Viv still didn’t know why she’d decided to come. The morning walk, a coffee run, followed by the beach, lunch at home, then back to the beach. She wasn’t even sure if some of her friends wanted her here. It was as if she had something to be sorry about. She would stay a couple of nights, and then say that her mother was unwell and that she needed to go home.
As the sun rose, Viv and her friends were walking from Back Beach Bridge around to Saltwater Creek. The conversation changed from the virtues of quinoa, to body odour. Someone started complaining about their husband’s snoring after drinking the night before. Courtney turned to Viv, “Lucky you have the whole bed to yourself. You can spread out like a star.”
Until now, Viv being here without Don hadn’t been talked about. Well at least not to her face. But someone had to let the cat out of the bag. Some of her friends turned their attention to the view acting like they hadn’t heard. Alice who had known Viv since kindergarten, changed the subject to back to quinoa. Viv wished she was able to spread out like a star, but it wasn’t like that. Billie, her daughter, slept next to her and her son Damon usually came in during the night. She felt like anything but a star.
After lunch, as all the families sat at Main Beach, Viv thumbed through a magazine. A man coming out of the water, near the rocks, caught her attention. She recognised her brother instantly, even at a distance. He had the same build as their father. Viv and her brother had been close as children but hadn’t spoken in she couldn’t remember how long. She knew that he’d gotten divorced and moved to Japan for a while, and doubted if the kids would recognise him. Viv felt someone grab her on the shoulder and turned. It was Damon wanting her to take him out on his boogie board. When she turned back to see her brother, he’d gone. Viv got up and took Damon out beyond the shore breakers.
Viv liked the nights the best. The heat had gone, and there was always a cool breeze when they sat on the deck. The kids had gone to bed and as the night got on and beers and wine turned to whiskey and vodka, someone found a table tennis table in the garage. They all decided they should play, and wives partnered up with their husbands. A few of them geared up as if they were about to step on to centre court at Wimbledon, wrapping toilet paper around their heads to use as sweatbands. Someone cut in, “Viv, why don’t you just rotate around, and someone can sub in for your team. You can do a bit of a partner swap.” Viv knew who it was.
“That’s ok, I’ll sit this out. I’m not much for sports anyway,” replied Viv.
Alice called out, “She can be with me, we’ll be like girl power, like Rhonda Rousey”. And they both pretended to shadow box against each other, which made Viv feel more embarrassed than she already did.
Alice and Viv played a couple of games and lost them all. When no one was watching Viv slid upstairs. Damon and Billie had high jacked the bed and were sound asleep. Viv got her headphones, and lay down on the floor using a jumper as a pillow. She fell asleep with laughter and shouting coming from the garage as she listened to Interpol playing through her headphones.
Viv was reading the text from Don for the third time. She’d written her reply but deleted it. The room was stuffy. She had a headache and got up and opened the window and let the fresh air fill her insides. Viv didn’t want anyone to see her this tired and exasperated. Courtney walked past and stopped at the door.
“Fine, just going through some work emails. Is everyone going to the beach?”
Courtney smirked, “Why are you here? We know why Don left. Everyone is just being polite.” She turned and kept walking down the hall.
The words wrapped around Viv and grabbed her by the throat. She wanted to run and take Courtney down with a chainsaw and sell her body parts on the black market. But Courtney was right, Viv didn’t want to be here. She needed air, a place to breathe. Viv needed to get out of this house. She needed something to cool her down, she needed a drink. Viv went through the house and found Damon and Billie. “We’ve got to go back home and see Nanny, she’s not feeling well. But before we go, why don’t we end the trip with an ice block from the shop.’ Before they could say anything, Viv grabbed them by their hands.
The three of them walked out of the house and went toward the IGA that was in the centre of town. Viv walked quickly and Billie and Damon had trouble keeping up. God she was thirsty. She wanted to dry reach, but not in front of the world.
At the shop, the kids went to the ice cream freezer and Viv went down the back to the drinks fridge. She opened the fridge door and let the cool air wash over her. Viv grabbed a bottle of coke, but the bottle slipped and rolled along the floor. She dropped her head and turned to pick it up, but noticed that someone behind her had picked it up. As she rose, she saw a face that she remembered from her childhood.
Viv’s brother grinned at her, “I never remember you liking coke. It was always a creaming soda.”
A calm smile crept along Viv’s face.