Circuit Beach by Bonnie Atteridge
“Stop, Rosie, Stop! Stop the car… I remember where it is now… I think!” An excited voice broke into Rosie’s daydreams. Rosie glanced at the faded Bateman’s Bay map and then the street sign, and then across at her sister Stella’s face, breaking into smiles. Her heart melted as she recognised the teasing, tousled tomboy look of years gone by.
“Stop here! We are nearly there! I am sure … I think…! “Stella exclaimed again, twisting and turning in her seat. She took off her smart sunglasses and floppy designer hat to reveal her freckled face and sun-bleached bobbed hair and bright blue eyes.
“It feels right, it feels time to return, to come and visit the ghosts of our pasts, doesn’t it Rosie, don’t you think?” she pleaded quizzically, eyes wide.
Rosie slowly nodded, her own thoughts in turmoil, as wheels inside wheels in her heart were rolling around and around, and the ghostly grey whispers of their pasts swirled foggily inside. She stopped the car hesitantly, as if at a crossroads, and having second thoughts about moving forward. She ran her fingers through her curly dark brown hair, tugging at wayward greying wisps, her brown eyes rolling.
“Let’s do it then! Let’s go down this road and see if it’s the right street and the right beach!” Declared Stella firmly. “We could pretend it’s just another one of our old adventures.?.” she added whimsically.
Rosie sighed, remembering how she always seemed to give in to her charming, quicksilver sister… and always seemed to come out of the adventures worse off! She started the car again, her dad’s battered old volkswagon rumbling into life, wary but ready for whatever new path lay ahead. They travelled forward expectantly as they turned into the gravel road, ignoring a battered sign saying “no access to beach’’ and glimpsing at flickers of shimmering water through the tall elegant spotted gums. There was a little bay there, but was it their bay, their beach? She loved and had missed these gums. Past a weathered old gate, they bumped to a stop on the sandy driveway.
“There’s a shack or something - but its blue not green. I don’t remember anything here -or those boats ….” whispered Rosie warily, pointing to some old decaying overturned dinghies scattered around an overgrown garden.
“I think I’ve been here before .. mmm..but it’s not what we are looking for….” mumbled Stella, with a surprised then secretive look briefly skimming her face.
“Have you been here before? What or Whose is it?" queried Rosie.
“Oh…. I’ll tell you later. Let’s go……! Let’s try the next beach… or the next! It must be here somewhere?! I think it was past Surf beach! Maybe near Lilli Pilli beach? “Stella insisted hurriedly.
They tried a few more streets and dead-ends, getting a bit more despondent. They argued a bit-with Stella wanting to keep going, following her intuition. Rosie hesitated, wishing she had a better local map. Maps always helped ground her. But she bit her tongue for the sake of peace, and to keep the fleeting feeling of bonding with her once long lost, older sister, now recently reunited.
“There it is! I knew it. Circuit Beach Lane. That’s it- turn left there!” Stella exclaimed, pointing to yet another rather overgrown gravel track and faded signpost.
Rosie nodded. Heart in her mouth, she abruptly turned into the shady lane and coaxed the car over the bumps, slowly but surely catching the excitement of her sister who was waving and jumping in her seat.
“Almost there! Almost there! -we can almost see the seaside! Almost there! Almost there! Everyone beware!” Stella warbled in her sing- song way, eyes sparkling.
Suddenly the past, like a blanket or a well-worn tapestry of wayward strands, wrapped around Rosie, almost smothering her. She choked back her tears.
There it was- around the hedge of overgrown tea trees -and up a rather steep track. Her father’s seaside cottage -“Stan’s Shack”-rather worse for wear after twenty years of neglect, and family heartaches, and split loyalties. Rosie strained to see more of the cottage hiding behind the tall sentinals, the stunning spotted gumtrees. She sighed, her eyes kept on being drawn irresistibly to the shimmering, sparkling water over the top, past the cliffs to Dinosaur Head, and then to the right, the glittering prize of the blue sea and golden sand of her dearest place -Circuit Beach.
“Ahh! I am home again… too long, too long… “Rosie sighed again, feeling ready to be immersed in the forgiving whitewash of the ocean’s caress – to swim and swim, and sink and float away- free from the shadows of the dark and deep. Such sun-kissed summer holidays they had all had there -before their parent’s divorce, before her great disapointments, before the great “Betrayal”.
Stella had already scrambled out of the car and was dancing around, then dragging Rosie to the rusty garden gate, pointing at the faded grey green cottage.
“Let’s walk up the garden path like old times, me first then you, like always … and singing Dad’s welcome song! “Stella pleaded, also remembering happier times.
They waltzed and warbled their way up the path, like young children again, towards the faded green door.
“Should we go straight in, or walk around the outside first?” Asked Rosie hesitantly, always one for walking around a problem, rather than barging straight in.
“I knew you would say that! We have to go straight in the front door and take what comes!” Stella chuckled. They stood for a moment, each reflecting on what treasures and memories of the past and new mysteries there might be there. They felt they had come home again, back to the glistening, shimmering South Coast again, back to find the hidden pearls of their existence that may still be there.
Stella turned the key in the lock slowly, with difficulty, and together they pushed the door open, and gasped, staring…