Old 02-16-2012, 03:45 PM   #1
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A Fine Line

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It didn’t matter how many trips she had made, boarding an intercontinental flight still gave Jessica a rush of excitement. Of course, boarding a plane and turning left instead of right was a brand new thrill all of its own, but as a representative of her company where else should she sit if not in business class. She smiled at the flight attendant who took her jacket and hand luggage, asking that it be handled carefully as the contents were valuable and fragile. Another smile for the next attendant who brought her a cool drink to enjoy while the rest of the passengers boarded, carefully manicured nails flipping through one of the magazines provided while she sipped the chilled beverage.

Before too long everyone was on board, they had pushed away from the gate and were up in the air, en route to the Southern Hemisphere and Australia. It was one of those countries she had always hoped to visit one day and still couldn’t quite believe she would be living in for the next month or so. She would be in the land of kangaroos and ‘Crocodile Dundee’ by the end of the next day, or was it the same day? Her brow creased for a moment as her mind tried to work out the time differences.

“Excuse me, here is the menu for this evening’s meal…” A calm voice broke through her thoughts as an expensive card was lowered into her vision. “As a business passenger you can choose to eat when best suits you, and if I can get you anything in the meantime please don’t hesitate to ask.” The hostess smiled and moved to the next passenger. Smiling wryly Jess wondered if they taught them how to talk with that soothing tone or if it was something they just had to have to get the job.

She was choosing between the options when the equally velvet tones of the Captain came over the intercom,
“Good evening and welcome to this Qantas flight to Singapore, we will soon reach our cruising altitude…”
Sighing, Jessica tuned out and relaxed back into the seat. Twelve hours flying, an hour’s stop in Singapore, another seven hours of flying and she would be in Melbourne; sounded relatively quick if you said it fast.

“Business or pleasure?”
“Pardon?” Jessica asked as a voice came from beside her , green eyes focusing on the source of the odd question.
“Your trip, business or pleasure?” The speaker was a middle aged man, if his accent hadn’t given away his origin as being from either Australia or New Zealand, Jessica would’ve presumed he either holidayed a lot or lived somewhere with equatorial weather going by the level of tan decorating his face.
“Oh, business.” She smiled politely and returned her attention to the menu card.
“Business, eh?”
Jessica nodded, re-reading the wine list printed on the back of the card for the umpteenth time.
“Let me guess. You’re a model?”
“You flatter me,” She smiled, awkwardly this time. Part of her wanted to ask him if lines like that ever actually worked, another part of her already knew the answer.

Twelve hours of flying suddenly sounded like a lifetime if this was the level of company she was going to keep during it.

“Actress?”
Jessica figured actually telling him what she did would be the swiftest way to bring an end to his questions.
“I work for an engineering company.” Her tone was polite but not conversational. She hoped and prayed he knew nothing of the business because while it was true that she worked for an engineering firm, she knew next to nothing about what it did. She worked in their PR department and was on her way to a plant near Melbourne to help them work out some issues they were having from the local population to some extensions being made to some of the works.
She could almost hear his brain trying to come up with an innuendo laden comment about women and engineers but it seemed his mind couldn’t rise to the challenge and so all she heard was a rather quiet,
“Well, that…that’s interesting. Hope you enjoy your stay…”
before his reclining seat reclined him slowly out of her view.

In all honesty Jessica did plan to enjoy her stay. Australia was a beautiful country, as she understood it, and she hoped her month stay would include some time to explore her surroundings.

The flight was everything it should be, the food was delicious, the wine flowed almost too easily and Jess slept well. A very brief hour in Singapore and it was back onto another plane. No chat up lines on this flight, which was just as well. As the on-board map showed they had entered Australian airspace Jessica’s stomach began to tighten with nerves.

She took some time before they landed to slip into the ladies and brush her hair, debating between leaving the long chocolate brown waves hanging around her shoulders and sweeping it’s length up into something more business-like. A compromise was called for, after all, she’d read somewhere that their Australian cousins were a little more relaxed than the British were about many things. A high ponytail was the end result, a lock of hair wound around the base to conceal the hairband that held it in place ensuring the style looked more business-like and less high school. She applied a little make up, some subtle liner around her eyes, a spritz of perfume on her pulse points and she felt she looked ready. Definitely more ready than she felt.

For a few moments she looked at herself in the mirror, trying to psyche herself up. She wouldn’t have been sent if they didn’t think she was up to the challenge. Their Australian office was practically level with the Head Office back in the UK, this was a big deal, to put it politely. She knew she’d been sent partly because when dealing with the public and their perceptions of the company they liked to send ‘a pretty face’. A fact she had baulked at early in her career but now she understood the game, and how it was played, a little better. A pretty face helped dull the sting of bad news, or helped make up unsure minds. She still needed to know what to say and who to say it to and that was where the talent lay. She might not have chosen this career but she was good at it. She had been sent because they thought she could do what was required, even if she didn’t think the same. A soft ‘ding’ interrupted her internal pep talk and informed her and the other passengers that they would be landing soon. One more sweep of her reflection, straightening the collar of her fitted blouse and adjusting the waistband of her skirt. It’s colour a darker, almost navy, shade of blue than her shirt. It was smart but far more casual than anything she would have worn back home.

The exodus from the plane was as chaotic as every other flight she had ever taken but she managed to remain poised among those that jostled and knocked her as the small sea of passengers made their way from the plane down to passport control and on to the baggage hall.

She held back from commenting as a rather sweaty individual pushed in front of her at the luggage carousel. It was too early in the morning for arguing with strangers and besides, her bag would still be there when he had moved away. With a muffled groan, she shouldered one holdall and began to drag the other behind her, with her hand luggage carefully attached to the top of the case. She had over packed. She was certain she had, but she wasn’t a hundred per cent sure on what climate to expect – the internet could only tell you so much, and she had no idea on the dress code and attitude of her ‘adoptive’ office for the next month.

Her ‘slightly higher than sensible’ heels clicked on the highly polished floor as she made her way through towards the arrivals hall. Jess’ keen green eyes looking for her name on a card, scanning the crowds of people as she entered the hall. Laughing, crying, hugging people were all around as she came to a stop, brow creasing ever so slightly. She had been certain that no matter what else they did or didn’t do over here, they would have sent someone to pick her up. Eventually she spotted it, ‘Miss J. Brooks’ on a large white card in the hands of someone tall, or at least taller than her. Taking a slightly deeper breath she walked over, lips smiling, stomach fluttering with nervous tension.

“You must be from the office, I’m Jessica,” She outstretched her hand, shaking the larger one that took hold of it with a fairly firm grip. She found she had to tilt her chin a little to meet the eyes looking down at her, even with her heels. “Pleasure to meet you.”

Last edited by Britwitch : 02-16-2012 at 04:00 PM. Reason: Typo
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Old 03-13-2012, 10:01 PM   #2
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He was up early. Actually, for most people it was early, but for Chandler it was part of his normal routine. Normally, he’d be driving to the pool for a swim or even taking his kayak down to the river for a paddle, but today there was no time, not even for a quick set of push-ups and crunches. Instead, he settled for a cup of coffee on his balcony, looking down the valley at the small estuarine river winding its way to the sea. It was calm on the hill and he could hear the surf crashing in the distance, the familiar dull roar he loved.

Babysitting.

That’s what he was doing. The company was sending out their latest “expert” to help them with the issues at their western suburbs plant and he was picking her up from the airport. He wasn’t really involved with the plant. Chandler was an engineer, but he was mainly involved in environmental issues relating to the company’s contracting business. He usually worked in mining projects or infrastructure in environmentally sensitive areas. She was coming out to smooth over some problems at the new plant upgrade.

PR.

He rolled his eyes, but the magpies hadn’t come to visit him yet and the dog was asleep inside, so it was only for his own benefit.

