The first time they visited was shortly after the party, Rory came too – he and Sasha holding hands as they navigated the sandstone path to the door. Eddy glanced at Elise, wondering if she thought they made as strange a pair as he did, but she had thrown herself into catering for the six of them, and was enclosed by her own concentration. The tiny kitchen allowed for only one person to be in it at a time. It was a kitchen Elise’s grandmother had not allowed to be changed in all the time that she had holidayed at the house, cooking for sometimes ten or more people. But now she was gone, her generation passed on, and her granddaughter spun between the stove and the sink and the cupboards painted a dark green. The wind came up and blew the dust along the floor and out the door. When the westerly got going, Elise’s family legend had it, any rugs would be lifted off the floor, the cracks between the boards were so wide. The air was cleaner out on the veranda, and Eddy carried salads and eggs and bread out onto the table there, brushing the layer of leaves aside.
‘There’s a broom here!’ Elise called as she opened the cupboard near the door.
‘This is paradise,’ Sasha sighed, coming in from exploring the garden.
‘And part of it is yours.’ Rory added.
‘Yeah, I spose it will be, but it’s still being sorted, there are lots of us in the wills.’
‘Wills?’ Rory popped an olive from the salad into his mouth. Eddy was right, he and Sasha did make an odd couple. He was tall and thin and had grown his moustache to dangled over his lip. It made Elise think of his Mongolian ancestory – while Sasha was smaller all wide eyes and laughter. It took a bit to make Rory smile, but he was actually smiling now. Eddy turned to look at the view so his old friend wouldn’t see his amusement.
‘Yeah, it’s complex.’ Elise said as she dressed the salad, concentrating on the last few drops of oil in the jar. She didn’t want to talk about it much. It wasn’t so much she didn’t want people to know what was happening with the wills, she just had a great sense of guilt over gaining out of the unexpected death of her aunt. That her dead aunt had not inherited her share of her own father’s – Elise’s grandfather’s – estate, meant months, perhaps years of sorting out the various elements. She mustered up some of her bravado, wanting to be honest with her friends, and said: ‘I feel guilty about it, you know.’
‘No, I don’t. What’s wrong with having relatives who were canny at investing in property?’ Sasha wasn’t listening to Rory, she was enjoying leaning on him. She could lean right into him and not throw him off balance. She could feel the way his voice vibrated through is body.
‘Nothing, I ‘spose, I’m still adjusting to the idea.’
‘You could come and live here.’ Rory said. Eddy turned back around.
‘I’d be a long way from everyone.’
‘Who’s everyone?’ Eddy asked.
‘Not from you, anyway.’ Elise licked the vinegar from her finger.
‘Well, you know, it is an idea.’ He didn’t want to push it.
‘All by myself?’
‘Look, you hate your PA job in the city, you want to write, you have this house that no-one is using.’ Eddy knew he was talking her into it. He was mildly surprised he was doing it in front of Rory and Sasha.
‘Well, it seems like a good idea. Feel as though I should have thought of it myself.’ But, she knew she had, even as she turned back into the house. It was the whole idea of bringing them here. To see what they said. To see what Sasha said. She had been feeling the pull out of the city ever since Eddy had got the scholarship in Melbourne, the old house had never been too far from her thoughts. It had started to make its way into the poems she was writing. The romantic notion of the isolated cottage on the coast, even though it wasn’t isolated, there was a sense in which the house focused out into the bay and onto the bush of the national park on the other side of the water. The road, the other houses, even the hundreds of yachts in the Clareville bay didn’t impact on the feeling the place had of being miles, hundreds of miles, from anywhere.
Maya and Venus arrived later that afternoon, and as the wind had dropped they all found themselves following Elise down onto the pontoon of the jetty. The sun was hot, the water swayed the splintery wood structure, maybe it was Elise who took off her shoes first. Then, they all had their shoes off, Sasha keen to show how comfortable she was with these new friends – the writers and photographers that inhabited Elise’s life – that she undid the buttons of her shirt, Rory’s look pleased her, and she basked in his watching her as much as in the sun as it pelted off the water at them.
Eddy finished the article he was reading at looked up. Elise and Sasha sat with their shoulders bare, their toes just touching the deep green water.
‘If you don’t just do it,’ Elise was saying, ‘If you hesitate, thinking that it will be cold or that there’s a giant squid down there or something, then you don’t. And then you regret it. You always regret not swimming more than you do if you go in.’
‘Is that true?’ Asked Venus looking up. Her hennaed hair was shimmering in the sun.
‘Yes.’ Elise answered.
‘Well then,’But, before Venus finished what she was saying Elise stood up, stripped off her shirt and shorts and stood in just her undies at the edge of the pontoon. Rory was reaching for his camera, Venus had her own shirt over her head. There was a splash, as Elise disappeared, Maya was sitting up, Rory was taking off his own shirt.
‘You coming in, too?’ He asked Eddy.
‘I’ll have to now, won’t I?’ He said, over the spash of Venus into the water, and Elise’s laughter.
Sasha was still sitting on the edge. She couldn’t move, even when Rory asked her for his camera, waist deep in the water. She couldn’t smile back at Elise and Venus. She felt Rory’s disappointment, and she watched him watching Eddy and Elise as they embraced.