tagRomanceEva Down Under Ch. 01

Eva Down Under Ch. 01


Grumpy had just completed a gruelling trip in the roadtrain, going from Kalgoorlie, to Lienster, to Norseman, to Port Augusta, and then up through the Stuart Highway, to Alice Springs, where he decided he needed to stop and relax a bit.

He owned his own roadtrain, so where and when he pulled up, was entirely up to him. He booked a room at the Gap hotel, showered and dried off. As he dried himself, he studied himself in the mirror.

He saw a man, who stood four inches above six feet, broad-shouldered, muscular, but with a typical truckie's paunch, not big, but still noticeable. He had fairly well structured legs that held all this body erect. His hair was a dark brown. reaching down below his shoulders, and he sported a beard the guys from ZZTop would be proud to sport. His eyes, a darkish blue, stared out from all that hair.

Not bad! Not bad at all, he thought, for a fifty-one-year-old bloke who'd never married. He combed his hair, and tied it back in a pony tail, then combed the beard, which almost reached his lower chest. He slipped on a pair of Levi's that he loved, because not only did they hug his butt tightly, but were comfortable on his bike. As it was hot, he put on a loose white shirt, and buttoned it up, leaving the top three buttons open - he hated tight things around his neck. Besides, the beard hid that, and the abundance of chest hairs he'd grown over the years.

He left his room, and sauntered into the dining room, where a noisy mob of Yankee tourists was congregating. He looked them over, and noticed a tallish, dark-skinned lady, around the late thirty's mark, he thought, a little round, good-looking. She casually looked in his direction and eye contact was made for the briefest second.

Grumpy sat and ate his steak, chips, eggs, tomatoes, salad, and bread rolls meal in silence, drinking straight Jack Daniels. His eyes again cast over the American tourists. Again, he caught her eye. Was she studying him? Naaah, she was just checking out the room and people.

He got up, and went to the men's room, and as he exited, he bumped into a lady, heading into the ladies room, right next to the men's.

"Excuse me," he said, without looking up, until he saw the black slacks the lady was wearing. Only one lady in the tourist group had them on. He looked up. Yes, it was her.

"Oh that's all right. I should be looking where I'm going!" she said, in an accent he couldn't work out.

She's not American, he thought.

They parted. Grumpy went into the bar, had two more drinks and called a taxi. He headed off to the Diamond Springs Casino, for a night of losing money, as he called it.

Eva crossed her legs primly at the ankles, and listened as the tour guide talked about the sights they were passing by. However, she only listened with half an ear. Her mind wandered, mostly over the last few weeks, and the good fortune that brought her to Australia for an extended vacation.

Evangelina Jackson was forty-eight years old, and some days, she felt all the weight of those years. But she knew she didn't look her age...too many people had looked openly startled when she had told them how old she was. Good genes, she supposed, from her mother's side of the family. She was in Australia for a month, with the possibility of remaining for a longer time, if she liked what she saw...and was brave enough to try and make a new life somewhere other than in Cedarwood.

Her father, the parson in that laid-back rural town, had been gravely ill for many months prior to his not-unexpected death, and Eva had been his sole caregiver for those months, and the years before that, when his health first began to fail. Now, she was alone, and she felt the fear rise inside her as she contemplated the scenery outside the tour bus windows.

At 5' 9" she was not a short woman, and her broad shoulders and long legs proclaimed her to be someone to be reckoned with. Her caramel-colored skin stood out in stark contrast to the pale complexion of her fellow tourists, except for the darker-skinned couple who had confided in her that this was their honeymoon tour.

The bus pulled back into the hotel parking lot, and she stepped out, feeling the hot sun of the Australian summer pelting her. She pulled the cute little straw hat down firmly and slid her sunglasses over her eyes, as she hurried into the relative coolness of the shade under the marquee. There was nothing left to do for the afternoon...but she didn't feel like taking a nap, as she had done every afternoon since she had arrived. Maybe she could stroll down to Todd Mall...a little window shopping would be welcome.

She turned in the direction of the taxi stand, and noticed the tall, rough-looking man from dinner the night before, just exiting the hotel and heading in her direction. She hurried ahead, though she could not have said why, and stopped next to the closest cab.

"I'd like to go to Todd Mall," she said, and got into the cab without looking.

If anyone had asked why she was suddenly so nervous, she would have been hard pressed to respond.

