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(For readers outside Australia, a few notes: University = College. Colleges are the residential halls attached to Universities. Uni usually begins around the beginning of March. Mobile = Cell Phone. Summer begins on December 1. Chips = potato crisps, unless they are hot and then they = French Fries. Bathers have different names even in Australia = togs = swimmers = board shorts for swimming.)
In this series I have explored some of the life of ‘Mr D’ Married at 19 to Debbie, who at that time already had a three year old daughter, Sarah. When Debbie died the teenager next door helped with babysitting and, after she had turned 18 and her parents moved away, Rachel moved in with Mr D and Sarah. Lots of fun was had between Rachel and Mr D but when Rachel went to Uni she got into drugs and that was the end of that. When Sarah was 12 Mr D hooked up with her grade 7 teacher, Karen. They married but just after their third wedding anniversary she was killed in a plane crash. This story picks up about a year later. At the time of writing Sarah is now 18.
“Just get your shit together.” With any other woman I would have just told her to ‘Fuck off’. But I don’t speak like that to my daughter, ok, step-daughter. Doesn’t matter. I don’t speak to her like that. But I was not happy.
Sarah continued. “Dad. Please. I miss Karen too.” Tears again at the mention of her name. Fuck.
Sarah had come into my room to find out why I wasn’t up and around yet. Today she and two of her friends were heading off on a long holiday before they started Uni in the new year. She had to be at the airport in … I rolled over and looked at the clock … Fuck. She had to be there in an hour.
“Ok. Sorry darling. Just give me a minute to have a shower. Could you please make me a coffee. Strong. I will be ready in time. I promise.”
Sarah gave me a sad look. Until 12 months ago the words ‘I promise’ were cast iron guarantee that what I had said would happen. Since Karen died and I went on an almost continuous bender I had not been as reliable. Be honest. I had been a shit dad this past 12 months. And that mattered more because it was Sarah’s last year of secondary school. Through the haze I did notice that she was also grieving but I was wallowing in self-pity too much.
Sarah grieved. But she had her closest friends to support her and she got up out of the hole. She was very smart. Brilliant actually. She had aced her exams I am sure. The results would not be out for a few weeks but I was sure that she would get into Medicine. My brilliant daughter. Step-daughter.
The cold shower helped a bit. The strong coffee (woah that was strong!) zapped my brain a bit more. Sarah had her rucksack and a smaller carry bag all ready by the front door. With just enough time we finally got out to the car. Sitting in the driveway was my bright red BMW Series 8 soft top. I did have an AUDI soft top but got rid of that after Karen died. Too many memories of her in that car.
Sarah looked at me with concern. “Dad, are you ok to drive?” How long does alcohol stay in the system? I said I was fine, but probably wasn’t. I hoped we didn’t get pulled over on the way there. She would miss her flight.
At the airport we met up with Sarah’s two friends and their parents. Eugenie had been Sarah’s best friend all the way through 12 years of school. She and her mother shared flaming red hair and Eugenie had been named after one of the daughters of Sarah Ferguson (who used to be married to Prince Andrew – good call getting away from him!!). The Brit mother and daughter both also have red hair. The titan mother and daughter standing before me were both striking women. Tall and elegant and very sexy. In the past that would have stirred me up in lots of ways but the booze had put a dampening edge on everything in my life, including my sex drive.
The other part of Sarah’s trio of friends was Cheryl. She had only come to the school for the final two years, having moved down from the Kimberley region up north where her parents ran a cattle station. While Eugenie was tall and stood out among the crowd Cheryl was so much shorter that at first I had not seen her. Her mousey brown hair was cut in a short bob, as she always wore it. She had grown up on the cattle station and she was extremely fit. Very cute too. The quintessential pocket rocket.
Sarah’s friends were both gorgeous really but Sarah, my Sarah was the most striking of the three. Not only was she brilliant (did I mention that already?) but she was bubbly and outgoing and flamboyant and her golden blond hair was straight out of the pages of Cosmo (Cosmopolitan – one of those Women’s Magazines). She had grown into a confident vivacious young woman and I was proud of her (isn’t that obvious!).
