Authors: Helen Goltz
“We have a ‘love’ menu,” he teased.
I bit my lip, a little concerned and a little intrigued. He looked so handsome in his suit sitting opposite me that sometimes I forget to speak for staring so hard.
“Ophelia, are you with me?” he asked.
“I am,” I promised him. “So, what is ‘love’ food and will we both be eating?”
“Of course, I have to keep up my strength. You’re very wearing Ophelia,” he gave me a wink. He pulled out a small, dainty covered glass dish, two small white butter plates and a large white plate, a container with two small silver forks and napkins, and two crystal water glasses and a bottle of water.
“Love food is luxurious food that entices the senses and the taste buds. I’m going to serve you a small sample of my favourites because it is all about the taste,” he said. “Perhaps you would be good enough to pour the water?”
“Perhaps I will,” I teased him, taking the bottle he opened for me and half-filling our glasses. “And when did you become a connoisseur of food?”
“I’ve had many years to refine my tastes and some good, um, teachers over the years,” he explained.
My eyes widened. “You mean you have had lovers?”
“Ophelia! I’m 128 years old! I have had some company, especially from some wealthy older women. After the first war, times were particularly decadent.” He cleared his throat. “But a gentleman never tells.”
“But you are my first real boyfriend, my first kiss,” I pouted but not seriously.
“And you are my first real love in all those years. You have no idea how long I have waited to feel this way.”
As he spoke the moon broke free of the clouds and seemed to hang right over our table. A more perfect setting could not be painted. Jack opened the glass dish, and using a set of small tongs he put the contents of the dish on the large white plate. It looked like such a delicate feast. Creamy blue cheese, oysters, strawberries, chocolate, figs and dainty biscuits and breads.
“First, the oyster,” he said.
Jack frowned. “I knew you would make that kind of a face ... as cute as it might be. Have you ever tried an oyster?”
“No, but they look so ... alive and slimy.”
“They are sublime. Lia, everyone needs a teacher and I am yours,” Jack said. “I could live on oysters. I love the texture, the taste; I even love the beautiful shell they are in.”
“True,” I studied them. “They have their own serving dish.”
“Fresh from the ocean. You will find these particularly creamy. Now you must put it on your tongue, close your eyes and truly taste it,” Jack instructed.
I nodded keen to please him. We both took our little silver forks and taking the delicate oyster from its shell, I placed it in my mouth. It wasn’t as bad as I thought and I wanted Jack to think I had worldly tastes, so I closed my eyes, tasted its creaminess and swallowed. When I opened my eyes, Jack still had his eyes closed but he looked like he was in heaven. His eyes blinked open.
“Divine. You’ll come to love them,” he assured me. “This cheese is my favourite — blue and creamy.” Again he studied me. “If it is too rich or not to your taste ...”
“No, I’m keen to try them all,” I assured him. If his past relationships loved these sophisticated foods then so would I. Eventually. I accepted a small serve of the cheese on a plain slice of cracker. He wrapped the cheese up in its paper again.
“Close your eyes and truly taste it,” he instructed.
We didn’t get to the strawberries and chocolate for a while after that. He wanted to taste each of the dishes on my lips and on my tongue.
Later when Jack walked me home, I asked him to come in with me.
“Not to do anything serious yet ... you know ... but we could stay together,” I said, stumbling over the words.
Jack kissed my hand and bowed. “We have all the time in the world Ophelia and when I lay beside you for our first night together, it will be on the large bed I have prepared for you and you will be my wife. You know I am an old-fashioned guy.”
He stood full height, looked down at me and cupped my face. He kissed me again.
“Goodnight my Ophelia.”
He stepped back and before I could form words, he was gone.
Sunday morning: I lay in bed just daydreaming. The sun was trying to stream in through the gaps in the curtain. I rose, pushed them back and looked out to sea—the tide was out and the surfers were a fair way out waiting for a wave. No ships were on the horizon. I dropped back into bed, fluffed up my pillows and lay under the quilt thinking of Jack. Life was so good, again. I wondered if he was thinking of me.
I can’t wait to see his place and the room he has prepared for me. I can’t wait to introduce him around too ... why not? If he can take a form and eat, why can’t he be part of my life and his secret be our secret? I felt a cold chill and I whispered his name. Jack appeared; he leaned against the window frame, crossed his arms and grinned.
