Dad pulled up outside the garage door. He got out of the car to open it and let us in.
“What do you think about paragliding?”
“Really? You want to do that?”
Geoff shrugged his shoulders, and I sensed he was a little self-conscious. Dad hopped back into the driver’s seat. He drove through into the garage, without his seatbelt on, and I nervously smiled. Once we parked the car, we headed upstairs with our bags – holiday mode fully switched on. I could feel a little bit alright while we were away, and I didn’t have much other choice. I relaxed on the small balcony of our holiday apartment in Shoal Bay. My fingers were curled around a tall, thin glass of red wine. I swilled the dark liquid around and around in time with the soundtrack of the waves beyond, gleaming under the afternoon sun. Dad padded onto the concrete underneath my long chair, taking up most of the space.
“Geoff just said, he was thinking that we might go out for dinner,” he suggested.
“Where was he thinking?” I asked, even though I knew I could have just enquired to him myself.
“There’s that Italian place down by the beach.”
We departed just after eight. The pastel sky appeared holy, as the ocean splashed in against the sand, smoothing out before retreating. The six of us walked down to the Italian place overlooking the beach, where Dad confirmed the reservation for del Reyan. A waitress led us through to our table, in the corner, but which looked out towards the beach. My shoulders dropped as I sat down. The waitress poured glasses of water.
Once we’d surveyed the menus, I ordered a pumpkin and ricotta pasta dish. As the waitress departed, I sat back in my chair. The kitchen must have been efficient, because dinner arrived promptly. We started to eat, Dad checking his phone during the meal.
“Mum and Dad would like us to come over on Australia Day.”
I looked at Geoff, seeking support.
“I don’t really want to do that,” I protested. “It’s not right to be celebrating on January 26.”
“It’s your grandparents’ wedding anniversary,” Dad reminded. “That’s what we would be celebrating.”
“They would make it about Australia Day.”
“And if they do, they do. They’re from a different generation.”
I didn’t want to have the argument during dinner, in public, but I didn’t want to give in, either.
“It’s just my opinion we shouldn’t be celebrating, that’s all.”
I shovelled more pasta into my mouth. Geoff snuggled into my side.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m just giving you love. Do you want me to stop?”
“No, it’s fine.”
The discussion really sucked the life out of dinner. By the time we left the restaurant, I could hear the rumble of the ocean, but I could not see it. We walked back to the apartment. I got into bed and said a prayer, a little bit of rambling in hushed tones and underneath the blankets, desperate and repetitive requests. Sometime, just before midnight, I must have nodded off.
Abbey Sim is a candidate for Honours in Communications at the University of Technology Sydney. She lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Having started Huldah Media in 2021, Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.