We were awakened early the next morning by the sounds of birds in the trees outside of the room, the sounds of cattle in the paddocks along the river behind the motel, and by the sounds of early morning traffic on the highway.
It may not have been the perfect start to the day, but hey, two out of three ain't bad, or so the song goes!
While Guy still lay in the bed we had shared, I got up wandered over to the window, which overlooked the paddocks and the river behind the motel. As I pulled back the heavy curtain, being careful to leave the light gauze curtain still in place to prevent anyone from peering in and seeing me standing there totally naked, sunlight flooded in, bathing the dark room in early morning light.
‘Wait, just stand there for a second will you?’ Guy asked as I turned around to return to the bed.
‘What the hell for?’ I asked.
‘You just looked so gorgeous standing there at the window with the light behind you. I just wanted to look at you for a second. It was like you had this aura surrounding you.’
‘Man, what were you drinking last night?’ I joked.
‘The same shit you were, as I recall,’ he answered, with a grin.
I crossed the room and lay back down beside him again, propping myself up on one elbow and looking down at him, smiling, then reached across and ran my fingers through his dark hair.
‘What's with you?’ he asked.
‘Nothing at all,’ I said, shaking my head. ‘I just wanted to say thank you. I can't believe we actually did this.’
I leant across and kissed him.
‘No regrets?’ he asked, while reaching up and cupping my face in one hand.
‘Not a one,’ I answered, then he pulled my face to his and kissed me.
Eventually we fell asleep once more, totally spent after our early morning wake up call, only to be woken some time later by a knock at the door.
It was Guy who dragged himself out of bed, pulled on his boxers (some dark blue satin ones with the cartoon Martian and space ships on them) and answered it, barely opening the door wide enough to see who was there.
‘You pair gonna let us in, or what?’ I heard a familiar voice ask.
‘Jesus, it's you!’ Guy exclaimed, then shut the door again and said to me in a whisper, ‘You better pull some clothes on, babe.’
I jumped out of bed and reached for my own boxers, pulling them on just in time to see the door open to reveal Ben and Samantha standing there, showered, fully dressed, and looking perfect.
They strolled into the room and Ben looked around, taking in the unmade bed from which we had just risen, the clothes scattered haphazardly around the floor, and the pair of us standing there in nothing but our boxer shorts.
He looked from one of us to the other, and his face lit up in a wicked grin.
‘Well, it certainly looks like a hot old time was had in here last night?’
‘Ben! Leave them alone,’ Samantha said to him, while slapping him on the shoulder.
‘They don't go tormenting us like this do they? We had our night together and didn't get hassled by anyone. So they deserve theirs.’
‘But . . .’ he started to say in protest, but was quickly howled down.
‘No buts about it. Leave them be!’
The four of us just looked from one to the other, momentarily stunned not only by Samantha's sudden show of strength, but also by Ben's passive resistance.
‘Thanks,’ I said to Samantha and going to her and giving her a hug. ‘I've been trying to get him to shut up for years.’
She just smiled at me and said, ‘Don't mention it. I just think that it's sweet that you guys have each other, and you deserve every chance to be able to have a normal sort of relationship without getting hassled by clowns like this guy.’
‘Oi! Who's a clown?’ Ben asked.
‘I think that would be you,’ Guy said, answering for us all and roughing up Ben's perfectly combed, though still damp hair. ‘But I reckon that you're probably the most lovable clown we know.’
‘Yeah, he is, isn't he?’ Samantha said, taking hold of Ben's arm and giving him a cuddle.
‘So? Who's for breakfast?’ I asked them, suddenly feeling hungry.
‘Count me in,’ Ben said. ‘I'm starved. Must have been from all that . . .’
‘Ouch! What was that for?’
Guy and I both laughed, as we stood there watching Samantha scowl at him.
‘Do you really need to ask?’ she said, blushing.
‘Oh. Sorry,’ Ben replied meekly.
