Liam and Samira

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    For those who have read The Mulberry Tree you may remember Dirk having met up with his friend Liam, one of his former workmates, who had expressed a vague desire to follow in Dirk’s footsteps. In this short story we catch up with Liam and find out what he’s up to.

    (b) LIAM and SAMIRA (/b)

    Liam stood aside at the foot of the stairs and after allowing two young ladies to pass and ascend ahead of him began climbing towards the first floor lounge of the Metropolitan hotel on the corner of Sydney’s Bridge and George Streets. Thirty minutes early for his appointment with his friends Greg and Sue but with nothing else to do he decided that having a drink whilst he waited would be as good a way as any to pass the time, and with any luck he might even find an empty table for them all to sit at when the pair arrived. Unfortunately he was out of luck as it being five-thirty on a Friday evening when most office workers had finished for the day and were looking forward to the weekend all the tables were occupied.
    He ordered a Scotch and Dry and after picking up his glass looked around the bar and saw that the two young ladies who had preceded him up the stairs had probably been the two who had snared the last empty table available. They appeared to be waiting for companions as their jackets were draped over the backs of the two vacant chairs there, however they were each nursing a glass of what appeared to Liam to be Brandy Alexanders. Having worked part-time as a cocktail barman he would be likely to know, though at the moment it was such a popular drink for ladies that perhaps anyone could have guessed that correctly.
    One of the girls was a tall, long-legged, fair-skinned and blue-eyed blonde whereas her friend was almost the opposite, being not so tall – though not really short either – with brown eyes, almond skin and raven-black hair. She appeared to be of Indian descent, or partly at least, although when she spoke it was in a very correct English manner leading Liam to think that perhaps she was also a recent arrival from the old country.
    He wasn’t exactly eavesdropping however from the snatches of conversation he picked up he was able to work out that the blonde had apparently set up her friend for a date with an acquaintance of her boyfriend. She had never met the bloke herself, she’d admitted, but had been assured by her boyfriend Barry that he was an OK kind of guy and that Sam would probably like him.
    Mid-way through his drink two young men arrived at the head of the stairs and after sighting the two girls one of them gave a wave towards their table then the two proceeded to the bar to order a couple of beers. It was obvious to Liam that one of them had already sunk a few glasses before arriving and after that one had looked at the table and growled “Are you setting me up with a (i)Curry-Muncher?”(/i) rightly guessed that the blind date would not turn out be a good one.
    “Her name’s Samira. Her father’s a Brit though her mother immigrated to England from India as a teenager,” said the other. “She’s lived most of her life in London and doesn’t have any trace of an accent at all; In fact she speaks like a well educated upper-class Englishwoman.”
    “Still a Wog in my book. Got a good set of jugs by the looks of it though,” he added whilst leering hard and fixedly at the girl’s ample breasts which were covered by a slightly sheer blouse, “so it might not be a complete waste of a night. You reckon she puts out?”
    “No way, Jerry. She’s (i)definitely(/i) not that type of girl,” his companion replied, taken aback by his companion’s sudden unexpected crassness.
    From where he was sitting, quietly spoken as it was Liam heard the comment and although he considered the guy to be an obnoxious jerk nevertheless looked at the girl again and observed that she did appear to be fairly well endowed in regards to her bust measurement, though to his mind not overly so.
    Samira, the focus of the man’s gaze, picked up on its particular direction and intensity as soon as she realised he was looking at her, and summing him up in two seconds flat decided immediately that she wasn’t going on any date with him. And she made that quite clear shortly after the two men went over to sit at the table where introductions were made.
    “I suppose we’ll be going to some Indian restaurant,” Jerry said in a tone that suggested he wouldn’t be at all happy with that idea, but he was rocked back on his heels by Samira’s reply.
    “If you could drag your eyes away from my breasts long enough to watch my lips you’d see them saying I won’t be going with you, so I don’t care where you go,” she said, and whilst her words may have been spoken quietly her now hard as flint eyes bored straight into him.
    Nicole gave a gasp of surprise but also having noted Jerry’s inebriation plus the direction and intensity of his stare had to concede that Samira’s choice of having nothing to do with her boyfriend’s pal wasn’t unreasonable.
    “Fine by me,” said Jerry as he suddenly got up and angrily weaving towards the staircase leaving a threesome at the table hurled a derisive comment over his shoulder as he began to descend: “Plenty of friendly (i)white(/i) girls in better places than here I can go to.”
    His parting comment, with its stress on (i)white(/i), was an obviously racial slur in intent but whilst Samira seemed to be totally unfazed it was obviously an acute embarrassment to both Nicole and Barry. She gave the pair a lop-sided smile and after telling them not to worry about her suggested that they should go off and have a romantic evening together as she had gone right off the idea of a night out and would rather just go back to the flat. Nicole thought that leaving her friend alone right now might possibly be the best thing to do as she’d learned that whilst Samira appeared to be quite strong she could also be quite sensitive at times, and that any signs of well meant comfort or sympathy might result in her breaking down in tears.
    After a few minutes of “Are you sure?” and similar comments they departed, leaving Samira the sole occupant of a table for four and Liam decided to seize the opportunity to grab the vacant seats.
    “Excuse me for the intrusion,” he said to Samira as he approached the table, “but I noticed that your friends have left and I was wondering if these chairs are available.”
    “Oh, sure. I was going to leave when I finished this drink anyway,” Samira replied as she began to rise from her chair.
    “Oh no… Please, there’s no hurry. In fact you’d be doing me a big favour if you could sit there for a few minutes more at least: I have a couple of friends arriving very shortly but it wouldn’t look good for a man to be hogging a table for four by himself, even if people knew he was waiting for others.”
    “That would be good actually because otherwise I’d probably drink this too quickly,” she replied.
    Liam placed his briefcase on one of the vacant chairs, slid into another and after introducing himself told her he worked as a computer analyst/programmer at Sun Alliance Insurance across the street, and the two friends he was meeting also worked there though in a different section. Samira in turn told him that she had come to Australia from England about six months before and was currently employed in the home-wares section of the big David Jones’ Department Store on George Street. She also shared a flat with the girl and her boyfriend who had just left, however she felt a bit like an intruder there so was currently looking for a place of her own.
    They’d been chatting companionably for ten minutes or so when a tap on his shoulder made him look around to see his friend Sue standing beside him. His attempt to rise was forestalled when she pushed him back down onto his seat though Samira saw his intention as being that of a man who would naturally and politely stand for a lady when she arrived. Probably take his hat off or remove his sunglasses if wearing either when meeting or talking to a woman too, she thought.
    After lifting Liam’s briefcase from the chair beside him and placing it on the floor between their seats Sue sat down beside him and was introduced to Samira.
    Greg was at the bar ordering drinks for himself and Sue – and would no doubt also add a Scotch and Dry for Liam – and when he looked towards the table Sue stood and after pointing at herself and Samira indicated with two fingers that he should order an extra drink. With no way to know what type of drink the girl might want Greg simply ordered a second (i)Grasshopper(/i), which had been Sue’s choice on this occasion.
    Because the bar was now packed Liam thought it best to go to the bar and carry two of the drinks Greg had ordered, and as he stood he whispered very softly into Sue’s ear “I only just met her but I think she’s rather nice… try to not let her leave.” A very slight bob of her head had been the only indication that Sue had heard him however when he and Greg finally got the drinks and pushed through the crowded bar to the table he was happy to see that Samira hadn’t gathered her belongings in order to leave and the two girls were happily chatting away like old friends.
    The girls were only distracted from whatever they were talking about when the cocktails were placed in front of them, with Samira being very surprised with the appearance of a drink that she hadn’t ordered. She was given no time to protest when Sue declared that the (i)Brandy Alexander(/i) that she’d been drinking was considered rather passé now, and that she should try the (i)Grasshopper(/i) that Greg had delivered.
    “This is Liam’s friend Samira,” Sue told Greg when he sat down, “Though her friends call her Sam. She’s coming to (i)Bevy’s Place(/i) with us when we’ve finished here.”
    “What? Bevy’s Place? Who’s Bevy?” chirruped Sam, completely surprised that Sue had apparently included her in the trio’s plans for the night.
    “It’s a wine bar in Mosman,” put in Greg, unaware that until then Samira had no idea she’d been invited. We’re meeting a few more friends there and will be having a meal. The food’s really good… well, for that type of place anyway, and there’s live music on a Friday night. You’re going to like it.”
    Once again Sue forestalled any protest by telling her that because she’d said she had nothing planned for the night, or in fact for the whole weekend, she would be going with them. (i)“And you’re going to enjoy yourself,”(/i) emphasised Sue, (i)“whether you like it or not!”(/i) Hesitant at first as she didn’t know the people she’d just met, Sam was finally persuaded to accompany them, and by the time she’d finished her cocktail was in the mood to have a good time.
    With drinks finished they surrendered their table to another waiting group and after exiting the hotel and crossing George St hailed a cab to take them to Hickson Road, where Sue had managed to find a space to park her car early that morning. The cab driver wasn’t too thrilled with the shortness of the trip but was consoled when he picked up a couple who wanted to go to The Rocks, where he’d have a good chance of finding a longer fare. From there Sue drove them across the Harbour Bridge, then on to (i)Bevy’s Place(/i) where they found that an upstairs table had been reserved by the friends Greg had said they were meeting. Said friends, Pete, Carol, Garry and Margaret were already there and all made Sam welcome, and rearranged their seats so that she and Sue sat side by side with Liam and Greg opposite them.
