IN THE WIND - PREVIEW

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1

 

 

Screens.

They were forever in hands.

Smartphones.

Everyone I knew spent the majority of their life looking at one. It was a wonder they bothered with windows at all anymore. We could black them all out and no one would notice. They’d simply sit in their darkened boxes, staring at glowing screens and swear they were ‘connected’.

Except me. I was probably the only eighteen-year-old girl in existence who chose not to own a phone. If you wanted to talk to me, you’d have to do it the old fashioned way – face to face.

I lifted my eyes to the charged air as the lights flickered and thunder rolled around us like a discontented beast.

“How can you keep staring at that when there’s a magnificent storm happening off the coast?” I glanced at my best – and probably my only – friend, Zeke, who kept his dark head bowed as he shrugged his shoulders and continued scrolling through his Instagram feed, pausing occasionally to look more closely at photos from whichever busty model type or band member he’d chosen to follow recently.

Instagram made him the ultimate voyeur.

“You can get struck by lightning through a window, you know,” he pointed out, his head still down, his thumbs still scrolling.

“Where’d you learn that? YouTube?”

He grinned, glancing up at me for the first time through his too long dark hair. It hung down past his liquid black eyes as he peered through the soft falling strands. His gaze was positively heart stopping.

“Probably,” he admitted.  

Returning my attention to the window, I watched as rivulets of water streaked down the glass as the rain continued to beat down. It was torrential, as if someone was standing on the roof and spraying a hose on the world as opposed to the clouds leaking their usual shower of liquid. Out on the ocean, flashes appeared in the dark sky, cracking the horizon in zigzag patterns that lit up the water, creating colour where there seemed to be none before.

Blue. Purple. Silver.

“Seriously, Zeke, come and see this. It’s like the gods are at war.”

Conceding, he set his phone to the side and climbed off my bed. Coming to sit beside me, he folded his long jean-clad legs knee first on the window seat I’d been occupying and pressed his face up against the glass.

Flash. Pause. Boom.

I smiled, caught up in the magnificence of Nature’s wrath then clutched his muscular forearm as I spoke in hushed awe. “Did you see that?”

He didn’t respond, and I turned my head, noticing he wasn’t even looking out to the ocean like I was.

“Dawn?” He said my name as a question, his voice sounding preoccupied as he leaned closer to the window, his gaze lower than mine. “Who is that?”

Leaning closer to him, I followed his line of sight and saw movement in front of the house next door. It had been vacant for most of the year. Its previous occupant was an elderly lady by the name of Joan. But, her family had moved her into a nursing home and put the house up for sale when she’d fallen and cut her head open on the edge of the stairs. It wasn’t anything terrible, but her family thought it best to keep her under constant guard. So, off she went, never to be seen again. It was sad because I liked her. She baked ANZAC biscuits for me and loved to talk about the Golden age of cinema, which was something I was in love with too. It had been an odd combination – an old lady and a teenage girl – but, I’d really enjoyed visiting her. It felt odd seeing someone moving into her house.

“Looks like we’re getting a new neighbour,” I stated, watching as moving van rattled to a stop out front.

“Do you think it’s just a summer person?”

We watched as two men rushed through the storm and began to unload furniture protect by sheets of plastic, carrying a long couch up the path to disappear into the soft yellow glow of the house.

“No. I think they’re moving in.”

Flash. Pause. Boom.

A few feet away from the moving van, in the centre of the lawn, a girl twirled about like a child. With a smile on her face, she tilted her head back and let the rain thump against her skin, her hands above her head as her long saturated hair flicked about her like a windmill. Spinning. Spinning. Laughing. Laughing.

Zeke and I pressed our heads together. Watching. Watching. It was hard to tell from this distance, but she appeared to be our age, which is what made the sight that much more wondrous. Most eighteen-year-olds did everything they could to behave like an adult in order to be taken more seriously, and here was one who obviously didn’t give a fuck about being taken seriously at all.

