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Authors: Helen Goltz

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BOOK: Ophelia Adrift
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“Just made it,” the teacher threatened them.

“That’s Mr. Meadows, we had him for history last year too,” Peggy whispered.

“A bit of quiet,” he called. “Project selection time for the term!”

The class groaned.

“Yes, I knew you would be excited too.” He glanced around the room. “Good to see a new face. Welcome Miss?”

“Ophelia ... Ophelia Montague,” I said, again.

“Ah, now there’s a name from history, literary history at least ... from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. But you all knew that of course,” he smiled indulgently.

Peggy nodded. The rest of the class looked blank.

Mr. Meadows continued. “So those of you who were in my class last term, which is all of you except Ophelia, will know we have one exam, one individual project and one team project for your assessment. This term, you will be doing your individual projects. You have one week to give me your topic for approval.”

The class groaned again.

“Does anyone besides Peggy know what they are doing?” Mr. Meadows asked. Peggy looked surprised. “I’m just guessing you’ve got that sorted?” he said to her.

She nodded. “I was thinking about what form World War III might take if there was going to be one and how different it would be from World War I and II—you know, better weapons, who might be enemies and allies. Is that okay?” Peggy asked, looking worried. I’m sure she’s probably top of the class but always a worrier.

“More than okay, that’s great. But if you find it gets too big, just select one of the wars to compare it to ... maybe the last one, World War II since it was more sophisticated in weaponry and warfare, supposedly,” Mr Meadows said.

A few hands shot up.

“Russell McCannes, is that your hand I see up before me? Let me sit down before the shock kills me,” Mr. Meadows moved towards a chair.

The class laughed and Russell grinned. “I’m going to discuss if the United Nations has a role as a peacekeeper ... or if they are just a waste of space.”

Mr. Meadows nodded. “So eloquently phrased. That sounds good Russell, very good, permission granted.” He looked at the few other hands remaining up and pointed to an attractive Indian girl in the front row. “Nami, what’s your proposed topic?”

“I was going to do the rise of India and China as possible superpowers, Sir,” she said.

“Love it Nami, go right ahead.”

He turned his gaze to me. “So Ophelia, that’s the sort of project topics we need. Everyone has until this Friday to pitch their idea.”

“I have an idea, Sir,” I said. What the heck, might as well get it over with.

“Good, shoot ...”

“Just to familiarise myself with the area, I was going to do the history of shipwreck’s on this West Coast and look at how much was human error. It’s probably been done a lot before though I guess,” I shrugged.

“There’s plenty of material around but I think looking at what was human error, what was an act of God—like weather—and what was structural like the fault of the ships and materials, would be an interesting comparison. Well done,” he said impressed. “There’s a couple of students you should speak with who are descended from shipwreck families. Anyone in this class?”

Garth Dart raised his hand. “We’re descendents from the
Julia
, Sir. William Dart was the captain and my great, great, something.”

The class laughed again. At least Mr. Meadows’ classes were going to be lively.

“What’s the
Julia
story then Garth?” Mr. Meadows continued.

“She lost her rudder in heavy seas, Sir, and came a cropper against the rocks. A whale boat with six men on board came out to help and all the crew from the
Julia
survived, but six of the whalers died helping to rescue them.”

Several female students gasped.

“Well thanks for that cheery tale, Garth,” Mr. Meadows said. “There you go Ophelia, have a chat to Garth. Also, in the year above you is Chayse Johann. He lost distant relatives on the La Bella.”

“And he’s gorgeous,” one of the girls in front of me giggled.

“And he’s gorgeous, thank you Jane, that will be of great assistance to Ophelia with her project,” Mr. Meadows teased and Jane went bright red. “Right,” he continued, “let’s begin with today’s subject—the world at the beginning of the 20th century.”

The class groaned again.

After class, Peggy invited me to join her for lunch and we headed out into the common area. We sat under a huge tree in the shade.

“That’s Chayse Johann over there,” Peggy nodded towards a tall, handsome blond student surrounded by a group of good looking other students, and one girl in particular hanging of him. He had hair to his shoulders and was tanned and athletic.

Harry and Holly dropped down on the grass beside us.

“Who are we looking at?” Holly asked.

“Chayse Johann,” Peggy said. “You know, Mr. Meadows said Ophelia should chat to him for her shipwreck project.”

“I’d talk to him if I could,” Holly said, “but I can’t speak in his presence. I get tongue-tied.”

“So he’s tall, sporty, blond and rich,” Harry shrugged. “Big deal.”

“Yeah big deal,” Peggy said fluttering her eyelashes at Harry. Ah ha, Peggy likes Harry and Harry ... seems oblivious. I’ll have to work on that—yeah, fast worker ... here for a few days, I’ve got the locals sorted, met a guy on the beach and am matchmaking Peggy and Harry. Makes you wonder how they got by before I came, I kidded myself and then felt a wave of missing my best friend.

