“So one last time, what are the rules?”
“Water is not for messing about on, and always do what Mummy says.”
Edgar smiled and nodded at his two daughters, who beamed back at him, standing very proud and upright in their brand new lifejackets.
“Excellent. Ned, I didn’t hear you say anything just then. Come on, what are the rules?”
Ned rolled his eyes. “Water’s not for messing about on, and always do whatever Evvy says,” he recited mechanically. “Can we go now?”
“Don’t take that attitude with me, young man! Safety’s important – if you can’t take it seriously then…”
“Okay,” Evadne interrupted hurriedly, seeing her husband was on the verge of giving them all yet another lecture on the subject, “I think we all understand it’s important, Edgar. Shall we get on, or we’ll still be standing here when it gets dark,” and holding out her hand, she helped Thea and Marcia aboard the boat before climbing on herself. “Come on, Ned, get a shove on. Edgar, we’ll be back in about an hour, and then I’ll take you out, okay?”
Grunting an acknowledgement, Edgar untied the boat from the jetty, tossing the rope to Ned and using his foot to push the craft a small distance away. Evadne started the engine and they pulled out onto the open water, Thea sitting at the rear chatting to her stepmother, and Ned and Marcia up front, arguing over which of them got to hoist the jib. Thea looked back and gave her father a cheerful wave. Edgar returned it and then went to join his youngest son, who was fast asleep in his basket in the shade.
It was now their second day as boat owners, and today Evadne was giving them all their first lesson in how to sail. Once they were well away from the shore, she showed the three children how to hoist the mainsail, and her husband watched on as for the next hour she showed them basic tacking and jibing and let each of them have a turn themselves. When they finally returned to the jetty, all three had flushed cheeks and beaming smiles, and leaving Evvy to tie the boat up, they jumped off and ran over to their father, all talking at once.
“Daddy, did you see? I sailed all the way past Onkel Anton’s and turned it round, but it was a bit heavy and Mummy had to help…”
“…I tacked and everything, Daddy, and Mummy showed me how to jibe too, but I got it wrong…”
“…I went right down to the Di Giovanni’s, Dad, past their house to the park. Evvy said I was best by a mile…”
“…No she didn’t!” Marcia put in indignantly and Thea stopped, mouth open, and stared at her brother.
“Don’t tell fibs, Ned, she didn’t say that.”
“She did too – she said I was the best.”
“No, you said you were best and Mummy said that's only ‘cause you’re bigger than us so you can hold the ropes better, so there!” Marcia pointed out, sticking her tongue out at her brother. “Doesn’t make you the best, it just makes you older!”
Ned opened his mouth to retort but, seeing the makings of a full-scale row between his children, decided to intervene before his son could speak.
“Well I was watching you from here, and you all looked just as good as each other,” he put in quickly, as his wife finished tying up the boat and came across the grass to join them. “Isn’t that right, dear?”
Evadne raised her eyebrows questioningly. “Isn’t what right?”
“That they were all as good as each other out there.”
“I’d say so.” She grinned at each of them in turn. “Very impressive for a first go. We’ll make sailors off you all in no time! You ready then?” she added, turning to her husband.
Edgar nodded. “Right'o, you three, keep an eye on Henry please, and no arguing or it’s bread and water for dinner and then straight to bed! And can one of you go and feed Scrabble? It’s almost his food time.” Then as Thea ran off to do as he asked, he turned and followed his wife back down to the boat.
“Okay, hold it, hold it…and tack. Edgar, I said tack! Edgar! EDGAR!”
Letting go of the jib sheet, Evadne jumped to the back of the boat and flung out a hand, pulling the rudder hard towards her and causing her husband to yell and let go of the mainsail. The boat turned slowly, drifting and bobbing gently on the lake's small waves, the boom swaying to and fro.
Edgar glared at her indignantly. “What did you do that for?”
“I told you to tack!”
“I was going to!”
“When? You were about to hit someone!”
“No I wasn’t, I…” He fell silent as a small dinghy sailed passed them, dangerously close, the irate occupants haranguing them in French.
Evadne apologised profusely to the people in the other boat, and then turned back to her husband in despair. “Right, either you stop being an ass and pay attention to me, or we’re going back in now!”
“There’s no need to talk to me like I’m an idiot, I know what I’m doing!”
“No, you don’t! We’ve been out twenty minutes and that’s the second collision we’ve almost had, you’ve been hit by the boom twice and we nearly capsized a minute ago, all because you won’t listen! Maybe you should've paid more attention to the lectures you gave the kids - Marcia did better than this and she’s nine!”
“Well I’d have tacked sooner if you’d told me there was a boat there! And I’d be perfectly capable of doing this if you weren’t shouting at me every ten seconds – how am I supposed to concentrate with you nagging at me like an old mother hen!” he replied huffily.