‘I don't believe it,’ I said to them both. ‘Someone has finally put you in your place and got you under some sort of control.’
‘What can I say?’ he replied, putting his arms around Samantha's slender waist. ‘She's a good woman, this one.’
‘An extraordinary one, I would say,’ Guy added.
‘You have no idea!’ Ben replied.
* * *
They left as alone shortly after that, which gave us time to have a quick shower, and then we dressed and drove back to town to the local McDonalds, where we joined Ben and Samantha for breakfast.
‘What took you girls so long?’ Ben cheekily asked.
I soon felt that familiar burning sensation in my cheeks and knew instantly that I was giving away the answer.
‘I knew it!’
‘Ben! What did I tell you?’ Samantha quickly said, scolding him.
‘Sorry babe. I know . . . I promised. . . but hey, you know me!’
‘Yeah, we do!’ the three of us chorused.
We ordered at the counter, being served by one of the guys that we went to school with, Jonathon Wright, who told us how great the show was, and then we carried our trays of food and went and sat in a distant booth, as far from any other customers as we could be, with a promise from Jonathon that he would bring the rest of our order over as soon as it was ready.
I sat down and then slid across the seat, letting Guy sit beside me, with our legs touching, which sent shivers of excitement through me. After last night I liked the feel of him being so close to me and wanted to feel like this for a long, long time to come.
‘So, Guy,’ Samantha said. ‘Ben tells me you're going away for Christmas too.’
‘Yeah, I am,’ he answered, rather dejectedly, and glancing across at me as he did so. ‘I'm spending it with my dad in Sydney . . . but I don't really want to go. Well, not now anyway.’
He smiled at me and slid his hand across onto my leg, which I took and held in mine.
‘It won't be for long,’ I whispered.
‘No, it won't be,’ he answered, gently squeezing my hand as he did so.
‘When are you leaving?’ Samantha asked.
‘Ummm . . . this afternoon actually. Mum is taking me, we're going to stay at her sister's place over on the coast for a day or two, then we're going down to Sydney. I get dropped off with dad, while she goes and spends it with her new boyfriend!’ he said, rather bitterly.
I already knew that he was leaving this weekend, but now that we were there, it just seemed to have sneaked up on us so quickly that it caught me unawares.
‘Today? Man, that came around quick!’ Ben exclaimed.
Guy just nodded, while I looked glumly at him.
‘How about you?’ Guy asked Samantha. ‘When are you heading off?’
‘Today,’ she replied, looking guiltily at Ben as she did so.
‘Looks like it's just going to be you and me again, compadre,’ Ben said to me.
‘Yeah, it looks like it,’ I answered morosely.
‘Well, you don't have to sound quite so enthusiastic about it!’
Just then we heard a cough from behind us and turned to see Jonathon standing there with the tray of food.
Instinctively I let go of Guy's hand, but I wasn't sure if it was too late or not. Jonathon placed the try on the table for us, then left without saying a word. I turned in my seat and watched him as he walked away, and I was sure that I saw him glance back at us, grinning to himself.
All of a sudden I didn't feel quite so hungry any more.
My stomach felt as if it were now tied up in knots and was weighed down by something heavy, and glancing across at Guy, it looked as if he was feeling much the same, as I noticed that all the colour had drained from his cheeks.
‘What's wrong with you pair?’ Ben demanded. ‘You both look like you've seen a ghost or something!’
‘I think he saw us!’ I hissed at him.
‘Of course he saw you. He put a fucking tray on the table, right in front of you.’
‘No. I mean he saw us. Like this . . .’ I replied, grabbing Guy's hand and holding it.
Ben simply shrugged and said, ‘So?’
‘Oh, honestly, Ben. You can be such a prat sometimes!’ Samantha said. ‘Just don't worry about it, Tim. You've got six weeks of school holidays in front of you, and even if he did see anything, by the time you get back to school he will have forgotten all about it. Besides, it's got nothing to do with him anyway.’
