Lizzie picked me up and we set off towards the beach, driving as fast as we could while still keeping with the P-plater limit.
“You’re at Lofty Speaks next week, aren’t you?”
“You don’t sound keen for it.”
“It’s not that, it’s just that--.”
“We’re both Type Threes,” Lizzie reminded. “We are achievers. If anyone can do this, it’s you.”
I simply nodded my head, not arguing. Realising that the conversation wasn’t necessarily going to move forward, Lizzie eventually flicked on the radio. She twisted the knob to move through the stations. Finally, Lizzie needed to place both hands on the steering wheel. We ended up with some sort of documentary about the Sydney Olympics.
“There are photos of Mitchell and Geoff at the Olympics.”
“Yeah, Janey was a baby then,” Lizzie added. “I know we have a photo somewhere of her with no clothes on, sitting on an Australian flag towel and with a cardboard gold medal covering her privates.”
Recalling having seen the image before, I laughed. Finally, we came over the hill and I could see the ocean, so I wound down the window in order to smell the salt in the sea air. We’d chosen a good day to head to the beach, with flawless weather. Summer technically hadn’t arrived yet, but you’d never have been able to guess. Lizzie found a park near the oval, then we strode down underneath a clear blue sky. We walked up to one end, to the right, to the ocean baths. A few of the old faithful were swimming laps, enjoying the sunshine unashamed of how the rays had aged their bodies. I could already feel the sun tinging my skin pink. Lizzie and I turned, in pursuit of shade. The shrubs along the rockery swayed, dancing in a gentle breeze which tempered the heat of the late spring day. We ambled down to Gordon’s Bay. It felt like an oasis, tucked away from the busyness of the main Coogee Beach. Lizzie and I slipped off our shoes, striding down a wooden staircase to the beach. I watched my shadow on the sodden sand, cool underneath my bare toes. Lizzie stepped into place beside me, snapping a photo on her phone of our silhouettes side by side.
“Do you feel like a swim?”
The white frothy swish of the ocean lapped up to us.
“Yeah, sure,” I agreed, then we headed back to the towels.
I stripped down to my swimmers underneath my clothes – a 1950s style one-piece with a blue and white check pattern and small frills around the chest cups. While Lizzie undressed to her bikini, I made sure to lather myself in sunscreen. We ran down as a wave shot up to greet us. Feeling the bay around my calves, I allowed my legs to give way, surrendering. As I splashed in the water, I realised that the tightness in my chest had finally dissipated. The ocean could not wash away the totality of my grief, but for a moment I could feel reconciled with my surroundings. Once the sun dipped behind a cloud, it got too cold for swimming. We stalked out of the water, bodies dripping. Straight away I reached for a towel to dry myself off. Fresh sunlight warmed me up. Pink hair remained damp, but that didn’t bother me so much. Anxiety would return, but for a moment I could be free. I checked my phone when we returned to our bags and felt ill for a moment, having heard from Geoff.
“What’s the matter?”
“Oh, Geoff’s invited me to a party tonight at the police station.”
“Like, a Christmas party?”
“That’s weird, it’s kind of early.”
Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed Lizzie scrolling through her own phone.
“One of his colleagues is leaving to go travelling. I think that’s why it’s so early.”
I dropped my phone back into my bag.
“Do you want to go back into the water or head back to the main beach?” Lizzie enquired.
“I reckon that we could grab something to drink,” I proposed, and she agreed with a nod.
I placed my pants back on and grabbed my shoes. While the plan was to wash and dry the sand off my feet, my toes started to sink into the soup at the shoreline. A small smile came onto my lips. I remembered when Mitchell and I were little. Finally, the water withdrew, clearing as it disappeared. Feeling peckish, Lizzie and I returned to the main beach and found ourselves a café.
She headed in and ordered drinks – a watermelon juice for her and a caramel milkshake for me. We found a patch of lush grass overlooking the beach. Sipping through paper draws, the conversation dried up. We filled our bellies, then returned to the car. Lizzie gave me a lift back, and I almost could have fallen asleep. I arrived home and dumped myself down on the bed, lying down underneath the swirling ceiling fan. I think that I love summer more than winter, but I still wasn’t used to this heatwave, and the energy which it would zap out of my body. Of course, I wanted to go to this party, to spend time with Geoff, grateful he’d even invited me. Eventually, I rolled onto my side. I glanced my watch and somehow found the strength to drag my body off the bed. I walked out into the backyard, jacarandas in bloom. I hadn’t really thought too much about what I was going to wear. Sitting around wasn’t going to fix the situation, so I returned to my bedroom, changed into a casual red dress and grabbed my handbag. Heading out the front, a band of dark grey cloud metastasised above the house opposite. I hadn’t packed an umbrella, albeit one would be of little use in a thunderstorm. Thinking that Mum would prefer it, I ducked back into the house, grabbing an umbrella, then got on my way, catching the bus up to Castle Hill where I met up with Geoff outside his work. As we passed through the police station, I noticed a bronze plaque on the wall. Shiny, it was probably new, hence why it caught my gaze rather than blending in. The inscription acknowledged the Bidjigal Clan of the Darug Nation. Something didn’t sit right, not about the acknowledgment but its location in a police station. Walking through into the backyard of the station, I tried not to let it get to me, because it wasn’t my place to deliberate. I glanced up into the evening sky, as Geoff pressed a drink into my hand. Thanks escaped my lips, but I was thinking of how I’d missed the storm. Perhaps I’d just outran it, while it pelted down onto somebody else. Pizza was served for dinner, and Mason got up to give a speech for his farewell.
“I wanted to let you all know that I won’t be returning to the Castle Hill command. In fact, I’m not returning to the police altogether.”
The other officers seemed to be a little shocked, but kept their feelings in check. Geoff approached him. Mason instigated a hug.
“I am really going to miss you, brother,” he assured. “Keep in touch, yeah. If you ever wanna talk, I’m here.”
They eventually pulled back from each other. My own growing misgivings about the police clouded the remainder of the evening. Geoff dropped me home. I wanted to talk about what happened at the Christmas party. Instead, I didn’t, thanking him for the lift and heading into the house, to go to bed.
Abbey Sim is the founder of Huldah Media. She is a creative writing, law and theology student who lives on the lands of the Dharug people in Sydney, Australia. Abbey desires to explore themes of hope, love and longing through her storytelling. She is the author of 'Shadow' and 'From the Wild'.