When Grumpy woke up that morning, he had already decided he needed some new "hard yakka" shorts for work, and some singlets. So, the morning consisted of washing the truck, and heading back to the hotel. He didn't feel like lunch, so he grabbed his wallet, and headed out to the taxi stand, where a lone taxi waited. As he strode toward it. 'Miss America', as he now called her, rushed in front, without a glance in his direction, and jumped in, saying she wanted to go to the mall, where he was headed.

He managed to get into town, did his shopping, and then went to the cafe and bought a coffee. He wandered outside, where there were tables set up under umbrellas. As he sat down, he saw her again, crossing the road, coming to the cafe.

Dammit, he thought, I'm going to speak to her, no matter what happens. He didn't stop to ask himself why he wanted to do that. As she walked by to enter, he said,

"Hello! Enjoyin' ya holiday, are ya?"

"Huh?" She looked at him, startled for a second. "Oh, its you! Hello...er, yes, thank you, I am!"

She kept walking. He watched as she went inside, her butt swinging sexily. He waited for her to come out, and said invitingly,

"You can sit with me, if you want!"

She looked at him again and then said, "Thank you!" and sat down opposite him.

"They call me Grumpy," he said, holding out his hand.

"Eva," She replied, shaking his hand very timidly. Then she cocked an inquiring brow. "Grumpy...as in the seven dwarfs?"

"Well, kinda, but more coz I'm a grumpy git when things don't go right!" he chuckled.

"Oh, a man with a temper"...she said, sounding dejected.

"Not really, Eva! It's more coz I ride a Harley, and the blokes I work with reckon I get a grumpy look on my face when I ride."

"Oh, you ride a motorbike too?" She sounded dismayed.

"Well, don't let it put you off me or anything," he said hastily. "I just love the freedom of the wind in my face, the freedom to go where I want."

He watched her face.

"Oh!" She sipped her coffee, then admitted, "I sort of always wanted to ride on a bike, but dad said that men on bikes have no respect for ladies!" She kept her eyes on her cup, not looking at him.

"Naaaah, that's not true! I respect ladies. Shit, if I didn't, me dad'd jump out of his grave and boot me in the jacksie!" He chuckled merrily.

"And what, sir, is a jacksie?" she wanted to now, finally looking him in the eye.

"Oh...ahhhhhh, me butt, I guess you'd say," he explained, smiling.

"Oh!" There was a long silence, and then she asked,

"And what do you do for a living, Grumpy?"

"I'm a road train operator. You know, the prime mover with two, three or more trailers behind! Been doin' it for years now."

"And what do you carry, on your road train?" she wanted to know next.

"Everything you can buy here in Alice," he said. "Without the road trains, this place wouldn't exist!"

"But there is the rail! Surely you're competing with that!" she commented earnestly.

"Yes we are, but we can get the freight here in twenty-two hours from the Gutta, whereas the freight trains take up to thirty-six hours, and if the track's closed, we carry all that they do, coz we can get through!"

And so the conversation went, him buying her another coffee, and then inviting her to dinner at the Casino. She said she'd think about it.

They shared a taxi back to the hotel, and he gave her his room number, so she could call and let him know about dinner.

Eva wished she could take a bath, but she didn't trust the cleanliness of the bathtub in her hotel room, so she settled for a long, hot shower, to wash off the grime and sweat of the day.

Besides, if she wished to be pleasant company, she had to be clean. She didn't think too closely about who she would be pleasant company for, refusing to consider that she was thinking a little too much about the truck driver she had had lunch with. Grumpy! Hmph! What a nickname! She wondered what his real name was, but knew she would never be bold enough to ask.

Her hair was long, reaching past her shoulders, and she wore it in a ponytail most days, because of the heat. Tonight, she opted for leaving it loose, so she had washed it, and was blow-drying it, when it occurred to her that she hadn't told Grumpy whether or not she would have dinner with him. Her heart tripped in her chest...dinner with a man who looked like a cross between a bear and a wolf, but whose voice made her feel strangely liquid. She walked into the bedroom, and picked up the phone, dialing the number for his room.

When he picked up, Eva felt her heart gallop off, and she had to take a deep breath to continue.

"It's Eva...from lunch today?"

"Oh yes?" he answered.

"I'd love to have dinner with you," she said. "When should I be ready?"

"An hour okay with you?" he asked. "I'll pick you up. What room are you in?"

