“Do you think we need waterproofs?” Laura shouted from the hotel’s tiny bathroom. Her designer rucksack was almost full. If she needed to pack a raincoat, something else would have to come out, and it wouldn’t be her tissues, her tampons, her make-up bag, hairbrush, hat, gloves, scarf or spare shopping bag.
In fact, it would be nothing of hers. Dave could carry them. He was the one who wanted to come to this damn country. He didn’t mention you needed to take out a mortgage to buy a bottle of wine, or pack blackout blinds for the windows in the hotel if you wanted any chance of getting to sleep in Iceland. Haven’t they heard of nightfall here? How do these people survive?
“The forecast is cloudy, possible light showers later this evening. You’ll be fine in your Barbour jacket and jeans. Remember we’ll be on the boat nearly all day, so you might want to wear trainers instead of your stiletto-heeled boots,” Dave replied, hoping beyond hope that Laura might enjoy the trip. Just a little bit.
After one last glance in the mirror to check her lipstick, Laura joined her boyfriend of just-three-weeks in the bedroom where he was meticulously cleaning the lens of his camera. In all honesty, ‘boyfriend’ was too intense a label. Theirs was a mismatch made in Northumberland. On a harbour wall at Seahouses to be precise. Laura’s stomach had contained a bottle and a half of Prosecco. Dave had asked her if she wanted a lift in his “La…” She’d completed his sentence with the word Lamborghini. Yes!
But he actually said, “Landrover” and it was the oldest, most clapped-out heap of junk she had ever been in. But, hey, he took her home and the sex in bed was quite nice.
“Right!” exclaimed the captain of Whale You Wait. “Welcome onboard everyone. Please pay attention to the safety video. The crew are on hand with any questions. Now let’s go and find us some whales.”
Unfortunately, the rays of sunshine emanating from the beaming smiles of the crew onboard Whale You Wait did not extend into the Icelandic heavens above it. Misty rain drizzled across the Reykjavik harbour, and slate-grey, rain-filled clouds loomed perilously in the sky, threatening to drop their load at any moment. Laura checked she had squeezed her umbrella into the rucksack.
“Here’s a good spot.” Dave pulled a contraption from his bag, which would morph into a tripod any minute now… “I have to get this set up at the right height,” he mumbled, head at 90 degrees, eyes on sticks trying to locate some pin or other.
Once the three-legs were steady on the deck, his fingers cradled the brand new camera which was about to be pinned into the contraption any minute now… And after even more minutes, a precious lens was eased from its little pouch.
By this time, Laura was bloody freezing.
“At last,” Laura said through gritted teeth, her silk Gucci scarf pulled up to her chin to do absolutely nothing against the strengthening wind.
She was referring to the fact that the boat had indeed set sail, evidenced by her gentle rising and falling.
“Great,” Dave said, standing back to admire his set up. “Do you want to go and grab us a coffee?”
Armed with hot drinks and topped with a Brunello Cucinelli cashmere beanie hat, Laura strode along the viewing deck. The passenger viewing seats were anchored down, and confident of not being hurled overboard, she planted her bum firmly on cold blue plastic.
“Cheers.” Dave sipped his coffee. “We’ll soon be in Faxafloi bay. Fingers crossed, we get to see some humpbacks, killer whales, and maybe even a mighty sperm whale.”
“Can’t wait,” Laura mumbled with a shiver.
Slowly, the coloured houses of Reykjavik grew smaller and smaller before disappearing completely. Now there was only blue-black sea, a couple of other vessels on the horizon, and the odd seabird flapping for dear life to stay on course. The wind was picking up.
“Grab one of the blankets from the storage box,” Dave said, pointing to a large container to the side. “You can get all snug and I’ll give you a shout as soon as there’s something to see.”
It was going to be a long day, thought Laura, regretting she hadn’t brought her Vogue magazine although the wind would probably have blown it away.
“Quick, there’s a couple of puffins just off the starboard.”
From beneath her blanket, Laura glanced all around and yelled, “Where?”
“On the right. Look. You can see them dive-bombing into the sea.”
Several small black and white birds with their orange beaks and feet were bobbing about amongst the waves. They looked cute and comical, and Laura had to admit it was fun watching them, with their jazzy colour scheme. Pulling the blanket tightly around her Barbour jacket, she continued to admire their show until wings flapped and little legs ran frantically atop of the sea, and those delightful birds flew away.
Well, another few minutes gone. Now there was only more open sea to view. Her phone was in her bag. What were the chances of getting a signal?
