The rain comes down in sheets, each drop pelting against Merry’s skin like a bullet. It’s still a decent walk to where she parked her car. She’s going to be soaked through.
Down the street, at the cafe where she bought ice-cream less than two hours ago, she watches in horror as a table is picked up by the gale and tossed onto the road. A car brakes suddenly. Merry can’t see the driver through the windscreen, but she imagines them to be panting in fear, eyes wide in shock.
Merry hunches in against herself, curled against the elements. She keeps taking steps to her car, but it seems like the wind pushes her back. It takes effort to stay upright; her beach bag no longer over her shoulder but dancing around her body like a rag doll.
A outdoor umbrella from the cafe’s kerbside dining is lifted by the wind. It flies over the road and is dumped onto the sandy beach, narrowly avoiding a boy and his mother.
‘Are you OK?’ Merry shouts. It’s no use. Her words are forced back into her mouth, gulped into her throat.
Finally, she reaches her car. Turning her back to the wind, she rummages through the bag to find her keys. For a split second she’s concerned they fell out somewhere. Worse, they’re buried on the beach. But they’re at the bottom, underneath the soggy towel.
Blip blip. The car unlocks. Merry opens the door, which is almost thrown off the hinges, and sits in the driver’s seat. The wind howls around her. She’s got to get out of here. Dave will be waiting for her, back at the hotel.
As she makes her way there, she holds the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip. It’s hard to keep the car straight, on the road even. Could the car actually be lifted by this gale?
A cracking bang in the distance causes her to jump in her seat. She counts to three and the sky lights up with a lightning bolt. A proper bolt, like you see in drawings. Huh. She never knew they really did look like that.
The windscreen wipers are on the highest they’ll go, yet she still has little visibility. She’s distracted momentarily by their rhythm, and her head moves from side-to-side synchronised to the beat.
‘What are you doing, idiot!’ A scatty driver in the best conditions, Merry forces herself to pay attention.
Two more right turns and she’ll be at the hotel. She hopes Dave’s meeting is finished. They were planning on driving to Sydney through the night. But is it a good idea, with this storm? Perhaps they should stay another night.
She makes the final right turn. Dave’s standing in the foyer of the hotel. She pulls into the driveway as he runs out.
‘I’ll drive,’ he says, opening the driver door. ‘Scoot over.’
Merry does so. ‘David,’ she says uncertainly. ‘Do you think we should still drive tonight?’
‘Hotel’s full. I checked already. We’ll just have to make the best of it.’
‘I’m sure the weather’s better further north anyway.’
Merry nods, glad that Dave’s the in-control, unfazed kind of bloke. She wriggles about in the passenger seat, curls her legs up onto the seat and drifts off while the road stretches ahead of them.