Catching Onix, p.4Renee Conoulty
* * *
Grace drove to the far end of the Esplanade and found a parking space. Yesterday, they’d paced up and down the street where Jackson had caught the Onix, but to no avail. She’d agreed to meet Jackson in the city, for Finn. Anything to see a smile light up his face. Nothing to do with seeing Jackson’s smile. Or his eyes. Nope. Nothing to do with him.
Finn raced off ahead towards the war memorial. A sudden urge to run swept over Grace, but she pushed it aside and continued walking.
“Hi, JBoy.” Finn gave him a high five.
The three of them walked side by side along the path. Grace watched on as the boys madly swiped at their screens.
“How far are we gonna walk today? Can we go another kilometre? I’ve nearly hatched my ten-k egg and it might be an Onix.”
“Sure. We can go right to the other end of the Esplanade if you like.” Grace turned to Jackson. “Is that okay with you?”
Finn skipped ahead, flitting from one side of the path to the other.
Jackson slipped his phone into his pocket and turned to Grace. “He’s a good kid.”
“I think I spoil him a bit, but I’m doing the best I can.”
“Is it just the two of you?”
“Yep. His dad took off.”
“What brought you to Darwin?”
“It was as far from Melbourne as I could get.”
Grace nodded. “Lots of bad memories.”
“Well, I hope you’re making some better memories up here.”
Grace looked up and smiled. “I am.”
“Mum, Jackson, my egg’s hatching!”
The three of them huddled around the screen to see.
“Snorlax.” Finn’s shoulders slumped.
Grace squeezed his arm.
“Snorlax is way stronger than Onix. He’ll be much better in battles.” Jackson said.
“Yeah, I know. Can I go play in the playground for a bit, Mum?” Finn trudged over to the playground.
“Wanna sit?” Jackson gestured to a shaded park bench.
Grace sat, then realised there was no space between them to put her bag. She placed it on the other side and got her phone out. She had to keep her hands busy. Keep them in her lap. As she unlocked the screen, a familiar theme played.
“Hey, look.” Jackson reached over and tapped the screen, brushing against her fingers.
Tingles shot up her arm. Her eyes locked with his. “What?”
Grace dragged her gaze away from him. A grey snake made of rocks was bouncing up and down, grinning at her. “Finn, come here. There’s an Onix!”
Finn galloped over and snatched the phone from her outstretched hand.
Jackson reached over and squeezed her hand. “I hope he catches it.”
She squeezed back. “Me too.”
Jackson loosened his grip but didn’t take his hand away.
Grace linked her fingers through his and watched her son.
She didn’t want this one to get away.
About the Author
Renee Conoulty is an Australian Air Force wife and mother of two. When she’s not devouring books, reviewing and blogging at www.heysaidrenee.blogspot.com, or writing her own stories, Renee can be found swing dancing. Or possibly napping.
She tweets about reading and reviewing @HeySaidRenee and about writing, military life, and dancing @ReneeConoulty, but hasn’t created a handle for nap talk yet.
You can also find Renee on Facebook
Also by Renee Conoulty
Don't Mean a Thing (Got That Swing #1)
What if you finally took the lead, but life refused to follow?
Thirty-year-old introvert, Macie Harman, has finally found a career she is passionate about, and after months of training, she’s begun her new job in the Royal Australian Air Force. Leaving behind her family, friends, and the life she knew, Macie has travelled to the other side of the country where the only person she knows is Rachael, the extroverted girl she went through basic training with. Everywhere Macie goes, Rachael is there too.
While looking for a way to widen her circle of friends in her new town, Macie discovers a local swing dancing class. The jazz music captures her heart, and Matt, the sexy swing dancer, sweeps her off her feet. Matt has claimed the tropical Northern Territory as home and has no plans to leave. He loves his teaching career with its predictable routine and has a great bunch of friends. All he wants now is the right girl to make his house a home.
Military life is tougher than Macie expected, and not everyone can deal with the inevitable separations and last minute changes. Is this exciting but unpredictable life something Macie wants to fight for, or could she give it up and put down roots with Matt?
