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Authors: Kat Lansby

Tags: #Romance, #Contemporary, #Literature & Fiction, #Contemporary Fiction

Bondi Beach

BOOK: Bondi Beach
7.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Chapter 1

I fell in love with Martin
when I was forty-four years old and visiting Australia for the very first time. Within the past three years, I’d lost two of the people that I loved the most – my father from pneumonia following a series of strokes and my husband Jack to lung cancer. I’d stressed and cried until I was worn out, finally finishing with the business of dying and death and all of the arrangements that consume someone who should be allowed to do nothing but grieve.

Uncertain about how to move forward in my life, I had a
n exceptionally strong sense that I needed to look at myself through new eyes and that, once I did, I’d be able to sort out what lay ahead. Goodness knows I had no idea what to do next.

I was ready for a new beginning but couldn’t do it in North Carolina
. There were just too many memories there. Once I’d been an avid traveler, but I hadn’t gone very far from home for a number of years and was ready to explore new terrain again. Although I’d tried to plan this trip with a few close friends, they were wrapped up in the complexities of work and raising families and simply couldn’t break away.

Perhaps that was best
. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I’d also hoped that exploring the outer landscape of a place I’d never seen before would help me to examine my own inner landscape from a different perspective.

On January 1
st
, I boarded a plane for Sydney intent on beginning the New Year in another country. Australia was a place that I had wanted to visit for as long as I could remember. I’d read so much about the beauty of Sydney, the vastness of the Outback, and the colorful snorkeling off the Great Barrier Reef that I had to see as much as I could just once. The fact that they speak English there promised an easier trip.

I
had planned to spend six weeks there and, moving clockwise, would visit every state – New South Wales first and, then, Tasmania, Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia, Northern Territory, and Queensland. I would start out by touring Sydney for a few days before renting a car and seeing more of the state of New South Wales. I hadn’t planned for anything but the first five days. Once I was there, I thought that I would get my bearings, talk to locals and other travelers, and plan accordingly.

Given that this would likely be my only trip to Australia, I
decided to keep a detailed journal to track where I’d gone, what I’d done, and whom I’d met. Little did I know that it would also document the start of my own love story.

 

Chapter 2

JANUARY 2, 2010

It was the second day of January when I arrived at Sydney Airport. The twenty-plus hour flight from Charlotte had left me sore and sleep-deprived, and it felt good to step off the cramped plane and make my way up the jet bridge. As I walked toward customs, I had an overwhelming sense that I was starting over, that this trip would serve as a reset button for the rest of my life. At least, I hoped so.

I hadn’t brought much luggage – just enough for five days with the idea that I could wash my own clothes in the shower and travel light
. I collected my bag and walked through customs before following the signs for the exit and a taxi, which took me to The Langham, Sydney, a beautiful boutique hotel located in the heart of the city. Not long ago, it had been the Observatory Hotel and was located in the Rocks district, a historic area in downtown Sydney. I made my way across the freshly polished floors toward the registration desk.

“Welcome to the Langham, Sydney
. How may we help you today?” A cheerful twenty-something brunette named Vivienne asked. She wore green contacts and had a small gap between her front teeth.

“Hi
. I’m Eva Jensen. I’d like to check in please.” I handed my credit card to her for incidentals. She found my reservation and checked me in before directing me toward the bank of elevators. I made my way up to the third floor and walked along the hallway, peering at the room numbers until I found mine.

I
opened the door to a very spacious guest room done in cream and peach with a rich floral fabric draped above the headboard. Crossing the floor, I set my suitcase up on its stand, stripped off my clothes, and showered off a full day of travel. By then, it was afternoon, and I was too tired to calculate what time it was back home. All I knew was that I needed some sleep. I crawled into bed, ate an apple that I had picked up at the airport, and dozed off.

 

Chapter 3

JANUARY 3, 2012

When I woke up, it took me a moment to realize where I was. Feeling luxuriously pampered, I lay in bed thinking
I’m here, now, and I don’t have to do anything today but sleep and lounge around.
That sentiment lasted all of about two minutes. I’d slept since yesterday afternoon and was well rested. Besides, I was in Sydney and ready to see the town. I showered and changed before grabbing two protein bars from my suitcase and stashing them in my purse before heading out for an easy walk around town.

First, I walked to the Sydney Visitor Centre and picked up a map of the
area. It was a gorgeous Australian summer day with the temperature in the 70s. Having left the Northern Hemisphere’s winter behind, it was great to be outdoors in such nice weather. I spent a good deal of the morning and early afternoon visiting stores and art galleries and watching street theatre in The Rocks district, Sydney’s oldest. Located on Sydney Cove beside the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Rocks had a lot of Old World charm and a lot of popular restaurants, cafes, and shops.

After stopping at an outdoor café for lunch, I visited the Rocks Market, wandering past the one hundred or more stalls along the lower end of George Street
. I picked up a few trinkets for Denise and Tess back home before walking to the Museum of Contemporary Art.

By four o’clock, I was
starting to feel sensory overload and decided to head back to the hotel. It had been a lot to take in for one day, and I was ready to get off my feet and relax. I returned to my room and changed into a swimsuit, covered back up with clothes, and headed downstairs to the pool.

The
hotel pool was luxurious and unlike any I’d ever seen. At one end of the room, a bright beach mural was painted on the wall, and stars dotted the dark ceiling overhead. On this Sunday afternoon before dinner, the pool was nearly empty. I put the room key down on a poolside chair and proceeded to undress down to my swimsuit. A few children were splashing around in the shallow area so I entered at the deep end and held onto the side for a moment as my body adjusted to the cool water.

