Pete had thought that Claire would have grown out of her irresponsible old habits at her age. But it turned out the only one he could count on was himself. He was going to have to make a trip back to Mineral Town.
Elli came to meet him by the phone.
"Pete, we're going to go down to the beach, once we've changed. Would you like to join us?"
And just like that, Pete was faced with a great moral dilemma. A choice almost as difficult as the Danish Prince's conundrum of "To be or not to be?"
On the one hand, he could make sure that his layabout sister was pulling her weight, see that his livestock were fed, that their produce was crated up and that his prized pineapples were getting the nutrients needed to grow ripe and bring in huge piles of money.
Or on the other hand, he could stay and see Elli in a swimsuit.
Upon mulling it over, he decided that he would give Claire the benefit of the doubt and just check up on her again later. He would have plenty of chances to yell at his sister but very few chances of going to the beach with a cutie like Elli.
By this time in the afternoon, the sun was at it's peak temperature. It was very much an Indian summer. Pete had taken off his overalls and changed into his swimming trunks. He helped Elli to set up the parasol and beach towels. Ellen was lying in a deck chair, dressed in a modest yellow t shirt and long white shorts while Elli, clad in a clean white hoodie, was applying sun cream to Stu's face, before he ran off to the water. Pete was looking through the portable chiller.
"Are there any bolengers in here?" Pete asked, over his shoulder.
"Oh no. The doctor said we have to limit your caffeine intake. Here, have some mineral water."
"Still giving out medical advice, even on your vacation, I see." said Pete, taking the bottle.
"I never take a day off from good health. I do have an eight year old child to raise, after all."
She then put down her own bottle of water and picked up a bottle of sun cream
"Speaking of which, I'd better get some of this on."
Then she unzipped the white hoodie she was wearing, giving way to an amazing blue bikini with white horizontal stripes, that showed the full roundness of her chest. Pete found himself starring as Elli applied the sun scream to her arms, legs and face. Rallying all of this will power, he finally managed to look away before Elli once again made eye contact and caught him drooling.
"Say, um, could you do my back?"
A shock went through Pete's system. His face was the colour of ketchup.
"Um...oh...kay..." he muttered, as his head slowly turned around.
Be brave! He thought to himself. It's just a little sun screen on her back! Nothing to be nervous about! So he turned around to face his destiny.
"Certainly, dear!" said Ellen as she quirted the cream onto her hand, ready to rub.
Ah, now it made sense.
Stu presently came back.
"Elli! There's a pier where some guys are fishing! Could I go and try my luck?"
"Oh, sure!" she opened the beach bag and brought out a junior fishing rod, sold in some super market's summer seasonal departments for young children. Stu was quick in getting the packaging off.
"Come on! Join me, Pete!"
"I'd love to, Stu, but I didn't bring my fishing pole with me."
You may be forgiven, dear reader, for assuming this to be a white lie to preserve the boy's feelings, given how grumpy Pete has been up to this point, but he is in fact telling the truth. On the rare occasions that he does take a break from work, Pete enjoyed nothing more than going fishing, or taking walks with his dog. But, as he was planning on sneaking back to Mineral Town to make sure that Claire didn't screw everything up on his farm, he hadn't actually packed his fishing rod.
"That's okay." said Elli "Here, I have another one!"
She passed Pete another fishing rod. Another junior fishing rod.
"I was thinking about doing some fishing myself, but I don't mind lending you this one."
Pete and Stu went to the pier and cast their lines. Pete took in the view. A clear azure sky veiled over a sparkling blue sea. Across the promenade people sat drinking cocktails. It made Pete feel as though he were fishing somewhere in the Mediterranean.
Stu sat with his legs hanging over the pier. He gently kicked his legs back and force as he watched his lure.
"What's the biggest fish you've ever caught?"
Pete thought about it for a moment. The last time he went fishing was in the previous winter. He couldn't grow any produce during the winter season, so fishing seemed like the best way to make money until Spring finally arrived.
"My biggest catch was a Fluke."
"A fluke? What happened? Did it just wash ashore?"
"No, it was a fluke."
"I get it! What kind of fish was it?"
"That is the fish I caught! It's called a Fluke! It's kind of like a flounder."
Stu yelped as he jerked forward.
"I've got something!"he started reeling in. He tried to pull, but began struggling. Pete sprang up to help, grabbing the line and helping Stu to stand firm.
"Reel faster! I'll hold it! That's it! Good boy! We've almost got 'em!"
With a bombastic battle cry, they gave a massive tug and their prey burst out of the water, shot up into the air and came to rest in front of the triumphant duo.
"Wow!" Stu cried excitedly, "It's massive!"
"Yup, it's a whopper alright!" said Pete, admiring the 3 foot Pollock.
"Can I take it to show Grandma?"
"I'm afraid not. The law says you need to throw fish back, if they're this big."
Elli came to join them.
"We were watching you from down bellow. Did you just catch something."
"Look, Elli! Me and Pete caught a Pollock! Isn't it great!"
"Wow. That's big! Grandma will be so excited when you tell her!"
"I want to just show her, but Pete says I have to throw it back." Stu said in a way that concealed a plea for a second opinion on the matter of weather to throw it back."
"Well, he's right. But, we'll both vouch for you. You don't need to prove it."
With a sigh, Stu said goodbye to the Pollock before dropping it back into the sea.
"I'm going to go and tell grandma about my catch!" he said before excitedly running back to where Ellen was sitting.
Elli picked up the rod the Stu had left and cast it out. The way she cast it was so natural. There was no way that this was her first time fishing.
