Broken Hill - Chapter Zero

As I venture along the waterside a mighty dark-green construction that crosses the sparkling water looms into view. A mighty brick pillar grows upwards into the mesmerising blue sky as I approach the bridge and as I crane my neck upwards to spot the summit of this mammoth giant I gaze along the bridge’s span. What looks like ants crawl along the top of the arc, high above the broad river. Progressing slowly along the arc they eventually reach the middle point, the highest point of the bridge where a pole stands proudly with the flag of the country I am in, fluttering, just about distinguishable, in the crisp late afternoon breeze.

I stand there for a moment, watching the ants stand still together as a group before disbanding and moving back down the bridge again. Satisfied, I turn around to face the opposite direction, my back now to the imposing bridge and my focus now on a series of white arcs, smaller and different to the single arc of the bridge, but collected together like the plumage of a swan. The strikingly white feathers are set upon a brown body with many more ants milling about animatedly around the rim of the imperious swan.

I gaze absorbedly at the building, a sight that I had viewed many times in print, and many times in reality yet even today it clutches at my imagination and I can’t help but wonder at it’s splendour and magnificence. The sculpture-like building’s beauty and obscurity keep my stare held for what seems like hours, but eventually I wake up from my gaze with the shock of looking at my watch and discovering what the time is. It is later than I presumed and with my mind away from fantasy and back onto the task in hand, I hurry to take out the bottle of water out of my bag and allow myself a brief squirt of liquid to ease my desert-dry mouth before hurriedly getting to my feet and continuing under the bridge.

I look up as I pass underneath the giant expansion at the countless nuts, bolts and metal that is coated in sea green paint. The cool shade gives me goose bumps, as does the event I am walking sprightly towards. Anticipation puts my left foot before my right and again, hurrying me to my imminent destination.

That destination is clearly visible as I emerge from under the bridge into the brilliant sunshine once again; the road leads round to the left alongside the pier-turned hotel where I am to meet her. The deserted path is accompanied by trees that shade me until I reach the cream walls of the hotel. Dark windows alongside the path I walk reflect the bluest of skies, not a fluffy ball of cloud in sight with the occasional swooping bird floating in and out of the reflection of every window that I pass.

Finally, due to my slow-down; actually speed up approach to be being on time, I arrive at my nervously anticipated destination. A bridge, one for practical means unlike the show-off one I had just walked under, provides shelter to the glassy entrance to the hotel.

Through the glass, illuminated by the rays of setting sunlight, I can see through to the other entrance round the other side of the hotel. Beyond the glass exterior of which I have my nose pressed up against to see past the reflection, there are steps leading up to a circle of sofas which are have their backs turned to me. I can see the single back of the head of a person, a silhouette in the sunshine, sitting down by them self on the sofa.

Another glance at the watch reveals that I walked faster than I thought I would and I would actually be early if I pushed open the glass door now and walked over to those sofas and to the single person sitting, waiting, for me.

For the first time I notice the rest of the room, seemingly kept in the shade from the main glare of the evening sunset. A widescreen TV with images of the hotel, advertising the attractions of staying there, sits on the desk to my right where a tall, youthful man stands, staring at me before suddenly moving out of his confine and towards the door.

Instantly as if I were a spy suddenly spotted, I leap out of view and hasten down the shadowy road as fast as my legs will take me without breaking into a run.

I interrogate myself to the purpose of my actions seconds afterwards, giving the excuse that it looks as though I need to go round the other side of the hotel and to the entrance there. Although with nothing to hide I feel nervous and on edge after my encounter with the hotel concierge and as I round the two corners of the other end of the hotel building I begin to ready myself for the task ahead, rehearsing my words and picturing the imminent moment when I would casually, with a hint of cool, shake the hand of the person I am to meet.

The path that I now walk along, parallel to the one I just walked, with the hotel separating the two, has the hotel on its left side with the glorious scene of an orange sun setting over the calm waters of the harbour on the right. My shadow walks beside me on the hotel wall, copying my every move, keeping up with my frantic walking and swinging satchel.

