Fiction

An escape that led home

She drove for hours, the road stretched on behind her in the rear vision mirror. Desperate to outrun the city, him and all those memories.

The black ribbon of road unfurled itself straight ahead with nothing but vast expanses of land on either side. Occasionally, she saw a cow or sheep. A hay bale. A shed.

Tired and bored, and worse, drowsy, she vowed to pull over in the next township and grab a bite to eat, and perhaps chance a coffee. These country towns were poor testaments to the Australian coffee culture. Milky, tepid, weak.

Their weekend brekkie dates were her favourite memory of him. They’d lazily stumble out of bed, don trackies, zip-up hoodies, thongs and go to their local cafe.

‘Mel, Sean, good to see you again,’ the cafe owner would say. It was the same each week. ‘The usual?’

They both would nod. Minutes later, two macchiatos would arrive at their table. They’d drink them quickly but with pleasure. Their meals—big breakfast for Sean and feta and  avocado smash on rye for Mel—would arrive, along with two steaming flat whites. They’d read the papers, chat and eat, then stroll back home, where they’d undress and spend the day in bed.

In the driver’s seat, Mel raggedly wiped her eyes with the back of her hand. She puffed her cheeks and let out a whoosh of air.

‘I will not be done over by this,’ Mel told herself as she saw the sign stating Kunnamunga was only another forty kms away.

Fifteen minutes later, Mel slowed to 60kms, as the main street of Kunnamunga welcomed her. Signposts on the side of the road urged her to stay overnight at the three-star B&B, or stop at the petrol station to fill up. Another sign, with the telltale huge yellow M encouraged her to keep going, Maccas was in the very next town. She giggled as she wondered how many floored it past Kunnamunga to get a Big Mac.

‘What a quaint little town,’ Mel said out loud. Tea lights decorated the verandahs of the shops on the main street. There was a cute cafe with market umbrellas on the footpath, diners seated, too. She saw a library, stating the next meetings of AA, the local mothers’ group and a book club. There was a motel, with an in-ground pool, the police station and a block of public toilets.

Mel parked her car and walked back to the cafe.

‘Well, howdy.’

Mel looked in the direction of the voice.

‘Over ‘ere.’ This time, a head popped up from behind the counter. ‘Whacanni do ya for?’ The voice came from a woman, built like a fridge. The fridge smiled, big and wide.

Mel felt warmed and loved, like she’d come home. ‘I’d like a sausage roll and a coffee please. To have here. Outside, I think.’

‘Bring it right to ya, love.’ The fridge motioned with her head for Mel to go outside.

Mel waited, flicked her phone to life to pass the time. Her lunch arrived, ‘Love, ‘ere ya are. Ya right? Ya look sad to me.’ The fridge was sharp as well as square and heavy.

Mel wiped her eyes again and sniffed. ‘No, but I will be.’ The fridge sat down, uninvited, but not unwelcomed.

‘Got nothing but time, love. Tell me all about it.’

And to Mel’s astonishment, she did just that. She spoke of finding Sean with the belt she’d given him for his birthday around his neck. His legs dangling and his face purple, eyes bulging. She bellowed out sobs, uncaring that passers-by were staring. The fridge edged her chair closer to Mel’s and held her while she cried, over and over, ‘I don’t know why! I don’t know why!’

Two years later, Mel was still in Kunnamunga working with Betty, aka the fridge.

She had indeed come home.

 

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