Authors: Helen Goltz
She punched my arm and grinned.
“Lighten up, Adam, I’m only playing you.”
I breathed a sigh of relief. “I can’t tell,” I told her. “We don’t know each other well enough for you to play me yet.”
“Well get used to it, bro,” she said with the emphasis on “bro”.
I pulled over into a car park out in front of the cafe.
“My shout,” I said, “since I’m the working one and the one who has to make amends.”
“Least you could do,” she agreed, with a smile. “C’mon, I’ll see if I can spot someone who is your type. You should call me sis though, just so that no one thinks you’re stuck with me.”
“Yeah, yeah,” I grimaced. I guess I deserved that one.
I knew she was in pain, so was I. It was made worse for me by the fact that she was hanging around with Adam and that Chayse guy—both of them looking out for her. When she put her hand on Adam’s chest I nearly tore between them. I felt my heart rip with jealousy.
I’m trying to keep away from her, but she’s not like the others. I was in control and when it was over with them, that was it. But she’s got some power over me—she wants me but doesn’t need me; she drains from me and it makes her stronger. How is she doing that or am I doing it because I’ve been blindsided by her?
I watched her the morning I took her home, holding her in my arms and carrying her up the beach. She lay in bed after, tossing and turning in those few hours before dawn. I followed her to school and watched her in art class ... her eyes always outside, seeking me. I wanted to stop the pain for both of us and just appear, but I have to think this through. If she is stronger than me, I may have to give her up or never let her see me, she’ll destroy me. But I don’t think I could watch her with someone else.
She waited for me all Friday night, sitting in the attic window—a pale, lonely figure. I wanted to go to her and to kiss and hold her so badly I ached. I hate this.
No, it’s best I stay away. I’m trying to stay away.
Can you stay away from your destiny?
Monday. I never, ever thought I would be pleased to have a Monday school morning thrust upon me but I need to get out of my head. I just need to be busy, be with my new friends and not think about him.
No sighting of him, no sign of him. He’s gone—I don’t know what I was to him, but it is over, as brief and intense as it was.
I hate you Jack.
Don’t come back, don’t come near me. For you to let me hurt like I have since dawn Friday morning ... to not come to me or even explain ... you have no heart.
I am not thinking about you anymore.
I am not going to waste anymore of my life on you Jack. I don’t know why we clicked anyway... maybe because we were alike; maybe because you just got me and didn’t feel sorry for me or see me as the new girl.
I sighed, you’re out Jack! If only my heart could fall in sync with my head and do what I asked.
“You will never believe it,” I said to Ophelia as we hurried for the bus.
“What?” she asked.
“It’s here, hurry up,” Harry said going ahead of us to wave the bus down before we all missed it. Ophelia and I raced behind him.
We got on board and I glanced to the pack of girls that had thrown the threatening letter at Ophelia. They were glaring at us, well at Ophelia. She didn’t seem to notice. We dropped into our customary seats half way down the bus and Harry turned around and leaned over the seat.
“Good weekend?” he asked Ophelia.
“Yeah, thanks. Adam took me around and showed me some of the sites for the assignment,” she answered.
“Lucky duck,” I sighed. “I wish Adam would show me around the sights, any sights, the local tip would do!”
Ophelia laughed and then looked glum again. I don’t know what’s going on with her. I wonder who she was before she came here, you know, what she was like when her life used to be normal, with parents and everything. She still looked pale and tired to me, more than she did when she first arrived.
“Hey did you and Tyler go cycling?” she asked Harry.
“Yeah,” Harry said acting casual. “We swapped bikes and then did a good long circuit. We’re going to do it again next weekend.”
Ophelia looked pleased, so did Harry even if he was trying to be cool about it. He continued to prattle on about the weekend and I scolded him.
“Shh, I’ve got news for Lia.”
“Sorry, sorry,” Ophelia remembered I was about to tell her something. “You were saying ... what won’t I believe?”
