Authors: Helen Goltz
“I would have been washed overboard and drowned too except that John—seaman Noake—kept me alive. He was holding me and himself on to the ship with both of his arms wrapped around me. Then, the anchor which weighed a ton and a half was wrenched away. That should give you an indication of how wild it was. It just wouldn’t stop though, wouldn’t stop!”
Jack’s voice rose and I reached up for him and kissed him on the lips. I felt his body relax into me.
“I’m okay,” he sighed pulling away. “I have to tell you ... let me finish so we can never speak of it again.”
I nodded and watched him with concern.
“Five more hours we held on ... five more wretched hours. The sun began to rise and I have since been told it was seven o’clock, just before the last man was rescued—I felt the waves take me. A heavy sea lifted me away and John had done his best but I was taken. I’m so pleased he survived, he’s a hero.”
I understood now what Jack meant about every man helping each other and being heroic in their efforts and why Chayse wanted some sort of acknowledgement for the loss of lives. Tears streamed down my face and I couldn’t look at Jack.
“Obviously I was not around to see what happened to my sea mates, maybe that was a blessing, but I have found out since, I’ve heard the tales,” he said.
“Tell me,” I encouraged him to finish.
Jack continued. “When the ship began to sink, two of the crew jumped overboard in the direction of the lifeboat—it was about one hundred yards away, I think that is about ninety metres in your modern speak—and they were trying to swim or stay afloat. That’s when William Ferrier rowed towards them right into the huge waves and grabbed two of them—one was our Captain who refused to leave the ship until the last.
“William knew how to row that dinghy; he spun it around before the next roller hit and managed to get the men to shore. A miracle really,” Jack shook his head.
“Where was the other lifeboat?” I asked.
“Still out there. It picked up one of the swimmers and William went back out again. Two men could be seen clinging to the ship as it went under. The lifeboat got closer and the rescuers were yelling for the men to jump, but I don’t know whether they were too frozen or too scared, but they stood like statues. Finally one of them jumped and swam about eight yards—um,” Jack did the calculation in his head—“just over seventy metres and got pulled into the lifeboat.”
I cheered and realised I had been holding my breath. Jack laughed.
“You are a wonderful storyteller, you should let me get your version down,” I told him.
“And how would you tell people you got it?” he teased.
“Ah yeah, good point. I’d think of something.”
“I think you’ll find it’s all out there already—lots of records in the old newspapers.”
“If it happened today, there would be a book, a movie, a website, you name it,” I told him. “Keep going please Jack,” I said, with a glance to my watch. It was nearing two a.m. and the time had flown as we filled it with shared silence, holding each other and kisses. I wasn’t a bit tired, even though I had school in six hours.
Jack lay back on the rock and I lay beside him. He balled his coat up and put it under our heads. We looked up at the sky which was threatening rain now.
“Where was I?” Jack thought. “Oh yeah, so now only one sailor remained to be rescued. Five of us were gone to the sea and seven would be saved. Again, it was William who saved the day. He sculled to the stern of the vessel which was almost level with the water’s edge now and he picked up our last man. Everyone was cheering from the shore.”
“I can see why Adam’s family line is revered,” I said.
“And that’s my story. I drowned in Lady Bay. But here I am. And here you are.” He sighed and sat up. I joined him. “I can’t speak any more tonight,” he said. I touched his very pale skin. “Soon, let’s talk of us and our future.”
Jack lowered his head, placing his forehead on mine and closed his eyes.
We stayed that way for a short while and then Jack pulled away.
“Just know that I want you and I have waited for a long time for you. Let me see you home, while I still have the strength.”
Holly nudged me awake. I looked around, wiped the drool from the corner of my mouth and prayed that no-one else in my economics class noticed. It was nearing the lunch break and I was just going to make it; I had only fallen asleep twice today.
“Thanks,” I whispered to her and pretended to keep reading, which we were supposed to be doing—the whole chapter on price formation, kill me now. Truth was I was cranky tired and ecstatically happy. I never ever thought after Mum and Dad died that I could be this happy ... in fact I didn’t know you could be so happy in love at all. Jack was all I could think of pretty much every minute of the waking day and a bit in my dreams, but I hadn’t had much sleep of late. Between spending all night with him and spending all night awake thinking of him, I knew it couldn’t go on like this for much longer. I would have to balance it somehow ... but I didn’t want to at the moment, I just wanted to see him as much as I could. Then I worried was I seeing him too much, would we burn out? Could we burn out? More importantly, could I drain him to the point that he couldn’t appear to me? Where was his power going? Not to me; I wasn’t feeling stronger. My thoughts were interrupted by the ringing of the bell. I looked to Holly with relief and we stuffed our books in our bags.