    Meals were ordered from a menu that seemed to be based mostly on steaks with different sauces though it did include a couple of chicken, seafood and pasta dishes, and it being (i)Bevy’s Place(/i) the drink of choice was Apple Cider. Sam had never tried cider before and whilst to her it seemed to taste like slightly fizzy apple juice she was quite unprepared for the effect its alcohol content would have, especially as the three mugs she drank followed the two cocktails she’d had earlier. She didn’t became overly intoxicated however it was obvious to her new-found friends that she wasn’t accustomed to drinking, and Liam made sure that after her third mug she drank only non-alcoholic cider. Not that she noticed because to her the taste was the same and she’d already had enough alcohol to make her feel good for the rest of the evening anyway. In fact she turned out that she had a quick wit and was able to keep up a repartee that the company found quite amusing.
    The topics of conversation around the table were varied but included a short discussion about a trip they would be taking next day to a place up north where they would help Liam work on a small cabin he was building on a small piece of riverside land that he’d recently purchased. They’d camp overnight and do a few hours work on the cabin in the morning before returning sometime around midday as a Wild-West themed birthday barbeque/party had been planned for late Sunday afternoon.
    “You weren’t expecting to have such a fun weekend, were you?” Sue asked after informing Sam that she’d be staying overnight and going with them.
    “But I’ve never been camping before, and I don’t own a sleeping bag or have any clothes to wear or anything,” Sam protested.
    “Don’t worry about that: We’re near enough the same size so I can lend you a pair of jeans and a T-shirt or two, and Liam told me he has an extra sleeping bag you can use. We’re going to do a little bit of early shopping before we head off so you can buy a toothbrush and whatever else you think you need, and as tonight you’ll be staying at our place there’s no problem.”
    Sam hadn’t been fully persuaded about sleeping over but after they’d all left the bar and gone to Sue and Greg’s for a slice of cheesecake and a nightcap of Bailey’s Irish Cream she finally accepted the invitation. There didn’t seem to be much option to her staying overnight anyway as, probably due to the drinks she’d had, she fell asleep in an arm-chair whilst they were all talking. Greg and Sue pulled their fold-out lounge into its double bed form and after Liam gently lifted Sam from the chair and laid her out on it Sue placed a pillow under her head then covered her with a light blanket.
    Liam was also given a blanket and pillow and he lay down beside her and slept until six in the morning when, without disturbing the still sleeping girl, Pete and Carol, who had also stayed the night, woke him with a mug of freshly brewed coffee. He then had Pete drop him off at his own place to pick up his Toyota Land-cruiser, saying that he’d be going to collect his trailer then go to the hardware store to get a few odds and ends before meeting up with the others.
    He first drove to a friend’s property in Terry Hills where he had the use of a workshop, and once there hitched up the trailer which had been heavily loaded with some of the building material for the cabin they’d be working on. A short time later found him at the hardware store where he spent fifteen minutes locating and purchasing the several items he needed before proceeding to the meeting point via a McDonald’s drive-thru where he picked up a big breakfast.
    Sue, Greg and Sam arrived twenty minutes later, which was fifteen minutes later than the previously arranged time because the girls had had to do some shopping for (i)essential items(/i) for Sam. (Buying toiletries and a couple of T-shirts that weren’t as tight as those Sue had lent her hadn’t taken much time however Liam learned later that the girls had also spent fifteen minutes in a Lifeline charity store looking for something to wear for Sunday’s dress-up barbeque.)
    No one was put out by the delay however, and a few minutes after meeting up they were all on their way. Sue having decided that Sam would be travelling with her and Greg, Pete transferred from Garry’s car to Liam’s Toyota so that he would have company for the three hour drive up the coast, which meant the two cars travelling with them would each have two girls and a driver who unless invited to wasn’t usually meant to participate in any conversation the girls might be having. Fortunately for both drivers on this occasion they were invited and by the time everybody arrived at the building site all were in high spirits.
    The drive north was uneventful and done at a reasonably fast clip that had them on site in time for lunch, which the girls had already organised by having made up individual meals that were in containers packed into an esky. Sam had helped them with the preparation of the meals and the way they went about putting everything together made it obvious to her that they were pretty well experienced campers. With their welcoming her into their group and taking the time to show her how they organised things she had no regrets about having agreed to come on the trip and was now looking forward to it.
    The girls had decided that it would be nice to have lunch down by the river which flowed along the bottom end of the block and whilst they were laying out picnic rugs and setting out the eats the men put up the tents; a well-practiced task that took them all of ten minutes to complete. Liam’s extensive camping gear included a large tent divided into two parts; the main being the overall tent itself and the second being an enclosed sleeping compartment with mesh panels that allowed a free flow of air through it. The compartment’s waterproof floor was completely taken up by a Queen-sized air-mattress and Sam was given the use of it along with a large down-filled sleeping bag, with Liam warning that as it could become overly warm at times she could either open the zipper at the bottom of the bag or open it up completely. Two single bags could be zippered together to form a double however he didn’t mention the fact in case she thought he might be suggesting they do that.
    When asked where he would be sleeping he showed her the foam pad which he would lay on the ground inside the tent and on top of which he would roll out his own sleeping bag. Sam thought he was being overly generous by giving her exclusive use of his mattress and suggested that as they each had a sleeping bag they could at least share that. When Liam tried to protest she told him that she definitely wasn’t being promiscuous and if he was to try anything untoward she could scream loud enough to be heard back in Sydney, so there was no need for him to feel that her offer to share the mattress was unbecoming in any way.
    Because he regularly visited the site Liam had previously set up a five by eight foot garden shed which he’d fitted out with a composting toilet and a hand basin supplied with water from a 200 litre blue plastic barrel mounted on a stand behind. He’d gotten the idea from his friend Dirk but had decided not to install a shower in the shed as his friend had done because his solar shower bags were sufficient for overnight stays, though for the most part he simply waited until he got home anyway.
    In lieu of a shower he’d installed shelving to hold his camping gear so that he wouldn’t need to load and unload his Landcruiser with it every time he came to the site, and for this reason he’d not only fitted the shed with two solid hasps and staples with strong padlocks but had replaced the screws provided for the walls and roof with more than three times the number of pop rivets.
    With lunch finished, work commenced on the cabin build with laying out and securing pre-cut bearers, joists and perimeter beams on piers that Liam had installed over a couple of previous weekends. Four men doing the job would have had that done quickly enough however after the girls decided to pitch in and help they were also able to lay most of the floorboards before calling it a day. One of the reasons the job went so quickly was because Liam, having faithfully copied the design of his friend Dirk’s cottage had precisely measured, carefully cut and clearly marked each piece of timber before bringing it to the site so that they all went together like a kit home.
    In the group’s opinion the design was rather unique in that it would feature a lofted sleeping area, something not commonly found in Australian cabins, and each couple was looking forward to accepting Liam’s invitation to stay there occasionally after the cabin was finished. Of course the deal included having to spend a bit of time helping him with the vegetable garden he was planning to put in, but nobody minded having to do that. Sam was both surprised and delighted when she was also included in the invitation and thought it might be a good idea for her to purchase a book about vegetable gardening as she knew absolutely nothing about the subject.
    Sam was basically a city girl who hadn’t really seen any of the countryside since arriving in Australia but once tools were put down she was moved by the peace of the surrounding bush, its silence broken only by the rustle of breeze-blown leaves in the surrounding trees and the calls of numerous birds. The contrast between the city and this place was as different as she could imagine, unless perhaps she was to go to a desert she thought, and it brought about a feeling inside her that she couldn’t quite explain.
    Later the group sat around a campfire, ate sausages and beans, foil-wrapped potatoes and corn-on-the-cob baked in the fire, and drank a few stubbies of beer or plastic cups of wine from a cask. Liam explained to Sam how a friend and former workmate of his had introduced him to camping and to a way of life that was far removed from the life he led now but one for which he was aiming to emulate. As he described in some detail his plans for the acreage, pointing to where this, that or the other was going to be built or placed, and how he wanted to be able to live the self-reliant life-style and have the freedom that his friends enjoyed she was able to envisage a place that would be a refuge from the blind direction and overly fast pace of city life. The inexplicable feeling she’d felt inside earlier began to grow and take on a more solid form as he talked and by the time everyone was ready to head for their sleeping bags she had all but decided that she also wanted to be free of the hustle and bustle of city life.
    A few hours into the night Sam was woken by the sound of the tent’s zipper as Liam opened the flap to exit and head for the bushes where he had to relieve himself. When he returned she asked him what the temperature was like outside as she’d felt a cold breeze blow through the flap of the tent as he came in.
    “It’s not exactly what you’d call hot,” he replied but when he lay back down she reached out a hand and after feeling his arm exclaimed “You’re freezing!”
    “Nah, it’s just that you’re very warm.”
    After he’d climbed back into his sleeping bag she tried to extend some of hers over him but despite that it was large found it wasn’t nearly large enough to do that. Remembering that he’d told her that it could be opened completely she slid its side zipper all the way down, opened the bag and tried to use more of it to cover him.
    “What are you doing Sam? You’ll freeze to death if you leave the bag open.”
    “I once read a story about some people who were lost in the snow and when they were found each was put into a sleeping bag with one of the searchers. Shared body heat was apparently what saved them from severe hypothermia and while I know you’re not (i)that(/i) cold I thought it might help you get warm quickly.”
    “I read a similar story, although in the book I read the searchers and the people they found were stripped naked before getting into the bags.”
    Sam giggled and admitted that whilst that fact was also in the book she’d read she had no such intention of going to that extreme, however during the time they were talking Liam had warmed up again so it wasn’t necessary for her to share her bedding anyway and they both went back to sleep.

