Richard Cuthburtson put down his book and stared into the distance. The ship coming over the horizon first showing up as a dot had now morphed into a recognizable cruise ship. He’d been fascinated since arriving in this rental park with the frequency of shipping traversing the coastline. Most times they were trading vessels including container ships plying the waters from foreign ports to the capital one hundred miles from his viewing platform. His eyes focused on the mid-point between him and the horizon where sail boats dashed back and forth taking advantage of constant coastal breezes.
Richard had purchased a recreation vehicle with all the trimmings when his wife died. He’d been one of the corporate giants in his time and well beyond retirement age when he learned his wife Sally only had an expected two years more to live with inoperable cancer. He immediately retired much to the distress of the corporation where he was the major innovative contributor and devoted full time to the care of his wife. They took cruises until Sally could no longer handle the travel and for the rest of the time he was by her side. Sal was everything to Richard and she’d been top of the game in her own company until the diagnosis of cancer.
So, between both they’d accumulated a vast fortune and had agreed to divide the bulk of it between their three children on retirement. That left them with a sizable chunk of wealth to enjoy life on for the rest of their years.
Then the inevitable day came when the family said goodbye to Sal by her graveside. Richard could not be consoled. Living in their big mansion afterward was more than he could handle so a family conference was called, and Richard laid out his plans to buy a recreation vehicle and travel the country staying briefly at scenic spots and luxuriating in beauty and the tranquillity of his memories.
He remembered with mild irritation that family conference and the dispute over the parental mansion. Finally, it was agreed the eldest son Eric would purchase the property at agreed market value paying money into his father’s bank account. That way the siblings sought equity among them when the old man passed on. Richard spent a month with each of his children in turn to enjoy grandchildren and then took to the road in his newly acquired recreation vehicle. His mobile home was luxurious and had all the comforts one would need and the whole country was his yard to enjoy.
Now he was here on this beautiful coastline and he had no desire to move on. The sub-tropical climate he found to be restful and the site provided electricity water and sewerage facilities with marvellous TV and cable connections and ample coverage for Wi-Fi and phone requirements. It was better than any other camping site he’d encountered since leaving home and while he’d missed the comforts of his old home on the way he was now more than content with his lot. He was able to enjoy daily video chats with his children and grandchildren and with the tent appendage to his recreation vehicle where he now sat, he had the best living room with an amazing view over ocean from the hill where his site had been rented. It was within easy walking distance to shopping centres and restaurants and when he felt like it, he could take his motorcycle up into the rainforest hills in the distance.
At first Richard had busied himself tracking stock market reports as a carry over from his corporate days but that interest had waned in favour of reading and enjoying the spectacular surrounds and catching up with family online in the evening. He’d also attended professional sessions at the nearby university where he kept in touch with what was happening in the professional world for a while but now favoured an early night now that he was beginning to accommodate to the loss of his beloved wife.
And it was on this afternoon as he saw the cruise ship approach, he noticed something unusual. Usually, these ships came close enough to shore in the deep channel so their gigantic size could be appreciated then they’d turn again and follow the deep channel back far from shore to recede into the distance and cross the horizon. But this time the giant ship slowed and rested in the channel.
Richard got up and stretched, then moved into the RV to collect binoculars. He focused in and scanned the ship with interest. After an hour transport headed out to the ship and began to take on passengers. Then in relays this was repeated as wave after wave headed for shore. Richard had not seen tourists unload from any other vessel since his arrival here, so he was curious. He locked his RV and walked into town to make inquiries from some of the businesspeople he’d befriended since arriving here weeks ago. Apparently, this was the first time they’d tried this tourist drop. Usually, tourists were unloaded at the capital city port facilities and people bussed to tourist attractions in this area. Those who were not taking tours from the ship began to congregate in the many street restaurants and Richard shared his cruise experiences with passengers as they waited in line to be seated at tables looking back toward their cruise liner.
As he wandered among the tourists he stopped in surprise and considered if his eyes were deceiving him. Now convinced he moved rapidly as the small knot of people settled on a table.
“Alice what are you doing here is Harry with you? I presume you’re with this cruise.
“Richard? I didn’t know you were on the cruise and no, Harry is not with me. Harry died a year ago and I’m on the cruise because our children thought it would be good to get away for a while.”
“I’m so sorry to hear that Alice. I didn’t know! I remember the last cruise we all went on together before you and Harry left for England on company business. Our families had many happy cruises together before you guys left for abroad.”
