Father led the way, his long stride carrying him easily over the rocks.
“It’s this way, everyone” he called out behind him, his tone as confident as his steps.
I glanced at Mother. She had THAT look on her face, her lips pressed so tightly together they bearly existed.
There was trouble brewing.
Tears before bedtime, as Granny used to say.
The younger ones skipped and slipped over the rocks, in front of us, following in Father’s wake. At the moment they were happy, but with the little ones happiness was only a short slip away from a full on tantrum at this time of the day.
The sun was setting, darkness was beginning to gather around us like a pack of wild dogs. We would be lucky to make it before we were swallowed up by it.
Father called over his shoulder again, but his words were dragged away trom us, dashed upon the rocks, lost in the sea below.
Father was taking us on one of his shortcuts.
I had come to realise that when Father used the phrases “I’ve got a plan!” or “this shortcut will save us time!” things would usually end up more interesting, but not necessarily in a good way.
The “plan” was to cut across the bay on foot (“we don’t want to get back in the car again after such a long journey, do we kids?”, “Noooooo!”), eat at the restaurant and get a taxi back (“This way way will save time and we get to see the sea”, “yaaaaaaaaay!”). Mother had argued, of course, but had lost the battle. Even the request to “at least phone ahead and book a table” was laughed off.
I didn’t pick one side or another, even though I knew Mother was right. I couldn’t bear to see the look of betrayal on Father’s face.
I just gave the best shrug my adolescent shoulders could muster: whatever.
At least, this time, Father had brought a torch. As the last red rays left us we had a white beam of light to guide us up the beach.
The restaurant car park was suspiciously empty, the windows depressingly dark.
Father walked up to the door and studied the sign for longer than it could possibly take to read the word “Closed”
Mother put her hands on her hips, her lips twitching as the words “I told you so” struggled to stay behind them.
Father turned towards us, a smile on his face.
“I’ve got a plan!” he said.