Paul closed the fridge door, hung his head and sighed
“I just don’t see why they can’t just write it down or just leave a note”
“Honey they are between the ages of seventeen and twenty-five. It just their job to be unhelpful”
“Yes, Terese but, as clearly stated, it was mine.”
“Oh, poor you” she said sarcastically, looking at him with sad eyes. “Do you want me to tell them off”
“Well they won’t listen to me will they”
“Oh, grow up Paul. We’ll stop somewhere on the way home”
“Fine, but don’t tell me you’d be fine with it all if they finished something you’d look forward to”
“Well next time just hide it, or get up earlier”
He slammed his hands on the island, lifted his head”
“Well the blame for that Mrs. Robinson lies with you doesn’t it” He walked around, put is arms around her waist and pulled her closer “and I know a way you can make it up to me”
He leaned forward “You can give me a pass for this weekend” he said with a smile on his face
She wrapped her arms around his neck. “Nice try”
As he let go, she gave him a kiss on the cheek. She started walking towards the coffee table.
“Why is it so important that we all go anyway?” he asked
“Because he wanted family there, and that means the five of us”
“Does it?” he looked at Terese with his eyebrows raised
She looked at him, her head tilted with a sympathetic look on her face. He looked at her for a while. Looked at his hand and started playing with the ring on his little finger. The silence was broken by Roxy as she headed in from the back.
“So Paulie ready for the road trip.”
Paul lifted and shook his head at Terese before turning around to face Roxy.
“I was just telling the guys about this epic playlist I’ve made for the ride. You like dance, right?” she teased as she walked towards the sink.
“Roxy I am not in the mood”
“Relax I was just kidding. What’s got your knickers in a knot?”
Before he had time to answer, Ned and Harlow walked in laughing. Their laughter turned to intrigue as they sensed the tension in the room. They both looked at Paul
“Grandad, what have you done now?”
Paul looked at Harlow bemused. Why was it always him? Why was he always the cause of any friction or tension in the house? God forbid it was Roxy that started it all, it wasn’t like she had a past in wind up or breaking the rules was it! And it couldn’t be Terese could it, she was perfect in their eyes. He smiled to himself. That was one thing they had in common. She was perfect in his too. Sensing her husband was about to disappear into one of his “I don’t need this” rants Terese decided to split up the tension.
“Did you guys have a nice breakfast?”
“Yeah, it was good. Just the five of us” Ned answered
“Yeah bet you did” Paul muttered
“Sorry” Ned said with a confused smile on his face. He looked at Terese as she nodded towards his hand. Ned looked down.
“Oh, the vegemite. I am so sorry, Vi had already emptied the jar before I even realized.”
Paul looked at him. His eyes were raging. He opened his mouth, without saying a word he clenched his fists, took a deep breath, turned around and walked towards the window. Terese headed after him.
“Hey, it wasn’t their fault”
“Never seems to be.” He said looking back in their direction before turning back to the window.
Terese looked at him. His eyes were different this morning. Last night had been wonderful, just perfect. The two of them had a lovely dinner, his special fish dish. They caught up with some tv before they ended the night snuggled up in the garden watching the stars and putting the world in its place. It was the sort of night that didn’t come round often these days, but with Roxy at work, Ned at the Kennedy’s and Harlow with McKenzie it all fell into place. She had been dreading this weekend for a while, when she mentioned it to him, he took some convincing and for good reason. But he finally seemed to be at peace with the idea. Last night she was sure that it was all going to be smooth sailing, this morning it seemed like it would be anything but. He really must’ve been keeping everything under the surface, hiding behind a wall of pretend just for her. It certainly seemed to be weighing heavily on him this morning. It was anybody but the kids’ fault yet anything they did annoyed him. This was often the case in their house, but this morning it felt different. All three had upset him before they even started the day. But she was not going to let the past win, she was determined that last minute worries were not going to derail their plans. She was going with her family. All of her family.
She rubbed her hand on his back.
“Darling, what’s going on this morning? Where’s my Paul from last night gone”
“He woke up to the reality that his house is a mess and nobody understands the meaning of respect”
“Look, they meant no harm.”
Paul turned to look at Terese
“And yet my day keeps getting worse. Do you really expect me to sit in the car with the three of them for hours? Me and Roxy in a compact space together, listening to that noise she calls music”
“I just worry about the rest of us.” Terese said with a sly smile
He gave her a sarcastic smile back. His smile disappeared, he looked at her and sighed.
“Can’t we just drive up together.”
Terese looked at the kids and looked back at Paul.