    * * *


    I see that I cannot edit anything I’ve written, which is a real pain as I often find mistakes that need correcting.
    BTW, does anybody know of a similar site where I might be able to post my stories? The Air-Force has retired me on medical grounds (trumped up reason I reckon, but that’s another story,) and I’ll have a lot of time to write.
    Shin (AKA Bid)

    The raucous laughter of kookaburras woke everyone just after sunrise and when a still sleepy but smiling Sam scrambled out of her sleeping bag and stuck her head out of the tent it was to find that five young kangaroos were quietly munching on grass less than ten metres away. Her eyes and smile widened as she withdrew her head into the tent and beckoned to Liam who was opening up his bag to air it before stuffing it into its sack. The ‘roos were regular visitors to the site, he told her, and he was always delighted when they showed up.
    All having risen early the girls began preparing breakfast whilst the boys continued laying the rest of the floor boards, and they managed to nail down the last one just as the call went out to “come and get it.” Sam was surprised to see that even though it was only a single overnight camp-out, rather than just have a simple breakfast of cereal such as Corn Flakes or Weet-Bix the girls had gone to the trouble of cooking sausages and eggs and making toast, though of course coffee was on the menu regardless.
    Following breakfast the following three hours were spent assembling the pre-cut stud frames for the walls as sections that could easily be handled by two people and these were stacked at one end of the cabin’s floor ready to be erected on the next weekend… If Liam was able to find someone to help him, which was doubtful as it would be the Easter weekend and just about everybody had plans that did not include work of any kind, let alone work on a cabin that was thought of by most as being out in the sticks. Of course Liam was grateful for the help his friends had given him this weekend and considered that even if he couldn’t get much done on the next he was still well ahead.
    Sam swapped places with Pete, riding in Liam’s pick-up for their return to the city and during the trip she pumped him for more information regarding his Journey to Freedom as he’d called it when first describing his ultimate goal.
    “I find it rather difficult to explain exactly how I feel really,” he said. “You’d probably get a better understanding if you were able to see how my friends enjoy the freedom of the lifestyle they’ve chosen. In a nutshell though, I think that breaking away from the rat-race of people who believe everything that the government and Main Stream Media tells them and accept that they’ll forever be chained to a life of virtual servitude is the path to freedom. Hermits and Hippies are for the most part merely escapists but a Homesteader, which is what I want to be, is ready to put in the effort to make him or herself as self-reliant as possible. They’re not actually my own words by the way, but that’s roughly how my friends put it when I first visited their farm nearly eighteen months ago.”
    “Seeing how you’re flinging yourself into it I think they must have been very persuasive.”
    “Yeah, they were. They’re also the people who first taught me about camping and as you can see, I’ve taken to that like a duck to water. You seemed to enjoy how peaceful it was where we were camped but you’d be surprised at the number of people who can’t bear being away from a city and would hate it.”
    “That’s hard to believe. Do you always go there with friends? It’d probably be a bit different if you were by yourself wouldn’t it?”
    “No to the first and yes to the second. I often come here just to get away from the big smoke but I also took the time to put in the stumps that support the floor we laid this weekend, and I did that without any help. As for it being different if I was by myself, just imagine the quiet you experienced in the early morning extending throughout the day. Most times I don’t even bother to turn on a radio.”
    “I don’t think I’d find that too hard to take,” Sam admitted with a grin. “You said your cabin was on three acres. How’d you manage to get a relatively small block of land out here? All the places I’ve seen so far appear to be large farms.”
    “Mostly good luck: I actually bought twenty five acres cheaply from a cash-strapped farmer but I’m leasing all but the three the cabin’s on to another farmer who wanted the land but at the time didn’t know it had been put on the market. His lease payments cover the mortgage payments but I’m hopeful that someday he’ll want to buy the land and leave me with the three acres… and no mortgage.”
    After dropping off the trailer at his friend’s house he took Sam to his small bed-sit apartment in Neutral Bay where they showered before changing into clean clothes for the barbeque. Liam wore jeans and a check shirt, the Jaccaru brand leather hat that he usually wore on weekends anyway, plus a toy six-shooter in a holster and a sheriff’s badge which he’d somehow managed to keep since he was a kid.
    Sam took the items she’d purchased at the Lifeline store the morning before and going to the bathroom reappeared wearing a nicely-fitted brown suede skirt and matching short-sleeved top. She was hoping that it looked something like an outfit a cowgirl might wear, although as she wore the top over a light tan V- neck T-shirt that was almost the same colour as her skin Liam told her that any man with more than an ounce of imagination who looked at her rather generous cleavage would probably envisage a lot more than was covered. She grinned at that and looking at his outfit said it was lucky that she was going with a man with a six-gun who’d protect her. The brown flat-heeled shoes that she’d also purchased and worn all weekend didn’t look out of place but she wasn’t going to put on the final accessories, which Liam hadn’t yet seen but thought may have included a hat and which she was now carrying in a brown paper bag.
    When they arrived at Sue and Greg’s place Sam stood behind Liam as he rang the front doorbell and quickly donned the last piece of her outfit behind his back. It was Sue who came to the door and after Liam had introduced himself as the local Sheriff then stepped aside Sam introduced herself as Pocahontas. Sue took one look at her outfit and when seeing that she was wearing beaded arm-bands and a headband with two upright feathers stuck in it collapsed against the door frame in a fit of laughter.
    “My God, an Indian!” she finally squealed with delight through her laughter. “Sam, you are so my new best friend! Wait’ll everyone sees you in that get-up. Come on through,” she said as grabbing Sam’s hand and hauling her through the doorway towed her to the backyard where steaks, chops and sausages piled on the barbeque were already cooking. Sam got a good laugh when she made a pretence of looking and sounding disappointed when finding that there was no buffalo meat on the grill.
    Everyone was impressed by Sam’s outfit and her sense of humour, and it appeared that they all seemed to be accepting her as being Liam’s rather cute new girlfriend – with some of the men jokingly asking her if she was his squaw – and after a few beers Liam gave up explaining that they were just friends who’d only very recently met.
    Sam, now being referred to by all as Pocahontas and having had a couple of glasses of wine also gave up on the denials and although not exactly true, by the end of the evening it seemed to have become an established fact. Not that either of them worried much less thought about it at all, though it did seem to have the effect of making them smile when from time to time they caught each other’s eye.
    She wasn’t a non-drinker but it was only the third time that Sam had ever had more than three glasses of wine at any one time and it showed. Greg joked when the barbeque was over that it was lucky she wasn’t driving because she was barely capable of being a passenger. Whilst that huge exaggeration made Sam laugh it was enough for Sue to suggest that rather than return to the reservation she had better stay over for the night again; Sue could lend her some pyjamas and she still had the clothes with her from the Friday so tomorrow morning she could go straight to work from there.
    “I suppose that’d be OK but I’d have to go to Liam’s place first because I left my hand-bag and clothes there,” said Sam. “I’d better call my flat-mates too and tell them what I’m doing; they might be worried something’s happened to me.”
    “Would you like me to go and get your things now?” Liam asked.
    “Umm… I saw that your flat overlooked the ferry wharf so would it be OK if I stayed at your place and caught the ferry to the city in the morning? I know I can trust you and I don’t mind having to sleep on your lounge.”
    “Ahh… I guess so. If Sue’s OK with that. What do you reckon Sue?”
    “Well, I know you can be trusted so I’ve got no objection,” Sue replied. “Sam, Liam doesn’t have the ‘phone on so you’d better call your flat-mates from here before you go. You can take the pyjamas with you and Liam can bring them back to me later,” she added as she went off to get a pair for her.
    After Sam had used the ‘phone she and Liam headed for his flat, stopping on the way to get a carton of milk from a convenience store, and at Sam’s behest a box of muesli and a tub of vanilla flavoured yoghurt.
    The sun had long set when they got to Liam’s flat but rather than turn on the lights he asked her to first go and take a look from the kitchen/dining area, the large windows of which looked down the bay and across part of the harbour. The myriad lights from buildings on the shores and reflecting off the water plus the appearance of a ferry coming towards the wharf enthralled her, so much so that she asked Liam to not turn on the lights as she wanted to just sit and watch for a while.
    As she sat Liam made them both a mug of cocoa then joined her at the table where she encouraged him to tell her more about his plans for his property, not that there was a lot to add to what he’d already told her on the trip back to the city, however she was so interested she didn’t mind hearing everything again.
    “You said next weekend you wanted to put up those wall frames we helped you assemble: Can I help you? I don’t have any plans for Easter and I have to admit I’m keen to see what your little cabin will look like when it’s finished. I also found it rather fun camping too and I think I’d like to get into that.”
    “Would you really? That’s fantastic, but before you get carried away with the idea I recommend you go camping a few times to see if you really like it. Next weekend would be a good start and as I’ve got enough gear to share there’s no point in buying anything for yourself. And while I would appreciate your help with putting up the frames I think we could also spend some time having a look around the countryside.”
    Sam grinned and thought to herself that Sue had been right: She certainly hadn’t expected that she would have so much fun this weekend! And should have the same if not more fun next weekend.
    “Is there anything I should take, apart from clothes?” she asked. “And what about food?”
    “Well, any clothes you think you’ll need for working in of course, like those that Sue lent you for example, but I really hadn’t given much thought to food at the moment. I get pretty busy so I usually just throw a container of milk for my coffee, a loaf of bread, and a few things for filling sandwiches into my esky.”
    “Just sandwiches? You don’t bother cooking anything? That’s not good.”
    “You’re probably right. I do have a picnic stove and all the cookware I need but it’s mostly just weekends when I go and there’s only me after all. I guess that it being a four-day stay and with you coming it might be a good idea to have a few proper meals this time though.
    “How about you let me organise the food? I’m a pretty good cook so that wouldn’t be a problem at all… Especially if you like curries,” she laughed.
    “Really? I happen to like them a lot actually, though I’ve never tried making one myself. Be a bit difficult out in the bush though, wouldn’t it?”
    “Only because of all the spices I’d need to take, but don’t worry; I can cook lots of other dishes too. Maybe I could make you one of my curries sometime when you’re not going camping?”
    Liam turned on the light and as they were both going to work early the next day suggested they get a good night’s sleep, however Sam was so excited about going camping again that she sat and wrote out a menu for the next weekend, plus a list of other things she thought she needed to get.
    When she’d finished Liam told her to use the shower first and as she headed to the bathroom he went out and retrieved his sleeping bag from the pick-up and rolled it out on the lounge: He wasn’t going to let her sleep there as the damned thing was barely comfortable enough to sit on let alone lie down and try and sleep on. Sam found that out by lying down on it when Liam went to have his shower, and when he came out found that she’d stuffed his sleeping bag back into its sack and was lying on one side of his bed with the bedding opened up for him on the opposite side.
    “Sue said and I believe that you can be trusted so I don’t think you need to sacrifice your comfort for me by not sleeping in your own bed. This double bed isn’t quite as wide as your Queen-sized air mattress but I promise I won’t be using that as an excuse to assault you.”
    “Just as well: I’d have to throw you out on the street if you tried anything like that,” he said as he lay down and pulled the covers over himself. “When you think about it,” he added, “sleeping together isn’t really a problem is it? It’s going to bed together and not sleeping where things could get a bit… umm… boisterous, so to speak.”
    Sam’s reply was to make loud snoring sounds but she spoiled the effect by then breaking into a fit of giggles in which Liam had to join. Despite each falling asleep on their own side of the bed, when they woke up in the morning it was to find that during the night they had somehow gravitated towards its centre and though back to back were now lying against each other, both comfortable almost to the point of not really wanting to get up and go to work.

