down deeper. My lungs felt like they would explode at any second, as I slowly gave up. Then something grabbed my hair.

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