As we continued to watch, it was as if we held a collective breath, afraid that if we made any sort of noise the spell would be broken, and the girl on the grass below, who looked like freedom itself, would be gone.

“Who do you think she is?” Zeke whispered, his voice filled with wonder as he continued to stare. Transfixed.

“I have no idea.”

Turning my head, I allowed my breath to exhale as I took in the expression on Zeke’s face. The way he watched her. They way he looked at her. Zeke and I had been friends since he moved in across the street in second grade. And in all that time, he’d never looked at me the way he looked at her in that moment.

Reaching up, I tucked a stray lock of my dyed black hair behind my ear and tried to ignore the pang in my chest as I forced my eyes away from Zeke and down to the twirling girl. Even I had to admit that she was quite magnificent, like a breath of fresh air in our small seaside town.

When she suddenly stopped twirling, she looked up at us, somehow sensing our eyes. She smiled then gestured for us to join her.

“I’m going to say ‘hi’.” Zeke scrambled off the window seat and was out the door in a streak of denim and faded red from his t-shirt. He’d moved faster than I’d ever seen him move to get to her. When I looked back at the girl, she was still looking up at me, seemingly unbothered by the rain and wind lashing about her face. She cocked her head to the side – a curious creature – and kept her eyes on mine. She had light eyes. I could see that even in the dim light of the storm and from the second floor of my family home. I lifted my hand, and I waved – just a small wave, barely even a finger wiggle. In return, the girl beamed, took a hold of her dress in one hand then spun around in sheer abandonment. She had so much joy inside her that I couldn’t help but smile back.

She stopped spinning when Zeke stepped out in to the rain with her, and she waited until he walked toward her. They spoke. They smiled. She held out her hand.

I stepped away from the window. I didn’t want to see anymore.

***

On the Eastern edge of Australia, tucked away between the headlands, is a picturesque suburb of less than fifteen hundred people called Hargrave Cove. Unless you live in the area, you’d have no idea we existed, for we’re hidden on the edge of a national park in the Illawarra region.  The winding road you’d drive along to get to us is so steep that you feel sure you’re imminent death is just around the corner. It’s enough to turn many away. But, those who brave the treacherous drive become addicted to our shores, wishing they could live here, coming back time and time again to our pocket of paradise.

To cater for the summer tourists, we have a sprinkling of bed and breakfast establishments, one hotel, a caravan park, countless holiday rentals to cater to the high demand, and typical to most Australian towns, more pubs than one town really needed. But, Aussies love to drink, so all of them have managed to stay in business over the years – even in the quiet season.

Our homes are built on the edge of two hills that create a windbreak against everything but a direct headwind, and the wildest of summer storms.

They say Hargrave Cove is the kind of place postcards are made of. The sand is white. The water is clear. And almost every window has a sea view.

It’s the kind of place those living outside of Australia dream about. It’s also the kind of place most Australian’s dream of as well.

Unless of course, you’re me, and you’ve lived here all your life and have never, ever fit into the seaside way of doing things. I couldn’t wait to leave.

This summer would herald my final months of failing to fit into the sun and surf culture of Hargrave Cove. Zeke and I had graduated high school only weeks before, and with our university acceptance letters on the way, we were so close to saying goodbye to this place and starting a whole new life in the city where there was more than sand and pubs to offer, and the people actually wore shoes. Finally, our social life wouldn’t revolve around the tiny group of kids from our high school, drinking cheap beer and cask wine while passing a joint around a bonfire, thinking the epitome of cool was knowing all the lyrics to Nirvana’s greatest hits. It was all so lame. I was so over it. I couldn’t wait for Hargrave Cove to be nothing more than an introductory page in ‘The History of Dawn Tucker’ – I was destined for bigger things than bonfires and surfing. I felt it in my bones, and while Zeke and I sat on the outskirts of popularity, we had planned our future, far, far away from here.

This was just the beginning…

 

 

2

 

 

 

“Dawn!” My eyes cracked open when mother called my name from downstairs. “Dawn!”

