William was excited, but he smothered his impatience as he watched his wife working in their Restaurant. Everything had to be just right. Napkins folded in the shape of a crown, silver cutlery laid out so the rose-wood handles were in a precise row and the heavy lead-crystal wine glasses polished until they sparkled in the light from a dozen candles.
When she had sold her house and country estate, Marie had said that amongst other things, like the restaurant they now sat in, she wanted some adventure, take a risk or two and enjoy the life that they had together. A total contrast to what she’d become used.
William waited patiently for her to finish her preparations and come across to the fireside for their usual glass of wine. It was something they always did before the first of the evening’s customers arrived.
But tonight he had a surprise for Marie. They’d been planning to take some time off since they were married six months ago, but they needed to get the restaurant ticking over first and appoint a good sous-chef who could handle things in their absence.
And now they were ready, they would start their holiday, their belated honeymoon, on Monday, in just two days’ time.
But not in quite the way she was expecting.
~ ~ ~
We had been very lucky to get this place, I thought as I looked around. It had been our favourite restaurant in Pontivy almost since the first day we’d met. Marie had heard of the sale at her bank as she was completing the documents to transfer her house to its new owners. Not one to hesitate when her mind is made up, she made an offer there and then came home to our old Breton cottage with a bottle of champagne, announcing that we were now the new owners of the best restaurant in town.
I watched as my lovely wife looked around the room, making sure everything was as perfect as possible, just as she wanted it. Her shoulder length auburn hair shone in the light from the log fire and her eyes sparkled as she laughed at a joke with Marcel, our head waiter. Her boyishly slim body looked good in her new chef’s whites and she still moved with that feline grace that had captivated me. Her shoulder, wounded in a savage attack last autumn, still ached now and then, but had healed well with very little scarring.
Her enthusiasm and happiness bubbled over, lighting up the room with a glowing warmth whenever she walked in. Marie, fascinated me, I loved her more than I thought it possible. She had inspired a new series of poems that had been finally published a couple of weeks ago. The advance from my publisher had been more generous than usual and I’d used almost all of it setting up the new adventure that I was going to surprise her with this evening.
~ ~ ~
‘We’re going to do what?’ Marie said in a voice so sharp that it startled me.
Marcel looked up from organising his menus, frowned and went out to the kitchen, closing the door quietly behind him.
‘It’ll be our first real adventure. We’re expected to go aboard the Lady-Bird on Monday afternoon at Douarnenez then we sail out, past Tristan Island, into the Celtic Sea where she’ll anchor up for our welcome aboard dinner.’
‘But I’ve never been on a boat. I won’t know what to do.’ Marie, fiddled with her glass and gazed at her feet. ‘I can’t swim.’ she muttered.
‘Ah…the Lady-B is what they call a brigantine, she’s 35 metres long and has a crew of eight people. You’ll not have to swim anywhere.’ I moved across to sit next to her and picked up her hand. ‘You’ll be fine. I promise.’
‘But I won’t know what to do. I’ve never been on the sea. Ever.’
‘You’ll be ok and you’ll have a bit of time to get used to it. Because our first port will be Gibraltar then we call at Cadiz on the back.’
‘Where will we stay? What will I wear?’ she put her hand to her face. ‘I think I’m frightened, or excited. Or both!’
‘Wow, slow down. I’ve got some pictures here.’ I pulled my laptop out of its bag and sipped from my glass while it started up. ‘Here we are. A good shot of the Lady-Bird at sea. And this one shows the owner’s cabin, that’s where we’ll be staying.’
‘You said…Owner’s Cabin?’ Marie looked me in the eye. She reached up and undid her pony-tail, pulled it tighter, then refastened it. ‘What have you been up to? I can’t spend too long away from this place. You know that.’
‘Yeah, I know. But think of it this way….It’ll be an extension of this business, because on the return leg of the trip from Cadiz, that’s in Spain, we’ll be carrying two passengers to…..’
‘Yes, yes I know it’s in Spain. Who are these people, these passengers?’ she asked.
‘They’re a couple of Americans, millionaires and are coming as paying guests mainly for the promised Cordon-Bleu menu that we’ll be offering. The ship has an excellent, modern kitchen, or galley, as we should call it.’ I said, and then waited for the obvious question.
‘So who’s cooking for these nobs?’ she asked, grinning.
‘The very best chef that I know.’ I said and leaned forward, kissing her gently on the lips.
‘So how come we get to use the Owner’s Cabin?’ she asked.
‘I’ve chartered the ship. We’ll be carrying a cargo of wine and tea as well as our passengers when we sail North from Spain.’
‘When did you do all this then?’ Marie asked, nestling her head against my shoulder.
‘Oh, it’s been on my mind for a while. Last year I read an article in the paper about a Frenchman who was using sail power to transport goods from port to port and it seemed a good idea. The proper planning though, started back around the start of the New Year. I found the Lady-B on the internet, my new phone, the one you gave me, was very useful. I went to see her first back in March, the day you went to Rennes with Marcel for that cooking show.’
‘Hm, I had a funny feeling that something was going on.’ she said.
~ ~ ~
Monday morning came around with amazing speed. Neither of us thought that leaving a car on the quayside was a good idea, so we’d booked a taxi to take us and our bags to the main port at Douarnenez. There was quite an impressive pile of stuff sat on the driveway to go with us. I just hoped the taxi firm had believed me when I’d said we’d need an estate car. A big one.
Of course, the reason for so much luggage was my fault for springing surprises. Marie had been expecting a casual week or so in the sun on a Greek island, where we’d not have needed much in the way of clothes. At sea it’d be different, it could often be chilly, especially in the breeze, or it could be wet. So we had the full spectrum of gear to cover us from arctic to equator, most of it would, I knew, stay in its bag or case. But there we are, Marie had taken charge and we were both fully equipped for almost anything.
‘What happens if the wind doesn’t blow?’ asked Marie.
‘The ship’s got a couple of big diesel engines that can be used to drive it along.’
‘Hmm, seem to have thought of everything between you all.’
I hugged her to me.
‘Aye, that we ‘ave me ‘earty!’ I said with a laugh and a wink. ‘Don’t look so worried.’
‘Oh I’m just bothered that I’ll do something stupid and spoil it all. You’ve done so much to try to make it special. I might get sea-sick and have to come home and I’d be here on my own.’ She stuck out her bottom lip in a pout, but couldn’t stop the giggle that dissolved her pretended sulk.
We had tears in our eyes from laughing when the taxi turned into the gateway. The driver took one look at our heap and shook his head in disbelief. But we got it all in eventually and, with a wave to our friend Charlie, who was going to look after the cottage, we were on our way.