Today I'll share a short story (about 3000 words). It's not erotic, just a bit of fun. I entered it into the RWAus Little Gems (sapphire theme) contest but it wasn't chosen for the anthology, which is okay, when my husband read it he said it was quite sarcastic and no one would like it! I didn't mean for it to be sarcastic or a parady or black or anything. It just fell out of my fingertips like this - and when that happens I go with it and profusely thank my Muse!
Sapphire is a tiny town in Queensland, home to 550 people, give or take the tourists, and me. Our closest town is Emerald, and our greatest claim to fame is the gem fields surrounding the area. Some imaginative soul named the towns around here - Emerald, Sapphire, Rubyvale. I often wonder if he found a Sapphire here and that’s why he called it so, or if he just wished he had.
I’ve lived here all my life and have planned my escape for almost as long. As far as small towns go there’s nothing wrong with Sapphire. I want to live in a larger town, or even a city. I dream of Brisbane, or Sydney or Melbourne. In my youth, I had scrapbooks filled with magazine and newspaper photographs of these Australian cities. Now I’ve moved on. New York, Paris, Rome, London or Perth capture my attention now.
Imagine living in Perth…. Still in Australia, but miles from other capitals. It’d be like a country on its own. A river through the city that never dries up. The ocean at your western shore. And the whole continent between my new abode and Sapphire.
Mum and Dad run the Sapphire Caravan Park and we’ve worked in it since time began. There’s five of us. I’m the eldest. Then my sister, Emmie, two brothers, who got normal names, Harry and Jack, and our baby sister, Ruby. I tried to gloss over the girls names but you can’t gloss over Ruby. Emmie is Emerald but we never call her that. I bet you can’t guess my name… yep… no prizes, Sapphire. Sapphire in Sapphire. What were they thinking? I get called Sappy when I’m teased, but Saph mostly.
See why I hate being here?
If I was Sapphire in Sydney, it would be a beautiful name, especially teamed with my bright blue eyes. But Sapphire in Sapphire with sapphire eyes - seriously!
Anyway, tomorrow I’m eighteen. And eighteen is the age I promised I’d leave town. I amended it from sixteen when Emmie sobbed and told my parents the day before my birthday. Now everyone in town knows I’m leaving. No secrets here. Emmie’s still sobbing but as I’ve tried to tell her, Emerald in Sapphire isn’t half so bad.
The most difficult part about leaving is physically getting away from town. The bus stops in Emerald, which is fifty five kilometres away, but there’s no bus in Sapphire. So, do I hitch or walk? I can’t walk. Not only is that too far but my birthday’s February so I’d never be able to carry enough water to survive the summer sun baking me.
There are a heap of grey nomads going through town. And the Caravan Park’s the perfect place to pick them up. I’ve sussed out a few of them and the general vibe is that they won’t take me. They all have rebellious kids and grandkids, so they think they’re doing the right thing. My folks won’t talk to them. They say it’s my plan I have to carry it through. Fat lot of good they are. All I need them to say is that it’s okay. But no. They don’t really want me to leave. They’ll lose their best cleaner.
I have one hope. One hope buried deep in my chest and I’m not sure I can even write it down. If I write it, my dream will vanish. So I’ll keep it secret. But don’t be shocked if tomorrow there’s a surprise for me… a huge surprise.
I walk into breakfast and everyone sings Happy Birthday. Mum puts a huge plate of scrambled eggs in front of me and Dad drops two bits of bacon on top. Emmie butters toast and sits it alongside. Birthdays are a big deal in my family.
“Thanks, everyone.” I give Mum and Dad a big hug each. I grin at Emmie but she’s sulking still, even if she did make me toast.
Breakfast is the precursor to an extended birthday. Because we’re so busy in the mornings, checking people out and cleaning, the gift giving and cake waits until after lunch. So breakfast is the sampler as we all wait for the exciting part.
Once breakfast is done, I’m off to clean rooms and the boys clean camp sites. Emmie cleans rooms too but we don’t work together. We work from different directions and when we meet, we’re done. The morning travels along fairly well but butterflies have taken residence in my stomach. You kind of know why, but I can’t tell you anymore. I sneak glances out the front of the Caravan Park whenever I can, but nothing changes. Each time I look my heart’s in my throat taking out all the air. Then when nothing’s there, it drops back to my rib cage and air rushes in. Lucky I’m young or I’d think I was having a heart attack.
