I paced the floor anxiously. I stood up, sat down, stood up, sat back down. I let out a disgruntled moan.
The time had come. My cousin and his wife would be returning from their trip in only a couple short days and I needed to make a decision on where I would go next.
My mother and I were meeting in Bali in a month’s time, so it seemed silly to begin a new job and settle down in a new place, only to have to pick up and leave soon after.
I didn’t want to stay where I was so I considered travelling for the month, but was seriously low on funds. I tried to find a temporary job doing farm work or fruit picking, but did not receive a single response.
The only option that really appealed to me was returning to the surf town. I reasoned that I could get my old job back, have a few couches here and there to crash on, and that it was necessary because I really truly missed my friends and needed them in my life. All that was true, but maybe the real subconscious reason for my decision was that I wanted to see Nick, even though my heart started pounding and my skin started sweating anytime I thought about seeing him. It had been nearly a month since his announcement and I had yet to respond. I knew that seeing him would be inevitable, so I decided to try and be the bigger person and call a truce.
My fingers trembled when I dialled his number. After an eternity he finally answered, I took a deep breath and firmly spoke my peace.
“I’m trying to be happy for you, because I know that this is all you’ve ever wanted,” I told him.
“That’s not true -” he interjected.
“Do NOT interrupt me. I’m speaking now,” I spat and he shut right up. “Anyway, I’m coming back to town and I know we have all the same friends and I know I’ll have to see you so I wanted to tell you that I don’t hate you and that we’re cool, but in no way can I ever be your friend.”
He said he understood and thanked me for my call. I hung up the phone and got to work planning my return.
Oh dear God, what have I done?
I had changed and so had the town. It was noisier and more chaotic than I had ever remembered, chalked full of all the visiting summer vacationers. I felt reborn and vowed that this time around I would be the most social version of myself and say yes to every experience offered to me.
I met up with Kyle and the two of us walked the beach. Of course, the second person we ran into was Nick… He and Kyle chit chatted, while I stood off to the side.
“Nice to see you,” Nick smiled at me, “Otis is in the truck if you want to say hi.”
I spent the rest of their conversation cuddling Otis, who had become a full-grown dog in my absence.
After finally escaping the awkwardness that felt like it lasted a lifetime, I received apologies from both guys for putting me in such a situation. I told them both not to walk on eggshells around me and that I was fine, but the minute I walked into Kennedy’s house I began drinking heavily…
That night we celebrated my return with an epic chicken dinner cooked by Jill, followed by lots of wine and joints and cigarettes, followed still by a quick ride into town where we would proceed to dance the night away. I met up with heaps of friends including one in particular who had messaged me earlier in the day named Fred.
… A little backstory on Fred: He and I met shortly after I first moved to town. Jill and I were sitting on the beach and a group of guys walked by and called out ‘cheers!’ to us while simultaneously tipping their beer bottles in our direction. They were cute, friendly and drinking so we decided to join them. They were a group of local street artists and I hit it off particularly well with Fred. We all ended up getting loose at the bar. Fred and I snuck out the back to smoke a joint and laugh about our same stupid sense of humour.
“You’re really cool, we should be best friends. No, seriously, we should be best friends,” he insisted.
After that, we chatted back and forth and he ended up meeting me at the drum circle. He insisted I come to the bar to have a drink and dance with him. It was getting late and I had work in the morning so I told him I was heading home. He leaned in to kiss me. In all my stoned glory, I dodged his smooch and yelled out, “Did you just try to kiss me?!”
“Um, yeah that was my intention…”
I was all too aware of some of his chick friends standing out of his line of vision and filming the entire scene on their phones. I felt so incredibly awkward, truthfully, I was attracted to Fred in a lot of ways and I was curious to kiss him, but I had just started dating Nick and didn’t want to betray him. Instead of explaining any of these things, I just turned around and ran out of the bar. After that, Fred and I were less friendly, but we’d still chat here and there, I’d run into him every so often and we’d have a drink together…
But this time, dancing at the same bar where he first made a move, I didn’t turn away when he leaned in to kiss me.
When everyone began parting ways and heading home for the night, Fred turned to me and asked me to spend the night with him. Back at his house, drunk and turned on by the prospect of a new partner, I threw him down on his bed and attacked him with all the prowess and seduction within me.
He was tender and attentive, thumbing my nipples and kissing my breasts. When he took off his pants my jaw dropped at his size, the largest I’ve ever had without a doubt. He fucked kind of fast, which was slightly painful, but I managed to slow down the tempo.
I woke up, naked and sprawled across his bed. My mouth was dry and I was disoriented, but something had woken me up. It was an older man standing in the open doorway, we made eye contact before he slammed the door shut in embarrassment. I had a sudden flashback of stumbling into a grandiose house, chalked full of expensive looking art pieces. And then it hit me: Fred lived at home. Fred lived at home and we had just spent the entire night having loud, boisterous sex. I was mortified. Even more so when I had to get up and be introduced to Fred’s dad and even more so when he had to drive Fred and I into town because apparently we had cabbed into the middle of butt-fuck no where and Fred had lost his license earlier in the month due to a DUI.
Once in town, we went to part ways. He asked what my plans were for the night and I told him about a show I was meant to go to. Not even an hour later he messaged me saying he had gotten a spare ticket and would see me there. I couldn’t help but grin.
