Glimmer in the Dark
Aftermath of a Visit
The suburb of Norwood, on the northern side of Tearmann, was poorly lit during the early pre-dawn hours with the sun not even a glow in the sky. Though this part of the city had light-poles along the streets that stayed switched-on all night, the local neighbourhood here was posh. The radiance from the lights on top of each pole wasn’t adequate for the area to be well lit. The street was wider, yet not a single car was parked near the kerb. Lining both sides, were shadowy century-old trees on wide grassy verges. Trees of full branches heavy with foliage that didn’t allow many of the light-poles to be directly seen, and certainly interfered with the purpose of having any street lighting. Driveways spaced far apart told of how large the houses were – none of which could have been seen easily from the point of view of any passing car.
At this time, there was a lonely patrol car proceeding at a leisurely pace up the slope of the street. The all-white car carried two members of the Tearmann Metropolitan Police, as the emblem and large printed lettering on the sides announced. The five-litre vee-eight engine of the twenty-twenty-four Brumby model sedan manufactured by the American Motors Corporation purred low. The sound quiet enough that it was unlikely any of the local residents heard the car pass their houses by. They should all have been asleep at this time regardless.
Only the flashing blue and red lights on the roof may have alerted someone of the approaching police officers.
The police parked by the kerb about three-quarters up the slope of the street, soon both got out. A man and a woman. Two young cops dressed in the grey-blue shirts and navy blue slacks of the Tearmann Metropolitan Police and each wearing a light ballistic vest despite the heat of the summer night. The patrol car had been air-conditioned, yet the perspiration began showing on their youthful faces almost as soon as they’d exited their vehicle.
The police woman glanced around, stretching and turning to get the kinks out of her back at the same time. She grimaced, blinked, afterwards spoke into her lapel microphone, “This is Churchill one-oh-four, over . . . copy that, we’re at the address, would like to ascertain this is the correct location, over . . . Number eighteen, over . . . Wattle Avenue, over . . . Lights are on inside the residence, no visible movement at this time, over.”
“Ready?”, the male cop asked.
“Yeah, except for this heat.”
“Weather report said it’s going to be a little cooler than yesterday… Only a balmy thirty-five degrees Centigrade in the shade.”
“Only? What was it yesterday?”
“Forty-three… an official record breaker… but I saw it reach forty-five in Westfield yesterday.
“Yeah, anyways, let’s hop it...”
Neither did more than keep a hand close-by their holstered matte black automatic handguns as they strolled up the driveway towards one of the houses.
They reached the closed modern styled gate, three metres high and several wide. A sensor-tripped light came on, brilliant, and momentarily blinding in comparison to the night. The coppers blinked. In the light, they more clearly saw the gate’s red painted steel vertical bars, each with a shiny yellow reflector at waist height. On either side was a tall block of rough stone-faced concrete. Beyond each way right and left could be seen that the estate had walls of the same appearance and just as high.
The man pressed the intercom buzzer by the gate. Several times. There was no response.
“This is Churchill one-oh-four, Williams and Bennet, over . . . The property is walled and no answer when we knock, over . . . Yeah, ruddy great gate won’t open, over . . . Okey-doke, over.”
She turned to her companion, “Wait a tic, looks like the code for the door is listed.”
The man nodded, finally spoke, “Good for us, but fools for them. Kid crackers are going to nick those lists one of these days. If they haven’t already.”
There was a brief welcoming jingle, after that the gate rattled aside to the left on rails. The two coppers glanced at each other a moment, gave a shrug, soon after prudently began creeping step by wary step towards the house. More spotlights switched on, illuminating the broad front gardens within the walls of the estate. These weren’t well maintained. The owners apparently didn’t have much enthusiasm for the work needed, nor had they hired someone else to look after it.
“A rich man’s dump”, commented the male police-officer as they went up the steps to the patio before the over-sized front door.
“Mister and missus Dunleah”, the woman informed him, keeping her voice down, “He’s thirty, she’s twenty-four, married last year and bought these flash diggings with his old man footing the bill.”
“Didn’t see that on the heads-up in the car.”
“I checked this address on my phone, wonders of the Infoweb . . . On his Spy-On-Me page, Mister Jason Dunleah mentioned plans to invite friends over for tea and a get together around the pool last night.”
“It was a scorcher yesterday, wouldn’t have been a bad idea at all.”
The woman pressed the doorbell this time. Again, no answer. The man rapped on the door, listened, then rapped again.
“No use even trying to kick this open, it’s got steel behind that lovely timber veneer…” he said, stepping back.
“This is Churchill one-oh-four, over . . . No answer at the door. Can you unlock it from over there, over?”
