Nobody but Him

By: Victoria Purman



When Ry reached the steps to the lookout on top of Middle Point, he took them two by two in great, strong strides, twenty-five of them, until he hit the top one. As he caught his breath, he turned and took in the view. Even in the winter, there was so much to love about the south coast of the Fleurieu Peninsula. To the east, the ribbon of coastline snaked away into the hazy distance, the sea spray blurring the view like an Impressionist’s painting. Down in the water, surfers dotted the waves near the point, out further than swimmers would dare venture. No matter what time of year, the diehards wrapped themselves from head to toe in black neoprene and straddled their boards, waiting patiently for the best swells. Some people just loved this part of the world unconditionally and Ry was one of them. He’d learned to love it just as much as his parents had. While they’d always lived in the city, they’d spent holidays at Middle Point, coming down from Adelaide almost every summer when he was younger, paddling in the shallows as a toddler, bodyboarding as a kid, and then surfing as a teenager.

Surfing. It was something he hadn’t done in too many years to count. He needed to get back out there, now more than ever.

Shit. He’d hoped the run would serve to clear his head, to get rid of the crap that had kept him up most of the night.

Julia.

The ghost who’d sashayed right into pub, in the cold heart of winter, in the town he was investing his time, energy and cold hard cash in. Except, she wasn’t a ghost or a memory or a bad dream any more.

Behind him, a vintage panel van started up, it’s engine croaky in the morning cold, and the sound of it shot him back fifteen years. When he’d watched Julia drive away, vowing never to come back. To Middle Point. Or to him.

So what the hell was she doing back here?

Ry launched himself down the wooden steps and back to the beach, his pace accelerating to meet his pounding pulse. In all those years he hadn’t seen her or heard from her once. Not once. He’d thought she was gone for good. Out of this town, out of the state, out of his life.

But all it took was to see her face again, that body hidden inside the black and white waitresses uniform, to bring back a sense memory of what it had felt like to touch her, to hold her, to make love to her. To be the centre of his world.

That world had come crashing down when she left. And he’d never forgiven her. Ry glanced at his watch and picked up the pace as he headed for home. He’d been good at keeping his emotions in check in the past few years. He’d have no trouble doing the same where Julia Jones was concerned, keeping her out of his head.

One step in front of the other, one heartbeat, then another. Ry let the pounding of his feet take him over.

Where the hell am I? Julia blinked her eyes open. A purple chenille bedspread. A venetian blind straining and failing to keep out the dull morning light. A 1960s orange-hued oil painting of a tropical sunset. A macramé pot holder hanging from one corner of the room, a bunch of dried lavender blossoming out of it.

She propped herself up on her elbows and yawned sleepily. She was surrounded by a house full of her mother’s stuff, none of which would add to its selling appeal. Julia knew she couldn’t put it on the market the way it was. If she decided to sell it. Who wanted 1970s beach décor anyway? All the new homes along the coast were white and Scandinavian in style, full of bleached wood furniture and reproduction Eames chairs, designer black and white prints hanging on the walls and artfully designed printed curtains. No one would want her mother’s orange vinyl sofa, which was sticky and sweaty in summer and arctic-cold in winter, or the scuffed teak veneer furniture that was dotted around the room. It would all have to go. But even the thought of dumping anything from the house brought a lump to Julia’s throat.

Over a breakfast of Vegemite toast and freshly brewed coffee, Julia did a quick bit of maths and realised that she’d lived away from the house and the town almost as long as she’d lived in it. The thought made her feel more disconnected than ever from the place she’d grown up in.

She’d broken up with it a long time ago, and maybe it was true what people said, that you could never go back. It had only been three days, but maybe she really didn’t know this house and Middle Point anymore. It was certainly likely that they didn’t know her, either. And what had she come back to, anyway? A place so markedly changed from her childhood that she barely recognised a house along the beachfront. The old shacks — and the families who lived in them — were almost all gone, pushed out by a spiral of increased property values, higher property rates and taxes and insatiable demand from city people with deep pockets and a desire for an ocean view. They’d changed the place forever, in her mind, and for the worse.

Her phone rang and she picked up the call, while munching her toast.

‘Hey Lizzie.’

‘Hey Jools.’ Lizzie yawned. ‘You okay?’

‘I think I’m coping rather well with being made redundant, actually. I don’t miss that place at all.’

‘Yeah, I don’t know what that was all about. After you left, Ry was like a bear with a sore head for the whole night.’

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