Nobody but Him

By: Victoria Purman

Julia squeezed her eyes closed, hoping to blur the image of him that was freeze-framed in her head. Ry in pub. Handsome. Furious. Blonde. Distracted. Stone-cold sapphire eyes. This whole being back in Middle Point thing was going to be harder than she thought.

Especially since they had Lizzie in common. Why on earth did she think she could hide in her little house bubble and not hear his name or find out anything more about him?

‘Serves him right,’ she said. ‘The jerk.’

‘Jools, he’s not so bad. Hey, do you want to come over for a coffee? I’m going to suck up every spare minute of your precious time before you head back to the big smoke.’

Julia looked down at the coffee cup in her hand.

‘Love to. Give me a little while. I’m still waking up.’

‘Take all the time you need, Jools. I’ve got a day off and I am a total lady of leisure.’

Julia pulled her mother’s fluffy, white dressing gown tightly around her, comforting as well as warming her, as she listened to the morning radio news humming softly in the background. Julia was a news junkie, listening for any mention of clients in trouble or potential clients who might need their hand held while their world was crashing in around them. It was how she started every single day of her life, waiting for bad news.

She’d already had her Middle Point bad news, delivered to her in the form of a very handsome man with a forbidding scowl. And there was nothing she could do for her clients when she was so far away. So he leaned over, twiddled with the round knob and stopped when she found some music. Lizzie’s plan for coffee was brilliant. Julia knew that, for her, a whole day ahead with no work to do was a dangerous thing. It would mean there would be too much time to think about her mother and too much time to think about Ry, what the hell he was doing back in Middle Point and how on earth they were going to avoid each other.

With the coffee mug warming her hands, Julia pushed open the front door and stepped out into the front garden, letting the familiar and comforting sound of the ocean wash over her as she took in the scene.

The views from the old place were worth a million bucks, literally. The beachfront location was fantastic for the scenery but devastating for the bank balance. It was a constant battle to keep up with even the most basic maintenance, a never-ending fight with the punishing winds and corrosive salt. The house was sixty years old, splashed pale green on the exterior from a decorating era long passed, with a front garden made up of random succulents and seaside daisies, which grew so abundantly along this part of the South Australian coast.

This had been the place of so many languid summers, of sunburn and salty air, of surfing and surfer boys. Julia glanced across the esplanade to a small grey building nestled in the vegetation and smiled at the memory. That was the place she’d had her first kiss, right there on the sand in front of that toilet block. Oh, the romance. Kevin Higgins was two years older and slightly drunk on wine cooler the summer she had turned fourteen, and she could still remember the shock of his tongue ramming into her mouth. Technique wasn’t his strong point, but he’d looked so cute in those low-slung board shorts that she couldn’t resist him.

Growing up, she’d known these streets so well, had known every house and the names of everyone who lived in them. The local kids roamed the streets in a giant pack, safe in knowing they weren’t more than three houses from someone’s place in case hunger or thirst overcame them. But Julia didn’t feel that comfortable familiarity anymore. Most of the old places she knew had disappeared, razed and replaced by modern holiday homes, in designer blues and yellows, all glass windows and sharply angled rooves.

She knew her mother had fielded various offers over the years, a couple of which could have set her up quite handsomely somewhere else, but she’d always been resolute in her refusal. If she’d taken one of those offers, the house would have been knocked down in a hot minute and replaced with one of those monstrosities. Julia had always assumed her mother would die in that house. She just hadn’t expected her to be quite so young when it happened.

The wind whipped about her ears and Julia took another sip of her coffee to warm herself as she glanced at the new place next to hers. Although dug into the dunes, it was still huge at three-storeys high, with angles taking advantage of the vistas, east and west, along the coast. Lizzie had told her that the locals hadn’t taken long to christen it the ugliest house in Middle Point. It was an arrogant house, they’d decided, full of itself, too keen to make a statement, too big to blend in with what surrounded it. It was stark and white with windows the height of each story like sheer cliffs, exposing the homes’ interior. With no blinds or curtains to obscure the view, Julia could look right inside and she could make out colours and shadows. It looked like a furniture catalogue in there, she huffed to herself. Modern sofas were posed elegantly around an enormous, wall-mounted flat screen television. Next to it, there was a long white table with perhaps twelve dining chairs artfully arranged around it, just perfect for the cocktails-at-sunset crowd. She’d seen places like it in decorator magazines, and wondered how people who lived like that coped with mess and sand and wet towels and children and dogs.

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