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Authors: Tammy Robinson

A Roast on Sunday

BOOK: A Roast on Sunday
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A Roast on Sunday

 

By Tammy Robinson

Copyright ©
2013 by Tammy Robinson

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other
noncommercial uses permitted by copyright law.

 

This book is set in New Zealand and as such all spelling is in New Zealand English.

Acknowledgments

A HUGE thank you to my early readers, Kerrie Ryan, Cara Randall-Hunt, Richard James Lloyd, Miriam Byrne and Andrea Sheffield, for your feedback and editing skills. The love you guys had for the characters gave me the encouragement to keep writing the story.

Also a GINORMOUS thank you to my clever husband Karl for his fantastic editing skills and
cover design. Also for coming home from a full day at work and feeding and bathing the baby so I could get some more writing done.

 

 

This book is dedicated to our beautif
ul, incredible, gorgeous, clever, adorable and amazing daughter Holly. If your attitude and feistiness now at one year old is any indication, we’re in for some fun (i.e. trouble) with you!

Love you so much baby girl

Chapter one

 

To an ignorant observer it would appear that the girl was merely sat on the shore enjoying the view. Only once you got close enough could you hear her muttering, although the words themselves were undecipherable, snatched by the breeze as soon as they emerged from her lips and carried off into the trees that rimmed the lake.

She had the lake to herself, thanks to the
early morning chill in the air. On hot days this place was packed with families enjoying picnics and the water, and teenagers secretly enjoying the sight of the opposite sex and their burgeoning bodies. But on cold mornings like this most stayed away, apart from dog walkers, bird watchers and other odd, outdoorsy types.


I’d like to see how she’d manage without me,” the girl said, scowling and kicking out at a nearby rock.

Earlier on the shore she had traced the
length of the waterline, as the best pebbles and stones were usually to be found there. On other days, when she had time and no plan to be gotten on with she enjoyed taking it slowly, collecting only the best specimens which now lined the windowsill in her bedroom. They caught the afternoon sun and cast interesting patterns on her walls. Those days she liked to focus on picking the ones with the prettiest colours, or patterns. Not perfect rocks mind you; she liked them to have some kind of minor imperfection, a chip or a crack perhaps.

But today she had
a job to do and limited time to do it in. So she settled for any old rocks, green ones with flecks of black, grey with holes like the craters of the moon. Weight was what she was after so she threw any that she considered too light into the water. She didn’t even have time today to try and better her skimming score, (for the record she had once achieved nine perfect surface skims, although her best friend Nick refused to allow it into their record book as it had not been witnessed by him. Jerk.)

When she had filled her mother’s linen shopping bag with enough stones she settled on the shore and sorted through them, once again weighing them between her hands, tossing any that were too small or light, and filling the pockets on her raincoat with the rest.

The raincoat was a sore point, and the girl normally never voluntarily wore it. In fact, she hated it with a seething passion and had tried to lose it on numerous occasions, but the damn thing had a habit of turning back up. Of course it didn’t help that her mother had written her name in big black letters on the outside of the collar, right there where everyone could see it. Tags you could cut out, but permanent marker wasn’t so easy to remove. She’d tried scrubbing it off with soap, and bleaching it off with the stuff her mother used to clean the toilet, but it was like it was retardant to all her efforts.

“You have got to be kidding me
,” she’d said last winter when her grandmother had passed it to her with a flourish one morning over breakfast, with an expression the girl could only describe as mildly evil; mirth dancing a foxtrot around her lips. Her grandmother was good at that, chucking fuel on a fire and watching situations explode. She wasn’t a bad person as such, but she had a streak of mischievousness a mile wide in her. The coat was bright pink with giant cheerful strawberries, complete with faces, splashed across it. The girl hadn’t worn anything pink since she’d been old enough to dress herself and she had no intention of starting again. What made it even worse was that the girl had red hair. Red like the colour of a cornfield at sunset. A pink coat on a kid with red hair? Her grandmother may as well have bought her a sandwich board to wear saying ‘Please pick on me!’ and been done with it.