Sarah turned 18 during the year, just after Cheryl. So the shortest was the oldest. Just. And the tallest, Eugenie, was still 17 but would have her 18th birthday while they were away. Her parents had seriously resisted ataşehir escort the idea of the trip on that basis. Not that they thought Eugenie’s behaviour would really be any different before or after her 18th birthday. It was that they wanted to be able to celebrate with her. Finally they had agreed on a joint graduation party (which happened last week) to be followed by a big birthday celebration for Eugenie when the girls returned.
All three were very smart and had done well in their studies. After school finished they had joined lots of their classmates on Rotto for Schoolies. For those who don’t know Perth and Western Australia Rotto is Rottnest Island, named that because the early Dutch explorers say the small animals which they thought were rats but we call them Quokkas. Schoolies is a wild celebration that lots of students indulge in after they finish their secondary school and year 12. Most parents don’t want to know what actually happens there. The three girls all returned alive, in one piece, deeply tanned and looking very tired when the Freo Cat (Fremantle Catamaran) dropped them back onto the mainland. I did ask. Sarah would only smile and say “We had a wonderful time,” then find something else to distract me, like talking about South America.
The girls were off to South America. They had planned an amazing trip. They were going to Machu Picchu up in the mountains in Peru. They were going to see the Iguazu Falls (The Mission had long been one of my favourite movies and I wanted to go there some day). They would travel down to the Tierra del Fuego, the Land of Fire at the southern tip of that continent. These are all places that I had wanted to experience. But the planning for that had been part of what I had shared with Karen. So all overseas travel was on hold for me.
When Sarah told me that she and her friends were planning this trip I wasn’t happy. She was old enough, perhaps, and so long as she was not going to be alone I hoped that they would together be more responsible than they were sometimes. Sarah had a good head on her shoulders and she was doing the organising. It was the flight. I had not stepped into an aircraft since Karen died in one. I even got the jitters when driving close to the airport. But Sarah had processed her own grief, better than I had. As she said to me, “Dad, you cant live driven by fear.” Ouch. I really did need to get my shit together, as she had said.
We waved the girls through to the customs area where they would have another couple of hours before boarding the flight. Sarah had worked out that they could fly west, up to London then down again to Rio de Janeiro cheaper than going directly east over Australia then over the Pacific. Not that money was an issue. Even with me in meltdown my business was doing well. And there had been the payout from insurance and the airline for Karen’s untimely, tragic death. So they were all flying Business Class. I think actually there was some reason that Eugenie had wanted to stop off in London for a couple of days. Something to do with a boy there … but I wasn’t asking more and thankfully her parents didn’t question the route they were taking to get to South America.
I didn’t stay to watch the plane take off. Karen’s doomed flight had dropped into the sea only minutes after take-off and I know that watching the plane containing the girls take off would have put me into a flat spin. I went home and the place felt suddenly so empty, lonely, grey. It was empty. I was on my own now for a couple of months.
Sarah had, with her usual efficiency, cleaned up everything. The house was spotless and clean and even smelled clean. Until I opened my bedroom door that was. She had told me to look after my own space. But I hadn’t. The smell which oozed out when I opened the door was awful. A noxious miasma of stale sheets, vomit not completely cleaned up properly, stale booze, barely cleaned bathroom.
I sat on the bed for a while with my head in my hands and Sarah’s words kept rolling in my mind. “You have to get your shit together.” So I did. I stripped the bed and bundled every bit of linen from my bedroom and bathroom into the laundry to get it purged from my laziness. I threw open the curtains and the windows which made some difference to the still overwhelmingly depressing smell.
The bathroom got scrubbed until it gleamed and the taps sparkled. The carpet got shampooed, especially those stains beside the bed where I had not made it even to the bathroom after one of my more excessive drinking bouts. Disgusting. When I checked the recycling bin even I was surprised how many bottles had accumulated in the past two weeks since that rubbish was collected. Then I realised it was only one week. Today was green rubbish and next week was recycling collection. Shit. More shame.