    * * *


    Nice to see you back, Shin! Sucks that the AF has decided to medically retire you, but hopefully you’re at least getting some sort of pension out of the deal?

    As to similar sites, I’m on SurvivalistBoards ( as well as on here (but NOT as a Moderator over there – just a member). In fact, I’ve been on there longer than on here. There is also ReadyMom’s site that she started up


    Thanks IceFire. Unfortunately I’m only eligible for the Aged Pension though I do have a little in my Super Fund (401K type of thing down here in OZ) and will be able to pay out our mortgage. Perhaps not surprisingly, Vegetable Gardening is going to play a big part in my retirement years! Anyway – On with the story…

    Sitting on the upper deck of the ferry as it churned its way across the harbour from Neutral Bay Wharf to Circular Quay Sam marvelled at how it was such a pleasant way to travel to the city; far and away much better than having to take a crowded bus as she had to, and as she was looking for new accommodation anyway, thought it might be a good idea to try and find a place close by.
    “Why not enquire at the main office of the complex where I rent my flat?” Liam suggested. “They have several houses set up the same way as the one where I live and tenants seem to be changing all the time, so with any luck there might be either one available now, or at least one coming up soon. The office is open until eight p.m. Monday to Friday so you’d be able to go there one day after you finish work.”
    “Can you show me where the office is after work today?” Sam asked, having made up her mind almost as soon as Liam had finished making the suggestion. “That is, unless you’re going to be busy of course.”
    “Apart from taking some clothes to the Laundromat I’ve got nothing planned. If you are coming over, is there any chance you could stay long enough to cook one of those curries you were talking about last night?”
    “Oh, I’d be more than happy to do that. Of course, being the master sandwich chef you are, you probably wouldn’t have much in the way of the spices I’d need, so I’ll get those during my lunch break today.”
    “Salt, pepper and mustard, plus tomato and barbeque sauce and a jar each of mustard pickles and chutney is about the full extent of the condiments in my normally well stocked pantry at the moment,” Liam admitted. “Likewise the racks in my extensive wine cellar are similarly depleted: In fact I think I’m down to one bottle of a Rough Red and another of Blue Nun Liebfraumilch.
    “I heard that you’d also let the household staff go too: No cook, butler, maid, chauffeur or gardener. Are things really that bad?”
    “Not really. I’d have had to let the staff go sooner or later because there wouldn’t be enough room in my palatial cabin to accommodate them; however I’m confident that when I’m finally able to move to my country estate things will improve.”
    Their light-hearted banter continued until the ferry docked and after they’d disembarked and made their way towards George Street arranged to meet back at the Quay in time to catch the six o’clock ferry. They walked together as far as Bridge Street where Liam turned left towards his place of employment whilst Sam continued towards hers, which was about another fifteen minutes walk away. She could have caught a bus but it was a beautiful day and she was in an extremely happy mood so even the thought of taking one was anathema to her right now. Even so, she arrived early and had time to change into the spare clean fresh skirt and blouse she kept in her locker in the ladies’ change-room.
    As Liam had said he would be going to the Laundromat that evening she put the clothing she had worn on Friday and that morning into a bag and would take those plus the jeans and T-shirt that Sue had loaned her and go with him.
    Because he’d had to work back a bit Liam had to run to get to the ferry wharf in time to meet up with Sam as arranged and was quite disappointed to find that she didn’t appear to be there. That is, until a girl wearing a pair of denim jeans with a matching top and was carrying a large shopping bag called to him: Sam had purchased all the ingredients needed to make the curry she was going to make for him but had also found the time to outfit herself with some new clothes which she thought would suitable for both camping and helping work on the cabin.
    “Are you really going to wear that clobber for camping and working in?” he asked with surprise as he looked her up and down.
    “Why? What’s wrong with it?” she asked in reply, sounding a bit defensive.
    “Because in my honest opinion, it’s far too good for that: I mean, you do look gorgeous, but the weekend away could be a bit rough on new stuff like that.”
    “Do you really think so?”
    “Yes, I do.”
    “I don’t mean about the weekend being rough on my new clothes: I mean do you really think I look gorgeous?” she said, and then laughed when she saw his face reddening. “It’s OK: I’m only joking,” she added and after handing him the large shopping bag took his arm as they joined the commuters surging through the turnstiles and onto the ferry.
    An hour later found them at the main office of the company that rented out the one and two bedroom apartments and a number of bed-sits that several old large houses had been converted to. Collectively the somewhat dilapidated buildings were known as Wallaringa Mansions and apparently the lettings were a temporary measure intended to bring in some revenue whilst development applications were submitted in order to replace them with modern medium-rise apartment blocks. Not surprisingly they were not considered worth the trouble and expense of refurbishing however the plumbing and electrical services were all well maintained and above all the lettings were comparatively inexpensive, especially given the locale and access to both ferry and bus routes. Shops on the street leading to the wharf included a small convenience store and the Laundromat, and as they were no more than two hundred metres away Liam frequently walked to both.
    “You might be in luck,” Sam was told at the reception desk. “A lady renting on the floor above Liam’s has given notice and will be vacating on the fifteenth of April. Unfortunately you won’t be able to inspect the flat until after she’s left, and though there is a waiting list Liam’s a good tenant and if he can vouch for you I think we can let you jump the queue.”
    It turned out that Liam knew the lady, a single mum with a two year old son, and though he’d spoken to her frequently he hadn’t known that she was leaving. Having occasionally helped her by carrying heavy shopping bags up the stairs he was fairly sure she’d allow Sam to have a quick look at the flat if he asked.
    “Don’t worry if it looks a bit run down,” he said as they left the office. “My place looked rather seedy when I first moved in but a lick of paint fixed that.”
    Back at his flat Sam was about to get started on preparing the curry when Liam suggested that although she’d purchased all the makings there was still laundry to be done, but as it was already getting late and he was getting hungry perhaps they could eat out tonight and have the curry some other time. After looking at her watch Sam was inclined to agree but recommended that they have take-out rather than go to a restaurant: That way they could turn off the main light in the flat and use the bedside lamps so that with the reduced light she could look out at the harbour lights whilst they ate.
    “Sounds like plan. Let’s get the laundry started then go up to The Junction for the take-out. Chinese, Thai, Pizza… What do you fancy?”
    “Pizza is a Friday night thing with me, so heads it’s Chinese and tails it’ll be Thai. Have you got a coin?”
    Pulling a twenty cent piece from his pocket he flipped it so that it spun in the air towards her and after catching it she declared with a grin that they’d be having Thai, and he laughed when he saw that she hadn’t even bothered to look at the coin before tossing it back to him.
    “What time does the last ferry leave?” Sam asked as having done the laundry and finished their meal – and emptied the bottle of Blue Nun – they sat watching the harbour lights.
    “Eleven o’clock.”
    “If we hurry we might be just in time to see it leaving the wharf,” she said looking at her watch. “Looks like I’ll be staying over again.”
    “Well, if you are staying over there’s really no point in going down to the wharf then, is there? We can see the ferry leave from here.”
    “Good point. You know, I just might have to stay tomorrow night too: Good curries take time to prepare, and I make really good ones.”
    Liam was more than a bit surprised at this turn of events however he felt that Sam’s forwardness was more likely due to the wine she’d drunk rather than any attraction towards him she may have felt, and resolved not take advantage of her or make any untoward moves that might jeopardise any future relationship.
    Not that he was going to simply let her stay without having something to say about sharing a bed with him… again: After all, and despite the fact that he was quite attracted to her, they’d only known each other for four days! Then again, it probably wouldn’t be much good talking to her tonight if she was affected by the wine she’d had, so it would be better to wait until the morning.

    * * *
    “You know,” said Sam when they were having breakfast, “even though I went to work yesterday I feel like I’ve been on holidays for the past few days, and when I first woke up this morning I wished they’d go on forever. I really do want to make that curry for you, but now I’m worried you might think I was being a bit too familiar for suggesting I stay over again tonight. I mean, we’ve only known each other for a very short time so… ”
    Before she could continue Liam interrupted her: “No, it’s O.K. I admit that last night I was getting a bit concerned that we were getting too familiar too quickly, but I’m really happy you’re here. In fact, since you’ll be staying tonight and we’ll be going up to the cabin after work on Thursday, you might as well stay here tomorrow night too. Good Lord: Now look who’s being too familiar!”
    As they were leaving to catch the ferry Ingrid, the woman who was vacating her flat, was coming slowly down the stairs with her young son Toby in tow and after greeting her Liam introduced her to Sam who, he told her, was looking for a place to rent.
    “The girl at the office told us that you were leaving but that wouldn’t be until next month. Sam’s not desperate and doesn’t mind having to wait, but I was wondering if it might be possible for her to have a look at the place sometime before then and see if it’s what she wants.”
    “Oh I don’t mind showing you,” she said to Sam directly. “Have to warn you that it’s pretty run down though. I gave the required notice and that takes me up to the fifteenth but I’ll be moving out the weekend before that: I’ve managed to get a good job in Brisbane and start that on the eighteenth. I also found a nice apartment and want to get settled in before I start work, plus Toby will be going to day-care and I have to book him in for that too.”
    “Mummy said we’re going to a new house. I’ll have my own room,” put in Toby from his mother’s side.
    “Wow! Your own room,” said Sam. “That will be nice, won’t it?”
    Toby gave her a shy smile and nodded his head in agreement but didn’t say anything more.
    “I’ll be out most of the day today but I’ll be home late this afternoon if you’d like to come up then,” Ingrid said.
    “We’ll be catching the ferry after work and it should be docking around six so would that be O.K.?” Liam asked
    “That’d be fine. O.K. Got to go, but I’ll see you this evening,” she replied as she and Toby headed towards the main front door beyond which the driver of a waiting taxi had honked its horn.
    “Do you need to pick up anything from your place before the weekend?” Liam asked as they walked to the ferry wharf.
    “Not really, though maybe I should drop in and see my flat-mates. I feel like I’ve been gone for weeks rather than days and I’m beginning to wonder if they still remember me.”
    “How about I drive you over there tomorrow night?”
    “That’d be good. I can get my toiletries and my pillow, and see if I can hunt out some old clothes more suitable for camping and working in than those I just bought.”
    “I bet you’ll still look gorgeous though.”
    “Flattery will get you everywhere,” Sam laughed.
    “Not if you’re driving a car,” Liam joked.