Available at your favourite ebook store
Like an emerging butterfly, I stepped into the sunlight. A new day, a new place, a new life. I barely got a chance to stretch my legs, let alone my metaphorical wings, when I stopped, struggling to breathe air so humid. I dropped my handbag on the tarmac and tore off my travel jacket. I didn’t need the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing now either, but I restrained from stripping completely.
Sweat trickled down my back as I strode towards the welcoming doors of the air-conditioned airport terminal. I knew it was the wet season, but I thought that meant water would fall from the sky, not drip from me. What on earth had I signed up for?
The terminal seemed deserted compared to the bustle of the Melbourne airport. Within ten minutes, I had my luggage and returned to the stifling humidity in search of a taxi. I found the taxi rank easily, going straight to the front of the non-existent queue.
“Where to, love?” The taxi driver asked as he loaded my bags into the boot.
“The RAAF Base.”
I climbed into the back seat and rifled through my purse for my official ID card. The sight of it made me smile. It still seemed surreal that I’d actually done it. I’d dumped my controlling boyfriend, quit my retail job, and joined the military. I ran my finger over the text. ACW Macie Harman. I was an Aircraftwoman in the Royal Australian Air Force, and I was about to start my new career. I would finally do something that mattered. I would help keep Australia safe and get to move around the country every few years. And no man would stand in my way again.
I grabbed my phone and texted Rachael to let her know I’d be there soon. Rachael and I had gone through recruits and initial employment training together. She wasn’t someone I’d usually choose to hang out with, bubbly to the point of irritation, but she was the only person I knew up here. She’d moved on base a week ago to get settled in, whereas I’d stayed in Melbourne for two weeks after Christmas so I could go to my eldest niece’s birthday party. I didn’t know if I would make it to the next one.
I stared out my window, trying to take it all in. Glimpses of a golf course. A bridge. Palm trees. Two rockets jutting up from the ground. Before I knew it, the taxi pulled into a parking space before the boom gate.
“You’ll have to walk from here, love. No taxis on the base.”
“That’s okay, I’ve got a lift.” I spotted Rachael waving from the car next to us. I passed him the military issued cab charge card and transferred my luggage into Rachael’s boot.
“Macie!” Rachael squealed, throwing her arms around me. Her blonde mane whipped into my face.“I hope you get a room in my block. Let’s go get your key.”
She shoved me towards the passenger side. I clambered in, pulling a strand of hair from my mouth. After presenting our ID cards to the security officer, Rachael drove on. The boom gate dropped behind us, closing off the civilian world.
Here we were, the Royal Australian Air Force Base Darwin, in the tropical Top End of the
Rachael pulled up outside an older building.
“Here’s admin,” she said.
“Thanks. I’ll be back in a minute or two.”
“Don’t be silly. I’ll come with you and make sure you get a good room.”
Rachael trailed into the office behind me.
“Hello. Can I help you?” The receptionist greeted.
“Yes, please. I’m ACW Macie Harman. I’m posting in today, and I need to organise my accommodation and all the other things on this list.” I unfolded the joining instructions.
“Welcome to Darwin.” She replied with a smile. She wasn’t wearing a uniform. I was surprised that not everyone who worked on the base was military.
“Can Macie have the spare room in building twenty-nine?” Rachael asked.
I mentally crossed my fingers and hoped she would say no.
The receptionist tapped away at her computer, her fingernails clicking against the keys. She paused for a moment to check something on the papers I’d given her, but the clicking noise continued. The sound came from beside me, though, not in front of me. I glanced over. Rachael was flicking her fingernails, again. Click, click, click, click. She flicked each fingernail against her thumbnail.
I mentally crossed my toes.
“Yes, that room’s still available.” She began gathering documents, and I could feel the excitement radiating from my new neighbour. “Here’s your key. You’ve been allocated room four in building twenty-nine. The room has been cleaned, and there should be a fresh set of linens folded on the end of the bed, but you will be in charge of all your laundry and cleaning from here out. Here are the mess opening times.” She pointed to a sheet of paper in the ever increasing pile. “You’re signed up for all meals on base, so your accommodation and food costs will be automatically deducted from your pay. Just scan this card on your way into the mess. Here’s the welcome pack and information about the local area.”