I rolled to the side, peeking out from under the bed sheet as daylight assaulted my eyes. What time was it? A quick glance at the old fashioned alarm clock – one of those brass ones with the bells on top – that sat on the white built in shelves on the wall furthest from my bed, informed me that it was only eight in the morning.

“It’s holidays!” I yelled, pulling my sheet back over my head. It was way too early to be up. What the hell was she even doing up? Normally she was passed out in bed until lunchtime after yet another desperate date from some guy she met online.

“Come downstairs, petal.” Petal. She only said it when she was trying to be nice to me. She’d started calling me that when I was young. I remember her sitting me in front of her dressing table mirror and brushing my golden hair, telling me I was going to grow up to be a beautiful rose, just like she was. Would you like that? she’d ask, Would you like to be as pretty as mummy? I’d nod enthusiastically, wanting nothing more than to grow up and become as beautiful as my mother. But, as I grew, my lack of popularity confused her, my hair was thick and didn’t hold much of a style, and my face never became quite as pretty as hers. I had a pointy chin and a dimple in one cheek that never completely vanished, my dark blue eyes were too big, and my lips were too full. I looked odd while she looked like a model, and really, at close to fifty, she still does. Her frustration with me grew when the more she tried to change me – to fix me – the more I pushed back, until I didn’t really look like her daughter at all. I became a black haired rockabilly version of someone she didn’t even know – someone she didn’t want to know. Perhaps my looks reminded her too much of my father. I didn’t know. I just knew I’d disappointed her. She hadn’t been expecting to have a daughter with brains.

“You have a visitor, Dawn.”

I sat up. A visitor? Besides Zeke, no one visited me. And Zeke would have just come straight up to my room.

Pulling the sheet off my body, I stood up and straightened my nightgown before running my hands through my knotted black hair, wiping the sleep from my eyes as I trotted down the cool wooden staircase.

“Hi there.” That girl from last night greeted me from where she stood in the entry hall. With her hair dry, she looked like summer itself. I felt as though I paled in comparison to her natural beauty and even felt a slight jolt of jealousy when I noted my mother looking at her in admiration.

This is what she wanted, I thought. This is the kind of daughter she’d wished for. Not me.

Like this girl, I was born a natural blonde, but mine didn’t stay that way, and by the time I was thirteen, it had become that dark caramel colour that needed to be lightened so it didn’t look mousy. That’s what my mother had said anyway. Eventually, and much to my mother’s dismay, I chose to dye it black to match my constant mood. It was more fitting, and I thought it made my dark blue eyes pop more and set me apart from everyone else’s idea of beauty in this town. As I grew and came to except that I was different, I found it helped that I looked different as well. It served as somewhat of a warning to those who thought I cared.

So, while my hair colour now came from a bottle, this girl’s waist length hair was every shade of blonde there was, and you could tell there was nothing artificial about it as it fell in soft waves over her shoulders. Her skin was smooth and golden, indicating she spent way more time outdoors than indoors, and on her face, she wore zero make up, had eyes the colour of the clearest part of the ocean. Her smile was white, her teeth naturally straight. She was tall – close to six foot, and she was slim without being skinny. She was exactly the kind of person Hargrave Cove wanted. She’d fit in perfectly here. I wasn't sure what she’d want with me.

“Can I help you with something?”

She extended her hand. “I’m Shea. We met last night. Well…” She laughed. It sounded like the tinkling of bells. I narrowed my eyes. “We kind of met anyway. I was the girl spinning in the rain.”

“I remember. And now you’re the girl standing in my entryway. Is there something you wanted? Zeke isn’t here.” I don’t know if it was the fact Zeke ran to her so willingly the night before, or the fact she looked like the boho version of every girl who never had any time for me. But I wanted her to go.

Another smile. She didn’t seem to notice, or didn’t care that I was trying to dismiss her. “I was looking for you. Since I just moved to the area and we’re neighbours and all, I was hoping you’d show me around.”

I lifted my arm and pointed lazy out the window. “The beach is there. The surf club is there. The shops run along Beach St. That’s about as exciting as it gets.”

