Sunday 8 April 2018
There was nothing as far as the eye could see. Nothing except the waves of the Pacific Ocean, endless and rolling, and the storm clouds in the sky. They mirrored the journey of the ocean’s waves, rolling across the sky as the waves rolled across the ocean. Steven Benson’s stomach mirrored both the clouds and the waves. He hung his head over Lady Windermere’s port side and threw up for the fourth time that morning.
‘You look like complete and utter shit, Benson,’ Harry Miller called as he strode along the deck, dodging a wave breaking against the boat.
‘Feel like it too, Harry,’ he replied, wiping his mouth with the sleeve of his windbreaker.
‘Get below, you pussy. Claire’ll fix you up with some Dramamine.’
‘Already had some,’ Benson mumbled as he shuffled by the captain.
Harry watched his childhood friend stagger below deck, out of the harsh wind and surging waves. In a futile gesture, he brushed the hair from his eyes, wincing as it flailed back and stung his eyeballs upon impact. He took a deep breath of the cold, salty air. This was where he felt at home despite the ocean currently waging war against him and the Lady Windermere.
‘Just one more journey, La Mer, and then we’ll gently part ways.’
Below deck, Benson sunk into the bench seat at the dining table. The smell of bacon and eggs lingered in the cabin air, making him want to throw up again. Anticipating Benson’s involuntary action, Claire thrust a bucket under his chin.
‘Ah, not a moment too soon, I see . . . and hear . . . oh God, and smell!’ She pressed her hand over her nose to cut the smell of Benson’s vomit. ‘I’m not cleaning that bucket out, Steven. You’re going to have to do that. Fuck! What have you eaten that smells so fucking bad?’
Benson shook his head. It was all he could do.
‘You know this is Harry’s last trip, don’t you?’ she asked Benson. A muted groan came from inside the bucket. She wasn’t entirely sure if it was coming from Steve throwing up, or his reaction to the smell of the vomit.
‘He mentioned something about that but I was too busy puking to really take it in.’
‘He only mentioned it this morning?’ she asked.
‘Because he’s known for the last three months,’ she answered.
‘No, why is he chucking it in?’ Benson giggled to himself before repeating the words that he’d found funny. ‘Chucking it in. Ironic choice of words coming from me.’
‘Don’t know. I was hoping he might have told you why he’s finishing up.’
She leaned against the galley sink and pondered her next question. ‘Do you think . . . has he . . . has he been weird with you lately? Like not acting like himself. Off?’
Benson lifted his head from the bucket. Claire knew instantly that he’d noticed Harry’s odd behaviour.
‘Why didn’t you say anything?’ she demanded.
‘I don’t know. Because I thought there was something up with the two of you. Because he tells me when something’s wrong. Because he tells me when I need to know things. I assumed because he’d not said anything he was fine.’
‘Well clearly he’s not bloody fine. He loves the sea. He loves sailing. Why would he chuck it in now?’
‘Have you asked him?’ Benson was his sleeve again to wipe his mouth.
‘What am I going to bloody say to him? Hi honey, how come you’ve no interest in sailing anymore? Yeah, that’s going to go down well. He’d probably clobber me for asking.’
The boat lurched violently through the waves, and Benson lowered his head to the bucket.
‘Jesus, Steve, why’d you come if you don’t have your sea legs?’
Benson shrugged, not wanting to open his mouth.
‘Is he having an affair? Is that why he’s giving up sailing?’ Claire didn’t really want to know the answer to her questions, but curiosity would get the better of her if she didn’t broach the subject with her husband’s best friend. ‘Because I don’t think I can cope if he’s having it off with some other woman. I think I’d kill him. For her sake. I could do it here, couldn’t I? Out on the ocean. Just kill him and dump his body overboard. Is it odd that I’ve considered the logistics of doing that?
‘You’re joking, aren’t you? Claire? You’re not serious?’ Benson was stunned.
‘Is he having an affair?’
‘No. No. Not that I’m aware of. You’ve seriously thought about killing him?’
She lifted her shirt and exposed her badly bruised ribs. ‘He did this last week. If I could get away with killing him, yes, I absolutely would.’
. . . To be continued . . .