It may have been weak but it was enough to scour Instagram. The beauty magazine she worked for had uploaded some shots of sparkly nails and diamanté necklaces. Her friend, Abigail, was eating a chocolate sundae drizzled in caramel sauce, and Mel was sucking gin through a straw. No doubt neat, Laura thought with envy, and freezing feet. Still, another quarter of an hour was gone forever.
Dave bent down to pick up his… Actually, Laura didn’t know nor care what he had dropped, but it was slightly worrying to see it roll and roll and roll to…was that starboard?
Glancing over the side of the boat, Laura could see that the blue-black colour of the sea had become pebble-dashed with white, a frothy foam appearing on top of the breaking waves.
“It’s white horses time,” Dave informed her.
Getting below deck was what time it was for Laura. The boat had begun to rise a lot higher and sink a lot lower, and even with her sensible converse trainers on, she wasn’t sure she could walk in a straight line. Where had they said the life jackets were stowed?
But there are some forces of nature which can force you to just get a move on and stop faffing about. For Laura, that was rain. Plop. Plop. And it was too windy for her umbrella. She had a £400 cashmere hat on her head, and there was no way she was going to let it get wet.
“But you’ll miss seeing the whales if you go below deck now.”
“Sorry, I’ll miss my hat more if it gets ruined.”
With that, she was a gone girl.
She was also a slightly happier girl. In the lower deck, it was warm with lots of comfy seating and large round windows, and she had the space to herself. The movements of the ship were less noticeable here, and Laura settled on a well-padded blue bench and stared into the watery abyss. And that’s when she saw it.
Right before her eyes, a sleek black and white orca glided past her window. Oh wow!
It was incredible. The giant killer whale began to ascend like a prima donna ballerina pirouetting up to the surface. Then a second appeared, and a third. Within seconds, Laura was witnessing her own private viewing of a graceful underwater performance by the Icelandic Orca troupe. The experience was mesmerising, and for once in her life, Laura appreciated the beauty of nature that her planet had to offer.
“So it wasn’t too boring for you?” Dave asked, feet firmly planted on terra firma beneath his cane chair in the romantic Solon Bistro.
“Surprisingly not at all.” Laura took another small sip of her cocktail. At these prices, even she was willing to make it last as long as possible. “Hang on. I’ve lost them.”
Dave took the camera and pressed a button to bring the images of his day’s photoshoot onboard Whale You Wait back to the viewing screen. It was great to see Laura’s eyes widen at his work.
“It’s a shame you didn’t see the humpbacks.”
“I know. But I will never forget the underwater display of those beautiful orcas dancing with such grace and power.” Laura fell silent as she continued to enjoy the photographs. “You’ve got some great shots here. I didn’t realise you were such a good photographer.”
Dave laughed. “It’s just a hobby. I’ll get some printed for you if you like.” Who was he kidding? He liked Laura, but they were chalk and cheese. Her world of make-up, clothes and jewellery was a long way from his arboretum, where his trees were more important to him than his appearance. It was doubtful she would want to see him again when they got back, let alone hang around long enough for him to give her the photographs. It was a shame really because he had already decided on the developing process he was going to use.
Laura sensed Dave was hesitant and sought to reassure him. “That would be lovely.”
This weekend break had turned out to be a memorable one, in a good way. And Laura’s feelings towards her companion were getting stronger. In fact, during the boat trip back to the harbour, she had managed to book something for tomorrow before their flight home.
Well, the power station certainly is the only blot on the landscape, thought Dave as he turned his gaze away from the concrete and smoke in the distance and scanned the shoreline.
Laura was standing at the edge of the Blue Lagoon, smearing white gunge over the parts of her body her skimpy swimsuit didn’t reach. It was like something out of a Carry on Screaming film, but she was smiling and still managed to look as sexy as hell. “The mixture of silica and minerals makes a great exfoliator,” she had yelled, and Dave couldn’t wait to get all slippy with her later.
Turning his gaze up to a clear blue sky, he floated on the dense, geothermically heated seawater, rich in minerals, and reminisced about the erotic sex in their hotel room last night. To him, that was a great way to end their getaway, but Laura had gone one better. Morning sex followed by a surprise treat.
Her idea to come and bathe in this wonderful pool in the middle of a lava field had turned out to be a great one. As probably the most popular tourist attraction in Iceland, Dave would have given it a miss, not being one to join the hoards. But he was glad he was here.
And as Laura came to float beside him, reaching out for his hand, he had an inkling it wasn’t all over between them. Two worlds can come together as one.