    * * *


    Dude, I just want to first say good addition with this story. Second you must get your stuff on Amazon unlimited. You have some great stories and should be getting a pay check from this stuff. Love the work, keep it up.


    * * *
    In the evening, after Sam had prepared and they’d both enjoyed one of the best curries that Liam had ever had they discussed the move that Sam wanted to make. Having earlier had a look at the not really dilapidated flat that Ingrid was vacating she felt that a complete repaint, which Liam not surprisingly offered to help her undertake, could make it a very nice place to live. The rental was more than Sam was paying for the shared accommodation she currently had however the convenience of both bus and ferry services, the shops close-by and the view down the bay to the harbour would be worth it. In fact, she’d pointed out during their inspection, being from the next floor up the view was even better than could be seen from Liam’s flat.

    “Happy coincidence isn’t it? Ingrid moving out when I’m looking for a place I mean. Let’s see now: She’s paid up until the fifteenth but will be vacating the weekend before,” Sam said, looking at the calendar she’d taken from where it was hanging on the kitchen wall beside the refrigerator. “That means the place will be empty for five or six days. If I can get the place do you think I could get permission to repaint it on those days? I could do it in the evenings after work.”

    “I didn’t ask permission to repaint my flat but I invited the manager to have a look when I’d finished and he was quite pleased with the job I’d done… most probably because I also paid for the paint. I think that if you offered to do the same for the flat you want it would pretty much guarantee you’d get it. Let’s put it to him tomorrow, before we go over to your place and pick up your stuff.
    “Good idea. If he does agree I’ll tell my flat mates when we go over that I’ll be moving out. My rent’s paid up until the end of next month so that should give them enough time to find someone to take my place.”

    When approached with the offer next day the manager was not surprisingly quite happy for Sam to re-paint the flat, especially when Liam said that he’d be helping her, however he was under the impression that the painting would be done over the weekend after Ingrid vacated. Without mentioning anything about the current occupant’s earlier planned departure Sam said that she could pick up the keys to the flat from Ingrid as she left, and after offering to pay the bond and first month’s rent on the flat straight away her acceptance as a new tenant was immediately assured.

    Next on the agenda was the hour’s drive to Sam’s place at Coogee on the south side of the city, a trip which meant having to drive across the coat-hangar, which Sydney’s harbour bridge is sometimes called. Sam had only once crossed the bridge twice before: The first time on a train when her friends had taken her to Luna Park and the second when she’d been taken to Bevy’s Place on the previous Friday night, and though the trip across it in Liam’s Landcruiser would have afforded her a much better view of the harbour had it been made in daylight she thought it looked beautiful at night anyway.

    During the drive Liam suggested that as they would be away for the Easter weekend and the following weekend, and would be repainting her new flat during the evenings of the week after that, she might as well pack a few more clothes to bring with her.

    “I know we’ll be working on your cabin this weekend,” she said, “but I didn’t know you’d need my help on the weekend after. Not that I mind, of course.”

    “Well, I guess I’m being a bit presumptuous,” he replied, “but I was hoping you might like to come with me when I visit my friends who started me on my journey to freedom. They’re letting me use a caravan they’ve set up for visitors so we won’t have to pitch a tent, which is what we’d otherwise have to do in the dark because we’d be leaving here straight after work on the Friday.”

    “Really? Actually, I would like to go with you. You’ve told me quite a bit about your friends and I think it’d be nice to meet them in person. You know, I’ve travelled around a bit, mostly with my parents, but I’ve never stayed in a caravan before. You sure give me lots to write home about.”

    “Do you write home often?”

    “Almost never: It’s easier to use the ‘phone and I do that once a fortnight, just to let my parents know I’m still alive.”

    Sam’s arrival at her digs was met with some relief by her two flat-mates as in light of the previous Friday night’s abortive attempt to set her up with a date they’d been worried about her not having returned for so long.

    “I told you on the ‘phone not to worry, Nicky,” she said. “You know, despite the fact that Barry’s mate is a sleaze-bag I suppose I should thank him: After he and then you guys left I got to meet a really nice bunch of people and I’ve been having a fantastic time ever since.”

    “That’s great!” said Nicole. “I have to admit we didn’t really have much of a good time after we left you because of what Richard Cranium had said. The fact that he was drunk was no excuse and Barry was so angry that he turned out to be such a bigot that next day he ‘phoned him and told him he’s now persona non grata as far as we’re concerned.

    “Richard Cranium? I thought the guy’s name was Jerry.”

    “It’s more of an expression than a real name, Sam,” put in Liam with a laugh. “A short name sometimes used for Richard is Dick, and Cranium refers to the head: You can work it out I’m sure.”

    She did, and after laughing at its translation into the vernacular, which she didn’t bother to say out loud, became more serious.

    “Guys, I want you to understand that this has absolutely nothing to do with Richard Cranium or last Friday night, but I’ve decided to move out. I’m moving into a place in Neutral Bay.” When Nicky and Barry looked at Liam she was quick to add “It’s a flat in the same building as Liam’s, but on the floor above.”

    After explaining how she came to find the place and about the arrangements she’d made with the building’s owner and the current tenant Sam said that she was ready to move out straight away, but as she was paid up until the end of next month and wasn’t asking for any refund it should give them time to find another share-mate before the following month’s rent was due.

    Though Sam insisted it wasn’t necessary Barry told her that if they could find someone to come in before then they’d refund her the difference between then and the next rental period, which she accepted as being a fair compromise. Over coffee they spent quite some time chatting about what Sam had been up to over the past few days and then with her own pillow and one of two suitcases she’d packed – the second plus a few other items would be collected later – Sam and Liam headed back across the harbour.

    * * *


    Despite having previously organised not to have to work back for late-night shopping a staff member calling in sick meant that Sam had to stay on until nine p.m. on Thursday, which meant she and Liam would have to drive up to his cabin early Friday morning. Although she was annoyed it was no big deal, Liam had said, provided they left very early in the morning – say around five a.m. – and had breakfast on the way.

    While she was at work on the Thursday night he went to a store that sold industrial clothing and having had a peek at the sizes printed on the labels of the few clothes she’d hung in his wardrobe purchased a set of khaki Bib & Brace overalls and a work shirt for her. He’d liked to have also got her a pair of safety boots but whilst not knowing her foot size meant that would have to wait until she was able to try some on he did, just for the fun of it, get an inexpensive carpenter’s tool belt for her to wear when they were working on the building.

    When she arrived at his flat after finishing work she told him that if he was up to driving she wouldn’t mind if they left immediately rather than wait until the morning: Everything was packed apart from a few things in the fridge that could quickly be put in the esky; the holiday traffic out of the city would have eased off, and Liam had already picked up his trailer and loaded it with the pre-cut timber that would be used as rafters and purlins for the roof of the cabin.

    He agreed that it was a good idea so after Sam had tried on her new work clothes, which to Liam’s relief fitted properly, they took off, driving at not too much more than the speed limit as it being a holiday weekend the Highway Patrol that they kept a sharp look-out for was deployed in full force. Neither of them having eaten yet, a stop made to grab take-out meals from a McDonald’s restaurant was the only interruption to a fast trip up the highway that resulted in their setting up the tent by the glow of the spot-lights mounted on the roof-rack of Liam’s Landcruiser around one-thirty in the morning. Sam didn’t feel sleepy at all and she lay in her sleeping bag for some time thinking of cabins in the woods, vegetable gardens and being surrounded by native wildlife before finally drifting off to dream about the same things.

    Despite having gone to bed less than five hours before they were both up at the crack of dawn and whilst Sam, wearing her new work gear but sans tool belt, was preparing breakfast Liam removed the tarpaulins covering them and hauled into position the frames that had been assembled on the previous weekend.

    Although eager to get on with the job of erecting them he took the time to sit and enjoy the bacon and eggs that Sam had prepared, remarking that the breakfast was a certainly a lot more substantial than those they’d been having over the last few days before dashing off to work.

    “I’ve been wondering,” Sam said, “what you’ll do for things like bacon and sausages when you finally move out here to live your dream. I mean, I know that you’ll be able to grow most of your own fruit and vegetables as you said, and raise ducks, chickens and quail, but what about those things you want but can’t raise, grow or make yourself?”

    “You can make sausages yourself quite easily, and bacon too if you have the pigs. Not too sure about the regulations for keeping pigs in this area but if I’m able to I’ll probably get a couple. Goats are another good thing to keep and from what I’ve read their milk is better for you than cows’ milk and their meat has more protein and less fat than lamb or beef, so they’re also on my list of things I want to get. You’d be very surprised by what can be achieved by a homesteader but you’ll be able to see that for yourself next weekend when we visit my friends’ farm. You’ll also be able to see what this cabin should look like when it’s finished.”

    “The more you talk about how you want to do what they’re doing makes me even keener to go with you. I was thinking about buying a book on gardening because I don’t know anything about that, but it looks like I’d need to learn a lot more if I wanted to do something similar. Don’t suppose you could recommend any particular books, could you?”

    “Even better: I have quite a few that you can borrow. Nearly all of them were recommended to me by Dirk and I bought them after my first visit to his and Sally’s farm. But that’ll be after we get back to the city: Right now I want to get on with putting up those wall frames.”

    “What about the timber on the trailer?”

    “We’ll leave it there for the moment: After we’ve put the wall frames up there’ll be room on the cabin floor to assemble the roof trusses and with any luck we might be able to put together a few before we leave. If not we’ll just stack the timber and sarking there and cover it with the tarps again.”