Mr. Tineham called out something about finishing that chapter for homework, we all groaned as expected and I followed Holly out of the classroom. We waited for Peggy and Harry to catch-up.
“I know what you’re thinking,” Peggy said hurrying along beside us as we headed outdoors. Holly frowned, Harry shook his head and I had learnt just to play along.
Peggy didn’t wait for a response. “It’s three days until the dance and we haven’t talked dresses.”
“You’re right,” I said, “that’s what we should be thinking,” I agreed.
“That’s because you’re the only one with a date,” Holly nudged Peggy.
“But why are you thinking that, Peggy?” I teased her, “that’s not like you.”
She reddened. “I know but now that I have a date, I need something to wear.”
Harry covered his ears. “Don’t talk dresses in front of me; you are all supposed to surprise me with your beauty on the night.” He looked in Holly’s direction. “Well just do your best.”
“Shut up,” she smirked at him.
We headed towards our tree and saw a group of younger students already there.
“Got to move these kids along,” Harry said, “that’s our tree.”
Holly rolled her eyes. “We don’t technically own it,” she reminded him.
“Hey you guys,” Harry said as we approached, “the principal’s on his way here and he’s looking for your year group to form a line for emu parade. I’d go undercover.”
The four students jumped up, grabbed their bags, thanked Harry and bolted.
“Emu parade?” I asked, taking the patch of grass where one of them had just vacated.
“You know, you all get in a line, peck at the ground and pick up papers,” Harry said. “What did they teach you at your other school?”
I punched his arm. “Clearly nothing important.”
Holly leaned back against the tree, and rolling up my jumper I placed it in her lap and lay back for a nap.
“You’ve fallen asleep twice today already,” she said. “Once in your economic textbook ...”
“That put us all to sleep,” Harry said pulling a sandwich out of his lunchbox and offering one around. We all declined.
“And,” Holly continued, “you nearly burnt your eyebrows snoozing near that Bunsen burner in biology. What’s going on? Are you spending every night with the new boyfriend?”
Peggy’s eyes widened with interest and Harry sparked up.
“New guy huh? Anyone we know?” he asked with a mouthful of ham and tomato sandwich. “Why does Mum insist on putting tomato on our lunch?” He waved the sandwich towards Holly. “Soggy.”
I ignored the sandwich talk and told Harry who the new guy was. “Jack,” I mumbled his name, while I was pleasantly dozing off. I loved saying his name.
I absent-mindedly stroked Ophelia’s long, dark hair as she lay in my lap—my mum does that, so relaxing.
“Is Jack from this school?” Peggy asked.
“Nope,” Ophelia said with a yawn.
“Shame he can’t come to the dance then,” Peggy said.
“That’s okay,” Ophelia said.
“Lia can be my date. You are coming aren’t you?” I prodded her awake.
She brushed me away with annoyance. “Yeah, this Friday night, wouldn’t miss it for anything. We’ll go together,” she agreed, “but I’ll let you off the hook if you get a better offer before then.”
I scoffed. “Three days away, not likely. We could go dress shopping after school,” Holly suggested. “I’ve only got about fifty dollars saved so it will have to be the direct factory outlet area.”
“Sounds great, I’ve got about the same and Dad’s credit card,” Peggy brightened. “I’ll text Mum. Can you come Lia?”
“Sure. I’ll see if Adam can pick us up on his way through after work, if we’ll be done by about five,” Ophelia offered.
“For a lift home with Adam, I could be finished before I start,” I told her.
Harry shook his head. “Well don’t worry about me, I’ll catch the bus as usual and see you at home.”
“Sure, whatever.” I told my twin.
Peggy gave my loser brother a winning smile.
“What’s your favourite colour?” she asked him.
“Irrelevant,” I reminded Peggy. “What’s important is what colour looks best on you so that you look fantastic.”
“Fetching,” Ophelia mumbled. “Jack says fetching.”
“Wow, he’s stuck in a time warp,” Harry smirked. “Working from an early Oxford dictionary is he?”
“I think it’s charming,” I reprimanded Harry.
“Me too,” Ophelia smiled, still lying with her eyes closed.
She really was gone for this guy.
“You’re a brave man, Adam,” Uncle Seb said as he passed Adam the salt and pepper. We sat around the dining table, with Argo and Agnes nearby. They had finished their dinner and lay where they were handy for leftovers.
“Really, Uncle Seb,” I teased, “some might say lucky!”
“True,” Adam agreed. “Getting to drive home two beautiful young woman flushed with shopping success talking boys all the way home ... yep, make my day.”
“Thanks for picking Holly and me up,” I added.
“That’s a pleasure, I was coming through anyway. I would have dropped Peggy home in Warrnambool too and saved her mum coming out.”
