Salvage, p.6

Salvage, страница 6



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  Helena’s breath gusted hot on her cheek and throat. They clung as the storm raged against the concrete. Helena’s hands moved to Melanie’s hips, her ribs, her breasts.

  The touch stole Melanie’s breath. Helena caressed her, gentle but needful, unlike Richard’s rampant pawing. Melanie felt her legs go weak even as her nipples hardened.

  Helena’s hands plucked at Melanie’s t-shirt, lifting the cloth, cool fingers brushing bra and breast. Her fingers moved lower, across Melanie’s stomach, angling towards her groin.

  ‘Oh God, I’ve got my period,’ Melanie whispered.

  ‘I know.’

  Helena’s lips were on her throat, her collarbone, back to her throat, teasing at her flesh. Lightning flashed, painting the walls and floor with brightness, finding old splashes of graffiti, the suggestion of litter around the charred circle of a long-extinct fire.

  A man’s voice called from outside.

  Richard! A torch beam flashed against the stone.

  The women broke apart, forehead to forehead, as Melanie smoothed her clothes with panicked thrusts, then scrambled to button her over-shirt.

  ‘Do you mind?’ Helena whispered, her voice so fragile against the tumult of the wind and rain.

  ‘No, not at all,’ Melanie said. ‘It was just … just the storm. Don’t worry about it.’ She stepped away as Richard’s voice boomed again from the doorway.

  She squinted in the beam of his flashlight as he entered the room. Helena threw up a hand protectively.

  ‘There you are.’ He wiped water from his face and flicked it away. ‘Didn’t you hear me calling?’

  ‘We were just getting out of the storm,’ Helena said. ‘Can you see my hat? I dropped it.’

  ‘How did you know where we were?’ Melanie asked, folding her arms across her chest. The air seemed colder for Helena’s absence. Her lips and mouth still tingled.

  ‘I bumped into Jack up at the cabin. He said you were heading this way and I thought I might be able to give you a lift. It’s pissing down out there. Anyway, let’s go. Don’t want you girls catching your death.’

  Helena laughed, her hand brushing Melanie’s hip as she followed them outside. ‘No,’ she said, ‘that’s the last thing we want to do.’


  The wipers battled to keep the windshield clear as rain drummed on the roof. The silver laser beams of their headlights jagged as the Jeep bounced along the wheel ruts in the island road. Melanie huddled in the passenger seat, her saturated hair dripping down her back. She quivered as branches scratched along the sides and roof of the vehicle. Richard wrestled with the wheel while trying to shout a conversation with Helena, who sat in the back seat behind Melanie.

  He was looking over his shoulder a lot, Melanie thought; she wished he’d concentrate on the road. The sand was notoriously slippery, the track narrow and the rain and wind altogether too scary. She felt sure every time he glanced past her to Helena he must be seeing marks where the woman had touched her. Had kissed her.

  God, what had they been thinking? What had she been thinking?

  She was saturated—they’d all taken a soaking getting to the Jeep—and cold and confused, trying to decide if she was thankful or disappointed that he’d arrived when he had, and what either would mean. Helena wasn’t showing any sign of similar confusion, managing to answer Richard’s barrage of inquiries despite the racket inside the cab.

  By the time they drove past the turnoff to Eden, he’d managed to find out that Helena was from Europe, was married, was visiting Australia for the first time and loved the island.

  By the time they’d reached Helena’s, he was inviting her and Paul to dinner. An SUV was parked near the cabin; light glowed behind the curtained windows.

  ‘What do you say?’ he asked. ‘Tomorrow night?’

  ‘I will have to ask Paul, but I would like it. Thank you for the drive.’ She leaned forward to touch Melanie’s shoulder. ‘Thank you for a lovely afternoon. I hope we can see each other again soon. If not for dinner, then another time.’

  ‘I’d like that,’ Melanie mumbled. She noticed Richard’s gaze, lingering on Helena’s dress, the dark points of her nipples clearly pressing through the saturated material, and wondered if her own body was betraying her recent, surprising dalliance. Maybe he would pass it off as a result of the cold.