When I meet Emmie at the last room, we clean it together. When it’s sparkling and I close the door behind us, I’m laughing a maniacal chuckle.
“Oh my God, Emmie. That’s my last room. Ever. Ever and ever. Amen.” I grab her around the waist and twirl her but she’s not excited like me, she’s sobbing.
“I don’t want you to go, Saph. I don’t want you to leave me here.”
I tilt her chin up. “When you’re eighteen Emmie, I’ll come and get you and take you to live with me.”
“But that’s two years away.” She says it like it’s a life sentence.
I chuck my curled finger beneath her chin. “It’s only as long as I’ve waited since you ratted me out last time.”
Emmie hangs her head and her sobs reduce to sniffles. “I’m not sorry.” She says, defiant even when distressed.
We pack away the gear and clean up ready for lunch. “He won’t come, you know.”
I whirl on Emmie, eyes blazing, fists clenched tight so my nails dig into my palms. I can’t say a word. I stalk into the house for lunch.
How dare she?
How. Dare. She.
I suck in big deep breaths trying to tamp down my fury. I’m almost gulping, like a great big carp chucked up on the riverbank.
I don’t wait for Emmie to shower first. I hog the bathroom. I scrub and wash, for the last time in this horrid bathroom. I wrap myself in the tiny scratchy towel and go to our bedroom to dress. My stuff’s packed ready to go. I’ve left a yellow sundress out so I’m happy and bright and cheery as I leave. I slip it on.
I almost bought the sapphire coloured sundress. I thought Sapphire, leaving Sapphire, wearing sapphire would have been more memorable, but yellow looks better on me with my tanned skin. And I can’t turn up in a bigger town looking silly. I’ve got to turn up the best I can.
Lunch is a feast. Mum’s done a heap of different salads and a chook. It’s my favourite summer meal. After gorging on salads, a huge chocolate mud cake appears. A sparkler shoots dazzling light while everyone sings again. The cake is delicious. Mum’s a great cook. We all have seconds.
And then the gifts. Emmie, Harry, Jack and Ruby have all chipped in and bought me something. A small gaudily-wrapped box is laid into my hands with much ceremony. I slip off the ribbon and tear open the paper. A jeweller’s box. When I open it, a large light blue sapphire gleams in a platinum setting. The pendant I’d admired in the shop a few months back. The pendant with the most stunning sapphire I’ve ever seen. It cost them a fortune. I’m speechless. Looking from one expectant face to the next, I realise they’re waiting for my reaction and until now I’ve been too stunned to have one.
I burst into tears. Emmie does too. Ruby grabs my arm. Harry and Jack roll their eyes.
“I love it. Thank you. I’ll wear it all the time.” I hug each of them in turn, squeezing Emmie extra because I know she organised this.
Dad puts the pendant on for me and everyone stares at it. “It matches your eyes.” Emmie’s words are breathed out in awe.
“Perfectly.” Mum says in the same sort of breath.
When I look in the mirror though, all I see are bloodshot eyes from crying. I’ll have to check it out later. For now I’ll believe them because it’s the most beautiful sapphire in the world.
Mum and Dad hand me a card. “We thought this would be the most useful thing.” Dad’s voice is serious but a bit choked up.
Inside the card is a cheque. A cheque for more money than I’ve ever seen.
“No. No.” I shake my head. “You can’t give me this much.” It’s two thousand dollars.
Mum’s hand closes on my upper arm. “Love, it won’t go far when you’re on your own.”
Dad smiles. “And it’s not anywhere near how much work you’ve done here.”
“Thank you. This is the best birthday ever.” I mean it. I give them all a hug again. I love my family. They’re all so special. But as much as I love them, I can’t stay here.
The bell in the office rings. No one jumps to get it but everyone glances at everyone else, like someone’s supposed to get it.
I stand up. “I’ll get it.” I rub my hands over my eyes, hoping they don’t look all bleary, and walk out to the office to book in whoever is early.
Opening the office door, I stop still. Dead still. The door’s about a quarter way open. My body’s stopped beside it unable to fit through, but I can’t shut it either because my feet are in the way. But I’d never shut it.
My ride’s here.
“Darren.” The word comes out like a whisper. Then everything inside me gathers together tightly before springing forwards in a whirl of body parts. My voice finds itself and I call out his name, loudly, with every bit of happiness and hope I’ve held onto for two years. “Darren.”
