Thursday 23 May 2024

Whispering Trees by Susan Smith, double shot iced coffee

Driving towards the town of Nannup I’m feeling good.  It is after all a glorious autumn day.  The terrible draining burning heat of summer well behind me for another year.  Windows down, no need for music, the scenery around me so aesthetic it's almost too much.  Acres of paddocks backing onto forests, the April rains turning the dry dead fields into a soon to be lush green. My little Lancer is packed up neatly.  The boot is full of cooler bags of food and a box of tinned goods and a fifteen-litre bottle of water along with three six-packs of one litre bottles of the lifesaving substance.  On the back seat are my two canvas duffle bags with clothes, boots and toiletries and reading material.  I’m well prepared.  I have even taken out RAC Roadside Assistance Insurance for one year.  I have booked and paid for the cabin for two weeks.  I did this online and did not even have to speak to anyone.  Business is done like that these days.  Very unintimate.  The keys to my cabin will be in a steel key box attached to the porch that has a code which I was given when my payment went through and is where I have been asked to return them when I leave.  Doesn’t seem that I’ll even meet or hear from the owners of the cabin which suits me fine.

I’m aroused.  I change into third gear slowing my speed to fifty and touch myself whilst steering with my left hand.  It doesn’t take me long to climax.  What a release.  Multitasking at its best.

Stopping in Nannup for a coffee break I notice that the Sunday markets are on.  I’m treating myself today so instead of my usual skinny cap I buy a double shot iced coffee.  This will keep me going for the rest of the drive out to Beedelup where my cabin is.  Slugging this down I decide to wander around the market stalls.  To my delight I come to a stall of hand knitted goods.  Hats, scarves, tops and toys.  I buy a purple and cream beanie which I do not need and a hedgehog which I feel I do need.  Choosing a golden coloured one I think about my dad.  When I was a child, he started to nickname me hedgehog nose.  As I was growing and changing, my facial structure along with this my nose did take on the look of a hedgehog.  A very cute hedgehog nose, so I was not offended by this new nickname.  It was really a term of endearment.  I still miss my dad even though he has been gone for twelve years now.  Still thinking about my dad I head back to my car.

‘Hey Angie!’ I hear someone call out my name.

Oh no’ I think to myself, the last thing I want is to run into anybody I know.  I berate myself for strolling the markets even though I’m thrilled about the hedgehog.  I need to be more careful.  As I turn around to see who it is I relax a little.  It’s Jemima from an old Bible Study group I was in.  Shit’, I’d forgotten that she’d moved out here to Nannup.

‘Hello Jemima’.  I wait for her to speak, on my guard.

‘What are you doing out here Angie?’  Jemima is checking me out from head to toe.  She has a habit of doing this. 

‘Just come out for a day trip to check out the markets, get out of Bunbury for the day. How are you? Liking living out here?’

Jemima seems satisfied with my lie and tells me about life living on a small property in Nannup.  After fifteen minutes of listening to her talking I have had enough.  I’m going to have to lie to her again.  Waiting for her to take a break in breath I say,

‘I better get going Jemima, I’ve been here for hours already. Got to get back to town’.

‘Ok Angie, good to see you. Have a safe drive home. Good to see you're staying out of trouble’.

How would she know?

‘See you around,’ I wave goodbye and deliberately walk slowly towards my car.  I can feel her eyes watching me and I want to appear casual. I place my golden hedgehog on the dashboard of my car and get going.  Regretting stopping in Nannup except for Hedgy I drive towards my destination.  The little wood cabin awaits.  And in a couple of days my married lover.

One hour later I arrive at Beedelup.  I’m unfamiliar with the area having only been out this way, once for the day ten years ago though despite this I find my cabin quite easily.  It is delightful.  Nestled in amongst the Karri and gum trees it appears to be made of Jarrah wood.  Its smaller than what I thought it would be though this doesn’t bother me.  There is a rainwater tank which is to service all the water amenities.  I notice some solar panels on the tin roof.   I find my keys in the box with no trouble and let myself in.  There are four rooms, I walk straight into a kitchen with a dining table and of to the right is a comfortable looking three-seater and one small armchair serving as the lounge room with a small pot belly stove in the corner.  There is chopped wood stacked in a cast iron tub.  Off a passageway a bedroom on the left with a queen size bed and a wardrobe and dresser.  I touch the sheets.  Olive in colour and to my delight linen.  I have never slept on linen sheets in my life.  A bathroom with basin, shower and copper bathtub.  The copper bathtub is a luxurious touch.  Then, a small room out the back with a washing machine and old-style concrete basin. A small veranda out the back that looks out into the forest.  I’m joyful about the cabin.  The only thing I didn’t check when I booked was phone reception.  There was none.  Shouldn’t be a problem.  I’m not much of a phone person. The gentle simplicity of it yet the touches of beauty and luxury like the burgundy-coloured Turkish rug in the sitting area and the plush rose-pink towels in the bathroom feeds my senses in all the right ways.   I feel like I’ve stepped into a different world.  Unpacking is fun and I take my time with it as I’m not expecting my lover for another two days.  This is to be our first time. 

