Nick and Amy have been married for seventeen years and a seventeen-year anniversary is a big deal because marriage is hard and a fifty percent divorce rate and all. Nick and Amy live in the middle of the United States, in a place like Iowa or Ohio or some other smallish, flat state with too many vowels, growing corn soybeans, basically indistinguishable from any of the other states around it and uninteresting to anyone that didn’t grow up there. Their three children are finally old enough they don’t worry too much about leaving them with Grammy for a week and flying off somewhere exotic with no cell service. For this reason, plus a deal on airline tickets if they left the very next week, they decide Mexico is the best location to celebrate this momentous occasion.
“Happy anniversary, Baby! I booked us seven days in Mexico!” Nick says to Amy, planting a whiskery kiss on her mouth, simultaneously grabbing her butt with one hand while gesturing dramatically at the laptop in Vanna White fashion with the other.
She laughs and swats his hand away, but honestly, she is dying to get away with her husband. To be more specifically honest, she is dying to get away from making dinner and driving carpool and monitoring screen time and homework. She’s also dying to go somewhere warm in the middle of this coldest winter on record, dying to come back with a tan that will make the women in her Pilates class properly jealous, and dying to sleep. My god, the sleep, she thinks and blinks back tears of joy. The thought of crawling into a fresh bed with crisp white sheets every single night and not getting up until her eyeballs open on their own is almost more appealing to Amy than drunken vacation sex.
She sighs as she looks down at the computer screen Nick has open, plastered with snapshots of the ocean and sand, girls in tiny bikinis and men in even tinier speedos, and she must admit that a week away with her husband who she hasn’t spent much time alone with since their honeymoon sounds glorious.
“Honey, we’re leaving next Tuesday, but you have that big presentation at work the same day,” Amy reminds Nick with a skeptical frown. “Is that going to be a problem?”
“Nah, I have plenty of time to finish the presentation for my team and they know I won’t be there,” Nick waves away her concern and pulls her down onto his lap so he can nuzzle her neck.
Leaning over him, she flicks the screen and scrolls down to see the pictures of the suite they just booked. They can expect an outdoor shower and a hammock in a lush, private garden and the drinks are all included. Amy turns so she’s face-to-face with the man she’s known since she was twenty and smiles coyly.
“Ok, if you say you’ll be done with your presentation, I believe you.” She wraps her arms around his neck and plants a kiss on his mouth. She looks deep into his eyes before she pulls away. “And we’re totally having sex in that hammock.”
It’s Monday night at midnight and Nick is wearing a path in the carpet from the closet to the bathroom to the corner of their bedroom where his suitcase is open wide and virtually empty except for an enormous pile of Hawaiian shorts. He’s raking a hand through his hair and sighing loudly with every pass and finally, Amy sits upright in bed and flicks on the light.
“Goddammit, Nick. Are you serious right now? Our flight leaves in five hours and I would like to get a little bit of sleep.” She squints in the bright light and her hiss is getting louder and shriller by the second, but she doesn’t care if her mother who is sharing a room with her youngest daughter right next door can hear every word. “How are you not packed yet? Who does this?”
“I know and I’m sorry. Who would have predicted that my computer would freeze up and that my boss would need the files earlier than he’d originally said and that my assistant would quit?”
Me. Amy fumes silently. I could have predicted this with one hundred percent certainty, she thinks.
“I’m just going to quickly finish packing and then I have just have a couple of things to finish for work. Honey, have you seen my swim trunks and the light blue shirt I like to wear with dress pants? Are fifteen pairs of shorts too many? Have you seen my passport?”
Amy growls through clenched teeth and flops back dramatically in bed, pulling the covers over her face.
“We’re doing it, Babe!” Nick leans down to whisper in Amy’s ear as they stand fifty impatient travelers deep in the security line at the airport. She smiles as excitedly as one can muster when you’ve had less than three hours of sleep.
“Yep, we’re doing it,” Amy agrees and squeezes his hand and shuffles three inches forward.
“Man, I hope I didn’t forget anything important. Oh shit, did I forget underwear? Amy, did you happen to see underwear in my suitcase? Shit, I think maybe I forgot them. Oh well, I guess there’s no better time to go commando,” Nick suggestively wags his eyebrows at Amy.
Because it’s not even five a.m., because she’s had no coffee yet, and because the security guard nearby taking his job super seriously would probably take her down if she were to throat punch her husband, Amy simply gives Nick a terse smile and shrugs her shoulders. He barely registers her irritation and pulls his cell phone from his pocket.
“So, I have to send a few quick emails to my team before we get on the plane. I didn’t quite get everything done I needed to finish, but I’m sure it’ll be fine. Maybe I’ll just call and leave them a voicemail and tell them they can call me with any questions.”
