The temperature is soaring and Sydney siders are anxious to cool their golden bods in the clean blue waters of Bondi. She steps of the bus to be caught in the hustle; impatiently she extracts herself from the crowd.
Her watch says 5:15pm, time for a few drinks at the Bondi Hotel before crossing Campbell Parade to do the leisurely stroll around the headland to Bronte’ beach.
To the north she can see the weekend market crowd winding down, heading into the evening people are thinking about a last dip in the crystal waters before dinner along the boardwalk.
Stale air rushes her senses as she crosses the threshold of the hotel, clinking glasses and somber music drowning out the happy chatter of the street.
Taking a seat at the bar she recognises the bar man and nods. Nodding back with questioning eyes he is unsure if he remembers her.
‘TEDS thanks.’ She casually drops a twenty on the bar.
He approaches, wiping his hands on a stained tea towel and smiling boldly,
‘Sure thing.’ Giving her an appreciative wink he turns to the low fridges behind the bar, stocked to brimming in anticipation of the beaches emptying, tourists and locals alike piling through the doors and demanding refreshment to cool their parched tongues.
‘That’ll be 8’ with a cheeky grin the bar man pops the top of her beer and slides it across the bar.
‘Really? Prices gone up I see’ she takes a long draw from the neck and licks her lips.
‘I have seen you before then?’
‘Yeah, I spent abit of time here last year, came for a weekend and forgot to leave!’
‘How do you think I got here?’ the barman says, ’ Where have you been this summer then?’
‘City. Thought I should broaden my horizons.’
‘Yeah city can’t compare to Bondi.’ She sighs and takes another swig of her beer.
’You back for good then?’ The eagerness in his voice betrays his cool exterior, his hopefulness almost enticing enough for her to forget why she is here.
‘Maybe, a few more of these and I could be convinced of anything’
Harmless flirting never hurt any one she thinks, suggestively pushing her now empty beer bottle towards him and allowing him to crack open another.
Cool air blows on the back of her neck and she starts. 3 empty beer bottles now line the counter, her eager barman jokingly serenading her in the quiet of the late afternoon with a hilarious rendition of ‘99bottles of beer on the wall’.
Glancing at her wrist she makes out the time, 7.44pm, the blurry numbers dancing before her eyes make her head spin. Pushing last dregs of her 4th beer to the edge, she gives the barman a brief smile and turns to the door. Knocking her now vacant stool to the sticky carpet she stumbles, steadying herself on a proffered arm.
‘Easy, maybe you should have water before you go.’
Her barman has magically appeared at her side, not wanting to let her go without getting her number. Signaling to a new barman just starting his shift he gets her a bottle and unscrews the lid.
‘Thanks’ She shakes her head, taking the offered water and saunters tipsily away before he has a chance to ask. Deflated he watches her hail a cab from the road side, Ducking back under the bar he smiles at his next customer he gets on with his shift, the hotel is pumping now as all the beachgoers desert the sand for the day and head indoors to wash away the sun.
Blinking in the fading light she shakes her head once more, clearing the cobwebs and cursing herself for her momentary lapse. Slumped in the corner of the cab she takes a second to dwell on her disappointment. She had really wanted to take the scenic walk to Bronte’, recapture the feeling of freedom she had felt on her first visit.
‘Just like I did last summer.’ She whispers to herself.
‘What was that love?’ Her squat middle aged taxi driver leans a flabby arm over the seat, leering.
‘I said, just here will do, Thanks’
‘Ohh, no probs, that’ll be…’
‘Here, keep the change.’
She is out of the cab before he can finish, her last twenty floating onto his lap as he watches her rush away.
Pulling up to the curb he turns the ignition off and takes in the deserted beach. The light is fading, shadows creating dark corners perfect for sheltering desperate deeds. Making sure his cash box is safely tucked out of sight, he takes a quick look toward the busy cafe strip and blends into the shadows.
Jumping down the embankment she approaches the stairs, strong & wooden, leading down to a quiet little cove. As she descends she feels a sense of peace wash over her, tension she was unaware off falling off her like snowdrops melting in the sun.
Climbing over the rocks she lowers herself onto the edge of a calm ocean pool, wild waves crashing beyond its still waters. She sits, watching and waiting. The sun is lowering on the horizon, the summer light taking its time, cooling shadows slowly creeping up her legs and shrouding her shoulders.
Kicking off her shoes she closes her eyes for a moment, letting the cooling night air wash over her, nudging away the last vestiges of alcohol and flirtation.
In the dark under the stairs the squat taxi driver collects an old hessian bag and a few bits and pieces, quietly making his way across the abandoned sand to indulge in his secret past time.
A tickling of her toes wakes her from a short slumber; it is dark now, the full moon gives the silent beach an ethereal glow. Smoothing her top, her hand grazes over something sleek and wet, a sudden splash in the now still waters sets her heart pounding.
Removing her trembling hand from the smooth wet sleekness, a shiver runs down her spine as she slowly lifts her head and peers into the eerie night. Silence is all she hears, urgency is all she feels.
Quietly, so as not to disturb the silence, she moves forward on her hip nearing the waters edge, . Sensing her closeness strong arms break the surface of the water and envelop her, hot lips meeting her own without hesitation.
Her last earthly breath snatched from her lungs as the merman and she descend into the depths of the ocean.
Just like we did last summer, she thinks as water rushes in and her merman returns her safely home for the long winter ahead.
A lone water bottle on the Bronte shore is collected by the squat little man desperately seeking to keep the beaches clean and the only evidence of her existence is a barman’s deflated ego.
A visit to Bondi in the summer opens a whole new world.