Eva hesitated, and then shrugged. What did it matter if he knew where she stayed? It wasn't like he was interested in her. She told him the number and rang off.

She had an hour to make herself presentable. Still wrapped in the towel she had brought from home, because hotel towels never seemed large enough to wrap her large frame in, she stood before the mirror and stared solemnly at her reflection.

She had an oval face, high cheekbones and dimples in her cheeks, even when she was not smiling. Her lips were full, as were her breasts, though they were no longer perky. The dark brown areoles contrasted lushly with the milk-in-coffee color of her skin, and she smoothed a hand over them, feeling their silk tease her fingertips. Her nipples stood to attention almost instantly, and she pulled her hand away. Her belly was round, no longer flat, and sported one or two stretch marks. She was no beauty queen, she knew that. The thought was suddenly depressing.

She decided on a tie-dyed skirt, red and orange and yellow, and a stretchy red top, boat-shaped neckline, sleeveless, crop-waisted. She pushed her feet into thin-strapped leather sandals, red to match her outfit, pushed hoops through her earlobes and fluffed her hair, letting the wispy bangs fall over her forehead.

As she was spritzing herself a second time with perfume, a knock sounded at the door. She picked up her purse, checked to see that her room key and wallet were in it, as well as the lip gloss she was wearing, and opened the door.

"Hello," she said to Grumpy, who stood before her looking cool and collected.

"Hello, mate," he replied, and smiled at her.

She let him lead her out to a cab, and soon they were seated in the restaurant of the casino. She ordered a Coke, he ordered a Jack Daniels, and when the waiter returned to take their dinner order, she told Grumpy she'd like to try something uniquely Australian.

"I'd reccomend the buff'n'barra meal. It's bloody nice - buffalo meat, and barramundi, a beautiful fish!" he replied enthusiastically, and she nodded her agreement, asking that the meat be well done. He ordered the same, and while they waited, he asked her about herself.

"You're with the Americans...but you're not American, are you?" His eyes showed his curiosity.

Eva smiled, relaxing a little more. "No, I'm Barbadian," she answered. "I migrated to the States when I was in my mid thirties."

"Oh, a few years ago, then," he commented, and she recognized what he was doing, and smiled wider.

"No, almost fourteen years ago now!" She looked across at him, and added deliberately, "I'm forty-eight, you know. I'm older than I look!"

As she said it, she steeled her heart for the veil that would drop over his eyes as he rapidly lost what little interest he had in her.

"I'm fifty-one myself," he commented, his eyes never leaving her face. "If you don't mind my saying so, you look great!"

Eva could feel herself blushing, and opened her mouth to say thanks when the meal was served. She picked up her knife and fork gratefully, and dug in, happy that the food was delicious, even the fish, which she normally would not have ordered, so that she didn't have to make conversation for a while. She ordered a second Coke, and he a second Jack Daniels.

The meal banter was light, but fact-finding for them both. He told her of his life, avoiding any mention of marriage. She in turn, told him of nursing first her mum, then her dad, as their health had deteriorated, culminating in their demise, several years apart. He also learned she too had never married.

"So, now, you know why I never married, am I allowed to know why you never did?" She felt the blood rush to her cheeks as she asked, embarrassed at her own fowardness.

"Well darlin'," he said, " many moons ago, I was in love with a beautiful lady, and we got engaged to be married, but after her death at the hands of a drunken driver, I came to Australia, and buried myself in work. Then, when I pulled my head out of the sand, so to speak, I had missed the marriage market. So, here I am, single, and lookin' at stayin' that way!"

"Came to Australia. You're not an Ozzie then?" she inquired.

"No, I'm a Kiwi!" She smiled at his use of the nickname for New Zealanders. "But enough of the past, my dear!" He picked up her hand, and studied it as he spoke. " Let's look at the future. Aha! What can I see here? I see..." He hesitated.

"What do you see?" she asked, a little over-eagerly.

"I see, a girl, in jeans and t-shirt, with a helmet on, riding a bike with a tall, good looking bearded guy. Riding out to the Soss River homestead for lunch and a swim in the cool canyon waters." He smiled mischievously as he spoke.

"Oh, do you now?" Her smile was equally teasing.

"Yes. It's my last chance to see you, before you leave in a couple of days, but I pull out tomorrow night."

Her heart felt heavy, at this realization. But why? He was only a dinner date for the night. Why did she feel a sense of loss?