  Rain gusted in as Helena pushed the door open and stepped out, the cab rocking with the impact as the door slammed shut. They watched the white figure run on tiptoes to the stairs and pause to wave from the deck before vanishing inside.

  ‘Nice girl,’ Richard said.


  ‘Good to see you making a friend, Mel. It’ll be nice to have a proper chat, hey?’


  ‘Everything all right?’

  ‘Other than being soaked and freezing, it’s all good.’

  ‘Home then. Let’s get you out of those clothes.’

  She shuddered, but then realised he hadn’t intended any innuendo. Richard concentrated on driving as he pushed the vehicle into gear and spun a tight circle, spearing them back into the night and rain, heading for Eden.

  Melanie stood in the shower, luxuriating in the fall of steaming water over her shoulders and back. The bathroom door opened, the sound faint amid the hum of rain on the roof, the splash of the shower.

  Richard pulled the shower door open. ‘Got enough room for me?’

  His slick hair glistened. He’d taken his shirt off in expectation, or maybe just because it was saturated.

  ‘Sure,’ she said, stepping back from the stream to hide her naked front. Had she really let Helena grope her in that sordid bunker? Had she really welcomed that attention? No chance of getting pregnant, she thought, and bit it down, aware of Richard, now naked, stepping in, studying her. ‘I’m almost done, anyway,’ she added.

  ‘What’s this?’ he asked, a hand nudging her hair from her shoulder.

  ‘What’s what?’ God, the panic in her voice!

  ‘A scratch. It’s bleeding.’ He kissed it.

  ‘Probably a sandfly bite.’ She couldn’t see it, but felt a gentle sting where his lips touched her nape.

  ‘Hm, I haven’t noticed any. Not tonight. Not with all that rain.’

  ‘Maybe it was from earlier. Damn things never heal cleanly.’ She held herself still, his touch refreshing the recent memory of Helena’s lips and fingers, and her body’s urgent response.

  She flinched as she felt Richard’s hardening cock press against her. Forced herself to relax, to just let go. His hands circled to grasp her breasts, roll her nipples between his finger and thumb. Pleasure shot through her. A sigh escaped her lips. She put her hands against the wall, the shower spilling down her back, and opened her legs. Then slammed them shut.

  ‘Oh shit, oh shit,’ she said as he pushed against her. ‘My period.’

  He paused, reluctantly, quivering, then pulled back. ‘Timing, Mel.’

  She rounded on him. ‘I didn’t plan it this way.’

  ‘Of course not. That’s not… Oh, fuck.’ He leaned back, hand to his forehead. His rampant cock speared from the nest of his pubic hair.

  ‘Can you wait a minute? We are in the shower.’

  He peered back, face runnelled with water, cheeks red, eyes lustful. He nodded.

  She stepped out, not caring about the water she sloshed on the bathroom floor, and crouched over the toilet. The tampon came out scarlet. She ransacked the cabinet for sanitary bags and dropped the packet in the little swing-top bathroom bin. Blood spotted her fingers and she rinsed them under the sink. When she’d finished, Richard was out of the shower with his towel around his shoulders.

  Her confidence deflated, punctured by disappointment.

  He handed her a towel. ‘Come to bed.’ His cock still arrowed towards her.

  ‘Are you sure?’

  ‘Don’t worry about it.’ He led her out to the bed and ripped the covers back. He towelled off, then rubbed her down. Slowly.
Her nipples tightened. He patted down her back, her arms, her legs. Then moved her towards the bed. She lay down, hair wet on the pillow, as he crouched over her and nuzzled at her ear. The scent of bore water clung to his hair. He ran his tongue over her breasts, her stomach. He kissed her scar and she almost cried.

  He manoeuvred his cock between her legs.

  She was tight at first, dry, then flowing as he slipped deeper. His rhythm picked up, his testicles slapping against her as he pushed himself deeper. She sighed in time, her hands on his back, his neck, tangling in his hair, pulling him close, her eyes squeezed shut, concentrating on the sensation. She felt her climax rising and panic surged with it. She saw the image of her daughter, and her legs convulsed, her stomach heaved. Richard paused. And Helena appeared in her mind’s eye, her lips on hers in that heady, confusing moment. Richard rammed into her, igniting her clitoris, and she lost herself in the raw need.