    Sam’s building experience being limited to having once made a ginger-bread house during her primary school years, Liam accepted that the erection of the frames was probably going to take longer than he’d hoped and took the time to explain to her how it was to be done safely. She turned out to be an attentive and willing student and well before the end of their stay, despite it being a slow job plus their taking some time off to have drive around the countryside, they managed to have all the framing firmly secured and kept in place by temporary bracing which would be removed when the roof was added. She’d also managed with a bit of practice to master the skill of using a hammer to hit a nail squarely on the head… at least six times out of ten, Liam said with a laugh.

    “Just remember that nail heads are quite small when compared to the size of yours,” she replied with a grin. “And I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t miss if I aimed at that,” she added, pulling the hammer from the new tool belt she was proudly wearing and holding its face towards him.

    “It’s a long walk back to the city you know.”

    “I know. Just remember that when you see me leaving in your truck.”

    “Think you could you drive it?”

    “Don’t know, but I’d learn on the way if I had to.”

    Liam snickered and after pulling out the truck’s keys and dangling them in front of her face made a show of pushing them deep down into a pocket of his jeans where she would be unlikely to get at them… unless, as she told him, she first knocked him out with the hammer.

    Despite the fact that they’d actually been able to get most of the roof trusses assembled it would need an extra hand or two to safely hoist them into position, however whilst that job would have to be left for the moment the enjoyment Liam got from having Sam working with him made the weekend’s exercise well worth it. The fact that she was also able to turn out exceptionally good meals despite the limited facilities made him hopeful that she’d want to help him again, whilst for her part Sam was of a like mind and decided that if in future Liam asked her to help, which she sincerely hoped he would, she would be very happy to do so.

    With the light failing in the late afternoon and chances that the forecast of no rain for the following week at least was as likely as not to change, the trusses they’d been able to assemble, the timber for the rest plus the battens to support the corrugated roofing iron were stacked on the cabin’s floor and covered by tarps. (They would have been able to complete assembling all of the trusses had not Liam ordered a few hours break so he could take her on a drive around the local countryside and have lunch in a nearby town.) After the camping gear was packed away securely in the shed they drove back to the city, both happy with what they’d managed to achieve over the long weekend.

    * * *


    The working week had gone by quickly with the evenings from Tuesday to Thursday spent by Liam at his friend’s workshop where he was cutting the iron sheets for the cabin’s roof. Sam had opted to keep out of his way and stay at the flat where she spent some time preparing delicious meals and a lot on reading the books about self-sufficiency, vegetable gardening and more that Liam had filled his small book-case with. Such was the preoccupation that Sam had with learning about whatever was written in each of his books she’d didn’t notice for some time that Liam didn’t have a television set, but when she did she strangely found that that wasn’t such a bad thing.

    On the Thursday evening she arranged for Sue and Greg to come over and whilst Greg read books she taught Sue how to make an authentic Rogan Josh. Well almost authentic, she said, because a real Rogan Josh would have required mutton rather than lamb, and that wasn’t sold by the local butchers. She did have hopes that she might be able to persuade a butcher to obtain some for her, and if he could, maybe he could provide some goat meat also. Sue wrinkled her nose up at the mention of goat meat but though assured by Sam that she would like it said that she might… if it was in a curry that disguised the taste. Sam laughed and thought to herself that if she could get some goat meat she would serve it up without telling either Sue or Greg beforehand what it was.

    When Liam returned to the flat later that evening, but not too late as he knew that Sam had invited Sue and Greg to have dinner with them, he asked them both if they might be able to help him install the roof trusses of the cabin on one day of the weekend after the coming one. They were both keen to help and decided that rather than just go up for a day it would be better to camp overnight again and if possible try and get the roofing iron on also.
    “That’d be really good,” said Liam, “I’ve already cut the sheets of iron to the correct size and loaded it onto the trailer and I’ll drop those off on the way back from Dirk’s. We’d have to work fast to get the entire roof done in one weekend though.”

    “Well, you told me before that you’re going to use battens instead of plywood sheathing so if you have all those and the iron sheets cut to the correct sizes the four of us should be able to do it quite easily,” said Greg.

    “Most of the trusses have been assembled and the battens are already on site, plus I’ve also got the iron as well as the rolls of sarking loaded onto the trailer. By the way, remember that new nibbler attachment for my drill that I showed you? I thought it would make cutting the iron much easier to do plus not leave any sharp edges that’d be likely to cut us when we handle it, but it turned out to be too slow and I ended up using the angle grinder with a cutting disc. I used a file to dress up the cuts a bit but they’re still are a tad rough and it’d probably be a good idea for you to take a pair of good gloves to work with. I’m also going to borrow a small scaffolding unit from Dirk and I’ll drop it off at the cabin with the other stuff on my way back from his place. That should make doing the job a lot easier and much safer.”

    “Sam, if Liam wants to work on things the cabin needs I’d be happy to help you paint your new flat next week,” Sue offered. “I can come with you on the ferry after work and Greg can pick me up from here.”

    “That’d be really good, Sue. Getting the job done quickly would mean more time for the paint to dry and I’d be able to air the place out before I move in.”

    “Any way I could help you Liam?” Greg asked. “I’m pretty sure the girls won’t need my help.”
    “Sure you could help us,” Sue replied before Liam could say anything. “You could stir the tins of paint before we start and wash out the rollers and brushes after we finish.”

    Sam thought it was a great idea however Greg was less than impressed with the offer and after almost begging Liam to let him help with whatever needed to be done at the workshop finally accepted their suggestion that while they were painting he would organise meals for them all. He figured that’d be an easy task until Sue added that they had to be properly cooked meals and not take-aways, though he later compromised by cooking on three and opting for Kentucky Fried Chicken on the last of the four nights it took the girls to paint Sam’s flat.

    The painting would commence on the Monday evening after the weekend that Liam and Sam would be visiting his friends up north at “Stringer’s Farm,” not far from the village of Brocklesbury. Sam had been looking forward to the trip and, despite knowing that its main object was to introduce her to his friends and show her their cottage and gardens, after being told about the beautiful beach at Fish Hook Bay had bought for herself a new swimsuit.

    Friday after work found the pair once again heading up the Pacific Highway, happy to be leaving the city behind and looking forward to a relaxing weekend. Not that either of them were overly affected by the hustle and bustle of city life as living at Neutral Bay and travelling home by ferry at the end of each working day always seemed to leave the demands of work in its wake, particularly so for Liam who as a computer analyst/programmer often came under a lot of pressure from management.

    The laden trailer hooked up behind Liam’s truck didn’t slow them down too much as they headed north, and they arrived arriving at Springers Farm around eight o’clock to find that his friends were waiting for them at the top gate. Sam was introduced to Dirk and Sally, both of whom had been working outside and had walked up the driveway when they’d seen the bright headlights of Liam’s Landcruiser coming down the spur, and she and Liam were invited down to the cottage where a late meal was waiting for them.

    Having helped Liam build his cabin to the stage it was at now had given Sam a rough idea of how it would look when completed however seeing the inside of Dirk and Sally’s cottage was a real eye-opener as far as she was concerned, and its inspection took precedence over the waiting meal. Liam pointed out various details that he was incorporating into his own cabin, but whilst proud of the fact that his own workmanship and attention to detail was equal to that of Dirk’s, Sam took some of the wind out of his sails by saying she’d wait until it was finished before deciding whether that was true or not.

    Three blasts on an old WWII era hand-plunger operated klaxon that Dirk had purchased at a garage sale and mounted on the deck’s railing was a pre-arranged signal to inform Rob and Reb that the farm’s guests had arrived, and shortly after that pair arrived and joined the others. A bit of “getting to know you” conversation was had over the meal that was served on the deck but after it was finished and the dishes had been cleared away Sally brought out photo albums and a Farm Journal that she’d been keeping almost from the beginning of their residence at Springer’s Farm. She’d transcribed information from her personal journal when she first started the one for the farm and it now contained a detailed record of everything that had been done around the place. Dirk was also keeping a record of all the sowings, cultivation and harvesting of the plants in the vegetable garden as well as keeping tabs on the grape vines and the fruit and nut trees in the orchard and along the swales.

    Whilst Dirk also kept a record of the items he made for sale at markets and Rob kept track of the work he was doing servicing, maintaining and repairing small engines and machinery, her love of birds and animals had Reb keeping a record of all the poultry and the number of eggs laid, the litres of milk obtained from the dairy goats she milked daily, plus the amount of honey obtained from the bee hives.

    As Liam had to admit that he really hadn’t done much more than take a few photographs of the cabin he was building Sam immediately volunteered to make up a similar journal for him, and also take lots of photos, though she would have to use his camera because she didn’t own one.

    After two hours of conversation accompanied by several glasses of wine, a couple of which were produced from the first harvest of the farms own vines, Sam was convinced that her decision to come to Australia had been the correct one, and decided that at some point she would have to tell Liam exactly why she had left England and her parents. Their relationship thus far had been purely platonic however she was already beginning to feel that it would develop into a romantic and more intimate one within a very short time, so it would probably be better to talk to him sooner rather than later.

    It was close to midnight when Rob and Reb, who “just happened to be going in that direction,” showed the farm’s visitors the way to the caravan where Rob pointed out the main power switch and gas cut-off cock while telling them that the fridge was running and that a few items had been placed in it for their use. And naturally of course they had to brag just a little about the work that they themselves had put into making the van so comfortable and inviting.

    Both the van’s double bed and its sofa-bed had been made up however Sam thought that using the sleeping bags, pillows and towels they’d brought with them would save Sally the job of having to launder everything after they’d gone. After laying out the bedding Sam sat at the table and after taking a deep breath she began to speak.
    “Liam, maybe I should have told you before but there’s something I think I need to tell you about me. I don’t know if it will make any difference to our relationship such as it is, but until now I really hadn’t given it much thought. Can you just let me talk it all out before saying anything? Please?”

    Sliding into the seat opposite her with a slightly apprehensive look Liam simply nodded and looked at her expectantly as he waited for her to continue.

    “Back home I was in a relationship that didn’t work out well. I was in love, or at least I thought I was at the time, and lived with a guy for six months before waking up to the fact that whilst at first he appeared to be kind, gentle and loving his character could flip in an instant, and he would become intolerant, abusive and violent. He was a possessive and insanely jealous person who kept watch on my every move and made me feel like I was living in a prison.