Chandler was a blunt individual, but he got on well with people. They trusted him and because he lived in the bush, people from the bush tended to listen to him rather than the bigwigs sent down from Head Office or further. It was an intangible quality, but a valuable one and his organisation knew it. Of course, they sometimes had to put up with his “do-gooding” as they called it, but usually it was a small price to pay for them to have him on-side. He was “The Face” of the company in most of their remote projects. He smiled to himself.

He could also be “The Voice” of the company, but he didn’t talk enough for that. There was enough hot air where he usually worked.

The people he worked with often didn’t know him at all, but there would be an instant rapport, a bond built on that no-nonsense Australian attitude that only those that came from the bush would know. Rural Australians had a wariness of city people, especially slick, fast talking city people and Chandler was the bridge. He was smart, but he was modest and, in the Australian vernacular, he didn’t “talk shit.” He could stand up for himself when he had to, and if you were a fool, then….

He sighed, it was time to go. He took one last sip of his cooling coffee and put the cup down on the outside table.

Put it away later.

Chandler felt a pang of guilt that he could do that. He lived alone and there was no one to tell him to clean up or to put his cup away.

Not any more.

He shook his head and pushed the thought from his mind. He walked back inside, picked up the keys to the ute from the dining table and started to walk to the door. He heard a shuffle behind him. It was Shell, his kelpie. The brown dog was sitting up on her front paws and giving him a quizzical look. She’d heard him pick up the keys, but not call her. He almost always took her with him wherever he went.

“Not today, Shell,” he said,” I’m going to the airport. Be back in about four hours or so with a visitor, so you better make sure you put on your best manners today.”

The dog twisted her head at him, as if to suggest that she was always on her best manners, but Chandler knew better. She was his dog and she knew it. No one ever got between them. She came over to him and he patted her gently on the head.

“I’ll be back soon, girl,” he said softly.

He walked out the door and she followed him out, sitting at the door as he stepped up into the ute. He turned the key, waited for a few seconds for the diesel coil to warm up and then he started the car. It always sounded noisy in the morning because the valley was so quiet. He nodded at the dog through the window and she watched him as he drove up the driveway and onto the dirt road.

Babysitting.

********************************************************

The drive was uneventful, but, of course, he had to cope with city traffic. Chandler never enjoyed the city and the traffic was one of the main reasons. Why did everyone have to drive as if it was a race? To where? For what? He remembered an old song he’d heard many years ago, and it had resonated with him.

I'm in a hurry to get things done
Oh I rush and rush until life's no fun
All I really gotta do is live and die
But I'm in a hurry and don't know why


All these people running around like mice in a wheat silo and what would they have to show for it? Maybe a nice house or a car. Maybe even a nice pot of money.

So what?

Chandler had long ago stopped caring about those things. He certainly had a comfortable life, a nice house in a nice place, but it was enough.

It had never been enough for her….

He parked the car at the airport. The prices on the signs were akin to extortion and he was glad he wasn’t paying the fee, otherwise he would have parked outside and his PR friend could have walked a few kilometres.

Probably do her good after years of sitting behind a desk.

He walked into the airport and checked the boards. Her Qantas flight from Singapore had just landed so he still had a little time. He realised that all he knew about her was that her name was Jessica Brooks. He’d never spoken or corresponded with her, so he had no idea what to look for. He suddenly felt unprepared. He thought he’d better find something to attract her attention so he walked over to a rental car booth where the girl on the counter looked nice.

“Hi,” he said.

“Hello,” said the young blonde girl, in her blue company shirt. “How can I help you?”

“Oh, I’m not renting a car,” he said slowly with a small smile and running his hand through his short brown hair. It always worked, especially in the city.

She looked at him with a slight furrow of her brow. She really was pretty.

“So how may I help you then, sir,” she said.

He smiled a little wider.

“I’m not a sir, well I hope I’m not yet,” he said. “I’m a little young for that, I think.”

She blushed.

“Oh, I didn’t mean you were old or….”

“Nah, it’s ok,” he said, “I like your manners. Actually, I have to pick up a person I’m going to work with, but I have no idea what she looks like. I was thinking if I could borrow some cardboard and….”

Her face brightened.

“You want to write a card so she can find you?”

“Um, yes. I should’ve been better prepared, but you know….”

“Don’t worry at all. That’s an easy request. I don’t usually get such easy requests,” she said with a grin and a slight wink.

I like you.

“Well, thank you,” he said. “I can’t see why anyone would give you any difficulty. They’d be silly if they did.”

He nodded at her and she blushed again. She quickly swivelled her chair, bent over and then brought up a white card from the floor and handed it to him. Then she found a thick marker and gave that to him as well.

“Go for it,” she said.

“I wish I could,” he said with a wink and this time her neck went red as well as her cheeks. “But all this picking up people stuff gets in the way.”

“I’m Amy.”

“Hi, Amy. I’m Pete.”

“Hi, Pete.”

He leant down on the counter in front of her and wrote out Miss J. Brooks. It seemed a little forward to write Jessica or something similar so he thought he’d keep it formal. He smiled. She was from England after all….

“Well, Amy,” he said once he’d finished and handed her back the pen, “I better go and find this workmate of mine.”

“Yes,” she said, slightly disappointed.

“But I know what I’d rather be doing,” he said with a wink.

She blushed again and let out a small giggle.

“Me too,” she said.

“Might have to rent a car one of these days,” he said.

“I hope so,” she said. She pushed a card towards him. “I’m here most days except weekends.”

“Good to know,” he said, pocketing the card and dropping it in his shirt pocket.

He turned and walked away, feeling good after talking to Amy. He would have liked to talk to her for a bit more, but work was work.

Not all city people are bad.

He looked up the screens and found where he was meant to go. He carried the card. Miss J. Brooks.

I hope you realise you’re taking me away from Amy, Miss Brooks.

He finally found the exit and waited with his card held in front of him. He felt like a chauffeur. Except most chauffeurs didn’t dress in a white shirt, blue jeans and tan Blundstone boots.

He scanned the exit, playing a game with himself that he could identify her before she saw the card. It didn’t take very long for him to make a guess.

Yep, he thought, that’ll be her.

A gorgeous looking woman with brown hair wrapped in a ponytail was scanning the area. She had a blue blouse on and a darker blue skirt. There was a name for the colour, but Chandler wasn’t much of a “colour” person.

He smiled to himself with one corner of his mouth. It was definitely her, she had more luggage than Chandler would need for a year long trip and she was wearing heels as well. He nearly shook his head slightly, but he didn’t in case she looked his way. It was a smart move. She looked at him almost at that instant and started to make her way across to him, struggling with her luggage. He waited for her to get closer as there was no point creating a bigger crowd in the centre of the area. When she got closer, he moved a little towards her. At least she was smiling and she was good looking. More than just good looking, actually, but, then again, it was rare to find a homely PR professional. She was close now and she held her hand out, though it escaped him how she did it without dropping all of her luggage.

“You must be from the office, I’m Jessica,” she said.

He nodded at her. He did have to admit to himself that he liked an English accent. He took her hand and shook it. It was small and soft.

“I’m Chandler,” he said. “Pete Chandler. I’m supposed to be looking after you for the next few days.”

“Pleasure to meet you,” she said, looking up at him.

He had to remember to let go of her hand. It felt so….comfortable in his. He almost smiled. Chandler wasn’t a tall man, around six foot, but she would be hard pressed to find a man she didn’t have to look up to.

“Yeah, me too,” he said. “I don’t know what they told you, but I don’t live in town. I’m happy to get you up to speed on the lay of the land, but I was hoping you’d be happy to stay with me in my house on the coast. If you have protocol and have to check with Head Office, then feel free. If you don’t feel comfortable I get it too. But I was figuring that since all we’re doing is swapping notes, then I can’t see why I can’t save myself a ninety minute drive each way over the next few days just for us to chew the fat.”

He looked at her.

“Oh, and my place is big. You’ll have privacy. Some may beg to differ,” he said with a smile, “but I’m gentleman….usually.”

He winked at her.

