Earthed - Australian StylebyWhiteWave48©
This thoroughly Australian story is set in two places - Sydney with its harbour and Tasmania with its alpine wilderness dating from pre-historic Gondwanaland. It makes no apology for any Australianisms the reader may encounter.
A sweet and almost innocent outdoor adventure involving two Aussie girls, the story shows how they get back to nature in their own back yard, coming to know each other more intimately as they re-live a bushwalking expedition in Tasmania, an island state which hangs like a good luck charm from the south east end of mainland Australia.
* * * * *
The brook that gurgled round their mossy island sounded almost like something in her native Norway, the swirl of the snowmelt loving the rocks and stones as it curled and looped between the grassy tussocks. Both girls had spotted it as they climbed the hill. It was an unusual, flat area between trees and they'd had to jump the stream without getting their boots wet to stake their claim.
Now, warmed by a generous plate of vegetarian pasta and some cosy after-dinner conversation round a campfire, Sophie lay there in the tent she shared with the Australian girl and felt her soul warmed by her presence. Not that the Australian was a particularly warm person, but she was friendly and welcoming, and Sophie couldn't help but admire her freshness, her direct approach.
Sharing accommodation with this girl had been such a lottery, with so many individuals in the group making up the eleven other people in the expedition, but she'd been lucky to score a nice sleeping companion in the two-man tent the tour company had provided. The two Tasmanian guides were experienced. They'd made sure that unsuitable people weren't made to 'room' together.
The night was chill in a damp sort of way, but not bitterly cold. They'd eaten their dinner all rugged up in their raincoats and waterproof pants, their hoods dripping the accumulated misty rain into their plates. Now the two girls lay side by side in their down sleeping bags, trying to warm them up. They'd been there some time, each asking questions about how things were done in the other country.
They'd even come to laughing about a few things, and Sophie had learned that the Australian girl could tell a few hearty jokes. Masculine almost. Bawdy stories. The kind of thing blokes might tell each other in a pub after a few beers. Sophie needed a bit of help with the meaning here and there, but after that she seemed to be getting the hang of things pretty quickly. They laughed some more until sleepiness began to overtake them.
"This is so beautiful," said Sophie in her cute accent as she was about to reach up to switch off the small, hanging torch, their only light in the tent. She sighed with happiness and lay there a moment, then sat up a little and turned towards her companion.
"Goodnight, my Australian friend," she said quaintly, with a smile, and she kissed her finger, reaching across to plant the kiss on the lips of her new friend.
The other girl gasped through shock - or disbelief or pleasure - it wasn't obvious which. What she did next, however, was perfectly clear. She took Sophie's wrist and held her hand there, kissing her fingers, almost devouring them. It was such a strong move that it was Sophie's turn to be surprised.
Sophie knew instantly what she wanted to do. She reached over and took the other girl's head in her other hand. Brushing her kissed fingers aside with her mouth, she replaced them with her lips, kissing the girl softly - lots of small kisses. She could feel the girl responding, her breath quickening, so she ran her hand down her back, to her side - to her vulnerable waist.
Under the gentle pressure of her hand, the other girl flexed her whole body and gasped. It was then that Sophie knew she'd be able to handle her breasts through the clingy fabric of her stretchy top, to feel her nipples as they rose to an erect hardness at the touch of her fingertips.
* * * * *
It's what you need to do when you've just turned twenty-three and your partner of four years has just dumped you for an eighteen-year-old. When things have gone sour at work and your boss is loading you with all the things she ought to be doing. When you've had enough of it all and just one more thing will send the steam hissing out your ears and the sparks flying, and you know there's a risk you'll do some damage somewhere.
You get yourself earthed. Grounded. Centred once more.
Marnie had suggested it first. That morning, when Annabel had phoned her with her latest little drama featuring the villain of the piece, Jeremy and the red t-shirt he'd left behind in the wash with her new white jeans, Marnie was sure her friend was about to blow a fuse.
"Annabel," she interrupted the tirade. "You gotta get a grip. You gotta get yourself earthed."
The volley of words ceased.
"What was that? What did you say?" Annabel wondered if Marnie was having her a go at her - pulling her leg - insulting her perhaps. "That stupid word you said."
