Today I’m sharing an excerpt from my debut novel Blackwattle Lake. In this scene the main character Eve, accompanied by her best mate Banjo the kelpie, makes a visit to town and discovers that keeping a low profile isn’t going to be as easy as she’d hoped.
‘Angie Flanagan. Long time, no see.’
Eve’s feet were rooted to the floor. Her knees locked
and her stomach flipped. She pictured the face before she
turned around, but when she did the image of the scruffy
blond farm boy she’d imagined hardened into that of the
handsome, solid man who stood before her. Thankfully,
it wasn’t the face she’d anticipated.
‘Grant.’ She said his name in such a hush of relief that
she didn’t even know if he’d heard her. They stood looking
at each other, not speaking.
‘You two know each other, then?’ the older man asked.
Grant answered first. ‘Yeah. Yeah, we do. Tom, this is
Angie Flanagan – Nell’s daughter.’
‘Oh, right.’ Eve could tell by the lilt in Tom’s voice and
the nodding of his head that he’d heard the stories. It got
her back up. She hadn’t come here to provide the town
with a new source of gossip.
‘Actually, it’s Eve now, not Angie. Eve Nicholls. Nice
to meet you.’ She reached her hand over the counter and
surprised Tom into shaking it before she turned to Grant
and did the same. ‘How’ve you been?’
‘Good. And you?’
‘Not bad. You know, clinging to the wreckage.’ She
laughed awkwardly. Her cheeks felt hot and she knew
she was blushing.
Why the fuck did I say that?
‘Sorry about your mum,’ said Grant. ‘Things won’t be
the same around here without her. Shame you couldn’t
make it back for the funeral.’
Eve sighed and looked out the door to where Banjo
had taken himself to lie in the shade of the van. ‘Well, we
weren’t exactly the best of friends, Nell and I, as you know.’
‘No. But family . . . anyway. It’s good to see you again.
Jack should be here any minute – you ought to hang
around, say hi.’
‘Yeah. I assume you remember him.’ Grant gave Eve a
smirk. ‘He and I bought this business a few years back.’
Eve felt herself shrinking at the mention of Jack’s name.
The prospect of running into him right now wasn’t something
she wanted to risk.
‘Okay. Well, I can’t really stay, have to get back to the
mare, see you around. Bye, Tom.’ She grabbed the bottle
from the counter and hotfooted it to the kombi, feeling
four eyes burn into her back all the way across the car
park. She turned the key and revved the engine, reversing
and driving out, giving the two men a wave and feigning
a smile as she left.
Back on the road Eve sighed into the seat, shoved the
gearstick into second then third, getting as much distance
between herself and the town as possible.
‘Shit, Banjo. I haven’t even been back for twenty-four
hours and it’s already getting tricky. I knew it. Why can’t
people just get on with their own fucking lives and keep
their noses out of everybody else’s?’
But she already knew the answer to that question. In a
town as small as Yarrabee your business was everybody
else’s. It was part of the deal, part of the reason you lived
here – the sense of neighbourhood and community, the
sense of all for one and one for all. It was only when you
broke the code, asserted your individuality, did things the
‘town’ frowned upon, that you became a pariah. And that’s
when the whole idea of being part of something bigger
than yourself got ugly, that’s when you knew it was time
Eve pressed the button on the CD player, hoping that
music would drown out the hum of frustration in her
head. The mournful sound of Tracy Chapman flooded
through the speakers, something about an old lover, not
really what she was after. She flicked the switch and laid
Tracy to rest.
Of all the people to have bumped into on her first day
back in town, why did it have to be one of the Mitchell
brothers? But it could’ve been worse – it could’ve been Jack
behind the counter. That would’ve really topped off her
morning. Grant still looked pretty good, considering it was
twenty years on. She wondered how time had treated his
brother. There was only fourteen months between the two
of them and back then they’d looked almost like twins. All
these years she’d pictured Jack as a cute eighteen-year-old,
the age he’d been the last time she saw him. When she’d
been driving back yesterday, thinking about who might
still be around, who she might have to prepare herself to
see, Jack hadn’t even been on the list. She thought he’d
be long gone. All those hours they’d spent daydreaming
about getting out and seeing the world, leaving behind
the life of small towns and even smaller minds. And he
was still here.
The road took a sharp turn. Eve slowed down, realising
she’d taken the long way back from town without meaning
to. Funny how the brain can switch into autopilot. If she’d
known sooner she would have stopped and turned around,
but now it would double the length of the trip. She steeled
herself for the words on the sign up ahead, tried to focus
on the road. But she didn’t have to look to know what it
said: Blackwattle Lake.
Her fingers tightened around the steering wheel as she
accelerated. She turned the music back on and pressed
‘random’, hoping for something more upbeat to take her
mind off the past. P!nk’s ‘Funhouse’. That was better.
She wound down the window and let the wind stream
through, blowing her hair all over the place as she sang.
The crisis had been averted, no harm had been done and
the sun was shining. In fact, the closer she got to being
back at the farm and around the horses the calmer she
felt. Until the chorus started up, and she remembered she
had her own collection of evil clowns in the closet.
She flicked the stereo off again and drove home in
Blackwattle Lake is available for Kindle at Amazon: http://tinyurl.com/aazqvbh
In paperback: Booktopia:http://tinyurl.com/b2248vy
Also available at Dymocks, Unleash, Target and Big W or ask your local bookstore to order a copy
Read 5 star reviews of Blackwattle Lake at Goodreads here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15853652-blackwattle-lake