‘I wish I had your confidence,’ I answered.
‘Don't worry about it mate,’ Ben offered. ‘If he says anything he'll have me to answer to.’
‘Oh, so now you're going to play the hero?’ Guy joked.
‘Well, someone is going to have to keep an eye out for you guys.’
We just grinned at him, but I still had this uneasy feeling in the pit of my stomach. Six weeks may be a long time, but it was nothing compared to some people's memories. And that was what had me worried.
‘So, where is it that you are going next year?’ Guy asked Samantha, deftly changing the subject.
‘Southern Star University. It's that new university, up on the north coast at Macquarie Harbour. You’ve heard of it, haven’t you?’
We both nodded.
‘Apparently they have a great drama program, so I thought I'd try it out. I would really love to get into N.I.D.A. to study some day . . . but they are pretty selective.’
‘N.I.D.A.?’ Guy asked.
‘National Institute of Dramatic Arts. It's where Mel Gibson and just about every other famous Australian actor studied.’
‘You realise of course that you are going to leave us with a broken shell of a boyfriend when you go?’ I said to Samantha. ‘I can almost see him pining away already.’
‘Very funny, wise ass,’ Ben replied.
‘Well, it's true. The minute Sam leaves town you'll be totally bloody miserable . . . and who is it that will have to try and cheer you up? Us! And that won't be easy, knowing you!’
‘He'll be okay boys,’ Samantha said. ‘He'll probably go find some other floozy to break his heart.’
‘You think so? I'm not so sure,’ I answered. ‘I know this guy better than just about anyone else, remember?’
‘Hey guys, I am sitting here you know! Or hadn't you noticed?’ Ben pleaded. ‘Besides, I don't want just ANY other floozy. I just want this one!’ he said, putting his arm around Samantha's shoulder.
‘Well Ben, unless you are going to run away from home or something, you won't be able to have this floozy.’
‘But baby . . .’
‘Well, it looks like all of you boys will just have to keep an eye out for each other then, doesn't it?’ Samantha replied.
‘Yeah, I suppose it does then,’ I answered.
‘So, what about you guys? What are you going to do after you finish next year?’
‘Geez, Sam, that's twelve months away yet,’ Guy replied.
‘Well, you can never be too prepared you know!’
‘Not us,’ Guy answered, shaking his head.
‘Well, I know where I'll be going in twelve month’s time,’ Ben responded. ‘I'll be heading north. Macquarie Harbour . . . I rather like the sound of that name!’
‘You know Ben, a lot of water will flow under the bridge between now and then,’ Samantha said, then leant across and kissed him, then added, ‘but thank you.’
‘You're welcome babe,’ he replied and kissed her back.
‘Oh, puh-lease!’ I said to the pair of them. ‘Some of us are trying to eat here, you know.’
They all laughed and then we finished our breakfast, still talking about Christmas and the holidays and what we would be doing.
I soon forgot about what Jonathon Wright may have seen, or may have been thinking, but when we finally got up to leave, Guy and I came face to face with him, with a fresh wave of nausea washing over me. I don't know why.
‘See you later guys,’ he said, then just smiled and carried on doing what he was doing, cleaning tables.
As we went through the main doors I glanced back at him and noticed him watching us. He straightened up and gave us a small wave, which I returned, then he went back to his duties once more.
I don't know what he was thinking, but I left the restaurant still feeling shaky, all the same.
‘So, what now?’ Ben asked when we reached the cars, which were parked side by side at the furthest end of the car park.
‘I feel like a walk in the park,’ Samantha cheerfully said, grabbing a hold of Ben's arm. ‘Seeing as I'm going to be gone in a few hours, and won't see you for weeks, I want today to be nice.’
‘But it already is,’ Ben replied.
‘Yeah, it is, isn't it?’ she said, kissing him.
