So the long, sad summer progressed. She spent some time attempting to teach Carmen to jump through a hoola hoop, but she wasn’t entirely successful since in most cases she had to lift her front paws through first before she carried through with her back legs. Nevertheless Kendra tried to chalk it up as a success just to make herself feel better. Carmen sensed she was depressed and tried her best and that was all you could expect from a cat who by their nature are not hardwired to obey.
“Okay that’s it! You’re going to Bath with me and Devin,” Bianca said when she heard about the recent cat training. “I’m sick of this bloody stinking pity party you have on auto play. The Fantastic Asra??? I wouldn’t be surprised you’ve designed him a superhero suit in your bloody mind, with a cape and tights! You are going to Bath!”
“Right. Just what I want, to be the third wheel on you two’s sleek sexy motobike.” Kendra reminded herself to hide her doodle book where she had, in fact, drawn an outfit for Asra, just as a joke. And it did have a cape, a small one. It was just fooling around but she knew Bianca. If she found it she’d go ballistic. Best tear out that page and burn it. Bianca could be nosey.
Surprisingly Bianca and Devin were still together. At that very minute they were out shopping for a gift for Devin actually. Bianca had just picked up the most appallingly expensive tie pin, platinum with a sapphire and tiny diamonds.
“How’s this?” she asked holding it against her red stained blouse.
“A thousand quid?” Kendra asked. “Have you lost your mind?”
“It’s a gift. Why must you bring up the cost?” Bianca really had no clue how the rest of the world lived. She made a huge salary and budgeting was not part of her life.
“Listen you’re coming with to Bath. You need to get out of this whole Will / Asra fug you’ve been in all summer. It’s getting dead boring. I’ve even unfriended you on Facebook.”
“I did. You’re working serious buzz kill energy. You’re going to Bath with us.”
“I’m sure Devin doesn’t want me mooning about and ruining your holiday,” Kendra said. “Besides I was thinking of taking up scrap booking.”
“Scrap booking? Are you mad? Have you completely lost your mind or aged thirty years since last I saw you?”
“Well Martha Stewart said…” Kendra tried.
“Martha bloody Stewart? You’re quoting Martha bloody Stewart? God! It’s worse than I thought. You are coming with us. Besides Mike is coming too. You too seemed to hit it off the other time.” Bianca handed her credit card to the salesperson.
“Mike? No, I don’t think that’s going to work,” Kendra said. Hit it off? Bianca seriously did not pay attention to things, well things that were not about Bianca.
“Please, Keny, Devin has to bring him. Apparently he’s gone into a terrible depression. He lost his job. I only get this week off. I can’t have my holiday ruined by Mike mooning all about. Please. Help me. ”
“He didn’t have a job,” Kendra remembered.
“No, he did. After that night, like the next week or something he got a new job he really liked apparently. He was like the penguin guy at the zoo.”
“You mean the one cleaning the cages?”
“Cleaning cages? No, why would you say that? No, he was the penguin guy, the one who moves around the zoo in the penguin suit handing out advertising fliers with the times for the penguin shows. He really liked it. He is so bummed that they sacked him.”
Kendra honestly had nothing else planned though she had considered teaching Carmen to fetch. She’d started the night before with mixed results. Carmen first gave her a look, then when she persisted she hissed and retired to the bedroom. Since the fetching training was obviously out she might as well go to Bath. She’d hate it, of course, but she’d be helping Bianca.
“Okay fine, I’ll go. But you’re going to owe me, big time.”
Bianca smiled at her. “We’ll have fun. You’ll see.”
On Friday, Kendra waited outside her flat, her suitcase next to her, for Bianca and Devin. A white Lexus pulled up to the curb and Bianca popped out looking all “I’m-going-on-holiday” in a lime green polka dotted mini dress and a big floppy lime green hat. She rushed to Kendra, who thought she was coming to help with her bag but instead Bianca leaned in for a quick whisper. “He’s been crying. Pretend you don’t notice.”
Kendra put her bag in the boot and ducked into the back of the car. “Hey Devin! Mike!” She decided she would be jolly. You can’t really lose with jolly. Jolly Kendra, here she comes!