A few couples occupy the tables that are occasionally placed beside the water’s edge; umbrella’s sheltering them from the awesome intensity of the now half submerged sun.

Without initially realising it, again I am in my dream world, thinking about the event about to happen, I reach the second entrance to the hotel, again completely glass to allow the bright rays of the remaining sun to flood through, and peer inside.

A ball of adrenaline shoots from my chest to the tingling tips of my fingers as my heavy satchel bumps clumsily against my hip. I take in enough air to spend a year on the Moon as I spot the girl sitting down, legs crossed, back slumped against the couch.

 

I freeze for a second. Who wouldn’t? Beautiful is too common a word to describe her.

For her, words escape me. Not a good thing to happen in my profession.

Indescribable is the only word that comes close. Shining wood-brown converged with hazelnut hair adorns her head, her fringe spread from right to left, diving down to pass just above her deep set, brooding brown eyes. A naturally poised nose joins those eyes, leading down to her mouth of which is encased in the reddest, most succulent lips. Her skin, unblemished is naturally tanned and contrasts with that fringe. Her cheek bones are carved like wood and raise upwards, stretching those lips, when she hastens a quick smile after recognising me.

 I spin round instantly at the sight of her, pivoting to face the water whilst hiding myself from the ridiculously large window. Catching a breath to ease my thudding heart I straighten my crumpled shirt, wipe my sweaty hand across my sweaty brow and run a comb of fingers through my thick fringe. Checking the hands of my watch once again- hoping that a minute had past in the last ten seconds- I resolve myself to being ready and on time (just about) for the interview.

I turn into view and meet the piercing gaze of her glassy eyes. Crap. I think for a split second to turn back, but it’s too late. False confidence falls into my mindset and I stride over the glass floor which looks down into the water below, head bowed, looking anywhere but at her. The catwalk ends and she gets up, gingerly as though in some non-apparent pain, to greet me. ‘Hey, pleased to meet you’. ‘Likewise’ I reply and for the first time in my career I mean it.

Radiance beams out from every perfectly sculpted feature of her toned skin. The flawless symmetry of her glassy eyes, ideal nose and shining white mouth form an ‘I’ shape that make her quite addictive to look at. Like the swan that so inspired me just minutes earlier, she is unspeakable, untranslatable, unpronounceable, unutterable and indefinable. In one word she is ineffable- a unique being that is as unexplainable as the start of the universe. At meeting her, she reminds me of those types of girls that were well beyond any guy at school and college. Every move studied, every smile treasured, every glance interpreted as love.

Staring at those faultless features I fleetingly think of those past days at college with girls eager to look like the young woman before me- untouchable to every guy that was not equal to her good looks and incredible vainness. That was the thing. Every pretty, beautiful girl suffered from repulsive vainness. Layers of make-up ensured that they drew more secretive glances than the girl next to them. Fashionable and revealing clothing ensured that guy’s heads turned and in fellow girls, envy grew. The fakeness and visual dishonesty both intrigued and disgusted me. Despite their sexy appearance, their collection of thrilling friends and their confident manner I guess me and perhaps other guys hated them- or those who didn’t fall foul to their lustful charms.

Slags, sluts, dogs, whatever you want to call them, the girl in front of me, sitting patiently hands clasped together gazing around the room and occasionally in my direction, is nothing like them. Thank God. What a waste of beauty would it be if she had the same disgusting nature of those college girls. No, this girl with me now is certainly not like them- not one bit. Not even in terms of appearance. The very thought of her comparison to those hideous and repugnant beings I quickly realise as a sin and am suddenly angered with my thought.