The counter vanishes and I’m in his arms, whirling around the front of the office so fast that brochures fly into the air.
“Happy Birthday, Saph.”
“Oh my God. Darren, you came.” Not that I doubted him, not ever. Not once. Never. Not a tiny bit. “You’re here.”
“I’m late. Did I miss the cake?” He’s laughing at me. He’s laughing with me. He hasn’t taken his hands off my waist yet, even though he’s stopped twirling me, and it’s probably just as well as I don’t know if my knees will hold me upright.
“We saved you a piece,” Mum says from behind me. When I look around they’re all there. Like they were expecting him. Like they had more faith in him arriving than I did.
“Did you plan this?” I ask, staring at Mum.
“Honey, you planned this two years ago. It’s not my doing. But if you don’t want to go—”
“No. I’m going.” I don’t want her to have the tiniest shred of a doubt. “But I’ll come back to visit. And this will always be home.” I fly to Mum and hug her. Then I hug Dad, and Emmie, and Harry, and Jack, and Ruby. “I’m ready to go.”
Dad laughs. “Saph, Darren needs a break. You don’t know how long he’s been driving.”
I turn around to Darren ready to apologise. “No, Mr Jenson. I stayed at Mum and Dad’s last night, so I’m ready to rock and roll.”
“I’m ready too.” I can’t keep my teeth inside my lips. I have this Cheshire cat grin that won’t leave.
“I’ll pack you some food,” Mum says as I race to the bedroom for my backpack.
When I fly back to Darren after a brief farewell to my room of eighteen years and a stop to grab my gifts from the lounge room, we wait for Mum to appear with food. Mum never lets you drive anywhere without a water bottle of iced water and a foam esky of food.
After a whirl of hugs, kisses, farewells and tears, Darren and I are on the road. I wind down the window and hang out to wave goodbye to my family. I show two fingers to Emmie, not as a bird, but to remind her of my promise. I’ll keep it just as Darren kept his. When we get to the town limits, I wave farewell to the sign, and scream, “See you, Sapphire.”
And then, exhausted, I fall into my seat. It’s like all the air has sucked from me. Like I was only alive in Sapphire and I’m dying as I leave but I know that’s not true because I’ve left Sapphire before for holidays and survived.
“It’s just adrenalin, Saph. You’ll be right in a bit.”
“I can’t believe you came, Darren. I dreamed and I hoped but you never said and so I didn’t say anything.”
His hand slides over mine and squeezes lightly. “Saph, we’ve been dreaming of this for thirteen years. And the last two years have been hell without you. I can’t wait to show you Brisbane. I can’t wait to travel south.”
“Why didn’t you say something about coming?”
“I promised your folks I wouldn’t push you into going.”
I close my eyes. “They never believed I wanted to leave. Even when I said it a hundred and fifty million times, they always thought you were the bad influence because you were older.”
Darren laughs. “Little did they know…”
I know it’s illegal, I know I shouldn’t do it, but I do it anyway. I take off my seat belt and wriggle over to Darren. My hand slips on his shoulder and I kiss his cheek. I press lots of little kisses to his cheek. The little kisses move closer and closer to the side of his mouth. I haven’t kissed him in so long.
There’s a bounce or two as Darren pulls the car off the road and stops it. Then my lips catch his. It’s as if I kissed him yesterday, but sweeter than if I’d never kissed him before. His mouth moves beneath mine, like a ballet. We sip tiny tastes of each other until we need to feast. Then the kiss becomes wild and wickedly wonderful. I’m glad he’s pulled over so I can taste him without worrying about the police. He tastes of Darren and nothing has ever tasted this good, not even Mum’s chocolate cake.
When our kiss slows, he sets me back into my seat. “Saph, if you do any more of that, we’ll never get out of the gem fields.”
Laughing, I do my seatbelt up. Darren does his and starts the car. We move off. “How far will we get to tonight?”
“At least Gladstone, maybe even Bundaberg.”
“And how long to Brisbane?”
Another day to city. Another day to reach our city starting point.
“In two years I have to go back and get Emmie.”
Darren nods. “But we have two years to find our city, Saph. Two years to establish ourselves, or to travel, or to move about.”
As his ute eats the kilometres, I call a toast out the open window. “To the future!”