"This is such a mistake," she thought to herself.
Another loud cheer erupted from up on the clubhouse deck. The voice responded again,
Her head filled with mindless chatter so loud that it left her with nothing to say. Slowly she pulled the phone from her ear, fear and regret drizzling steadily, slowly filling her up. Her hand shook as she hung up the receiver. Her coin clanked its way through the phone and clattered into the tray. She dug another coin from her pocket, her silence costing her dearly.
She stood in the booth for a while, and the notion of filling herself with booze passed fleetingly through her mind. She reminded herself that those days were gone, and caught herself out on her own backward slide. How quickly revisiting the past could restore such dangerous patterns.
She fed the coin in the slot and redialled the number. It answered at once.
"Hello?" she noted a tinge of annoyance in his voice.
"Jack?" Her hand clenched the receiver so tightly, her fingers hurt.
"Yes, this is Jack. Who's this?" There was a hint of playfulness now back in his voice.
"Jack, Hi, it's Ella...I got your ..."
"Ella?" he cut her off.
"Yes, it's me," she said, looking back out at the darkening sea. A silence drifted between them as dark and as deep as the ocean before her.
"Where are you?" he finally asked, his voice softening.
"I'm down at the surf club,"
"Our surf club?" she could hear the surprise in his voice. He clearly wasn't expecting a house call. Something fluttered inside her at his reference to "our".
"Yes, our surf club," she smiled.
"Fuck. um...where are you staying?" he asked. She realised she hadn't a clue, hadn't thought much about where she would be by the end of the day.
"I actually hadn't given it much thought until now. There's a motel I passed back on the coast road, I'll probably..."
"No, no,don't do that. I just thought you might be already staying somewhere. I'm guessing you got my letter?"
"You'd be guessing right," she said staring at it as it lay in her upturned helmet that rested on the bench.
A silence fell between them again. In the background, voices carried over the quietness. She imagined him somewhere, sitting back, watching the tele, drinking a beer.
"Well, you know where I live. Come on over." She heard his nervousness tightly disguised by his laughter and figured he was possibly even more scared than her. The thought made her feel better.
"Maybe I should book a room first and then..."
"Ella, it's me. There's a spare room here..."
"Enough said then," she answered quietly.
"Enough said," he answered back, and then she heard him hang up the phone.
She replaced the receiver with both hands, leaning her head hard against them as she processed what had just happened. She wondered how ten years could pass and yet have it feel like no more than a week. She let go of the phone, and folded the letter, and tucked it back in her jacket pocket. She picked up her helmet and pulled open the door, relieved to be out of the tight confined space. In the twilight, she crossed the car park, pulled on her helmet, straddled her bike and cranked it to life. With the cover of darkness slung gently about her, she rode out of the car park and headed back onto the road that would lead her to him.
'our surf club', she reminded herself as she rode.
Like a lovesick teen, she could feel the distinctive flutter beating its wings inside her. In less than ten minutes she had pulled into his drive. The outside light burned like a beacon guiding her home.