“Dawn,” my mother interrupted. “Why don’t you take Shea out and show her what you kids like to do. It will do you good to get some sun.”

I looked down at my own pale complexion, kept that way with copious amounts of sunscreen and a penchant for sitting in the shade. “Eighteen is an adult, mum. I’m not a kid anymore.”

My mother waved off my comment with an exaggerated eye roll. She’d obviously slept with her makeup on and had mascara smudges under her eyes. How embarrassing. Sometimes I wondered which of the two of us were the adult in this relationship. Ever since my dad moved out to pursue a relationship with a dental nurse named, Missy, she had reverted back to a flirtatious teen. I couldn’t even tell you the amount of men she’d met online and had a one-night stand with. I’d lost count and stopped listening when she talked about it. My input was to make sure she always had plenty of condoms in her purse. However, even that had come at a price. Someone at the local pharmacy had noticed my regular transaction, and as a result, I spent the last year branded as a slut. Thanks, mum.  

“Just go out and have fun,” she told me. “You’re far too serious, Dawn. You can’t spend your entire last summer with your nose stuck in a book.”

“I watch movies too,” I argued, trying to somehow flesh out the mediocre plotline of my current life.

My mother took my comment as a joke and laughed. “Go and have fun with your new friend, Dawn.”

Deciding against arguing any further, I conceded and turned to Shea. “Just give me a minute to get changed.”

“Why? I love that dress. Have you ever been to New York?”

Pulling at the ruffle on my Peter Alexander ‘Lady Liberty’ nightgown, I glanced at the statue’s face and shook my head. “No. But, it’s on my bucket list. And this is a nightie.”

“Oh.” She followed me up the stairs as I headed to my room. “We actually lived in New York for a year when I was sixteen. You’d love it.”

“How do you know I’d love it, Shea? You don’t even know me.”

Grinning, she watched me as I opened my rustic looking chest of drawers and pulled out some clothing.

“People aren’t so different, Dawn. All over the world, in all the towns and all the places, they’re intrinsically the same.”

I raised my eyebrows. “And here I was, thinking I was different. Excuse me.” Leaving my room, I headed into the bathroom where I relieved myself and washed before dressing in a cherry red pair of high waisted shorts, and a black and white polka dot halter neck top. I wasn’t tall and model shaped like Shea and my mother were, but I was slim and felt I had a decent set of curves at my disposal. And I made the most of my hourglass shape with the way I dressed.

When I returned to my room, Shea was holding a bottle up to her nose from my Gucci mini fragrance set that I had never touched but kept because I liked the tiny bottles. I moved to stand near her and brush my hair.

“You look hot,” she stated, her eyes taking in my outfit as she placed her index finger on the opening of the bottle and tipped the fragrance upside down. She dabbed lightly behind her ears then repeated the process for each of her wrists.

I laughed to cover my unease, not really understanding why someone I just met would want to compliment me in such a way. Was her comment just a joke? I felt that it must be, because I didn’t look hot. I looked like someone who didn’t belong in this town – something Shea was about to discover for herself by spending the day with me. I doubted she’d want to be my friend once she realised I was an outcast.  

“This is definitely my favourite.” She held out her wrist for me to smell. “What do you think?”

With my brow lifted, I took a quick sniff of her wrist as I continued to brush my hair and pull it into an elegant bun on top of my head. “I think you should keep it. I don’t wear Gucci.”

Meeting my eyes in the mirror, she watched as I tied a red and black bandana around my head in place of a headband. “Too good for Gucci, huh?” she asked with a smile. “Then what’s your fragrance, Dawn?” She picked up my tube of Chanel red lipstick and handed to me. “Let me guess, you’re a Coco Chanel girl?”

Taking the black tube of lipstick from between her fingers, I leaned closer to the mirror and slid the perfect shade of red across my lips, pressing them together before turning to her to answer. “It’s my signature scent,” I said with a smile as I picked up my white-rimmed cat eye sunglasses, and as I slid them on my face, I pursed my lips, causing her to laugh. She had a really nice easy laugh, and I wondered how long it would take before that laugh was aimed at me instead of laughing with me.