The door’s tumblers hummed, there was a solid metal thunk inside. The woman copper lightly gave the door a shove with her hand and the door opened wide to reveal a darkened hallway. Carefully covering for each other, the two entered. The man found the light switch, and with a soft plastic click, the twenty-metre corridor was illuminated by a row of five crystal chandeliers hanging from the ceiling. Other than that, there wasn’t a sound except for the police-officers breathing and the odd whisper of their uniform fabric rubbing against their ballistic vests.
“Williams and Bennett, over . . . We’re entering the premises, no sign of the residents as yet, over.”
“This house is too damn big”, her partner grumbled.
“They’re likely hanging about by the pool, but I don’t like this quiet.”
“Yep… No party music. Maybe they’re playing at mimes.”
Each door they passed, the coppers took alternate turns opening and checking while the other covered. At last they reached the end of the hallway, facing double-doors of a dark rosewood finish. The woman tried the handles, which moved easily, thereafter pushed at the doors, but these scarcely budged. She tried to briefly shoulder charge one of the doors to no avail, and grunted.
“Unlocked but won’t open”, she commented.
The male copper tried to push the doors too. Tried the door handles as if to check. Soon after took a few steps back.
“Okey-dokey, my turn.”
With a run-up he slammed hard into one of the doors. There was a splintering crash, a thud of something falling on the other side, but he got one of the doors open. There was a chair fallen over, as if it had been used to block the door from the inside.
“Why not just lock it?”, the guy asked.
The woman shrugged.
The man stepped in first, and looked about at an exceedingly spacious room that had a pair of rather long black-leather sofas facing each other with a low wooden coffee table in front of each. The room was brightly lit by large saucer-shaped lights in the ceiling. He could see another pair of double-doors, white painted, at the wall to his right as he’d entered the room. Those doors had glass panes in small windows, but one of the doors was ajar, not quite closed. He glanced up at the circular lights attached to the ceiling. He sniffed the air, and wrinkled his nose.
“Gawd, smells like an abattoir.”
The woman came in, looked around as well.
“Human blood… Not a butcher shop smell… and smoke from a barbie, I think.”
They stared at each other for a few seconds with eyes widening. The woman’s complexion had turned pale, but the man merely nodded. They moved together towards the next set of doors. A little closer to each other than before.
The man pushed open the already ajar door. There was whimpering, and shuffling. He tried to take in the whole scene but could barely hold onto his lunch. Blood. Lots of the stuff in splashes over the dark slate tiles. More turning brown on the white-painted wrought-iron table and the chairs around it. Some more of it on a wickerwork chair in which one skinny man was sitting, rocking his body back and forth and crying. The skinny man’s rainbow dyed T-shirt was splashed with brown of drying blood.
Between the nearby furnishings and the pool just beyond the patio, were two bodies. More exactly, the remnants of two men who appeared to been half-eaten by a wild animal. Clawed and torn to pieces, innards scattered, throats ripped out.
For the first time, the copper pulled his gun out of his holster.
“What the hell was here? A bear? A lion? Did dogs do that?”, he exclaimed with a shaking voice that squeaked too high.
He turned around, and both he and the woman cop saw the other survivors at the same time. Three women, young definitely, maybe early twenties, stark naked. There was some drying blood smeared on their uncovered skin as well. They were huddled together against a wall behind a large potted palm. If not for the blood and their terrified expressions, all three could’ve graced the covers of a fashionable magazine or a men’s porn rag.
The female police officer was shivering, as she called it in.
“This is ... this is... Churchill one-oh-four, … over… We need paramedics, trauma counsellors, at eighteen…. Eighteen Wattle Avenue… I think it’s another… Code Bravo Mike... Oh shit…. I can’t do this…”
She crouched down, and started to cry.
The male police-officer answered his own radio, “Churchill one-oh-four, Bennett here, Copy that, over… Code Bravo Mike… At this stage I can’t definitively ascertain but aspects of the crime scene are consistent with his M.O.… There are four survivors on the premises… including three adult female persons … One adult male person… Additionally there are two deceased male adult persons … over.”
* * *
Just A Girl
Alarm clocks are annoying for their sound in the morning. Especially when whoever set the time on one doesn’t bother to wake up and let’s it ring and ring and ring. Shine set this one and the sound nevertheless also annoyed her. She heard it, kept her eyes closed, and wanted to keep sleeping. On and on, the beeping would go, she’d sleepily reach out a hand, press the snooze button on the clock by her bed without opening her eyes. Then she’d turn over to sleep some more. It was a Sunday. She didn’t want to get up so early on a Sunday. She wasn’t keeping count of how many times the alarm had started again. Maybe she should turn it off properly.
Meh, I want to sleep some more...
Bang, bang, banging on the door.
Oh, go away, whatever that noise is.
She opened her eyes only a sliver, and mumbled, “Okay, I’m up already… okay… alright...”
The teenager closed her eyes hoping whoever it was on the other side of her bedroom door would leave her alone too.
Sleeping in was so nice.