“Now, while you sort out what you want to do, I’ll have a look at your luggage. Are you sure you're not staying here for a year?”
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Old 03-31-2012, 12:56 PM   #3
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It was like looking at a poster for the great Australian outback, to Jessica, it seemed all that was missing was a Stetson from the man who’d been sent to meet her. Trying not to stare she smiled as he introduced himself. There was a ruggedness about him which was undeniably appealing but she tried hard to squash the vague tremor that trembled her insides when he smiled at her. She was here to work and you didn’t mix business and pleasure, you just didn’t.

“I don’t know what they told you, but I don’t live in town. I’m happy to get you up to speed on the lay of the land, but I was hoping you’d be happy to stay with me in my house on the coast. If you have protocol and have to check with Head Office, then feel free. If you don’t feel comfortable I get it too. But I was figuring that since all we’re doing is swapping notes, then I can’t see why I can’t save myself a ninety minute drive each way over the next few days just for us to chew the fat…Oh, and my place is big. You’ll have privacy. Some may beg to differ…but I’m gentleman….usually.”

“Oh I’m quite sure you are,” She managed to reply, privately proud of how she managed to keep her voice level and ungirly. The wink that had punctuated the end of his statement had almost, almost, caused her to lose her composure a little. The slight colouring of her cheeks was beyond her control but she hoped it would go unnoticed. “And that sounds like the best possible idea, as long as it won’t put you out? I wouldn’t want to be a burden.”

“Are you sure you're not staying here for a year?”
She laughed, handing over the holdall from her shoulder.
“This is packing light for me,” The joke was partly true and his reaction confirmed he suspected as much himself. A quick call to the office, leaving a message as she’d forgotten the time difference meant it was late at night in London, and they were soon heading towards his car.

She kept pace with his long strides, heels clicking rhythmically against the tarmac and waving her hips from side to side, the wheels of her case rumbling along in the background while her hand luggage was held tightly in her other hand.

His car was another stereotype, at least to her eyes, and she did have to bite back on commenting as he deposited her luggage in the open boot. She made sure her hand luggage made it into the cab with her, nestling safely by her feet as the engine rumbled to life and they headed away from the airport.

“So, Pete,” She began once the city seemed to be growing rapidly into countryside. “How did you end up drawing the short straw and have to pick me up?” The window was partly open and the warm breeze coming through it was making her hair dance gently behind her head. “I was expecting a taxi, if I’m honest, although I’m glad they sent someone who had least an idea of who I was.

“I have to admit I was glad to see a friendly face after all the hours of travelling I’ve just done.”
Smiling warmly she allowed her gaze to drift out of the window at the scenery.

“I hope I won’t be intruding,” She added after a pause. “I mean, if it’ll be easier for you and your family, I’m sure there must be a hotel fairly nearby you could drop me off at if needs be.”

In all honesty, the idea of a house by the coast for a few days sounded absolutely divine but surely this guy had his own life and wouldn’t need – or want - her in it. Most business associates back home had practically nothing to do with each other outside of normal working hours, aside from the usual benefits and parties although even at those people tended to socialise with their partners or a select few fellow employees. The idea of one of them sharing their home with a visiting co-worker was almost laughable.

She yawned as subtly as she could, she’d slept fairly well on the flight but inevitable nerves had stopped her sleeping as deeply as she could’ve and shortly after the yawn, her green eyes slipped shut and she drifted off to sleep, the breeze still playing with loose strands of her hair.
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Old 04-10-2012, 06:28 PM   #4
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Jessica Brooks was certainly attractive and she said all the right things. Chandler had to remind himself she was PR and they invariably looked good and said the right things.

It was her job to be nice.

She called the office, but they weren’t answering due to the vagaries of time difference, so she left a message and they made the trek to his car. She took care of most of her own baggage which impressed him. City girls usually needed, or more to the point, wanted a hand for even the smallest things and it was refreshing that she was willing to look after herself.

Once they reached the spot, he lifted her luggage into the back of the ute. He watched her get into the car, it was a higher step than she was probably used to, and once she was comfortable, he fired up the diesel engine and they were on their way. He was happy with that as busy places made him tense and he wasn’t used to feeling tense or hurried.

Jessica had almost immediately lowered her window a little and she seemed to revel in having the warm air whistle in as he drove. Normally he would have said something, but he let it be. It wouldn’t be polite to ask her to shut the window.

She turned and smiled at him, her face framed by her brown hair. It was a smile he was sure made her job a lot easier when she was trying to convince skeptics of the company’s intentions. It would work well, no doubt. He smiled to himself as he looked back to the road.

It doesn’t work on me.

He nearly chuckled. There was no need to tell her that. He had to be polite and let her think that her charms were effective.

“So, Pete,” she said. “How did you end up drawing the short straw and have to pick me up?”

He smiled and kept looking ahead.

"Well, I figure all the head office types thought they had more important things to do,” he said, throwing her a quick glance. He nodded and then gave her a quick wink before returning his attention to the road. “More fool them. They’ll regret it when they see you.”

He knew he was being a bit cheeky, but that was his style. Nothing wrong with giving a visitor a compliment to help take the edge off things, and there was no need for him to change his normal demeanour.

Yet.

Give her a chance....

It was only fair.

She seemed relaxed and he could tell that fatigue was beginning to sneak its way through her. Tiredness, however, did not seem to inhibit her conversation.

She talked as she looked out of the window, the warm breeze washing her face.

“I hope I won’t be intruding,” she said. “I mean, if it’ll be easier for you and your family, I’m sure there must be a hotel fairly nearby you could drop me off at if needs be.”

He glanced at her again.

“Oh, you’ll be no hassle,” he said, “Shell won’t mind having you around. She’s always stuck with me and sometimes female company is good.”

He could have told her that Shell was a dog, but why complicate things. No need to say three words when you could say two, and one was even better. There wasn’t any reason for her to think of him as anything more than a nice quiet boy from the bush.

Yet.

Of course, he was that, but he was also a lot more than that. But they’d only just met and appearing to be multi-dimensional would give them something to talk about. Chandler wasn’t a loner, but he didn’t really feel like talking that much at the moment, at least about himself.

He heard her shift in her seat and after minutes of nothing from her, he glanced over.

He smiled.

She was asleep, her head leaning on her shoulder towards the slightly open window, strands of her hair gently dancing about. He chuckled to himself.

Yep, you sure know how to charm the ladies.

His mother had always said that women will only sleep when you're around if they feel comfortable and that it was a good sign.

He rolled his eyes.

Shit, he made women feel comfortable then.

Real comfortable.

He tried not to laugh, but a little snort escaped him.

They were still one hour from home so he set the cruise control on 110kph and sat back a little deeper in the seat. She looked like she was sleeping deeply so he thought he could risk a little music.

He pressed the stereo button and the country music station came on. His friends ribbed him about listening to a lot of country music, but he liked it. They sang about good times and bad times and drinking and fishing. That was Chandler. He’d had his share of all that, but life was like a palette and if you didn’t have all the colours on it, then why bother?

They’d be home in time to settle in and then he might take her for a walk to the beach. He could cook her up a barbeque and have a few beers. He wondered if petite types from England drank beers. He might have to stop and get some wine….

You’re a hick, Chandler. A smart hick, but a hick nonetheless.

Better a hick than a dick, he thought, answering his own criticism.

Amen.

He glanced at her again, her face composed in sleep, and nodded his approval at her appearance. The town was going to talk, no doubt about it.

He smiled again as the ute barrelled along the freeway.

Yep.

Chatter.

He could see it already. The boys would be jealous, the older women would be happy for him and the younger ones wouldn’t like it.

Small price to pay, he thought as he chuckled to himself, and he wouldn’t have to travel to Melbourne to get her up to speed.

They were nearly at the last big town before they hit the coast. He was starting to relax again and in forty minutes he’d be able to fully relax. For now, there was no talking and he liked that.

Just him. The car. The road.

Oh, and the girl sitting next to him.