I heard a shrill laugh rise from Chayse’s group and we all looked over again. The girls in his pack were looking at him adoringly and one snuggled in closer to him—she was beautiful.  I don’t think I’ll be asking Chayse Johann anything. I can’t imagine getting through the pack to even get close enough to spring a question on him.

“I’ve seen him around,” I said and pulled my skirt down as I stretched my legs out in front of me on the grass. “He was surfing yesterday afternoon and rode a wave all the way in. He said hi but gave Adam a bit of a shirty look.”

“Yeah no love lost there,” Harry said.

“Why?” I asked looking over at Chayse again.

“Long story,” Harry started before Holly interrupted him with gossip.

“That beautiful girl hanging off Chayse is his girlfriend, Imogen Harper ... she’s so full of herself. Why do beautiful girls always have to be full of themselves?” Holly sighed.

“Amber’s not,” Peggy said. “Neither is Alice.”

“Yeah, that’s true,” Holly agreed.

“Neither are you three,” Harry said.

We all looked at him and smiled. Smooth, Harry. I didn’t know the girls they were talking about but I studied Imogen Harper, Chayse’s girlfriend. She was beautiful—a beach type with blond hair, super slim with a glowing, natural tan but she was bigger up top already than most of my class and the seniors. She had a body that probably looked great in a bikini.

“She suits Chayse,” I said, “they look good together, like Barbie and Ken.” I glanced down at my own white ‘city’ arms. “I look more like a vampire than a surf girl.”

“Vampires are in,” Harry assured me. Two compliments, sort of. Harry was going to win on charm if nothing else.

“You and Imogen have something in common—your names are both from Shakespeare plays,” Peggy said. “Dried apricot?” she offered the bag around and we all tried one.

“You’ll have to get by Imogen and her flock to get to Chayse,” Holly said, ignoring the literary connection. “She’s always with him, very territorial.”

“But she’s gorgeous,” I stated the obvious. “Surely she has guys after her too. She can’t be that insecure that she has to hang off him.”

Holly shrugged.

“Maybe he doesn’t make her feel secure,” Peggy offered with great wisdom. We all turned to look at her and she blushed. “That’s what happens in
Bold and Beautiful
. They get really clingy until they’ve won the guy over.”

I sighed looking back at Chayse. “Yeah, well I can live without his shipwreck version of events.” Just as I said that he looked right at me. For some reason only known to the universe, he must have recognised me from the beach yesterday and he raised his hand in a wave.
Way to go new girl ... great way to make new friends
. I felt everyone turn to look at me. I smiled and waved back and looked away super quickly.

“OMG!” Holly said, “Chayse just waved to you ... and you should see the death stare his girlfriend is giving you.”

Peggy grinned. “You’ve got an admirer already, Lia!”

I shook my head. “No he just recognises me from the beach yesterday; I’m just that girl who was with Adam.”

“It’s good to have an admirer though,” Peggy said, pulling at her long dark plait and with a glance in Harry’s direction, again. “You know the first dance is only two months away.”

Harry groaned. “That means I’ve got to start hiding now ... Paige Stark will be after me.”

Peggy frowned. Harry couldn’t see her.

 

 

 

Chapter 6

 

JACK

 

Ophelia couldn’t see me but as soon as she was opposite the beach, I had her in sight as she walked up the path to the front door of what was now her home. She smiled seeing Argo and Agnes lying in the warmth of the sun on either side of the door. She had a nice smile but her face was so pale that she looked positively translucent. Argo and Agnes spotted her and ran down the path to greet her with a raucous round of barking and energy. She seemed really delighted to see them and dropped her backpack to embrace them both.

“Is Uncle Seb home?” I heard her ask the dogs and looked to his office window to the right of the door. Hearing the noise, he appeared in the window and waved.

Ophelia picked up her bag and went to push open the door but it swung in easily. The dogs followed her in. I stayed outside, hearing but not seeing. The house moaned, it could sense me nearby.

“Hi Lia,” I heard Sebastian call from the hallway. “I’ve got a conference call in five minutes so I’ll be out in about half an hour.”

“All good,” she called back and I heard her thump up the stairs two at a time to her level and to her room. She called out: “Can I take Argo and Agnes for a walk up the beach?”

“Absolutely, thanks!” Sebastian called back.

Excellent. I withdrew down the driveway towards the beach waiting for her to appear. I had been waiting for her all day, unable to get her out of my mind since seeing her framed by moonlight in the window last night—she looked beautiful and ghostly.

Within minutes she reappeared wearing fitted grey three-quarter leggings, an oversized black hoodie, her hair tied back and peeking through a black baseball cap. At the front door, she pushed her feet into her white canvas slip-ons, grab the dogs’ leads which were more for show-and-tell in case needed, and closing the door behind her, headed to the beach. The two dogs shook their tails with excitement and flanked her like guard dogs.