"Uh?" Marnie herself was surprised she'd come out with the word. It was the 'fuse' idea that had triggered her desperate train of thought. Annabel was so angry she was electrified.
"That word you said. What was it? You're not..." Her tone changed. "Am I annoying you? I am, aren't I? All this is too much for you! I've landed all my problems on you lately and now I've passed my 'use-by' date as a friend." And she burst into tears.
Marnie was thinking fast. Annabel did indeed seem to be losing it now.
"Anna. Stop! Stop bawling and listen." She waited for a break in the sobbing.
"The word I said was 'earthed'. You need to re-connect. Stop sparking off at everything like that." She was thinking fast now with no plan behind what she was saying.
"You need to get back to nature and meditate a little - find the real 'you' again without having to refer to Jeremy all the time. Say goodbye to your hopes with him. Spend a week or two doing some beautiful things with trees and water and sky and..."
Here Marnie had run out of ideas.
"OK then." Annabel had stopped sobbing. "You seem to know it all. What do you suggest?"
"Well..." Marnie dug into her imagination. Into her dreams. Into her memories, actually. She would suggest the kind of holiday she'd always fancied repeating - one she knew from experience was perfect for a good-looking single female in need of a bit of distraction. She'd done Tasmania herself, but she knew friends who'd done a version in New Zealand more recently, and she'd even gone so far as to pick up some brochures from the travel agent and check it out online.
"How about you take yourself away from all this and go on a bushwalking vacation. Out there in the middle of nowhere you'll be so busy looking at the scenery you won't have a clue what's going on back here."
Annabel was wary.
"Sounds awfully like hard work to me. All that walking. The heat. The flies. And greasy food fried in an old pan. No thanks. What I need is for some angel to come along and treat me up. Take me out, pamper me with every luscious thing. Massage, foot rubs - you know, the lot."
"So inward-looking, Annabel," Marnie cut in. She waved a hand expansively, even though Annabel couldn't see it at the other end of the line. "You need to look out - way beyond yourself - to the cool blue horizon."
"Cool? Blue, huh? Go on then. Elaborate."
Marnie took her chance.
"Try this one then. I know for sure that an expedition in a wilderness area like Tasmania is a great idea. Fantastic, actually. I've done it. You can check in with an outfit like 'Tasmanian Expeditions' and do one of their packages. You pay your money and they organise everything for you. No need to think about a thing except your own clothing, and they'll even give you a list for that. You go with a group and a handsome guide or two in khaki shorts will take you in hand - bushwalking, cycling and whitewater rafting - one or all of those, depending on how long you want to stay. And a week or two feasting your eyes on those good-looking legs along the trail will clear your mind and heal your wounded heart."
Marnie paused. There was silence at the other end of the line. She heard Annabel blow her nose.
"It's strange that I've never been to Tassie, even though I've thought about it now and then." She was sounding more subdued.
"Well, now's your chance. You know already that Tasmania, being so far down south off the bottom of Australia, is like nothing you can find up here. More like parts of the south island of New Zealand - you know, 'Lord of the Rings' territory. It has its own alpine wilderness with ancient trees that are thousands of years old. All of this is in miniature so you get to see a lot for your money. Anna, it's a perfect place for losing your worries, and you haven't taken any leave for a year or two. You can afford to take some time off."
Annabel cut in.
"How do you know all this? What makes you so sure it's right for me? It's not one of those 'a friend of a friend of a friend' told me, is it?" She could hear Marnie hesitate on the other end of the line.
"In a way, yes. It is." Memories were flooding back into Marnie's mind. "But I've done it myself - with a friend - or with a friend who became a friend while I was there..." She was wavering now, unsure of how much to tell.
Annabel pricked up her ears. There was something interesting going on here.
"You never told me this, Marnie-babe," she drawled, hoping to hear her open up. "Do tell me more."
There was another silence. At least Annabel had stopped looking inwards at her own problems.
"I shouldn't have said anything," Marnie replied softly. "It was just one of those special times for me. A nice memory to keep."
"Please," wheedled Annabel.
"Only if you're interested in what it's all about, then. Like - the whole situation."
"Do you like the outdoors?"