The radio caught his attention and he found himself strumming his fingers on the steering wheel to the latest Sugarland song….
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Old 04-28-2012, 12:09 PM   #5
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"...There you go making my heart beat again, heart beat again, heart beat again..."

Jessica stirred a little, eyes opening and taking in the scenery rolling by for a few moments before she moved at all. There was a fleeting moment of panic when she couldn't quite recall where she was but then it came back through the haze of sleep.

Australia.

Work.

”…Stuck like glue, you and me baby, we’re stuck like glue…”

Turning her head with a quiet sigh her eyes fell upon the man who would be her host for the next few days. Lips curved into a smile as she just watched him. Fingers tapping on the wheel in time with the bouncy country track playing on the radio, lost in his own thoughts. He seemed a nice enough guy, a very nice guy if she was honest. Charming, a little cheeky and yet quiet. She thought back to their conversation before she’d dropped off. He’d mentioned someone called Shell, a girlfriend perhaps?

Her brow creased as she chided herself. Why was she so concerned about who this Shell was? She looked back at his face. There was no way a face that looked like that could be unattached, not combined with the glimpses of his personality that she’d seen, even if he did live out in the middle of nowhere as it certainly seemed that’s where they were headed.

Jessica closed her eyes for a moment, trying to focus her wandering mind. She was there to work. He was a colleague. Things between colleagues were work related and nothing else. It didn’t matter if he was good looking or not, it didn’t matter if he was available or not. Nothing was going to happen.
Sneaking her eyes back open she allowed herself one more smile. Nothing was going to happen, of that she was sure, but working with him didn’t look like it was going to be hard.

”…And I know, I’m never letting this go, I’m stuck on you…”

The song started to come to an end and, not wanting to get caught staring and potentially freak him out, she coughed quietly so she wouldn't make him jump before stretching in her seat a little and sitting up.
"I've heard that song before, I quite like it, it's very catchy..." Her voice was still a little thick with sleep when she starting talking, "Sorry for falling asleep on you but I just couldn't keep my eyes open any longer, apparently!" She laughed quietly, raising her hands to her hair, pushing errant hairs back from her face and checking her ponytail was still in place.

She looked around and felt her eyes widen a little at the change in scenery, there was little sign of 'civilisation' to be seen.
"So, are we nearly there yet?" The words left her mouth before she could stop them and she winced as soon as they had. The last thing she wanted was to sound like a child, and a bored child at that. "I mean, do we have much further to go?"

For the rest of the way Jessica chatted idly about little things, talking about the flights, her co-travellers, how friendly the staff at the airport had been. She noticed he didn’t talk a great deal, a small part of her mind wondered if it was a part of his personality or if it was born of a lack of personal experience on the subject. Inwardly she winced at the thought, just because he lived outside of a town didn’t mean he’d never been anywhere. She’d always tried hard not to judge people, a task made harder by coming from a family who tended to view people in terms of their pocketbooks rather than their personal attributes. Being able to read people was part of her job and she was good at it, but she knew that sometimes she was a little too quick to ‘fill in the gaps’ for people she’d just met.

After another half an hour or so on the road the car came to a stop and for a little while Jessica wondered if she had somehow been robbed of the ability to speak. Wordlessly she opened the door and, pausing only to pick up the bag that had been nestling by her feet throughout the trip, slid out of the cab.

“You live here…?” The sight that met her eyes was nothing like anything she had been expecting.
"Oh my, it's so beautiful..." Letting out a breath she hadn't realised she'd been holding. "If I lived somewhere like this you'd never find me leaving my own home!"
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Old 06-14-2012, 10:11 PM   #6
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Green.

Everywhere.

They had driven through the last main town and the freeway was now a highway as they left the urban sprawl behind them. His mind and body instinctively relaxed as the landscape changed to green rolling hills dotted with cows and sheep.

Fuck I hate the city.

Rubbish. Smog. Cars. Horns. Masses of people. All lonely. All looking out for themselves. Chandler was old enough to know that he was being irrational, that it wasn’t necessarily true, at least to the extent that he thought it, but there was something….impersonal about the whole deal. Surrounded, but alone. Having everything, but doing nothing.

The city.

Yeah, you can keep it.

He glanced across to the passenger side and the brown haired beauty was still asleep beside him.

Whoa there, mate. Beauty?

He had to maintain his professionalism. If there was one thing Chandler took pride in, it was his professionalism. Besides his swimming. And his fishing. And his….

He smiled.

Well, I guess there’s more than one thing I take pride in.

He kept driving and the thought struck him that the ute’s cabin could be considered a snapshot of a perfect moment. Green hills speeding past, a British beauty sleeping next to him, Sugarland playing on the stereo and his thoughts.

Perfection.

His dislike of the city had cost him, cost him a lot actually, but it had brought him much more. It had certainly not brought him the riches of his peers, those that were willing to let another day slide past, another week, another year, to buy houses they’d never really live in, afford trips they may actually take, but never enjoy, bring up kids they’d never see, marry women they’d never have married if they weren't so successful….

Chandler had been married.

Once.

He still winced at the thought. It hurt, he couldn’t deny that. It hurt like hell. It had failed and Chandler hated failing. He’d never valued the trappings of wealth above much in his life and when he’d been told in no uncertain terms that his indifference to wealth made him a less than ideal partner, then….

Once….


*********************************************
*********************************************


“You’re weak,” said Kim.

Weak. Chandler was far from weak. He knew that. She knew that. But it didn’t suit her argument. The fact that she was prepared to call him that….well….that stung.

"What do you mean, weak? I carried a hundred kilo lard arse out of the surf last weekend. I thought he had his desk tied to his leg.”

She rolled her eyes.

“You could make heaps of money, but you don’t.”

“We have heaps of money,” he said.

“Bullshit. Look at everyone else.”

“Everyone else? Where?” he said, throwing his hands around the room, but he knew where this argument was going and how it would end.

“Look at the Tynes, they go on holiday every year. Overseas.”

Chandler sighed.

“Aaaand, they have a massive mortgage and Tyne never sees his kids and Melanie fucks every second bloke she comes across,” he said. “What’s wrong with here? We own our house, we live by the beach where most of the city comes to holiday anyway.”

He didn’t know why he’d said that, why he’d bothered. He was going to lose big time.

Like always.

“You just like not having to work much. You’ve always been a lazy asshole.”

Lazy? Asshole?

Here it comes.


“I want to be around. You’re ill and I want to make sure you’re ok.”

“I’d be ok if I could buy what I wanted,” she said. “And if I could walk,” she added as an afterthought.

“Mmmm,” he said. He could think of nothing else to say.

“Mmmm?” she answered. “That’s all you can fucking say? Mmmm?”

“What else is there to say? I thought we’d thrashed all this out. We could live on the beach and you could concentrate on recuperating or stabilizing or whatever it is they say you should do. We don’t need money that bad. In fact, we don’t need money at all and you can buy anything you want.”

“Depends on what I want. You never ask me.”

“I always ask you and I always think of you.”

“No you don’t. If you gave a shit about me you’d give me what I want.”

“Money?”

“Don’t be so coarse,” she said. “I want what money buys, you lazy asshole.”

There it was again.

Lazy.

Asshole.


Twice in the same conversation. He was well and truly fucked now. It was only a matter of how and when, not if.

“Same thing.”

“Sort of. But why do I have to be married to the guy who doesn’t give a shit?”

“Because you love me and I love you?” he said, raising an eyebrow.

Loved, Pete,” she said. “Loved.”

“That’s nice,” he said quietly.

“I think I’ve gotten over you, Pete,” she continued. “I think I made a big mistake being with you all these years. My life never goes forward.”

“Because of lack of money?”

“Yes.”

“Having a house that’s paid off. Having an investment portfolio that means we wouldn’t have to work again if we didn’t want to?”

One house,” she said with a sneer. “One measly house, Pete. Wooopdy fucking dooo!”

“Money would make all the difference? Two houses would make all the difference? It’s not about ‘we’, it’s about moneeeey?”

He liked his rhyme, but his stomach was dropping. He felt sick.

