Ebony & Frank: 8

Eb didn’t know how she felt, but hot-footing into the cabin of the ute sandwiched between two men who were by all means still strangers, and frolicking down country road felt somewhat exhilarating. She never would have thought this possible just a couple of weeks ago, but here she was, with the growing ebony sky, the headlights revealing nothing but sugar cane thatches. Eb was least worried about the snakes and spiders on her property and more about going home with a man she only met hours before.

‘How much further is it?’ She asked, staring straight ahead at the leading patch of light. 

‘Few minutes more.’ Frank turned down what seemed to be yet another unmarked road. 

‘We might turn that barramundi you caught yesterday for dinner, aye.’ Niko turned down the window and the waft of wind whipped about Eb’s short hair. She weighed it down with both hands and wondered if she liked barramundi. 

‘You like fish?’ Niko turned with a lit cigarette between his fingers and took a long drag, trying to puff out the smoke from the corner of his mouth and out the window. Eb could only keep from coughing as the wind bought it straight back to her.

‘Put that out will you?’ Frank pulled into the gravel driveway and the ute danced along to the pits. 

‘I don’t know if I’ve had barramundi.’ Eb glared.

Niko laughed, stubbing out the smoke on the ashtray, which he reached over Eb to get to. ‘Frank’s a mean cook.’

‘Everyone’s a mean cook compared to you.’ Frank laughed, the first Eb ever heard, and it was a low, guttural laugh that felt like they were never what they should have been, jovial and louder. ‘Home, sweet home.’ He turned the engine off and slipped out of the ute. ‘I’ll drop you back to your place in the morning.’ He peered at her through the door and watched her slide out after Niko on the other side.
Eb chewed a tentative mouthful of barramundi that was served on her plate and stared at the pieces of cutlery in her hand, the plate underneath her food, the little round table around which they sat. She felt those pieces come in and out of focus, as if her mind was trying to remember something long forgotten. She felt as if she’d held those cutlery before. Been in that room before. 

‘You okay?’

She looked up. Niko’s face a display of concern. ‘You don’t like the fish?’ Frank’s voice come from her other side. ‘I can make you something else.’

Eb shook her head. At least that’s what she thought she’d done. ‘I’m just having a déjà vu I think.’

‘I hate when I have those!’ Niko went back to his dinner and Eb rationalized that knowing what she’s been though, déjà vu would be normal when trying to ‘assimilate back into society’ as the doctor back at the nursing home had said. 

They waved goodnight to Niko, and as the door closed shut behind him, Eb felt a sudden panic rise. Was she really about to stay the night at Frank’s house? She’d only just met him. 

‘I’ll show you to the room,’ he walked past her as quick as he could. Eb followed reluctantly. It was not as if she could walk out and drive herself back to her decrepit home. Frank brought her to a small room that was barely furnished. There was a single bed and a bedside table with an old lamp on it. 

‘Anyone else live here with you?’ Eb asked before she could help herself. The darkness that fell over Frank’s face made her regret having ever thought of the question.

‘Not anymore,’ He walked out the room, leaving her fumbling in the darkness for the lampshade. 

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