 As there is no par on which both her and any female I had ever encountered sit on, I guess if I had to liken her to an animal it would be the fox. The look of a cunning, crafty, quick-thinking, attentive creature. It is those eyes that inspire the likeness of her to a fox- magical eyes that twinkle and sparkle so seductively yet hide a deeper truth, an invitation to explore more. In short a story, a tale, a conversation about the myth that is the girl sitting opposite to me, waiting patiently whilst my mind absently speeds through a tunnel of thoughts. What has this girl been through? What is important in her life? Why is she so special? What is it about her that has stunned me, shaken me and inspired me to find out her story?

I take a seat opposite her, hanging off the edge in anticipation; my satchel slumped like she had been before against the chair next to me. I gaze for a second at her.

On closer inspection she looks tired, worn out. There is a pain etched behind that sideways fringe that is reflected in her watery eyes. Eyes which are not enhanced by the intimidating blackness of eye-liner. Her skin looks paler than it should do, as if she has not slept well for weeks. Skin which is astonishingly not layered by moisturiser and foundation. She flicks the wave of hair covering her forehead into place. Hair that looks hastily done- just washed, just dried. Just for this interview.

Perhaps strangely it strikes me, she is wearing plain, unassuming clothes. Nothing special, nothing exciting, nothing fashionable- quite a change for a young, beautiful woman. Not that she is a typical young woman- far from it. Just a plain white t-shirt and normal dark blue jeans- her shoes I cannot see as her feet are tucked under the table that divides us. For me it is amazing that she isn’t wearing anything that shows her off, nothing that matches or compares with her obvious natural appearance. In my opinion, from what I am looking, at she looks all the better for wearing quiet, simple, pure clothing. It gives her the look that she isn’t too fussy with what she looks like- she knows her natural beauty will shine through. She could be wearing a potato sack and still look better than any girl walking round Circular Quay! In fact it is a breath of fresh air- her appearance. It sets her apart from those girls at college who I despise myself for comparing her to. 

‘Would you like a drink?’ I ask, waking from my trance to remember my manners. ‘Oh just water thanks’. The words trickle like sweet honey out of those vivid red lips. ‘Sure’ I reply automatically as I would have done even if the request had been for the most expensive champagne. I rise out of my deep sofa-chair banging my shins on the edge of the low wooden table in front of me before quickly hurrying towards the bar, my shins still feeling the pain.

I walk over to the bar, propping my elbows on the metallic surface to stop me collapsing from the over-whelming and giddy emotions that I now felt after finally meeting her.

The barman, a youthful chap with chiselled cheeks and gelled blonde hair, turned from polishing glasses to face me before casually asking what I wanted. ‘Just a glass of water and a Foster’s for me mate’ I reply, echoing his off-hand, nonchalant tone.

As he picks up two pint glasses, he is looking, staring even, just to the right side of my figure. I try to catch his gaze but he is intent on gazing behind me, filling a glass of water with ice and lemon whilst setting the beer tap to run until foam dribbles down the side of my glass.

Forcing himself to turn to register what I owe on the till, he hands me my change and my drinks with a quick smile before indulging himself with a stolen glance behind me.

Finally, whilst shakily putting my coins into my wallet I realise what he is so fixedly staring at. His gaze, unfaltering and lustful, is directed at her- the girl that is sitting, legs crossed with her hands by her side waiting for me patiently, staring outside of the glass door at the sunset. Before grabbing the drinks I turn my neck from her to view the top of the golden disc sink into the water, gone for the day but still lighting up the backdrop of wispy purple clouds that cling onto the last moments of visibility before night descends.

I turn away from the bar, change in pocket, beer in left hand and her water in my right. She looks up instantly as I approach the table catching my gaze and following my eyes until I sit the drinks down on the table and prop myself onto the edge of my seat.

I suddenly feel tense, embarrassed at her being in my company, scared at what is about to follow, nervous at her animated magical eyes, shaking as I grab my beer off the table and gulp as I swallow more than I was expecting.

