Domestic Harmony: The 6th and concluding part of the Jamie and Paul series
By Steve Graham
As followers of “The Vinyl Café” on CBC radio will have heard Stuart McLean has passed away. Stuart was a well-known writer, broadcaster and humorist. My condolences go out to Stuart’s family, friends and colleagues.
I started writing this series as a bit of a tribute, albeit a poor one, to Stuart’s popular Dave and Morley series of stories in his weekly broadcasts. Though not to everyone’s taste, the “The Vinyl Café” was if nothing else harmless and charming. Stuart, through his broadcasts, promoted Canadian music and Canadian musicians, which is no bad thing.
Weekend at the Lake
“You’re getting right sneaky in your old age, keeping this trip to yourself,” Jamie remarked to Paul as they made their way along the Queen Elizabeth Way to Niagara-On-The-Lake.
“Hey, not so much of the ‘old’, thank you,” countered Paul. “You know you’re hard to surprise, it’s not often that I can.”
“And it was especially sneaky arranging with Lisa to take my Friday and Monday yoga classes and keeping all of this a secret from me until the night before, I barely had time to pack, let alone consider the clothes I’ll need.”
‘Secret’, Paul thought – just wait ‘til she sees the ‘Secrets’ I’ve got stashed under the spare tire. He shrugged his shoulders, “I guess you can teach an old dog new tricks.”
“You know the qualifier to that don’t you?” Jamie asked.
Paul just shrugged again.
“As long as they’re easy tricks.”
I’m not going to take the bait, thought Paul, even though she’s just having fun. He just shrugged again, put on his innocent look and kept his eyes on the highway.
“I’m not so sure I like the way this is going, did everyone in the family know about this but me?” Jamie asked aggressively.
Paul wasn’t taken in by the challenge in her voice. He’d seen the smirk on Jamie’s face from the corner of his eye, and knew she was just teasing.
“It was incredibly kind of James and April to give us this extended weekend, I just thought we’d paint and do other odd jobs around the house on our four days off,” said Paul mildly.
“When I spoke to James last night to thank him, he told me it was April’s idea. I know you miss both of them, April almost as much as James,” replied Jamie, the mock aggressive tone gone from her voice.
“Yeah, it just seems too quiet around the house with them gone. I know we didn’t see that much of them when they were at university, but when they did get home for a visit the house just seemed to come alive.”
“Do you know you have a relationship with April that is different from the ones you have with our girls, James or me?”
“How so?” queried Paul. “I know we all took to April the first time we met her. She was friendly, warm and after the second or third time James brought her home, it seemed she’d always been part of the family. Do you mean it’s because she almost immediately seemed like our daughter-in-law?”
“You mean you never noticed how you and she tease each other? She says things to you, all in fun mind, that would put you in a huff if it came from anyone else. April says them and you just laugh and come back at her with something sillier.”
“I remember all of the kidding and horsing around when she would come home with James, but not how it was any different from the way I clown around with the rest of you,” replied Paul.
“Don’t you remember those old pants you used to wear around the garage, the ones with the oil stains and the paint on them? The girls and I wanted to throw them away for years. You’d get huffy when any of us would suggest it. Then April saw you wearing them and said they were only fit for cleaning paint brushes or checking the oil in the car. It was a big joke, and all weekend she made several not so subtle attempts at throwing them in the garbage. You and her had the most fun play-fighting about it. The rest of us just looked at each other knowing we’d never get away with what April was doing.”
“Oh, here’s our turn off,” said Paul.
Jamie smiled to herself, noticing how Paul avoided responding to that revelation, but she knew he’d turn it over in his mind and bring it up another time.
“Hey, there’s a yoga studio right next to the B and B,” exclaimed Jamie. “Why didn’t you tell me? I’d have brought my gear, you know I like to see what other studios offer.”
“I didn’t know,” replied Paul. “Besides, you’re all mine this weekend. No going to yoga or sneaking off shopping.”
“You did so know about it, I see that shifty look in your eyes.”
Gee, thought Paul, I’d better raise my game here or I’ll never get away with any of the surprises I’ve planned.
Paul pulled up in front of the B and B. “You go in and register, and I’ll get the luggage, here’s the confirmation,” he said, handing a slip of paper to Jamie as they got out of the car.
Jamie went ahead, and Paul put part one of his plan into action, stuffing the Victoria’s Secret bag hidden by the spare tire into the space he had conveniently left in his suitcase.