“Of course I’m thinking of you. All I do is think about you ... you are intoxicating,” he said. And then he was beside me on the bed. “Even with bed hair!” he added.
Embarrassed I tried to flatten it down, but he grabbed my hands, pushed me back on the bed and pinned me down. I hadn’t brushed my teeth and it was all I could think about. Jack didn’t seem to care. He moved closer to my lips, his eyes watching mine the whole time and then he pressed his lips against mine and kissed me.
“Good morning,” he said.
“Good morning,” I uttered as best I could.
“Would you care to see my home tonight?” he asked casually.
“Yes! Absolutely.” He released my hands and I threw my arms around him.
“I’ve prepared every part of my house for you, for us. It is a school night though,” he teased. “You probably should be in bed early Sunday night. We could leave it until next Friday night.”
“No,” I protested. “That will kill me. Tonight is perfect! I’ll probably be the only one home anyway—Uncle Seb is still away and Adam will go out for sure.”
“Then shall we say nightfall? Seven p.m. on our rock?”
“Perfect,” I said reaching up for him to kiss me again but he was gone and I dropped back down on the bed. But I would see him tonight! My phone beeped with a message. I looked at the clock on the wall; it was just after nine a.m. and probably time I thought about getting up. I lazily rolled over and picked the phone up. It was from Holly.
Hey Lia, how was your date? Great I hope! Hx
I sent a message back; hard to write how brilliant it was in a few sentences.
“Brilliant. Seeing him again tonight, going to his place. I'm a goner. All good with you? Lx” I laid back and waited for the next beep. It came within a minute.
Got to finish assignment today. Ho hum. Hope to surface before midnight. See you tomorrow. Hx
I sent back some kisses, an offer to help if needed and debated getting up. I could daydream about Jack for just a bit longer.
“What will you do if Ophelia answers?” Harry asked as I went to dial Adam after texting Ophelia on Saturday morning.
“I’ll hang up,” I said, “and leave it a while. I wish I had his mobile number.” I took a deep breath and dialled Ophelia’s home number. “Pick up the phone, Adam, please pick up the phone.” And he did!
“Don’t say my name Adam, I need to speak with you,” I said as soon as he answered ‘hello’.
“Okay,” he said.
“Sorry, it’s Holly,” I introduced myself.
“Hey there H..., how are you? Ophelia is upstairs if you want her?”
“No I need to talk with you, it’s a matter of life and death, maybe, well could be.”
“Uh huh,” I heard him say.
I looked to Harry who was frowning at me.
“Adam is there any chance you could drop in today sometime? Harry and I are worried about Lia and I have something to show you but you have to keep it to yourself,” I said.
“Is everything okay?” he asked with concern in his voice.
“I hope so, could be nothing. Can you come?” I asked again.
“I’ll be there in thirty minutes if that suits?” he said.
“Perfect, see you then.” I hung up. Hopefully the three of us could come up with a plan, if Adam believes me.
High drama at the Harry and Holly household by the sounds of it. I took a quick shower before I headed down the road to their place. I hadn’t heard Ophelia overhead yet, she must be lying in. I quickly dressed, topped up Argo and Agnes’s water bowls and gave them a breakfast snack then grabbing my keys, I headed out. I left the car behind and headed down the driveway hoping Ophelia wouldn’t spot me.
Before I knocked Harry opened the door, hit me on the back by way of a greeting and invited me in.
“Thank you Adam for coming,” Holly said offering tea, coffee, juice and half the fridge. “Actually there’s not much here,” she stared into the fridge.
“Mum’s out shopping,” Harry explained.
Seated at the dining room table with coffee and a plate of stale Honey Jumbles in front of us, Holly pulled out her iPad and showed me some photos she took last night of Jack and Lia. Then she showed me the shipwreck photos of Jack and told me she believed Lia was dating a ghost. When she finished, I asked to see them all again. I told Harry to Google where Jack Denham was buried while I looked through the shots again.
“Warrnambool cemetery,” he said after a few minutes. I sat back with a low whistle.
“It’s out there, isn’t it?” Holly sat.
“Way, way out there,” I agreed.
