Heavily laden, unable to carry one more thing on her shoulders, she trudged down the path towards the waiting taxi. As the driver loaded her suitcase into the boot, she took one last longing look at the place she’d called home for the past seven years. A tear rolled down her cheek as her heart broke in two. Before she could change her mind, she ripped her gaze from what was behind her, got in the back of the taxi, and drove away.
This may look like an ending and in a way, it is. But really this is just the start of something even bigger, and possibly something a whole lot better. Just as the ground has to burn before it can thrive again, sometimes good things need to die to make way for something else…unimaginable. This is my story. This is my journey. This is how I find where I belong.
Boyd and Connor O’Connell jogged out of the water, bare chests glistening in the brightness of the early-evening sun. They walked up the beach, surfboards tucked under their arms.
‘Man, that was so good, did you see my last wave?’ Connor grinned.
‘Yeah, you got such a sweet ride. The surf was really kicking it today. As was I,’ his brother replied, puffing out his tanned chest.
Connor rolled his eyes. They put their surfboards in the sand and picked up their towels. Connor began rubbing his short, sandy-blonde hair. ‘We surf like that in the comp next week, we are so in it for nationals.’
As Boyd ran his towel down his arm, he saw his best friend Seb Mason jogging along the beach towards them. ‘Looking good, sweet thang,’ he hollered, putting on a fairly convincing Texan accent.
Seb looked up, saw him, and rolled her eyes. ‘Can you not hit on me while I’m trying to run?’ she shouted as she jogged over.
‘Can’t help it; it should be a crime to look as good as you do,’ Boyd shrugged innocently and received a punch in the arm for his trouble.
‘How’s the surf?’ Seb asked Connor, turning her back on Boyd.
‘Sweet as. How’s the run?’
‘Ugh, awful,’ she groaned, hands on hips as she stood to catch her breath and looked out longingly at the blue waves. ‘I’d much rather be out there with you guys. But if I want to keep my stamina up, not much choice until this stupid shoulder heals.’
‘How much longer is that going to take?’
‘Doctor said I should be ‘right to start building up with some gentle paddling and muscle-strengthening exercise, but definitely no pushing up on my board for another two weeks at least.’
‘I know right. Absolutely typical I do this four weeks before the qualies. I was so ready for nationals this year.’
‘Probably a good thing you’re missing them; now you don’t have to face the humiliation of being thrashed by me,’ Boyd teased.
Seb gave him a shove. ‘I could surf circles round you any day.’
‘So long as it’s not any day in the next two weeks,’ he winked.
Connor stepped in between them. ‘Okaaay, I’m calling time out.’
‘I need to finish my run anyway. See you boys later.’ Seb saluted them with her index finger and took off across the sand.
‘Yeah, run away from your impending loss, chicken!’ Boyd called after her. If she heard, she gave him no satisfaction of a response.
‘When are you gonna stop being such a sook and ask her out?’ Connor demanded as he slung his towel over his shoulder and picked up his board.
‘What are you talking about? Seb and I are best mates, nothing else,’ his older brother retorted.
‘For ever. Now shut up and mind your own. I’ve got a shift to get to.’
Riley and Jordan Zeller sat on a picnic blanket in the park with their three friends, killing themselves laughing.
‘It wasn’t my fault, Rocco distracted me!’ Lauren argued, decidedly less amused than her companions.
Rocco put his hands up in defence. ‘Hey, don’t blame me for your clumsiness. Seriously though, you looked hilarious. I thought I was going to pee myself.’
‘Wouldn’t be the first time,’ Lauren shot back with a menacing smile, silencing Rocco mid-laugh.
Just then, Riley’s phone began to ring. He took it out of his pocket and, seeing the caller ID, got up. ‘Sorry guys, I need to take this.’ He answered the call as he put some distance between himself and the group. ‘Kim?’
‘Riley, you need to phone Karla right now and stop her from being so crazy!’ came the frenzied response.
‘Crazy? What’s going on? Is she ok?’ he asked in his Texan twang, confused.
‘No, she’s not ok! She’s the opposite of ok. I should have tried harder to stop her but I thought maybe this was a good thing. Now I’m thinking I was wrong and this is wrong and she needs to come back. But she won’t listen to me, I already tried calling her. You’re the only person I could think of who could make her see reason.’
‘Kim, slow down, you’re not making any sense. Can you please explain what is going on?’
‘I don’t have time to explain. Just call her.’
‘Ki-,’ but he was cut off by the singular dialling tone. He walked back to his friends, confusion and worry written across his face.
‘Who was that?’ his sister Jordan asked.
‘Karla’s cousin? What time is it over there?’
‘I don’t know. Late. Listen, I need to go, sorry,’ Riley apologised, picking up his rucksack.
‘Is everything ok?’
‘Yeah yeah. I’ll see you at home,’ he dismissed, leaving quickly before she had time to argue with him.
Sixteen-year-old Karla O’Connell sat in the seating area at the flight gate, one denim-clad knee pulled up to her chest and the other tucked under her. She stared ahead, deep in thought, when a vibration in her pocket jolted her out of her daze. She pulled her phone out to see Riley’s name flash up on the screen. Composing herself, she forced a smile as she answered. ‘Hey Riley, what’s up?’ She spoke in a general American accent but with residue of her Australian upbringing in the odd word.
‘So I just got a weird phonecall from Kim.’
Karla huffed, abandoning the clearly pointless pretence. ‘She had no right to call you.’
‘She told me to stop you doing something crazy. What’s she talking about?’
‘I’m not being crazy, she’s overreacting. And besides, it’s none of her business what I do.’
‘Which is what exactly?’
Karla shrugged, though he couldn’t see it, and started playing with her long light brown hair which, as per usual, was plaited over her right shoulder. ‘It’s no big deal. I’m just coming home.’
‘Home? For how long?’
Riley balked, and Karla moved the phone slightly further from her ear as her friend said loudly, ‘For-. Karla, that is not “not a big deal”!’
Her tone grew frustrated, as if she’d been explaining herself all day. ‘It’s not like I decided to elope or anything. I just decided I didn’t want to be at boarding school anymore.’
‘And when exactly did you decide this?’
The girl bit her thumb and braced herself for the inevitable onslaught. ‘A week ago.’
It came. ‘A week? So what, you just packed up and left?’
‘Pretty much, yeah.’
‘Karla, are you crazy?! You can’t leave, just like that. What are you thinking?’
‘I’m thinking I should hang up on you,’ she replied indignantly.
Realising he wasn’t going to get anywhere this way, Riley immediately took a breath and calmed down. ‘No, don’t do that.’ He paused, trying to work out what to do. ‘Where are you now?’
‘Newark. I’m at the gate, waiting to board.’
‘You’re at the gate? So you’re really doing this, huh?’
‘Yeah, I’m really doing this.’
Riley ran a hand through his dark hair. ‘Where are you going to live?’
‘Is that what you want?’
‘It’s not like I really have a choice, Ri. I’m coming back for good, it’s not like I can just bunk with you guys for a few weeks like I do over summer.’
‘No, I know.’
At that moment, a well-spoken Australian woman announced over the tannoy, ‘The Emirates flight to Melbourne is now boarding at Gate 3.’
‘I gotta go,’ Karla said.
‘Ok, well I guess I’ll see you in twenty-four hours or so then.’
‘More like thirty-six. Last minute flight, long layover. See you in a couple days.’
‘Have a good flight, travel safe.’
Karla hung up the phone, pushed it back into her pocket, and slung her rucksack over her shoulder. Then she joined the end of the already-lengthening queue to her new future.