Authors: Allie Little
Copyright © 2014 Allie Little
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This book is published in Australian English and includes relative diction.
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The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental and not intended by the author.
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TABLE OF CONTENTS
Because time is a trickster.
A boat without anchor, a tree without roots, a leaf in the breeze on a grey gusty day.
But that was before …
The beach is dark.
dark. Except for the bonfire crackling wildly on the dune, it’s hard to see further than the closest reach of the sea. And nothing will take this emptiness away. Because memories of Jack will
. And although the crowd at this drunken beach-party sways in measured motion before my eyes, Jack is all I see. All I will
see. And I lost my heart to him long, long ago. In the blink of an eye. In half of a heart-beat. And tonight I realise, there is no remedy for waiting.
The sea is so warm. And all I want now is to swim. Just a little. Out to that elusive horizon and back again. Because to be cradled in the arms of this deep onyx sea is what I need. How I feel. What I
And if Jack doesn’t want me …
“Sam!” screams Emily from the shore, hitching up her dress to escape the initial watery chill. “You need to come out! Right now!”
“But it’s warm!” I giggle stupidly. “Come on, Em! Let’s swim!” I close my eyes, his face so fresh in my mind, and gently topple over at the slap and slosh of a wave.
“Are you crazy?” Em calls as I wobble further out. “You’re drunk, Sam! This is
a good idea!”
“But it feels so
!” I yell, lurching into the bucking waves in my tight red dress. “Come in!”
I dive under and feel the pull of the rip. The one I hadn’t noticed before. In the daylight I would’ve seen this. Without alcohol I might’ve too, even at night. But the pull is so freeing. So liberating. It’s exactly what I need. To float away under a shadowy sky.
Just a little swim, and then I’ll come back...
Eight months earlier
Bang. The sound of the front door as it slams loudly behind me. I jump the steps to the lawn, eager to make it to the ferry on time. I can’t succumb to her.
Because if I do, she wins this incendiary battle we wage. And I won’t give in to pressure, nor be pushed around. Not anymore. And certainly not by her.
The ferry’s waiting at the wharf, rolling slightly as it pitches side to side. I march resolutely along the river toward it, determined to put some much needed distance between us. Because it’s always the same. The way she roasts me, slates me. Disapproves of me. Well, not anymore. I am
. Today I will find myself a job. And start
I launch myself on board the swaying craft, finding myself nose to nose with the new ferry captains. I straighten up and steady myself with the railing.
“Well, hello! Tell me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this the most spectacular ferry you’ve ever seen?”
The question has the effect of breaking my fury and I smile. I glance around the freshly painted heritage green and cream ferry, circa 1904. Bobby Foster settles himself at the vintage helm while Jack uncurls the rope from the bollard. It’s thick and twisted and coarse like stubble.
“Name’s Bobby and I’m your captain,” he says, saluting with a weathered hand. He winks cheekily in my direction.
I can’t help but grin at the clichéd corniness. “I’m Sam,” I say, extending a hand.
We shake hands and I sit at the back, the wind ruffling me like feathers on a bird. My gaze fixes on familiar low-tide mangroves twisting against the shore. Jack jumps lithely back on board and moves to the oversized antique wheel, glinting in the sunshine beaming off the helm.
I furtively steal a glance. I’ve heard about these two; Jack and his father. Hell, the whole town has heard about them. Jack appears to be about my age, maybe a year or two older, and his skin has seen summer in the sun.
He studies the river, settling himself comfortably into the captain’s seat next to his father’s. With the flick of a few switches and deep grumbling from the engine the ferry eases away, coursing to where the river sweeps crescent-like into the bay. The splintered light glitters like walls in a disco, but the disco ball’s the sun in a sky so blue it helps me forget. And I
need to forget.
For thirty minutes I watch him, the ferry slapping across the surface of the bay. I watch because he’s new in town, and hardly anyone new arrives here. Ever. Because it’s that kind of place. The kind of place where it takes a while to fit in. To be accepted. Not that I’d know, because I’ve lived here like,
When I get off the ferry I pass him. He ties the rope masterfully to the wharf like he’s done it before. The ferry knocks the wharf and the gangplank’s eased across, and the tide’s so high I feel like I’m walking on water. I move unnoticed into the swarming crowd.
