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A Risky Return

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.”
Ouch.
“And on top of that, supposedly he fucks a new girl every week.  I’m so sorry, he had us all fooled.”
Double ouch.

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.
My response?
“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.

 

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Goodbye

I rolled over and slowly opened my eyes, the space next to me was empty.  I supposed it was him getting up to use the bathroom that woke me up in the first place.  It felt late in the day; the sky was bright and it was quiet, too quiet, missing was the sounds of the family going about their day.  I groped for my phone, the digital clock claimed it was only 8:00 am, we had slept for 10 straight hours, yet still I felt drained.

I groggily recalled returning home, although I guess it wasn’t really my home anymore, I felt like an intruder when I walked in the door last night.  I went into the house in search of my landlords so I could tell them I’d changed my plans, but the entire family was out, probably at their daughter’s Christmas concert.
We’d stripped down naked and collapsed on my unmade bed, even though we’d both been exhausted we still made love, his strong warm body on top of mine, his perfect member thrusting deep inside of me, it was all I could do not to look into those blue eyes and whisper, “I love you.”  Then I was on my stomach and he was behind and soon I was coming, my orgasm so profound that for a moment, I left my body.  I suppose sleep came soon after because I didn’t remember much else.

He returned to the room.
“Good morning beautiful,” he cooed softly in my ear.  “I’m going to the bakery for a pie run, do you want anything?”
“Mmmm… coffee please,” I mumbled.
“Coffee,” he repeated with a smile, “Go back to sleep, I’ll be back soon.”
I curled up on my side as my mind attempted to recall the hazy details of the past 24 hours.


It was Friday afternoon, the day before I was meant to leave and Nick had insisted on having a barbecue for me, unaware that I had booked a bus ticket for the next morning.  Driving to his house I felt anxious: I hadn’t finished packing, I had no reliable transportation back into town and the way he and Jill had been talking, I knew they were planning on a wild night.

When we arrived at his house, no one was home so we all broke into his yard and started sipping beers and listening to tunes.  Nick finally showed up with his puppy Otis in tow, others began to arrive and soon the party was in full swing.  We drank, we ate, we drank, we smoked.  At one point, all of us girls went swimming in the pool.  Everyone was fairly intoxicated and adamant on doing cocaine.  Nick went down the street with money and returned with MDMA.  Everyone loudly vocalised their distaste, but we all ended up doing it anyway.  My anxiety soared as I began to peak, I couldn’t sit still, I couldn’t relax.  I kept moving seats and getting up to do things and starting new conversations.  Jill was all over the map, Nick kept wanting to cuddle and tell me how special I was, Don could barely speak, Shawn was too intense, Kennedy had not done M but was stoned as shit, Mel was too high to function and her cousin Sally looked sober, bored and judgemental.
Max showed up with a couple friends and I insisted they drop with us, they even chipped in for another baggie.  I started to feel a little more relaxed.

It was certainly an entertaining night, Jill got into the clothing I intended to donate and we had a fashion show.  We played truth or dare and everyone got naked or made out.  We took turns confessing deep secrets and fantasies.
Everyone was starting to do more, but I was done and falling asleep on Nick’s shoulder, I knew I should just go to bed and get some sleep, but I just wanted to stay in the company of my beautiful friends and listen to the sounds of Shakey Graves picking away at his guitar and crooning, “Some of us were built to roam…”

I persuaded Nick to join me and he laughed when I begun my game of seduction, “Why didn’t you just tell me you wanted to fuck?  We could have snuck off for a quicky…”
“Nothing about this is going to be quick,” I assured him.
We explored each other’s bodies touching and kissing every inch of skin.  I felt dazed as if I was entering and exiting a dream.  After half an hour I dried up and we both just fell asleep.

A few hours later my alarm went off.  The first thing I heard was the sound of heavy rain on the rooftop.  I thought about all my friends passed out around the house, I looked over at Nick, naked and beautiful, peaceful.  I thought about leaving them all to trudge down the street alone to the bus stop, to wait in the rain, to rush into town.  The idea alone nearly brought me to tears, so I did what I should have done in the first place: I called Greyhound and for a mere $6 fee, changed my reservation to the following day.  I cuddled up next to Nick and fell back asleep.

The next time I woke it was to my phone ringing.  Kyle was on the other line, he was on his break at work and wondering if we’d all survived the night.  He was especially concerned about Max who was apparently still up cleaning when Kyle had left for work.  I wandered out to the patio and found him staring off into space, poor guy.  I made him tea and as the others began to stir I made them all teas and coffees as well.  All the anxiousness was gone, even though I’d changed my plans last minute and messed up the schedule of my cousin, who was picking me up from the bus stop and my landlords, who were expecting my suite to be entirely empty.  I knew I should feel bad, but truly, I did not care.
I rolled a joint and we all got good and stoned before Max made us bacon and eggs.  Jill had to rush back to town for work so I offered Max my seat in the car, insisting I could get a ride with Nick.  On their way out the door, we grabbed Kennedy and convinced her to stay and spend the day smoking weed and watching Futurama.

Eventually the sky darkened and we dropped Kennedy at home before returning to my now empty abode.  And now we were here…


I sipped my long black and tried to gather my bearings.  I took a much needed shower and said my goodbyes to the family who I had been sharing a home with over the past 3 months.  I made the bed up nicely for the new tenant and Nick and I loaded up his ute.  In town we walked on the beach for a while and ran into some friends who I bid adieu to.
This was the final day I was meant to have; not strung out on M; not tired from being overworked; not rushed and stressed.  This was the farewell I needed: chilled out and with him… the man I had loved and lost, cried for and laughed with.  This man who’d been such a massive force in my life, who I had forged this intense relationship with.