“Be careful,” all my friends warned, “He obviously likes you a lot.”
My friends had ditched the show and I hadn’t seen Fred anywhere. I was just about to leave myself when there he was, leaning against the front door frame, chatting to one of the ticket girls. When I saw him, he looked embarrassed as he pulled me close to him,
“I was just trying to guess where this girl is from. I thought Germany, but my friend thought Russia so I had to come over and find out,” he explained nervously.
I just laughed and brushed it off, happy that I had finally run into him. We spent the rest of the night dancing, drinking vodka and making out against the bar. When he took me home I told him how uncomfortable I felt meeting his dad.
“My dad really likes you, I’m glad you met him. I don’t bring girls home very often, and I want you to get to know my family because I want you to be around a lot.”
I blushed. My friends were right, he obviously did like me… a lot.
Fred asked to see me the following night, but I told him I needed a night to myself. He expressed his disappointment, but asked me if he could cook me dinner at the beach on a following night. I could barely contain my excitement at the prospect of such a romantic date, but felt sideswiped when he mentioned that a couple of his friends would be joining us. Ashamed that I had misread the situation, I desperately texted Jill and begged her to join us.
Once we were all sitting and I was desperately trying to relax, who should walk over, but Max and Brandon and Kyle and bevy of the rest of Nick and my shared friend group. I knew they were also planning a barbecue but thought they had chosen another spot. To my horror, they decided to join us and I let out a huge sigh of relief that Nick was not amongst them.
Long story short, we all got stinking drunk and Fred and I disappeared back to my tent, but ended up just passing out on top of each other.
I woke up covered in sweat and with a vicious hangover, I rolled over and groaned with the pain. Fred awoke and suggested we treat ourselves to a lazy hungover day at my campground. We smoked weed and swam in the pool, smoked more weed and got breakfast, smoked even more weed and had sex and then smoked a little more while hanging out in the jungle. We finally left the grounds to catch sunset and smash a pizza on the beach. We parted ways and promised to get together soon to watch a movie, but after that day things changed drastically.
Fred stopped responding to my messages, whenever I’d see him out he’d make an excuse to leave, yet he would tell me how beautiful I was and kiss me in public, but then I’d hear stories about him leaving with other women. I confided in my friend Reese and she insisted none of it was true.
“I know Fred really well, he’s not the kind of guy who picks up random girls at the bar. He’s a sensitive artist type. Trust me, he’s a good one.”
Maybe so, but it seemed he had moved on from me and I wondered desperately what had changed.
On Aussie Day, high on M and feeling alone, I made the mistake of calling him up and telling him I wanted to see him.
“I’m fucked up,” he admitted, “I want to see you too, but I don’t know if I can make it back into town, you could come here though.”
“Why don’t you text me the address and I’ll try to get a lift,” I suggested.
“Yes, that would be awesome. I’ll text you right now, I really hope I get to see you.”
I never received a message and I spent the next day wallowing in my hangover and hating myself for being such a fool.
A couple days later, I saw him out, but walked away before he could notice me. Sitting down on the patio with my friends, I tried not to notice him leave with a skinny brunette.
When Reese arrived and I told her, she was in disbelief and disappeared to get the scoop from one of Fred’s friends.
“Okay babe,” she said upon returning, “this is going to hurt really badly, but it’s better for you to know so you can move on. That girl he left with is his girlfriend, apparently they’ve been dating for a while.”
“And on top of that, supposedly he fucks a new girl every week. I’m so sorry, he had us all fooled.”
I tried to be strong and laugh it off like I didn’t care, but I fell apart. All the Nick issues I’d buried inside came bubbling to the surface. I told everyone I didn’t want a boyfriend, but I’d used Fred to distract myself and to replace that giant gaping, Nick-shaped hole in my life. I cried, a lot. I could not stop. I left the bar and went home where I cried myself to sleep.
At 7 am I staggered into work hungover, sleep deprived and depressed. My co-worker and I smoked a joint before starting on our cleaning duties and the weed helped numb me. In fact, all I’d been doing since I’d returned was drinking, smoking weed and using hard drugs and the chemicals were reeking havoc with my emotions. On top of it all, after finishing my shift, I received an angry phone call from my dad, accusing me of being a shitty daughter.
“You’re right,” I admitted, “My life is an absolute mess right now, but I’m going to try harder.”
I wanted to go back to sleep, but my tent was too hot so instead I met some friends at the beach. The moment I got out of the water I made eye contact with a smiling Fred, walking towards me, blissfully unaware of the revelation I’d just received.
I panicked. I had no idea what I wanted to say to him. So I did what I do best and quickly ran away from the beach.
That evening, I was still too terrified to face him, but instead constructed a long text message. I knew it was the cowards way out, but I didn’t want to see him and I had to get some things off my chest for my own sake.
I just told him that I thought we were friends and he really disappointed me by being like every other Aussie guy. I explained that I never wanted a relationship, but would have appreciated honesty and a bit of respect.
He apologised for being distant and blamed it on his upcoming move, before asking me to hangout the next day.
“The reason I’m saying these things is not because of you being distant. We live in a small town, and I’m not an idiot.”
I didn’t expect a response and wasn’t surprised when I didn’t get one. I seriously questioned my judge of character, took a deep breath and tried to make the most of my remaining days in town, thankful that I had Bali to escape to.