The banging on the door started again, but this time it was accompanied by the door opening.
The fair-skinned young woman who entered was well below average height, slender waisted, but with an impressively curvaceous figure that wasn’t well disguised by the oversized T-shirt. Nor by semi-translucent muslin dressing gown that she wore over the top of it. The T-shirt was white, with a picture on the front of a pair of grey Pacific dolphins cavorting amongst breaking blue-green waves. It was big and lengthy enough to cover the upper-half of the young woman’s smooth thighs. She had dark brown hair that was plaited simply, and hung in a single braid down her back, and yet it was long enough to reach her rounded bottom.
The young woman glanced around the bedroom, which wasn’t particularly feminine apart from the preference for pink and having a few soft things. Directly opposite from the bedhead the other wall was floor to ceiling with dark brown bookshelves for books, soft toys, strange curios and a peculiar hodgepodge of bric-a-brac that her younger sister had collected. The rest of the walls of the bedroom were painted a pastel sky-blue, but the ceiling was white. The queen-sized bed in the centre was against a wall to the left as one entered the room. There was a large, very broad and high double-window, with the sill marginally above the head of the bed. The window was partially hidden by white curtains, which were closed at the moment.
Shine’s bed was covered in pink sheets, and easily wide enough for two people. There was solely her nonetheless. The queen-sized mattress by comparison was way more spacious than it needed to be for one rather small-sized teenage girl. The girl on the bed had dark chestnut brown hair that was spread out haphazard about her, and was very long. Her light caramel-tanned face was more heart-shaped than an oval, her cheeks and skin continued to have the baby-cuteness of youth. Although in her mid-teens, she appeared younger than she genuinely was.
There wasn’t a blanket, as it was summer-time, only another sheet to cover her body and legs during the night. It had somewhat fallen mostly off the bed. Leaving the girl on the bed exposed. She wore a short cream-coloured negligee, the hem of which was rumpled upward revealing her navel and tummy. As if to match the negligee, the teenager wore cream-coloured panties, which had pulled upward as well during the night, so the thin fabric outlined the girl’s crease between her parted thighs in an indiscrete manner, sticking to the skin as if painted on.
The young woman shook her head at seeing this, as if to rid herself of the ideas the sight inspired.
“You’re luckier than you might think, Shine”, she commented softly.
Against the wall and under the broad sill of the window, was a bedside cabinet. Made of brown timber, darker than the desk’s but lighter in shade than the bookshelves. On top of the bedside cabinet was a pink, fat, round clock with a big red button on top. The older sister picked up the clock, stared at the back of it, then switched off the alarm setting with a click.
“Come on, Shine… just turn off your alarm if you’re not getting up”, said her older sister.
Oh yeah, the alarm had started beeping annoyingly again, thought Shine as she hadn’t taken note of it until that point.
“Are you going to sleep all day, or are you getting up?”, the young woman said to the teenage girl lying on the bed.
“Yeah, okay…. Sorry, Jolene...” Shine mumbled, not yet fully awake regardless.
Her older sister left the room. The silence dragged on. That’s what eventually became too disturbing for the teenage girl’s subconscious to deal with. The extended quiet after hearing the beeping of the alarm repeat itself probably for the previous hour. It was also getting too hot for her to continue sleeping.
Summer in the majority of Australia was always far too hot. Tearmann was a mere a fraction of a degree cooler than the much bigger city of Sydney which was further northward. Shine had grown to like Tearmann, being near beaches, and close to the sea yet also the teenager sometimes missed living in Nebraska. In spite of that feeling, the memories of her family’s previous home in the American Union weren’t as clear as they used to be in her mind.
With a groan, Shine outstretched her arms, sat up, and turned from the waist up from one side to the other. The clickety-clicking of her spine as she stretched was loud in Shine’s ears. She stretched some more, blinked and looked about her bedroom. The room could have been tidier, and was rather luxuriously large for one under-sized teenage girl.
To the left of Shine, right next to the queen-sized bed was her study desk and a comfortable chair, both items of furniture were a pale brown but of different shades which didn’t quite match. There was a white laptop computer on the desk, closed, with black cables plugged into the side that was away from the bed. One of those cables was curled untidily across the white shag-pile carpeted floor then led up the side of an extended tripod mount just over a metre high, on top of which was a compact video camera. Another cable was stuck by clips to the wall near the desk, going up to the curved cornice that bordered between ceiling and wall. It after that followed the edge of the ceiling to reach the corner of the bedroom that was diagonally opposite the door. This cable was connected to another camera, black, and about the size of a ping-pong ball, that was attached at the top of the wall This camera was aimed downwards to view the majority of the room. Another three cables were plugged into the laptop computer in addition, but led under the bed or other places out of sight.
On the other side of the bed, opposite from the desk and so to Shine’s right as she sat up, was the bedside cabinet with the clock on top. After seeing the time, she rubbed her eyes and yawned.