“Too out there?” Holly asked.
I frowned. “You’re talking to a guy with a family curse over his head and relatives who have died from being too near the water late at night. Wrong person to ask.”
“Then we have to take it seriously,” Harry said. “We need to let Ophelia know what we’ve found.”
“But we’ve done that,” Holly stepped in. “Peggy and I did that the other day and she thought it was hilarious.”
I took my pullover off; it was getting hot or maybe it was the tension rising. I looked from Harry to Holly. “Okay, so she either does think it is hilarious or she knows and she’s masking it. And looking at that vision last night, this guy Jack has put her in real danger.”
Holly reached for her phone and swiped it; she showed me a message.
“So girly,” I frowned, noting the kisses.
Holly rolled her eyes like I didn’t have a romantic bone in my body; yeah, she might be right.
“Forget the kisses, Ophelia is meeting Jack again tonight. He’s going to take her to his place. Does he have a place or is it the La Bella?” Holly asked.
Harry shuddered. “That’s creepy.”
“Sure is,” I agreed with Harry. “I think we need to be on duty tonight. Where do they meet?”
“That rock that was in my video. They called it their rock, so I’m guessing that’s the meeting point,” Holly said. “You won’t like this but ...”
“Mm ... what?” I asked suspiciously.
She looked at Harry for moral support.
“Well, I think given your family curse and given we might need all hands on deck ... sorry didn’t mean to do a shipping pun ... we need to get Chayse and Peggy involved.”
“No way,” I shook my head.
Harry agreed about Peggy. “She won’t be allowed out so count her out. But we can pick her brains if we need to and she’s got big brains. But Holly’s right Adam. If you’re going to be there with us to try and stop Jack, then Chayse needs to be there to protect you from the curse or save you from it or delay it ... you know whatever it takes.”
“He’ll do it for Lia,” Holly said. “So will you, won’t you?”
She had me there.
“Okay, we meet here this afternoon to discuss our plan,” I agreed.
“I’ll contact Chayse,” Harry said. “I’ll text Tyler and get his number.”
I rose to go. “Hey thanks for letting me know Holly. But just one thing, I can’t guarantee Chayse and I won’t come to blows. You know, should Jack want to take him instead, well so be it,” I smiled.
Holly smirked at me. “Seriously, you two have to get over it!” At least she had stopped making puppy dog eyes at me, for now anyway.
Adam was acting weird again, all day. I don’t know whether he had gone another round with Vanessa or was just weird. He kept watching me and I was watching him and Argo and Agnes watched us both; they sensed something was going on. It would be good when Uncle Seb got back; I missed having the captain of the ship at home, so to speak.
As predicted Adam went out leaving me and the dogs alone until I was to meet Jack. He invited me along so I wasn’t alone but then I decided to tell him I had a date with Jack. Oddly he didn’t give me the third degree or a heap of warnings, he just asked what time and where we were meeting. He might be getting more trusting or he’s got a big date and is distracted. Hopefully the latter.
I didn’t know what to wear to see Jack’s house but since my ethereal look was a hit last night, I thought I would go for something similar. This time, I dug out my long sleeve red crepe dress that fitted to my hips then ballooned out in a skirt that fell just below my knees. It was heavy enough to be warm but not too formal to look silly on the beach. I opted for some black ballet slippers which I could easily carry and I would take my black wrap.
Night was filling in the dusk. I had taken Argo and Agnes for a walk earlier and we met up with some of our regular dog friends. I fed them and they were happy to settle in for the night, while my chest was starting to ache with the anticipation of seeing Jack again.
Adam texted; Ophelia was meeting Jack at the beach at seven p.m. so we were there in position on the beach but out of sight at six-thirty. Our location was close enough that we could run and stop Jack hurting Ophelia but not too close to be seen. Imagine if we got it all wrong and we were spotted! How mortifying, plus Ophelia would never forgive us.
Harry was right, Peggy couldn’t come but she had a few wild theories of her own. She thought Jack would take Ophelia with him underwater to his home. I doubted they would dive at night. I was thinking he might take her out on a boat above the waters where it lay, or sort of hover ... I’m guessing ghosts can do that sort of thing.
Just before seven, we saw her walking down the beach. She looked beautiful in red with her pale skin and dark hair.
