Seven little words had turned their afternoon from a bleak winter’s night stuck inside, to something filled with excitement and anticipation.
“God, I could go for a holiday,” Dom mumbled as he hogged all the space on the couch, playfully shoving Sydney deeper into the cushions.
Those seven words sparked a series of instantaneous responses from the others.
A pair of raised eyebrows: “You know, that’s not a bad idea.”
“A vacation! That sounds like fun.” Tiny hands were barely visible from the couch.
A barely coherent ‘ugh’ from behind the newspaper.
Everyone glared at Victor, who, sensing a disturbance from over his paper, looked up and blinked.
“Don’t you wanna go somewhere nice? Somewhere you can relax?” Sydney asked, sounding a little hurt. She could barely contain her imagination of windswept hills, white beaches, foreign cityscapes, and all the wonder that the undiscovered world held.
Victor had no answer, not realising just how much all of them wanted to get out of the small town.
“C’mon, Vic,” Mitch said. “It’ll be fun.”
Victor took a deep breath and actually entertained the thought of relaxing, of reading something that wasn’t encased in a manila file, and not having to look over his shoulder for two weeks. It almost sounded too easy – too perfect – and yet a small smile played along his lips.
“Alright, let’s do it.”
Almost immediately, they began planning. Somewhere far, they had decided unanimously, in attempts of narrowing the list.
“What about the beach?” Dom suggested, craving some sunlight that lasted for more than five hours.
“Yes! The beach!” Sydney cheered.
Victor almost wrinkled his nose.
“What’s wrong with the beach?” Dominic demanded, offended like he had hand crafted the coast himself. He really needed some sun – the bleary winter days were making him crabby.
But Victor only shrugged and held up his hands defensively.
“Nothing. I’ve never been.”
“Wait, hold the phone.” Mitch closed the laptop. “Are you telling me we shared a cell for five years and I never knew that you’d been deprived of the joy of salt water, sand, and a sun tan–?”
Victor raised an eyebrow and gestured at himself – all pale skin and cold hues, and Sydney sniggered.
“Do I look like a sun-tanning sort of person?”
Mitch blew out his cheeks and reopened the laptop.
“Okay, the beach it is. The question now is – where?”
“God no, what about the Caribbean?”
“Oh, what about Florida?”
“I am not spending my only two week holiday in Florida.”
“What’s wrong with–?”
“I think that’s a bit too far…”
“I think you’re onto something though.”
Sydney fell silent and they all paused.
“I cant – I don’t have a passport.” She shrugged. “I’ve never been overseas.”
Victor smiled at her. “Then that’s exactly where we’re going.” He glanced at Mitch. “How long do you think it’d take to make her a passport?”
Mitch shrugged. “If we go overseas I’d have to make us all fake passports anyway – it shouldn’t take long at all.” He winked and Sydney felt a whole new sort of excitement fill her and she squeezed him tight, her arms not quite reaching all the way around his huge shoulders. Suddenly the whole world was just a plane ticket away.
The sight of the tiny plane had made everyone except Dom nervous – he’d clearly travelled in more dangerous modes of travel that they didn’t ask about. Instead, they shared anxious glances as they folded themselves into the small, flimsy seats – Dom and Mitch in front, Victor and Sydney in the row behind them. Victor gave Sydney the window seat, and she excitedly watched the world slip by below, but clutched at his arm when they hit turbulence that rattled the whole cabin for minutes.
When they had reached the halfway point, a flight attendant came around with a small trolley offering drinks and snacks. Mitch asked for chocolate milk, and Dom noisily ripped into a packet of Doritos.
Sydney was too mesmerised by seeing clouds from above to pay any attention to food or drink. The airhostess wheeled the trolley towards them, and smiled at Victor, managing to catch his eye as he glanced up from his book.
“Would your daughter like any food or drink, sir?”
Sydney spun at the question, and watched as Victor, caught so off guard by the assumption, fumbled for words.
“Oh… I– I’m not… she’s–” His hands didn’t know where to gesture, and his bookmark ended up sliding out from between the pages.
Syd cut in, putting him out of his misery,
“I’ll have a coke please.” She smiled at him.
Victor didn’t know what to say, so he just nodded awkwardly when the lady smiled and wished them a great day, before he turned to Sydney as the flight attendant moved on.
He opened his mouth to say something – a hundred things, but nothing came out. Sydney watched him as he frowned, and grinned humouredly when he closed it again. Victor was just about to turn back to his book when he suddenly asked,
“Do I look old enough to have a daughter?”
Sydney laughed incredulously.
“That’s what you got from it?”
“One of the things…” Victor replied tightly, and Sydney thought he actually pouted a little. She laughed at him again, not unkindly.
“Relax – I look eternally twelve, remember?” she said it with a verbal eye roll. “Besides, we could pass as related – it’d be a bit of a stretch for siblings, I think.” Syd shrugged.
Victor shifted in his chair, like he was visibly recoiling from the idea – siblings was even more awkward than father and daughter.
“I just… I never thought…” Victor started, and Sydney reached over and poured some of her coke into his plastic cup.
She shrugged. “We’re on holiday – new place, new identities – we can be whoever we want.”
“So what, on this holiday we’re going to be a family?” At the look Sydney shot him, Victor rephrased, “A ‘standard’ family, I mean.”
“Sure.” She smiled, and Victor actually started to feel his heart warming to the small little gesture she was making before she added, “Mitch could be your partner… and Dom’s my… cousin?” She grinned wickedly and Victor squinted at her, unimpressed.