    “My parents were completely unaware of his true nature and felt that I had made a real catch, he being reasonably handsome, well connected and already independently well off with the prospect of becoming extremely wealthy. He’d proposed to me in front of my parents and when I accepted they were overjoyed, believing that my future would be assured.

    “It wasn’t until after I’d moved in with him that I discovered his darker side but when I told my mother she just brushed it off saying that all couples had their ups and downs and things would work out right in the end. I know most Indian women are expected to accept whatever their husbands dish out but I am certainly not the type of woman who would tolerate that. The final straw was when he lost his temper one night over some trivial thing and slapped me to the floor before kicking me in the back. That was quite some time ago but I still have a bruise that my doctor told me will probably be permanent.

    “The next morning after he left for work I threw my clothes into a couple of suitcases and took off to a friend’s place where I knew he wouldn’t find me. My dad understood but my mother was really angry, not at my fiancée but at me, and after some bitter words I applied for a twelve month working holiday visa to come to Australia. I know you think I’m a good girl, at least according to Sue that’s what you told Greg, but I’m not really all that good.”

    “Is that it?” asked Liam. “You were in a relationship that didn’t work out? God, Sam, I was worried when you began talking that you were going to tell me you were married, or was batting for the other side. Look, I’m not as pure as the driven snow myself, and if that’s your only claim to infamy then you’ve got absolutely nothing to worry about, at least as far as I’m concerned.”

    “It’s not a problem for you then?”

    “Why should it be? The only thing I can think of that makes me angry is that the mongrel slapped you down and then kicked you. Kicking a man who’s down is considered to be a cowardly act but when it comes to kicking a woman it’s a hundred times worse in my book… probably even more.”

    “Thanks. I feel much better now I’ve told you. Umm… when you said you were worried I might have been “batting for the other side,” what did you mean by that?”

    “I was worried you were going to tell me you were a lesbian,” replied Liam, his shoulders suddenly shaking with barely suppressed laughter.

    When Sam herself began to laugh he couldn’t contain himself any longer and seconds later they were both laughing to the point of tears. After using tissues to dry their eyes Sam opened the fridge to find milk, butter, cheese, yoghurt and two bottles of wine, one of which she took out and passed to Liam to open while she hunted around the lockers for a couple of glasses, only to find them sitting on the kitchen bench-top in full view. Back at the table with a wine in hand Liam decided it was his turn to talk seriously:

    “Sam, do you mind if I ask you a couple of personal questions?”

    “What do you want to know?”

    “I know you don’t smoke. You wouldn’t consider taking it up, would you?”

    “Most definitely not: I find it hard enough to put up with the smell of other people smoking let alone think of lighting up a cigarette myself. And that goes for any other type of drug too.”

    “You have piercings for ear-rings, but none for your nose which I’ve noticed many Indian women have. You don’t want one of those studs?”

    “No. Nor any other body piercing. Well, maybe a chicken bone through the nose if you wanted me to look like some native tribal person, though I think it’s only the men who do that.”

    “Would you consider having a tattoo?”

    “Absolutely not!”

    “Look, I know this may seem rather sudden seeing as we’ve only known each other for such a short time, but would you consider becoming my girl friend? On second thoughts, to my mind we’re virtually at that stage now, so would you consider going a step further and becoming my partner? I’m not going to be upset if you say ‘no’ because I know I’m asking for more than I’ve a right to, but I honestly think we’d make a pretty good couple.”
    “Liam, are you proposing to me?”

    “Ahh… No. Well, at least not just yet anyway: We’ve both had a few wines tonight and I think it’s probably a good idea to be fully sober when making or accepting proposals, don’t you?”

    “Hmm… Yes, but what you’re asking is still a proposal of sorts isn’t it?”

    Without warning she suddenly rose from her chair and plonking herself down on his lap gave him a mighty hug and planted a kiss firmly on his lips, then as she held him tight agreed… but with a warning: “I think I’m probably sober enough to accept being your partner, as you put it, but if I find any girl within a mile who has designs on you, both she and you will be in big trouble.”

    For all that they both accepted that they were as of now a couple there were no boisterous movements of an intimate nature in the caravan that night and they were both more than content to share a few kisses and simply cuddle up together until sleep overtook them.

    * * *


    After breakfast Liam and Dirk unloaded from the back of the Landcruiser a heavy box containing a commercial type food slicer that Dirk had asked him to purchase on the farm’s behalf, and for which he’d sent a Liam cheque. It was actually Rob who wanted the machine and although it would be used for other foods the main reason for its acquisition would be to produce uniformly thin slices of beef for making jerky. Using the earth oven as a smoker/dehydrator Rob had turned out several more than acceptable batches and, encouraged by friends who had tried samples, thought he might be able to sell the product.

    Then, following the loading onto the trailer of the small scaffolding unit that Liam was borrowing, a tour of the farm commenced. As if the two cottage built by the residents of Stringer’s Farm hadn’t been impressive enough the small-holding they worked was certainly more than Sam needed to be convinced that a self-sufficient lifestyle was one she’d be happy to adopt, especially when shown the enormous amount of produce stored in the large cellar that had been dug into the hillside behind Dirk and Sally’s cottage.

    Whilst not being under the floor of the cottage it was still referred to as their cellar and Sam was astounded by the rows upon rows of all manner of canned and preserved goods that sat on the solid shelves that lined its walls. Not all of the fruits and vegetables put up had been grown on the farm however, because advantage had often been taken of what was to be had at the local markets when they didn’t grow it themselves and the price was right. There were also many sealed twenty litre pails of wheat, oats, barley, rice, lentils, split peas, chick peas and various types of beans, and amazingly to Sam, eggs, plus boxes of sand holding root-crop vegetables, both for eating and for the next season’s plantings.

    “Garage sales early and markets late is the way to get the best bargains,” Dirk told Sam. “We get our fresh produce from the markets when they’re close to closing because most sellers would rather go home with perhaps a smaller amount of cash than with a large amount of unsold produce that wouldn’t keep until the next market day.”

    “We also dehydrate quite a lot of food, though that’s done mostly during the summer when it’s hot enough to use the solar dryer that Dirk made,” put in Reb who along with Rob had joined them for a tour of the farm. “Rob’s specialties in the food department are his skill at making sausages and using the smoker. Between the four of us we catch a lot of fish and that’s what he started off with, but now he smokes just about everything else too: Pork, beef, chicken, quail, sausages and even eggs and cheeses. Now he wants to try vegetables – tomatoes, eggplant and zucchinis for example – though I don’t know how that’ll go”

    “I was going to try smoking grass too,” joked Rob. “But the others wouldn’t let me. Mind you, some of the beer we’ve brewed here lately has turned out to be pretty powerful and would probably make you hallucinate if you drank too much of it so I wasn’t too put out.”

    “I’m amazed by the amount of produce you have here,” said Sam. “How long have you been putting it away?”

    “Not all that long, considering,” replied Dirk, “Though we really got stuck into it after finishing the build of Rob and Reb’s cottage. The girls do most of the preserving and canning, Rob does the sausage making and smoking while I spent most of my time working for a friend, tending the gardens and orchards and traipsing around the countryside looking for preserving jars, of which fortunately I was able to get quite a few.”

    “Couldn’t you just buy them from one of those kitchenware specialty stores?”

    “If you could find one that sells them, and even then they cost an arm and a leg. Lots of farms held by older people are usually a good source for some of the things we need as the children who will eventually inherit their parents’ properties are more inclined to buy from supermarkets than make anything themselves. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, but I believe those of us who want to live a self-reliant way get a lot more satisfaction from a day’s work than we would by having slaving away at some mundane job in order to earn the money to buy the same things we can produce ourselves.”

    “Hmm… Yes… Liam did explain that to me, but seeing and hearing for myself how well you’ve been able to achieve what you have I can understand why he feels so strongly about doing the same. I have to admit I’m pretty much convinced too, though it must have taken a lot of hard work to get where you are now. What were the most difficult things you had to do?”

    All four residents had to stop and think about that for a bit as no one had ever asked the question before, however they eventually decided that there had been no really difficult things they’d had to do: By working hard together, and with the aid of a number of close friends they’d been able to accomplish most of what they’d planned. Their plan to sell fresh produce to restaurants didn’t work out as well as they’d hoped but they did have eleven households purchasing boxes of fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs on a weekly basis, and they were now in the process of expanding their small farm to cater for several more who were eager to take part in the scheme.

    A walk around the farm took quite some time as Sam wanted not just to have a good look but also to get a handle on what Liam and she would need to do to get even half-way to the same point of self-reliance. She quickly realised that with the two of them having full-time jobs and only able to work on-site on weekends it would take a considerable amount of time and a tremendous amount of hard work to attain that goal, however she was as undaunted by the prospect as was Liam. The fact that she’d be helping, he assured her when they discussed it that night over dinner at the cottage, would mean that the goal could be achieved much sooner than he’d originally hoped for had it been just him having to do the work.

    The four farm residents also made an offer to help out whenever they could as the site was only an hour and a half’s drive away, and with that in mind Liam decided to spend several weekends at the workshop making and assembling as much of the cabinetry as possible. This meant that not only could the kitchen be installed with the minimum of time and fuss it would give Sam the opportunity to have a hand in the internal arrangement. Not that she’d want to change any of Sally’s and Dirk’s design which she thought was just about perfect, but at least she’d be able to choose the colours and pre-paint the fittings.

    “We’ve got some friends helping us put the roof up next weekend, and it’ll probably take a couple more weekends to put the external cladding on. The internal insulation and lining will take longer as it’ll be a lot fiddlier, especially as plumbing and electrical wiring will need to be installed as we go,” said Liam, “but that can be done at a more relaxed pace.”

    “I imagine you’ll be using PVC for the outlet plumbing but will you be using copper or PEX for the supply pipes?” asked Rob.

    “I’ll be using PEX: More flexible, easier to work with and also a bit cheaper overall than copper. I’ve got a mate who’s a plumber and he’s offered to supply me with what I need at trade price and give me a hand putting it in but I’m keen on doing the work myself, and because it’s not connected to town water I don’t need a license to do that.”