Nelson Bay is busy. So busy it makes my head swim. From the pier I dodge parents and prams, kids on gaudy jumping castles and blow-up rubber slides just to get to the less-crowded street. It’s clear up the hill so I head that way, to see if I can find a café or shop with a sign asking for casual staff, because I badly need a job.
After nearly an hour I’m mercifully in luck. At the top of the rise above the curved marina’d quay, Café Blue sits high above the bay. I push through the glass swing-doors, glancing around at the decor. Stylishly chipped stone tiles are wrapped around the walls, with floorboards so shiny you could check your face in them. The manager George eyes me up and down from behind the counter when I walk rather self-consciously in.
He takes off his glasses. “What can I get you?” he croons. His eyes are a deep chocolate brown and his salt and pepper hair is cropped close to his head.
I smile sweetly, gently clearing my throat. “Well actually, I’m here for the job. I saw the sign for the waitressing job in the window. Is it still available?” I point behind me to a hand-written sign taped to the glassy shop-front.
He glances over at the sign and then turns back to regard me. Closely. “Got any experience?” he asks almost suspiciously, putting me immediately on the spot.
I nod, feeling nervous beneath the concentrated scrutiny. “I do have some. Not a lot though,” I say, wondering whether it’s wise to be so truthful.
He refocuses and clicks the end of a pen, thinking. He taps it twice against his temple as if to get the neurons firing. “Well, unfortunately I’ve just given the waitressing job away, but I
I could put you on kitchen.” He levels his gaze and I’m supposed to be eager.
I smile at him again, relieved to have found something. “Ah, well that’d be great. So when can I start?”
He pauses, repositioning the glasses on the bridge of his nose. “How’s Saturday?” He leans forward conspiratorially. Closer, as if about to disclose a secret. “We’re busy here, though.
busy. So practise scraping plates and chopping veggies before then,” he orders, somewhat gruffly.
Two days later it’s my first shift and it’s harried, just as George warned. Chef Riley struts around like a deity in the kitchen, asking me to make veggie stock to add to the risotto. I throw roughly chopped veggies into a vat-size saucepan and turn up the heat. It rises quickly from intensely sweltering to a blistering sear. Riley points commandingly at the risotto and I stir until my arm burns.
“It’s too bloody busy,” Gemma whines, running a hand through her long chestnut hair. She appears briefly in the kitchen all tall and leggy, her skin stained dark by the sun. “Can you make me something to eat, Riley? Maybe a salad?” She glances briefly at Emily her protégé, standing behind her. “And something for Emily, too?”
Emily scored the waitressing job. The one still taped to the highly polished window. And Gemma’s been schooling her. Gemma who’s got it all. The smile, the charm, the tricks of the trade. The girl we all secretly desire to be. The one with a seemingly airbrushed perfection. Unattainable, like on the covers of glossy magazines.
Emily holds out a hand. “I’m Em,” she says with a genuine twinkle in her eye. “I guess I got your job.”
I laugh, because it was never mine to begin with. She got it, fair and square. And I’m happy to be in the kitchen. Less interaction with customers.
“I’m Sam,” I say, taking her hand, and as I do so she draws me closer to kiss me lightly on the cheek. And for some weird reason, I feel I’ve made a friend.
Riley shoots Gemma a quick, irritated glance. “I’m a bit busy, Gem. Can you wait ten, or make it yourself?”
“I’ll do it,” I offer, eager to fit in.
Riley raises an eyebrow in my direction. He’s tall and good-looking and
aware of it. A little older maybe, but definitely in his twenties. Unlike George, who’s greying at the seams.
Riley exhales in frustration, looking over in my direction. “Oh, all right. Check the orders, Sam. If they’re mostly cake and coffee I’ll let you off the hook.”
On first-day impressions I like him. He’s direct and fair, if a little cocky. In that pretty boy, so-sure-of-himself kind of way. All day the orders have lined up like wide-spaced teeth, but because it’s three p.m. there’s a lull. And I’m
grateful for it. So I quickly make a gourmet green, scooping it onto two over-sized plates. When I hand one to Gemma she cracks me a smile.