Authors: Helen Goltz
“Let’s go gorgeous.” I looped arms with my date, Holly, and we headed inside.
It was great to see Ophelia chilled and up; so different from the Ophelia that arrived at school—the new girl—not that long ago. It was great for me too, like we’d been thrown together when both of our circumstances changed. After ten years hanging around with my two best friends at school, I couldn’t believe they could both leave after year ten. It just sucks, but then along comes Ophelia and we get each other. I know she would rather be with Jack than with me at the dance, so it said a lot about friendship that she came along.
We walked in the hallway and the theme committee had done a great job; the place just glimmered.
“This is great,” she said circling in the light, the bling on her dress sparkling.
“Let’s dance,” I grabbed her arm as one of my favourite songs came on. We weaved away into the middle where we could dance without being on show. Harry and Peggy joined us and I had to hand it to Harry, he could move okay. I wouldn’t be telling him that though. We must have stayed there for about six or seven songs straight and then a slow song came on. Our cue to go!
It felt good to dance again; I hadn’t done it since the year ten end of school dance in Brisbane, before all the drama. The dance floor was already half-packed when we got on and right under the largest, glittering star, Imogen was dancing with Chayse. She looked in our direction and smirked. Jack had nothing on Imogen when it came to cold fronts. Brrr! Jack again, sigh, can’t get him out of my head and don’t want to. Peggy looked like she had died and gone to heaven with Harry. She looked gorgeous, even Harry was more attentive to her than usual.
As soon as a slow song came on Holly grabbed my arm and we got out of there. Harry stayed and had a dance with Peggy, and Imogen had her arms around Chayse’s neck so fast he didn’t get a chance to bolt. He gave me a strange look—kind of resigned to his girlfriend fate. He could just be without a girlfriend for a while or ask out any one of the other ten girls standing watching him from the corners of the room.
“Let’s go outside for some air,” I said to Holly above the music. She was about to follow me when one of the guys from our English class—whose name escapes me—asked her to dance. She looked at me and I gave her an encouraging wave and headed out. I saw another guy I recognised heading towards me and I slipped out before I had to make excuses.
I was kind of pleased to have a minute alone, I wanted to think about Jack. I moved away from the hall, pass the dance monitors—also known as sucked-in parents—who were dealing with a senior guy they had caught smoking and a couple about to go way pass the kissing phase. I slipped around the side of the building and leaning against it, closed my eyes. It was dark and cool and I was far enough away that the music was muted, just the bass thumped on.
“You look beautiful.”
I gasped and opened my eyes. My hand raced to my heart.
“I’m sorry,” Jack stepped back, his hands up in a surrender motion. “I didn’t mean to frighten you.”
“You nearly gave me a heart attack,” I gasped, “I thought I was alone.”
“You’re never alone, anymore,” he smiled. “Does that freak you out?”
I drank in the sight of Jack in a dark suit, crisp white shirt and blue tie. His black dress shoes were highly polished and his hair groomed and slicked back. He was gorgeous, his blue eyes searing through me with his gaze.
“Nothing about you freaks me out at all,” I said. “You dressed for tonight.”
“Couldn’t let you down when you look so very beautiful,” he said taking my hands and standing back to look at me.
“So beautiful,” he whispered.
I could feel myself blushing and tingling from my toes to my fingers to my scalp. I moved towards him and he cupped my face in his hands. I looked up into his eyes and he moved in slowly and kissed me. It was truly amazing I remained standing for the feelings that overwhelmed me. At last, I felt secure again, so much better—I didn’t realise just how anxious I had been from being away from him. He drew me into a tight embrace and I could feel his strength and his relief too. It was palpable.
“Did I mention that I am a great dancer,” he said.
I pulled away and grinned at him.
“No you did not ... show me your moves,” I teased him. “Hold on ... what sort of dances did they do over a hundred years ago?”
“Dances where they held the girl very close and the man led,” he said. “Like this.”
He took my hand in his, placed a hand on my back and to the beat of the slower music playing in the hall, we danced. He really did lead, I danced well just following him and I’ve never really learned to waltz or any of those more formal dances.
“I love you, Ophelia,” he whispered in my ear as he glided me around our own dance floor.
“I love you, Jack, forever,” I said and then he dipped me, powerfully holding me.
