Theme Parks and Obstacle Courses – a Novel

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71

As they entered the coastal town of Torquay, the sun made its way a little higher into the sky. The light had lost some of its yellow and become a little more chrome.

Because of its station, the beams clipped the roofs of houses and sprayed into points of brilliance. Pat had to pull down his visor to block out the sharpest.  

“I was surprised you still wanted to see me,” she said. “After I told you I’d been a hooker. A lot of guys wouldn’t like that.” He slowed down as the traffic light changed to red.

Two motorcycles roared past, the high-backed racing kind. They farted and bucked, trembling like stallions at the front of the queue of cars.

“I can’t judge you,” he replied, and sat silent. Nat was looking at him; the tint of her glasses concealed her eyes, but he could feel the pressure of her gaze. The moment passed and she turned her attention back to the road.

“Do you own your house?” Pat asked.

“I live with my mum. But we’re not getting along at the moment.”

“Does she know what you do?”

“I’ve been working at night since I was in my late teens. I started off as a barmaid, and she knows I’ve been a stripper – ’

“How does she know about that?”

“I used to have this costume that was all feathers. One day, I came home and she led me out into the yard. And there was the family washing hanging off the Hills-Hoist, festooned with all these hot-pink feathers.

“She had a pretty good idea after that, but I was forced to tell her, eventually. I danced for this buck’s night once and amongst the older guys, there was a family friend.’

‘How did that go down?”

“With a big smile,” she replied, and grinned. “Mum and me haven’t talked about any of the other stuff. She doesn’t want it to be any worse than she knows, so I think she blocks it out.

“Given that I always make the mortgage and she knows I’m not a drug dealer, that’s as much as she wants to know. But, she doesn’t like me coming and going all the time – she wants me to be at home.”

“What would you do at home?”

“She’s a wog, you know? She thinks I should be at home.”

**

The Great Ocean Road stretches along the shoulders of high cliffs, while at other points is threaded through densely-packed bushland. Often, the turns are completely blind, and the speed limit decreases to as low as thirty-five kilometres an hour.

After one such turn, the bush that shrouded the road on either side of the car broke to reveal white-flecked waves rushing in on the back of the evening tide.

The sun had slid further down the sky. It hurled its most brilliant rays inland as if fighting to hold itself up. The clouds were stained violet with the strain.

The Grand Pacific Hotel stood on the other side of the town centre. It was essentially a large homestead; a rectangular-shaped building with a veranda that ran all the way around. After they had checked in, Nat took a shower. Pat sat on the bed.

At one stage, he pushed the bathroom door slightly ajar and watched her through the frosted glass. The uneven edges of her silhouette moved across the translucent surface like a stain.

He listened to the water, able to distinguish between the sound of the spray on her body and the splash of it falling to the tiles.

He went back into the room, softly lifted the car keys from the nightstand and was halfway out the front door when the shower turned off. He could hear water dripping and her feet splashing in the bottom of the stall as she made to get out.

He saw his own clothes spread out of his bag on the end of the bed and realised that attempting to escape was futile. He swiftly came back in and shut the door, slipping the keys into his pocket.

“Who’s that?” she asked.

“Just me,” said Pat, cursing himself for shutting the door too loudly.

“Where did you go?”

“Nowhere,” he replied.

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