 Drew is still up North on fifo in Tom Price.   He’ll be flying into Perth early Tuesday morning.  At thirty-one years old he is five years younger than me.  We met at an AA meeting.  It was my third meeting this round of sobriety; I noticed him as soon as I walked into the room.  He did a double take when he saw me, we locked eyes for a moment that seemed to last longer and then avoided eye contact until the end of the meeting where he came up to me and started chatting.  Swapping phone numbers in front of everyone we then wandered outside for a cigarette.  I could feel eyes on us though I didn’t care.  It felt completely natural to me.  We said our goodbyes and I watched him ride away on his motorbike.  He reminded me of a dark-haired James Dean, what with his white fitted t-shirt and blue denims and fifties style boots.  He has light brown eyes and perfectly shaped lips.  Medium height and toned arms with tattoos peeking out from his t-shirt.  AA meetings became a lot more attractive.  Sober for three years now, Drew has his life together.  He is healthy, has a good paying job, oh and yes, been married for five years to his second wife.  They share a child together and Drew has two sons from his first marriage.  After AA meetings it is common for some of us to go for a coffee and a snack afterwards.  It is called the meeting after the meeting.  Around three months into our friendship Drew and I have started to have a meeting after the meeting and the meeting.  We call it the third meeting.  When everyone drifts off from the café at the second meeting, we’ll signal each other and drive separately to our chosen spot.  After sharing cigarettes, I get into his car, and we kiss passionately whilst dry humping each other.  Sometimes we just hug.  Our hugs are full of passion and tenderness and nurture.  I have never experienced this sort of hugging with anyone else.  I highly recommend it.  Often Drew and I share our sobriety stories with each other.  I share with Drew the things I don’t share at AA meetings or with anyone else.  I have never felt this kind of acceptance from a man.  I’ve told him about my stint in prison, how I’ve only been released from my parole period quite recently and how my drug addiction led me to a life of petty crime finally catching up with me at the age of thirty-five with the judge sending me away for six months.  Drew is unfazed.  Doesn’t seem to mind or care.  I do though.  I left prison with PTSD.  Not been able to drink in prison as soon as I was released, I went on a short binge.  Thankfully my parole officer was lax in doing piss tests, so I got away with it.  However, I know that if I don’t want to end up inside again or worse rehab, I need to stay sober.  Hence, the AA meetings. 

I sleep soundly on those linen sheets and Monday morning I arise early to take a short walk around the area.  Not willing to go to far as I have no hiking gear with me and that’s not why I’m here.  Later I enjoy a bath and shave my legs.  I had a g- string Brazilian a few days ago so everything is ready and tidy down there.   Am I really going to have sex with Drew?’ I spend the rest of the day reading and eating toasted sandwiches.  I clean up after myself to make sure the cabin is spic and span.  Drew is a neat freak, probably to do with been ex-Military. 

Tuesday, I’m up early again.  I’m nervous and excited.  Now it’s only a matter of waiting until he gets here.  I’m expecting him around midday.  I try reading my book, to distract myself, though this doesn’t work.  Make myself several cups of tea.  Midday comes and goes.  By mid-afternoon I’m sitting on the porch staring at the creaking trees and listening to every sound.  I’m a jumble of nerves.  Come sundown I feel sick.  I can’t even ring or text him.  I don’t want to drive into the nearby small town to get reception in case he does show up and I don’t like driving in the dark.  Finally, I go inside and lock the door.  Out of habit make another tea.  I feel scared, worried something may have happened to him.  I take a shower trying to make myself feel better and get into bed.  Listening for the sound of his car; it does not arrive.  All I can hear are the trees rustling.  I cannot sleep so get up and find my handbag which holds my stash of Xanax which my doctor prescribes me to manage PTSD.  This helps calm me and I eventually sleep.  When I wake I feel hollow in my tummy.  I take another Xanax.  I need to stay calm.  Not panic or let anxiety overtake me.  A cup of hot coffee helps and some vegemite toast.  Sitting in the comfortable armchair I assess the situation.  I need to call him.  I’ll give it until midday then if it’s still a no-show I’ll drive into town.  Taking my empty plate and mug to the sink I feel something underfoot.  I know what it is even before I look down.  My spectacles.  They’re fucked. The frame is mangled, I try to bend them back into shape with no avail. I can’t see words clearly or use my phone without them and don’t have a spare.  I’m going to have to go into town now and hunt some magnifying glasses down.  I’m pissed off with myself, as they were my prescription ones, cost me nearly two hundred dollars.

