Read The boys of summer Online

Authors: C.J Duggan

The boys of summer (page 5)

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But until then, forced to endure everyoneelse enjoying their holidays, the afternoon dragged on. I couldn’tstop myself from turning each time the front door opened, my heartskipping a beat in hope, but the Onslow Boys never appeared. Iguessed that they had better things to do on a Sunday afternoon. Icould only hope they’d venture out when the sun went down.

At shift’s end, we bolted down the hill in ahighly unlady-like fashion, bags bouncing on our shoulders, armsflailing, breaths laboured. Our minds focused solely on reachingMcLean’s Beach at the hottest part of the day. It would be crowdedand overrun, no doubt, but not so much by tourists. The beauty ofMaclean’s Beach was that it was always crowded by locals ratherthan tourists, just the way we liked it. Although I would oftencomplain about tourists, I did get it. How could I not? My parentsconstantly reminded me.

“No tourists, no livelihood, Tess.”

Mum and Dad’s cafe on the main strip of Perry– a direct line into Onslow – proved to be the perfect busystopover. Mum was an excellent cook, taught from Gran and no doubther Gran before her. She specialised in traditional familyhome-cooked recipes and Mum’s homemade pies were a big hit. It hadmade my heart clench when the Onslow Boys gave them the tick ofapproval as the ‘best pies in town’. I wondered if Mum wouldremember them coming in. I’d have to ask in a way that wouldn’tmake her suspicious or have me sound like a stalker.

As time ticked on towards the dinner shift,Ellie and I packed up our towels we had stretched out on for anafternoon sunbaking session and headed for the hotel. We walkedpast the mechanics, where I knew Toby worked. Naturally, it wasclosed on Sunday, but I did have the slightest hope that Toby mighthave been in there, anyway. He could be doing a bit of weekendcatch-up. Being a sweltering summer afternoon and all, if he was inthere, he’d most likely be shirtless. Hey, it was my fantasy.

My gaze skimmed the exterior of the closedbuilding. Faded block lettering read ‘Matthew & Son’ on thetangerine and blue workshop. Toby’s dad, Matthew Morrison, had beenthe local mechanic for as long as I could remember. It was whereeveryone went. Since he was the only mechanic in town he could havenamed his price, but he was a real decent bloke and always chargedreasonably. Or so my dad said. I squinted at the sign; it shouldhave really read ‘Matthew & Sons’ seeing as Toby and his olderbrother, Michael, both worked there. That in itself was a realtestament to their dad. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love myparents, but I couldneverwork for them. And believe me,they had tried. One of the upsides of working at the Onslow was myparents stopped pestering me. They seemed pleased enough that I hadstepped out of my comfort zone and was trying, at least. One lookat my lacklustre waitressing skills, and they would probably thanktheir lucky stars I’d never agreed to work for them.

“Well, look at you.”

Ellie gave me a side-on look.

“What?”

“Checking out Toby Morrison’s workshop. It’sSunday, Tess, he’ll be long gone.”

I should never have told her about likingToby. She was like a dog with a bone. Even more frightening was thescheming matchmaking side to Ellie that I knew she’d lose controlof sooner or later. Probably sooner. Ugh, why had I told her?

She frowned at me. “What’s stopping you? Tellme one good reason why you won’t go there, Tess.”

We crossed the main street, leaving Matthew& Son behind.

I half laughed at her. “One? Ha! I’ll giveyou five!”

“Go on, then!”

I held up my thumb to begin the count.

“One! Before two days ago, I am pretty surehe didn’t even know that I existed.”

Although he did know my last name.

“Two! And this is a pretty big one: he’swhat? Twenty-two? And I’m seventeen. You do the maths.”

Ellie shrugged. “Maths isn’t my strongpoint.”

It was five years too many.

“Three! He isToby Morrison. Popular,gorgeous, charming … and I am TIC TAC TESS.”

Ellie sighed. “You’re struggling.”

“Four! He works, I’m still at school. I doubthe would be interested in coming to Deb practice.”

Ellie rolled her eyes stubbornly. “I mustsay, I’m still unconvinced.”

“And number five,” I breathed out. I had ahorrible suspicion. Although I hoped it might not have been true, Iseriously doubted it. “Number five,” I said again, “Toby has agirlfriend.”