“Huh? Past nine already?”, she mumbled, “I slept… uh… Ten hours…”
She yawned again.
Shine turned her legs to the right side of the bed, and slid her arse over the sheets to the edge, incidentally scrunching her panties uncomfortably even tighter they already were. When the teenage girl stood up, in irritation at her panties becoming so snug after sliding across the bed, she pulled at the back of her panties’ leg-holes to loosen them a tad after that. Her negligee that had become itchy with the perspiration from the heat. Not liking the sensation, Shine walked across the room from her bed, her feet padding over the luxuriously thick, white shag-pile carpet that covered all of the visible floor of the bedroom. The wall to the right side of the bed had two doors, one was the main bedroom door; it was closer to the corner nearer the bookshelves and was painted white. It remained open ajar since Shine’s older sister hadn’t closed the door fully when she’d come and gone. The other was a sliding door with a full length mirror. On either side of the sliding door, cloth hangings decorated with a black and white Nipponese ink painting of a landscape of steep hills covered two other full length mirrors; one on each side. Above the top of the mirrored sliding door between them was another matching cloth hanging that was rolled up. Together, when rolled down, they would have formed a complete picture.
Shine paused a pace before the mirrored sliding door, and with both hands she brushed back her dark brown hair so she could see her face in the mirror better. In the reflection from the sliding door, Shine briefly examined her caramel-tanned complexion. Her face was flushed and perspiring in the heat of the overly warm air. She scratched at the round tip of her nose. There was some skin peeling from getting sunburnt recently. Her little nose had the slight upturned roundness that revealed she had at least part Irish-Celtic ancestry. Her large, expressive, milk-coffee coloured eyes with their slight slant upwards, were emphasised by high cheekbones and the Asiatic epicanthic folds she’d inherited from a Nipponese great-grandmother on her mother’s side. Long lashes made Shine’s eyes appear to twinkle.
Sighing aloud, she pushed the mirrored door aside and entered the walk-in wardrobe adjacent to her bedroom. Inside to her left were wooden drawers with big round knobs to pull them out, while in front of her there were dresses, skirts, and jackets on hangers. To her right, wide spaced shelves were packed with big plastic crates filled with winter clothes that were stored away. Going through the wooden drawers, Shine picked out a pair of pastel orange shorts, and a yellow T-shirt to put on later. The yellow T-shirt had a big picture of a stylised cartoon character, like an earless brown and white hamster with short legs and arms, a huge fat belly, and sleepy half-closed eyes. The lettering on the T-shirt below this read “Maru-chan”.
She also chose fresh panties to wear; white ones with a pink ribbon on the top front band, the white fabric decorated with tiny strawberries. With a bit more searching, Shine added a white bra to the collection. She took all four items, laid them out flat on her bed, studied what she’d decided to wear, and gave a nod to herself in satisfaction.
After that, Shine grabbed a Nipponese dressing gown of light thin material from a hanger. The “yukata” dressing gown was one of her favourites. Red with yellow flowers and rainbow coloured birds on stylized green-leafed branches. Carrying the dressing gown, the teenager headed out of her bedroom.
Much later, after a refreshing cool shower to beat the heat and rid herself of the perspiration, Shine returned to her bedroom. She wore the colourful yukata and was drying her hair with a fluffy white towel as she entered. She closed the bedroom door, and soon later took off the dressing gown in front of the mirrored sliding door of the walk-in-wardrobe.
Apart from Shine’s face, arms, and legs, her skin was less tanned elsewhere on her body as she hadn’t gone to the beach as much this summer. At least, not as frequently as she’d done the previous year. She turned from side to side, looking herself over, disappointed that her breasts hadn’t grown significantly more. They were merely average in comparison to her body, and since Shine was small as well, that meant her breasts were on the whole rather small too.
At least my boobs are both perky, have a nice shape, she thought, and maybe they’ll grow bigger like Jolene’s… I hope.
Shine frowned at that. Jolene’s boobs were heaps larger, more than double the size of Shine’s, maybe nearly triple. Mama’s too.
Shine’s waist was very slim, especially compared to her wide hips for her size. She put both hands on her hips, happy that she wasn’t getting fat at least. Her legs were longish for her height, and that was a feature she was proud of. Longer than her body by quite a lot, a little over half her full height. Most of the short girls that Shine had seen also had shorter legs compared to their height. Some even shorter than their bodies like many guys apparently had, but Shine’s weren’t.
“I wish they wouldn’t say at school that I looked like a doll...”, she muttered out loud, after that continued the sentence mentally, ...even if the description was maybe a tinge fitting.
Her pubic hairs were very fine, light brown, and sparse. When she brushed a hand over the patch of hairs they felt soft as kitten fur, and there didn’t appear to be much down-there. She’d shaved under her arms in the shower that morning, but other than that Shine barely had any visible body hair or leg hair. Nothing but the tiny hairs which everyone had but couldn’t be seen unless looking at human skin very close.