***

“So, what’s the deal with you and Zeke?”

I knew I’d get asked that question.

We were walking along Beach Street, which is where everything is besides a few random cafes, the charity store, and a few pubs. Shea was eating a fruit salad with her fingers, and I was working my way through a bag of liquorice. I knew all that sugar was bad for me. I just didn’t care.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked, holding a piece of liquorice between my teeth and pulling until I heard the length of candy snap before I started chewing.

“You have the same anchor tattoo on your ankles.”

I looked down. “They’re fake,” I explained, looking down at the airbrushed tattoo we’d gotten together a few days before when we went to seaside markets. It had already faded slightly and would supposedly wear off within a couple of weeks. But they looked quite real and we’d even thought that we might get real ones as a promise to always be there for each other, no matter what the future held. I wondered how she’d seen his since he was wearing jeans the day before…

“We’re just friends,” I told her.

Across the road, a group of guys I knew from school went gliding past on skateboards.

“Hey, Dawn.” I made the mistake of looking up. “Who’s your new friend? Does she suck cock too?”

Scowling, I lifted my middle finger at them in salute, resulting in the rumbling of male laughter as they continued on their way.

“Friends of yours?” Shea dropped her container of fruit salad in a nearby bin, and I threw in the rest of the liquorice as well, the flavour becoming bitter after the rude jibe.

“That’s Scott Jennings, and the ‘Scott Jennings Wannabes’. Their interests include surfing, drinking, and fucking – not necessarily in that order. But, it’s all they ever talk about. I think there’s some latent homosexuality going on between some of them. They’re all too willing to strip naked and swing their cocks around in front of one another to be completely straight.”

“The philosopher Nietzsche seems to think that sexuality isn’t just one sided, in essence, his writing suggests that we are all capable of desire toward the same sex, the opposite sex, and even ourselves. The whole notion of chastity and single committed relationships between a man and a woman weren’t normal until Christianity became the dominant religion. Before that, there was quite the ‘anything goes’ attitude.”

“What the fuck are you on?” I asked with a laugh after listening to her lengthy diatribe.

She shrugged. “Philosophy. Open mindedness.”

Looking at her, I studied her face for a moment as she stood before me, smiling as she held her long hair back so the wind didn’t blow it across her face. She looked just like the girls who grew up here, but there was something different about her – her ideas, her words – every time she opened her mouth, an intelligence spilled from her lips that I hadn’t expected when I first saw her twirling in the wind and the rain.

“How old are you?” I asked after a while.

“How old do you think I am?”

“I had thought you were eighteen like me, but I’m beginning to think you’re older.”

“I’m eighteen. But, I like books.” She shrugged her shoulders as if that simple sentence explained everything.  

“I like books too, but you won’t hear me quoting Nei–” I stopped because I couldn’t remember the name she’d used.

“Nietzsche,” she finished for me as we continued our walk down the path.

“Yeah. Nietzsche. What kind of eighteen-year-old reads philosophers?”

“It’s interesting as fuck, you should try it some time.”

A smile broke across my face, curving up my blood red lips. “Interesting as fuck, hey? See, now you’re sounding more like an eighteen-year-old.” We walked a few paces in silence. “You know, I didn’t think I was going to like you. But, I think I was wrong.”

She turned to me. “Funny. I liked you instantly.”

 

 

3

 

 

 

“Thought I’d find you up here.” Zeke folded his long legs and sat beside me on the grassy area of the cliff edge at the lookout. It was the place we went to most, as you could see the whole town from up there without anyone bothering you. “Hi, Shea.” He leaned forward to look around me and smiled a shy smile.