And her name was Angela Vickers.

You would have had to live on another planetto not know Angela Vickers. 5’10”, blonde, hard to miss. She wasSchool Captain when I was in Year Ten, and, oh, how all the boysmooned over her, with her perky blonde hair and perfect perkybreasts. None of which would have mattered, only that even thelikes of Toby Morrison was obviously not immune to her or herassets. It bewildered me that Toby was like all the otherpredictable males when he seemed so different from them. I had beenin love with Toby ever since the first time I saw him.

At the end of Grade Six, all students fromPerry Primary were taken for a one-day orientation at Onslow HighSchool. We all gathered around like sheep staring in wonder at the‘big league’ we were about to enter after our summer holidays. Iwas drawn to the burst of laugher that had me turning to see a boy,a boy with the most brilliant smile I had ever seen. I decided Isimply had to know his name, and then, like a gift, one of the boyshe was laughing with said it.

Toby Morrison.

I found out that his dad owned the mechanicshop in town, so any chance I had, I would deliberately walk pastit hoping for just a glimpse or to cross paths with him. My heartwas all aflutter with the sight of him, and merely the thought ofhim was what had me anxious to start high school, to the point Istarted marking down the days on my calendar.

Of course, I learned the hard way that he wasin Year Twelve and had graduated by the time I started high school.So that was that. My crush on Toby faded away and life went on,even if I did always think of that smile every time I walked pasthis dad’s shop.

For the next few years, I saw him only everynow and then at the Sunday markets or more fleetingly down lakesidewith his mates. It was by pure chance one time, when I wasfourteen, that I walked past Matthew & Son and saw him out thefront in grease-stained overalls, talking to a customer about theircar. He looked older, his hair longer, hands covered in greasyremnants of a hard day’s work.

He was working for his dad!And Inearly ran into a pole.

My heart had pounded just as it had thatfirst time at orientation. My secret crush was just that, an uttersecret. I told no one; I didn’t even confide in Ellie or Adam.Especially not Ellie. I was always terrified about confiding in herover my secret crushes as I’d learned from experience that itusually resulted in her marching up to the boy I liked andblatantly grilling them with the most obvious question of all: “Sowhat do you think of Tess McGee?”

So Toby had become a non-negotiable secret,for the years that followed I would obsess about him only tomyself. Until one infamous day in Year Ten woodwork when the latestrumour had circulated to my table. The big news that Angela Vickerswas going out with the mechanic’s hot son. My heart withered at thethought, and, just for the record, bad news during woodwork is notideal; I nearly lost a finger that day. I had to accept it: theAngela Vickers of this world would always get the boy, and I wouldalways be Tic Tac Tess.

But then, at the Onslow Hotel I wasn’t TicTac Tess anymore, I was just Tess or McGee. I was like anyone else.The horrors of high school would soon become nothing more than adistant memory, even if that was little comfort to me now.

“Toby has a girlfriend?” Ellie asked. “No, hedoesn’t. Who?”

I sighed. “Yeah, perfect Angela.”

“Oh yeah, we hate her,” Ellie said.

For the smallest of moments, I had forgotten.Like when he stepped out of the darkness at the party, or the wayhe looked at me when I brought the meals into the bar, or the feelof his hand touching mine. No doubt I had over-analysed his everymovement, his every facial expression, but I’m allowed to. That’swhat girls do. For those fleeting moments, however, I had managedto forget all about Angela Vickers.

“So they’re still together?” Ellie asked.

“I see her car parked at his place all thetime,” I said.

Ellie gasped. “What are you doing outside hishouse? You total stalker!”

“Shut up!” I said, blushing. I could feel thefamiliar burn in my legs as we started our climb up towards theOnslow. “It’s not like that. His place just happens to be on themain road to Perry. It’s kind of hard to miss.”

