Roxie stands in her back yard. Her arms are clasped tight around her torso to ward off the chill of the night air.
The moon sits just above the horizon; Roxie checks her watch. Seven o’clock and already dark. It’ll soon be winter. But she’ll be out of here by then. Her ticket is purchased. She’s packed and ready.
Roxie jumps at the sound of a crash from inside the house. By the time she reaches the glass panel doors she’s breathless. She catches her reflection; her eyes are wide and bright.
‘Who’s there?’ she calls out, as she slides the door open.
Footsteps. Coming from the front room. She reaches for the rolling pin in the second drawer and creeps slowly towards the noise.
She can hear furniture being dragged over floorboards, and drawers being slid open in the room. Her heart is beating hard, pushing against her ribs. It’s taking up all the space in her chest. She holds onto the door frame for support as she wonders what next she should do.
‘Surprise!’ The word is shouted as thirty people burst from behind furniture. A lamp by the couch is switched on and the room illuminates.
‘Matthew!’ she yelps, dropping the rolling pin on the floor in shock. The scene unfolds around: her parents are there, sitting comfortably on the couch. Her brother and his family are next to mum and dad, and her two sisters and their partners are standing behind them. Roxie finds her nieces playing in the corner, dressed in their winter pyjamas. Her best friend, Belinda, is next to her, ready to give her a hug. And Matthew, her boyfriend, is by the front window.
‘What is this?’ she continues. Her breath comes in short gasps. ‘You gave me such a fright.’
‘Surprised then?’ he asks. He strides across the room to gather her in his arms. He kisses her forehead tenderly and slings one arm around her shoulders and turns her to face everyone in the room. ‘We wanted to do something to celebrate this momentous occasion. We won’t be able to soon.’
Everyone in the room is holding champagne and someone thrusts a glass into Roxie’s hand. She smiles as she looks at everyone. ‘Thank you,’ she whispers, glancing up at Matthew.
‘Come with me,’ Matthew mumbles into her ear. ‘I’ve got another surprise.’ He places the champagne glass onto the hall table and leads her away from the party, calling over his shoulder that he’ll bring back the lady of the hour shortly. The group collectively chortles.
In the hallway, he kisses her. ‘Are you sure you won’t change your mind?’ he asks, his voice croaks.
‘Nope, it’s all set. This is the trip of a lifetime. One I’ve saved up for. You know this, Matthew, we’ve talked about it.’ She searches his gaze for support, understanding. Instead, his eyes are dark with sadness. She’s sorry to leave him behind, but she’s determined not to give up her life’s dream. She draws breath and says, ‘I’m on standby, just waiting for the call. Could be any day now.’
Matthew rubs his head with the palm of his hand. ‘Honey, you’re killing me. What if you don’t come back?’
‘Of course I’m coming back. It’s just like going overseas these days.’ She leads him to the back yard again.
‘Look at it,’ she points at the moon. It’s higher up in the sky now; its soft yellow glow brings warmth to her skin. She smiles as she sees the familiar pattern of the moon rabbit and reaches for Matthew’s hand. ‘Don’t you want to see what’s there?’
He lets go of her hand, shakes his head. ‘I’ll meet you back inside,’ he says, grimly.
Roxie stares at the moon for another minute. She goes back inside to face her farewell party.