  Later, she went and cleaned up, then came back to bed, dodging the stain of blood and cum on the sheet to cuddle Richard.

  Lust still tingled between her legs.

  Richard stirred. ‘It’s nice to have you back, honey,’ he murmured.

  She pecked his cheek. ‘It’s a start, isn’t it?’

  He nodded. ‘Maybe in the morning…’

  ‘Maybe.’ She kissed him again. Outside, the rain continued to fall.


  Richard got up early to check his email, leaving her with a kiss on the forehead to drowse. She smelled coffee brewing, heard him cursing quietly as the modem warbled into the phone line. She rolled away from the glare of bright sunlight in the window and pushed her knees together with the memory of her husband between her legs. Was this the first step, the first real step, towards finding their way back?

  She propped herself on one elbow, found him watching her over the raised screen of his laptop, and shared a smile. It was, she thought, the perfect moment. He stood and she felt her smile widen. He wore his threadbare t-shirt from a Bali holiday years ago, its pattern faded to inscrutable, and plain white boxer shorts.


  She nodded and fluffed a pillow in preparation, then settled back to watch him pour percolated into a mug. He padded towards her, a mug in each hand, the front of his shorts suggesting more than coffee on his mind. She’d have to go to the bathroom. Last night had been quick, urgent. This morning would be slow, tender rediscovery. Her pulse quickened. She cursed her period for its graceless timing. She didn’t want anything to stand between her and Richard, not this morning. It had always been a no-go zone for him in the past. Last night had been a welcome revelation.

  The bed sagged a little as he kneeled and handed her a cup. His made a dull thunk on the side table.


  Melanie flinched. Coffee slopped but didn’t spill. She hadn’t heard anyone arrive. Richard scowled. She pulled her knees up, the sheet across her chest, and cradled her mug as he stood and walked to the door. A shadow hovered on the other side.

  ‘Jack,’ Richard said, loud enough for her to hear, and then lowered his voice to a mumble.

  She strained to hear their conversation as a blush burned her cheeks. Checking in on the patient? She didn’t need the reminder of her … misadventure … of Sunday night. A flash of yellow caught her eye: Helena’s dress, waiting to be washed. Helena. The brush of her lips. One hand felt the fly bite on her neck. Her heartbeat accelerated; a cramp pushed through her belly.

  ‘Bugger,’ Richard said, jerking her attention. The men were still at the door, Jack’s floppy fisherman’s cap just visible past Richard’s shoulder.

  ‘Hope he shows up … I’ll tell her … sleeping in.’ Louder: ‘See you later, Jack.’ He shut the door and walked back to sit on the side of the bed.

  ‘What did Jack want?’ she asked as he leaned over her.

  ‘Just seeing if we needed anything after the storm.’


  He nuzzled her cheek. ‘Wanted to know if we’d seen Friday. Ran off during the storm, apparently.’

  She pulled back a little so she could see his eyes, but his gaze was focused on her breasts under the sheet. ‘I saw Friday yesterday. He was acting strange, barking and what-have-you.’

  ‘He’ll turn up,’ Richard said as he homed in on her throat, his hands pawing at her shoulders.

  ‘Well, I hope so. Jack loves that dog.’

  ‘I’m sure he will. I mean, it’s an island. Where could he have gone?’

  Liquid heat burst across her stomach. Richard shouted, ‘Bloody hell,’ as she leapt up, throwing yet more of her coffee over them both. And then the cup by the bed was flying, spilling, taking the reading lamp with it.

  Richard stood by the bed, flinging coffee from his hands, his shirt and shorts muddy, as Melanie pushed at the sheets.

  ‘You got both cups: that must be some kind of record.’ She stretched across the bed to put her dripping mug on his bedside table.

  ‘It was an accident, Mel.’

  ‘I know, I know. I wasn’t blaming you.’

  ‘I just … fuck it. I need to clean up this mess.’

  ‘Here, I’ll help.’ She extricated herself as he went to the kitchen. She knotted a towel from last night around her chest. The lamp was intact, but the bedside table and floor were splattered with coffee. ‘The sheets needed a wash anyway.’

