City Girl

When lost and lonely, at last there’s home

View of the Melbourne CBD skyline, from Port MelbourneEver since I arrived in the city I have been afraid.

Childhood memories of family and love in my country home bounce off concrete and glass. Bootsteps echo off pavement, sometimes sharp, sometimes blunted they pace out my trembling emotions.

Six months ago my mother died after a battle with cancer, and with her went my family and the last good reason to stick around our dying hometown.

As was typical of many small town communities, the young left for the city lights as soon as possible, while everything else aged and withered. Businesses closed, reasons to remain removed.

Although I was delighted at the cash injection the sale of our home gave me, I felt some guilt. The treechange purchasers were delighted at the acreage, white fencing, trees and livestock and the heritage touches throughout the house. In a town where everybody else was running away, had these lovely people blindly stumbled into a dream, or a nightmare? I sincerely hoped they had a plan, but their excitement equalled my freedom. I thanked them every day, while I hoped for their continued happiness.

I have been alone and lonely in this culturally rich yet anonymous space. Lucky to find a cadetship at a premier newspaper, I was a very small fish that knew by heart my colleagues coffee orders. Timid in the face of abundant confidence, I listened, watched and learned while scribbling ideas and stories into my ever present notebook.

Two weeks ago a hello popped up on my Instagram. Nick was four years older and far above me on the school social scale, a sports hero and heartthrob for all the senior girls. And kindness itself to the wide eyed, wannabe reporter on the sidelines of every school and community event. He was always ready with a word bite and a smile for my camera. Many of those photos landed on my bedroom wall.

The feather in my cap was when he pulled me up onto the stage his last year of school, captain of our home footy team, when they won the premiership.

‘Our special mascot, local writer, Annabelle Corey. We couldn’t have done it without her,’ he announced to the crowd.

I could have died with embarrassment and hurrahed with delight. His arm was over my shoulder, he was sweaty and on the nose, but he knew me and cared. The highlight of my high school years – one hundred percent!

He’d left a trail of broken hearts when he accepted an offer to play AFL in Melbourne, but it was a glorious gift for him. To have a paying sports career while he studied engineering, his future was golden.

And this god had reached out to me.

‘Hey, Belle. Jungle drums have beat the news that you’re on my patch. Have dinner with me. My shout. It’ll be great to meet the grown-up Annabelle. You look gorgeous on Insta and I see you’re at The Age. Dreams do come true! Love, Nick.’

Love, Nick.

So here I was at the door of a too trendy-for-words inner city restaurant, staring at my reflection. Vibrant chestnut hair, pink flushed cheeks, nibbling my bottom lip, procrastinating. What would I say? Would he like what he saw? Would we find common ground? Would he like me?

The door opened and there he was. AFL fit, bronzed, with short, blonde and tousled hair and his beautiful warm eyes lasered onto me.

‘There you are,’ he said. The sun blazed across his face, his smile embraced me. ‘You took your time, sweetheart. Welcome home.’ [593 words]

RWA Aspiring Authors (friendly) September flash fiction challenge. 

Max 1,000 words

Story needs to start and end with a four-letter word and include the words, feathers, trail, boots and echo.

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