“Now you need to get back to the dance,” he righted me again.
“They won’t miss me,” I said.
“They will. I would. Tomorrow we have a date and I will pick you up at your front door at seven p.m. Come dressed for a beach picnic under the stars.”
I think I squealed with excitement and Jack laughed.
“It’s been an awful week without you, Jack.”
“I’ve been there the whole time,” he said, “and I gave you signs I was there, beside you,” Jack pressed me against the wall and my heartbeat raced.
“I know,” I said, “and I needed that, but I want you in the flesh.”
He grimaced at the term and I back tracked.
“In spirit, in form, anyway, I just want you,” I touched his cool skin. “Jack, can I ask you something?”
“Okay,” he agreed.
I hesitated but during my week of missing him, my doubts had risen. I swallowed.
“When you weren’t with me, were you with someone else?”
Anger flared in Jack’s face and he stepped back.
“No,” I grabbed his suit jacket and pushed myself in front of him again. “I love you Jack but I have to ask you that.”
And then he was gone.
“No,” I called to the air, to the sky. “Jack,” I hissed, angry now. “Come back here. You at least owe me this assurance, it’s not a lot to ask, unless you do have something to hide,” I crossed my arms.
Then I heard a soft laugh. I spun around and he wasn’t there.
“I’m going back to the dance,” I threatened in a sing-song voice.
Again the chuckle behind me. I turned and he still hadn’t appeared.
“Okay then, I’ll see you tomorrow if you’re just going to play around.” I began to walk off and he appeared, grabbed my arm and pulled me back.
Jack smiled. “Ah, Ophelia, how could you ask me that?”
“And yet, you haven’t answered,” I reminded him as I straightened his tie. He smiled down at me, holding all the power, all the cards again and he knew it.
“I have waited a century for you Ophelia. Why would I throw that away on a whim? You are the one, the only one—and of those I have known in the past um ... decades, as Hamlet said to his Ophelia, ‘I love thee best, O most best, believe it’.”
I smiled and all was well in the world again. “Okay, you can go now,” I dismissed him.
Jack laughed; pulled me closer and kissed me long and hard. When he pulled away, I was breathless.
“Lia, YOU can go now,” he said, granting me permission.
I stepped back, dizzy and happy.
“Aren’t you going to ... you know ... vanish?” I watched him.
He shook his head. “Nope. I want to watch you walk away in that dress.”
I smiled and turned. I walked away feeling his eyes on my back. At the edge of the building, I turned back and he stood, hands in his pockets, rocking on his heels, looking breathtakingly beautiful and somehow, I tore myself away, turned and returned to the dance.
Great, just what I needed. I pulled up in my 4WD to pick up Lia, Harry and Holly and who should be on the footpath outside the school dance but Chayse Johann. I drove along further; not that I was worried about an encounter with that idiot, but I didn’t want to ruin Lia’s night. I turned off the car, stayed seated behind the wheel but I could see him watching me.
I was five minutes early but I glanced to the hall; Lia and Holly were heading down the path to wait for me, Harry was right behind them.
Sure enough Chayse made his way over—he managed to tear himself away from whatever swooning female was clinging to him at the time and swaggered my way. I ignored him and he knocked on my driver’s window door. Instead of putting it down, I opened the door.
“You want something?” I asked. He was dressed up in a suit and standing with his arms folded.
“Just wanted to remind you about the midnight curse,” he smirked.
“Going to enforce it yourself?” I laughed and his eyes narrowed. I continued: “Listen schoolie, move along, I’m not here for you. Get back to class.”
I knew that would piss him off and it did. He grabbed my shirt, pulled me out of the car and slammed me up against the door. In my peripheral vision I saw Ophelia running towards us in her party dress as fast as her heels would allow, with Holly in pursuit.
“Chayse, leave him alone,” she ran up to us.
“Got Ophelia fighting your battles now?” he smiled.
I gave him a hard push, enough to send him stumbling. Luckily there was no coming traffic but it hurt his pride and he steadied himself, ready for action.
I opened the back car door. “Get in ladies,” I ordered Ophelia and Holly. Harry came and stood next to me.
“Hey Chayse, good night huh?” he tried to pacify the situation.