  ‘Yeah.’ He threw paper towel on the floor and dabbed it with his foot.

  ‘It’s okay, Richard. I’ll handle it. Put on a fresh batch, hey?’

  ‘Fine. Sorry. Thanks.’

  He stalked to the wardrobe for fresh clothes, then back to the kitchen. She mopped up, stripped the bed, showered.

  When she emerged, there was fresh coffee brewing, and a bunch of withered flowers on the pillow.

  ‘What are these?’ she asked.

  Richard, engrossed in his laptop, looked up and offered a goofy smile. ‘I found them with the groceries. I forgot about them in all the rush last night. For you,’ he said. ‘I’m sorry, they didn’t have roses.’

  She buried her nose in the drooping blooms; the smell reminded her a little of Helena. ‘That’s really sweet, Richard. Thank you.’ She’d been getting it on with a stranger and he’d been buying her flowers. Great. ‘I’ll put them in water. Are you having a shower?’

  ‘Leanne’s sent through the revisions for Mackenzie.’


  ‘Damn dial up’s making it bloody annoying. It’s taking forever to download. But listen: once I’ve signed off on these, how about we go down to the village, maybe grab a counter lunch? I’ll be ready for a drink by then. Besides, I’ll need to stock up if the neighbours are coming for dinner.’

  She put the flowers on the kitchen bench so she could hug him from behind, delighting in the feel of his chest, his back, the smell of his hair. It reminded her of their early days. If only he hadn’t invited Helena and Paul to dinner. She didn’t want anything to interfere with their fledgling reconciliation. She certainly didn’t want to see Helena again, not until she’d had time to make sense of it all.

  He patted her hands, crossed over his chest, without breaking his concentration. Schematics inched across the screen, unintelligible white lines on a blue background.

  ‘I might go down the beach,’ she said. ‘Leave you to your swearing.’

  He laughed, the sound rumbling through his chest, the vibration triggering a ripple of pleasure across her skin.

  ‘Don’t get burnt.’

  ‘I’ll be careful, Dad.’ The word jagged through her and she paused. His hand held hers, squeezed.

  ‘I won’t be too long, Mel. Once this is done, it’s just you and me for the rest of the week. Promise.’

  She was quietly thrilled to feel his gaze sweep her as she changed her clothes. She kissed him on the cheek before she patted her straw hat onto her head. ‘See you for lunch. Don’t work too hard.’

  Armed with beach towel, book and sunscreen, she stepped out onto the deck. There
was no sign of last night’s storm, the sky a brilliant azure, pale clouds stretched like frayed cotton across the horizon. A slight breeze tempered the heat of the sunshine.

  Through the glass door, she saw him punch a number into the landline, then heard him say, ‘Leanne’. She paused. ‘She’s fine. Just going to sunbake.’ He waved, the phone to his ear. She waved back. He started to talk about a foyer and she walked away. Damn that she had called him Dad; it just slipped out. She recalled the sex from last night, the cramps of this morning, the blood on the sheet. It wasn’t too late, she told herself. He’d finish his stupid building and then they could start over. Everything would be just fine.

  She stayed longer than she intended to, huddled in the shade of a whispering sheoak, its fallen needles making a soft carpet. She’d dipped her toes in the receding tide, feeling a shiver as she remembered her nocturnal swim, trying to reconcile the woman of that night with the one who stood here now. Small steps, she told herself. Small steps, back to Richard and the way they’d been. Moreton Island shimmered in a haze, gulls cried overhead, the surf sighed. Barnacles dotted the beacon’s pole; two cormorants perched atop it.

  Give Richard time to sort out his contractual mess, she told herself. Don’t rush things.

  She finished her book, glad to escape into its fiction and not worry about her own dilemmas; drowsed in the warmth; waved away the occasional fly. The bite on her neck itched and when she rubbed it, her fingers came away streaked with blood. She considered washing it with salt water, but stayed on her towel, lulled to lassitude by the heat and the surf.

  Finally hunger drove her to her feet. She wrapped her sarong around her hips, did the buttons of her blouse up over her bathing suit, slipped her feet into her sandals. Maybe she should paint her nails. She hadn’t for months, not since she’d fallen pregnant. Maybe it was time.

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