This story is by Jessica Nicol and was part of our 2017 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
Wow that escalated quickly, I thought as I ran down the footpath. I was in the heart of Sydney and breathed in the fumes of the traffic heavily as I panted along. Thank goodness, I wore my canvas shoes and stretchy skinny jeans today, and not my usual lace up sandals and long floaty skirt. I continued to pelt down the footpath.
I need to get to the gym more often, I realised as I looked over my shoulder. They were gaining on me. I turned a corner and spotted a tree set close to a large old retro style apartment building. The branches were thick with brown, red and yellow leaves and reminded me of the big old trees I loved to climb in my youth. I grabbed the lowest hanging branch and hoisted myself up.
I let myself stop and take a breath. It was perfect, the foliage covered me completely and I could wait it out. The air was cool and I shivered as I perched in my brightly coloured haven. Suddenly the wind picked up sweeping the leaves off the tree and I watched in dismay as my perfect cover blew down the street. Oh no, I looked down … I could see them but they hadn’t spotted me.
I looked up and noticed a branch close to one of the apartments balconies. Yes, I can do this. I channelled my inner possum as I scaled the tree easily, aah so there is memory in the muscles, and made it to the balcony within seconds. I jumped safely onto the concrete and slowly opened the glass sliding door. I found myself in a surprisingly large open plan kitchen, dining and living room. Space wasn’t so much at a premium in the olden days I guess. It looked modern but still gave a nod to the heritage of the building.
I stopped to listen and could hear the shower running. Ok now to make my escape. I walked into the kitchen towards what looked like the front door and noticed a pot simmering on the stove. Hmmm, what’s in there? I lifted the lid and a pungent smell erupted out in a cloud of steam. What on earth was this person cooking? The next thing I knew I had a teaspoon in my hand and was reaching into the pot for a quick taste. Well, it was definitely a curry but there was a metallic edge to it … too much? Too much? Yes, that’s it, too much cardamom.
“Excuse me,” I’m abruptly interrupted. “ Who the hell are you? What are you doing in my apartment?”
I turned around slowly with my hands raised, the offending teaspoon still in my right hand.
“And give me three reasons why I shouldn’t call the police right now?”
My heart stopped momentarily as I looked into the eyes of the most gorgeous man I had ever seen in my life. His expression was surprised then quickly changed to a deep scowl. He stood half naked in a towel and had an eight pack. I didn’t even know those existed in real life. I took a deep breath and then giggled slightly which only seemed to offend him further.
I pulled myself together and thought quickly.
“My name is Ivy and I am escaping from some people. Three reasons why you shouldn’t call the police: 1. I’m not technically intruding; 2. I’ve never been to New York; and 3. I can help you fix that disastrous curry sitting on your stove.” I squirmed. “Oh and 4. It’s not really a great time for me to get arrested.” I looked down at my watch. “I have a vitally important meeting in a couple of hours.”
He continued to glower at me as he said with force, “You are technically intruding. I don’t know you, I haven’t invited you into my home and yet you let yourself in without my permission. How did you get in anyway? I have a double dead bolt on my door. And I’m four storeys up.”
I gulped four storeys, it didn’t feel like it at the time of climbing the tree. Before I had a chance to respond he said, “Wait right there, I’m going to get some clothes on and then we can get to the bottom of this.”
I turned as he walked out of the room and placed the teaspoon in the sink. I paced around, a bit jumpy. Any person with half a brain would have taken this opportunity to make a quick getaway and yet I was still there. I checked my watch, a little under two hours to go.
He walked back into the kitchen wearing light denim jeans and a soft grey t-shirt. He seemed more personable as he put the kettle on.
“Would you like a coffee or tea?” he said.
“Are you going to call the police?” I asked as I eyed him warily.
“Ummm probably no, but I do have a couple of questions for you before you leave.” He said as he looked at me quizzically and continued. “You know, you could have left by now, but you’re still here so I’ll take that as you haven’t stolen anything. Otherwise, you would have hightailed it out of here.” He began to make a pot of tea. What an old-fashioned thing to do, reminded me of days spent playing tea parties with my Nan.
“Funny you say that, but I was thinking the same thing. If my head was on straight today I wouldn’t have got into the predicament I did earlier then requiring me to run, hide in a tree, realise my hiding spot wasn’t that great and then climb onto your balcony and into your apartment. Or taste test your disastrous curry. You really should lock your balcony door, anyone could jump in here, and you’re just lucky that it happened to be me.” I take a breath at the end of my rushed ramble.
His eyes widen and I could see the hint of a smile behind a look of disbelief. “That seems absolutely ridiculous, you should be more careful. You could have fallen and hurt yourself or worse. And my curry can’t be disastrous. I followed a recipe and measured everything out precisely.” He turned, grabbed a teaspoon out of the drawer, and tasted the curry.
He looked back at me with dismay, “What happened?”
“Do you have any potatoes? Peel a few, pop them in whole and they’ll absorb the extra cardamom flavour. I think you got your measurements mixed up.”
I checked my watch again; still a little under two hours to go. It felt like time was standing still. I suppose a cup of tea to calm the nerves wouldn’t hurt and the State Library cafe wasn’t far.
“Yes, to tea please, strong with a dash of milk, no sugar. A very quick one, I really do have a vitally important meeting to get to.”
“Why did you mention that you hadn’t been to New York in your list of reasons? I wasn’t threatening to kill you.”
“I panicked as I haven’t been to New York but I would love to one day, I haven’t actually ever left Australia.”
He passed me a cup of tea.
“So, who were you running from?” He asked as he motioned me towards the seats at the dining table.
I sat down opposite him and felt the sheer indignation from earlier rising in me. “I caught some kids graffiti the wall of my favourite coffee shop. I couldn’t let them get away with it so I grabbed their spray cans, threw them over a wall and ran for it.”
I watched him from across the table and could see his eyes twinkling at me. My stomach did a somersault.
“A graffiti vigilante, hey? And what is your vitally important meeting that is just over an hour away?”
I took a deep breath and looked down at my tea as I said, “Well, I’m meeting my Dad for the first time,” I looked up at him and saw his expression was solemn as he listened to me, “I’ve never met him before and he didn’t even know that I existed until two weeks ago and here I am. Running around like a headless chicken. What if it’s a complete debacle like the rest of my day? I’m not even sure of what to say to him? Why would I even want him to be in my life? What is he going to think of me?”
And then for the second time that day my heart stopped as he smiled at me and said, “He’s going to love you.”