“Will that put you in a better mood.”
“Won’t make it all better but it would be a step in the right direction”
“Fine. I guess we do it your way again.” she sighed as she headed towards the kitchen. Paul watched her walk away. He was doing all this for her. Was he being unreasonable wanting to spend time with his wife without having an audience? Last night was wonderful, but today was here and it was going to be enough of a struggle without having to listen to Roxy talk about everything and nothing for hours. He followed Terese to the kitchen.
“Right, the plan has changed. We are now taking two cars.”
“Alright, me and Harls in Hermione right, old peeps in the family car.” Roxy butted in
“Did you get that service done” Paul asked
“She’s fine” Roxy quickly answered
“As I thought” he said as he shook his head “No service, no trip”
“So, we’ll take your car grandad?” Harlow tried her luck.
“Nice try. Me and Terese will travel in my car, you three take the family car”
“Oh! You want some alone time.” Roxy teased
“Yes” Paul answered “From you”
“Paul!” Terese said swinging her arm to hit his.
“No, its fine Auntie T, we’ll be living it up, you’ll be loving it up. It’s a win-win. I can annoy Paul enough over the weekend, what’s a couple of hours, right?” Roxy said looking at him with a cheeky grin on her face.
Terese smiled. Roxy knew exactly how to wind him up and she couldn’t help but be amused at times. Paul’s face was far from amused as he turned around and headed for the door. He picked up his keys off the side table.
“I’ll go move and pack the cars” Paul shouted from the door. He grabbed two cases before heading out.
“I’ll come give you a hand” Ned said following him to the door and grabbing the three bags. As Paul stepped out Roxy smiled and shouted after him.
“See you later Uncle P”
Paul turned to Ned “I wish she wouldn’t call me that”
“C’mon she only pulling your leg.”
“Well I’m not in the mood today.”
“I know, but that’s hardly her fault is it.”
“No, it’s your girlfriends.”
“What” Ned stopped and then remembered “Oh right”
“But you know what, I’m glad Terese changed her mind about the cars. She is the only reason I am going today and I need this morning to be about us, just the two of us.”
“So, you land me with Roxy” Ned joked
“Thanks for understanding” Paul said as he tapped Ned on the shoulder.
“Oh, don’t worry I’m sure I’ll find a way for you to repay me”
“Yeah yeah.” Paul said nodding his head
Ned looked down at his watch, and the back at Paul with a surprised expression on his face.
“We’d better get moving or I think you’ll be regretting your wish to travel alone with Terese.”
Hitting the road with Terese was supposed to be the one good thing about this weekend. So far it had been a rubbish morning, now all he wanted was to pull the roof back, stick some music on and enjoy the company of the most important person in his life. Typically, the weather didn’t feel like playing along and just as soon as they left the street the rain began to fall. Roof closed, he was determined to enjoy the time they had together. He glanced over at Terese sitting in the passenger seat, for some reason she had been rummaging through her handbag ever since they set off. He smiled as he watched her struggle, knowing any minute she would give up and pretend she wasn’t even looking for anything specific. She closed her bag and placed it flat on her lap.
“So, did you find it?” Paul asked as he turned his attention back to the road
“What? Oh no I was just checking something”
“Ok” he said smiling
She looked at him. He looked brighter, he looked calmer, he looked almost happier.
“Well whatever it is it seems to have cheered you up a bit. This what getting your own way looks like”
“Listen to that Terese. Can you hear it?”
“The absent of youth. The calm.”
“Doesn’t that usually come before the storm?”
He turned to look at her. His face etched with no amusement. He tuned back to the road.
“Yeah, but for the next couple of hours it will be just what we wanted. Now how about some music for the journey.”
“Fine, but it better be different to what you play in my car. If I have to hear…
Before she had a chance to finish, he switched the stereo on. There was a loud beat followed by noise that should never be heard by human years.
“Well this is different.” Terese said sarcastically
Paul quickly switched the stereo off. And looked at Terese.
“Roxy! That girl is unbelievable”
“Paul come on how could that possibly be Roxy’s fault”
“Isn’t it always. Did you hear her in the kitchen earlier?”
“Yeah but that doesn’t prove anything, we were all going in the same car remember”
“It has her written all over it”
“The glovebox. My music should be in there.”
The car fell silent as Terese opened the glove box to find, among a mountain of old receipts, an old iPod.
“Right here we go.” She looked for the button on the iPod and switched it on. “You know she only drives Hermione right, why would she even have played with the radio in yours?”
“All I know is that device is always connected, and what, all of a sudden it’s not and my radio has been set on, whatever you’d call that!”