The old timber town of Pemberton is seven kilometres away from my cabin.  Its only ten o’clock but my plan has now changed.  I need eyeglasses.  I scribble what I hope is a legible note and leave it on the kitchen table just in case, grab my keys and handbag and leave the door unlocked for him.  One can live in hope.

 Parking my car in a shady spot at the top end of the tiny town I go straight to the pharmacy to find some specs.  I buy a grey coloured level three for eight dollars.  Back in my car I turn on my phone which starts pinging.  Half a dozen missed calls and text messages.

Call me.

 I’m sorry.

Please call me when you can.

You get the idea.  Taking a deep breath I hit the call button.  He answers on the fifth ring.  I’m counting.  I let him speak first.

‘Angie, I’ve been frantic’.  For some reason him saying my name softens me.  I’m going to play this sweet.  I don’t want to lose him.

‘Hey Drew, I’m sorry there’s no reception at the cabin.’

Thought it was something like that.’  I hear him moving into a different room and closing the door.

‘Angie I’m so sorry baby girl, for letting you down.’

I don’t know what to say.   I take a sip of water.

‘Umhu.’

‘My wife became suspicious and started giving me a hard time, threatening and saying all kinds of shit.’

He would never use her name around me.  It was always my wife or the wife.  I stalked her once.  Found out through general conversations over time with other AA members her first name and where she worked.  A big shop that sells just about everything and bought an item through her cash register.  There she was, wearing a name badge.  I wanted to see what the wife looked like, that’s all.

‘Are you going to be able to come at all?  I’ve paid for the cabin for two weeks up front.’

'I can’t, too risky, look I’ve got to go; can we talk this out when you get back?’

Again, I don’t know what to say so hit the end call button.

I drive straight back to the cabin. I don’t trust myself.  I have a horrible craving all over me to have a drink.  I rant and rave all the way back like a mad woman, smashing my fist into the dashboard over and over driving at brake neck speed.  Back at the cabin somehow unharmed I start packing and throwing my things around the cabin.  I’m out of control, I need to get a grip. Finally, I fall on the bed exhausted and weep myself to sleep. 

When I wake it is sundown.  I feel terrible though I force myself to get off the bed and lock up.  I’m not going anywhere tonight.  Like a zombie I make myself a tea and toast.  I’ve gone into automatic mode.  Shower, pop a Xanax then back into bed.  Tomorrow’s another day. 

Next morning I feel surprisingly ok.  Still, I did all the right things.  Eating, showering, medicating and sleeping.  I’m a strong person and have learnt how to take care of myself including times of emotional crisis.  I feel quite proud of myself.  I didn’t drink.  It would have been so easy to have gone down that route. I have made it through the initial worst part, and I am now both relieved and grateful. 

I’m not heartbroken.  Thank goodness.  Do I love Drew?  Yes.  Am I in love with Drew?  Yes.  Will I be OK if we don’t end up together?  Yes.  Do I believe he will leave his wife for me?  No.   I enjoy the cabin for the remainder of the two weeks.  I take long baths and cook for myself delicious healthy meals.  In the evenings I light the pot belly stove.  I explore the gorgeous little town of Pemberton. I visit the sixty-one-metre-high Gloucester Tree though I do not climb it.  I’m scared of heights. I read and take short walks around the area. I feel like the trees have become my friends. At nighttime in bed before sleep I listen to them whispering their great wisdom to me.  I would like to stay here forever.

It’s time to go home, back to Bunbury.  Packing up the car I say goodbye to the cabin which has looked after me so well.  I say goodbye to the trees who have comforted me.  As I drive away, I am deeply grateful for the time spent here.  I won’t be contacting Drew again.  I’ll go to AA meetings in one of the surround towns.  It will entail more driving and fuel costs but that’s OK.  I’m going to be just fine.

 

About the author 

Susan grew up in Scotland, England and Sydney. She lives in Western Australia and enjoys reading, writing for fun and hiking the local bush and coastal trails. 

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