She sighed. Her sigh could mean a lot. Perhaps she’s weary, tired, possibly annoyed, or comfortable and content. Now though it means she is annoyed and Mark takes it personally. The rain drizzles down the windows. At least the rep who showed them in called them windows. Really they are squares of transparent plastic on the front of the oversized tent.
There is silence, what did she say? What was she going to say? Mark starts to doubt whether she actually spoke at all now that the silence is surrounding them again.
‘Isn’t there something we can do indoors?’ She finally asked.
‘Yes, probably.’ He didn’t want to set a precedent by pandering to her, by rushing to the reception on her instruction to find places to visit. She could go herself and find out.
‘Can you not be bothered?’ she asked.
‘Sure, where do you want to go?’
‘Anywhere.’ She didn’t budge, she just sat still and watched each droplet run down the wet sheet of plastic. The drops zigzagged into each other and gathered momentum.
‘I didn’t realise it rained so much in France.’
Mark knew she was apologising in her way, it was the closest he would come to an apology. She had argued for France and when he had said it always rains, at least in the North, she had refused to believe it. Even the South of England is pretty dry, she’d said.
‘Will you go to the reception and find us somewhere to go. I’ll go mad sitting in here, I’m so bored.’
He knew she would ask, and not because she didn’t want to be drizzled on. He knew she was investing in a whole day of moaning, a week of moaning. He would be a suitable scapegoat. If he found a rotten day out for them at the reception she could blame the whole shitty holiday on him -
‘Really it was going okay until that day out, that was what ruined it all,’ she would say to her friends in weeks to come.
‘Why don’t we both go?’
‘I just have to get out of here, pick anything I don’t mind, I can’t go out like this, I’ve not done my hair.’
‘We’re camping; you can’t start being precious about your hair.’
‘Oh why are you picking on me?’ she demanded raising her voice to the pitch which irritated him so completely.
Mark left the tent by the zippered door which flapped aside, the fabric roof was disturbed as he slid through and it sent down a quivering haze of rain molecules which soaked him. The distant sea views which had brought them here were a grey haze over the trees. As usual he counted the identical tents, reminding himself that theirs was number five, but that they were fourth from the end. Near the cherry blossom tree which sprayed it’s petals into the steady breeze like butterflies.
The reception was stuffed full of holidaymakers struggling for wall space and fighting over map books. The posters ranged from water-parks to The Normandy Landings. Mark considered war-memorials for a second, with a smile. Like contemplating dangerous machinery running with exposed moving parts and imagining the damage it could do. She would go wild if he took her to a military cemetery.
‘Looking for something to do in the rain?’ A small Scottish girl who seemed too young to have finished high school was standing next to him in the holiday companies uniform. She smelt of sex, or sweat, something obscene.
‘Yeh, what do you suggest?’
‘Either the museum of lace, or the museum of jazz, but they’re both quite a drive away.’
He thought she was joking and smiled, but she picked up a leaflet and proffered it in his direction. The front showed a Breton woman with a white headdress holding up lace drapes.
‘I was thinking more an art gallery, or a cinema, or an indoor water park or go-carting…’
The girl just shrugged her shoulders as though her options were the only ones. She dropped the leaflet back onto the table and moved on to another of her holiday-makers.
He watched her out of the corner of his eye trying to vocalise why the museum of lace was her recommendation to a young couple.
‘It’s just – it’s just – nice,’ was her verdict.
Mark dawdled on the way back; the air was damp and luscious. He could taste the wet tarmac the fresh smell of earth and plants being fed by moisture. The rain was balancing on blades of grass and as he walked through it his feet – bare except for his flip flops – were washed by a cold shower.
He poked back into the too-warm tent which had become stuffy and saw her lying on her back on the bed. He had planned to announce to her his final decision, to rush her and motivate her and convince her. But now he seemed quelled, it was like walking into a church. She looked up off the bed as though she’d just woken up.
‘Let’s get drunk!’ he exclaimed sheepishly, thinking about the young rep, the lace museum, lingerie.