“I’m tired of living like a pauper.”

“We don’t live like paupers.”

“Yes we do.”

“What if I could make you walk?”

“Well I’d walk right out of here because it’s about the only thing you’d be able to do that satisfies me.”

Here it comes, he thought. His head was already spinning from too much talk. He didn’t like to talk this much….

“That’s nice,” he said.

“I want a divorce. I want to leave you.”

“That’s nice,” he said.

“I have dreams. I want things. You’ve always held me back.”

“Because I don’t make money the most important thing in my life?”

“Yes….and worse. You don’t even want to make more money even though you can. Most people would kill to be as smart as you and respected as you.”

“Yes. That is surely a negligent act on the part of a husband. Smart and respected. What was I thinking?”

He rolled his eyes, more fuel for the fire, but he was beyond caring.

“It is, you know, negligent. Everyone else has everything and I don’t.”

“Ok,” he said. He didn’t know what to say.

He never did….

And then one day he didn’t have to.


********************************
********************************


He noticed the stirring beside him.

Jessica was waking. He hoped it was the music and not his melancholy thoughts. Even safely ensconced in his memory, their arguments were loud. He always worried that people could hear his thoughts.

Yeah. Men in white coats time….

His thoughts were drawn back to the present by Jessica.

"So, are we nearly there yet?"

He smirked and glanced at her before returning his eyes to the road. She probably realised she sounded like a child keen to get out of the car. It certainly was a long drive.

But worth it.

"I mean, do we have much further to go?" she corrected herself.

Chandler shook his head slightly.

“Not long.”

Of course, not long here meant there was still a good twenty minutes of driving.

She’ll learn.

The hills were starting to give way to flatter land on the right hand side of the car as the road approached the ocean. On the left, the land still rose in a gentle slope with a few distinct hills. Chandler pointed out various landmarks to her and let her know that if she was lucky they might spot a whale or two on their migratory journey along the east coast to the warmer waters where they could give birth safely.

The cycle of life.

He had no kids. He had to be content with being everyone’s favourite uncle or coach or just….well someone who wasn’t their parents. Sometimes he wondered what it would have been like to have his own kids, but generally he was content to have a hand in raising the town kids. A quiet word of encouragement here, some patient instruction there and even a stern word when required were Chandler’s tools. Kids....

Jessica again took him from his musing. She could talk alright, but what did he expect? She was female, she was in PR and she was British. He’d have to get used to it and he surreptitiously lowered the volume on the music so that she didn’t feel like she was competing with it. He had to admit to himself her conversation wasn’t entirely unpleasant and he glanced at her and nodded in the appropriate places as she talked, the attention of her green eyes attracted by the landscape as they drove. They talked for a while, or rather she talked, and finally the road approached a fork. One road led down another kilometre to the town by the beach, the other snaked its way up between two hills, towards his house.

My road.

He nodded in the town’s direction.

“Eden. Rather appropriate don't you think?”

He turned left onto the red dirt and they drove the short distance up to his house, a two storey corrugated steel clad house cut into the side of the hill, the colours matching the landscape perfectly, with a blue roof and green walls.

He smiled.

And Shell.

The kelpie was sitting on the second storey verandah, looking out for him. He knew she would have hardly moved for the five or so hours they’d been away, waiting for him to return. It was nice to have someone waiting. She bolted down as soon as she saw the ute pulling into the driveway to drive the final thirty metres.

He finally braked the car adjacent to the lower entrance of the house and looked over to Jessica.

“Well, Ms. Brooks, we’re here,” he said. He looked around at the hills, no sign of anything, but grass, trees, the river and the blue ocean in the distance. “Seems like the neighbours haven’t noticed yet,” he continued with a wink.

Jessica got out of the cab slowly with her bag and looked around.

“You live here…?”

He smiled and nodded, enjoying her reaction.

“I better or the real owner will be mightily pissed off.”

"Oh my, it's so beautiful..." she said, in awe. "If I lived somewhere like this you'd never find me leaving my own home!"

"I think that all the time, Ms. Brooks, all the time….”

He looked over to Shell. She’d stopped a few metres from them, sitting obediently waiting to be acknowledged by him. She could see he had company and she was his dog, so she didn’t like company much, it meant less time for her.

“Shell,” he said softly and the dog came over.

He patted her on the head and she nuzzled into his leg.

“This is Ms. Brooks,” he said, smiling down at her. “She’ll be staying a while, so best behaviour for you, ok?”

He looked back at Jessica and then walked around to the back of the ute to retrieve her suitcase.

“Well, I’ll show you to your room and then maybe we can do something interesting,” he said, smiling. “I could show you around a little. Doesn’t have to be all work, does it now?”

She turned back to him, her eyes telling him she was genuinely impressed. She’d been quiet for a while admiring the views.

He chuckled to himself as he recalled her constant talking in the car.

Silence won’t last long, better enjoy it while I can.

He spun around and then walked towards the door of the house.

“Best we get settled.”

Last edited by Fish_Tales : 06-14-2012 at 11:04 PM.
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Old 06-23-2012, 03:37 PM   #7
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It was like something out of a movie. Rolling green hills with the inviting blue sea sparkling in the sunshine to the side. In her head Australia was dust and rocks and boab trees, she hadn’t imagined for a second that it would be so lush and verdant.

Jessica watched as a dog appeared and waited until being called to approach.
“Shell,” Jessica felt herself smiling as she saw the obvious bond between master and pet. There was real affection in his expression and voice as he spoke to the dog, stroking as it rubbed against him. “This is Ms. Brooks…She’ll be staying a while, so best behaviour for you, ok?”

As Pete moved around to retrieve her luggage Jessica approached the suspicious looking dog with a smile. She had had dogs in her youth and recognised the expression on the sheepdog’s face. The noble head cocked slightly to the side. Appraising her. Suspecting her motives for being there.
“Hello girl,” She walked closer with her hand outstretched in front of her, talking quietly. Partly to stop the dog from being spooked, partly so Pete didn’t hear. “Don’t worry, girl, I’m not here to steal him from you.” Jessica stroked the dog’s head, fondling an ear before straightening back up and whispering. “Although he does seem like a lovely human to have…”

“She’s beautiful…” Jessica smiled at Pete as he came back with her bags.
“Well, I’ll show you to your room and then maybe we can do something interesting. I could show you around a little. Doesn’t have to be all work, does it now?”
“That sounds like a great idea. There’ll be plenty of time for working over the next few days and please…call me Jessica, or Jess even. Ms. Brooks just sounds so, well, formal.”

The house was clean and tidy, for the most part. Her keen eyes noticed some dirty dishes and glasses waiting by the sink. The furnishings were in mainly natural shades and everything looked comfortable. Jessica’s eyes kept being drawn to the windows and the stunning vistas beyond them It was a gorgeous location and a part of her was exceedingly jealous that she couldn’t stay somewhere like this forever. It really was an amazing location.
Pete led her through the house, pointing out the bathroom and other important areas on the way. Jessica couldn’t help but notice there were no photos, not of people. No feminine touches anywhere. There was no ring on his finger either she’d noted.

They came to her room and he left her to freshen up. The room was airy and light, with yet another stunning view from the window. The bed had fresh linen and everything looked clean and well appointed. She stood for a few long minutes looking out of the glass to the scenery beyond. Eyes taking in every detail, saving it inside her memory.

First things first. She flipped open her case and quickly found some clothes far better suited to the situation. She kicked off her heels, shimmied out of her skirt and peeled off the blouse. Pulling on a pair of jeans and a white vest top, she sat on the edge of the bed to turn up the bottoms of each leg and fashion them into three quarter length trousers. A quick glance in the mirror on the wall and she smiled, much better. A little fiddling released her hair, sending the length tumbling down to her shoulders. Straight away her face looked softer, more approachable and that made her smile wider. This wasn’t a board meeting in an office, this was someone’s house…their home. Suits and blouses were definitely not for here.

