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SSOA Writing of the Week - an action story

No, not cops and robbers, a crime thriller, nor a gangster revenge story. This tale by Rosana Wayand is a sensitive New Age action story - with not a car chase in sight.

When love stings

Jamie tastes salt on her mouth.

She has kissed Ritchie many times after a surf and his salty lips have never bothered her before. But today, it makes her spit saliva on the grainy beach sand. She wiggles her toes, irritated about the sand drying between them.

‘What’s up babe?’ Richie says, running his hands through his wet hair. He leans against the rusting door of his Pajero and looks her up and down. The freckles on his face make him look much younger than his thirty-five years.

‘Please rinse your face before kissing,’ Jamie says, without looking at him.

‘Sorry. I’ll remember next time.’

Jamie wonders if there will be a next time.

‘Want a drink?’ he asks.

‘No, thanks.’ She glances at her boyfriend as he grabs a bottle of Kombucha from the esky. She’s grateful that Ritchie has helped her change her diet habits, but right now all she wants is a cold beer. Opening the car’s rear door, she retrieves her snorkelling gear.

‘Are you going back in the water?’

‘I had a stressful week. I need to depressurise.’

Ritchie looks at his watch.

‘Don’t be long. We have to be home for Freddie in less than an hour.’

Home? My home, you must mean ... she thinks.

Jamie looks up and exhales deeply. The sound of her despair is muffled by the waves breaking on the shore. The sky is an unusual blue. As unusual as the blue of her son’s eyes. Everything about Freddie is unusual. His sleeping pattern, his delayed speech, his endless tantrums. And yet, Ritchie sticks around. He seems smitten by the four-year-old, as if he’s his own flesh and blood. I should consider myself lucky, is her revised reaction to Ritchie’s concern.

She puts her fins on as she approaches the reef. Goosebumps cover her well-toned body as she enters the water in her bikini. There is plenty of fish out there, is how she tries to encourage herself. But the reality is that she has been trying to find the right fish since Freddie’s father left her for a better job offer overseas two years ago. In her search for Mr Right, she has met fish of all shapes and sizes. But when they find out about her little Nemo, they all jump out of her tank. They can’t cope with responsibility. Ritchie is the only one who has stayed.

They met during a snorkelling excursion to the Whitsundays five months before and have been together ever since. She loved his company in the beginning. His simple jokes and the uncomplicated way he lived his life, unblocking other people’s clogged pipes. Her career as a copyright lawyer is much more complicated.

A school of striped, blue-and-yellow fish appear in front of Jamie and she forgets about Ritchie for a moment. Then she spots an orange star fish inside a hole in the coral. Keeping very still while she looks at this little wonder of nature, she feels tiny fish bumping against her belly. They tickle. All these different creatures living in harmony makes her think about Ritchie again. He is a nice honest guy, who enjoys playing ball with Freddie in the backyard and is not frazzled when Freddie bangs his head on the floor just because his wooden tower block has collapsed.

But she misses deeper and more meaningful conversations and a bit of 'refinement'. He’s the perfect mate for snorkelling and other aquatic adventures. Water is his passion. When he’s not working, he’s catching a wave somewhere on the Northern Beaches. Once Ritchie told her if he was an animal, he would be a fish. You are a fish, she thought, just one out of water.

Jamie’s thoughts are interrupted by a sharp pain. She sees a bluebottle wrapped around her arm and swims to the shore as fast as she can. With a terrible howl, she thrashes her way out of the water while trying to unwrap the long filaments of fiery pain.

Ritchie, still sitting on the sandbank, spots her and runs to her rescue.

‘Calm down, sweetie. Let me take care of this. I’ve been stung many times.’

Jamie bites her bottom lip while Ritchie skilfully holds onto the bluebottle's float and unwraps the stinging tentacles.

‘Cold water, let’s get cold water, it stings so much.’ Jamie’s voice is panicked.

‘Stay calm so the venom doesn’t spread to your bloodstream,’ Ritchie says. ‘The correct way to treat a bluebottle sting is to wash off the area with salt water to make sure all the stinging barbs are gone.’

They squat where the waves are breaking and Richie scoops water onto Jamie’s arm with cupped hands, over and over again.

‘Thank you, Ritchie,’ she says, hiccupping.

Ritchie untangles the mask from Jamie’s long hair and kisses her forehead.

‘I rinsed my face with fresh water, by the way.’

Their eyes meet and suddenly the pain seems more bearable.

‘Is that better?’

Jamie nods, feeling like a small child.

‘Now, we need hot water, not cold, to reduce the pain. It breaks down the venom.’ Richie sounds like a paramedic who knows what he’s talking about. ‘That’s why I keep a flask in my car.’

He scoops Jamie up in his arms and carries her to the car, her head resting against one broad shoulder.

Yes, home is where the fish are, she thinks.

COPYRIGHT: text Rosana Wayand; photos mfsprout.


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