Thank you Josh Pyke, Chet Faker, Bliss n Eso, sunshine, sand in my toes, 30+ sunscreen and the surf coast for their inspiration.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, but I do own ugg boots and about four pairs of thongs.
I can hear Mum calling me from the driveway on the other side of the house. I've probably been standing here for longer than necessary, just looking, but I just need a minute to let it all sink in.
"Coming!" I yell over my shoulder.
She and Dad are waiting at my car to see me off on my big adventure - my first step into the real world without them. I'm all packed up; twenty-four years of belongings stuffed into my tiny two-door Barina. Clothes, knick-knacks, books, bedding - everything I own is shoved into any available space in the car. There's stuff on the roof, in the boot, on the back seat; it's piled up so high I can't see through the back window.
Inhaling, I savour the scent of the eucalyptus trees and dry earth; the smell of the land, the smell that's drifted in my bedroom window since forever. The high pitched keening of Cicadas buzzes loudly around me, punctuated by the cackle of a kookaburra overhead, hidden somewhere in the canopy above me.
It's almost one in the afternoon and the sun is at its hottest; oppressive and stifling. I'll miss the crunch of dry leaves and dirt under my feet. I'll miss the feeling of the sun on my skin; blazing hot and burning across my shoulders and the back of my legs.
"Come on, Bella! Chop, chop!" yells my mum again, clapping her hands together.
"I'm coming!" I yell. "Jesus."
I frown, letting a gum leaf crumble between my fingers, the scent of eucalyptus staining my skin.
My thongs scuff the dirt as I walk around the house, taking in its white weatherboards one more time.
For the past few weeks I've been too excited to be nervous. And now, standing on the precipice of my future – I'm absolutely shitting myself. I've lived in the same house since I was born, been in the same bedroom since I can remember, played chasey and stuck-in-the-mud with my neighbour Jake Black since we were six. But now I'm twenty-four, almost twenty-five, and it's time to be an adult. It's time to stand on my own two feet and take matters into my own hands. Take the bull by the horns and all that jazz.
So, in the interest of being mature, I've packed up all my earthly belongings and I'm going to haul ass six hours interstate to a little coastal town called Clearwater, where my aunt and uncle live. I've seen the beach once, when I was about twelve. Other than that, I know it's big and it's wet and there are sharks. To say I'm apprehensive is an understatement. I'm both excited and scared about integrating myself into the whole new lifestyle. I'm not used to cold weather or rain. I'm used to the dry heat and space of the country, to quiet streets and swimming in the river. I grew up getting dirty, getting busted knees, and racing Jake to the fence and back. I mean, don't get me wrong, I don't live hundreds of kilometers from civilisation, I don't ride kangaroos or have a pet wallaby, and I don't throw freaking shrimps on barbies. I live in Forks, a small country town like any other. We even have a Target.
Okay, it's Target Country, but whatever.
I drive a piece of shit Holden Barina that I paid for by working my ass off for my dad, and the last time I saw a kangaroo was on the side of the road. Dead. But the problem is that as much as I love Forks, I have to get the fuck out.
Mum's standing beside the car while Dad finishes strapping some things to the roof. Since making the decision to leave town she's been pretty supportive, although I'm pretty sure she's going to turn my bedroom into a sewing room the minute I'm out of the driveway.
"You okay, sweetie?" she asks, a hand on her hip as the other shields her eyes from the sun. Wrapping an arm over my shoulder, she pulls me into her side.
I shrug, crossing my arms over my chest, pressing my lips together and suppressing the urge to cry.
"Yeah, I'm fine."
Unlike mum, I'm not an emotional person. I'm much more like dad; we're stoic, bottle-it-up-and-smile kind of people.
"You got the map?" asks Dad, checking the tires for the second time.
"And your phone's got battery?"
"Did you call Aunt Jessie to let her know you're coming today?"
"Yes!" Both Mum and I answer. Dad's head pops up from the under the hood, the dipstick in his hand. Grunting and mumbling under his breath, he wipes it once and shoves it back in, letting the hood slam closed.