She pulled a brush from her handbag and worked it through her hair, removing the odd tangle here and there. Cursing quietly as she discovered a pin she hadn’t removed before. Once her hair was knot, and pin, free she gave herself another quick glance in the mirror before turning back to her belongings on the bed.

For a moment her hand stroked across her hand luggage, against the compact black bag she’d been keeping close to her since leaving London but with a sigh she slowly withdrew her hand.
“Not now…not yet…” She mused quietly.

Picking up a white linen shirt from the case along with some canvas tennis shoes she didn’t ever think she’d be wearing in front of anyone when she’d packed them, she headed off in search of Pete.

She found him outside and pulled the shirt on as she approached him, leaving it open and unbuttoned.
“That feels better.” She sighed, moving a little closer to where he’d been standing, letting her eyes move over the landscape lazily. “And really, this place is amazing. I think, if you’re not careful, you might have trouble convincing me to leave at the end of all this.” She joked.

“And I must admit I’m desperate to see more of this place. I’d love a tour, if you’d care to give me one...”

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Old 10-31-2012, 08:27 AM   #8
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Chandler had taken her through the house to the room she’d be staying in for the next few days. He hoped he didn’t have to go to the city with her. He wanted to stay here and he also wanted her to know what it was like to live where he lived. Maybe then she’d understand what the people she’d come to placate were worried about.

He returned to the balcony to wait while she got ready or did whatever it was that women did. It was a glorious day and he leaned on the rail, looking at the blue sea. Shell came to nuzzle his leg and he rubbed the kelpie between the ears.

“Good girl.”

He was pleased with her behaviour. She didn’t take kindly to strangers or anyone she thought was a threat to their bond. Chandler appreciated her loyalty. He absentmindedly tugged on her ears.

“…please…call me Jessica, or Jess even. Ms. Brooks just sounds so, well, formal.”

Jess.

Chandler could handle that. He was from the country. You respected people, you acknowledged their name. From the ether, he could sometimes feel the spirit of his mother clipping his ear if he spoke to an old lady and called her by her first name. He was older now, but respect had no age limit, not to him. Jess it was then, it would make it easier. He could never get his tongue or head around the whole Ms thing. You were either a Miss or a Mrs, why invent a third?

He shook his head.

You’re old, Chandler. It’s different now.

Jess it would be.

He was impressed with how she’d handled Shell. The dog wouldn’t like someone new around. She was his and she didn’t like competition. But….she was his and she knew that what he wanted stood. Shell would be fine, but Jess had shown the right amount of interest.

I’m not a threat she’d communicated.

Chandler smirked to himself. When this neighbours saw her, they would be wondering where the hell this British beauty had come from.

He nearly laughed because he just knew someone would ask it and he knew what he’d say.

Britain.

No one would be rude, they weren’t like that, but they would be wondering. Chandler had not exactly been sociable in a female kind of way for a long time. He was wounded. He had been wounded for far too long. It wasn’t for lack of options that he was alone. Every eligible girl in town had tried to coax him into something more long-term, even those not-so-eligible….

There had been nights, even a little longer than that, but nothing serious, nothing that anyone could draw hope from. Chandler didn’t want hope. He was happy as he was.

Or was he?

The girl with the chocolate hair was a Ms. Did that mean single? Married? He rolled his eyes.

Who the fuck knows and who the fuck cares?

He wasn’t on the marketand in all probability, neither was she. He’d just met her. Intelligence. Beauty. Humour. It had made him think about things, if only fleetingly. Ms. Brooks….no Jess….had at least got him thinking. Good. Maybe he needed to think a little more about things other than fishing, swimming, kayaking, surfing….

He thought of his wife. How she’d hurt him.

Maybe….not. Those things didn't hurt you.

Thinking something and actually realising it were two different things.

He shook his head. All this thinking was making his head spin and he was suddenly glad he didn’t have a woman around all the time, especially one as gorgeous as Ms….Jess. He didn’t need to think. He needed to do.

Stuff.

Anything.

Make the pain go away….

He looked back towards the ocean and decided they’d go for a walk down there. He knew she would like the beach. He’d been to England once. The beaches had rocks.

“Rocks?” one of his friends had asked at the pub.

“Yeah,” he’d nodded as he took a sip.

“You’re joshing me….”

“I’m not,” he’d told his mate, “rocks like skimming stones and pebbles.”

“Well, fuck me, how the hell do they walk to the water?”

Chandler had waited, taking a dramatic sip of his beer. He was never as locquacious as with his country friends.

“Very fucking slowly, mate….very fucking slowly.”

Everyone had laughed.

Now, he knew that Jess would enjoy walking in that sand, feeling it between her toes, the difference in texture between the hard sand near the water and the soft sand further away. The waves, crashing onto the beach, endless, each one going back, only to return. Their roar.

I’m here, the ocean was saying. I’m here.

He smiled.

She’ll like that. It’s nearly….romantic.

He smiled again.

Imagine, I'm wasting that on someone from work.

It mattered not. She’d only be here for a few days….

He noticed that she wasn’t back yet and decided he should get a couple of beers for them. He did have wine, but then he’d have to get glasses and he didn’t really feel like that. The sun was shining. He felt like a beer.

As usual.

He went to the outside fridge on the balcony and pulled out two bottles of beer and put them in stubby holders. He knew she would find them odd, but it was all part of the experience. He stood, looking out at the ocean.

Yes. She’ll like the beach.

He had to get used to her talking, of course, but it was a small price to pay for seeing the face of someone who could see where he lived and get a sense of what life could be.

Her....

He thought of her.

Why?

She’d never thought it was wonderful. She’d though it was a pit stop. A momentary halt before she could coax him away to the city, to manicured lawns, the theatre, cocktail parties….

He’d never changed. That was the problem and he knew it. They’d tried to tell him.

“She wants you to change, to go back with her to the city.”

He’d done what he’d always done and what always had worked, run his fingers through his brown hair with a smile and replied, “Why would she ever want to leave this….and me.”

“She’s not from here. She won’t understand…..”

They were right, of course.

No one ever understood if it wasn’t in their blood.

And now Ms. Brooks was here to try and force something that really couldn’t be forced. It wasn’t about money or status or anything like that. It was about living. Where a frog was worth as much as a car. Where catching a five kilogram salmon was like winning lotto, only better, because you’d actually done something to get it.

Ms. Brooks….Jess….wouldn’t understand. He knew that. At least he could show her what it was that these people cared about so much. You couldn’t hug profits or get a knot in your throat when everyone knew everyone and helped everyone….

He heard footsteps behind him and he turned as she was coming toward him through the door onto the balcony. He nodded.

You have to be kidding. They sent out a fucking model.

Sensibly dressed though….


Jeans.

She looked….perfect. White above, and faded blue below. And the hair….

Good girl, that’s a start.

You can’t say girl, she’s from London and she’s probably paid more than you.


Finally, his ears clicked into listening mode as his eyes allowed one of the other senses to intrude and use some space in his brain.

“….this place is amazing,” she said. “I think, if you’re not careful, you might have trouble convincing me to leave at the end of all this. And I must admit I’m desperate to see more of this place. I’d love a tour, if you’d care to give me one...”

He nodded at her and picked up a beer from the balcony rail.

“Something to wet the whistle first,” he winked. “Then I think we should go for a walk to the beach.”

He paused. He didn’t feel like cooking.

“Then maybe we could go to the pub for dinner if that’s ok. It's nothing fancy, but the food is good and the beers are cheap.”

He looked at her and nodded his head with a smile as he handed her the beer.

Ms.

Too young for me.


“Yeah, the pub for dinner it’ll be.”

He lifted his stubby and took a deep draw on it.

Too young....
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Old 11-02-2012, 03:57 AM   #9
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“Something to wet the whistle first. Then I think we should go for a walk to the beach.”
The wink, combined with the beer, was another confirmation that she couldn’t be further away from her usual social sphere if she tried. Add in the stunning coastal scenery and part of her almost wondered if this was all an elaborate dream, that she would be woken by an air hostess somewhere over the ocean. Somehow she managed, with superhuman effort, not to blush at the wink, instead leaning over the balcony slightly to look down at the shoreline in the distance.