Chayse looked at him then back at me. A group had now gathered, the dance monitors or whatever they called them were not aware, yet.
“Chayse, please, don’t ruin my night,” Ophelia said.
“Get in the car,” I told her again, and then I don’t know what happened, but I felt this cold feeling and the next thing I knew, Chayse was on the ground again and Ophelia was in the back seat, but she had sort of fallen in which was kind of weird given Holly was beside her and still standing. It was like she had been lifted and pushed in.
I didn’t have time to think about it because I was keeping my eyes on Chayse. His mate Tyler showed up, gave him a hand up and took him away with a nod to the girls. I watched them walk away. I didn’t lay a hand on him and I didn’t see Lia do so either but there he was sprawled and down for the count.
“Let’s go, Adam, please,” Ophelia said.
“Are you both okay?” I asked Lia and Holly. They nodded, I closed their door, got in the driver’s seat and Harry jumped in the front passenger seat beside me.
“Thanks Harry,” I muttered.
“No problem, he’s a stirrer, don’t know why he just didn’t stay with his group,” Harry said.
“I’m sorry, Adam,” Ophelia said.
I indicated and pulled out to drive us home.
“No, I’m sorry Lia and Holly. Honestly, I didn’t provoke that, I was just sitting in the car. I wouldn’t have embarrassed you at your dance.”
“You’ve got a good right though mate,” Harry said with a grin.
I smiled. I do, but I don’t remember using it.
It was just after eight on Saturday morning when there was a knock on the front door. I was up because I couldn’t sleep—I was too excited about my date with Jack that night. Uncle Seb wasn’t due home until later that day, besides he had his own key. Who would drop in at this hour? Argo and Agnes started up a chorus of barking; I waited but Adam didn’t appear so by the second knock I raced down the stairs to see who was there.
I opened the door and beside me, Argo and Agnes settled immediately wagging their tails, they knew our visitor—our very attractive visitor. She was a bit taller than me, had fire red hair that fell in waves down to her waist, green eyes and a smattering of freckles.
“Hello Argo and Agnes!” she greeted them before looking at me. “Hello, you must be Ophelia, I’m Vanessa.”
Ah so this was Vanessa. Adam’s ex. Yep, she was something.
I took her offered hand, shook it and invited her in.
“It’s good to meet you,” I said. “I’d offer you a tea or something, but I’m guessing you’re here to see Adam?”
“I am, but thanks. How are you settling in?” she asked, which was nice.
“Much better than I thought,” I said honestly.
She smiled. “Well that’s a bonus.”
“I can see if Adam is in ... “ I glanced down the hallway.
“That’s cool, I know the way,” she said. “Good to meet you.”
“You too.” I watched her stride confidently down the hall. She had done this before. Argo and Agnes looked at me expectantly.
“Okay, I’ll get changed,” I told them.
I called after her. “Can you let Adam know I’m taking the dogs for a w-a-l-k,” I spelled the word out so they wouldn’t go berserk with excitement before I got changed into beach gear.
“Sure,” she laughed and with a quick knock on his door, walked straight into Adam’s room. At the same time, Adam must have heard our voices and appeared at the door just as she knocked. He wore only a pair of fitted black boxer shorts with a white Calvin Klein band around the top, and nothing else. I quickly looked away but he had an impressive six-pack happening.
I raced upstairs, put on a T-shirt, hoodie and jogging shorts so I could wade ankle-deep in the cold, shallow water as we walked—that was sure to invigorate me. I slid a hair band around my wrist.
At the foot of the stairs, Argo and Agnes joined me. I heard raised voices from the bedroom, so we hurriedly slipped out the front door, crossed the cul de sac, passed a small silver Mazda which must have been Vanessa’s, and then we were on the beach.
I loved the first impact of the sand between my toes and the sight of the ocean—I can’t believe I spent my life without it. This morning, the beach was crisp and clean, the surfers were out in force, and Argo, Agnes and I walked along happily lost in our thoughts.
I didn’t expect to see or feel Jack today, I knew he would stay away from me until our date tonight to heighten the longing and it did—I was aching to see him again. I wonder if we became an official couple how much he could be in my world. Could he stay with me at night? Could he come to dances? Could he hang with my friends or would he always have to be hidden or a secret? Would he have to recharge—sort of like a vampire staying out of the light all day?
