Chapter 2 Surprise and regret

Written by: Suraya Dewing

She had a quick sip then offered the bottle back saying how much she appreciated the drink. She leaned back and let the shifting sunlight play on her closed eyes.

In that enclosed hub of trees she felt as if she had entered another world and nothing really mattered any more.

Her companion stood and shrugged on his back pack.

“You’ll be fine,” he said. “Sometimes it’s good to be alone.”

Her eyes flew open. He was just starting to walk away when she said, “Wait.” He turned and gave a half smile.

“Sometimes you can be surrounded by people and still be lost.”

Unable to think of what to say in reply, she watched him tramp away into the bush. When the trees had swallowed him up she realised she did not know his name and sadness pinched the corners of her heart. He had seemed like a good man, sincere.

A cloud drifted over the sun and with that came a drop in the temperature.

She stood, scuffed the sand with her feet and began the walk back to the car. Her life was full of blanks she had to fill in. Those blanks were missing people – her father and Stephen. As her father’s sole heir she had inherited a house and she could live there for as long as it took to decide what she wanted to do…and therein lay the problem. What did she want to do? Once everything had seemed so clear cut. No more.

***

She pulled into the garage of the bungalow and as she turned off the motor the door closed with a rattling hum. Feeling the inevitable stirring sadness, she climbed the stairs. Since her father’s death the house always felt empty. However, as she touched the top stair she was surprised by a prickling on the back of her neck and a sense someone else was there. Sucking in air she swung quietly around the banister onto the landing.

Stephen sat in the settee in the far corner of the room.

“Hello,” he said.

She issued a startled squeal. Then, as her pounding heart settled she demanded, “What are you doing here?”  She took in a huge gulp of air and put her hands on her hips as if to steady herself. “Why aren’t you with your beautiful new love?” she demanded.

Bitterness turned her words sour.

Ducking his head, his eyes dropped, as if ashamed.

“I deserved that.” His voice was heavy with apology and regret. He stepped toward her.

She held up her hand and her long hair flew about her face as she shook her head. “No, don’t come any closer. In fact, I’d like you to leave…this minute.” She held out her hand. “And you can give me the spare key I gave you when I trusted you.”

Stephen started stuttering. “I know I don’t deserve anything better….but I’ve realised I made a terrible mistake.”

“Really?” she tossed her head disdainfully.

“I heard about your father,” he continued, faltering.

"Yes, I thought the least you could do was be there for his funeral since he helped you get into University.

Her heart flipped painfully and squeezed inside her chest.