Once registered, they went to their room to unpack and get ready for a night out. Jamie had been surfing on her phone during the drive down, and had already picked out a restaurant for dinner and made a reservation. “Here, give me your suitcase and I’ll hang your clothes up,” she said to Paul knowing he had the typical male clumsiness when it came to clothes and hangers.
Oops…busted, thought Paul. Thinking quickly, he said, “I know it isn’t official for two more days but here, happy anniversary.” He rooted around in his suitcase all the while trying to keep Jamie from peeking in until he landed his prize, pulled it out and presented it to her. “Sorry, I didn’t have time to gift wrap it.”
Jamie looked at the brightly coloured bits of fabric he was holding, with a bewildered look on her face, and then it sunk in. “Yoga wear,” she exclaimed, then a knowing look crossed her face, “Lizzie or Heather picked these out for you.”
“Oh no,” said Paul with an offended tone, “I did it all myself, with a little help from a ‘Secret’ friend.”
Jamie looked at the labels in the garments. “Kayla, I’ll bet. Wait ‘til I get home and talk to her, this conspiracy just gets bigger all the time.” But Paul could tell from the look on Jamie’s face that she was immensely pleased.
“Try them on,” he said, “You’ll be changing before we go out anyway, I’ll hang up my own clothes for once.” And keep the other part of my cunning plan secret, he thought to himself.
Jamie emerged from the bathroom a minute later. “I really love them, the top and pants fit perfectly. I’ve always admired Kayla’s yoga wear. This will give her some competition for sharpest dressed yoga hottie. Thank you so much.”
“You’re very welcome, my dear. All those colours look like a paint store exploded, but they’re very fetching on you,” he replied, while handing Jamie yet another piece of paper. “Here’s the schedule for the studio next door, just pick a time and book yourself in.” He looked Jamie up and down. Kayla sure knows how to size people, he thought, but the true test will be the swimsuit.
“Wow, you’re full of surprises,” exclaimed Jamie. “I’ve always wanted some yoga wear like this instead of the cheapie-store stuff I always wear.”
“OK, now please go and change for dinner, I’m getting hungry.”
“Just like a man,” Jamie replied, “Your life is ruled by your stomach.”
Over dinner, Jamie said, “The B and B has a nice pool. We haven’t been swimming in years, let’s see if we can buy a couple of cheap swimsuits tomorrow.”
Oops, thought Paul, don’t look shifty-eyed and give the game away. “We have the Shaw play tomorrow, let’s do it the day after on our anniversary day.”
“Yes, you old romantic,” countered Jamie. “We met at the lake when we were kids.” She misread Paul’s relieved look. “You remember our first meeting on the swim raft, don’t you?”
Paul’s mind was scrambling but he managed to appear outwardly calm. “How could I forget? You were wearing that blue gingham bikini, that looked like a tablecloth for a picnic. That bikini and your long wavy hair made you look about fourteen.”
“You never told me that, I thought you were smiling at me because you were sweet on me. All along you thought I was just some little kid!?”
“It wasn’t ‘til I asked around later that I found out you were a mature woman, all of seventeen. It was then that I was sweet on you and asked you out the following Saturday.”
“Nice recovery buddy, but I still want to use the pool.”
Paul knew she wouldn’t let it go so he said, “Let me spoil you on the day, maybe we’ll slip over to Niagara Falls, there’s probably a store where we can pick up something cheap.”
“Oh, mister big spender,” Jamie teased.
“Hey, you’re the one that suggested cheap, and I was the one that blew my budget on the yoga wear – or have you forgotten already?”
“No, that was very nice. I’ve already booked yoga for tomorrow morning, and we’ve got a matinee at the Shaw Festival in the afternoon. But lookout, Giant Tiger, we’re on a mission for cheap swimwear the day after.”
Great, thought Paul, I’ll have tomorrow morning to implement the second part of my cunning plan.
The next day, after the Shaw and dinner out, Paul and Jamie were walking by the pool back at the B and B. “That pool looks so inviting,” Jamie remarked. “I wish I hadn’t let you talk me into waiting until tomorrow to get some swimsuits, I really fancy a dip tonight.”
“Tomorrow will be soon enough, we’ll go shopping right after breakfast.”
“OK, it’s either that or skinny dipping, buddy.”
“Yeah, yeah, talk’s cheap. Or is that the wine talking?”