“Her mum is pretty strict,” I told him. “I don’t think she would have let Peggy in the car with anyone that she hadn’t run a police check on.”
“Any luck with the shopping?” Uncle Seb asked.
“Peggy and Holly both got new dresses,” Adam answered for me with a grin. “I heard about it all the way home. A lovely shade of red for Peggy which goes with her exotic Asian features, dark hair and brown eyes, and a jade coloured dress for Holly to bring out her green eyes, apparently.”
Uncle Seb and I both laughed.
“You’re freaking me out,” I told Adam.
“Didn’t you get anything Lia, do you need some cash?” Uncle Seb looked concerned.
I shook my head and finished my mouthful of Mrs. Duck’s sausage, eggplant and tomato casserole before answering. “Thanks Uncle Seb, but I’ve got plenty of allowance left. No one here has seen my wardrobe, so all my clothes are new here. I’ve got a few dresses I can wear on Friday night.”
“Who are you going with?” Adam asked.
“Oh, well that’s nice,” Uncle Seb said. I noticed he tried to look indifferent.
“We’re not gay,” I assured him, “although if I was, Holly would probably be my type,” I mused on this and noticed Adam gave me a strange look. “But no, we’re both just dateless.”
“Shame I can’t help you out and take you, but I assume it’s still present students only?” Adam asked.
“Eew,” I said, “how uncool ... my ‘brother’ has to take me to the dance because no one else will.”
He rolled his eyes, grinned and looked at Uncle Seb.
“Well that’s gratitude for you.”
I laughed. “I chose to go alone because ...” I hesitated, then plunged in, “Chayse asked me but I said no, because I do like someone, but he doesn’t go to our school.”
I dropped two bombs on Adam there and waited for his response. I knew Uncle Seb would be pleased. Luckily Adam was eating at the time and systematically adding to a pile of eggplant on the side of his plate which he had tried to extract from the casserole. Uncle Seb stepped in.
“That was nice of Chayse. So he’s broken up with that girl he’s always on the beach with.”
“Imogen, yes, for the second time in a matter of months,” I said. Good grief, I was sounding like the school gossip.
“Keep up, Seb,” Adam ribbed him which got us all laughing. “Well I’m glad you didn’t go with Chayse.”
“I’m sure you are,” I responded putting my knife and fork down.
“So who’s this new guy?” Adam continued, his blue eyes interrogating me.
“No one you need worry about thanks, Dad,” I said.
Uncle Seb laughed and Adam grinned, as he pushed a dark strand of his hair back out of his eyes. “Don’t make Seb and I resort to spying on you, Ophelia,” he used my full name to indicate trouble.
“Just try it,” I warned.
“Ah yes,” Uncle Seb stepped in, “I’m not very good at this guardian thing.” He wiped his mouth with a napkin and rising, took my plate and his and headed to the sink. “I’m probably supposed to ask more questions about the new boyfriend.”
“It’s all good,” I assured them both. “His name is Jack, he’s a gentleman.”
“Where does he work and live?” Adam asked.
“Warrnambool and Warrnambool in that order,” I embellished the truth a little.
“How old is he?” Adam asked.
“A year older than me and a year younger than you.”
“What does he do for work?” Adam continued.
I frowned at him. “If Uncle Seb trusts me, then you can too. Otherwise expect the worst—your next girlfriend will get a grilling.”
He rose and taking his plate, joined Uncle Seb at the sink. I got up and made a fresh pot of tea for the three of us.
“Well I can’t tell you how pleased I am, Lia,” Uncle Seb said. “So happy you’ve settled in so well with good friends and now a boyfriend. I couldn’t have asked for more.”
“Thanks Uncle Seb,” I kissed his cheek as his hands remained immersed in soapy dishwasher. He blushed and cleared his throat. “Now speaking of trust ... I’m away from Monday for a week at a conference in Adelaide. I’m delivering a paper on the ‘Vital history of ship building and repair in Victoria’ and I have a little research I want to do while I’m in the area. I’ll be back Saturday afternoon. Mrs. Ducks will be here to cook and clean as usual during the week but you’ll be fending for yourselves for Friday night dinner. Will you both be okay and can you look after my precious kids?” he said, with a look to Argo and Agnes.
“Sure,” Adam said. “We’ll just carry on as usual.”
“I’ll walk Argo and Agnes every day,” I said with a glance to the two dogs who wagged their tails on hearing their names.
“And I’ll feed them,” Adam added. “Lia can rustle up a meal Friday night,” he said teasing me. He read my expression well. “Okay, well there’s always cereal.”
Uncle Seb looked upwards and the house moaned lightly. He nodded as though sharing a silent thought with the house. “Goodo, well that works out well then.”