I didn’t like the way I felt when he looked at her. Up until that moment, Shea and I had been having a great day. I’d walked her through the streets and shown her everything there was to see in Hargrave Cove in a few short hours. Then I’d brought her up to the Lookout to show her the best view of the Cove. We’d talked and laughed, and really, it had started to feel as though I’d made a friend in her. She wasn’t what I’d first thought she was at all. She wasn’t an airhead obsessed with her looks. She had a quick wit, and understood me when I talked about topics other than boys and fashion. I’d actually enjoyed myself, and I’d never had a girl my own age for a friend before, so there was that too. The way she and Zeke seemed to look at each other, well, it complicated things in a way I didn’t particularly want to explore.

“What do you have there?” Shea asked, using her eyes to indicate the wrapped parcel Zeke held in his hands.

“Smells like fish and chips,” I said, as I reached over took it from him before shuffling backward and peeling the tape from the butchers paper.

“I’m starving,” Shea groaned, reaching for a golden chip as the paper opened and its contents spilled across the greaseproof sheet in a steaming heap.

“Thought you might be. Dawn’s mum said you’d been gone since morning.”

“How did you know to bring it up here?” Shea asked him, as we all dug into the food. “Did Dawn text you when I wasn’t looking?”

Zeke laughed and shook his head. “Dawn doesn’t believe in mobile phones. I just knew this is where she’d be.”

“You too are pretty close, huh?”

He glanced at me, his full mouth pulled into a dimple producing half smile. “As close as two people can get without fucking.”

I rolled my eyes but smiled as Shea and Zeke both laughed. Then I threw a chip at Zeke, and he nudged his body against mine in that friendly way he always did.

Zeke and I were best friends.

Just best friends.

It was a friendship that had carried us through our youth and our awkward teenage years, and now it was moving into our adulthood. Two outcasts, fighting the outside world together – we were invincible as long as we had each other. We were the anchors to each other’s drifting boat. We gave meaning to what seemed an otherwise pointless existence.

For a long time, we hated that we didn’t fit in. I think Zeke was the one that suffered most because of it. I was teased, but it was because there was something fundamentally different about me at my very core. For a long time, and to appease my mother, I tried to look as though I fit in. But, when ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ just wasn’t an option anymore, I stopped giving a rats arse and began to celebrate my differences. I listened to my obscure music and devoured ancient horror movies, read books from every genre I could find until my eyes refused to see anymore. I stopped trying to be a part of things. I stopped trying to be something I wasn’t. For me, there was a freedom in that. Not giving a shit forced me to see the world outside Hargrave Cove. Out in that world was where I was meant to be.

Zeke however, had a different experience. He was a boy, and he was awkward, he was shy – it made him a target for the golden haired bullies who had everything so easy.

When we were in primary school, he was small and skinny, with wild dark hair and big eyes, so dark they were practically black. He was so painfully introverted that when he opened his mouth, most of the time a stutter would emerge instead of his actual voice, and I ended up talking for him. Of course, that didn't go down well with the bullies at all.

Then, when high school came around, he had a growth spurt that caused him to be all arms and legs. Speech-wise, he became even more awkward as his voice squeaked up and down during puberty. Besides talking to me, he just shut up all together, speaking only when absolutely necessary, and even then, he was obscenely quiet. People thought there was something wrong with him. There wasn’t. They simply never gave him the chance to feel comfortable around them.

Together we were freaks. Me by design. Him by force.

Then year eleven happened. Zeke’s parents took him and his little sister to Bali for the summer holidays, and when he returned, it was like he’d suddenly turned into a man – an incredibly hot man. I’d always seen his beauty, and I’d noticed his body changing, but suddenly, everyone else saw him too. Standing at six foot three, his body had filled out in all the right places – broad shoulders, narrow hips, a dimpled smile. If Jamie Dornan and Nina Dobrev had a love child, Zeke would be the result. He had this manly beauty about him that had started to turn heads. My jealousy and desire to keep him all to myself was born. I’d never had a threat of sharing him before then.

On top of his looks, he’d returned with a confidence that wasn’t there before – partly because he’d lost his V-card while he was over there – and it meant that he stood a little straighter, spoke a little louder, and laughed more freely.

