I watch, my face blank, as the white truck’s doors close and the vehicle departs. I’m frozen, staring, as my past drives away from me. I feel a hand on my shoulder. ‘It’ll be waiting for us in Sydney, Jess.’ I look down at the gravel beneath my feet. Of course it will, I reassure myself. Nothing has to change. I’m not afraid to admit that I fear change. I’m of English blood, and tradition flows through my veins.
I hear the crunch of my mother’s soles trudging away from me and back inside. I don’t want to step back inside. Now that I’ve stepped out, I’m not sure I can step back in. The wind rushes towards my face, like a wave on the beach.
I remember surfing in the summer. I felt so free, without a care in the world. That was before my mother got her new job. The last fifteen years of my life have been in Melbourne, and I can’t imagine a life anywhere else. We have no family in Sydney. I’ve never even been there.
My eyes snap open. I didn’t realise they had been closed. Goosebumps crawl up my arms and down my legs, sending shivers down my spine. I sigh. With a heavy heart, I turn around and walk slowly back inside.
My room is empty. My bookcase, desk, bed…it’s all gone. We’re sleeping at a hotel tonight, before driving up to Sydney in the morning. I sink to my knees, sadness bubbling up inside of me. And anger, towards my mother. Hatred.
People say that stories – films, books, anything – are almost always based around one of two loose storylines. The first is that a stranger arrives and shakes up normal life. The second is that a hero departs on a journey. The two concepts are quite similar. The hero could depart on a journey, arrive somewhere new and shake up normal life. The storylines go hand in hand.
I hear a laugh from my sister’s bedroom. She’s eleven. The laugh is loud, and exaggerated. I imagine she’s talking on the phone. Our impending move doesn’t seem to bother her. So what’s wrong with me?
Someone nudges me, and I let out a noise of disapproval.
‘Jessica, get up!’
‘No!’ I yell, shoving the culprit away.
‘Alright. You want to stay in Melbourne? Fine. But you’ll be on your own. We’re leaving in thirty minutes.’
I roll over and open my eyes. My heart pounds when I don’t recognise my surroundings. It all comes back in moments; we’re in a hotel, and we’re moving to Sydney. In thirty minutes.
I consider my options. I can lie in bed for the next thirty minutes and face my mother’s wrath, I can jump out of bed now and rush to prepare, or I can slowly get ready. I select the latter.
I have only one outfit to choose from. It’s a pair of black tracksuit pants and a comfortable pink shirt. Boring, conventional clothes for the nine hour drive that awaits me. Oh, joy.
The car zooms down the freeway at a hundred kilometres an hour. It feels fast, and it is. I stare at the scribbles of graffiti on the gates around us. I can’t imagine sneaking out at night, onto the freeway, with a bottle of spray paint. I can imagine wanting to do graffiti – I’ve done it on my locker – but nice, sensible graffiti; no swearing, and preferably small writing. The vandalism I watch as we drive is not good.
I doze off, my head against the window, before waking as we come to a stop. My vision blurs as I try to focus on the faint outline of a bright yellow M. Maccas. Thank you, God.
I trudge out of the car like someone from The Walking Dead. Cheeseburger or nuggets? The restaurant isn’t empty, but it isn’t busy either. A group of men in bright yellow shirts scoff Big Macs. A family with three young children share fries. A lonely, middle-aged man takes a sip of his drink. And then there’s us.
The pudgy eleven year old girl, with blonde curls and an iPad in hand, who orders the ten pack of chicken nuggets. Her sister, who just woke up, with messy brown hair and bags under her eyes, asking her father for a cheeseburger. The father, at forty-seven, who also looks tired, collecting his family’s requests. Last but not least, the mother, who looks older and more tired than any of them, sweat breaking out on her forehead, as she requests a large serving of fries.
If we were to turn into emotions, I would be Exhaustion. My sister, Jen, would be Happiness. Both of my parents would be Stress.
Dad thanks the employee and picks up our tray. As we walk, I snatch my cheeseburger and dig in. I need to eat my feelings. It’s delicious, salty, with a hint of pepper. I grab a chip from Mum and a nugget from Jen. Mum ignores my crime, but Jen’s face flashes with anger and she yells, ‘Hey!’ I roll my eyes and shove the nugget into my mouth. She won’t take it from me now. Mum giggles, and I see a smile form on my usually serious father’s face. Jen glares at me, but she has a look of sisterly love in her eyes. Well, sort of! I look into my lap. This is my family. The end of Melbourne brings the start of Sydney. The end of the beginning. Or is it the beginning of the end? Whatever you want to call it, it might just be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. You never know.