We walked along and greeted some of the other walkers and their dogs that we had come to recognise. I could see some surfers in the distance; they weren’t close enough to work out if Chayse was amongst them... maybe Imogen was on the beach too if he got back with her last night at the dance. Then my thoughts drifted to Adam and Vanessa and I wondered why they had broken up. I wasn’t in that space for long; as always my thoughts returned to Jack. I glanced behind at our rock, but he was not there. I smiled because tonight, I knew we would both be.
I liked Peggy and even though I didn’t really know her that well before Lia started at the school, I liked her a lot less when she rang me at eight o’clock on Saturday morning!
“What are you doing ringing at eight on Saturday? Why are you awake?” I yawned.
“Oh, sorry,” she mumbled. “I didn’t know people weren’t up at this time.”
I began to laugh because that was truly the weirdest statement ever and she joined in.
“It’s fine,” I assured her when we stopped laughing. “How was your date with Harry and don’t tell me the gory details.”
“Um, then how can I put this ... it was a dream come true,” Peggy said.
I groaned. “Well I’m delighted for you but I can’t imagine my brother making that happen.”
“Aren’t twins supposed to be close?” she asked.
“Allegedly, but he was stealing my oxygen in the womb and he’s still stealing my music and my ... never mind,” I stopped. “But on the subject of my brother, if you want my advice, some of the girls in our class are more worried about losing their phones then their virginity...“ I heard Peggy gasp. “You’re so not like that I know, so if he doesn’t look after you, let me know! You looked great last night by the way.”
“Thanks,” she said. “And thanks for caring.” I could hear her blushing.
“Sure,” I said.
There was a moments silence while I opened the curtains and I waited for Peggy to talk. “Not that it’s not great to hear from you, but did you want to talk to me about something?” I eventually prompted.
“Oh yes, sorry, I got distracted thinking about Harry,” she said.
I shook my head.
Peggy continued. “I’m wondering if you remember the name of Lia’s boyfriend?”
That question took me by surprise. I dropped back on the end of the bed and fell back into it. “Mm, Jack,” I said. “I think he snuck into the dance last night because she came back inside pretty happy.”
“Jack,” Peggy said. “Do you remember his last name?”
“Yes ... let me think,” I closed my eyes and thought hard. “It was something like Denim.”
“Denham?” Peggy asked.
“That sounds right,” I agreed. “Jack Denham. She only told me his full name once but I tried to remember it to see if Harry or Mum knew of him. Harry meets a lot of guys our age with cycling and sport stuff.”
I heard Peggy draw a deep breath. “Holly, I know what you’re thinking, well what you are going to be thinking, but ...” she hesitated.
“What am I going to be thinking?” I hesitantly asked Peggy.
“In a minute you are going to be thinking that I’m really strange.”
“Oh is that all,” I sighed with relief. “I already think that,” I told her.
“Do you?” she sounded really surprised.
“No! I’m joking,” I assured her. It was way too early for this conversation, I should be sleeping. “Go ahead, tell me.”
“Well, it’s just that ... promise this will stay between us?” she pleaded.
“Okay I promise.” I was now getting concerned. I sat upright. “What’s up?”
“Well it’s probably nothing but Lia sent me her assignment, we swapped to proof each other’s work, and well, it’s silly but she mentions a guy called Jack Denham.”
“So ...” I followed along.
“Jack Denham died on the La Bella in 1905.”
I stood and went to the window, looking out as I took in what Peggy was saying. The neighbour was about to start his mower and Harry was washing Dad’s car, probably to try and persuade him to take him out for some ‘L’ driving time. He still needed forty more hours of supervised learners’ driving practice time for his licence.
“Holly?” Peggy said, “are you there?”
“Sorry, yes I was thinking,” I answered. “There’s probably a thousand Jack Denham’s around, I told her. But it’s a weird coincidence I guess. I saw her Jack when he was in the grand stand during art class; she pointed him out to me.”
“There’s a picture of the 1905 Jack in her assignment,” Peggy said.
There was silence on the line.
“Do you want me to email it to you?” Peggy asked.
“Yes, please,” I said.
I heard the ping go off as I was talking on the phone. “I’ll open it on my laptop and email you back.”
