For Fandango’s Flash Fiction Challenge #148, where we write about the image below from Leyne at Morguefile.com.
It had been the vacation from hell. Surely, children weren’t supposed to be this difficult?
Even two weeks ago, there had been guarded optimism, as the family had boarded the ferry for their annual trip. But toddler Lissie’s… awkwardness… had become more apparent over the past few months, and Cara felt that she needed the break. Had going back to work so soon been the best decision? Cara looked at the girl, playing away happily. The worst of it was that people saw Lissie’s shoulder-length, golden locks, and nobody believed her. Nobody believed that such a cute daughter could be such a demon.
And, husband Mick’s busy days at work had not helped. It was great that he was earning well, but the flip side was that she had raised Lissie almost single-handedly recently, it had taken its toll on her health, and she had noticed strands of grey appearing now when she washed her short chestnut bob.
So yes, overall, Cara felt she needed the vacation; just the three of them, an opportunity which she hoped would allow them to gel as a unit.
A week in the Dordogne. And in fairness, the week didn’t start badly.
As Mick shunted their brand-new Mercedes from the ferry – Mick’s reward to himself for all his efforts – the weather steadily improved as they journeyed south. Though Cara remained on edge, there were no disasters and they drove through delightful scenery, as they crossed the Loire and entered the Vendee. And, only in France could they eat so well… that restaurant in Tours, in particular, had been incredible! Cara appreciated that in general, dining out and toddlers did not mix, but as they were travelling, what choice did they have? And she had learned to adapt; for a start, they ate so early that the family tended to have the restaurant to themselves, and staff were often happy to entertain Lissie while she and Mick ate.
They were fine, until they reached Bordeaux, ironically their final jaunt before their gite.
Lissie was being no more than Lissie, her regular, mischievous self. But she fell, cut her head… and the three spent the rest of the day in the Emergency Room. The nightmare of a foreign hospital, an environment which taxed their limited French. Also, a foreign healthcare system, one which they didn’t understand.
The person most unperturbed by the occasion appeared to be Lissie herself, who toyed sweetly with her favourite dolly. Butter would not melt… But this unplanned excursion ensured that they did not arrive at their cottage until late in the evening.
The week passed without any further meltdowns. The weather was okay; not brilliant but it hadn’t prevented them from doing anything. They watched as Lissie recovered from her ordeal, but the girl appeared to be unaffected. Cara was even pleased to explore some of the wine areas and took the opportunity to stock up.
However, as she saw the place gradually becoming untidier – toddlers are not the cleanest of people – it was necessary to stamp her authority with Mick.
“I don’t want to spend the week clearing up after you two”, she had complained, “this is my break too”.
And they had agreed that the penultimate day, they would stay home and that the goal would be simply to pack and to restore the cottage to spotlessness.
Lissie had other ideas.
Bored and starting to act up, Cara had the bright idea, after lunch, of allowing Lissie playtime in the bath while mum and dad straightened up. She left her to play in the shallow, tepid water, as she quickly ran the vacuum around, returning a mere five minutes later… to find Lissie picking at the now-peeled wallpaper!
Jesus! What has she done?
Removing Lissie, Cara discovered a long, eighteen-inch strip, gouged out of its surroundings. And Cara’s plans for the afternoon had swiftly been ruined. They would need to visit the local town, find a hardware store. God, she hoped that it was the same here as home.
And, with both the packing and the tidying still to complete.
So, the week ended with yet another unplanned trip, now for wallpaper paste, to effect running repairs before they returned home.
The nearest town was tiny. It had a small parade of shops, but… nothing that might stock decorating supplies. They asked – no, there was nothing here, but the next town had a better choice.
Driving on, they despaired until they saw a carpet warehouse, nestled off the highway. Figuring, by now, that any adhesive would do, they eventually found their goal… almost. As far as they could tell, the tube was intended to stick carpet tiles to the floor. But close enough, right?
It was late afternoon before they returned, and supper before the repairs had been affected. It was more like using superglue – the owner would have a great job when he came to redecorate – but the glue served its purpose and, in any case, by then they’d be gone.
But the detour had left them in such a state… Mick had tried to restore normality by taking care of Lissie’s final bedtime, suggesting that Cara started to pack. When they finished, tired, it was late and Cara, too, was ready to drop. Giving in, she resolved to finish tidying the lounge in the morning.
The next morning… another whirlwind. Cara’s appeals to Lissie seemed to fall on deaf ears, but finally, the place was tidy, the car packed, and her daughter was safely strapped in.
“I’ll just wait here, to sort things out with the owner”, she had volunteered, leaving Mick to start the car.
Taking one last glance around the now-immaculate house, Cara sat on the sofa and took one final scan of the pristine lounge. She breathed a deep breath, and for the first time, she realised how tired she felt. A small tear formed in the corner of her eye.
… to the parents of special children, everywhere.