Harry rolled his eyes and sat back. “Go ahead with your girls’ talk.” But I noticed he still listened in. Behind us, someone yelled as a rowdy game of throwing someone’s bag around got a bit out of hand.
“What won’t I believe?” Ophelia pushed.
I lowered my voice and leaned in closer. “I saw on Facebook that Imogen and Chayse have broken up.”
Ophelia looked surprised. “Really?” she said. “They were on the beach together on Saturday.”
Harry shrugged. “Must have happened after that. Who cares?”
“I care,” I declared. “Because I think he’s keen on Lia.”
“No way,” she said. “Besides I’m busy. I’ve got school and a project, study, you guys, Peggy, Uncle Seb, Adam and the dogs to manage, I’m busy.”
I rolled my eyes and sat back. “You’re the only girl in the whole school and probably the whole planet who would be too busy for Chayse Johann.”
Ophelia laughed. “Whole planet? Wow!”
I grinned, “Too much? Okay just here then.” I watched as she cast a furtive glance to the back of the bus.
Peggy and I sat side-by-side in the library working on our history projects. What I loved about Peggy was that she was wonderfully oblivious to drama, and she loved Harry. She didn’t ask about Adam, didn’t moon over Chayse, and had no idea he had broken up with Imogen. She probably didn’t know he was going out with Imogen. But she knew plenty of other stuff.
“Are you going to join a club?” she leaned over and asked.
“I hadn’t given it much thought,” I said. I hadn’t given it any thought actually.
“I know what you’re thinking,” she continued. “You’re thinking there’s so many and how do you fit them in with homework and study.”
I nodded. I was happy to run with that thought.
“What are you going to join?” I asked.
“I’m already in the music club, and the book club, but I’m thinking ... actually Dad’s pressuring me to join a club with some physical activity in it,” she shuddered as she said it.
“We could join one of those together,” I suggested. It was the least I could do for Peggy who had looked after me so well. “I hear there’s a tri-club ... we could make up a team of three ... you know one of us does the run, the other the swim and the other the cycle?”
“I don’t know but we can ask,” Peggy said. “Ooh, I love that idea, Lia, thanks. Dad will be rapt. You know, Harry was the cross country champion for Year 10 last year but he likes to cycle too.” She brightened. “We could ask him to join our tri team and he could do the cycling leg, unless you wanted to do that of course?” She looked at me with worried eyes, keen to have Harry in our team.
I grinned; this was getting better all the time. “Nope, I’m a runner but I can swim if absolutely necessary.”
Peggy breathed a sigh of relief. “That’s perfect because I’m good in the pool, not so good on land.”
“We’ve got the perfect team—tick that box then,” I whispered, noticing the librarian glancing our way. “Let’s suss it out later.”
Peggy smiled enthusiastically and moved back to continue her assignment. I looked at the clock; I hadn’t thought of Jack for twenty minutes. What a great distraction Peggy was. I returned my attention to going through the digitised old newspaper about La Bella in the Trove archives. It was surreal to be able to read the newspaper extracts from 1905 when it actually happened.
I scanned the newspapers; the first news story I could find was from
on 16 November 1905 saying “no bodies have since been found.”
Gruesome! Next was a notice on Friday 29 November in the
that "the conduct of the lifeboat crew was in every way satisfactory, that they had done everything possible to save the wrecked sailors, and that even if the regular lifeboat crew had been on board he did not think they could have done any more. He spoke highly of Fisherman Ferrier's conduct, but pointed out that he in his dinghy could go where the lifeboat could not.
You go Adam’s great, great, great grandfather
! Next were a few tiny lines in the
on Friday 29 December that read: “Captain Mylius has been remanded at Sydney to Melbourne on a charge of manslaughter.
And then I saw it ... a picture or rather a drawing of the deceased men who lost their lives on the La Bella; some of them not much older than me.
