The rain pings off the bottom of the small, tin dinghy and I tuck my body as far into the bow as I can manage. Dad’s silhouette is black against a deep plum sky. His hands grip the worn, wooden oars and his body moves mechanically, propelling us through the choppy river. I look over the edge of the boat into the murky depths. I’ve never seen the river look so dark, so rough, and so unknown. I imagine the monster that lives under the water that changes colour with the sky so you can’t see it lurking below. It’s watching us, waiting. The boat jerks with the current and I wonder if the monster is trying to capsize us. I can’t recognise where we are or how far we have to go, the riverbanks are hidden on the dark horizon. As the boat turns a bend in the river we start to sway again.
Opening my eyes I can see that the room is cast in shadows. The light trying to push through the curtains fails and I am left to wallow in semi-darkness. I wiggle my legs under the blanket. Thinking it’s a game Artie pounces and attacks the duvet covers, intent on killing it. She turns her fluffy face to me, meowing, she runs out to the lounge room prompting me to feed her. She’s such a greedy little fur-baby. I roll over and feign sleep.
Christmas is a day of food, family and fun. It is just a day though. Any other day could be celebrated in the same way.
It’s Christmas Day and I’m crying. I can’t remember the last time I cried on Christmas, actually no, that’s a lie. I can remember being told off when I was ten years old after inquiring whether the beach towel Grandad had gotten me had been purchased at The Warehouse. Looking back I realise how this could have been construed, like I was calling him cheap or something.
When you live far away from your friends’ stagnation takes place. They only ever see you for who you were, not who you have become.
“You look so good,” Lizzy says.
“So do you!” I lie. Was she lying when she said it to me?
“How is everything going?”
“Oh you know,” there’s no way to answer the question appropriately that isn’t “good, you?”
“Yeah great, how’s Jordan?”
When I was a child I used to wish I were Pippi Long-stockings, now I realise she would probably wish she were I.
I tighten my grip on the rail, the wind whips my hair about my face and the sea spray flutters onto my cheeks. I feel alive. The salt in the air settles on my lips and I can taste it. I take in deep breaths and smile out at the horizon, I wish I could do this more often. We slow down as Dad’s GPS tells us we’re close to where he left them. We putter about the green, orange and black bobbles that disappear under the swell.
“Alright, when we get close throw out the grappling hook and pull the buoy into the boat.” Dad’s voice roars over the motor.
Some people say life is all about the journey, not the destination.
“I-I-I-I-I-I, I’m hooked on a feeling. I’m high on believing. That you’re in love with me!”
I jump awake and fish around my pockets for my phone that’s blaring Hooked on a Feeling for the whole bus to hear.
“Hey, why haven’t you text me back?”
“I just woke up.”
“Shit. She just woke up. You going to try get the bus tomorrow then?”
“No, no. I’m on the bus. I just fell asleep, I’m a bit hung over.”
“So what else do you do dear?” The greying haired lady asks. I fold up the silk blouses she has picked out, my cheeks start to warm. I know where this is going. I’ve had this conversation many times.
“Oh, nothing at this point.”
“So you’re not studying?”
“No, just working for a bit.” It’s not the lady’s fault, but I want to punch her right in the throat.
I’ve been told many times that I was his favourite. I don’t know what it was I did to deserve such a title. I can’t help but wonder if I still do it, this thing that made me so special. If he could see me now would I still be his favourite? Am I the person he thought I was? People say dad was always his favourite too. I can understand that though, they were so alike.