That was from Mama’s side, definitely, Shine figured.
Now and then, Shine studied herself in the mirror like this. She wondered about certain things. Stuff that her mother, sister, and father had commented about. The family doctor too. She had no scars anywhere, and she checked every now and again to make sure. A scratch from one day was always gone the next. A small burn from accidentally touching the edge of a frying pan while picking it up a couple of days ago was already gone. Completely. No mark left behind as if it had never happened. Everyone has scars somewhere, people would say, but Shine had none as far as she knew.
Papa and Mama said a few times when the subject was brought up that Shine must be just lucky and a quick healer. She thought they acted funny and weird about it. Especially Papa. He had loads of scars everywhere from whatever happened to him in San Francisco years ago. Papa said that he was envious except that he always said so in a joking manner and didn’t genuinely mean it.
More like…, Shine thought, He maybe had a suspicion about something but wanted to avoid mentioning whatever that was…
Shine shrugged off the feeling as another one of life’s mysteries. Papa being one of those deeper mysteries some of the time. So she got dressed in the pretty panties, lacy bra, pale orange shorts, and yellow “Maru-chan” T-shirt that she’d picked out before and later went downstairs. She’d considered not wearing the bra as she wasn’t going out yet – and anyway it was too hot – but her shyness won so wore the bra regardless. Her tummy was complaining about hunger. Time for breakfast. Maybe a late breakfast.
The house in which Shine’s family lived was built in a modern style of architecture, feeling airy and spacious. The building was longer east to west, and narrower in width from north to south. The upstairs floor was divided into two slender halves, north and south, by the gap of the downstairs hallway. These two halves were likewise elongated in the east-west axis, with a wide bridge of sorts that was like an empty room without walls between the two sides. Kind of like an overly wide veranda or balcony. There was a void, a gap that overlooked the hallway of the ground floor, on the eastern end. Stairs went down to the ground floor hallway on the western end; the stairs were straight,
steep, and followed against the wall on the northern side of the hallway, leaving half the hallway uncovered by them. The side of the staircase away from the wall had a clear glass balustrade all the way down, topped by a metal handrail. The bottom of the staircase ended at the ground floor still facing towards to the house’s front door. Along the edge of the void above the hallway on both the north and south side of the bridge part, was a glass-sided balustrade. The same sort of glass-sided balustrade went along the southern edge of the upstairs floor above the western end of the hallway. There was a narrow, but carpeted, walkway giving access to other rooms that side.
Everywhere, the walls were painted pastel sky-blue and the ceilings were white. Unlike Shine’s bedroom, the floors upstairs mostly were covered by a paled blue carpet slightly different in shade from the pastel sky-blue of the walls. Shine’s bedroom door was close to the top of the stairs on the northern side of the house. Her door was at the south-western corner of the broad bridge between the two sides of the upstairs floor. All she had to do was go out of her room, take a couple of paces, turn right and she was at the stairs going down.
Very convenient, in her opinion.
The teenager headed downstairs, letting her left hand slide along the handrail. She noticed that the front door of the house was ajar. The door was at most a few meters from the foot of the stairs. On Shine’s left, as she went down, she could see through the wide doorway into the gymnasium. Mama was in there, dressed in pink shorts and a white T-shirt, while jogging on the treadmill. Her dark brown hair tied back in a pony tail which went up and down with each step, her big breasts bouncing a bit, all the same she probably had on a sports bra. Like Shine and her older sister, Jolene, their mother was significantly on the short, smaller side of average height as well. Mama was only about one-hundred and thirty-nine centimetres tall, or about four foot, seven inches height as they measured this back in the American Union.
At the bottom of the stairs, Shine glanced to her left, and could see into the study, which was also referred to as her father’s office. The door was open wide, so the black bookshelves and grey filing cabinets against the far wall were visible. She heard Papa’s voice outside the house; he was likely chatting with a neighbour.
“… not a wink last night.”
“Yep ...and another stinker today, mate. Wanna tinnie?”
Shine didn’t pay much attention to the conversation. She walked off towards the other end of the house, passing the doorway of the gym. Her mother continued jogging on the treadmill.
Behind the staircase, the eastern end of the hallway had a very wide doorway on the southern side, or to Shine’s right as she walked by it, to the loungeroom. There were two long L-shaped sofas in there, facing each other, with a timber coffee table in between them. The light brown leather covered sofas additionally had dull-coloured naturalistic cloth covers on them. Shine’s mother always put such cloth covers on the sofas in summer-time. The coffee table had a simple off-white tablecloth covering it besides.