Everywhere else in the house had been treated with Sarah’s enthusiastic attention and so it was all clean. It was only my space in which she had left me to wallow. I did kadıköy escort bayan check her bedroom though, just to make sure that lights were off and everything was unplugged. Propped against the covered pillows on her neatly made bed was an envelope marked ‘Dad’. What was this??
I took the envelope out to the lounge, closing her door to seal in her privacy, even though she was not there. My immediate thought was that I needed a drink, just a finger or two of scotch, in case this was bad news or too much criticism to bear. Thankfully I resisted that thought.
Inside the envelope was a beautiful letter which brought me to tears. Sarah told me how much she loved me, how much she cared, how much her heart had broken watching me slump into such despair over this past year. She thanked me for caring for her across all these years. She never knew her real dad and barely remembered her mum. I had been her stable parent through almost all of her life. Until Karen. She had truly loved Karen too. She told me that she and Karen had talked about me. This was news.
They had shared their love for me and that they were both worried that if something happened to either of them then they knew I would not cope well. How right they were! She told me that they had both promised to look after me if anything happened. I had no premonitions of the tragedy which actually occurred. Did they? I didn’t know. And hey, I was supposed to be the one looking after them!!
That letter ended up soaked with tears and, even though it was now an even greater temptation, I resisted reaching for a bottle. After the tears I shook myself again. The physical clean up was going to be just the beginning. When I stepped into our home gym and tried to work out a bit I realised how slack I had been. I was a mess in every way and after only 5 minutes on the rower I was stuffed. I seriously needed to get my shit together.
So the new regime began. Having our own pool I included laps there into a pattern of exercise, better eating, refocussing on work (where I had been missed, though thankfully my partner had kept things going well) and I even booked in for a couple of sessions for counselling. The counsellor was cute. Very cute. But when I tried hitting on her as my recovering health and lower blood alcohol level gave rise to my libido she was very firm with me. If I was going to be able to offer any woman anything I needed to, as Sarah had told me (I told the counsellor what she had said), ‘get my shit together’. Anyway she was taken and to hook up with me would be professionally inappropriate.
I was pissed off when she rebuffed me, though I then did realise that she was exactly right in every way. At the end of our third session I thanked her, for everything including her integrity. We did hug briefly and she wished me well as I continued to find my way up and out. I knew what she meant. I was still on the way up. The sessions had helped but now I needed to regain myself.
The first news about some international health scare began to ripple across news media. At first I was not worried. This was happening in China and the girls were in South America. They were safe. I had Facetimed a few times when they got decent internet. They were having a great time and were still safe and I should not worry. Sarah was very impressed when I told her about the counselling and getting myself together.
The news avoid COVID-19 got worse. It spread to other places in Asia and Europe and Australia began to talk about lockdowns. I contacted the Australian Embassy in Argentina, where the girls were at that time, and made sure they were aware of Sarah and the others as Australians in the area. Some people were beginning to be brought back on special flights. When the girls called next they had heard the news. Eugenie and Cheryl were not worried too much but Sarah, typical Sarah, had been researching carefully and she could see this was serious. “Dad, what should we do?”
“Come home. Please. I know that it means cutting off the last two weeks of your trip but please come home. There is talk about stopping flights and closing the borders. Please come home.”
Eugenie and Cheryl took some convincing but Sarah talked them around. Part of the benefit of having money is that it means you can get what you want faster, sometimes. The business class tickets were all booked so I upgraded their round-the-world tickets for the last legs to First Class. That at least got a smile out of Eugenie! They flew across the Pacific and three days later landed in Perth.
By the time they arrived restrictions were in place. Any arrivals from overseas were being forced into quarantine for at least two weeks. I talked with the parents of the other girls and we decided on a practical solution. Cheryl’s parents were up north on a cattle station. Well isolated but if there were any actual health concerns then proper medical care was too far away. Eugenie’s parents were actually in escort maltepe Europe themselves and they were not sure when and how they were going to be getting back. Eugenie’s dad was working for a scientific institute in Germany and if he left early then it would compromise the research they were doing. So they were stuck over there.