I cough and splutter as the liquid enters and swamps my nostrils. Gasping for air I try to regain the little dignity that I held before I ashamedly choked on my beer. My face burns red as I hastily hunt for a tissue to wipe my face and the little liquid that had splashed onto the table. Head bowed and twisting left and right as I hunt for my satchel I spot the glint of white tissue and straighten up to see the girl with her arm stretched out and hand holding a wad of white tissue. ‘Thanks. And excuse me!’ I reply to her gesture snatching up the top tissue and wiping it around my mouth. She is still grinning at me, biting her tongue with those pearly white teeth. ‘Don’t worry I was just about to do the same thing!’ The bolt of humour struck me. Before that point I don’t think I had even considered her as a person- just a human and a strikingly beautiful human at that. Her appearance alone was enough for anyone- it didn’t matter what she was like in the inside. To be honest I doubt whether anyone had considered her as a person and had, like me, only paid attention to her appearance. She is not just a face, but has a mind. She is not just a body, but has feelings. She is not just good looking, but also has a personality, humour, compassion, kindness and love.

But she also has problems. Difficulties in her life that many people would be over-whelmed with. That pain etched on her face has tarnished her beauty. How can so much hurt be inflicted on this angel?

From what I have seen in the flesh she is a glorious summer’s evening. One where the sun falls like a golden disc away from sight, beyond the horizon. Her bright colours stretch across the darkening sky like a painting, White sun, yellow rays, orange sky can all be seen across the largest canvas the world has to offer from the quiet, lonely, shadowy park bench. This defines Rachel. In appearance she is the most gorgeous, most heart-wrenching sunset but nobody can touch her or even get close. All we can do is admire her from that bench in the shade. But what happens when a cloud covers her, a barrier stopping her shining light being viewed? She still shines of course, but without anyone noticing and that is why she is here. A cloud, a dark, stormy monster of a cloud is blocking out any light that she has to show to the world. For many months that cloud has been covering her, suffocating her very being. However unlike the sun, she has been forgotten. The dark evil cloud has been in front of her for so long that everyone has forgotten how she used to be when she could shine brightly and create those magnificent sunsets.

The more I look at her the more I become upset at her. There was definitely something wrong. This is a girl that I had seen the picture of in so many newspapers and magazines, adverts and of course TV shows. Her name used to be known all over the country and although not the most famous person around by any means she certainly hit the headlines at one point. I was just starting out at that time, about a year ago, and she held the front page for a day. Not many people will remember it much now but it was news and it received questioning all across the media and the population. Once the days papers had been read and superseded by the next day’s, she was forgotten almost eternally, banished to exile with nothing but memories to play over and over again in her mind.

The beautiful girl before me is now a shadow of her former self, a person that once lived but is now a ghost wandering unnoticed, weeping with their demise and prohibited from enjoying the full pleasures of life. She was once extraordinary, an amazing character but today the ghost fits in with the crowd that would once have known her name so well and would have held it in such high terms.

She shuffles in her seat; suddenly uneasy at the task before her. I can see memories floating in her mind as she submerges herself into deep thought, eyes fixed on the glass of water that sits, untouched on the table that divides us from each other. Her eyes are wide and penetrating as if she is trying to smash the glass with the force of her gaze. I notice her breathing getting deeper, her chest rising with the increased air she is inhaling. I sit there looking at her, not impatient to start, but letting her have that time to think- I’m almost embarrassed with the silence wondering when her intent gaze will shatter.

‘Rachel’. I whisper softly just to bring her back into reality. She reacts immediately, shaking her head slightly and blinking a couple of times before looking up and me and revealing one of her trademark grins. Slightly mortified at her own mistake, she utters a murmur of apology before straightening up in her seat and running a hand across her fringe, replacing the tip to behind her left ear. ‘Can we start now?’ she inquires with a deep exhalation of air, a sigh that shows she is prepared for what she now has to do.

I reach into my satchel and rummage for my notebook and Dictaphone. After finally finding a pen that works I open up my notebook, press the Dictaphone to record and relay those heart-breaking feelings of hers to you.

The End

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