In The Holidays

Entry by: Corone

3rd July 2015
Annabel could feel the glares from her fellow travellers as she stood by the carousel waiting for the luggage. She rocked Juliet in her arms but she continued to wail, although at least a little quieter than she had on the plane. Malcolm seemed blissfully unaware, already excited to get to the hotel and enjoy the Spanish sun. Somehow he could tune out Juliet’s crying in a way she never could. Maybe it was a mother thing, always listening for the cries of her child in distress. Perhaps Malcolm was just tuned in for different things. He might presumably spot a rampaging dinosaur earlier than she would so he might spear it for food. Evolution, it was seem, had dealt Annabel a pretty shitty hand.

Luckily their baggage arrived early, and after Malcolm had heaved it onto a trolley they scampered away to the taxi rank. Annabel could almost hear the other passengers breathe a sigh of relief and they took Juliet away. Once they got in a taxi Juliet fell almost instantly silent. It appeared her crying required more of an audience than just mummy and daddy, but it was still a welcome break.

“Well, that could have been worse,” Malcolm hopefully suggested.

“You know we can never take a plane ever again,” Annabel replied, only half joking.

This had not been the plan at all. After several months of sleepless nights, the initial joy of a new baby had thoroughly worn off. This was when Malcolm’s parents had almost too eagerly suggested they take Juliet for a while.

“You both need a rest,” they had said, tilting their heads to one side in almost practised synchronisation. “Why don’t we take the little sweetheart for a few days? Give her a chance to get to know her grandparents. You both look so tired, and we know what to do.”

Annabel was not so sure. She half expected them to put Juliet to bed with Laudanum and search the garden for leeches if she got ill. But Malcolm had survived their care, and they were both exhausted. Of course, ‘you both look tired’ really meant Annabel just looked rough because the feminine art of baby care was clearly too much. Poor Malcolm must be tired from being at the office for most of the day and playing with Juliet for some of the evening. Still, Annabel was not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and a holiday was duly booked.

It was only going to be a weekend, just the two of them in a cheap Spanish resort. Malcolm was looking forward to time away from the office and the warm Spanish sun. Annabel, although she loved Juliet very much, just wanted to be rid of her daughter. It wasn't that she regretted having Juliet, or even the hours in labour which she was determined not to bring up later on when Juliet behaved badly. It was the constant drain on her mental resources. Even when Juliet was sleeping, Annabel was on guard. When she was awake there were a hundred things to do, nappies, educational play, entertaining play, repetitive play, food, clearing up after food, the list went on. She loved spending time with Juliet, but there was never a break, never a moment she was Annabel and not mummy. Never a time she could release the responsibility and truly rest.

So when Malcolm’s dad had suddenly taken ill Annabel felt her heart sink. He was in hospital, thankfully nothing serious, but bad enough that they couldn't take Juliet. But the flights were booked, no point in wasting them. Juliet was still young enough to just sit on Annabel’s lap and the hotel was fine with putting a cot in their room. Annabel was almost disappointed, as she did consider for at least three seconds if Juliet might be fine with just a feed drip and a decent blanket back home unattended for a weekend. But they had to take her with them, there wasn't anyone else. Annabel’s parents lived in America and she wouldn't have trusted any of her friends to take care of a hamster for the weekend.

So there they were, their child free weekend stolen. It would be better than being at home and with Malcolm off work they would at least spend some time together. But spending time as a couple was not the same as spending time as a family. Luckily, Malcolm was not blind to Annabel’s stress. Once they had got to the hotel, and the new sights had woken Juliet up again, Malcolm suggested he take her down to the beach.

“We can get some sun and you can take a rest,” he said, picking up Juliet and daubing her with sunscreen. Annabel nodded gratefully. But as soon as Malcolm stepped out of the door the screaming began. Annabel knew that scream. It was the ‘where is mummy? this place is strange! I want mummy and daddy right here right now!’ scream. Annabel wiped away a frustrated tear and followed Malcolm out of the door. He saw the resignation in her eyes as Juliet fell silent and juggled Juliet to put an arm around her.

Together, the family walked out across the sunny beaches of the Spanish coast, and Annabel had to admit it was glorious. They had to be careful with Juliet of course, and there were plenty of stops for nappies, food, extra sunscreen etc. It wasn't a disaster, but Annabel didn't feel rested. As long as she was in the same place as Juliet she felt the weight of the responsibility.

When they got back to the hotel Annabel was exhausted. She asked Malcolm to sort out the next round of Juliet issues so she could take a nap. He thankfully saw the signs and nodded agreement. She lay on the bed and something just shut down inside of her.

When she woke up, the room seemed different. She’d only been asleep for an hour or two, but evening had drawn on. Malcolm and Juliet were nowhere to be seen and for a moment, panic seized her. But she turned and saw on the other side of the bed were two bars of chocolate, three magazines and a book. There was a note on top of all of them, it read:

I've taken our daughter for a walk. Not sure how far we’ll get but whatever noise she makes she’s not coming back for the rest of the evening. Call room service for food, I have the baby bag and we’ll be fine. Take a holiday my love. I'm sorry I can’t make it any longer. Love you. Malcolm.

Annabel felt a weight lift from her shoulders. She lay there in the stillness of the hotel room, eating the chocolate and just enjoying the silence and emptiness. Later on she’d find Malcolm and Juliet asleep together in the foyer, and she’d kiss them both and love them more than ever. But for now, this was the perfect holiday at last.