Angry and defiant, Stella runs away from home and lands in a small seaside village. It is overlooked by the forbidding ruins of Trial Bay gaol.
Stella hides out in the town and is disturbed by her growing confusion about her identity. Her mysterious flashbacks to the gaol one hundred years before are even more frightening.
What is reality? What is fantasy? And is the guy next door the one to help her solve the mystery?
Or will a stranger unlock the key to her past?
I’d closed my eyes, and swung to and fro on the swing in a kind of trance, my ring clinking against the metal chain I gripped. I was still disturbed by what happened on the beach – another dream, with me as witness. This time Gustav talked to a girl, and the sound of her sobbing, the eucalypt smell of the bush cave, the rustle of her long dress – it seemed so real.
‘Oi!’ A male voice bellowed. I blinked my eyes open. ‘Hey, Darcy! Throw it here, ya dickhead!’
The nasal voice came from behind, and when I swung around I saw a thickset guy of medium height, barrel-chested and sandy-haired. He’d hollered to a boy I recognised – the tall surfer dude from yesterday. So, his name was Darcy.
A football sailed over my head, only just missing me. The solid guy grabbed it. They wore footy gear, grass stains on their shorts and jerseys.
‘Watch it, ya bloody idiot!’ I stood up, rubbing my head where I’d almost been hit. That strange dream, and now I’d nearly had my head taken clean off. This was turning into another bad day.
Darcy ran up, puffing. ‘Sorry. You okay?’ He was tanned and lean, dark curls falling across his eyes.
The other one jogged up to meet us. ‘Uh huh.’ I kept my voice offhand. ‘I’m fine.’ I patted my head. ‘Cranium intact.’
‘Crane−?’ His mate frowned. ‘What−?’
‘Cranium. Her head, Howie. You dope.’
‘Oh.’ Howie was checking me out slowly. ‘And what a head.’ His eyes slid down my body, lingering at my boobs.
‘You right there?’ I folded my arms. It was really off, the way he stared. Darcy was checking me out too, but didn’t stare. He stepped between us.
‘Howie means your hair,’ he said. ‘Your hair’s hot.’ He looked at his mate who winked. ‘We like blondes.’
‘Do we what.’ Howie’s eyes bulged.
What a couple of losers.
I headed towards my bag, but Darcy beat me to it. I looked up at him as he handed it to me. ‘In a hurry?’
‘There you go,’ he grinned. His eyes were a very dark brown. ‘Haven’t seen you round,’ he said. ‘I’m Darcy Moretti.’
His mate had joined us, standing way too close. ‘I’m Howie. Who’re you?’
‘Um…’ I faltered. Hell, I wasn’t telling them my real name. ‘None of your business.’
His expression darkened and he sneered, ‘Not talkin’, eh. Think you’re too good for us?’
‘No.’ I glared at him.
Only I heard him as he leaned in to whisper, ‘You’re a prick teaser.’ I pushed past him.
Darcy laughed to his mate. ‘Just another moll from down south, eh Howie.’
The thickset guy followed me, blocking my way. ‘ Yeah. Might take her for a ride one day soon–’
I tried to push past him again. ‘Tempting offer – not. Get out of my–’
A fit-looking woman interrupted us, looking at me, then Howie. ‘Hey!’ She had walked up the driveway from the surf club. ‘What are you doing, Howie?’ She was with an older woman – the old lady from the beach. They each balanced several small boxes in their arms.
‘Nothin’.’ He looked at the ground. ‘Are we Darce?’ I stepped around him, and shook my head at his lies.
‘Well, boys, your ball nearly hit her!’ Almost my height, her white shorts showed off slim legs. She turned to me. ‘Are you alright, love?’ I nodded, and she frowned at them. ‘How many times have I told you? Play your footy down at the oval.’
‘Sorry, Mum.’ Darcy shuffled his feet.
‘Yeah, whatever, Mrs M.’ Howie lurched across to grab a box from the old lady, and nearly toppled the pile.
‘Howie! Careful!’ The elderly woman looked flustered, and I smiled at his clumsiness. ‘Darcy, can you take them? They’re extra glasses.’ She passed them across and he balanced them lightly on one arm, as I edged into the background.
‘Give Doris a hand, please.’ Darcy took her arm, and Mrs Moretti continued, ‘You rest up at our place, before the party. You look done in.’
The old lady nodded. ‘Thanks, Julie.’
They made their way towards the car park, while Howie wandered back to the surf club. Good riddance – by now, I’d reversed across the playground.
I looked up and caught Darcy watching me for an instant. He bowed his head, then continued walking.
bushwalking, the beach, stand up paddle boarding,
theatre, film, music and singing, as well as volunteering for an international disaster relief charity, ShelterBox.