You had to crane your neck and look reallyhard, of course, but I would leave that little fact out. I knewToby had his own place, though I didn’t know how I knew. It waslike knowing Sean’s name or Stan’s name. You don’t know how youknow, you just know. It’s what’s part and parcel of living in atown with a population of less than 3000; you knew all kinds ofirrelevant stuff about each and every one of them. Toby’s place wasa mission brown shack, set back off the main road with a longsweeping driveway hidden amongst immense bushland. Even though itwas set back and private, you could always tell if he was home. Hisnavy Ford ute parked in the drive or, worst case scenario, Angela’sred Lancer parked behind it. He had lived there since he was inYear Twelve, and I thought it was so grown up that he moved out ofhome, unlike most eighteen-year-olds in town.

I tried to imagine what the inside of hishouse was like, or if he could cook and use the washing machine. Iwould imagine that he would be pretty good with his hands, seeingas he fixed cars for a living. All of the little quirks I had beenobsessing about since I was thirteen were now back in the forefrontof my mind. And admittedly, I had never felt so unhappy aboutit.

Chapter Eight

I walked towards the Onslow Hotel kitchen,ready to assume my station at the sink.

I thought I would save Chris the trouble ofbanishing me to the kitchen, and instead I used some initiative andwent on my merry way. If you could call it that. But I was merry; Ihad taken off the remnants of last night’s battered French nailpolish, I was working my Guinness shirt with a non-offensive skirtinstead of leggings, and I had even managed a bit of colour fromthe afternoon spent at McLean’s Beach with Ellie. There was nothinglike a healthy dose of vitamin D and the beginnings of a tan toboost your spirits. As I pushed through the swinging kitchen door,ready to greet cranky Melba and crazy Rosanna, I was met insteadwith a set of glaring blue eyes.

Eyes that were attached to Amy, Uncle Eric’sfifteen-year-old only daughter. She was elbow deep in dishwater andstared me down with dagger eyes.

“Oh, hey,” I said, “Amy, isn’t it?” I smiledpolitely and wondered why she was there until Chris stuck his headinto the kitchen.

“Tess, you’re on the floor tonight.”

Bewildered, I looked from Chris to Amy andback again, my surprise evident.

“Really?”

“Really,” he said. “Unless you think youmight suffer from separation anxiety from Melba and Rosanna?”

“NO!” I shouted, probably a bit tooreadily.

Chris smiled. “I didn’t think so. Come on,Amy’s gonna take your place.”

I looked back at Amy, ready to offer her asmile, but her glare deepened and I side-stepped away. Wow. I wason the floor again. Guess I didn’t do as badly last night as Ithought. And this time I was determined not to stuff it up.

***

“What is this?” A long, immaculatelymanicured fingernail pointed to their plate.

I tilted my head and leaned down a little tohave a closer inspection.

“Uh … a piece of capsicum?”

“And what was it that I specifically askednotto be served?” She gave me a hard stare, as I fumbledthrough the backlog of dockets in my booklet.

“Oh, uh …” There it was, clear as day,scrawled in block letters.

NO CAPSICUM! I fought not to cringe.

“I’m sorry, did you want me to change it foryou?”

The lady rolled her eyes at her friends.

“No, I think you have done quite enough.” Hervoice dripped with sarcasm. I skulked away. Wow, it was amazing howa rather upbeat day can be torn down within a blink of an eye.

Ellie met me at the cutlery drawer.

“Don’t worry, Tess, I have something thatwill make you forget all about Cruella de Vil over there.”

“Capsicum spray?” I asked in hope.

Ellie frowned, confused momentarily, but sheshook out of it and plastered on a big grin as she handed me adocket.

“Take care of this, would ya, babe?”

She sauntered off to wait on the next table.In my hand sat a crinkled piece of paper. A dinner order for theOnslow Boys decorated with love hearts. It was then I realised thedistant pulse of the jukebox through the wall; it was nothingcompared to the beat of my heart.

There was a lull in dinner service, which hadme anxiously awaiting the sound of the bell to tell me the orderwas up. I paced within earshot; twenty minutes went by before Iheard that magical ding. I slid sideways as I overshot the kitchendoor in my haste. Elegance and grace, as always.

I was there before Rosanna spiked the orderas done. She wiped the perspiration from her brow and curved theother at me.

“I see the Onslow Boys have made quite animpression on you girls.”

I tried not to smile; even Rosanna wascalling them the Onslow Boys. I plastered on my best poker face,attempting to appear cool and casual even though I had never beenso eager to deliver two Chicken Parmagianas in my life.