Waiting for the tide
"What's Kate doing sitting at the end of the quay, Jack?" Jill asked.
"Yes, Kathleen Butcher, works in logistics."
"I don't think I know her, Jill, but she's been sitting there since I arrived at six this morning and I've been trying to keep an eye on her without making it obvious in case she was waiting for the tide to come up a bit more before she threw herself in."
"I heard she had marital problems," Debra commented.
"That could be. She's been crying because I've seen her use a tissue several times but she hasn't looked around, just stared at the water, which is why I thought she might be contemplating jumping. I didn't want to interfere though, at least not until something happened."
Jack Longman, the 38 year old C.E.O. of Longman's Hardware Supplies, took over the leadership of the company two years previously after his father, Ralph Longman, the owner, had a stroke which left him paralysed down his right side and while his mind remained sharp, physically he could do little and needed a quad-stick to walk short distances and an electric wheelchair for moving around his house and when he came to visit the works.
Jack employed Jill Cakesmith as his personal secretary, partly because of her efficiency but primarily because her bubbly personality raised his spirits when life at the top began to overwhelm him. Her down-to-earth humour matched her dumpy figure, crowned by dyed copper-red hair and her full breasts that she exposed as much as could still be considered decent. Her friend and living companion, Debra Cauton, tall, dark haired, slim and fit, worked as chief supervisor in the accounts department, had a more serious disposition without being prudish. All three joined Longman's at about the same time fifteen years previously and had been on day, weekend and longer sailing trips together since they joined the firm, indeed, it was the sailing that brought the two girls in contact with each other and led to their lesbian relationship.
When Jack finished college, his father told him, "One day you'll inherit this firm and you'll need to know how all the departments are run, so I'm starting you on the bottom rung of the ladder, same as any young lad who aspires to be a manager, and for a while, you'll be an office boy but gradually I'll move you around to experience each department." Three weeks later, in the staff tearoom, Jack mentioned he had a small sailing boat and the boy who sailed with him during his time at college had moved away and asked if anyone would like to go with him at the weekend. Jill and Debra, not knowing each other at the time, jumped at the chance, not just for the sailing, but they each fancied the handsome boy. Jack quickly made it clear that he wasn't looking for any long-term relationship and when the two girls found a flat, it wasn't long before they shared not only the accommodation, but their beds too. They enjoyed the sailing and became an efficient crew without becoming involved with Jack on a more personal level, and, as he upgraded to bigger and better yachts, they stayed with him. This week the boatyard workmen, brought the 'Andromeda' alongside the quay, scrubbed the weed from her bottom and applied a coat of antifouling paint and now Jack and his crew waited for the tide to float her again.
As the years went by, Jack had a few short-term affairs, always with women outside of the firm, and several times came close to getting engaged, but always it seemed that his prospective partners were more interested in his money than him. With Jill and Debra, he had no such worries but had a close platonic rapport.
"Why don't you have a word with her Jill? It will be another two hours at least before the tide floats the boat. Invite her to breakfast with us at the café if you think it will help."
Twenty minutes elapsed before Jill returned with Kate at her side. "Jack, would you take on another crew member for this trip?"
"I'm sorry, Sir, I didn't want to trouble you but Miss Cakesmith said..."
"We're all on first name terms whilst on the 'Andromeda', I'm Jack or Skip, and if Jill suggested you come along with us, that's good enough for me. I'm sure she had a good reason to ask. Did she explain the living conditions?" Kate nodded. "Have you any clothes that are more suitable for sailing?"
"I was going to ask Deb if she had anything suitable that she would loan her, they're fairly similar in size and Kate expected to fly to Majorca but the volcanic ash cloud cancelled the flight. Other reasons too but I'll let her explain when she's ready," Jill interjected.
That evening, after an exhilarating sail in a fresh breeze and now moored in Bursewell Harbour having eaten an excellent meal in the Royal Bursewell Yacht Club, they sat peacefully in the cockpit with a glass of wine, watching the sun go down, when Kate suddenly burst into tears. "I'm sorry, I'm sorry," she wept, "You've all been so kind and I've rarely had such an enjoyable day but..."
"But you're worried about the future and what is happening at home," Jill interrupted, "Why don't you tell us all and get it off your chest and maybe we can help a bit there too. You only told me a little of why you were on the quay this morning."
Slowly and with more tears, the story came out. "I knew Kevin, my husband cheated on me in the past," she began when she'd calmed down, "But after our last row over it, either he's been more discrete or I've been too trusting, but I hadn't realised he still had other women on the side and one in particular, his boss at work. I didn't know then of his illicit liaison with her and thought a holiday together might pep-up our life together. When walking in town one morning, I noticed the travel agents had an offer on a week in Majorca, I thought that might prove ideal and, as I had some holiday time in hand, I took the details of the package. Kevin pleaded he couldn't get the extra time off but insisted I went but I now know that he had plans of his own. At the airport they said the volcanic ash cloud from the Eyjafjallojokull eruption had again moved over Britain and flights were cancelled and the tour operator apologised but said I'd get a refund and when the taxi dropped me home I saw a strange car parked in front of our flat. Being a bit suspicious, I quietly let myself in only to find his boss and him naked and having sex on our bed. Instead of being apologetic, he turned on me and yelled, "Get the hell out of here and don't come back until Monday night. Find yourself somewhere else to live, I've had enough of your prudish ways and Pauline and I plan to be together for the bank holiday weekend, perhaps longer." Not knowing what else to do, I took my case to the station and put it in a locker there and walked the town for a while and then spent most of the night in a shelter on the waterfront trying to decide what to do. One of the choices I debated was, as you thought, to drown myself, but I doubted I'd have the courage to do that and once in the water, I've no doubt I would have tried to swim to the shore. Debra picked my case up this morning and I left it in her room because the clothes I'd packed for a holiday in the sun were not suitable for sailing. So it seems that I'm homeless and heading for a divorce." Tears flowed down her face again as she thanked them for a wonderful day and for trying to help but she intended to make her own way when they returned.
"What about your money?" Debra asked, her accountancy training coming to the fore, "Can he take your savings?"
"No, I thought about that and I had my laptop with me because I planned to use it on the flight, and found a WiFi hotspot in town and transferred half of our joint account money to my personal account and changed the passwords in case he knew them. I still won't have much behind me but I should be able to find a place to live."
The girls pledged their help and Jill looked directly at Jack but he didn't comment. He had more than enough space in his house for two people to live separate lives and yet he was reluctant to break his rule of not getting involved with anyone working for him, even if they didn't, he'd need to check them out for a considerable time to make sure they weren't gold diggers.
Jack observed her throughout the day and had, inwardly at least, to admit he liked what he saw and, although knowing little about sailing, was willing to learn and mucked in with the chores and didn't complain when the conditions in the open sea became rough. She didn't appear a gold-digger either, indeed, she'd almost insisted on paying for her breakfast at the café until Jill exclaimed, "Hey Kate, don't spoil it for us, meals are the only perks we get for being his unpaid crew." For her part, Kate worried over her future divorce and had no thoughts of having another man in her life.
Jill and Jack made it clear at the outset that Kate would share Jack's cabin but not his bed while the two girls had the double berth in the forecastle. "There's only a thin door between the two cabins so if you have problems, Kate, just yell, but I'm sure you won't," Jill laughed as she made her way to the tiny toilet and washroom.