Veronica slammed down the hair dryer.
‘It’s no good,’ she said, ‘I can’t possibly do my hair with this useless thing.’
‘Here we go again,’ thought Sam. ‘Same old, same old.’
But he said nothing. What was there to say? She knew he had made a reservation at the best steak restaurant on the ship, she knew they didn’t hold the reservations, if your table was booked for eight then eight was the time you got there or you missed out. They were due at the restaurant in ten minutes, Sam glanced at his watch, no, seven minutes. He sighed and sat down.
Veronica reached for the dryer again. Sam held his breath. It whirred into action. Great, it wasn’t broken.
Sam perched on the bed. He felt his temper rising. He was hungry, he was fed up, he wanted to go!
Eventually Veronica announced she was ready. To Sam, her hair looked the same, it always did. He murmured the usual, you look lovely dear, but something in his tone made Veronica look at him sharply, but he just smiled, she couldn’t prove a thing!
Quickly he ushered her out of the suite and to the elevator. No point in suggesting the stairs, he knew she would only complain, can’t possibly walk down all those stairs in these shoes, he mimicked her voice in his head. Veronica glared at him again, he recoiled, could she read minds now?
Luckily the elevator arrived and the doors pinged open. They got to the restaurant just in time to see their reservation being given away to another couple.
‘They could have waited five minutes,’ said Veronica.
Sam shook his head. Had his wife always been this stupid?
‘They did,’ he said, ‘they waited a full fifteen minutes past our reservation time. I told you, if you’re late it’s just too bad.’
Sam was now in a filthy mood. The taste for steak had disappeared replaced by a strong distaste for his wife.
He strode out of the restaurant and up the stairs to the open deck.
He heard his wife clacking after him, trying to keep up on her ridiculous high heels, but he bounded up the stairs. To hell with her, he needed some air.
Sam knew losing the reservation wasn’t such a big deal, so why did it seem like one? Because it was just another thing Veronica had spoilt, that’s why. It was her life’s work. You name it, Veronica ruined it. It had been like that all through their married life.
Thirty years ago marriage to Veronica had seemed like a good idea. She was pretty enough and her money certainly added to the attraction. He hadn’t realised then, that although she was a woman of means, she was also a mean woman. He was forever dancing to her tune and lately, he was finding it harder and harder to keep in step. Sam wanted out.
Standing by the hand rail, Sam moved to lean against it. Just in time he pulled back. He gasped in disbelief. The railing was missing. There was a huge hole where the handrail should be, just air between him and the sea. Sam felt sick when he thought how close he had come to falling over the side. He looked around, in the darkness he could make out the outline of the hand rail lying on the deck. Who had been so stupid as to just leave it lying there?
Sam started to bend down to pick up the railing and replace it, when he heard Veronica’s clacking heels. He straightened up, ready for the inevitable argument but to his astonishment, Veronica shot past him, through the opening, and over the side. There was silence then a soft splash.
Sam stood there, dazed. What had just happened? Sam blinked into the darkness, his mind raced … get help, stop the ship, throw a life buoy … walk away, no one around, freedom.
Euphoria and panic gripped Sam, he glanced around, definitely no one about, an accident, a tragic accident but oh how serendipitous!
He stood there thinking, precious seconds ticking away. Was life with Veronica really that bad? The more he procrastinated the less chance they had of finding her. He made his decision. Sam grabbed a life buoy and threw it over. He raced round the deck and breathlessly told a crew member what had happened.
The ship turned round. Passengers and crew came out to help, looking, searching, scanning the water. This was something to tell the people back home. There was great excitement when the life buoy was spotted and retrieved but sadly, no Veronica. Sam reluctantly admitted that Veronica was no swimmer and the search was abandoned.
At the inquest, the coroner commended Sam for his quick actions and he was exonerated from any blame. A crew member came forward and admitted to removing the hand rail for maintenance. He had been so busy that day that he had simply forgotten to resecure it, a tragic accident. The crew member was terribly sorry and very distraught. So as well as all of Veronica’s money, Sam got a nice payout from the cruise line. But he didn’t have Veronica.
Sam consoled himself with his new lifestyle; golf, beer, and women. He was just getting into the swing of his new found freedom when the police paid him a surprise visit. A video had been handed in. One of the passengers had just realised he had taped some of the drama.
Would Sam mind if they played it for him? Just a few questions, you understand?
‘No, of course not. Come in.’
Sam played it cool, he had nothing to hid, Veronica’s death had been ruled an accident but his heart started to race and his hands went clammy. He peered at the screen. The video started. Sam saw himself standing on the deck, just after Veronica had fallen overboard. He saw himself frozen with indecision, then springing into action, rushing to throw the life buoy. Unfortunately for Sam, it showed him rushing to the wrong side of the ship before chucking in the life buoy. Too far away to be of any use to Veronica and it completely misdirected the search.
Which led to another obvious question, would Sam care to explain why the video shows him running round the deck, bypassing two crew members before finally raising the alarm?
And lastly, why had he said his wife couldn’t swim? Enquiries has since discovered she had been an excellent swimmer. She could have survived for hours in the water.
Sam looked at the screen and wept.