"Thanks for fishing with him, Pete." she said, smiling over at him "He doesn't get to do stuff like this very often, since dad past away."
"Can't you take him fishing?"
Before Elli could answer, she was dragged forward and slammed into the pier's guard rail. She struggled to keep her footing but inch by inch, whatever was on the other end of the line started to pull her slowly over the rail.
Pete pounced on Elli from behind, grabbed the rod, planted his feet firmly down.
"On three, we pull!" he ordered.
Three painful seconds were counted and with a yell, they yanked the rod skyward. Someone nearby howled an exclamation and a heavy splash followed.
"What are you two doing?!" a voice bellowed.
After a second to get their bearings, Pete and Elli turned to the direction of the voice- down in the water. There, they saw their fishing line caught onto a a small row boat, accidentally tipped up during the struggle and a very unsuspecting courting couple, who had been thrown overboard when Pete and Elli unknowingly tipped their boat.
"Sorry about that! Said Pete.
The boy sulkily unhooked Elli's fishing line from his boat.
Elli reeled it back in. "That was scary," she signed.
"I'll say." Pete puffed in agreement "I almost thought you'd caught a shark or something."
For a minute, they just stood there. Contemplating the misadventure, with their hands still firmly gripping the fishing rod.
"I think we can let go of the rod now."
Now that the adrenaline had worn off, Pete realised that he still had his arms coiling around Elli's arms to grip the pole. And they were both in swimwear.
He complied, reddening slightly. Though, he would have liked to stay like that a while longer, enjoying the smooth, silky feeling of Elli's soft skin. But people were starting to stare
Later on, when the sun was setting, the party was in the hotel's restaurant having their evening meal.
Pete excused himself to make a phone call, in order to check in with that bone idle Claire. The energy crash had started to kick in. The two bolengers he had drank while waiting for the train were wearing off, draining his energy. All he wanted to do was call to check up on Claire, eat dinner and go to bed.
He felt so lazy.
He called the farm and waited. One ring, two ring, three ring...Pete waited until there were enough rings to get him into the Special Zone.
This was bad. Pete tried her cell phone. No answer. This time it was enough rings to guarantee a chaos emerald.
Did she have it turned off? Wait, what if something happened to her?
Then he realised something.
It was a long shot, but in the best case scenario, this was the number where Claire could be reached.
"Hello, Mineral Town Inn." came the sweet voice at the end of the line.
"Hi Ann, it's Pete. Is my sister there?"
"Let me just check...yup, she's just ordering her fourth glass of wine as we speak. I think she's trying to break Karen's record."
"Do me a favour and put her on, will you?"
After a second of the rustle and clunk of the phone changing hands he heard a hiccup.
"Hey! What's up?" came the slurring voice of his sister.
"YOU WRETCHED LAYABOUT!"
"Ahg! You jerk, Pete! You could have burst my eardrum!"
"What are you drinking for, when you have to be up early tomorrow?! Milking is at six am!"
"I'm pretty sure the cows will still be there when I get up at ten."
"Ooh! Did you pick up a parrot?"
"Claire, did you even water the pineapples today, like I told you to?"
"Pete! Relax! Everything's been taken care of!"
"No. You prove that I didn't take care of the farm work!"
"Now you listen to me, you little...!"
"Sorry! Got to go! Wine doesn't drink itself you know!"
The long bleep sounded. The middle finger of audio.
There was no other way around it. Pete would have to get back to Mineral Town tonight.
He put together an evil scheme.
He returned to the table , where the main course was served.
"Can I get you any more drinks?" the waiter asked
"A really big glass of water, please." said Pete.
"You can have a beer if you like." said Elli "It's on me."
"I think I owe you that much for saving my life earlier."
"Thanks, Elli! That's really nice of you. Though, a bit out of character, considering you're enthusiasm for healthy options."
"A little drink is okay every now and then, as long as you moderate it. Besides. You've been sensible and drinking water all night."
What his companions didn't realise is that this was phase one of a dark and evil plan.
After the meal, Elli took Stu upstairs to get him ready for bed. Pete got another bottle of beer and another very large glass of water (all part of the plan.)
"Pete, would you like to sit in the garden, while It's a nice night?" Ellen asked, as he was returning to their table.
So they went into the hotel's beer garden. Ellen sipped her soda water, whilst admiring the well groomed flowers.
"Thanks for keeping me company, Pete. If I drink out here alone, people would think I was an alcoholic."
Much to Pete's surprise, Ellen fished a bottle of Highland whiskey from her pocket.
"I snuck it from home. Don't tell Elli." she said, deviously tapping her finger to her nose.
As the night went on, Pete drank more water, between sips of his beer. Eventually, it got late and it was time for bed.
Phase one of Pete's sinister plan was complete- consume an excessive amount of water. Now all he had to do was go to sleep and his bladder would take care of the rest. He went back to his room and got into bed.
When one gets comfortably asleep, the abrupt awakening, be it from an alarm clock or a bladder asking to be emptied can be quite an annoyance. None the less, Pete's plan had worked. He was awake at around eleven and ready to catch a late train back to mineral town. Upon relieving himself, in the on suit bathroom, he opened the curtain to dress by the light of the moon, so as to avoid waking Stu up. Pete went on tip toes over to Stu's bed to make sure he was still asleep. If Stu woke up, Pete would have to make up some excuse. He'd have to tell him...tell him...
He was gone.
Stu was gone.
In his place was a note reading "Gone Fishing". Panic stricken, Pete seized his hat and bolted out into the night.