Not Perfect Chapter Seven
***Read notes first :) ***
Hot droplets of water bucketed down on my sunburnt scalp. I tried making my shower as long as possible, so I could avoid talking to mum. Warm water helped me clear my thoughts, and that’s what I needed at this moment. Why couldn’t I just cancel with Brett and spend a day with mum? It was that easy to get what I wanted, what I craved. But something held me back from reaching for the phone and saying no. I scrubbed pink shampoo roughly into my scalp, scraping the burnt skin off and letting it flake down to the drain. Gosh, that hurt. Why couldn’t I go back to her and say I wanted to have family time and do fun things and get back the relationship? Maybe it was a feeling of revenge? All I ever wanted was her affection, and she never gave it. Now she wants it, and...well, that was just too bad. Maybe I should just move on with my life. I turned the water off, pushed open the glass shower door and stepped out onto the cold tiles.
It had a nice ring to it, as I rolled it about on my tongue. Life wasn’t fair anyway...so...I’m going to move on.
I sat in the front seat of Brett’s ute as it bumped along the pitted road. I already started to feel bad about leaving mum without so much as a “I love you”. Afterall, it was Christmas. I remembered my resolve this morning to move on and pushed the thought away and tried to concentrate on the present moment.
“So...what made you move out here?”
“Dad wanted a change of landscape, I guess.”
“It’s pretty barren out here.”
“Sure is. Mum wanted a farm...she grew up on one.”
“That’s cool. It’s been really dry this season, though.”
“Tell me about it. The stock are finding it hard, and mum’s vege garden is struggling.”
I twisted a piece of hair between my forefinger and thumb. “Do you grow all your own produce?”
Brett kept his eyes on the road. “Most of it. We’ve managed with what we
grow, but back in Mackay we would sell the leftovers at the farmer market.”
“Yeah. I think because of the summer we haven’t had much of it.”
We took a winding dirt road and eventually turned off onto a driveway. We drew up next to a ranch looking house, with a huge veranda with sun chairs around it.
“So...welcome to my house.” Brett drew open the door for me.
“Thanks. I like it.”
I stepped inside and was overwhelmed at the noise wave that hit me: kids screaming, adults chattering and the aroma of so many different foods.
There was a group of dads with open beer bottles standing about near a table. Brett gave a little wave to them, and I smiled. One of them said something in the ear of a man who looked like Brett’s dad, but I didn’t catch what he said. Brett looked embarrassed, and he led me away into the kitchen where the women were nearly tripping over each other getting food ready.
“Mum?” He called to a lady with ginger hair and fiery blue eyes.
“Glad you’re back, Brett, food’s almost done.” She came around the bench with a dish cloth in her hand.
“Yeah, me too. Mum, this is Kristen.”
She seemed to notice me standing there and looked me up and down with a smile on her face.
“Well, thanks be,” she cried, “Finally!”
I blushed deeply, and I saw Brett’s skin flushing under his hat. “Welcome to the family, dear.” She embraced me.
“Thank you, Mrs Riley.”
“Oh,” she swatted the air with her hand, “Call me Alice.”
I smiled...Brett was right; I did like her. “Okay, I can do that.”
She smiled right back and gave me a wink. “Good. Now, Brett, take Kristen over there and introduce her. We’ll be eating outside.”
I saw a group of young people in what seemed like the lounge room.
“Come on,” he gestured over at them, “Let’s take her advice.”
I nodded, but before we could move, a little girl about six years old came running up to us and practically jumped on Brett.
“You’re hooooome!” She shouted as Brett scooped her up in his arms. She patted his cheeks. “’Missed you.”
“I missed you too, sunshine.” They grinned at each other with such chemistry that for a moment, I wished for my own sister.
“This is Sally, my sister.”
She turned to face me with same eyes as Alice, and a smile so innocent to make anyone feel old.
“Hello,” she mumbled shyly.
“Hey.” I gave her my brightest smile, which made her smile even bigger.
“I like you.” She said, and reached out to touch my cheeks, like she did to Brett’s.
“I like you, too.” Brett laughed along with me.
Sally was staring at me as if she was in deep thought.
She leaned over to Brett’s ear to whisper something, except it was loud enough for me to hear it. “Are you gonna marry her?”
I saw the tips of Brett’s ears go bright red, and he stumbled for words.
“Sunshine,” he admonished, putting her down on the floor. “I’ve got to introduce Kristen to the cousins, now, so say bye.”
“See you later!” Sally waved her fingers at me, and then sprinted of to lick icing out of a bowl.
“She’s sweet,” I said.
“Yeah,” Brett sighed. “She’s my favourite sister. My only one, of course. Come meet my cousins.”
I got introduced to several similar-aged people to me; all of them were guys except one. Her name was Crystal and she had that feel about her that she would listen to every word you say. She was engaged to Brett’s older brother. We talked together until it was time for tea, and I think she’s the nicest person I’ve ever met.
Christmas lunch was amazing. I tried to eat as politely as I could, but then some of Brett’s cousins made fun of me for eating chicken drumsticks with my knife and fork. I set them down and showed them just exactly how well I could eat with my fingers, due to their daring. Brett just laughed and set his own cutlery down and joined me in my endeavour to eat daintily with my fingers. I can say now, we’d both die trying.
