[…continued from previous two posts…]
Suddenly Sarah had less than a month to get ready. A tiny island. That meant beaches. And a bathing suit. She had not bought, or worn, a bathing suit since her sons were still coming home for the summer. She could not face her aging white thighs in a Saks or Neiman mirror and ordered one black “tankini,” whatever that was, from the Lands End catalog. One, she calculated, should be enough. She still owned an ancient polka-dot cotton suit she could bring in case the “tankini” didn’t dry overnight.
Jake caught her trying on the tankini in the seclusion of the bedroom. “Whatcha doing, sweetie pie?” he asked.
“Shoo!” She pushed him gently back out the bedroom door with one hand while clutching a pillow against her lower half with the other. “Don’t look! It’s supposed to be a surprise!” One of the good things about living alone, she thought as she leaned against the closed door, was that you could do body and wardrobe maintenance in privacy. Why did Jake always need so much togetherness? The following week, she hurried to Saks on a lunch hour for tanning spray. Old thighs looked better brown than white.
Jake inspected Sarah’s suitcases in the basement and pronounced them too big.
“You don’t want to bring too much stuff,” Jake said.
“Nobody’s going to help you get your luggage on and off those Greek boats,” Jake said.
“You need a new bag,” Jake said.
“I’ll come with you,” Jake said.
They went to Luggage World, where she bought a red Victorinex roll-on not much smaller than the ones she already had and not cheap either. She was pretty sure she could have managed without this purchase. But Jake, as she was beginning to be aware, enjoyed shopping. While they were there, he bought two small black leather bags for himself. They were the size of toiletry kits.
“What do you need those for?” asked Sarah.
“Nothing at the moment,” he said. “I just like bags. And you never can tell when an extra one will come in handy.”
Odd. But then Sarah’s mother had been a collector of boxes. After they got Sarah’s new red Victorinex home, Jake decided he liked it so much he went back to the store by himself the next day and bought a slightly smaller grey one exactly like it. He also bought two black leather luggage tags.
The two Victorinexes — bigger red and smaller grey — stood against the bedroom wall with their tags on, waiting to be packed.
“They look good side by side together, ” Jake said.
“Just like us,” Jake said.
He hugged her. Maybe it really would be a honeymoon.
Sarah made packing lists and folded her clothing into neat piles. She spread towels on the duvet to protect it and opened the two Victorinexes on the bed — grey on Jake’s side, red on hers. Jake laid two changes of underwear and socks, two clean shirts, a pair of sandals, three black swim briefs, and an extra pair of jeans on the towel next to the grey Victorinex.
“That’s all you’re taking? For three weeks?”
“It’s very casual on those islands,” he said. “Besides, we can wash things out. Or buy stuff.” He added two t-shirts to the clothes on the bed and began zipping smallish hard objects into little black bags, which he zipped into slightly bigger black bags.
“I’m not doing laundry on vacation.” Sarah counted out eleven pairs of panties. (Who would know if she wore underwear for two days? Plus she would have a pair on for traveling.) The panties were full-size cotton briefs. (Sarah didn’t buy bikini panties any more; they cut a line you could see through her clothes in the rear view mirror.) Together with four bras (two black, two white), all those panties made quite a bundle. And the pear shape of the Victorinex was not as accommodating as a rectangular bag. Why had they left the packing till the final evening? Why was he distracting her by rushing back and forth between the second bedroom, which she had given over to him as a study, and the master bedroom? She needed to concentrate, or she would leave something out. Correction. She would have to leave something out. The red Victorinex wouldn’t close. Even when she sat on it.
“How many dresses for dinner?” she asked.
“None. You don’t have to dress.”
“And what about a sweater?”
“In Greece? In August?”
“You gotta be kidding.”
“Don’t get nasty.” She stared at his side of the bed. He had built a heap of bulging zipped-up black bags and books next to the grey Victorinex. “What is all that stuff?”
“Things I’ll need.”
“Like a short-wave. My camera. Extra pairs of glasses. First-aid kit. Notebooks. Clothesline. Reading material. Other things.”
“What other things?”
“Never mind. You’ll find out when we get there. Maybe.”
“You won’t fit it all in.”
“So I’ll bring a second bag.”
At midnight, they brought up some of Sarah’s old luggage from the basement. At one o’clock, four bags stood fully packed by the front door. At two, Sarah got out of bed to check that their passports and tickets and insurance papers were all in her handbag. “Did you bring enough money?” she whispered into his good ear after she had slid back under the duvet. “Mmmmmm,” he said. She wasn’t sure he’d heard. Hopefully, there would be ATMs on this tiny island they had found.
[End of chapter one.]
[The island was real. Its name was Lipsi — Lipsoi or Lipsos, if you want to be Greek about it. Sometimes I miss it, although it was never really our island. We were just renters. Even in the novella, where I was going to call it Mythos, it would turn out not to be Jake and Sarah’s island. They would learn by the end of the novella that the island of their own they had set out to find was the island of two they were making together. And that at their age, they were stuck there — whether they liked it or not — for richer or poorer, till death did them part, and had better make the best of it. But that’s too dark for a chick lit novella. And also not so fun to write.
So you’ve reached the end of Jake and Sarah. However, we may take some day tours of Lipsi, you and I together. Maybe this spring. Or summer. If spring and summer ever come.]