“Like hell am I wearing that,”
the girl had said.

“Don’t swear,” her mother
had admonished her.

“Ok, like
sugar
will I ever be caught dead wearing that, better?”

“Better. But yes, you are wearing it.”

“I’m not.”

“You are.”

“You can’t make me.”

Her mother
had sighed. “No, I can’t make you. But I can’t afford to buy you a new jacket either, so you either wear it or you freeze. Up to you. And before you tell me you don’t give a sugar if you freeze, think of your grandmother. You don’t want to hurt her feelings do you?”

The girl looked at her grandmother, who
did her best to look hurt. The girl sighed. 

“Fine.
Whatever,” she’d said, although she intended on losing it at the first opportunity possible. She’d left the coat on buses, up trees, stuffed into a post box and once she’d even hurled it into a creek and watched it get carried away with the current, but somehow it always came back. If she didn’t know better she’d think the stupid thing was possessed.

S
he’d worn the coat to the lake today because it was the only thing she owned with deep enough pockets. She managed to fit thirty stones into her left pocket and twenty eight into the right, and when she stumbled to her feet she nearly pitched over backwards.

“Perfect
,” she declared.

W
ith one last glance along the shore to make sure she was alone, she walked, or rather lurched, into the water and headed straight out until just her head was left poking out above the surface.

“Here goes
,” she said, taking a deep breath, and she took another step forward until the water closed over her head and only ripples were left, fanning out in circles that got bigger and fainter and eventually disappeared.

Chapter Two

 

She had failed to notice the man and his dog emerging from the tree line on the hill
directly behind her. He liked walking at this early time of the morning. A chance to clear his head and prepare himself for whatever madness the day ahead might bring.

The dog was
as black as a starless night sky, and tall, reaching almost to the man’s waist. Despite his intimidating size, his expression was one of docile friendliness, a long pink tongue lolling out one side of his mouth between pointed and yellowing teeth.

The man watched the girl wade clumsily out into the water. Curious, he thought, perhaps that was what they did in these parts; swim in raincoats. It wouldn’t surprise him. He’d only moved here a few months back and only from a few hundred kilometres away but
some days he felt like he’d been transplanted into a strange new world. People round here were,
different.
There really was no other word for it.  No polite one anyway.

He watched
as the ripples dispersed and waited with interest for the girl to surface again. The dog pulled impatiently on the leash; he wanted to head home to where his bowl was waiting to be filled with breakfast.

When she hadn’t popped up after
twenty seconds he started to worry, and another twenty seconds later he started running for the shore, dropping the leash as he did. The dog sighed, sensing that breakfast had just taken a giant step backwards.

Without stopping to remove any clothing
the man plunged into the water and headed for the spot where he’d last seen her. As his boots filed with water and started to drag him down he wished he’d taken the time to stop and remove them, but he knew there had been no time. He took a quick breath and dived under the surface, opening his eyes and peering through the gloom for some sign of the girl. The water was cold, colder than he was prepared for and he felt his skin spring up into a million goose bumps, and his ribs contract in protest. Visibility was poor and he could see only a metre or so in front of him. The water was a dark, murky green, with floating white specks and when he moved he stirred them up like a snowstorm and they swirled around him like angry bees.

He couldn’t see her and his lungs were crying out for air, so he
surfaced and gulped in the air thirstily. Shit, he thought, where the hell was she? He turned on the spot to see if she had surfaced without his knowledge but there was no sign of her. Just as he was about to dive back down he noticed them; a trail of bubbles popping to the surface, only a few metres to his right. He took a few strokes until he was in the same spot and then taking another deep breath he dove under. This time he could see her. She was on the bottom of the lake, a few metres down. If it hadn’t been for her jacket he may not have spotted her, but the faces on the strawberries beamed up at him from the murky deep. Using his hands and body and he pushed himself down towards the bottom until he could reach her. When he put a hand on her shoulder she spun as quickly as the water would allow and seeing him she swore; he couldn’t hear it under water but there was no mistaking the shape of her mouth. She pushed his hand off her shoulder and tried to move away from him but he reached out and grabbed her again, even though his lungs were screaming. He was not leaving her down here to drown, that he knew for certain. If he surfaced now he may not be able to find her again, and he couldn’t live with that on his conscience. She tried to shrug his hand off again but he gripped her and gestured towards the surface.