    “Aren’t you worried about contaminants or leachates in the water from the PEX pipes?” asked Reb. “I’m always suspicious of chemical compounds used in anything connected with what we eat and drink.”

    “Not in this case Reb: There’s been enough research done to show there’s no problem there, and in fact research has shown that there can be contamination problems even with copper pipes.”

    “Will you be using water from the creek?” Dirk asked.

    “Yes, but only for irrigating the veggie gardens. For water for the cabin I’m planning on doing the same as you’re doing here: A tank to collect rainwater from the roof then pump it up to a storage tank on the slope above. I’ll put in a good filter system that will let us use water from the creek if we really have to, but I’m hoping to put in a storage tank large enough not to need doing that.”

    “A veggie garden will use quite a bit of water, especially in summer, and if you’re going to have to use a pump to bring the water up from the creek it might not work out to be as cost effective as you hope.”

    “I’ve already thought about that: The creek at the bottom of the block is small but at least it’s permanent and flows at a reasonably steady rate so I plan to put in a ram pump to lift water to a tank dedicated to the garden. Those pumps operate 24/7 year round and if I put the tank on the slope above them the water can gravity feed the veggie beds, all without a cent in running costs,.”

    “What’s a ram pump?” Sam asked.

    “It’s a self-acting pump invented by Frenchman Joseph-Michel Montgolfier about two hundred years ago. Many people know that he and his brother Jacques-Etienne invented and flew the first hot-air balloon, but few know both were also successful engineers who owned and operated a large paper mill. Anyway, the pump he invented only required a steady flow of water to operate and they were used extensively throughout Europe before electric motors and diesel engines came into use, and believe it or not many of those old pumps are still in use. There’s been quite a revival in the technology lately and it’s been improved a little over time. I’ve done a bit of research on them and fortunately found that they’re fairly inexpensive to make and easy to operate and maintain.”

    “Are they noisy?” Reb asked.

    “Supposedly not. From what I understand they make a ‘clack’ sound about every half minute or so and even that can be muted by suitable shielding. I imagine the sound might be something like that made by one of those deer scarers sometimes seen in Japanese style gardens.”

    “Oh, that’d be really cool,” quickly put in Reb, who was right into things Japanese, understood what Liam was talking about and with the aid of a quick sketch on a scrap of paper explained to the others how the device – which she told them was called a Shishi Odoshi in Japanese – worked.

    “If the noise scares deer away, and I wouldn’t think there’d be any of those around Blackwattle Creek anyway, do you think it might also scare away the kangaroos… and the platypuses?” Sam asked, suddenly worried that it might.

    “To be honest, I hadn’t given any thought to that, but I think if the sound was regular it’d only be a short time before the animals accepted it as being nothing to worry about. At least, I hope that’d be the case.”

    “Do you really have platypuses in your creek?” interjected a wide-eyed Sally.

    “Well, so I’ve been told, but I’ve yet to see any. Mind you, they’re basically crepuscular and nocturnal, and I’m usually tucked up in my sleeping bag come almost dark o’clock and too tired to go look for them.”

    “What does ‘crespucula’ mean?” asked Rob.

    “Crepuscular. It means active during dusk. I learned that when I was looking for information about the critters in the hope I’d be able to track one down.”

    Sam laughed and said “I was trying to read one of his Self Sufficiency books but he kept breaking my concentration by reading out loud almost every second paragraph about them in a book he borrowed from the library.”

    “Sally often did that to me when she was reading one of my books,” said Dirk, “Of course completely ignoring the fact that being an obviously well-thumbed book from my collection I just might have read it myself.”

    “You never complained to me about that,” Sally protested.

    “Of course not: I didn’t want to discourage you in any way,” he replied. “Plus you sometimes reminded me of something that I’d forgotten about, or needed to do, or wanted to try out. But back to the platypuses: What else did you learn about them Liam?”

    “Oh… Well, they’re known as monotremes: One of only five mammals that lay eggs but still suckle their young. The other four are all types of echidnas. Despite spending hours searching for food on the bottoms of rivers and creeks they actually close their eyes when under water; they use only their legs and not their otter-like tails for swimming; they have no teeth – or a stomach for that matter – and the males have a poisonous spur on their back legs. I have to admit it was very interesting, and after learning a few more things about them ended up purchasing a good book about Australian fauna.”

    “Does your book have anything about Bunyips in it,” asked Rob with a sly sideways glimpse at Sam whilst giving Liam a grin and a wink.

    “Not sure, Rob, though I haven’t read it all the way through yet. I don’t think we’d have any in our creek though; otherwise there wouldn’t be any platypuses there,” replied Liam, going along with Rob’s joke.

    As expected, Sam was quick to ask Rob what a Bunyip was.

    “It’s a creature that lives in billabongs and hunts animals such as possums, rabbits, bilbies and suchlike, though for some reason it seems to like platypuses best,” he replied with a straight face.

    “Not to mention wombats, wallabies, kangaroos, goats, sheep, cattle, horses and the occasional man or woman who’s silly enough to swim in any billabong where they live,” added Dirk, getting in on the act
    “Don’t listen to them,” Sally interrupted quickly when she saw what appeared to be a look of consternation cross Sam’s face. “Bunyips are mythical creatures from aboriginal folk-lore and are about as real as Big Foot, Yowies and Yetis: They simply don’t exist.”

    “What do you mean ‘Big Foot, Yowies and Yetis don’t exist?’ That can’t be right, surely?” Rob protested, earning him – and the other two men – threatening looks from both Sally and Reb that prevented them from going any further down that road.

    Realising that she’d been had, Sam managed to laugh… a little, whilst at the same time wondering how she’d be able to get her own back at them; perhaps not on this trip, but she certainly wasn’t going to forget.

    Because Liam wanted to take Sam to Fish Hook Bay early in the morning it hadn’t been overly late when they said good night to their hosts and headed to the caravan for a good night’s sleep, however it wasn’t until mid morning that they managed to get away: Sally had cooked up a large breakfast for them all and though Dirk had roped Liam into assisting him and Rob with a small job that needed an extra pair of hands he of course was quite willing to help.

    To save Liam having to tow it everywhere the trailer was unhitched and left at the farm until he and Sam were ready to drive over to Blackwattle Creek in the afternoon and drop off its load of building material and the scaffolding unit. With that done they headed towards the bay, arriving to find the beach was less crowded than either had expected given the lovely weather, and Sam was quick to use the amenities block and change in to her new swim-suit. When she emerged Liam, who had never seen her other than fully clothed or wearing pyjamas, was stunned to see that she’d purchased a very daring pale yellow one-piece that revealed that she was far shapelier than he’d ever imagined, though Sam herself seemed to be completely oblivious to the appraising looks from several young and not-so-young men who sat on the sand not far from where they’d laid out their beach towels.

    Those appraising looks turned to almost jaw-dropping stares after the couple returned from having had a quick swim in the unexpectedly cold water: As if her shapely figure alone wasn’t enough to attract the attention of every man in sight the cold water had caused her nipples to protrude considerably, and her one-piece swim-suit had become so near transparent when wet that she may as well have been standing on the beach naked. At least that’s what Liam told her when she lay face down on her beach towel.

    “Oh my God, I wasn’t aware of that,” replied Sam. “I hope there aren’t any Beach Inspectors around who somebody might complain to.”

    “Not likely that any man around here would complain, I reckon. Maybe a few wives and girlfriends would like to though.”

    “Do you think I should take it back to the shop and complain about it when we get back?”

    “No: When we get back home I want you to put it on and stand under a cold shower.”

    “What!? Why should I stand under a shower, and a cold one at that?”

    “Ahh… Because after our swim, like everyone else who watched you walk up the beach I couldn’t help notice that apart from making you appear virtually naked the cold water had also made your nip…”

    “Don’t you dare say any more,” Sam interrupted very quickly. “I know what you were going to say and I think it’s you who should be taking a cold shower.”

    Knowing that he’d only been joking – at least hopefully he was anyway – she wasn’t really offended and after giggling into her towel for a couple of minutes her hand found and held his as they lay side by side enjoying the sun.

    “Just now you said “when we get home,” and I’ve been thinking,” Sam said after mulling over a few things in her mind. “As we’re now partners there’s no point in having two flats is there? And if we share one… the upstairs one of course because it’s much bigger and has a better view of the harbour… splitting rent and expenses should mean saving us both a few dollars.”

    “I’d actually thought of the same thing earlier and was just about to ask your thoughts on it, so I guess we’re both pretty much on the same page. By the way, electricity is included in the rent of all the flats in the building, and gas for ranges and ovens comes through one of those old coin-fed meters in each kitchen, which is O.K. unless you’re in the middle of cooking something and run out of coins to feed it. Ingrid said she’d also had the ‘phone connected and if we want to keep it we’ll have to have the account transferred to either my name or yours.”

    Half an hour later, and after Sam had ensured her swimsuit was completely dry and hopefully wouldn’t attract anywhere near the attention it had when she exited the water earlier, they made their way to the Landcruiser and drove back to the farm where the trailer was once again hitched up.

    Shortly after a late but pleasant lunch had on the deck of Dirk and Sally’s cottage they began the drive to Blackwattle Creek, the back of the Landcruiser loaded with a range of produce produced by the farm, and for which both Liam and Sam had insisted on paying for at the going rate.

    Before leaving Liam had quietly confided that when they’d been talking in the pub down in Sydney a couple of years ago Dirk had been right about there being some nice girls in the city he could meet. In fact, he added, it turned out that Sam was one of the nicest girls he’d ever met, and despite having known each other for only a short time they’d already decided to set up house together. Whilst Dirk felt that the time the couple had known each other was really short, having met Sam and seen how well she and Liam seemed to suit each other he was very happy for his friend, and told him that if there was anything he and Sally could do for them both all they need do was ask.

    It was late at night when they arrived at Liam’s flat in Neutral Bay, having first dropped off the building material at Blackwattle Creek then opting to eat at a local restaurant rather than prepare a meal at home, but it had been a trip that was well worth taking.

    * * *

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