“She looks hot,” Chayse said and Adam nudged him in the ribs.
“What? She does!” Chayse defended himself.
“Yeah focus Romeo,” Adam grumbled.
“I’m here aren’t I?” Chayse said. “Even if it means spending my night with you.”
“Yeah, must be hard to tear yourself away from the female population for the night but do your best.”
Chayse went to reply and I cut them both off.
“Forget Jack,” I said. “If you two can’t play nicely together I’m going to knock you both out myself.”
Harry grinned and Adam smiled sheepishly. Chayse looked shocked that I would say that to him; most girls just looked at him with adoration.
“Who is this Jack guy anyway?” Chayse asked, juggling the binoculars from Adam.
“He’s a nobody,” Harry said and laughed at his own joke. “Get it? A no-body?” We all looked at him and he stopped laughing.
“Right then,” Harry said, “focus.”
“Ophelia is almost at the rock, where is he?” Adam asked, taking the binoculars back from Chayse and scanning the beach.
And then Jack appeared from out of nowhere. It was freaky—he was just beside her like he had always been there which made me worry that he had been right behind us all the time, maybe. Ophelia must have sensed him or he had done this before because she showed no fear, just turned and threw her arms around him. Jack picked her up to kiss her and whirled her around. He did look pretty gorgeous; it was like watching a scene from a movie. I felt both Chayse and Adam bristle beside me.
Jack put Ophelia down and admired her—he made her twirl for him in her red dress, the skirt billowing out. No wonder Ophelia was taken, he was really dishy. He wore jeans with a white T-shirt and black coat. I guess he’s learned a few fashion tricks over the years compared to that daggy sailor’s uniform he was wearing in the photo. He took his jacket off, placed it on the sand and lowered Ophelia onto it. He sat down beside her.
“Great, how long are they going to talk for?” Harry complained.
“Could be hours,” I said turning my back to them and dropping down into sitting position. We all relaxed and stood down, keeping our voices low so the wind wouldn’t carry them over to the pair. It was a nice night; a clear, crisp night sky and a waning moon. I looked at the three guys around me—my brother and two of the most popular guys in the ‘hood. If anyone had told me six months ago I would be at the beach with Chayse Johann and Adam Ferrier I would have thought they were insane.
Adam glanced at his watch.
“Worried about the curse?” Chayse bated him.
“Chayse, on my list of things to focus on tonight, the last thing I want to do is to have to knock you out,” Adam said in a very controlled voice, “but it's still on my list.”
Harry and I laughed and Chayse made a wry face in Adam’s direction. We sat in silence for a while, just watching and waiting. Finally Chayse spoke: “is it just me, or does the high tide look a little higher tonight than usual? It doesn’t usually rise past that marker on the rock.”
Adam turned to look, then looked skywards and out to sea.
“I think you’re right, that’s odd,” he agreed. “So we’re dealing with a stronger sea tonight too ... great.”
Thirty minutes had passed and I began to wonder and worry if I had it all wrong. I would never live this down.
“On the move,” Harry hissed and we all flipped around in haste. Jack was leading Ophelia to the rock and she was going willingly.
Every time I am with Jack, I feel like we are the only two people in the world, and with absolutely no-one on the beach, it really felt like that. He wanted to show me his world and I couldn’t wait. I don’t know how he will do it—maybe we’ll disappear together like he does all the time or he’ll fly me there or we’ll just float over the top—who knows, he won’t tell me and says it is a surprise. A surprise I am about to experience!
We walked towards our rock. The waves were big again tonight but he promised me that I would be safe and we wouldn’t have a repeat of last night’s scare. I don’t know how he could prevent the waves breaking on the rock, but I’m going with it, trusting him. He went in front, extended his hand back to me and we walked up the rock.
Standing on the top was magic—in front of us lay our land; the sea and the moon at his command.
Jack turned to me and placed his hands on my hips. I looked up into his face.
“Are you ready?” he asked, brushing my hair from my face.
I nodded. I was excited and freaked out; goose bumps ran all over my skin and Jack rubbed my arms.
“We don’t have to,” he said. I could see the disappointment in his eyes.