Evadne stared at him, open-mouthed. “You arrogant pig!" she eventually cried, outraged at his cheek. "I’m not nagging you, I’m attempting to teach you, and you’re not even trying to concentrate! You think just because I’ve told you something once, you’re an expert.” Edgar glared back at her, unrepentant, and she reached out to grab the rudder. “I’ve had my fill of this for today, we’re heading back.”
“I can turn the boat around on my own, thank you,” he snapped, pulling the rudder away from her and causing the craft to sway dangerously.
Evadne sighed and gave him a withering look. “Edgar, stop being so stupid – you’re gonna have us over in a minute. Just let me take us in!” she pleaded, reaching for the rudder again.
Acting more like a petulant child than a thirty-eight-year-old adult, Edgar snatched the rudder back towards him again and in doing so, brought about his undoing. The boom swung around violently, before he had time to duck, and hit him square on the chin, catching him off-balance and tipping him into the water. Thankfully he kept hold of the main sheet so the boat didn’t drift away from him, for rather than rush to aide, his wife stared at him for a split-second and then collapsed in the bottom of the boat in fits of laughter.
Edgar spluttered, lifting his spare hand to wipe water out of his eyes, swam towards the boat and hauled himself up so that his head and chest were over the rear. “You could at least stop howling like a hyena and help me back in,” he exclaimed indignantly, as he caught sight of her.
Evadne sat up straight and tried to get a grip on herself, wiping tears of mirth from her eyes. “I’m…I’m sorry…oh that was too…”
She went off into peals of laughter again. Edgar finished hauling himself up the small steps that hung over the back of the boat, and then sat himself on the wooden seat, a large puddle of water rapidly forming at his feet. “I’m glad you think it’s so funny – I could have drowned!”
“Oh stop being such a baby!” she retorted, still giggling, as she pulled herself up so she faced him from the opposite side of the boat. “You’re wearing a life-vest – you’re hardly going to drown! Anyhow, it’s serves you right – it’ll teach you not to listen to me,” and leaving him to brood over his misfortune, she lowered the mainsail, started the engine, and steered them back to the jetty.
From their vantage point on the shore, the three children had seen the entire episode unfold, and greeted their parents with hoots of laughter as they docked the boat and came ashore.
“I can’t believe you fell out! How clumsy can you be?” Ned shouted at his father, causing his sisters to dissolve into giggles once more.
Edgar squelched his way towards them, an injured look on his face. “Why do my family find my misfortune so funny? It could have happened to any of you!”
“No it couldn’t,” Evadne put in with a grin, “they actually listened to what they were told! And to think you were worried about them having accidents!”
Edgar glared at her for a moment, and then deciding not to rise to the bait, he stalked off towards the house stating, “I’m going to have a bath!”, leaving the rest of them to pack the boat up without him.
With the boat was safely stowed back in the boat house for the night, Evadne took Henry up to the nursery to feed and bathe him, and once she had settled him in his cot, she made her way along the landing to the master bedroom, where she found her husband, bathed and changed, sitting on the edge of the bed pulling on a clean pair of socks.
He looked up as she entered the room. “I suppose you’ve come to rib me some more.”
“That depends." She grinned and walked over to sit next to him. "Do you admit that I was right and you were wrong?”
He shot to give an indignant glare. “Fine – you were right and I was wrong.”
“And do you agree that next time you get in the boat, you’ll listen to everything I tell you?”
“Next time I get in the boat, I’ll listen to everything you tell me.”
“And you’re sorry you acted like a complete ass?”
“I’m sorry I acted like a complete ass,” he muttered through gritted teeth.
Evadne's eyes twinkled with mischief. “And you admit that I’m always right, and you promise to do everything I ever tell you from now on and wait on me hand and foot?”
‘Now you’re pushing it!”
“Come on, you have to admit it and agree or I’ll never let you live down today."
“You’ll never let me live it down anyway!”
“Right you’ve asked for it!” and sitting up, he grabbed her, pinned her down on the bed and began to tickle her sides.
Evvy shrieked and tried to wriggle out of his grasp. “No…ow, Edgar…stop it…okay, okay I won’t make you admit it.” He relented and she lifted a hand to brush some hair out of her eyes. “You’re a big bully, Edgar Watson – they were unfair tactics.”
Edgar grinned down at her. “Unfair, maybe, but you have to admit they were effective!” Evadne laughed and rolled her eyes, and he stooped down to peck her on the lips. “I really am sorry though – I should have paid more attention to what you were telling me," he added, having the grace to look a little sheepish, "I really was a bit of an ass, wasn't I?”
“You can say that again!” she retorted, just as Thea’s voice rang out, calling her stepmother to the phone. Edgar sat up, letting her get to her feet, and she walked across to the door, before turning back to face him with a grin. “I forgive you this time, but do it again and I’ll push you overboard myself and leave you in the middle of the lake to swim home!” and she quickly ran out of the room to take her phone call, leaving him to splutter out his indignant response to thin air.