“The beach sounds like a wonderful idea!”
“Then maybe we could go to the pub for dinner if that’s ok. It's nothing fancy, but the food is good and the beers are cheap.”
“Of course it’s ok,” She took the offered beer with another smile, noting the ‘holder’ the bottle had been pushed inside. No doubt intended to keep the contents cool for as long as was possible.
“Yeah, the pub for dinner it’ll be.”
“You’ll have to let me return the favour at some point too,” She offered, before taking a sip of the beer. She wasn’t a big beer drinker, but she could drink it without wincing and so she did. It was surprisingly refreshing. “Let me take you for dinner…or let me cook…”

There was another of those silences. Not necessarily uncomfortable but there all the same. Another smile. Another sip of beer. A breeze dancing softly around them, toying with her hair and shirt. Jessica looked at her host every now and then. There was something there, something hard to define. Something that she was desperate to discover.

It was who she was, why she was here. The desire to find out as much as she could, to ask, to discover. She wanted to know who he was. What he liked. Apart from beer and country music. Not because she had to but because she wanted to. He had opened his home to her, whether out of choice or obligation, the fact remained the same. She wanted her time there to be as pleasant as possible for the both of them and that meant getting to know each other. Even a little.

“Have you and Shell lived here long?” She asked quietly, leaning on the rail and letting her eyes drink greedily on the view. Hopefully taking the pressure out of her question.
“I used to live near the sea back home, when I was a kid, but it was nothing…nothing…like this…” Jessica’s mouth curved into a wider smile as she thought back to the sprawling shingle beach she had spent many sunny but windy days upon in her childhood. Looking in ‘rockpools’ for crabs and hurrying over the razor like stones to get to the sea before she lost her nerve and splashing into the icy water with a shriek. Slightly different to the picture postcard image below them. The sea was brilliant in colour, completely different from the slightly murky, greyish blue waters she’d paddling in. The sound was the same though. That same repetitive roar and crash, that same hypnotic rhythm over and over as the waves enticed you to come, come closer.

They’d left the countryside and the sea when she was still young enough not to really mind too much. But in her teenage years she often found herself longing for the openness, the freshness of the coast, especially when her weekends were spent in their smart and expensive but small townhouse on the outskirts of London. There was a park nearby. But it wasn’t the same.

“So…” She took another, longer, sip of her beer. Bubbles fizzing against her tongue. “How do we get down there…?” She gestured with her bottle towards the ocean, eyes bright with obvious excitement as she looked at him over her shoulder. Deciding in that moment to let him dictate the pace at which they became acquainted.
This was his home, his place. His world, almost. Shy he might be but better to let him share what he enjoyed with her and hopefully allow her a way to get to know him in the process than bombard him with questions.

Surprised to find she’d actually drunk almost all of her beer, Jessica drained the last mouthful and looked around for somewhere to put her empty bottle. Her eyes fell on a coffee mug that she was fairly sure had to have been there all day. “Why don’t I just take these inside before we go…” She offered, leaning around him to pick up the mug and pausing to take his bottle in with hers. Feet carrying her to the kitchen, mug deposited into the half full sink, bottles pulled free of their holders and tossed lightly into the rubbish bin.
‘I’ll wash those things when we get back’, she decided, letting her eyes move over the variety of small plates and cups. It could be a thank you for taking her out for dinner.

She was about to step back outside when she thought about the black bag in her room. Torn. Genuinely torn. A moment spent chewing on her lip and the decision was made.

When she stepped back out onto the balcony to join Pete the bag was over her shoulder, one hand never wavering from holding it in place.

“Well, Pete, I’m ready if you are,” The excitement in her voice was genuine, bordering in fact on the giddy. “Lead on and I’ll follow!”

Last edited by Britwitch : 05-15-2013 at 08:09 AM.
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Old 05-05-2013, 07:11 AM   #10
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“Have you and Shell lived here long?” she asked in a soft voice as she looked out over the rail. “I used to live near the sea back home, when I was a kid, but it was nothing…nothing…like this…”

Chandler smiled as he looked out over the view, not even glancing towards her. He liked her soft tone. He wasn’t one for noise unless it was the waves or the weather or animals, in fact, anything, but humans.

“Yeah,” he said, after a few moments. “It’s the only place I’ve ever wanted to live. Not everyone thinks the same….”

He stopped himself.

Don’t be maudlin now. You’re over it.

Luckily, Jessica spoke.

“So, how do we get down there?”

He nodded downwards towards the end of the clear land where a path entered the tea trees.

“Down there. If you get lost, you know, being a Pom and all,” he said, and looked at her with a grin, “just listen for the waves and head that way.”

Jessica took the empty beers and went inside for a moment. Chandler thought about what he was wearing, but he decided they wouldn’t be on the beach for long before going to the pub, so what he had on would be fine. It wasn’t like they were going into the water, they could do that another time, if it wasn’t too cold. He looked down at Shell sitting next to him.

Not that anything would be too cold for her, he thought, she is a Pom after all.

He heard the door slide and looked around as she came back with a black bag over her shoulder.

“Well, Pete, I’m ready if you are,” she said. “Lead on and I’ll follow!”

He smiled, a genuine smile. Her enthusiasm was endearing and he enjoyed her accent. He’d studied with English people and worked with them and some of them had the most wonderful accent. She was one of them.

Of course, she was paid to be liked, to be believed. It was her job. It wouldn’t have shocked him if she’d clapped her hands and cried “whooopeee.”

You’re a cynical bastard, Chandler.

He turned towards Jessica and said, “We’re off then.”

As soon as he made a move towards the balcony steps, Shell quickly bounded down them in a blur of brown and then ran towards the trees.

He looked over at Jessica and raised his eyebrows with an apologetic tilt of his head.

“I hope you don’t mind if she joins us,” he said. “She misses me.”

He waved his hand towards the steps and motioned for Jessica to go down them.

“Ladies first.”

As they made their way down the steps and then along the worn path in the short grass towards the trees, he wondered if she noticed that he hadn’t bothered to lock the doors. He had warmed to the idea of a walk along the beach. It wouldn’t be just a diversion, it would also be a way of showing his guest what his life was about, what he was about. Maybe he could make the company see sense about their plans. Maybe she would support him. He glanced sideways at her.

She was easy on the eye, there was no doubt about that.

But maybe….

They continued along the path away from the house and when they got to the edge of the downward slope, they started their descent through the tea tree scrub.

“This sort of coastal topography and vegetation is fairly common here on the east coast,” he said, looking around at her, the sound of the waves a little louder now. “We’re far enough from the city that we don’t get too big a crowd, but close enough to pick up good looking British women from the airport.”

He chuckled as he walked. It was Chandler’s way, smart ass humour with a dead pan tone and face.

“It does get a little busier in summer,” he added, “but not unbearably so.”

He slowed to let her follow closer and talk when she liked.

“Most of the people here are dairy farmers, fisherman or surfers. I count myself lucky to be able to live here and still work for a major company.”

There was no sign of Shell and they continued walking along the track, the tea tree bush crowding in close and obscuring the view ahead, although the roar of the ocean was becoming louder. The track had started to change to a sandier base with a few ancient crushed shells mixed in, bleached pure white by the sun, salt and time. The tea tree started to thin out a little and then there was a small rise and he saw the dog waiting at the end of it, her silhouette against the blue sky.

Chandler waited as Jessica took the few steps to be by his side. He looked at her and then turned his head towards the ridge.

“I hope you like it.”

He gently motioned for her to move forward and then followed her. She walked up the gentle slope and reached it a few moments before he did. He stood a few steps behind her, giving her the room to freely survey the view.

There was a slight breeze coming off the ocean and the bay stretched out before them, the clear sky bringing out a brilliant azure in the water. The beach curved in a golden horseshoe with rocky headlands at each end. The swell was rolling in lazily, the waves building just outside the bay and then crashing to their inevitable end on the shore. To their left, a lone fisherman stood on one of the boulders that made up the headland that jutted into the ocean.