"Call us when you get there, okay?"
I nod, giving Mum a quick hug, and Dad one of those awkward, one-armed embraces.
He's not much of a hugger. Weddings, funerals, and occasionally when he's had one too many beers, which even then is weird. Mum's the opposite; she hugs everyone. She'd hug the bloody postie if he wasn't on a motorbike. Even then, if he's not quick off the mark I'm sure she'd chase him down.
Squeezing myself into the person-sized space left in my car, I plug my iPod into my awesome new stereo – a birthday gift from Jake. My speakers are shit, and he had to cut into my dashboard to make the CD player fit, but it means I don't have to listen to crappy mainstream radio, or even worse – ABC talkback.
"Safe trip," says Dad, tapping his hand on the roof as he closes the door for me.
With a gulp and a deep breath, I start the car and roll slowly down the driveway, watching my Mum and Dad wave goodbye in my rear view mirror. Turning out onto the highway makes my chest tight all of a sudden, and as I turn onto the road, the fear that's been creeping in since I woke up hits me full force, and I want nothing more than to turn the car around, run back inside, and jump back into my old bed. Of course, my iPod chooses that moment to play a particularly sappy song, and tears begin to well in the corners of my eyes. I wipe them away with the palm of my hand, but as soon as I wipe one away, another falls, and then my hands are all wet and it's not making a difference.
You can do this, Bella! Don't be a chicken.
I can't do this.
Yes I can.
Oh, fuck. I'm not ready.
Slamming on the brakes, my car skids to a halt just metres outside the front gate. I fist my trembling hands in my lap, shaking them out as my knee jiggles under the steering wheel.
How do I know if a chicken is cooked all the way through?
How much fabric softener do I put in the washing machine?
Are you supposed to iron undies?
Swinging the driver's side door open, I leap out of the car and break into a jog, my thongs flip-flapping against the soles of my feet. My parents are still standing in the same spot, my dad rubbing my mum's back as she pats a tissue to the corner of her eyes, sniffling. The front of my shoe catches on the ground, and I almost fall ass over tit, but regain my footing as I reach them. Mum steps forward as I get to her, and I throw myself into her arms. Squeezing me tight, she rocks us from side to side as I take deep breaths, inhaling her familiar scent; lavender body wash and that stupid Vaseline body cream she slathers on every morning.
"Oh, Bella. You'll be fine," she whispers. "You can do this."
I nod, pulling away a little as she cradles my face in her hands. Her bright blue eyes look back at me, her pale skin, patchy and weathered from years of farm work, blotchy and red from her tears. She smiles, her eyes crinkling at the sides, and I smile back, hugging her tight one more time.
"Love you, too," I reply, taking a step back.
Dad shuffles beside me, looking uncomfortable as he adjusts his hat.
Ignoring his discomfort, I swing my arms up and around his neck, burying my face in his flannel-covered chest. Clearing his throat, he pats my back gently. I can feel his voice rattling through his chest as I press the side of my face against him, holding him tight.
Letting myself drop back to the ground, I stuff my hands in the back pocket of my shorts. Dad has this strange bashful look on his face as he rubs a hand over his bushy cheek.
"Make sure you visit, okay?" he says gruffly.
"Quick, go," says Mum, shooing me. "Before I get all mushy again."
Walking backwards, feeling a little calmer than I did a moment ago, I take one last look at my parents, wishing I had a camera to capture this last moment; the huge old farmhouse behind them, the green-grey of the gum trees around it, my parents; smiling calmly like their only daughter isn't about to step into the big bad world alone for the first time.
It takes me a few minutes to start the car again. Twice I move to turn the key in the ignition, but stop, letting my hands fall on my lap again.
You can do it.
My fingers move to the ignition, the car starts, and with a heavy foot on the accelerator, my car lurches into motion again, and I'm off.
Thank you to Meg and Tiff; back on board to help like the wonderful girls they are. To twinlove Thimbles, and riot grrrl Luvrofink - my awesome prereaders.