The hallway opened at the eastern end beyond the loungeroom into a generally rectangular space that was longer in the north-south axis, and divided in three distinct areas. Immediately in front of Shine was the dining area, with an eight-seat dining table; six chairs placed on the long sides in two sets of three, and one chair at each end of the table. The timber dining table was covered by an off-white tablecloth. The chairs were high-backed, but had comfortable padded seats. Opposite the end of the hallway, and on the other side of the dining table, were three tall windows. As there was a void gap in the upstairs floor above this area, these tall windows went from the downstairs floor to the upstairs second floor’s ceiling. In front of southern one of the three tall windows was a domestic wheelchair lift that allowed access to the second floor directly from the dining area.
The northern part of this rectangular space was the kitchen, with a cream-coloured tiled floor that clearly distinguished the area though there wasn’t a wall to divide it from the rest of the room. The southern part of the same rectangular space was another lounge area, in which there was a long L-shaped sofa, a low coffee-table, and a huge flat-screened television. The television’s screen faced the whole room so what was displayed could be seen in the kitchen area too. Jolene currently relaxing in a laid back manner on the sofa, partly-watching the television and mostly checking messages on her phone. Jolene’s mobile phone resembled an old-style cigarette lighter in shape and size, made of greenish metal. A screen rolled out on one side on which text and images could be seen.
Shine padded barefoot to the kitchen, and felt the coolness of the ceramic floor tiles. After that while scarcely glancing at what was shown on the television, she started preparing her breakfast. She got out a white plastic tray from one of the kitchen racks and placed it on the counter that divided the kitchen from the dining area. She poured muesli cereal, which was a homemade mix stored in a big glass jar, into a bowl and added milk. Put a kettle of water on one of the stoves to boil. Opened the refrigerator and took out a pitcher of fresh orange juice which she poured into a glass. She placed her glass of cold orange juice and bowl of muesli on the plastic tray along with a spoon.
Then she waited for the kettle to boil while not especially listening to the television,“… after VisionSoft banned the group of players who had protested recent military actions by Red China in the Western provinces. The ban sparked mass calls for boycotts of the company’s products. This follows on further recent controversy over the banning of players for comments made on Insta-Twit this ...”
Shine sighed, looked to her left and through the glass sliding doors that led to one of the outdoor dining areas, of which there were two. One was outside adjacent to the kitchen, the other outside adjacent to the family area where Jolene was relaxing on a sofa in front of the tee-vee. Beyond the pillars that formed the outermost corners of the outdoor dining areas, Shine could see the lovely green grass of the yard. The backyard fence was obscured by a dozen or so trees and a large number of bushes that grew as if wild. On the other side of that fence was a park and seaside cliffs that couldn't be seen, but the susurrus of the distant waves crashing against the cliffs and rocks below them could be faintly heard.
Jolene stood up lazily, and came strolling over towards the kitchen. The oversized white T-shirt she wore with it’s picture of a pair dolphins playing among breaking waves was very pretty, Shine thought. The T-shirt was big enough to be a beach-dress, really, however the hem was daringly high. Maybe that’s why Jolene had a white muslin dressing gown over it, except that the semi-transparent muslin wouldn’t hide much either. From the bounce and sway of her older sister’s large knockers, Shine knew that Jolene wasn’t wearing a bra. During the past several months, Shine had begun to suspect that Jolene also often didn’t wear knickers when at home.
Trying to get a rise from me, as if I’m supposed to act all scandalized since Jolene thinks I’m going to be shocked or I’m a prude or a religious nut, Shine thought.
“Good morning sleepy head”, Jolene greeted her.
Shine only said, “Un”, and left it at that.
The kettle started to boil and whistle, so she turned off the stove, thereafter got a cup but had difficulty getting a tea-bag as these were in a box in one of the higher cupboards. There was a metal step stool with two steps, which Shine had to use to reach the box of tea-bags. Both Mama and Shine used the step stool every occasion when trying to get stuff from the upper kitchen cupboards. Jolene was a few centimetres taller than Mama, but even Jolene occasionally needed to use the step stool.
Jolene casually leaned against the counter top, and commented, “For normal people, it’s a really hot day you know”.
Shine mumbled, “Hmm.”
“You’re dressed like that, and about to drink hot tea on a hot day.”, said Jolene.
“Hmm.”, was all Shine replied.
“You’d be cooler if you didn’t wear the shorts, and why bother wearing a bra in the house?”, said Jolene, with a sly look in her eyes.
Oh great, Shine thought, she’s trying to rile me up about my smaller boobs.
Shine kept her face expressionless while she stirred her tea with a spoon. When she was satisfied, the teenager picked up the plastic tray and carried her breakfast of muesli, orange juice, and the cup of hot tea to the dining table. She avoided paying any attention at all to her older sister.
Jolene grinned, and couldn’t help but barely stifle a giggle.