Later on, when he was
reliving the experience while trying to get some warmth back into his body in the shower, he could have sworn that in that moment she had rolled her eyes at him.

Underwater.

She started to
shrug her arms out of the jacket and he helped her, yanking at one sleeve till her hand popped out the other end. Then she was gone, kicking up towards the surface, and he dropped the oddly heavy jacket and kicked off after her.

She broke through the surface first, and without waiting for him she struck out for
the shore. Breaking through himself he took a large gulp of air and then he swam to catch up. He waited until they were back on the shore before he finally spoke.


Just what the hell do you think you’re playing at?” he asked her furiously. 

“Me?” she blinked at him in surprise and retaliated anger. “You’re the one with the problem mister.
You
came after
me,
remember.”

“Of course I did, I was hardly going to
leave you to drown down there.”

She frowned at him. “I was
hardly going to drown.”


I hate to break it to you but that’s typically what happens when someone stays under the water as long as you did without breathing.”


Well duh, I’m not an idiot.”


What were you doing down there?”

She held out a hand and in it he could see a small piece of lake weed; vivid green
and stark against the paleness of her palm.

“Not that it’s any of your business,
” she said, “but I was picking this. Now you and your stupid David Hasselhoff rescue efforts have made me drop the rest of it. Nice one.”

“You were picking weed?”

“Gee, quick on the uptake aren’t you,” she said.

“Smart arse, aren’t you?”

She poked her tongue out at him.

“What do you want the weed for
anyway?” he asked, trying to wring some of the water from his trousers.

“Like I said, it’s none of your business.”

Something else occurred to him. “How did you manage to stay underwater for so long without breathing? You were down there for a very long time.”

She shrugged but didn’t answer.

‘I know,” he said, “it’s none of my business right.”

The girl nodded approvingly. “Now you’re catching on quicker
.” Her attention became distracted by the dog that had joined his master’s side. The dog stared up at the man mournfully, trying to convey the hunger that was greatly troubling him.

“Nice dog,” she said.
“Yours?”


Thanks, and yes, he’s mine.”

“What’s his name?”

“Rufus.”


What a terrible name for a dog.”

“Agreed.
I didn’t name him.”

“Who did?”

“Now who’s being nosy?”

“Fine, don’t tell me. I don’t care.”

He chuckled, she was a touch prickly this kid. “My ex-girlfriend named him.”

The girl regarded the dog thoughtfully.

“He looks like an Apollo,” she said.

And the man thought; she’s right. He
does
look like an Apollo.

“He looks like a pretty clever dog,” the girl continued.

“He is.”

The girl crossed her arms. “Looks like the kind of dog who knows
when to mind his own business.”

Forget his earlier estimation he thought, she was a hell of a lot prickly.

“Point taken,” he said.

“Good, now get lost.”

He raised an eyebrow at her but she refused to be intimidated. “I don’t think so,” he said. “I’d like to have a word to your parents about what just happened.”

The girl shrugged again, “be my guest,” she said. But she had no intention of letting him see where she lived, so she led him on a merry dance around town, starting with the school, winding in and out of the classrooms, turning occasionally to smile
crookedly at him over her shoulder. He was still close behind her though when she reached the edge of the field so she took him over to Main Street, crossing from the left side of the road to the right side and then back again, every twenty metres or so. Still, he didn’t give up, so she finally decided screw it, he could be her mother’s problem. She was cold and hungry and fed up, so she left town, walking up the dirt road that led to her house. She stomped up the porch and entered the house, letting the screen door slam shut behind her.

