The Charm – Chapter 17


The track ends abruptly, bursting from dense scrub. A wide sandy expanse spreads to a tree-lined plunge pool. A sheer cliff rears behind the pool and curves around either side, creating a natural amphitheatre. Lush greenery hangs from black rock. Water trickles down the slick cliff face, showing where a thundering waterfall must cascade during the wet season.

Mark brakes gently to a stop and they gaze upon the paradise with open mouths.

“This is so cool,” Traci whispers, awestruck.

“Jeez, you found it,” Terry said, sounding surprised at Marks navigating.

“Coarse I found it. I can read a map, can’t I?”

Mark drives towards a small clearing near the inviting water and parks. The clearing has been used as camp site before. A circle of blackened stones show and old fire place. Shady trees line the river bank with glimpses of sparkling water showing between them. The boys aren’t willing to wait a second longer to cool off. They dump their keys, wallets and shirts before sprinting down the sand to dive in.

Jemma and Traci change into bikinis and join them. Mark and Terry watch with broad grins as they squeal and tiptoe through the slimy mud. Usually male attention is flattering, but out here Jemma find the repressed lust a bit unnerving. She’s high enough that the thoughts don’t coalesce into resentment deep enough to ruin her blissful state. She lets go completely for the first time in days and relaxes in the cool liquid. Any fears of crocs and snakes far from her mind.

Terry swims over, distracting her.

“So you can smile. You like?”

Evidently her tendency towards negativity hasn’t gone unnoticed.

“I get a bit worked up, don’t I. Yeah, I like.”

Mark and Traci are dunking each other and laughing. They swim away, leaving Jemma and Terry alone. Their laughs and shouts echo in the stillness.

Jemma floats contentedly, swapping stories of their hometowns and recent, coincidental trips.

The daylight dims as the sun falls. Eventually they all wade from the water and set up camp in the twilight. Terry locates the eski while Mark lights a fire. The girls accept a beer this time. Jemma and Traci cook dinner in a cast iron pot. The lid is cracked and the resulting mess of half cooked potatoes and soggy sausages is only acceptable to hungry stomaches.

The pipe does the rounds again. Tipsy from two quick beers, Jemma starts to refuse.

“It’s too strong. I dunno.”

“Aw c’mon. Look, I packed you a small one. Mellow out, man.”

Mark’s fake hippy accent is amusing, though his Heroin dealers smile is repulsive. She snatches the red and gold pipe from Marks hand. The night swirls as harsh smoke fills her lungs several times.

*          *          *          *          *          *          *

Jemma had staggered off to bed with leaden limbs a few hours earlier, ignoring the pleas of ‘just have one more beer’. Laying in the van, dizzy and sick, had been an unfamiliar helicopter ride that heralded an onset of vomiting. She’d clung to consciousness while throwing up out the door.

Afterwards she’d felt very weak but a lot better. Laying on top of her swag she listened to the deep male laughs and Traci’s fake indignation as the talk turned dirty. The inability to be there to protect Traci holds sleep at bay.

Jemma is relieved to hear Traci marching unsteadily to the van. She throws the bent sliding door open without trying to be quiet and flops beside Jemma with enough fuss to ‘accidentally’ awaken her even if the screeching door hadn’t.

“Wha’s up?”

“Mark. He’s a jerk.”

Well that’s a turn up, Jemma thought, making the huge effort to roll her lead filled body over.

“Tell me what happened?”

“He wanted to screw me and got narky when I said no.’

“Well, don’t get mad, but you have been all over him. You gotta learn most men are walking penises.”

“How come the ones I like always turn out to be wankers?”

“I think we’d all like to know the answer to that. What’re they doing? They still drinking?”

“Yeah, bloody pigs. They’ve eaten all the chips too.”

“Go to sleep. Maybe we should ditch them tomorrow and get a bus to Adelaide.”

“Yeah, maybe. I got an appointment don’t I?”

So the subject has finally come up. Even through the fuzziness, or maybe because of it, Jemma seizes the opportunity.

“You’re going through with it then?”

“I don’t know. Would you come with me? I’m scared just thinking about it.”

“Course I will.”

“Thanks Jemma. I know I’ve been a bitch. I needed time to think about it, without everyone telling me what to do.”

Jemma pats Traci’s arm and stays silent.

“Only…I’m… I’m thinking of keeping it, you know?”

“What would you want a baby for?”

“They look kind of cute, and…it’d be nice to have someone who needs me to look after it.”

“I think you’re forgetting some stuff. Dirty nappies, non-stop crying, no one wanting to go out with you.”

Traci is quiet for a while.

“I wish I could be like you Jemma…you’d never let this happen to you…God, I’m so tired. I had too many beers…”

She trails off and drops off. Jemma pulls a sheet over both of them and spirals down into a broken sleep with her. Traci’s last words echo in her head. Keeping the baby had never been on the cards before.

(Chapter 18)

Published in: on Monday, 3 November, 2008 at 9:17 pm  Leave a Comment  
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