“Babe,” Amy says in a brittle voice, trying her best to keep her voice even and low. “How is anyone going to call you with questions? We’re going to be on an airplane. In the sky. Over an ocean. With no cell service. And then we’re going to be in Mexico and our cell phones aren’t going to work there without costing us a small fortune. We talked about this.”
Unfortunately, Amy’s voice doesn’t stay as quiet as she had hoped and Nick frowns when the young, gorgeous newlyweds practically dry humping in line ahead of them, turn with matching looks of concern on their fresh, stupid faces.
“Hi,” Amy waves at the staring couple. These two, she thinks. Practically intertwined and their hands are actually tucked into each other’s back pockets. Gross. Is this a John Hughes movie? It’s too early for this bullshit, she thinks. “Oh, just wait. This is normal,” Amy barks at their tan, judgmental faces. “When you’ve been married for seventeen years, you don’t make out in line anymore, you just fight about bills and work and kids. Do you want to see my stretch marks?”
Amy whips back to Nick, who is grinning at her like a maniac. He likes it when she’s spicy. But the moment is short-lived because now Nick is back on the topic of work.
“Ok, then they can’t call me. It’ll be fine. I’ll just send an email or two quick while we’re waiting here. Five tops. It’s gonna be fine. We’re doing it, Amy!”
Amy squeezes her eyes shut, so Nick can’t see how exaggeratively she is rolling her eyeballs at him, takes a deep breath and slowly exhales. In five hours, she’ll be sitting on the beach sipping a fruity umbrella drink with lots of alcohol and none of this will matter. A fraction calmer now, Amy opens her eyes in time to see the new bride stick her tongue in her husband’s ear. Of course she did, thinks Amy.
Deliciously drunk and baking to a crisp on a lounge chair at the edge of the magnificently blue ocean, Amy knocks back the last of her pina colada and flops over onto her belly to even out her tan. A sigh of contentment escapes her lips and the small noise wakes Nick, who is sprawled on a beach chair beside her. His head lolls to the side and he blinks a few times before focusing on Amy. An appreciative smile stretches across his face as his eyes roam down her body to the tasteful side boob she knows is on full display in this swimsuit. After three kids, not everything is as it once was, but Amy feels pretty damn confident about this side boob thanks to the Pilates class she’s been taking twice a week.
“Should we play tennis?” Nick murmurs, interrupting her daydream of how she hopes she looks in this swimsuit.
“What?” she turns to face Nick, positive she misheard him.
“Tennis. Do you want to go play tennis? There are courts around here somewhere. I saw them on the map.”
“Nick. We’re on vacation. We’re half naked and only a drink or two away from me not thinking twice about having sex with you right here on this beach. You have zero pairs of underwear with you here and you want to play tennis?”
“Kind of. Fine, maybe we can play in the morning. What about a sea kayak?”
“All right, Captain! Take us out to sea!” Amy shouts to Nick over the sultry breeze. Her hair whips her face and tangles in her life jacket, which won’t buckle all the way because her boobs are too big. Nick grinned appreciatively when she smashed them down into the too-small, sun-bleached preserver the man behind the rental desk handed her and now they’re paddling into the middle of the ocean with the minimal instructions they were given: Don’t run into the reef on your left. Don’t float out past the buoy that looks like a tiny speck of yellow in the sea of blue because then you’ll surely be swept into the ocean and die. In synchronized movements that Nick is clearly feeling quite cocky about, their kayak is impressively skirting along the water, rising up, up, up one side of the wave, teetering on the top, then slipping like a roller coaster down the other side.
“Babe. I don’t want to go any further out, okay?” Amy calls after a while, eyeballing the wall of waves swelling bigger and taller and more terrifying out here in the open water. She scans the beach, the people only miniature colorful dots on the sandy horizon.
“Why? This is awesome! Let’s just go a little further and then we’ll turn around and head back in. I mean, look at us. We’ve really got the hang of this!”
“Fine. But I’m seriously a little freaked out. These waves are huge, and I don’t want us to flip!”
“Honey, I promise we’re not going to…”
As if on cue, the front end of the kayak with a giddy Nick perched atop like Lieutenant Dan on the Jenny, shoots up into the cloudless blue sky on another mammoth wave. But instead of hovering precariously on the crest before plunging down the side like it had done the other fifty times, the kayak simply tips back, a giant middle finger from the ocean gods, and dumping Nick and Amy into the foamy sea. Amy sputters and chokes as her head pops to the surface. She has enough sense to fling one arm over the overturned boat as she clamps her legs together tightly to keep her bikini bottoms from sliding down her slippery, sunscreened legs and out to sea. Nick’s maniacal laughter rings out on the opposite side of the kayak where Amy can only make out the top of his soaked head. She struggles to hang on single-handedly as she reaches down to shimmy and wiggle her bottoms back up over her bottom as another wave crashes overhead. Saltwater rains down, pushing Amy’s hair into her face and her breasts out the top of her unbuckled life jacket so they’re unnaturally positioned under her chin.