Jamie gave Paul a slap on the butt, “Tomorrow mister, I won’t be put off any longer.”
Back at the room, while Jamie was brushing her teeth and getting ready to relax, Paul placed a nicely wrapped parcel on the bed. Jamie came out of the bathroom, looked at the gift and said, “Whoa, something more? Where did you get the money for all this?”
“In case you hadn’t noticed, I’ve given up my morning coffee at the Doughnut Den for the last six months.”
Jamie, not one to be shy about opening presents, ripped open the paper and held up the swimsuit. “Are you sure you didn’t buy this for our skinny-mini daughter Heather? There’s no way I’m going to look good in this over-sized hankie.”
“Before you freak-out, Kayla…” Jamie rolled her eyes, but Paul continued, “..assured me you’d look great in it. She nailed your size on the yoga wear didn’t she?”
“If you think I’m going down to the pool in this, you’re delusional.”
“Please, humour me, just try it on.”
Jamie was about to say something but the anxious look on Paul’s face stopped her. “Nice colour, it will suit my skin tone,” she managed to say as she retreated to the bathroom.
Paul heard the snap of taught spandex. “Don’t make any judgements in that harsh light in there, come out here.”
“Holy cow, this rides high on the hips and makes my legs look long,” he heard Jamie say, ‘And the front shows some cleavage. If I suck in my gut and throw my shoulders back, I think I can just about get away with this.”
“Would that be those yoga-toned legs I’ve noticed recently?”
“You sly o…, you sly dog, you’ve been checking me out.”
“Here,” he said, holding Heather’s summer shoes with the heel around the corner of the door frame, “I borrowed these from Skinny-Mini, she says you and her are the same size.”
“Heather’s in on this too?”
“Oh yeah, actually I showed her the suit when you were out at a late yoga class one evening earlier in the week. She grabbed it from me and tried it on herself. She wanted to know why I needed her shoes, and as you know I can’t keep anything from her. If you don’t want the swimsuit, she does – you know how just about everything looks good on her skinny frame.”
“So I’m getting a second hand swimsuit?”
“You know how ever since she was a kid, you couldn’t keep her away from your clothes. But she washed it so you could use it right away. She’s very mature for eighteen, except when presents and surprises are involved. Then she’s instantly an excitable eight-year-old again. She’s just bursting to find out whether you like it or not.”
“I wondered why she seemed hyper when we left, she must have been excited for me.”
Paul heard the clopping sound of the shoes, and Jamie emerged from the bathroom. He looked her up and down and said, “I don’t like it.” Jamie’s face dropped but Paul quickly added, “I love it. Except you look way too good for the likes of me. Some smooth talker will steal you away in no time.”
“You really love it?” Jamie asked.
Jamie turned sideways and sucked in her stomach in a little more.
“Your legs look as long as the supermodels’ in the posters at the front of the Victoria’s Secret store. You’re my lovely girl in the gingham bikini, but with a swimsuit upgrade.”
“Well that’s all very sweet but really, I can’t see myself strolling to the pool in this. I mean, who do I think I’m kidding?”
“You will wear it,” said Paul, “You look great, no kidding. But here, I don’t want you spoiling the effect by wrapping some big towel around it.” Paul held out another package he’d been hiding behind his back.
“Kayla again? How much did you spend?”
“With the sale and clearance prices I spent what I saved on coffee, that’s all you need to know.”
“I’m really going to have a word with Kayla, she’s got you wrapped around her little finger,” remarked Jamie as she ripped the package open.
“Leave my new friend alone.”
“A little wrap skirt to go with the suit, how sweet. The colour compliments it nicely too. Let’s go for a swim right now, it’s almost ten. If we’re quiet I don’t think anyone will mind. Oh wait, you don’t have a suit.”
“I thought of that one too. I stopped at Sport Depot last week and got myself a pair of board shorts.”
“No Speedo?” inquired Jamie with a grin.
Paul just gave her a flat look. “I’ll just get changed.”
“Very stylish, Paul,” Jamie remarked a few moments later.
“And almost as comfortable as my old garage pants, too. But all eyes will be on you, my lovely girl.”
‘I’m taking my phone with me so you can get a picture to send to Heather. She’s no doubt dying to know how this suit looks on me. Maybe I’ll stretch out on one of the loungers by the pool.”
