Embarkation

John looked over at his wife. He’d never seen faster thumbs on a phone in his life. Traffic drew his eyes back out the windshield, but he could still hear the steady clicking as she sent message after message.

“Everything okay?”

“Hm,” she said absently. “Joanie’s at the house to get the dog. I hope she remembered to get her rug. I’ll never hear the end of it if Joanie gets dog hair all over. At least Maxie will stay on the rug if it’s there.”

“It’ll be –”

The phone buzzed again and Carol’s thumbs began to fly over the keys.

“Who is it this –”

“Mother. She’s got both kids now. John-John was late getting out of school.”

It was like that the entire drive. “Chris is having trouble with my account at work.” “Forgot to get the neighbor kid to pick up the paper.” “We may need to stop on the way, I can’t remember packing our toothbrushes.”

Finally they got to the dock, the huge ship looming up ahead of them. John stepped out of the car, awestruck. “Wow… Have you ever–” Carol had her head in the trunk, digging through one of the bags. “I think I left my…..”

Two hours later they sat in ship’s buffet eating. John was enjoying blackened trout and rice pilaf, eyeing the dessert table. “This is great!” he exclaimed. “How’s the –”

When he looked up, he could only see the part in Carol’s hair, her head bowed over her cell phone, thumbs still clicking away.

John reached over and laid his hand on her arm. “Carol, look at me.” She clicked send and looked up. “Honey, we’ll be allowed into our room in just a few minutes and then the ship will be sailing. We’ve talked about how much we can’t afford to keep the phones on while we’re away. You need to be readying yourself for cell phone blackout. I mean, it’s time to power down, you know? Turn it off…. Put it in the bag…. You know? Carol, can you do this?”

Carol frowned at him. “Of course, John,” she said shortly, her eyes narrowed. “I just have the kids, the house, my job. I mean, I still have responsibilities. Somebody has to take care of things in order for us to go have all this fun in the sun.” She looked over his head. “The rooms are ready. I’m going to make sure all our luggage got to the stateroom.”

John watched her go. Sighing, he made his way to the dessert bar.

An hour later, John stood outside the stateroom door, his hands on each side of the doorway, his head down. He took a deep breath. Prepared for the onslaught, the laptop no doubt open and transmitting, the cell buzzing on the table next to her, earbuds disconnecting her from the auditory world. John shook his head, slid the card key into the slot and opened the door.

The stateroom was empty, the luggage on the bed. One bag was open. John recognized the outfit Carol had been wearing draped across the open bag. He looked around the small room. There was no sign of any of Carol’s ever-present technology. Where was she? John frowned, put his hands on his hips. She probably found the on-board cyber cafe. John was turning toward the door to go find her when movement on the balcony caught his eye.

Beyond the sheer drapes, he saw a form. John frowned and moved toward the balcony. Pulling the curtain aside, he saw Carol sitting in one of the chairs, her face tipped up toward the sun. She was wearing a white swimsuit cover. He could see her new swimsuit under it. She was smiling.

John opened the door and Carol looked over.

“Hi honey,” she said, her voice calm, low.

John looked back toward the stateroom, then to her, his face puzzled. “Um, hi yourself. You okay?”

“Mm.” Carol rested her head back again, her face tipped up to the sun, her eyes closed.

John stepped onto the balcony, sat in the second chair.

“So….you got everything worked out?”

“Mm.”

“The kids okay?”

Carol slowly opened her eyes, turned to John. Her face was totally relaxed, not a line in it. Her eyes were clear, really looking at him. John heard the surf off the side of the boat. When she answered his question, his eyebrows went up and he felt all his worry sliding off the side of the ship and into the rolling water.

“What kids?”

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