"Love it," said Annabel straight away.
"And camping - as in 'tents'?"
"Yes I do, as a matter of fact. Camped a lot with the family when I was a kid," answered Annabel. Funny how she'd forgotten all the negatives she'd listed earlier.
"This is different," explained Marnie. "You have to carry your own stuff in a pack. You could end up carrying 35 pounds including your tent and your share of the food. Would you be up to that?"
Marnie was trying to put her off now, just in case she'd gone too far with the idea.
"I know you're Little Miss Fitness down at the gym, but you've never had to carry more than your i-Pod for any distance. An expedition is a long haul event with a load, not a short sprint with party shuffle pack in your hand."
"Marnie darling! You know I could do all that. And I am interested. Truly. I mean it." She laughed lightly. "And now I want you to tell me what was so special about your trip. You've got my interest up so high now that I'm not about to let you go until you tell me something."
Marnie was starting to panic. She'd let on that there was something to know, something that she'd kept to herself for a couple of years. It was a secret she'd managed to keep from all her friends, even thought she'd come close to being discovered sending emails at work or shedding a private tear in the loo. Right now she was appalled that she was about to tell all to a friend who was stamping her little foot just because the ridiculous Jeremy had left her.
Maybe it was time to tell. To come clean. One thing was clear: the way she told Annabel would have to be on her own terms. And Marnie was thinking, too, that the terms she would stipulate needn't be so hard to endure after all.
"Annabel." She spoke firmly. "If I tell you everything, it has to be my way. It's my story. You can't do your Annabel thing and push in and own it yourself."
"Oh! Uh!" Annabel was blustering.
"You know you do it, so don't defend yourself. Not this time. And," here Marnie sounded even more serious - stern even - "There's to be no mention of Jeremy by either of us. You know what I think of him, and I've heard enough to last me till forever."
She paused for her words to take effect.
"Down to business now. Annabel, I will only tell you this in person. It's special to me and I want to tell it in a special way as I've never told anyone else. I realise that I need to tell it to someone, and you need a change in your life. That makes two of us needing something right now."
She listened again as Annabel took it all in.
"I'd like us to make a game out of this. It could be fun. A release for both of us."
"Well, I could do with some release, that's for sure," replied Annabel, more quietly interested now.
"As I see it, you need a few practical solutions. If you really are keen on trying this expedition idea, then you'll need to check out the type of equipment you'll need. Between now and then you need a bit of fun - silliness, if you like."
"Curioser and curioser," said Annabel mysteriously. She liked to think of herself as Alice in Wonderland now and then.
"Yeah, and I'm the White Rabbit!" she rejoined. Suddenly she felt free to go on.
"Annabel, I know we're not still at school, but I'm sure we're not too old for this - at least I'm not - but how would you like to come camping at my place this weekend? To see what you'd need for a trip, you could go through my pack-sized camping gear - all mini stuff - not like you and your family dragged around with them in the trailer. I'll set up the tent. If you bring your sleeping bag it'll be like a pyjama party for the two of us all over again. Just you and me and some good camp food and a bottle of wine and..."
"And?" Annabel wanted to hear it. Conclusively.
"I'll tell you my secret."
Annabel put down the receiver. The date had been set.
There was something so tempting in this arrangement that all thought of the despicable had Jeremy vanished. Annabel was already planning in her mind what she'd wear, the nice bottle of champagne she'd stashed away for a wonderful moment with - no - with whoever was fantastic enough to come along share it. As soon as she got home from the office she'd air her duck-down sleeping bag. There was a thrill in the air for her once more.
* * * * *
Not without a certain amount of trepidation, Marnie prepared the campsite in the back yard of the block of flats where she lived.
At first she thought of camping indoors. Annabel was such a softie in some ways, and she might become alarmed at the outdoor sounds of nature in a Sydney back yard at night. Her tent was free-standing so she knew this was possible. Her kid brothers had slept in it on numerous occasions in the living room. Kids all over have an ongoing love affair with tents.