“Very funny. Drink your coke otherwise you’ll be grounded and your holiday will be ruined,” he said it seriously, but a smile quirked his lips as he lifted his own cup.
Jet lag claimed them all, and they collapsed in their respective bedrooms as soon as they arrived at their hotel, before rising early for breakfast, already struggling with the time zone.
Dom had to order for them since his Spanish was enough to get them by, and soon they had a table full of delicious, hot food and much needed coffee.
Mitch and Sydney began spreading out maps and pamphlets, organising tours and planning adventures for almost every day of their vacation around mouthfuls of food. All Dom had planned was sun baking, but Sydney eventually talked him into coming with them on a walking trail for one of the days, while Victor hid behind his book, a second pot of black coffee at risk of going stone cold.
“What about you, Victor?” Sydney asked, mopping up the rest of her maple syrup with a hash brown.
Victor raised an eyebrow, glancing at her sideways as he lifted his paperback in answer.
“You can’t just read the whole holiday,” Mitch criticized. “Especially when you’ve never been to the beach before.”
Victor scoffed, “Watch me.”
“Come to the beach with us,” Sydney pleaded, and gave him her winning smile.
“Oh leave him,” Dom said. “It’s not his fault he doesn’t know what fun looks like.”
“Says the person who would rather burn to a crisp for two weeks.”
“At least I wont have a vitamin D deficiency.”
“You can read at the beach,” Sydney compromised quickly, and just to shut them all up so he could finish the chapter he was on, Victor sighed, exasperated.
Victor was not prepared to swim. He hadn’t even packed swimmers, convinced that if he just ignored it for long enough – just looked brooding enough, he’d scare them off and the whole topic would disappear. But it turned out that the others had a different idea.
He’d planned on staying in the hotel – sitting on the balcony with his book and a glass of scotch, when Sydney and Mitch burst through the door, fresh from one of their adventures. They were all excitement and laughter – already a little pink from the sun – before declaring they were off to the beach.
“C’mon, Vic, you’re coming with us.” Mitch tossed something black towards him and he caught the swimming trunks as they hit his chest – the tag from the hotel gift shop still attached.
It wasn’t that he was scared – Victor was rarely scared anymore – but the beach, he soon realised, just seemed to be a whole lot of uncomfortable things all thrown together in one place. There was so much light and the sun lotion itched and sand was sticking to him, not to mention the heat sizzling his skin and the noise of the waves crashing and Christ this sand was hot.
Was this really what people sought out in a holiday? He watched as Dom manoeuvred his towel into the optimum position for maximum sun exposure (which was basically anywhere), and he felt himself wince. Victor stood with his book tucked under his crossed arms, standing out awkwardly in his black shirt and swimming shorts. He squinted through his sunglasses as he tried to find a shaded spot – and instead stared out along the deserted, tree-less beach that stretched out for what seemed to be miles.
This was a terrible idea.
“You planned this, didn’t you.” He didn’t look at Sydney when she came racing over, instead he glared at this godforsaken beach where he’d burn and probably drown. God, where they trying to kill him?
Sydney dug around in the bag they’d brought until she retrieved a Frisbee from under the drinks and sun lotion, and smiled wryly back at him, just like Victor did when he knew something the others didn’t.
‘Too smart for her own good.’ Victor grumbled to himself.
“C’mon.” Syd grabbed his hand and literally dragged him towards the shore – and her hand was so small and gentle and cold, that he let her – quickly dumping his novel on the sand before it was lost to the sea.
Victor was not a shorts-wearing person, let alone a swimming-trunks-and-shirtless-in-public sort of person, so he had to make peace with his unbuttoned shirt getting wet in the surf. It was an unnatural feeling to just walk without hesitation straight into the ocean, like it wasn’t one of the most powerful forces of nature, like it wasn’t cold and sucking and pulling and… oddly relaxing.
Sydney led him further out until he stood just past knee height and Syd was waist deep. Victor felt himself grip her hand when he thought he was loosing his footing and she waited patiently until he got used to the shifting sand beneath his feet. Victor looked up and saw Mitch cheering him onward from the beach – he looked so far away.
“This isn’t so bad…” Victor muttered, more to himself than to anyone else as he watched the current wash past him and felt the rolling water try and push and pull him into a false sense of security. He didn’t linger on the fact that he’d needed the help of a teenage girl to actually get him this far.
Sydney threw the disk back towards the beach and Dol bounded after it, before bringing it back to Mitch to throw out to them again. His aim was appalling – it went wide and Sydney let go of Victor’s hand to lunge for it, splashing salty water everywhere. Victor flinched as cold water soaked his shirt – the salty taste getting into his mouth and he made a face, which made Sydney laugh. On the beach Mitch’s booming laugh reached them, and he encouraged her to splash him again, which she did gleefully. She was wearing Victor down in a way only she could get away with and he knew it – lowering his arms from their protective position of the onslaught, Victor raised his glasses onto his head and held out a hand.
“Alright, give me that thing.”
Syd handed him the Frisbee and he aimed it straight for Mitch’s head. Victor grinned – now he felt better.
Dol was having the time of his life chasing the flying disk, clumsily running over Dominic until he was covered in sand, but instead of moving further away, he gave up his perfect sun tanning spot to join them in the water.
Soon they had an oddly shaped trapezium in the making, with each of them covering an area of water, and Victor realised he was actually enjoying himself.
“See? Isn’t this fun?” Sydney called over to him, beaming. “Just a nice family vacation.” She threw her arms in the air and Victor crumpled. He tossed the Frisbee to Dom and grinned back at her.
“Yes, Sydney – it’s perfect.”