Shell stayed in front of them for a moment and then bolted down the dune track to the beach.

Chandler chuckled and looked at Jessica.

“The fisherman, that’s Rob Johnson. Shell will know he’s got a biscuit in his bag.”

He stretched out his arm and waved his hand across the horizon.

“Oh….and welcome to my backyard.”

He started to walk down the dune slowly, leaving her to enjoy the view for a moment without words or company. He watch the waves building and then curling into perfect tubes before breaking. He’d seen it hundreds of times, probably thousands, but it never ceased to hold his focus. He never tired of this place and he failed to see how anyone could.

She had.

A wry smile formed at the corner of his mouth as he descended towards the hard sand below.

She had.

Last edited by Fish_Tales : 05-05-2013 at 08:31 AM.
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Old 05-15-2013, 08:56 AM   #11
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Jessica followed him away from the house, smiling at his ‘pom’ joke and laughing to see Shell streaking off into the wilder looking greenery beyond the cut grass.

“Mind? Why would I mind? Besides,” She bowed her head slightly to keep her eyes on the path as she ducked in front of him. “It would be cruel to go to the beach without her. If she’s like any of the dogs I’ve ever met she’ll be happier there than almost anywhere.” She refrained from adding that she understood the ‘missing him’ part too. She could see how easy it would be to become attached to a man like him. He didn’t say much, and what he did was peppered with dry humour, but it was genuine. Which was so refreshing.

The city was full of people who had learnt to say what they thought people wanted to hear and who did it so well, it was almost impossible to tell the genuine words from the slick half-truths and flattery. Jessica stepped carefully down the dirt path, not wanting to slip for a variety of reasons, not least of all because she didn’t want to seem to be a city-girl. She didn’t want to trip over her own feet and probably fulfil his preconceived ideas of what she’d be like. She knew, no matter how nice he seemed, he had to have had a certain image in his head while waiting for her at the airport, stepping over a larger stone in her way she wondered if she’d met it. She hoped not. She knew her mental image of a fellow PR person was never very flattering.

With a hand almost permanently resting on the black bag bouncing next to her waist with every step, they made their way down through the trees until the light ahead started to grow in brightness. Jessica listened as he talked about the area, although she could see for herself how unspoilt it was. Her mind made the observation she could probably listen to him talking all day, not that she believed for a second him capable of talking for nearly that long. His accent was divine and his tone so laid back and calming.

Concentrate Jess. Business. Pleasure. Two very different things.

“Most of the people here are dairy farmers, fisherman or surfers. I count myself lucky to be able to live here and still work for a major company.”
As they cleared the tree line the view before them was blocked by a rise that Shell had clearly bound up before they arrived. She was waiting, not overly patiently, with her tail licking back and forth with a speed that increased when she spotted Pete approaching.

“I’m sure you do.” She replied, eyes already fixed on Shell – wide and eager to see the view she knew waited just a few metres away.
“I hope you like it.”
“Oh, I don’t doubt that I-” Jess started to speak as she followed his invitation to climb first but her words ran out as she reached the crest of the rise. “Oh…oh wow…”

It was stunning. The sea breeze warm and yet fresh as it danced through her shirt, sending it dancing back behind her, and causing her hair to move similarly. She wanted to look everywhere at once, to drink it in. From the richness of the ocean’s colour, to the warmth of the shoreline.

“…Shell will know he’s got a biscuit in his bag.”
Jessica only realised he was talking towards the end of his sentence, eyes lost in the rolling dance of the waves against the sand. She forced herself to look at him as he spoke again.
“Oh….and welcome to my backyard.” There was pride there. Pride and real love of what he was showing her and in that moment she understood how he felt.

The view was gorgeous but it was more than that. As he walked away, following Shell down onto the beach, she looked from one edge of the horizon to the other. There was nothing. Not a single blot on the landscape. It was pure and untouched and all of a sudden Jessica felt a worry about why she was actually there.

She wasn’t on holiday. She wasn’t on some idyllic escape. She was there to work. And the coastline stretching out invitingly before her was part of it.

Not yet, oh not yet…

She pushed the worry aside. That wasn’t for that moment. Green eyes were drawn back to the water and her lips smiled once more. Fingers reaching for the black bag and opening the fastenings without looking down, easing it open and carefully withdrawing the contents.
She lifted the camera towards her face, nudging the strap over her head and popping off the lens cap.

“Beautiful…” She breathed before lowering her eyes behind the view finder and, after a pause, released the shutter. She took some shots of the waves, some of the shore. A few wide shots trying to cram as much of the view into the lens as she could. Making a mental note to bring her other lenses with her the next time she was down here.

Grinning to herself as she focused on the fisherman who had a happily dancing Shell skipping around him. Not as clear as it would have been with her zoom lens but it was still a lovely image. Swivelling herself and the camera the other way, Pete’s blurry face appeared. Twisting the focus ring she snapped a couple of him watching his dog. A happy face. Happier than she’d really seen him since they met. Suddenly feeling like she might be invading his privacy she lowered the camera and, after replacing the lens cap, left it to bounce against her front as she headed down the dune to meet him.

“This is amazing. Seriously.” She exclaimed. A hand holding hair back from her brightly smiling face. “Easily the most beautiful beach I think I’ve ever stood on.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” She lifted the camera slightly by way of explanation as they started to walk along the beach. “It’s a bit of a hobby, although some would say more like a minor obsession, but I couldn’t resist taking some shots.” Her smile became a little bashful. “I got some of Shell too, if that’s ok? She was having too much fun not to try and capture it a little.” Lowering the camera once more she held his eyes. “If I start to annoy you with it though, just tell me.” She didn’t mention the photos she’d taken of him. She’d see if they were worth keeping when they got back to the house. Then she’d tell him.

They started to walk, her stopping every so often to take a shot or two. Making sure to contain herself. She was going to be here for a few days, she didn’t need to try to photograph every grain of sand there and then. Pausing once more to remove her shoes, subconsciously reaching out to hold his forearm for support as she eased off the second.

“Sorry about that…” She said softly, bending down and rolling up her jeans until they were just under her knee before knotting her laces together so she could hang them through the shoulder strap of her camera bag.

As they headed towards what she assumed was the town, the beach was populated with a few more people, but not many. A few little ‘camps’ of families here and there, interspersed with random piles of clothing she assumed belonged to the surfers bobbing up and down beyond the breakers.

Along the way Pete pointed out the odd thing here and there. People he knew, which seemed to be nearly everyone, landmarks he thought she’d appreciate, which was pretty much everything if she was honest. Shell gambolled along behind them and alongside them lazily, either uninterested in swimming or maybe just more interested in being with them. With him. Jessica tried not to look at the ocean too often. A crazy urge to run into it kept sweeping over her. They were on their way to eat, she couldn’t.
Maybe she would on the way back home.

Home, eh? No, not home, not like that…the way back to his home…

Soon they headed up the beach and away from the tempting call of the waters, climbing up off the sand and walking the short distance to the ‘watering hole’ Pete had mentioned. The pub seemed cozy with several people looking up as they entered. Cozy and full of locals. Jessica got the distinct impression almost everyone took a moment to look her over at one point or another as they headed way from the door and towards the bar. Still, she kept her chin up, with its friendly smile curving her lips, meeting the curious gazes brightly.

“First beers are on me.” She insisted gently, holding out an overly crisp $20 note. Aside from the sharp fold down the centre from where she had put it into her pocket, it was in mint condition. Her smile a little embarrassed that it had so obviously come straight from a currency exchange.

If people watching didn’t know she wasn’t from around there, the camera around her neck with the nose and the cheeks a little pinked by the sun aside, they sure as hell did now.

Last edited by Britwitch : 05-22-2013 at 04:01 PM. Reason: *rolls eyes* Formatting...and a couple of sneaky typos
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