“No way. I’m dying to see your place and the room you created for me,” I assured him and I was. I just didn’t like the water, it was so all-powerful.
He smiled. “Life’s short, Ophelia, I know that better than most.”
“As do I,” I said thinking of the sixteen years I’d had with my parents. It seemed unfair that other people got whole lifetimes.
Jack continued: “So, I want to spend every moment with you, now and forever. As long as we get.”
He dropped one of my hands and holding the other, took me right to the edge of the rock. He squeezed my hand. I waited for a vision or something to happen.
“Close your eyes my love,” Jack whispered and I did.
“They are seriously not going to dive into the water are they?” I asked.
“This is not good,” Holly bristled beside me.
“I say we stop them now,” Chayse started to rise and Holly pulled him back down.
“No just wait,” she hissed. “Jack might be doing the scene from
or something. You know, close your eyes and feel like you’re the king of the world.”
This time we all looked at Holly. She shrugged.
I subtly glanced at my watch again. I had plenty of time until midnight but I didn’t want to tempt the curse.
“Don’t worry about it, I’ve got your back,” Chayse nudged me.
I looked at him trying to read if he was sincere or not. He would probably be the first to hold me underwater. I looked back to the rock. Jack and Ophelia looked amazing standing on the edge. The moon hung over the top of them and waves pounded against the rock. Ophelia’s dark hair rose and fell with the ocean breeze, her skirt swirled gently around her and Jack stood tall, like he was in command and he was giving it all to her. It was my job to protect her, especially with Sebastian away but even being near the ocean at night was giving me the creeps.
And then the worst happened.
I looked at Jack one more time; looked into his deep blue eyes and all I saw was love and desire. He smiled and nodded his encouragement. I tightened my grip on his hand and breathing in deeply; I turned to face the ocean and closed my eyes.
The freezing water hitting me.
I tried to scream but water filled my lungs. I barely had time to realise that he had pulled me off the rock into the ocean with him.
I couldn’t follow him; I couldn’t breathe like he could.
It was so fast, so fast and the impact of the cold water on my face and body sent me into shock.
Jack was smiling at me; he was at home in the water, looking radiantly happy that I was with him, light coming off him and yet he didn’t seem to realise I was dying.
I looked around in terror, the weight of my dress pulling me down. He wouldn’t let go of my hand. I struggled to free it, to resurface for air but then Jack started diving down, deeper and deeper and taking me with him into the dark water.
I heard myself scream as I jumped to my feet. We ran—all of us ran to the rock. I couldn’t believe what had just happened. She was there and then Jack went straight into the water so quickly and with such force and pulled Ophelia in.
Adam tore up the rock at breakneck speed and didn’t stop on the edge; he dived straight in. I couldn’t believe how brave he was. Chayse and Harry took the beach, pushing out through the waves. They were all strong swimmers but how far away would Ophelia be by now?
I stood on the rock looking out to sea for any movement. All I could see were the boys coming up for air and diving under again. I could hardly breathe for the fear coursing through me.
I began praying over and over, ‘please don’t take Ophelia from us, please bring her back, please bring her back.’ Then I started praying for Harry’s safety. We might spar a lot but he was my other half; I couldn’t be without him.
Then I saw her.
She was much further out than where Adam, Chayse and Harry were diving. She appeared, floating on her back eerily lit by the moonlight.
Over the noise of the waves, I screamed as loud as I could to get Adam’s attention when he came up for air and he turned to follow my directions. He began swimming towards her. I did the same when Harry and Chayse surfaced. Chayse followed Adam and Harry began to swim in. Tears streamed down my face, I didn’t know if she was dead or alive but at least we had her. I ran down the rock as quickly as I could without losing my footing. I don’t know how Adam tore up it so quickly before. I raced to get the towels and came back with them. I gave one to Harry who came ashore shivering, and watched as Chayse and Adam swam in with Ophelia’s limp form.
As they got into depths they could stand in, Adam carried Ophelia in while Chayse raced to me to get jackets and towels to warm her.
Adam placed her down on the towel; he and Chayse shrugged off the towels putting them over Ophelia instead. She was deathly pale. I hugged Harry and then released him. He didn’t say anything, but he squeezed my hand reassuringly for a moment. I couldn’t watch and I couldn’t look away.