I reeled back in fright. I couldn’t believe it. I leaned in closer to the screen again. The last man on the far right of the picture was my Jack—Jack Denham.
The picture waited in my school bag, throbbing in my consciousness, but I didn’t look at it again until after dinner. I excused myself telling Uncle Seb and Adam that I had to do an assignment and was going to do it in my room. They both looked worried, so I tried to look as cheery as possible, even though my stomach was churning and I knew upstairs, pressed in my history book was a photo of a dead guy I was in love with. I’m seriously weirded out.
I entered the room and before I turned on the lights I grabbed the curtains, hiding behind them as I slid them closed. I had spent the last four days watching the rocks and the beach for Jack, now I didn’t want to risk seeing him. I turned on a lamp and dropped onto the end of the bed. What do I do with this information? Jack is in a photo dated 1905. Even though it is a grainy, brown photo I know it’s Jack, he’s even wearing the same jacket he wears now. How can this be? Is he a ghost? There’s no such things as ghosts, well there might be, who knows, I mean how would I know if there are ghosts or not. I saw him in the daytime, you can’t see ghosts in the daytime. Can you?
I grabbed my laptop and opened it. I searched for ghost characteristics ... maybe there’s an expert on ghosts. Ghost hunters, ghost chasers, paranormal experts, close encounters of the ghost type ... that will do nicely. I opened the page and scrolled down until I found ghost characteristics. Okay, deep breath. I began to read: a ghost can appear day and night but appearing at night is much easier as there is less interference. What sort of interference? Doesn’t matter. Appearing during the day drains a new ghost but old ghosts are capable of living amongst us undetected day and night. If Jack is a—sounds insane—ghost then he would be an old ghost, well over a hundred years old. I saw him and talked to him during the day, he would be strong enough to do that. It also explains how he got to that football so quickly and lifted me off the rocks. Have I been picked up by a ghost, literally? I read on and couldn’t believe what I was reading. A ghost can completely resemble a human and get stronger if love is reciprocated!
I sat back and thought about it. If Jack wanted to get stronger, why wouldn’t he want my love? Why did he reject me? I went back to the list. Next, they can charm a human to fall for them—yeah, no shit. They can appear or disappear—well that kind of explains how he disappeared on the beach that morning when he deserted me. The next one made sense; a ghost needs heat energy to manifest, so the air around them grows colder. I felt that around him and his hands were so cold too.
I heard a knock at the door and I put the laptop down and went to answer it. Adam was standing there in track pants and T-shirt, brandishing two cups of hot chocolate.
“Seb and I thought you might need a chocolate fix?” he said.
I stood aside and let him in.
“Want me to leave this and go?” he asked.
“No, drink with me,” I invited him. Delaying discovering about Jack the ghost for half-an-hour wouldn’t make much difference.
He passed me the cup of hot chocolate and moved to the window.
“Can I open the curtains?” he asked.
“No!” I didn’t mean to say it quite so loudly.
“Right,” he looked at me suspiciously and lowered himself into a chair. “You want to tell me what’s going on? Maybe I can help.”
“No.” I moved to the end of the bed, turned the laptop away from him and sat down. I sipped my hot chocolate trying to think of a new conversation topic.
“No you don’t want to tell me, or no you don’t think I can help?”
“Don’t ask me,” I muttered. “Not yet.”
He nodded. “Just tell me, does it have anything to do with Chayse Johann?”
I shook my head. “Absolutely nothing ... promise.”
He seemed satisfied with that answer. Adam looked back at the closed curtains and then at me.
“Has something spooked you?”
I shook my head.
“Is someone following you or watching you?”
I shook my head again.
“Adam! Have you finished your hot chocolate yet?” I asked. Clearly he didn’t get the real meaning of ‘don’t ask me’.
He laughed. “Right, sorry, I’ll take the hint. Not much of a hint, more like a smack across the head. So I’m off.” He rose and headed for the door, turning as he reached it. “I mean it though Lia. If I can help ...” he turned and left.