The Fiction: The holiday tutor

Mike is hoping to rewire relationships with his family on an extended trip to Africa – but he’s not the only one hunting for a new connection…

Image: William Connors/Condé Nast via Getty Images

Mike Robinson had seen the astonishingly successful sale of his fintech company to a global multinational as a golden opportunity to reconnect with his family. 

Sure, he had feathered the nests of his wife and two children over the years, providing homes in Gloucestershire, London and Provence, but his relentless late nights and frequent business trips had taken their toll. He had barely noticed the elongation of Max, his 13-year-old son, or the new, confident swing in the hips of Tara, his 15-year-old daughter – and that was assuming he had their ages right. As for the winsome beauty of his wife Odette, this seemed more pronounced than he had ever known. He wondered what she had been getting up to in her spare time.

So he hatched a plan for a two-month family sabbatical to rewire relationships while conquering a bit of the world. With them would come Harry, two years out of Oxford and the co-founder of a small educational business offering tutoring services for teenagers. Mike and Odette had chosen Harry for his glowing academic credentials and agreed he would be a bonus on their extended holiday – though Mike had secret misgivings about the effect Harry’s glowing smile and athletic contours might have on Tara.

Thus, one month in, having trekked with camels through the wilderness of Kenya’s Laikipia plateau, quad-biked through the Makgadikgadi Pans in Botswana, and hovered in a helicopter above the Victoria Falls, the family had found themselves washed up in barefoot luxury at a small island resort off Zanzibar

If the bond between father and son was rekindling nicely, it was as nothing compared to the bond developing between daughter and tutor. Never had Tara shown quite such an interest in academic studies and Mike was becoming increasingly perturbed.

“Oh Daddy,” she would say, “if only you knew how brilliant Harry was at explaining simultaneous equations.”

“Oh Daddy, Harry wants to take me diving to show me how phytoplankton forms the basis of the food chain.”

Furthermore, now they were on the beach, Tara’s largely sensible safari wear had given way to a series of tiny bikinis, rarely covered by more than an ounce of Topshop gauze. But Mike’s concerns, when shared with Odette, that Harry was perhaps an unsuitably attractive tutor seemed to fall on deaf ears.

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“Oh darling,” she purred, “don’t be such a prig. It’s only a teenage crush and I’m sure that Harry is hardly likely to be interested in a 15-year-old.” And Harry, it was true, while embracing his role with unbridled enthusiasm, didn’t appear to be succumbing to the flirtatious onslaught.

And so the days passed, lessons each morning followed by afternoons when Max would disappear with his dad on canoeing or fishing trips. Tara, meanwhile, would reluctantly relinquish Harry to some freedom to concentrate on her set texts and her tan, and Odette would retreat for a little siesta in her suite. 

On one particular balmy evening, Tara had announced that she and Harry had a little surprise up their sleeves – a two-man performance of all the best bits from Romeo and Juliet, with Max allowed the occasional walk-on part as the nurse.

“O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo?” Tara had proclaimed passionately in a see-through nightie from her balcony to Harry in his swimming trunks down below. “Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptised,” Harry had proffered back.

It was more than Mike could bear. “Enough is enough,” he had cried, demanding first that Tara should cover herself up immediately and second that Harry should watch his step in encouraging this highly inappropriate relationship with his daughter.

Dinner was a muted affair. Tara sulked in steely-mouthed silence; and Odette sat between Harry and her husband to navigate a reconciliation. Conscious that his outburst had been a little over the top and his family bonding process might be in jeopardy, Mike reached beneath the table for a reassuring squeeze of his wife’s hand. But another hand was there already. Harry’s hand, nestled knowingly and comfortably on Odette’s inner thigh.

In the ensuing showdown between mother and daughter, father and daughter and husband and wife, Harry rose from the table to pack his bags. Without even a nod to Tara, he turned to Odette: “Here’s to you, Mrs Robinson,” he said, with one last beam of that captivating smile. 

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