“Thank you.” Oh, well.
I picked up the key and the pile of papers and followed Rachael back to her car. I studied the map as she drove, trying to identify the buildings.
We drove along a street filled with large high set houses, stopping in front of one. Rachael grabbed one of my bags and led the way up the concrete steps. I took the other one and followed.
“Here’s the communal lounge room,” she said, pointing to the first room on the left. The couch was stained, as was the carpet. An old TV sat in one corner. It had seen better days. Someone had obviously tried to pretty the place up a little with two brightly coloured throw cushions, but the grunge still bore through.
“And here’s the kitchen.”
On the right was a small kitchenette. Well, it was a room with a fridge, sink, bench, and microwave. I didn’t venture past the doorway to identify the strange smell wafting towards us. It might have been a food smell once, but it definitely wasn’t food anymore. It was clear that daily inspections were reserved for recruit training.
“Here are all the bedrooms. The other girls are at work, so I’ll introduce you later. This is my room.” Rachael pointed to a door with the number two on it. “And here’s yours. We’ll be next door neighbours.” She beamed at me. I tried to grin back.
“Thanks, Rach.” I slid the key into the lock and cautiously turned it. Click. As excited as I was to see my new home, what I’d seen so far had dampened my spirits. I pushed open the door, glanced around, and sighed. Well, it could be worse.
The room seemed clean and smelt better than the kitchen at least. Whoever had cleaned the room and left the linen had also left the window open to air it out. I was glad for the fresh air but ecstatic to see the air-conditioning unit set high on the wall. Rachael pushed past me and dumped my suitcase in the middle of the floor. I followed her into my room and set my other bag beside the first.
Rachael reached for the air-conditioner remote, switching it on. “There you go. Just shut the window, and it’ll cool down in here in no time.”
Thanks, Mum. I closed the window and stood there for a moment, not sure what to do. I wanted some time to myself, just to relax after that long flight, but my room still felt like a sauna. I wasn’t sure what was more suffocating, the air or Rachael’s constant chatter. I decided I could cope with ten more minutes of Rachael.
“Can you show me the rest of this place while my room cools down?” I asked.
“Sure,” Rachael said, “Not much more to see, though.”
The bathroom was at the far end of the central hall. I’d be sharing with seven other girls. At least it wasn’t a co-ed dorm, so I didn’t run the risk of sitting on the cold porcelain bowl in the middle of the night. Enter memories of my ex-boyfriend leaving the seat up. Did the porcelain actually get cold in Darwin?
“The laundry is downstairs,” Rachael said, retracing our steps to the front door. I avoided glancing in the direction of the kitchen and descended the stairs behind her. The building was held up by a mass of round pillars. This design made the most of the breeze to cool the building back in the days before air-conditioning. Near the front of the undercover expanse was a group of plastic chairs. A bicycle was chained up to a pole. There was a washing line strung up between the beams towards the back.
Rachael walked over to a small room on the far left. “Here it is.”
The door creaked as she pushed it open. Something crunched underfoot as I walked across the concrete floor to inspect the industrial style washing machine. I shuddered at the thought of cockroach guts smeared over my shoe. I dragged my foot sideways to scrape off whatever I’d stepped in. It turned out to be spilt laundry powder. I couldn’t get the image of cockroaches out of my mind, though.
“Do you get many roaches around here?”
“Heaps. Cane toads and green tree frogs too.”
I hadn’t realised the cane toads had come this far. Urgh.
“Thanks for the tour, Rach. I’m going to head up and unpack, then I think I’ll have a nap before dinner. Can you come get me before you go to the mess?” At least by having all my meals at the mess, I had no reason to go into the kitchen.
Well, I guess I’m home.
Catching Onix by Renee Conoulty / Romance & Love have rating 2.7 out of 5 / Based on40 votes