Apologies to anyone waiting for the usual short story yesterday. An eye problem meant I couldn’t see properly to post. The story was from a Late arrival prompt which wasn’t flowing so I completely revised it, and this was the result. Hope you enjoy it.
‘You’re ten minutes late,’ my boss said as I walked in.
‘I’m so sorry,’ I apologised. ‘All the trains were cancelled, and the roads were blocked because of the snow. The pavements were so icy I couldn’t walk very fast.’
‘I’m teasing you Emma. We’ve got nearly fifty staff here, and you’re the third to arrive. Most of them live at lot closer than you; it must have taken you hours. Thanks for making the effort.’
So that was me, never late, always the early arrival.
I was looking forward to my first ever cruise, and had spent weeks checking and double checking to ensure there would be no mishaps. What if the flight was delayed? Presumably the ship wouldn’t wait for just one or two passengers, and would sail without me. What would I do if I was stranded in a foreign country with no accommodation booked? Should I just try and get a flight straight home, or sort out a hotel for the night? Why was I worrying? Presumably there would be a courier in charge of things, but it might be worth finding out the usual procedure.
It wouldn’t have been so bad if my boyfriend was flying with me, but he had dropped his bombshell just after I had confirmed my booking.
‘Hi Emma. Bit of a change of plan I’m afraid. Sorry for the late notice but the lads are going on a stag weekend in Amsterdam and I don’t want to miss it, so I won’t be coming. Sure you’ll have a great time on your own. Have fun.’
Typical! We had been dating on and off for a while, but his cavalier attitude and lack of any idea of time-keeping drove me crazy. It was the final straw, and when I got back I decided I would break up with him. We could still be friends but nothing more. In a way it was fortunate we had intended to book single cabins, so he could sort out his own refund; that’s if he had even intended to go in the first place.
On departure day I checked my passport and itinerary documents for the tenth time, then sat looking out the window waiting for the cab. It turned up even earlier than my early booking, and we made good progress to the airport. Heavy rain had cleared away the snow so the roads were clear, and only the slushy remnants in the passing fields showed any signs of the bad weather of a few weeks before.
I checked in, and with three hours to kill went to find a coffee.
‘Emma! Over here!’
I turned at the sound of my name to find several of Mike’s friends seated round a large table drinking beers, even though it was not much after ten in the morning.
‘What are you lot still doing here?’ I asked as I joined them. ‘Where’s Mike? I thought he was going with you.’
‘He is, but you know Mike, he’ll be late for his own funeral. Just as well our plane was delayed. He phoned a while ago to say he was on his way. Thought he would have been here by now.’
He was interrupted by the announcement over the loudspeaker.
‘Passengers booked on the delayed flight 846A to Amsterdam please report to Gate 6 where your aircraft will be departing shortly. We apologise for any inconvenience caused by the adverse weather conditions.’
‘That’s us. Have a great trip. If you see Mike tell him where to go, if you haven’t already. He shouldn’t have let you down like that,’ Dave said, giving me a quick peck on the cheek before hurrying after the others.
My flight left on time, and after an easy passage through customs I immediately saw the courier waiting to greet the cruise passengers. Ticking me off on her list I was directed to the coach waiting outside, and before I knew it was being welcomed by the ship’s staff, and shown to my cabin. It was luxurious, and contained an enormous double bed.
‘I think there’s been some mistake,’ I ventured. ‘I only booked a single.’
‘Your booking was upgraded, Madam,’ I was told. ‘There’s nothing extra to pay but I’m sure you’ll be more comfortable here. Your luggage will be delivered shortly, we sail at five, and you will hear an announcement to report to the main reception area for our compulsory safety instruction. Meanwhile feel free to look round the ship, but if you need anything the call button is here by the bed, or you can ask any member of staff. Have a good trip.’
After he left I went out onto the balcony and basked in the warmth of the early afternoon sun, such a change from the dismal weather at home. A few minutes later my suitcases arrived, and that was the start of the most brilliant holiday of my life. Several of the single passengers had been placed on the same dining table, we all hit it off immediately, and they made great company as we met up for the various excursions.
I’d been having too much fun to check my social media, so it wasn’t until we were heading for home that I got out my laptop and signed in. The number of posts in my feed was unbelievable, and it took me a while to trace back to the early ones.
It was only by chance I came across Dave’s post and the reams of comments underneath.
‘Can’t believe we were only speaking to him just before it happened. R.I.P. Mike.’
‘Terrible. Feel guilty now we were enjoying ourselves in Amsterdam while he was lying in hospital.’
‘Anyone know how it happened?’
‘Local paper reported he was speeding on the motorway, skidded on the wet road, and hit an artic head on.’
‘OMG. Terrible. RIP.’
I went cold, and for a moment tried to convince myself they were talking about someone else. Later comments made it obvious it was my Mike; one even asked if anyone had told me, and someone replied I was away on a cruise so might not know. There could be no doubt.
By the time I finished reading it was gone midnight so I went to bed, convinced I wouldn’t sleep, but was dead to the world within minutes of my head touching the pillow. Icy fingers caressing my shoulder made me shiver.
‘Sorry I’m late Em. It took me quite a while to catch up. It’s not like I could drive here but I didn’t want to let you down.’
It was Mike’s voice.
‘Shove over a bit. God I’m freezing. How do you like the suite? I arranged the upgrade so we could share it and be together. It was meant to be a surprise, you would come in and find me waiting. I never intended to go with the boys, but the direct flight from the other airport should have got me to the ship before you. Things went a bit wrong but I’m here now, and I promise I’ll never leave you or be late again.’
The feel of cold arms wrapping round me jolted me awake. God, what a horrible dream. Shaking I got up. That’s when I saw one side of the bed was soaking wet, and streaked with car oil and slushy mud.
© Voinks September 2017
Books by Voinks