Slathered in sun cream, Emily slipped the straps of her bikini down and lowered herself face down onto the lounger. Not an altogether comfortable position as the cushion was wafer-thin and she could feel the ridges of plastic digging into her stomach. Around her she could hear the splashes and cries of glee as children dive bombed into the pool, followed by the anxious shrieks of parents as safety signs were blithely ignored.
‘Abigail, please don’t push your little brother in again, you know he can’t swim!’
‘Damien, get away from the deep end right now!’
‘If you don’t come and dry off right now, Meriwether, you won’t be having an ice cream!’
Crikey, people had raised eyebrows when they’d christened Tabitha but Meriwether? Poor thing, he’d probably change it to Peter or John when he was old enough. Emily couldn’t comprehend why parents would saddle their children with ridiculous names like Apple or Peaches or Bear. No doubt they were striving to be ‘different’ but instead were setting them up for a lifetime of sniggers and ridicule.
As the unfortunate Meriwether hauled himself out of the water – showering Emily with an icy spray in the process – she wondered where Jim was. He’d never been one for lying around for long, too restless and impatient to simply soak up the rays or lose himself in a good book. Emily, on the other hand, could spend hours reading or just people-watching and wondering what their stories were. Over lunch earlier she’d observed a couple, probably in their mid to late forties like them, giggling over a bottle of white and a mountain of seafood. As the husband peeled a prawn and the wife practically sucked it from his fingers, she felt a pang of something. Jealousy? Of course, maybe they weren’t married, or only just recently. Or maybe they were married, just not to each other.
It was the third day of the holiday and any hopes Emily had held of them rekindling even the tiniest flame of passion – or just plain old-fashioned romance – had been virtually dowsed. She hadn’t even realised this had been at the back of her mind until they were led to their hotel room with its four-poster bed and a sprawling balcony that overlooked the ocean. She’d booked the trip herself, hesitating only briefly before clicking on the most expensive room on offer. Jim hadn’t approved, huffing at the cost and grumbling that they would have to forego their usual autumn trip to the Ardennes to sample wild game and copious high-end wines. Still, she’d felt a frisson of excitement and even optimism when he’d kissed her on the lips for more than two seconds and conceded that the view was lovely. So far, that kiss had been the only physical contact he’d made, apart from rubbing some cream into her back. Each night they lay on opposite sides of the four-poster until Jim announced it was time for lights out. He was usually asleep in minutes whereas Emily watched the glowing digits of the combined alarm/radio into the small hours of the morning.
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