“Thanks, I know what you’re thinking ... the idea is crazy,” Peggy said. “Talk soon then?”
“Absolutely,” I agreed with a chuckle that bordered a little on wary and hysterical. “Hey, don’t worry, I’m sure it’s just one of those weird coincidences. They might look alike cause they’re related ... if he’s an ancestor of Jack’s, you know...”
I hung up and went to my laptop, logging in. Opening my emails I clicked on the photo attached to Peggy’s and it took up the whole screen.
I stared at the photo, then I had to sit down.
I stayed out as long as I could to give Adam some privacy. It wasn’t too difficult—the dogs and I were enjoying our morning watching the world go by on the beach and I was planning what I would wear tonight, and dreaming of kissing Jack again. Last night was so romantic, even if we only had fifteen minutes together. Speaking of last night, I looked over at the surfers but Chayse wasn’t amongst them at my end of the beach. I wondered how his night had ended.
After a good hour of watching the morning go by and texting friends, I was just about to rouse the dogs who lay beside me on the sand to head home when Adam appeared down near our entrance path to the beach. He went to the water’s edge but didn’t go in. He looked up and down the beach; I think he was looking for me. I called out and waved and he jogged over.
“Hey, great day,” he said dropping down beside us.
I agreed. He looked towards the surfers.
“You’re safe, I’m pretty sure Chayse isn’t here,” I told him.
He scoffed like he didn’t care. “I was checking out the wave size.”
“Oh right,” I said, only half convinced.
He turned to me. “You don’t have to stay out of our house just because someone drops in, but thanks for that anyway.”
I shrugged. “It’s all good. We were just enjoying it here, weren’t we kids? Time sort of gets away from you.”
He nodded and looked out to sea. I subtly studied him and I think it is fair to say he was cheesed off. His jaw was locked and he frowned and fidgeted.
“Vanessa’s quite beautiful,” I said.
“Yeah and she knows it,” he snapped back.
“Well, she seemed nice.”
“She’s a nutter.”
Right, I let that go.
He rubbed his hand over his eyes and then looked over at me.
“Sorry Lia, I shouldn’t take my frustration out on you. I wish she would just get on with her life and leave me out of it,” he looked back to sea.
I didn’t know if I was supposed to ask questions, nod sympathetically or say something consoling. I looked to Argo and Agnes who looked away—smart! I took a stab at it.
“You don’t want to be with her then?” I asked.
“I did once. She was two-timing me and I caught her out. Then she dropped him because she wanted to be with me, but what’s the point?” he shook his head. “I wasn’t enough for her the first time for whatever reason.”
“What was the reason, did she tell you?” I asked gently.
Adam dug his feet into the cold sand and moved the sand around as he spoke. “We had been going out since the start of year ten— about three years—but last year she said she didn’t want to settle down too early with a boyfriend when there’s so many fish in the sea,” he shrugged. “I understand that, there are other chicks I’d like to go out with too, but what do you do if you’re in love with someone even if you are young? If you give it up to try other things and realise it was right, then you may lose your way back to each other.”
I wrapped my arms around my legs and rested my chin on my knees. “That’s a sad thought,” I said. “But what if you got to thirty years old and all you’ve ever known is one love, is it enough? Would you feel like you were missing out?” I asked him.
“Maybe,” he agreed.
I continued: “But then again, some people never find a great love and what if you spent a decade looking for that person and you had it the first time and threw it away?”
“Exactly,” he said. “I’m not saying she was the one, but I didn’t think we’d run our course yet, that’s all. I didn’t see it coming and she could have called it off before she started seeing someone else.”
I thought about Jack—I couldn’t bear to lose him, not now, not in the future.
“So does she want to get back together?” I asked.
“Yeah, every now and then she drops in and wants to talk about it. Says she’s made a big mistake, whatever.”
“But you don’t want to try again?”
He shook his head. “I’ve been through all that drama—betrayal and break up. Why would I risk it again with Vanessa? Geez, she can’t be loyal for three years, what hope have we got long-term? Nuh, she was right the first time, it’s time to move on, for both of us.”
We sat in silence for a while. I silently prayed Jack would love me forever and never feel like that. I hoped his words to me about waiting for me for a century were true and not just words he said to win my heart.