“Oh, this is rich,” she curses under her breath and attempts to stuff them back down. But it’s no use, they don’t even seem to be contained in her bikini top anymore.
“Wasn’t that awesome?” Nick paddles to her side of the kayak and grins at Amy. He takes one look at her ridiculous cleavage and whistles at the view.
“Not really,” Amy says between gritted teeth. “Do you know how hard it’s going to be to get back into the kayak way out here? These waves are…”
Her complaining is drowned out by another wall of water crashing down on their heads.
“Let’s get the boat turned back over. One…two…push!” Nick shouts out happily and he alone rights the kayak while Amy wrestles her boobs from her face.
When she looks up next, Nick is somehow miraculously seated in the kayak, balancing both paddles across his knees and looking at her expectantly.
“What in the actual hell?” she blurts out. “How are you in the kayak already?”
“I just hopped up. It’s not that hard. Just push against the edge and climb in,” Nick says innocently, as the kayak bobs over a wave, knocking a paddle loose from Nick’s grip and slapping Amy in the face. “Sorry, babe! Are you okay?”
“I’m fine!” Amy screams in frustration over the wind and waves. Gripping the edge of the kayak, Amy heaves her body toward the kayak and kicks her legs as hard as she can in the deep water. One breast manages to find safety in the boat for a split second before the entire craft is overturned, and Nick is catapulted into the waves over her head.
Nick reappears several feet away from the kayak, shaking water from his hair like a dog and roaring with laughter. Struggling against the current and clinging to both paddles, Nick makes his way back to her, a huge grin plastered across his face. In a second, the kayak is bobbing right side up again and Nick, like a damn nimble sea gnome, is somehow seated comfortably in the kayak.
“How? How are you doing that?” Amy screeches at him and he has the audacity to shrug his shoulders while he laughs at her.
“I don’t know, honey. I’m sorry. I shouldn’t be laughing. Ok, this time I’m going to lean the other way when you jump in, so we don’t flip.”
Panic is blooming in Amy’s chest at the thought of never being able to get in this kayak and tears prick her eyes, but she takes a deep breath and again, launches her body out of the water. Nick dutifully leans and Amy lands with a thud on the top of the kayak, eye to eye with her own nipples as her boobs squeeze free of the life jacket completely. But Nick doesn’t react quickly enough and over they go again into the ocean.
“Dammit, dammit, dammit,” Amy shrieks as she slaps the water and the hard plastic of the kayak, which is upright and somehow already contains her wide-eyed, sheepish husband because of course, it does. I mean, did he just hang on underwater and ride it all the way around, she thinks incredulously.
“I hate you,” she hisses at him. “I didn’t want to come out this far. I wanted to go back. I didn’t want to tip over and now I can’t get my giant Free Willy body into the goddamn kayak. And you’re a goddamn mermaid. I can’t do it, Nick. I quit. Just start paddling back to shore and I’ll hang onto the back of this damn boat like a damn idiot.” Amy’s voice continues to climb two octaves and now she’s crying big, fat tears because she’s tired and slightly scared, but mostly humiliated by the thought of everyone on the beach watching her get towed in to shore by her smiling husband in a kayak, wearing her bikini top like a belt around her waist.
“Baby, I’m sorry. Try one more time,” Nick says to her gently, bravely cupping her face in his hand when there was a likely chance she might have bitten him. “Come on, you can do this. I’m going to lean again, but this time I’ll lean towards you once you’re in.”
Resting her head against the kayak, Amy summons all her anger and dwindling energy and shoots herself up towards the sky. Like a dead fish, she flops into her seat, and miraculously Nick balances the boat long enough for her to scramble to a seated position. Amy is still sniffling as she unbuckles her life jacket to stuff her bruised breasts back into her swimsuit and wipes away the tears from her red, blotchy face.
“I don’t want to speak of this again,” Amy barks at Nick as she dips her paddle back into the water.
“Ok, babe,” Nick agrees wholeheartedly. “It never happened.”
They paddle in silence toward the shore, the wind and the waves gentler now at their backs. Scanning the horizon, Amy can see they have drifted well into the no-go zone of the reef and she can also see the tiny man who rented the kayak to them on shore waving his arms to shame them. She lifts her hand to the sky and gives him the finger. Nick guffaws behind her at the spicy wife he loves so much, and he reaches out to give her a playful pinch on her butt.
“God, Amy, I love you so much. When we get back to shore, do you want to play tennis?”