“Is Sue here Richard, I can hardly wait to see her.”
“Unfortunately, Sue died Alice. I retired to look after her until she succumbed to cancer. I’ve been on the road in a recreation vehicle since and just happened to pause here and am trying to work up motivation to move on and see the rest of the country but kind of like it here.”
Alice mumbled her sympathies, then turned to the group she was travelling with and introduced Richard. “Why don’t you join us for the meal Richard?”
Richard stayed and enjoyed fellowship swapping stories of previous cruises with his new friends. After they’d eaten the group made a move to check out the upmarket shops in town. Alice paused. “Richard, we don’t go back to the ship until evening when tour groups come back from their respective tours. In that you’re familiar with the area do you want to show me around?”
“Do you want to walk around the shops or ride a motorbike with me into the hinterland. It’s beautiful up there.”
Alice frowned. “Never been on a motorcycle before Richard, is it far?”
“Probably a two hour round trip.”
“I think I’ll have to give that a pass then as I’m nervous about missing the trip back to the boat. Too bad as it would have been nice to try something new.”
OK I’ll do the shop crawl with you and then show you my home in the RV before you go back. I really miss those cruises you and Harry and Sue and I used to do together Alice.”
“Yes, those were the best years. We missed you when we went to England. It was a different world we never really fitted into even though England is beautiful. Let’s just go to your RV and talk about those good years. I’m sorry Sue is not with you anymore. It’s horrible losing your life partner isn’t it?”
Alice whistled as they approached the camp site. “Not as impressive as your mansion Richard but it surely dwarfs those in the rented sites around you.”
“I sold the mansion Alice. My son owns it now and I wasn’t sad to see it go as it represented a life I didn’t have any more. Where are you living now that Harry has passed on and are you still running your own business?
“No, I sold that when Harry died and live in a granny flat behind my eldest daughter’s home. They have all the facilities we used to have at our old house which I share.”
Both sat in Richard’s canvass living room attached to the RV and sat in silence looking out over the ocean. Richard saw Alice straining to try and see who the tiny distant figures were among those remaining on the liner and went inside to fetch binoculars again. Alice followed him in out of curiosity and gasped in surprise.
“This is really fancy Richard there’s even extra beds for when family visits. It’s comfortable, and really all you need at this stage of life.”
“Well, when you get tired of your granny flat and want a vacation you can join me Alice and I’ll even sacrifice my room for you and sleep out here in the bunk section.” Both laughed.
Out in the lounge area Alice took the binoculars and checked out liner decks in the distance shouting joyfully whenever she identified someone she knew on the cruise while Richard chuckled contentedly having a visit from a friend he and Sue had been so close to during their working years. While she had been inspecting the liner, she’d also been reviewing their history together. Richard and Sue were just like family and it was so good each in their loss still had those memories together. She turned to Richard.
If I were not on that cruise, I’d take you up on your offer Richard. This is a beautiful place you’ve chosen as your new home and I don’t know why you think there is any better place to settle down in. Touring is fun for a while but at my age I just want to settle down in one place and enjoy the rest of my life. I’d love it here with someone to share it with.”
Richard suddenly realized how lonely he’d been even in this beautiful place. Thoughts of Sue were with him constantly, but it was not the same as her physical presence. He realized it must have been just as hard for Alice having lost her partner for life Harry.
“Alice, I do love it here, but I find it a very lonely life. If after you’ve finished your cruise you ever want to have a vacation, you’d always be welcome here and we could share the good times we’ve had you and Harry and Sue and I. Of course, you would have the main bedroom and I’d be very happy to use one of the bunks just for the pleasure of your company.”
Alice smiled. “Richard we will always miss our partners for life but maybe we could find some joy together in our old age too as you suggested. Let me think about that.” She took out her calling card and gave it to him.
“We could start by re-establishing contact so here’s my card and if you have an interest call me sometime.” She looked at her watch.
“I need to be getting back to the wharf to join boats returning us to the liner. It’s been so great to spend time with you Richard. It has made me happy. Do you want to wave me off at the wharf?”
Richard nodded and shut the RV after pocketing Alice’s calling card. “I’ve had such a good time with you Alice and it has lifted my spirits considerably. Would phoning you once a day be too much?” He handed her his card in return.
“That would be a good start Richard, come and wave me off at the wharf.”
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