At the bus stop, he gathered me in his arms.  “I miss you already,” he promised and I fought back tears, because the truth was I never intended to move back and he was one of the main reasons why.  The last couple weeks I’d been with him, yet had managed to keep my distance, but I knew eventually I’d get sucked back in.  I couldn’t stand the thought of feeling such deep pain again; the heartbreak was inevitable.
Despite my best wishes, there was no future for me and Nick and there was no life for me in this place.

Onto the big coach I climbed, while he watched me go.  I tried to be strong and look only forward though my body trembled with sadness.

1

Negative Nancy

Shortly after I decided to swear off men, the energy surrounding this beautiful place shifted. I can pinpoint the exact moment I felt it.

The night of Violet’s birthday my roommate Kathy had joined me and actively voiced her desire to do mushrooms, she even had a gram all ready to go. I assured her that Violet would bring plenty of mush and we’d all partake with her.  A few of us arrived down at the beach and began making a fire.  Kathy began growing concerned that it was getting late and that she wouldn’t have enough time to come down before she had to go to work, so she decided to eat hers.  I accompanied Violet back to staff housing and made my enquiry.
“Dude! I just sold the last of it! I have one left though, you can have it.”
Not wanting to leave Kathy tripping alone at a party full of people she didn’t know, I did what any good friend would do: I ate that mushroom capsule.
The crowd around the fire was growing and I could feel myself getting higher.  People’s faced became covered with geometric patterns, but yet I was still engaging in full and sensical conversations.  Kathy and I went on a pee mission and when we entered the bushes we both gasped.  All the leaves were glowing neon green and appeared as thousands of hands reaching up, beckoning me to lie on them.  I collapsed backwards onto the awaiting hands.
“Wow,” Kathy remarked, “Your hair looks like it’s alive, growing into the bushes. You’re like… their queen.”
That was my last happy memory of the night.

Back at the fire, I was continuing to have in-depth conversations whilst staring off into space when a couple guys started talking to us, one was named “Alex.”
“Do you wanna go splash in the water?” He asked me.
“Of course!” I exclaimed and the two of us began skipping out to the ridiculously low tide.
“How do you know Violet?” I asked.
“I don’t,” he said, “I just moved here after being discharged from the military… Should I marry her?” On the way back to the fire he picked me up and threw me over his shoulder and began running with me.
“Stop!” I screamed, “Put me down!”
“Ask me anything!” He commanded as he released me. “Ask me how many men I’ve killed, go ahead, ask me!”
“No,” I stated, “Are you just fucking with me because I’m high?”
“What? No, why would I do that?”

Back at the fire I tried to stay away from him. Kathy and I sat off to the side of the now 50+ person bonfire and listened to my friend play guitar.  Suddenly “Alex” returned and started screaming at my friend to play Bob Dylan.  When my friend ignored him he screamed, “You people are all fucking retarded!” and stormed off.
“Oh my God, I’m so scared of that guy!” I cried, “He’s going to kill me!”
“It’s okay,” Kathy insisted, “We’ll be fine, you’re just high.”
We made our way through the crowd and found our beautiful Kennedy, all swollen and chipmunked after having her wisdom teeth removed, chewing away on weed fudge.  The 3 of us ran out onto the wet sand and towards the surf and admired the glowing phosphoresces that appeared under every step we took.  We stared back towards the lodge, the sky was overcast, but the stars were still shining through in an eery, sinister way.  In the distance, the various lighthouses cast ominous lights. Something felt different, not right.
Back at the fire Kathy became fearful of “Alex” and insisted she and I go back with the now departing Kennedy.  I was in the midst of smoking a joint in the hopes of calming my nerves and promised I would return shortly in the company of my friend Jack.  I assured her that he was completely sober and would keep me safe.  The two of us began our trek back and sure enough “Alex” appeared and began to say some hostile things to Jack.  We both walked away, “Man that guy’s weird,” Jack commented.
“He’s the one that’s going to skin me!”

On the way back and as I came down, Jack began to retail me with ghost stories from the very bay we’d just been partying in.  Apparently, a tourist shot himself in the head there and on occasions a spooky presence had manifested in that spot.  Suddenly he stopped. “Do you hear that?”
“What?” We listened carefully and in the distance we could hear a grinding metal sound.
“A bike?” I suggested.
“Maybe, but whoa, what’s that?” He pointed up beyond the tree-line where two bright lights were circulating towards the sky in perfect unison.
“What the hell is that?” I asked.
“Headlights,” he declared.
“But why are they moving in a circular motion like that?”
“They’re headlights, let’s go!”

Back at the lodge, Jack went up to get a drink of water from the hose while I sat on a beach chair waiting for him.  A little ways down the beach I could see a bright blue light.  Although I was coming down, I was still having weird visuals and I couldn’t tell if the light was coming towards me or was on a stationary post.  It seemed to be moving, but only up and down and if it belonged to a person, shouldn’t they be close enough that I could see them?
“Hey Jack,” I called as he came down the stairs, “Is that light on a post or a person?”
“I don’t know, but it’s coming closer!” The two of us ran up the path with Jack’s blanket wrapped around us for protection.

Back at staff housing we were all reunited and safe, but I still felt uneasy. As I tried to sleep I felt fearful that “Alex” would find me. I wracked my brain for any information I may have given him: that I was staying at staff accom, that I worked at the lodge, the neighbourhood I lived in, but I came up with nothing. I assured myself that I was safe and that tomorrow would be a better day, but the negativity began to grow and fester.

To be continued…