No, she'd take Annabel outside. Her flat was in the most perfect setting, right at the end of Cremorne Point as it juts out into Sydney Harbour not far from the bridge to the right and almost directly opposite the Opera House - give or take a degree or two. They wouldn't even need to break the law and camp on the nature reserve that surrounded the point and continued round the harbour foreshores. The lawns belonging to the property carried their green in one long sweep down to the massive dark green Moreton Bay fig trees that lined the low sandstone cliffs at the water's edge.
There was already a barbecue fixture in the yard, beautifully set in sandstone and screened by miniature lilli-pilli trees and dark-leaved pittosporum trimmed to a hedge by the gardener. Marnie knew that at this time of year there'd be the sweet smell from the clusters of insignificant white pittosporum flowers. It would be lingering in the night air rather like chinese star jasmine only more subtle, compellingly alluring in the manner of a new virgin rather than like a tart advertising her wares. There'd be the thrum of ferries in the harbour and the raucous cries of bats and possums competing in the fig trees. And the stars fighting their way to be noticed through the white radiance of the city lights.
And there would be Marnie telling Annabel her secret by lamplight in their tent.
* * * * *
Annabel arrived simply dressed. It was late spring and she'd dug out a pair of plain white shorts from the back of her wardrobe. A neat, pale pink t-shirt completed her ensemble and she'd done the 'Annabel' thing by matching the tee with her underwear - pale pink once again. She wore simple leather sandals on her feet.
Trying to impress Marnie, she'd packed economically, her small overnight bag containing nothing more than some moisturiser and the relevant brushes for hair and teeth, a change of panties and a fresh t-shirt. Oh, and a towel. And her sleeping bag. She'd thought of that at least, and she congratulated herself as she patted the chilled champagne in the cold pack she carried. Any other sudden requirement she'd need to borrow from Marnie.
The childish anticipation of a backyard adventure had banished all thoughts of Jerry from her mind, but the vacancy he'd left created a heady excitement. Annabel was ready for anything as she accepted the first drink of the evening - a glass of that special champagne of hers - and dropped her bag next to the tent on the lawn. She could see that the fire was in a healthy state under the barbecue hotplate and everything was set to go.
The champagne she'd brought was the real thing - French with its characteristic smooth flavour and tiny, natural bubbles. A glass or two to accompany Marnie's seafood entree of scallops, marinaded and barbecued in their own shells set the scene for a perfect evening. To go with the shellfish, a slim, crisp roll of sourdough bread, sliced and served with fresh butter made a perfect partner. While they ate, Marnie lined up the main course. She pushed potatoes in foil into the coals; salads of mixed lettuces, rocket, olives, sun-dried tomatoes, young spinach and basil she set out on the table.
"Let's take our time with this," she said. "'The night is young', as they say in the movies."
She laughed as she took another sip of champagne. She was becoming carried away by the effects of the alcohol, the food, and the heavenly release from the heaviness of the conversation she'd felt compelled to endure over the last week.
The still air cooled and Marnie gave Annabel a lightweight polar fleece top to wear over her shoulders. Almost silently, a Mosman ferry churned by, its wash slapping the rocks at the base of the low sandstone cliff at the end of the lawn. The city lights winked across the deep, dark water of the still harbour and a horn sounded in the distance. As they drank their champagne Marnie threw a couple of fillet steaks on the hot barbecue plate.
"Would you like me to open a bottle of wine to go with the steaks?" Marnie asked.
"Not for me," Annabel answered. "I'm happy to take a break and drink water or just run with the champagne - especially one like this."
They ate sitting on a rug the ground. Like picture book schoolgirls on an idyllic lawn at lunchtime. They sat cross-legged in their shorts and leaned forward to cut their steaks and shovel salad into their mouths. They balanced their glasses on the stone paving and sat in the glow of the fire in the barbecue. And as they sat, their knees far apart and their heads light with champagne, they began to feel a wonderful warmth in their nether regions as they prepared for what could only be a very 'girl' kind of revelation.
If Annabel was becoming excited, Marnie was going to make her wait. No sooner had she finished her meal than Marnie struggled to her feet and made an announcement.
"It's time for the demonstration," she said.
"Of what?" replied Annabel.
"My camping gear," said Marnie simply.
"That is soooooo boring," jeered Annabel, and fell over on her side, helpless with a laughter that could only be explained by alcohol.