Hearing the muffled sound, Shine’s face heated for a moment, granted that she got herself back under control a tad after that. Sitting at the dining table, facing towards the three tall windows that went from the ground floor to the ceiling of the second floor, Shine tried to ignore both Jolene and the television. She instead ate her breakfast, drank her hot tea, while feeling calmer from watching the view of the green grassy backyard and leafy trees outside.
Jolene strode back to the sofa directly going between the dining table and three tall windows. This ensured that Shine’s view of the backyard was momentarily obscured as her older sister passed by. Shine stuck to eating her breakfast, steadfastly pretending that Jolene’s attempts to annoy her weren’t even happening.
Behind her, Shine heard Mama’s voice call out, “Good morning, Shine, you’re finally up then? Good.”
“Morning…”, Shine responded in a quieter voice but didn’t turn around.
Jolene had returned to lazing on the sofa in front of the television, again checking messages on her phone. Mama didn’t come into the room, so except for the noise of the television, everything was peaceful. Shine finished her breakfast, took her tray to the counter that divided the kitchen from the dining area. She felt better now. She put the used bowl, glass, cup, and utensils into the kitchen sink that was in the middle of the counter. Apart from rinsing these, she didn’t bother washing them, only leaving them in the sink.
The teenage girl headed back upstairs. There was a bathroom and separate toilet near her bedroom. Each of the three bedrooms in the house had a nearby bathroom and toilet, which perhaps is an indication the family’s wealth as quite above the average. The house was large, not excessively ostentatious. The bathroom adjacent to Shine’s bedroom wasn’t directly accessible from her room, she had to walk past her bedroom door towards the library. The north-east corner of her bedroom didn’t line up with the wall of the bathroom. Instead the bathroom wall on that side was inset about a metre, allowing more space for the central area between the two halves of the upstairs floor of which the wide bridge was part.
The bathroom and toilet were in separate rooms, with the toilet adjacent to the library room that was also on northern side of the house. In Australia, when people said they were going to the bathroom, they genuinely did mean they were going to the bathroom – not the toilet. That’s exactly what Shine did, she went to the bathroom, and there she brushed her teeth since she’d just eaten. After which, Shine went back to her bedroom because she planned to study more for school.
* * *
A couple of hours later, there was a knock on Shine’s bedroom door. She’d been studying hard at her desk but turned from the textbook in front of her to see who it was. Shine put a pink coloured piece of paper to bookmark her spot among the pages, and closed the book on Modern History at the same time.
“Hmm?”, she said softly as her mind was still more focused on what she’d been reading.
Mama opened the door, “Oh, so you are here… You were so quiet when I called out before that I wasn’t sure you were home.”
“Oh, sorry…”, Shine replied in a small voice.
“Lunch is ready, honey… Are you coming down?”, her mother asked.
The teenage girl nodded, so her mother accepted that and left. Shine put the book aside. Breathed in deep to wake up more, stood up and outstretched her arms as she yawned. Sometimes she’d wonder why on Earth she picked history as an elective subject. The Modern History class was interesting, even so studying with the books at home felt like such a chore.
Thinking about this, Shine happened to notice a tiny blue light blinking on the floor beside her desk on the right, and recalled her phone had been charging. She crouched down, picked up her phone to check for messages. First she disconnected the cable, then slid out the rolled-up flexible screen from the right side.
“Texit, please”, Shine said to the phone, which started up the simple messaging application. Every phone in the Commonwealth of Australia came with it built-in. Somehow, this ubiquitous and rather mundane service had become particularly popular in use among teenagers and young adults. All of Shine’s friends at school relied on it to keep in touch.
Shine held the phone in her left hand and tapped her thumb tip on the screen to open the messages from her group of friends.
Tegan: Doing HW (~.~) WRUD?
Melanie: Me 2
Tammy: Beach (^w^)V
Irina: Shop w-Mum
Apart from Tammy having fun at the beach, and Irina shopping with her mother, everyone else was either doing homework or studying. Shine tapped in, “Fin HW Study now”, after which she closed the phone’s screen back inside. She put the phone on top of her desk, and left her bedroom to go downstairs to lunch.
When Shine got downstairs, she saw that Papa had joined Mama and Jolene in the dining area besides. He was a big man when compared to most other men, so he was almost like a giant in comparison to his wife and daughters. Papa had the build of a former pro-footballer past his prime and a little overweight, slumping somewhat in his wheelchair. His complexion was fair, and his strong facial features in a squarish face gave the impression that he could be brutal. There were few minor scars on his face, his blunted, slightly off-centred nose wouldn’t have been out of place among the members of a rugger team or street gang. Papa’s head was totally bald, with merely the wisps of his white eyebrows remaining. He otherwise appeared to be in his late forties or early fifties.
Seeing Shine approach the dining table, Papa’s blue-green eyes glittered as he smiled.
“Ah, here she is”, his voice rumbled, “Have you been busy with homework?”
Shine shook her head.
“Finished yesterday”, she replied in her usual low, soft voice.
