Words in Deep Blue - Cath Crowley Page 0,1

to swim without thinking about the day Cal drowned, but it’s impossible. I hear his words. I hear his footsteps through the sand. I see him diving: a long frail arc that disappears into sea.

I’m not sure how long I’ve been here when I hear Mum walking over the dunes, her feet struggling to find traction. She sits next to me and lights a cigarette, cupping it from the night.

She started smoking again after Cal died. I found her and Dad hiding behind the church after the funeral. I’d stood silently between them, holding their free hands, and wishing that Cal had been there to see the strangeness of our parents smoking. Dad’s been working with Doctors Without Borders since the divorce ten years ago. Mum’s a science teacher at Sea Ridge High School. They’ve called cigarettes ‘death sticks’ all our lives.

We watch the water. Mum won’t go in anymore, either, but we meet at the edge every night. She was the one who taught Cal and me how to swim: how to cup the water, how to push it back and control its flow. It was Mum who told us not to be afraid. ‘Don’t ever swim alone, though,’ she said, and apart from that one time, we didn’t.

‘So you’re packed?’ she asks, and I nod.

Tomorrow I leave Sea Ridge for Gracetown, a suburb in Melbourne, the city where my aunt Rose lives. I’ve failed Year 12, and since I don’t plan to try again next year, and since I’m lost here, Rose got me a job in the café at St Albert’s Hospital, where she’s a doctor.

Cal and I grew up in Gracetown. We moved to Sea Ridge three years ago, when I was fifteen. Gran needed help and we didn’t want her to sell the house. We’d stayed with her every holiday, summer and winter, since we were born, so Sea Ridge was like our second home.

‘Year 12 isn’t everything,’ Mum says.

Maybe it’s not, but before Cal died I had my life planned, down to the last detail. I was getting A’s and I was happy. I wanted to be an ichthyologist and study fish like the beaked whale. I wanted Joel, travel, university, freedom.

‘I feel like the universe cheated Cal, and cheated us along with him,’ I say.

Before Cal died, Mum would have explained calmly and logically that the universe is all existing matter and space, ten billion light-years in diameter, consisting of galaxies and the solar system, stars and the planets. All of which simply do not have the capacity to cheat a person of anything.

Tonight she lights another cigarette. ‘It did,’ she says, and blows smoke at the stars.


the sounds of turning pages

I’m lying next to Amy in the self-help section of Howling Books. We’re alone. It’s ten on Thursday night and I’ll be honest: I’m currently mismanaging a hard-on. The mismanagement isn’t entirely my fault. My body’s working on muscle memory.

Usually, this is the time and place that Amy and I kiss. This is the time our hearts breathe hard and she lies next to me, warm-skinned and funny, making jokes about the state of my hair. It’s the time we talk about the future, which was, if you’d asked me fifteen minutes ago, completely bought and paid for.

‘I want to break up,’ she says, and at first I think she’s joking. Less than twelve hours ago, we were kissing in this exact spot. We were doing quite a few other very nice things too, I think, as she elbows me.

‘Henry?’ she says. ‘Say something.’

‘Say what?’

‘I don’t know. Whatever you’re thinking.’

‘I’m thinking this is entirely unexpected and a little bit shit.’ I struggle into an upright position. ‘We bought plane tickets. Non-refundable, non-exchangeable, plane tickets for the 12th of March.’

‘I know, Henry,’ she says.

‘We leave in ten weeks.’

‘Calm down,’ she says, as though I’m the one who’s sounding unreasonable. Maybe I am sounding unreasonable, but that’s because I spent the last dollar of my savings buying a seven-stop around-the-world ticket: Singapore, Berlin, Rome, London, Helsinki, New York. ‘We bought insurance and got our passports. We bought travel guides and those little pillows for the plane.’

She bites the right side of her lip and I try very hard, very unsuccessfully, not to think about kissing her.

‘You said you loved me.’

‘I do love you,’ she says, and then she starts italicising love into all its depressing definitions. ‘I just don’t think I’m in love with you. I tried, though. I tried really hard.’

These must be