I’d thought there was no way he’d want to keep hanging around with me – the socially inept, Dawn Tucker, once he was accepted by the masses. He’d gone from geek to smoking hot in what seemed like the blink of an eye, and honestly, I thought the moment someone like Olivia Hunter – the most popular girl in our school – showed an interest, I’d lose him.

But I didn’t.

He turned her down.

He turned them all down, later telling me that he was still the same person he always was. They didn’t like him before. So he didn’t like them now. I often wondered how true that was, because they didn’t stop trying. Girls always kept trying for Zeke. Sometimes, they did it right in front of me. I guess they didn’t see me as any sort of competition. I wasn’t pretty enough for the likes of him – just ask my mum…

“So, you two have never?” Shea looked between us, her eyebrows lifted part way up her forehead, a piece of fried fish held at the ready, about to enter her mouth.

“Why do you want to know?” I asked, trying to hide my defensiveness by stuffing my mouth with more food. It wasn’t any of her business whether Zeke and I had ever had sex – which we hadn’t. Obviously…

She shrugged. “Just curious. You’re close. And from the sounds of things you spend a lot of time together – why not spend a bit of time between the sheets too?”

Laughing as though the idea of us sleeping together was some kind of a joke, Zeke shook his head. “No. We haven’t done any of that. Best friends and fucking don’t really mix. Right, Dawny?” He reached over and took my glasses off my face, sliding them over his own eyes as he threw a chip over the edge of the cliff face and a seagull swooped down and caught it. He laughed. No matter how many times he didn’t that, it never ceased to amuse him.

Squinting in the sun, I waited until I’d finished my mouthful before answering. “Right,” I agreed with a smile, noting the tightness to my voice as the word came out. Am I really that undesirable that the idea of sleeping with me is comical? I cleared my throat then filled my mouth with more food, glancing at Shea as I did. She was sitting there, eating a handful of chips, one at a time, with her head tilted to the side in a way that told me she was assessing everything we said. When she met my eyes, I knew she knew full well exactly how I felt about my best friend.

Abruptly, I stood up and dusted myself off. “I think I hear Jack calling me at The Palms.” I took my glasses back from Zeke and slid them over my eyes. “You coming?”

I held out my hand and Zeke took it, standing before offering his other hand to Shea. “Jack is Jack Daniels. She wants to go for a drink,” he explained.

“I gathered,” Shea replied, allowing him to help her up while I bent down to pick up the remains of our lunch. I’d walked her past The Palms on the way up to the lookout and told her that was where my mate ‘Jack’ lived.

As we walked down the dirt path from the lookout, Zeke continued, “There are probably only three places in town that Dawn actually likes. The lookout is one of them, then there’s The Palms, and the post office.”

“The post office?” Shea asked.

I had been walking in front of them and turned around with a flourish and struck an exaggerated catwalk pose. “Because they’re the only reason I have such amazing fashion sense.”

“She’s an online shopping addict,” Zeke elaborated with a laugh as they stepped past me.

“You’re not much better,” I added, as I quick stepped a few paces then jumped onto his back – used to this, he caught my legs and carried me without giving it a second thought.

“True. There’s a lot of stuff you just can’t buy in Hargrave Cove.”

“Maybe,” Shea put in. “But, they seem to have everything you need. There’s a beauty in that, you know. I’ve travelled all over, and so far, this looks as close to paradise as I’ve ever seen.”

Zeke and I looked at each other then burst out laughing.

“Why is that so funny?”

I jumped off Zeke’s back. “It’s just that you’re saying that to probably the only two people who live here and don’t agree with you. Zeke and I are counting down the days until we get our acceptance into Uni so we can make plans to leave this place. It’s paradise to some, but to us, it’s been more of a prison.”

Her azure blue eyes met mine for a moment, filled with a dreamy softness that you didn’t see often in someone so young. It was reserved for those much older while they looked back and remembered, I recalled seeing that look in my old neighbour’s eyes as she regaled me with stories of her youth.

“Perhaps you’re just looking at it the wrong way.”

 

 

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