The Great Ocean Road plunged into the Otways Forest and Cait Lancaster lowered the window of her borrowed car. Eucalyptus. Ti-tree. Damp bracken. Home.
She wasn’t ready. She could still turn back. No-one knew she was coming. Which was terribly rude, when she thought about it. Sure, if they’d known she was in the country she would have been invited but as it stood, she was basically crashing the party. It would only be polite to do a U-ey right now and head back to Melbourne.
A bright orange ute fishtailed onto the road in front of her. She swerved into the emergency lane and stamped on the brake. Two trail bikes swayed in the ute’s tray and a beer bottle flew out the window as they disappeared around the bend.
Handbrake. Emergency lights. Breathe.
In her side mirror, the dirt road they must have come from was clear and signposted. She hadn’t registered it at all. She reached for the hair band she kept around her wrist, pulled hard and let it slap against the tender underside. She wasn’t sure if it was the pain itself or the gasp that the pain caused but it always cleared her mind.
She was ready. She had, quite literally, trained for it. Steve had chosen her niece’s birthday party for good reason. The family camp site was familiar, happy ground for Cait and they’d be less likely to ask difficult questions surrounded by six-year-olds.
If worse comes to worst, Steve had said before she’d set out this morning, let them see that it makes you uncomfortable to talk about it. When you have to, give everyone a different part of your story, then the gossip will be all about putting your story together, not questioning it.
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