As
I treaded water for a few minutes to warm up, the children exited the pool at the urging of their mother, who was there to towel them off. She and I smiled and nodded at one another as they left for dinner. When I was alone, I moved onto my back, closing my eyes and floating peacefully on the water.


Have a great trip,” Denise had said when we had gotten together after Christmas. “Maybe you’ll meet someone,” she’d said, a hopeful glint in her eye.

“Fat chance, not likely, and don’t count on it,” I’d told her
over a meal at our favorite Indian restaurant. “I’m just going to get away for a while.”

“Don’t rule it out,” she’d told me
, and I wouldn’t.

But
I was recovering from five years of caring for and losing two people whom I’d loved very much, and I was emotionally fried. I’d had a feeling that leaving home and coming here for a while would inspire me to start over, maybe even providing me with some direction. Falling in love? Well, fat chance, not likely, and don’t count on it. I chuckled to myself.
I wonder if anyone ever gets a message like that in a Chinese fortune cookie?

Eventually
, I climbed out of the pool, toweled off, dressed, and returned to my room where I showered and changed into a simple dress with a scoop neck in the front and a slight V in the back. One of my favorite colors, it was such a dark purple that it could be mistaken for black. I wore an unusual multi-strand necklace that I had designed and made myself. It had square beads made of recycled fine silver, repurposed lapis lazuli beads, and repurposed lavender freshwater pearls. Then, I slipped into some high black heels and went downstairs for dinner at the hotel’s Galileo Restaurant, which looked like a Parisian salon complete with brocade sofas, velvet wallpaper, and old fashioned wall sconces.

The meal was delicious
. When I went to bed with a full stomach that night, I contemplated whether to go to the beach or join a short tour the next day but drifted off to sleep before making up my mind. When I awoke the next morning, however, the answer was clear. I’d be spending enough time during the remainder of the trip toodling around in my rental car. I decided to go to Bondi Beach. It was that simple and seemingly innocuous decision that altered the course of my life.

 

Chapter 4

JANUARY 4, 2010

Still adjusting to the difference in time zones, I awoke very early the next morning. It was still dark, but I was wide awake and reached for the book on my nightstand. I’d brought
Eat, Pray, Love
with me for the plane ride but, instead, had spent most of the time rifling through magazines, working on my computer, and sleeping whenever I could. Now, I could sink into the story of another woman who was trying to work her way through her own personal morass and toward the light on the other side. However, I never made it out of Italy. At some point, I must have dozed off because, the next thing I knew, it was ten o’clock in the morning.

Feeling
rested and inspired, I got out of bed, walked over to my suitcase, and stripped. I rolled up my long black silky bamboo nightgown and tucked it in beside the red, pink, and cream ones. Then, I pulled out a purple swimsuit, baby blue shirt, and white shorts and put them on.

I checked myself out in the mirror in my hotel room. At 5’5”, I wasn’t skinny. My family didn’t have the genes for skinny. No matter how much I exercised, and I did, I was healthy with curves. Anyway, I liked the way that I looked in the shirt and shorts and decided to go with it. Besides, it wasn’t like I was trying to impress anyone.
I scooched my feet into a pair of comfortable white sandals and grabbed my bright blue and yellow beach towel before heading out the door.

Bondi Beach was
a few miles away. Whereas The Langham was in the northern part of the city, Bondi was on the eastern side where it meets the Tasman Sea. I met a pleasant couple in the hotel lobby when I was asking the concierge for directions, and Bob and Della Meritts had offered to take me to Bondi in their rental car and drop me off.

It was late morning when I arrived just in
time to see the crowd setting up for the day. A number of them seemed to be tourists on extended leave after the New Year, but many locals were there as well. It was a good day for surfing, and I enjoyed watching the skilled surfers catching and riding the waves toward shore.

I tried to read for a little while, but
the sun was too bright to read comfortably. So, I lay on my towel and did nothing but listen to the
ffffh… ffffh … ffffh
of the surf
.
The sound was mesmerizing and reminded me of all of those new age CDs that I’d heard at my massage therapist’s office except that this was much better. I was actually lying by the sea, and it was another gorgeous day in the 70s. Though it was a little breezy at times, the sun felt wonderful. It was an absolutely perfect day. As I lay face down on my beach towel and wriggled my toes into the warm sand just below the blanket, I was certain that things couldn’t get any better.

As the sun
warmed my body, I wrapped my long brown hair around my hand a few times and tied a loose knot in it. It felt good to get my hair off my neck. Still, I was warm and felt thirsty. I pushed myself up off my beach towel and grabbed my purse, walking toward a shop where I hoped to buy a bottle of water. On my way there, I passed three surfers. A fourth had just gotten out of the water and called to them from the shoreline. The surfer closest to me turned back around toward his friend and unknowingly hit me in the face with his canary yellow surfboard, knocking me out cold.

I don’t recall
what happened after that until I awoke in Sydney Hospital on Macquarie Street with a concussion, bruising, and a laceration above my right eye, which was swollen shut. I would need stitches along the brow area, I learned, and a few days in the hospital until the doctor was comfortable that the blow to the head hadn’t caused more severe brain damage. Once the swelling over my eye receded, I would visit the Sydney Eye Hospital to ensure that there was no permanent damage to my eye.

One of my earliest recollections was of being in a hospital. When I was three years old, my family had been in a car accident. Although my father and I had survived, my mother and brother had been killed. I’d been in the back seat holding my stuffed bear when we were broadsided by a truck on the passenger side of the car. I remembered my face being warm and sticky with cuts to it from the flying glass. The memories were sharp and visceral, and being in this hospital brought them back.

I began to wonder what had happened to my perfect day on the beach. It certainly looked like my time in Sydney was off to a different start than I’d expected.

BOOK: Bondi Beach
7.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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