On the way out of the room, Paul looked around, then gave Jamie a pat on her derriere.
Jamie whispered over her shoulder, “Watch yourself, my husband might see you.”
“That old fella doesn’t deserve a hot babe like you,” he whispered back.
“Oh, you smooth talker,” she replied.
As they approached the pool, an older couple they’d noticed at the B and B that morning were having a late swim as well. “I don’t know, Paul,” said Jamie through clenched teeth, “I’m not sure I can go through with this. A Baywatch-style bathing suit doesn’t seem like such a good idea all of a sudden.”
“Where’s that fearless girl I married? The one that would take on anybody or take up any just cause?”
“Yeah, well, I didn’t have to do it in a skimpy swimsuit.”
Paul and Jamie left their towels on a lounger. Jamie kicked off Heather’s shoes, removed her cover up, eased into the water and started to slowly swim the length of the pool. Paul just floated lazily on his back. Jamie and the other lady in the pool crossed paths a few minutes later.
“I really like your swimsuit,” the lady said to Jamie, “It looks like it was made for you.”
“Thanks,” Jamie replied, “My husband just gave it to me for our anniversary.”
“Well, he really knows how to shop, he must have lots of practice.”
Jamie laughed out loud, “This is about the first time ever. He had help from a woman in my yoga class who works at Victoria’s Secret.”
“They did very well. I won’t interrupt your swim any more, you’re here to relax.”
“Thanks,” said Jamie, “We’re here for another couple of days. Maybe we’ll see you around and get a chance to talk.”
Jamie heard Paul laughing from the other end of the pool and noticed he was talking to the lady’s husband.
After the swim and a quick shower, Jamie and Paul were lounging about their room.
“All I want to do tomorrow is hang around the pool, I’d forgotten how much I enjoy swimming.”
“Fine with me,” replied Paul. “A day of just relaxing with nothing to do is just what we need. But don’t you want to go out and get a new swimsuit?”
“Not a chance now, unless it’s to the closest Victoria’s Secret.”
“I don’t know about you, but my wallet is running on empty.”
“Mine too,” replied Jamie, “I was just kidding. I don’t know how we’d top this suit anyway. Oh, and by the way, what were you and that older gentleman with the Einstein hair laughing about when we were in the pool? I noticed you two seemed to hit it off.”
“He just asked if you were my wife, or a swimwear model I’d come away with for the weekend. I said both, and he said, ‘lucky chap’. We both laughed and he shook my hand and congratulated me on my good fortune.”
“Shameless flatterer,” replied Jamie.
“It’s the only thing I do well.”
“His wife said how nice my swimsuit looked too. I guess you and Kayla hit it out of the park.”
“When you have a talent, it’s a shame to hide it.”
“You’re becoming quite smug in your,” Jamie paused, “In early middle-age.”
“Actually, it’s hard not to be smug when you’re as good as me,” bragged Paul.
“Well smarty pants, maybe you’re not the only one.” Jamie reached into her purse and pulled out a small box that looked like it would contain a ring from a jewelry store.
“Are you proposing to me this time?” Paul asked.
“Just open it.”
Paul opened the box and his eye’s widened. “An Ortofon 2M Silver!” he exclaimed. “But how’d you manage this? Where? When?”
“You’re not the only one that can sneak a little money aside and make new friends.”
“I was hoping to have a bit left over after shopping for you, but Kayla intervened and well, you know the rest,” countered Paul.
“Tomorrow I’ll tell you a long story about Anna Ortofon, but for now let’s go to bed.”
I hope the audiophiles in our little corner of the universe have had a chuckle or two at my attempt to make fun of us. Hopefully you’ve passed it on to your families so they can see the lighter side of our harmless audio passions and have a chuckle at our expense as well. The young woman that the character of Kayla is based on has found this series laugh-out-loud funny, even though to my knowledge neither she nor her spouse are audiophiles. And yes, she does look (to my old eyes) pretty darn close to a supermodel, and she is a lovely person and mother of two small children.
Though this a work of fiction, some of the inspiration for the story has been provided by situations and incidents involving real people. I hope that friends, family and acquaintances seeing something familiar, find themselves portrayed in the positive light I’ve intended. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
Lastly, sincere thanks to my long suffering editor Noam for liking the first installment of this story and taking a chance on the rest. It’s been fun writing this series but I’m hanging up my fiction hat. It’s back to only writing about things stereophonic. -Steve