Her mother’s head popped out of the kitchen.

“That took awhile, you ok?”

“I’m fine.”

Her mother noticed her empty hands.

“Did you leave it outside?”

The girl fumbled to get her hand into her jean pocket, made more difficult by the fact they were still wet and were drying onto her body like stiff cardboard.

“Here,” she said, throwing the small piece of weed at her mother.

“Where’s the rest of it?”

The girl thumbed over her shoulder. “Ask
that idiot,” then she stomped off up the stairs to run herself a hot bath. She had a date with a book; her mother could deal with the man outside.

There was the sound of a
throat clearing at the screen door.

“I think she’s referring to me,” the man said.

Her mother crossed the room but didn’t open the door. She checked the man carefully for signs of danger. He didn’t look dangerous, but then again, what exactly did danger look like?

“I have a gun,” she finally said
, opening the screen door enough so they could appraise each other properly, but not enough to invite him over the threshold.

“Right.
That’s good to know.”


Who are you and what do you want?”

“Can I come in? It’s a bit breezy out here and I’m wet through from trying to save your daughter.”

“Save her from what?”

“Drowning.”

The girl’s mother turned towards the stairs and yelled out, “Willow, get back down here.”

A minute later the girls face appeared in the doorway.

“What?” she asked.

“I asked if you were ok and
you didn’t tell me you nearly drowned. That’s the kind of thing I’d like to know.”

“That’s because I didn’t ‘nearly drown’. I was fine, just doing what I always do. He,” she jerked her head towards the man on the other side of the door, “decided to play lifeguard and swam in to haul me out.”

Her mother turned back to the man. “Look, Mr -?”

“Cartwright, but call me Jack.”

“- Mr Cartwright, I appreciate your concern and your lifesaving efforts, but I’m sure my daughter was perfectly fine. She’s an excellent swimmer.”


That may be, but she wasn’t exactly swimming. She was picking lake weed. From the
bottom of a lake
.”

“Yes, I know.
And?”

“Sorry, but a
m I the only one who thinks there’s something slightly odd about that?”


Look, I appreciate your concern, but my daughter can look after herself in the water. Thank you for seeing her home safely, but you can leave now.”

“Mrs -?”

“Tanner.”


Do you have a first name?”


Maggie,” she said reluctantly, “but you can call me Mrs Tanner.”

He was starting to see where
Willow got her attitude from.


Mrs Tanner, I don’t think its normal behaviour for a kid wearing a raincoat to walk out into a lake to pick weed. I know this town is strange, but even that’s going a bit far.”

Both mother and daughter bristled at the word ‘strange’.
This town was their home, and its melting pot of people their extended family. A stranger calling them strange was like a slap to the face.

“I think you should leave now,”
Maggie said, arms crossed defensively in front of her.

“Yeah, get lost,”
Willow added.

“Has any
one ever told you that your kid has a bad attitude?” the man said, leaning against the doorframe.

Willow
sucked in her breath. Now he’d done it. Her mother could put up with a lot but she wouldn’t
stand
for anyone saying a bad word about her only daughter. Her mother was super protective. 


Willow, go and have your bath,” her mother said without turning.


Aw but-” Willow wanted to stay and watch the fireworks.

“Go.”

Reluctantly, Willow left. But before she disappeared completely from sight she turned and poked her tongue out at the man.

“Nice,” he said
, “really mature.”

“How dare you,”
Maggie hissed when they were alone again.

“How dare I what, exactly?”
He was enjoying the verbal sparring. The first thing he’d noticed when she’d come to the door was that Maggie was a remarkably attractive woman. Long mahogany coloured hair reached almost to her waist which was small and nipped in nicely before curving out over her hips. Her features were delicate and refined, and she had a dimple in her chin which he found fascinating. Since she’d gotten angry with him she had become even more alive. He wanted to continue fanning the embers and see just how animated she would get.

BOOK: A Roast on Sunday
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