Jai came back in from the bathroom and dumped the toiletries into the middle.
I screamed. “No! You’re messing with my system.”
“Huh?” He dopily walked out and made more noise down the hall.
Controlling my need to yell I picked his crap out from my careful piles and went back to marking off the list in my head. Clothes finished, I moved onto the shoes wrapped in plastic bags. “Joggers, thongs, heels, boots.” I looked over at my ballet flats sitting next to the wardrobe where my shirt and shorts were waiting, the last things in the cupboard.
“Right, now for Jai’s stuff,” I looked apprehensively at his piles. “Jai, do you want to help pack your bag?”
“No,” he called back. “I trust you.”
I could very well be a bitch and put only his tooth brush and a bow tie into the huge suitcase, hiding the rest of his clothes so he wouldn’t look in the wardrobe and find it back in place. That could be somewhat funny, until we had to splurge and by him a whole new wardrobe. Which would suck.
Sighing, I started doing the same list, making sure he had everything.
Jai came back. “Right, the fridge has been emptied, the bins are out and the last of the washing has been folded and put away.”
I dumped in his toiletries. “The suitcases are almost done. Next will be documents and cash.”
“And what about the inconspicuous stack of books next to our passports?” He asked.
My cheeks caught on fire. Damn it, he caught me just before I could hide them away in my carry-on luggage. “What do you mean stack?” I defended. “There’s hardly three there. That’s not a stack.”
“I’ve learnt that a stack is more than one book piled on top of another...” he moved forward and picked up a suitcase in either hand. “Follow me and I’ll give you an example.”
“I’d rather not,” but I did follow him out to the lounge room where on the coffee table there was a stack of books beside a neat pile of documents.
“See?” He placed the bags beside the front door.
I shrugged my bare shoulders. “Fine. So I want to bring books with me, is there something wrong with that?”
Jai moved to be in front of me and took my hands into his. “We’re going on a cruise ship.”
“Which means I’m not carrying them from hotel to hotel in a backpack around Europe,” my tone was defensive and rightly so. Who the hell did he think he was having an opinion about me taking books with me? He was so dictating.
“Maybe that’s true, but we’re going on holidays.” His fingers tightened around mine. “You’re always going on that a novel is the cheapest holiday you can have, you can escape this reality when you are not able to make a physical move.”
Ouch, had I really said all of that to him? I wanted to open my mouth and tell him it wasn’t like that, not when I was with him... well most of the time. I didn’t want to escape our life. Glancing at the book shelves suggested otherwise.
“Going on this holiday cruise is a physical move which means,” he released my hands and bent down to pick up my stack of books. Jai fanned them out and held them in front of my face. Taunting me. “You don’t have to escape into fantasy for a week.”
But I want to take my books.
But I don’t know what I’ll do without them beside me at night.
But they’re mine.
Taking a deep breath I scrutinised the book covers on display. They were bright and cheerful holiday reads, the sort you pick up when at the same holiday place as the year before and the year before that and you have to play nice with your extended family. The sort of books you use as an excuse go and find a hiding place and read so you don’t have to talk to your grandmother about why you’re not married and pregnant.
Jai had a point. “Okay, I can leave them behind.”
There was a beat before he sighed. “No, I should shut up about this. They’re your books and you can decide if you want to take them or not without pressure from me.” He pressed them into my hands.
Was this a test? An ultimatum? Him or the books?
“What the fuck?”
He frowned at me.
“Are you mind fucking me right this moment?” I clutched the books tight. “Is this a test to see if I’ll pick books over you?”
He hesitated. He had fucking hesitated. I knew it, this was a test and he wanted me to choose him. “Jesus, it is. You asshole.”
“Come on Cecelia. I’m leaving my video games to go on this holiday.”
“But not your phone which has just as many games on that as you have here,” I flapped my arm about the room. “That phone’s coming with us.”
“But I’m not trying to escape reality like you are. Playing games on my phone is to pass time.”
“Past time, ha. You’re escaping just like me,” I snapped. “In that thing you can be some badass assassin or sniper and kill a whole lot of people which you can’t do in reality without dealing with some very fucked up serious consequences. You escape from life to go do something you can’t here.”
His jaw clenched. “Fine, so I do escape from time to time. What about it?”
“Nothing about it as long as you’re not a hypocrite and try to make me feel bad for wanting to read a book.”
“It’s so fucking anti-social, Cecelia.”
“And gaming is a great way to meet people face to face.” My sarcasm was cranked up to the highest setting.
“Shut up.” He stormed out of the lounge room and into the bedroom.
Not knowing why, I followed him and watched as he slipped a pair of shorts over his boxers and a shirt over his head. And he was ready. “What is the big deal with my books? I want the truth, Jai.”
“Cecelia, Let’s just get ready and go on holidays, okay?”
I could push it, but where would that get me? Looking down at the bra and knickers I was wearing I sighed in defeat. I moved over to my clothes and got dressed. This wasn’t an argument to have just before going on a non-refundable cruise.
I looked over at the man I was dating, bit my tongue and forced my anger down. Whatever it was between us right this moment, it was changing everything. The only thing to do right now was to finish packing, go on the cruise and pretend everything was hunky dory.
Slipping out of the room I made sure we had all of the documents we needed. Last minute, as he was in the kitchen making sure the toaster was unplugged; I shoved one book to the bottom of my bag.