Guy glanced at me with a grin on his face, as if to say, ‘How about me?’
‘Not here!’ I said to him, ‘but maybe later.’
‘What are you pair on about now?’ Ben asked, tearing his lips away from Samantha's for just a moment.
‘Nothing that concerns you,’ Guy answered. ‘Come on, let's go down to the park,’ he said, opening the door of his car. We got into his car and were soon pulling out onto the road, with Ben and Samantha following, and when we reached the car park at Central Park we pulled up side by side and got out of the vehicles.
Ben and Samantha strolled off towards a table and bench, hand in hand, with Guy and me following.
Watching them walk ahead of us I felt envious of the fact that I couldn't do that with Guy. Not here anyway. Not in this town.
Almost as if he were reading my mind, he reached up and placed a hand on my shoulder for just a second, which made me turn and look at his face.
‘That's what I want too,’ he whispered. ‘Maybe in another time and place, huh?’
I nodded and said, ‘Yeah.’
When we reached the table and benches, Sam and Ben kept walking, while Guy and I sat down, in the shade of an old pine tree, and watched them as they headed towards the fountain, still arm in arm, and looking happy together.
‘I think Ben's totally fallen for her,’ I said as we watched them both.
‘Yeah, I think he has.’
‘I never thought it would be possible.’
‘Well, I guess we can all be full of surprises.’
I looked at him and grinned. I so wanted to just go and sit beside him and put my arm around his shoulders and have him rest his head against mine. But I couldn't do that.
We chatted for a few minutes, about anything that popped into our heads, each of knowing that after today we would be separated for a time, but neither of us wanting to mention it. Our friends returned a short while later, still clinging desperately to each other, as if they too were afraid of letting go.
‘Guys, I'm going to have to get going, or my folks will be spewing!’ Samantha said.
Guy looked at his watch and let out a sigh, then said, ‘I think I'd better get home too . . . otherwise mum might send out a search party.’
‘Well, I hope you guys have a great holiday,’ Samantha said to us. ‘And don't take too much notice of dufus here! You two are good for each other, and I hope you are happy.’
I got to my feet and went and hugged her, saying, ‘Thank you. We both owe you so much.’
As we separated she just shook her head and said, ‘No you don't. You don't owe anything to anyone. Just remember that.’
Guy hugged her as well and said thanks, then turned to me and said, ‘Well, how about I drop you home and then I'd better get my sorry arse back to my place.’
‘Yeah, I better drop you home as well, Ben,’ Samantha added.
‘Umm . . . how about we say goodbye here,’ Ben answered. ‘I don't want to go getting too soppy, and I won't be able to do that here in public.’
‘Yeah. Good idea,’ I replied. ‘I wouldn't want to go getting all misty at my place, or at Guy's. Someone might wonder what was up!’
We all laughed, but beneath it there was an underlying current of sadness, as we all knew that we wouldn't be seeing each other for a while.
Ben and Samantha hugged and kissed, each of them getting teary eyed, while I dragged Guy between some bushy shrubs and managed a hug and a quick kiss, half hidden by foliage from any curious passers-by.
‘You know, I'm really going to miss you,’ Guy said to me, his voice raspy with emotion.
‘Please tell me you won't be away for long,’ I replied, in equally strained tones.
‘I'll be back straight after New Year. I promise.’
When we were all finished, Ben and I could only watch as our lovers reluctantly tore themselves away from us and got into their cars and started them, before backing out of the parking spaces.
With a wave and a blast of the horn, Samantha was the first to leave, followed soon after by Guy, who did the same, leaving Ben and me standing on the sidewalk.
We were now alone, but we did still have each other, which was something at least, and as we watched them drive away in separate directions, Ben asked, ‘How come neither of us have a car yet?’
‘Dunno,’ I answered, ‘but I reckon at least one of us needs one. And you're the only one of us who has a license so far, so I guess it should really be you!’
‘Well? Am I right, or not?’