They’d come a long way for this, seduced by the promised bliss of sun and surf and not a bit deterred by the alarm of shark attacks or backpacker murderers. Two years of thrift and now they were here, the land theirs to explore for six long months.
Sydney had been fun, though the drinking and anger on the streets had daunted them and so they headed north.
Today, their playground was Yamba, a surfer’s mecca, a sun-kissed place of blue and gold. They’d swum till their legs ached and their skin hummed from the salt and sun.
Together they lay their towels on the scrubby grass and set up the camp stove. Water to boil, he pours in the pasta and waits. ‘One last swim!” – she kisses him lightly then darts down the path and out of sight.
He gazes at the outline of the trees above, perhaps dreaming , perhaps pummelled by the waves he is now devoid of thought?
Pouring water off into the scrub he shakes the pasta dry and sits to add the jar of red sauce. Poking idly at the meal, he glances down the sand path. He flicks an ant from the leghairs above his ankle and waits. And waits.
Minutes lengthen, forehead creased in concern, he stands to walk to the scrubby rise, shaking the sand from his shorts. He vanishes around the bend and all is quiet. A kookaburra swoops to investigate the meal, but decides against plundering.
He returns and sits again, hand tapping thigh, on alert, agitation spreading through him like caffeine. The food in front of him cools and gels. The light softening, the shadows lengthening as his panic heightens.
He stands yet again, distress screaming from every part of him. He looks around, wishing her back, not sure what to do, how to get help.
A flick of blonde hair catches the corner of his vision, his head snaps to focus. She calls his name and runs to him as his body slumps in relief. They embrace, his face wetly pressed to her salted neck.