I offered for the girls to all stay with me. They could be in quarantine together. We had plenty of space. They could each have a room. There was a bathroom between Sarah’s room and the room Eugenie stayed in when she slept over. That had been Rachel’s room, but a lot of mixed memories there! Cheryl could stay in the other bedroom and there was another guest bathroom as well.
The house and the surrounding block were large and also surrounded by high walls. We had a large pool and plenty of space. Quarantining the girls here would be easy. So I thought. I would even stock up and we could order take-away to be delivered if we wanted so I would be in lock-down with them, making the quarantine safer for everyone. They all agreed.
I registered our arrangement with the department which was covering the quarantine restrictions and they also agreed. When the girls arrived on their flight they came out of customs all wearing masks and were moved quickly to where I had the car waiting nearby to the terminal. This was all so scary really. As soon as Sarah saw me she rushed up and threw her arms around me and there were tears on both sides. The other girls also looked a bit frightened with all of the precautions.
Once locked in at home I let the girls settle into their rooms while I put together some lunch. I was a little surprised though when they all appeared wearing extremely skimpy clothes. They had all arrived from the plane in their jeans, shirts and hiking boots with their rucksacks over their shoulders. Under the very thin tiny cotton tops they had all put on I could see that they were all in bikinis. I suppose it was a warm summer day in Perth. And the pool did look very inviting.
We ate and I tried, but failed, not to look too much at Eugenie’s breasts which were pressing against the top which was several sizes too small. I was actually very struck by how sexy all three girls looked, even Sarah. Since it is best to wait a while between eating and swimming, after lunch, while I tidied up, the girls all went to lie and sunbathe for a while.
I went out a little while later with drinks and noticed that all three were lying on their fronts. They had ditched the tops and tiny shorts and the bikini tops were all untied. Sarah’s bikini bottoms were tiny but my eyes were immediately drawn to the exposed bum cheeks of the other two girls. Both had thong bikinis which meant that there was just a string running around their waists and a string running up between the cheeks to connect with what was probably a very small triangle of cloth, currently out of sight beneath their bodies. They were lying there effectively naked.
I put the drinks on a table nearby the pool sofas on which they were lying and quickly retreated inside. They only realised I was there when I was nearly at the back door and I called out “Make sure you use plenty of sunscreen!”
Before I got through the door I did hear both Eugenie’s reply “You could help with that if you want!” …
And Sarah’s rebuke “Behave yourself Genie. Back in your bottle.”
That was an old joke we had all shared. Ages ago there was a show on TV called ‘I dream of Genie’ and that sexy girl popped in and out of a bottle (rather than a lamp as in the Aladdin stories). Whenever Eugenie did something even more outrageous than usual Sarah would tell her to get ‘back in her bottle’.
There was another twist to that. When they discovered that, in Greek, the letters EU at the beginning of a word meant ‘good’ (as in the distinctively Australian trees Eucalyptus, which means ‘good cover’ as in the cover over the flower buds), the girls started joking that she was Eugenie when she was behaving and just ‘Genie’ when she was not. Which seemed to me to be a lot of the time. I was beginning to think this quarantine time would be much harder than I had expected.
My business was in home security. Alarms and cameras and monitoring and all the things that made people feel safe. In these days when there seems to be an increase in crime in many places our business was in high demand. Our success didn’t just come from the high demand but we also gave a very good quality product. I had our whole house covered thoroughly, even all the rooms. I had the external cameras at the front and those which looked out towards the high walls in the back yard connected to our company monitoring system. That way if anyone tried to break in they would also be aware.
All the other cameras were completely ‘in house’. I didn’t have any cameras in the bathrooms. That would be too much. But I did have them in all the bedrooms and all the other main rooms. Hen Sarah was very young I had used the camera in her room as a sort of baby monitor, just to be reassured that she was safe. Actually those cameras inside the house had mostly been switched off, remotely, for ages. Only the lounge, kitchen and my study were ‘live’ on my computer in the system.
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