The Weekend Away - Sarah Alderson
There’s no disguising the absolute terror on Rob’s face.
‘Will you be OK?’ I ask anxiously.
‘Yeah, totally,’ Rob says. ‘We’ll be fine. Go and enjoy yourself.’
Marlow frets in his arms, reaching out her pudgy hands towards me and I have a sudden urge to change my plans. I’m not sure Rob’s got this, despite his protestations that I should go and enjoy myself. It’s the first time I’ve left him with the baby all by himself, and while a weekend in Lisbon with my best friend seemed like a good idea at the time, now I’m regretting it.
But it’s too late to back out now. Kate’s already texted me that she’s on the way to the airport.
Marlow lets out a hiccup and I reach for her, letting her sticky hands grab for my hair. ‘Make sure you remember to feed her,’ I say to Rob. ‘And put her down at the right time.’
‘I think I can manage,’ Rob says.
I kiss Marlow, squeezing her gorgeous bao bun cheeks, and then peck Rob on the lips.
‘Don’t worry,’ Rob says, seeing that I blatantly am.
I nod and pick up my suitcase. He’s right. It’s only a weekend away. A few days, that’s all. It’s not going to kill me.
I might even have some fun.
‘Bloody hell, Kate, this is gorgeous,’ I say, abandoning my suitcase by the front door and taking a few flabbergasted steps inside the apartment, drawn like a newly hatched moth to the flaming view ahead of me. The sun spills through huge French windows. I take in the jumble of pastel-coloured buildings and, through the gaps in the roofs, a sparkle of blue not too far in the distance. It must be the river, which I think is called the Tagus. Whatever it’s called, it’s way more inviting-looking than the mud-coloured Thames.
Kate joins me over by the windows, which are floor to ceiling and run the length of the living room. She squeezes my shoulder then turns to me, grinning. ‘Not bad.’ She laughs before turning around and making a beeline towards the suitcases. ‘Right, where’s that duty-free bag? Let’s get this party started.’
As Kate locates the bottle of Dom Pérignon she bought at the airport, I find the latch on the window and slide it open, stumbling outside onto the balcony. A thrill of excitement courses through me like an electric current. It takes me a moment to realise the buzz I’m feeling isn’t a result of the coffee I had on the plane, but the illicit thrill of freedom. I feel like a prisoner who’s tunnelled out of jail, poked her head above ground and realised she’s successfully pulled off her escape. I’m giddily triumphant.
As soon as I recognise the feeling for what it is though, I experience a twinge of anxiety that cancels it out completely. How is Marlow doing? Will Rob have remembered to put her down to sleep at the right time? Fifteen minutes late and she’s a monster the entire next day. Will he hear her in the night if she wakes? He sleeps like the dead normally. And what if he doesn’t change her nappy and she gets a rash? Oh God, what if he gives her grapes that haven’t been cut in half and she chokes to death?
My hand twitches, automatically reaching for my phone, before I remember it’s in my handbag, which I dumped somewhere by the front door. I resist the urge to find it and text him. I don’t want to be that kind of a mother or wife. Rob’s fine with Marlow. He’s a hands-on dad and has looked after her before on his own. But he did seem nervous about having to take care of her for the whole weekend by himself. No, I tell myself forcefully, I need to shake it off and enjoy myself. No point worrying.
I close my eyes and take a deep breath, inhaling the scent of a new city, and enjoying the balmy warm air against my skin. The lovely electric buzz of excitement returns again. For three entire days I have no one to worry about but myself. I can eat what I want, drink what I want, lie in as long as I want and basically go back to living the way I lived before I had a baby, when I totally underestimated how glorious it is to be able to pee in peace or how lovely it is to wear clothes that aren’t stained with baby vomit.
I turn around to