“She was studying hard when I saw her upstairs”, Mama said with a pleased smile.
“I was studying for history class”, Shine explained more quietly as she sat down on a chair next to Jolene.
On the dining table, there was a white ceramic plate of cold corned beef, a plate of sliced cheese, plus a polished wooden bowl of chopped salad that was mostly lettuce, onion, and tomato. There was also a ground pepper corns grinder, tomato sauce, salad dressing, and other condiments to add. A pitcher of fresh lemonade and a pot of iced tea were also on the table. On a tray were a few sesame-seeded bread buns – the remainders of a baker’s dozen – that must’ve been bought just before lunch. There was a white paper bag nearby that contained thirteen more of the seeded bread buns. The odour of fresh baked bread was in the air.
Shine picked out what she wanted to fill a bread bun for the plate in front of her. With the smell of the fresh food so very delicious, she considered the simple meal to be perfect for a relaxing summer afternoon at home on a sunny day. All of the sliding glass doors that led to the backyard were open, allowing in the breeze from the unseen ocean, thereby making the day’s heat more tolerable.
“Shine, if the school textbooks aren’t enough”, her father said, “There are at least a dozen history related books in the library upstairs.”
“Or you can read Mypedia and hope the writers aren’t lying”, Jolene commented.
Shine shook her head and glanced sidelong for a moment at Jolene in annoyance. At the same time, Papa chuckled at the mention of the notoriously unreliable InfoWeb encyclopaedia site. Jolene just pretended not to notice Shine’s expression, feigning innocence as she bit into another bread bun.
Mama ignored all of that, and asked, “Is the history class difficult for you?”
Shine shook her head and answered, “No, not really, the textbook isn’t interesting, but our teacher, Missus Aldsell makes the subject fun.”
Jolene nodded at that, “Uh-huh, when I was at Rosedale High School, she was one of the best teachers for me too.”
“Which one is Missus Aldsell?”, Papa asked as prepared another bread bun for himself.
Mama answered, “She’s the middle-aged foreign lady with the poshy accent.”
“That’s clear as mud, which one is that?”, Papa replied, “Do you mean the big woman who was wearing army fatigues last week?”
“No, no, no...” Mama corrected him, “Not her, she’s...uh… Trib… Tribull...Yes, isn’t it?”
Jolene giggled, “Miss Tribull, don’t confuse her with Missus Aldsell, those two hate each other. Miss Tribull is an ultra deep leftie, she even thinks radical Neo-Humanists like Karen Wenfel and Tina Suxdorf are softies.”
Papa said, “Ah...okay….” but Mama’s expression was blank confusion.
“I don’t know who they are...”, Mama said, “..but I also didn’t know that about Miss Tribull…. Not surprised though.”
“Army greens are a dead give-away”, Papa commented, “So… I suppose she’s not Shine’s history teacher, do you mean the pretty blonde woman is Missus Aldsell?”
Shine softly spoke, “Hm-mm, no… that’s Miss Draper, she teaches textile and design.”
“Oh, okay”, Papa nodded, “The skinny lady then with the black hair? Is that Missus Aldsell?”
“Ping-pong!”, Jolene exclaimed, “That’s her.”
“And, she, Missus Aldsell the history teacher...”, Papa said, “and… uh… Miss Tribull, hate each other? Why’s that? I thought most of the teachers these days were leftists.”
Shine giggled at Papa’s comment, and actually had a little smile.
“No, not all of them”, Jolene told him, “Missus Aldsell is from Eastern Europe somewhere, one of those countries that the Communists took over, and killed a mob of people in.”
“Ah… right”, Papa said.
“I thought she was from England”, Mama commented, “Her English is really good, then.”
The conversation meandered after that, rarely staying on any topic more than briefly. While Shine ate daintily, and the slowest. She only had two of the seeded buns. At the opposite extreme, Papa likely had twice what anyone else in the family had eaten. When everyone had finished, Jolene helped Mama to clean up the dishes. Shine went over to her father, making sure he was fine and there were no crumbs on his lap.
“Do you need any help, Papa?”, she asked afterwards when he moving his wheelchair backwards from table. Like all of her father’s wheelchairs, it was black, but this one was unpowered unlike his other two. Papa shrugged in response.
“I’m fine, fine… Are any of your friends coming around to visit today?”, her father asked.
“No, I wish….”, Shine replied, her voice fading off.
“I suppose they all have homework assignments to do”, Papa said.
“Un” Shine agreed with a nod and her mouth still closed.
“Try your best, my little girl, always… anyway, I have more work of my own to do”, he said, pushing the wheels of his wheelchair.
Together, the father and youngest daughter went along the hallway. They split up to go their separate ways at the bottom of the stairs. Papa went into his office, Shine went up the stairs to her room. Already she was thinking about her afternoon plans.
* * *
End of Part 1