‘What is she doing?’
‘Too much to drink,’ someone laughed as she rushed past them back out onto the balcony one last time. She stole a look over the rails while she was at it to see if the cab she’d called had arrived. The street revealed no such phenomenon, for it was a phenomena for a cab that arrives on time on a busy Saturday night.
‘Dana? Why are you scaring people? You promised to behave.’ Her best friend, Kaiser smiled at her from his great height, walking out onto the balcony with multiple beer bottle necks secured in his hands. He passed them around and turned his focus back on her. ‘You’re taxi here yet?’
She shook her head and grabbed the beer from his hand, took a thirsty swig and slid the bottle back in his open hand. ‘You seen my bag?’
‘You lost your bag?’ His brows rose high.
‘My clutchy thing, you know.’
‘The things without any handles?’ Dana smiled and nodded. ‘Nope, haven’t seen it.’
‘I’ve looked everywhere!’ She squeaked in panic, stepping away from people looking at her strangely. Guess lifting skirts off seats and sofas, and looking under beds while people were trying to find privacy wasn’t really good etiquette. Then again, in Dana’s opinion, it was highly rude to be trying to do anything indecent in someone else’s apartment. ‘I’m gonna miss my flight.’
Kaiser held out 50 dollar note. ‘I don’t even know why you are taking such a late flight. May as well have gone tomorrow morning if all it is is you trying to escape your family. I’d gladly drop you off myself.’
Dana took the note and shoved it in her jeans. ‘I have no desire to sit there and listen to people yabber about a woman I could barely stand. I’d rather be on a sunny beachside sipping mojitos than be there for the whole thing.’
‘You’re going south, where beaches are few and colder. And you hate mojitos.’ He held her back as she went to go past. ‘You’re one of the beneficiaries.’
‘Exactly! Which means it gives my family reason to glue all eyes on me the whole week. No thank you. Now get out of my way. I have a taxi to catch.’
Kaiser pulled her in a quick hug. ‘Should I go in your place?’
‘If you want.’ She kissed him on the cheek. ‘Don’t sleep with that one, that one or that one.’ She laughingly pointed out random guests.
‘What about that one?’ Kaiser pointed to a woman striding their way with a charming little cherub on her hip.
‘That one will have to do.’ Dana laughed. Gave a quick hug to Kaiser’s beautiful wife and child and rushed towards the door. ‘Keep my bag safe for me!’
As Dana got into the lift, she could hear the faint rumble of thunder. ‘Please don’t rain. Please don’t rain.’ She rushed out onto the street, empty as the first giant drops of rain slapped her cheek. She checked her phone as a messaged buzzed: You taxi is 30 seconds away. 30 seconds wasn’t that long, and Dana stared down the street to see if she could spot the headlights. Nothing.
Laughter rolled down with the rain from the balcony and Dana looked up to see Kaiser’s head, a tiny pin in the grey night sky. ‘You should just cancel!’
Suddenly, a taxi appeared far too quickly beside her on the kerb. She hadn’t even heard it pull up. A window rolled down. ‘Ms Dana Beecham?’ An elderly man with a well kept grey beard bent down to see her on the sidewalk. ‘You ordered a taxi?’
The rain began with more gusto and she clambered into the back seat. ‘How did you know my name?’
The man laughed. ‘I pay attention.’
The glint in his eyes threw her off. It was as if he knew things. Really knew things. Like for example, she felt almost as if he could tell why she was in a hurry to get away.
A lash of lightening ripped across the sky and the power grid failed instantly. The whole street blacked out, and thunder that followed cut Dana off at, ‘Please take me to…’
‘I know where to take you Miss.’ He interrupted, a smile on his face. Somehow he reminded her of her late grandfather. She hadn’t seen the man in over two decades, but it was almost as if the eyes were his. ‘Buckle up!’ With the rumble of the engine, lights came on one by one on all the buildings as they shot by. In disbelief, Dana kept staring out the window till they were well away from the street.
‘How did you know where I want to go?’ The thought suddenly disturbed her. ‘I didn’t tell you.’
The cabbie laughed. ‘As I said, I pay attention.’ He pointed recklessly at a navigation system as if to say that was his source of information.
Maybe, thought Dana. Maybe she’d already told the dispatcher when she’d placed the call.
‘Please hurry. I’m running a little late.’
He nodded, turning on the radio station to some mellow music. ‘Not to worry dear. Sit back and relax. I’ll get you there at the right time.’
The street lights flashed by one by one. The last of her drinks finally catching up with her. She hadn’t closed her eyes in ages, and when she did, it was not with the intention to fall asleep.
‘Here we are, Miss. Your destination.’
When Dana woke, it was almost dawn and she was no where near the airport. She was exactly where she didn’t want to be. The whole reason why she was meant to be in a flight over Alice Springs. Not sitting outside her Grandma’s home, exactly how she remembered it. Perfect.
Dana turned to the man in shock. ‘You said you knew where I needed to be?!’ Her tone highly accusing. The man nodded, got out, pulled out her luggage from the back seat next to her and came around to open her door.
‘Yes. And this is where you needed to be. I got lost there for a bit, but no, in the end, I got you here, safe and sound!’ He beamed. Her grandfather’s eyes smiled down at her and she couldn’t really get angry at him. Instead, she crossed her arms and refused to get out. ‘Don’t you think you are being a little childish?’
Offended, she was about to protest when the front door opened and her mother in pyjamas walked out, looking at her directly. ‘Dana! You came.’
The man stepped aside and allowed her to exit the cab. He handed her her bag and walked away.
‘How much do I owe you?’
The man smiled. ‘We can decide that later!’ He doffed his hat and slipped into his cab. Before long pulling out as Dana pulled her bag along reluctant. What did he mean by that?
‘Hey yourself. Look at you? So skinny!’
Dana couldn’t help but feel the lump in her throat as she eyed the facade. It wasn’t where she needed to be. Was it? All those memories pressed against her mind. All those desperate attempts to get away. And there she was, miraculously about walk into a home she hadn’t stepped foot in in over 5 years for a woman she had loved as much as possible but hated just the same.
Home sweet home.