“But didn’t Roxy?”
“Anyway, we came in my car to be away from Roxy, not to spend every minute talking about her.”
Terese looked at him with slight disgust
“Why do you do that, talk about her like she’s a nuisance? Is that what you think of her?”
“What. How could you think that? Roxy is Roxy. We get along when we need to and we bicker when we need to, there is no rules when it comes to her.”
“But today has all been about her. Ned and Harlow are just as much to blame but you only seem to blame her, for everything”
“Aww c’mon Terese you saw how she was”
“Maybe it was her way of showing she cares.”
“Yeah maybe? But it’s what we do. Don’t worry about her she gives as good as she gets and will probably make up for it tonight.”
Terese looked at him and shook her head before looking back at the iPod.
“You only have one playlist on this?”
He waited for the first song to start and a smile creeped onto his face
“Now this is what I’m talking about”
“Really, do you have the same songs in every car?”
“No, this is a very special selection.” Paul said as he turned to look at her. “Songs that remind me of you.”
She started scrolling through the songs.
“Never Gonna Give You Up? Really”
“Yeah, meaningful and despite want others think I know you love it”
“You know me too well.” Terese said with a smile on her face still scrolling through. She stopped and shook her head. “But not well enough, Rick Astley is fine but where is Stefan Dennis”
“Don’t It Make You Feel Good” she looked at him, she could tell by his face that he didn’t have a clue what she was talking about.
“Don’t what make me feel good?”
“No.” she said laughing “Never mind.”
As she watched him drive, she thought she could have some fun here.
“Tell you what though, he had no trouble making me feel good.”
“Oh, is that so.” He said turning to her and raising his eyebrows. “Well what happened to this Dennis bloke then”
“Well lucky you found me then isn’t it. And doesn’t that make you feel good” he said with a cheeky grin on his face. “Anyway, this is my list to remind me of you, I don’t need your teenage crush hovering on here with his one hit wonder.”
She smiled and carried on scrolling through the list. She suddenly stopped and looked at him with confusion.
“Southern Nights by Glenn Campbell reminds you of me how?”
Paul indicated and pulled up. He turned to Terese, she looked at him and smiled.
“When he was a kid his dad told him, you’re having the best time of your life, and you don’t even know it. Listening to this reminds me that this is my best time. Being with you is my best time. Nights like last night, where it’s the two of us, happy under the stars, happy just being together. There was no rush, no agenda, no worries. Just us being us. No interruptions, no dramas.” he sighed “When I travel alone, listening to this, all those songs, makes me think of us, it makes me think of home”
Terese reached out and placed her hand on his cheek.
“Our best times are just getting started darling I hope you know that.”
He reached up, grabbed her hand and held it in his.
She looked at him. He had a glint in his eyes. The one he always got when he spoke about them. A soft look, a look that made her feel warm. She knew she was exactly where she was meant to be when he looked at her this way. This was their time, their best time. The rain had finally stopped. As she chose Southern Nights on the iPod, he pulled back the roof. As the first notes of the song kicked in, they put their chairs down, looked at each other and smiled. Paul turned his head to look at the sky.
“Can we stay here today. Just you and me?”
As Terese looked up she thought to herself, why not. Paul was happy, she was happy. Did they really need this weekend? Just as she was about to reply her phone started vibrating. She opened the case and rolled her eyes.
Paul turned to look at her.
“Is that serious or is this another one of your very poorly timed jokes?”
She showed him the phone.
“Leave it, it probably just another Roxy wind up. Let’s just ignore it and enjoy this a bit longer.”
Before she had a chance to answer he grabbed the phone and threw it over to the back seat. He turned to Terese and gave her a cheeky smile before leaning over to give her a kiss. He sat back as both relaxed, listening to the music alone, in their own little bubble.
As the song came to an end Terese looked over to Paul and smiled. She hated that she was about to ruin this for him. It always seemed when they were enjoying some time together something had to ruin it. Today it was her and their destination. She sighed as she stretched over to the back seat and grabbed her phone. She looked at the screen, there was a voicemail. She pressed play. As she listened to the message her smile disappeared. She reached over and nudged Paul.
“We need to go darling. We need to go right now”
“What’s the rush, can’t we just sit for a little while longer.”
“No, we need to go right now.”
Paul picked up on the panic in her voice. The blissfulness of their day had disappeared and replaced by a sense of rush and worry. Terese looked scared, the look she often got when something was happening out of her control. He switched the music off, lift his chair up and started the car. He looked over at Terese.
“Where’re we going?”