“Hi Kendra,” Mike said. “How have you been? You never called.”
“Yes…I…” Kendra could think of nothing to say. Could she say she met a fabulous man who stole her heart and then dropped her because she was obsessed with her useless ex-boyfriend and his poetess wife and soon-to-be-born baby? Of course she could not. She swore there would be no talk of Will or Will’s baby or Asra. She knew it would likely make everything worse but she could think of nothing else to say, so she said, “So I heard you got a new job.”
Bianca’s head whipped around, her face astonished. Had she not told Kendra to avoid that topic all together. Mike’s face began to work. The muscles unsuccessfully hiding his fight to stop tears. “Yes…I had a job a great job. The best job I’ve ever had. The best job I’ll ever have. I was Penguin Man.”
“Really? That must have been great.” Kendra attempted enthusiasm.
“Yes, until I wanted more.” Mike pulled the sleeve of his mustard coloured jersey down over his hand and wiped the unfallen tears from his eyes.
“More?” Kendra wondered what more could there be to a job where you wore a penguin suit.
“After work I snuck into the training room. I was hoping to eventually be part of the show. It was on my own time. I was just watching really, I wanted to understand how it all worked. I didn’t mean any harm. But then it happened.”
“What?” Kendra was getting the feeling she didn’t want to know.
“She fell in love with me.”
“Fell in love with you?”
“The emperor penguin, Cornelia. See I wore my Penguin Man suit and apparently she got confused. It was like love at first sight. I liked Cornelia too, of course, but not like that. We just had a connection. A human-bird connection. It was mystical. I’ve read up on it. Things like that happen. There are scientific studies. The problem was that whenever I left the theatre, she moped around and wouldn’t do anything. The trainer, Bob Delmar, a very jealous man if you ask me, was furious. Cornelia is the star of the show. Bob Delmar would not rest until I was fired.”
“Well…Mike, I’m really sorry. That is really, really bad luck.” Kendra wondered how he would explain that dismissal to his next potential employer. He’d need to be careful.
Mike smiled at her. “Yeah well, at least we’re going on holiday together. That’s nice.”
“Yes, it is,” she said pushing her jolliness to the point of breaking.
As Kendra expected, Devin and Bianca hardly left their hotel room during the day, at night they took romantic canal rides or went to dinner in intimate cafes- alone. Mike and Kendra were left to entertain themselves. What that meant from Mike’s perspective was that each day Kendra should appear with a complete itinerary of their day and he would follow her around like a…penguin. Any slow down in the activities had him moaning about Cornelia and how much he missed her. Kendra couldn’t deal with that so tried to keep up the frantic pace.
They had five days in Bath and each day was like a tourist itinerary on steroids. They did the Jane Austen walk, a tour of Stonehenge. They visited the Pump Room and the Circus. They went to the Building of Bath Museum, the American Museum, and the Roman Baths Museum. On the last day Mike wanted to go to the West of England Falconry. Kendra got a brochure from the tourism office.
“So maybe we could go on the hawk walk.” Mike said looking at the brochure over lunch.
“Sure,” Kendra said. Despite everything, she’d found an odd affection for Mike, like a mother to a child. He was so helpless. His helplessness made her seem overly competent. It kept her busy, so busy she hardly thought about Asra. Kendra suspected if she hadn’t agreed to come, Mike would have spent the entire five days in his hotel room, scrolling through Cornelia photos on his phone.
The next day they woke up early to go to the falconry place. It was beautiful out among rolling hills. Gave you the impression you were an ancient Roman falcon hunter. There was some prep talk and then they went out to play with the hawks. They put on big thick gloves and the hawks would fly out to another person or to a tree and come back. A bit like a live boomerang. Things were going along just fine. But then Mike’s hawk flew off. It flew off and didn’t come back. It just flew and flew.
The man running the place didn’t hide his disappointment. “That has never happened before. I wonder if she’ll ever come back.”
The lost hawk put a damper on the whole group. Mike kept apologising but people weren’t that keen to listen.