"Where are you going?" she asked, a little too brightly.

"I'm doing a milk run up to Darwin" he answered.

"What's a milk run?"

"It's stopping in at the station homesteads, and the towns, dropping off their supplies," he said.

He wished she could go with him. as it would allow her to see a lot more than the tour had to offer. DAMN!! Why was he thinking like this? Would he actually MISS her after tomorrow?

He realised he was still holding her hand. She hadn't withdrawn it, so he raised it to his lips, letting them linger gently, the whiskers tickling her. She gently pulled her hand back, as if reluctant to let go, and when he looked at her, her eyes glowed. She seemed happy, yet sad at the same time.

He stood, held out a hand for her, and then dug his wallet out of his hip pocket, and dropped some money on the table, way in excess of the bill, but he wanted to tip the waiter well, for leaving them alone. He was showing his appreciation. after all, this was the first time he'd been here with a woman - he usually came on his own.

She followed him to the cashiers, where he changed $100.00 into chips, and went to the two-up circle.

"How do you play this?" she asked.

"Watch and learn, is the easiest way, sweetheart," he answered easily.

"'Sweetheart'? Aren't you being a bit cheeky?" She smiled as she said it.

There was a call for a new spinner and a guy stepped into the circle.

"He has to throw a set amount of heads or tails. The heads are marked by the crosses on the coins. That stick they're putting the coins on, is the spoon," Grumpy explained.

When the coins were set right, the man tossed them high into the air, and down the coins came - both heads.

Grumpy had placed one token in the heads box, and the croupier dropped another beside it. Again the coins went up, again they came down heads up.

Again the croupier dropped two tokens on the table in front. Grumpy removed the original one, leaving three up. The coins were tossed again, coming down as a split, one heads, one tails, no pay out. Once more, up went the coins. Heads...paid again. Six tokens now. Yet again the coins went up...up... then down, landing on the floor, as tails.

They collected Grumpy's tokens this time.

"Doesn't it bother you to lose that $60.00?" Eva wondered aloud.

"Nope, it was their money, not mine. I took my money back....that's why there was six chips, not eight!"

"Ohhhh!" Understanding dawned in her eyes.

A new spinner stepped in. Grumpy waited this time, watching the spinner's tosses, then bet heads...three chips. He won - in fact, he won the next five spins.

He scooped up his chips, and turned to Eva, saying, "Do you want to have a go? Here, take this. It's theirs anyway, win or lose."

She couldn't believe his 'easy come, easy go' attitude. But then, as he'd said, it was their money, not his. She had observed his habit of putting the original outlay back in his pocket, telling her he was a wise gambler.

She placed one chip on heads, and meant to put the other on tails, hedging her bets, but it landed on the line, so she left it there. The toss came down a split. The croupier took the heads, and dropped three on the last chip. She scooped them up, and went to give them to Grumpy, but he told to keep them.

During the next few hours, they wandered about the casino, Eva learning about the games played, with Grumpy's explanations. But she was surprised about one thing. Grumpy was drinking Jacks neat, but he did not appear drunk. In fact, he seemed to be in full control.

Another thing she began to notice was that at every opportunity, he would touch her... hold her hand for a second, drop his arm casually over her shoulders, stand right beside her, with a hand on her waist. How she loved that! She could smell his scent, and it started something tingling inside her. But it was all very casual, not scary in the least.

They went over to the cafe', and finally sat down. Grumpy emptied his pocket of chips, counting them, something she'd not seen him do yet...$3, 500.00 worth.

"Count yours, hun" he said, so she did...$890.00.

"Let's call it a night then, shall we?" he suggested. "My feet are killing me!"

"Yes, alright then. I'm feeling a little tired too," she answered immediately.

They drank their coffee, and wandered outside to catch a taxi, after cashing up the chips. They rode in silence, but his hand covered hers on the seat between them, Grumpy exchanging pleasantries with the cabbie.

At the hotel, Grumpy paid and tipped the cabbie, then held the door for Eva as she exited the cab. Inside, he held her hand, as they slowly walked to her room, neither one wanting the night to end. At her door, he took hold of her by the waist, and faced her.

"Thank you for a really great night!" he said. "The offer for lunch is still open. You think about it,and I'll buzz you in the morning".

"Yes, alright," she replied shyly. "And you sleep well..." Her voice trailed off.

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