After lunch, a couple of the adult cousins took us out to their dam to swim and kayak. Crystal lent me some old clothes of hers, and I’m glad she did because I got soaked in brown cake from the mud fights we had. I got horribly sunburnt on my nose, but Brett said it made me look like a snowman, and he likes snowmen. I laughed so much I got sore abbs. We stayed in the water until quite late; I only realised how late it was when the sun started to sink on the horizon.
“Will you stay for dinner?” Crystal asked me as we dried off with towels.
“Um, well, I don’t know—”
“Come, on, Krissy, it’ll be fun,” one of Brett’s cousins yelled out. ‘Krissy’ was a nickname I earnt just this afternoon.
“I mean, I’ve already stayed for—“
“Brett, tell your girl to stay.”
Brett grinned sheepishly at me. “Please stay?”
I giggled and tucked a piece of hair behind my ear. “Well...but that means you’d have to drive out in the dark.”
He shrugged. “Doesn’t bother me. There’s going to be a bonfire?”
I sighed, happily. “As long as you’re sure you’re okay with that, I’d love to stay.”
A hoot of approval rose from the more obnoxious side of our group. We all trooped back to the house, as we were too wet and muddy to sit in the cars. Dinner was more relaxed than lunch; all the adults ate inside while everyone else lay sprawled out on the veranda. Crystal and I put our hands up for helping with the dishes, while the boys helped set up the wood for the fire. When everything was ready, everybody gathered around the pile of driftwood. A cheer went up as we watched the first few flames lick the edges, and then onto consuming the wood. Crystal, who held the packet of marshmallows, was swarmed by little bodies armed with little sticks to roast their treats.
“One at a time!” She shouted, good-naturedly. Time sped away as everyone chattered on. Somebody passed out pest spray, which I was grateful since the mosquitoes seemed to take especial liking to my blood, and I was almost at my wits end trying not to scratch them.
When it began to grow dark and the stars peeped their heads out, and the conversation dwindled down, Brett brought me aside away from everyone else.
“Hey, do you mind if I show you a special place?”
“I’d love that,” I breathed.
“Come on, then!” He grabbed my hand, snatched up a torch off the grass, and set out at a fast pace I found difficult to keep up to in the dark.
From what I could make out, we were stumbling up the foot of a hill, further and further away from the bonfire.
“Nearly there.” Brett panted as we practically sprinted up an upward steep.
“Here!” And we collapsed to the ground, laughing.
“Sorry for dragging you up here, but...” He switched his torch on, “Look at this.” He shone the beam of light down the bottom of massive hill, which we were perched at its top. Even in the darkness we could glimpse the neighbouring hills beyond his house. There was a tiny glimmer of purple left over from the gorgeous summer sunset. It was lovely.
“Close your eyes and lay back.” Brett flicked the torch off.
“Just do it, I promise I won’t do anything.”
I lay back onto the grassy ground, with my eyes squeezed shut.
My eyelids flickered open and I saw an array of beautiful shining diamonds. Stars. Some twinkled brightly and others were dim and distant, and I felt like I was being engulfed by them. Brett laid down beside me and sighed. We held silence for minutes, just admiring the splendour set out above us.
“Sometimes, I come up here to think.”
“During the day?”
“Anytime during the day. Or when I can’t sleep. It’s my special place.”
We lapsed into silence again, and all I could hear was the sound of the wind as it rustled the long grass on the sides of the hill.
“I could almost fall asleep,” I whispered.
“I know...sometimes I do.” Even though I couldn’t see his face, I knew he was smiling.
A distant voice startled us, calling our names. We sat bolt upright.
“We must have been here for ages.” He made a coo-e sound back to the voice, echoing again and again. “Come on, let’s go.”
It was pitch dark and as we scrambled to our feet we tried to keep from slipping down the hill.
“I can’t find the torch,” Brett said, I could hear his hands rummaging around the ground. Panic filled my voice.
“But we won’t go down in the dark without it?”
He didn’t answer my question. “Where are you?”
I moved slowly toward his voice. “Here.” His hand touched mine and gripped it tightly.
“Okay, we’re going to go slowly down this hill.”
“What about the torch?”
“I’ll find it in the morning. Let’s just concentrate getting down this without hurting ourselves.”
I breathed in deeply. “Alright.”
Sometimes I stumbled, and Brett held me up. Sometimes he lost his footing, and I stabled him. When we made it to the bottom of the hill, we could just make out each other’s faces by the dying embers of the fire. I took another step forward, but Brett held me back. I looked up at him quizzically.
“Wait a minute, Kristen.”
“Why are you...?”
“I wanted to ask you a question,” I could barely make out his face but his voice cracked and sounded dry. Butterflies fluttered around in my own stomach.
“Yes?” All of a sudden I felt shy.
“Well...it goes like this.” He knelt down and held both of my hands in his. I inhaled sharply. What was he going ask?
“Kristen Richard, will you be my girlfriend?”