I walked in her shadow. I saw her stop as she got to the end of the path and the beach entrance, slip off the shoes, and enjoy the cool sand between her toes. She breathed in deeply; the air was full of salt, so thick you could almost cut it. The dogs obediently stopped and waited for her. They all headed to the firm sand. For big dogs, they moved well; Agnes and Argo chased each other, running to the water’s edge. Ophelia glanced left and right and decided to walk the opposite way to her walk last evening with Adam. The dogs ran ahead.

I walked nearby her. I whispered her name into the wind. She turned sharply left and then right, but could not see me. Her hand reached for the locket around her throat and she touched it, believing the sound she heard was her parents. I could read her thoughts and her energy. She was pleased for the time alone; time to think about her parents. She smiled at the dogs enjoying themselves as they ran back to her side and back to the water’s edge again. Out to sea she could see a ship on the horizon and knew Sebastian would be excited watching from his office window. Further down the beach a couple of joggers ran past us but otherwise, the beach was largely deserted. At the point, the surfers were out catching the remaining waves of the day.

This was nice, very nice; just the two of us and Agnes and Argo. I felt like I had her all to myself. She breathed deeply again and followed the dogs to the water’s edge to walk in the firmer sand. I could do this every day, Ophelia. We could do it together. Like trained protectors, Agnes and Argo took turns at coming back and checking on her; neither going too far ahead. Maybe they sensed me, so did Ophelia; she shuddered walking through a cold pocket of air. She walked on for another fifteen minutes or so, the ocean breeze gently keeping her hair off her face and masking her with salt water spray. As she neared the point, she saw a group of six people on the beach watching the surfers. Ophelia shivered—it was chilly out there, they were diehards. She called the names of both the dogs and when they joined her, she told them it was time to turn, and they began to walk back the other way.

As I walked, behind her, we both heard her name being called. I knew who it was—like vultures these men looking at new prey. First Adam Ferrier, now Chayse Johann. He was heading out of the water, his surfboard tucked under his arm. He called out her name again.

“Ophelia, wait up.”

She stopped and the dogs rejoined her. I waited nearby as Ophelia watched him head up the beach and pull the surfboard strap from his leg. He dropped his board on the sand, grabbed his towel and ran towards her. I felt Ophelia’s heart racing—he was tall, handsome and glowing, his tanned skin wet and his hair slicked back. She could see why he was the school heartthrob but not her type, I was sure of that.

“Hey,” he caught up to her. “We haven’t officially met, I’m Chayse.”

“Hi, I’m Ophelia,” she offered her hand.

His large tanned hand enveloped it.

“I know. We don’t get many newcomers at school in year eleven or twelve, especially mid-year. When did you arrive?” he asked. He ran his hand through his hair and shook out the excess water.

“Last week. You’re good,” she said with a nod to the waves.

“Yeah well I’d want to be. I’ve been surfing since I could walk.”

Ophelia smiled at him not sure what to say.

“You’re living with Sebastian,” he said more as a statement than a question.

“Yes, he’s my uncle. He’s been good enough to take me in.”

“Yeah, I heard about ... well, I’m sorry,” Chayse said. He looked at her sincerely and held her gaze.

Ophelia nodded. “Thank you.” She looked back out to sea. Clearing her throat she asked, “Can I ask a favour?” Argo came and stood beside her and Ophelia ran her hand over Argo’s silky head.

“So soon?” he grinned.

Ophelia reddened. “It’s no big deal if you don’t want to.”

“Ask away.”

“I’m doing a history paper on the shipwreck history of the area, cause and effect—Mr. Meadows said you’re a descendent with a shipwreck past and might tell me your story,” Ophelia shrugged. “But only if you have time and want to ... it’s no big ...”

He cut her off. “Love to. Maybe this weekend we could catch up, if you’re free?”

Ophelia nodded. “That would be great. I don’t know too many people here yet so I’m free all the time at the moment.”

Chayse laughed. “Well good of you to fit me in then.”

My heart leaped. I wanted Ophelia to myself this weekend. I willed him to leave.

“I think you’re wanted,” Ophelia said. I saw her glance behind Chayse to see his stunning blond girlfriend looking gorgeous in a very small white bikini bottom and cropped top. Clearly she was oblivious to the cold as she stood near his towel looking at them from a distance, her hands on her hips. She was more his type than Ophelia, I hope he remembered that.

Ophelia raised her hand and gave Imogen a wave, which was reluctantly returned. Good move though.

Chayse glanced behind and then back to Ophelia. He looked annoyed, running his hand over his face and through his hair.

“I’ve got to get home, thanks for agreeing to be my research subject,” she smiled and turned, leading Argo and Agnes away.

“Anytime,” he called behind her. “See you tomorrow at school, we can swap numbers then.”

Ophelia glanced back, nodded and smiled. She walked on beside me, feeling me and touching her locket again. The dogs raced ahead. After a moment or so, she glanced back to see Chayse’s girlfriend draping herself over him reclaiming her territory. It was time that I staked mine.

 

BOOK: Ophelia Adrift
13.77Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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