Summer Love By Carolyn Nicholson
Charlie allows the book she is reading to fall into her lap, kicks her legs back and forth a few times before tucking them under her body and leaning back into the cushions to enjoy the feel of her pod chair, swaying in the warm, early evening breeze.
Listening intently, she searches for sounds of their arrival.
Charlie sighs, long and slow.
It’s now 6:30pm on the first Sunday of the summer holidays and the Tucker house remains silent, dark, closed off to the outside world.
The Tucker family have been spending summer at their Rye beach house every year since they purchased the property five years ago.
Charlie’s family are locals. She has lived all of her fourteen years here on Tasman Drive, walking distance to Number Sixteen Beach. Close enough to hear the pounding of the surf from her bed. The sound as soothing to Charlie as her mother’s hugs.
The first year of the Tucker’s arrival had minimal impact on Charlie. Back then, aged ten, Charlie was a shy girl and it was her habit to let her brother, Jamie, two years her senior, take the lead.
That first summer, the Tucker family were polite, friendly if their paths crossed but they kept to themselves, doing their own thing as a family and continually hosting their city based friends.
It was the second summer when everything changed between the Tuckers and the Greens. The year the youngest of the Tucker brood went missing, just one hour after their arrival. Charlie can still recall hearing Mrs Tucker calling for Oscar. Even to Charlie’s young ears her calls sounded desperate, pleading, scared.
Charlie’s parents had run next door and joined in the search. It was a frantic thirty minutes before Oscar was found, asleep in the back of Mr Tucker’s car, hidden under a blanket. That night, the two families shared a meal, the adults bonding over shared parenting and travel experiences. The children becoming friends during games of hide and seek, and tag.
From that summer and every one thereafter, for six weeks of the year, the Tuckers and the Greens were inseparable, enjoying easy, fun filled summer days and long, laughter filled nights.
The kids were a rowdy, adventure seeking group of eight, who loved to climb trees, play night spotto and sleep outside, under the stars, in either the Green’s or the Tucker’s back yard.
Last summer, the fourth of their six weeks together, after the third visit to the doctors due to a fall from the timber fence dividing the two properties, the two dads spent a weekend adding a gate between their back gardens.
That was a magical summer for Charlie. The best of them all. But as Charlie sways in the breeze, listening to the sound of waves crashing against rocks, with still no sign of the Tuckers’ arrival, Charlie is beginning to think she imagined it.
The sly glances across the table. The manoeuvring to sit beside her. The offer to stay home and keep Charlie company when she didn’t feel like going out.
Nathan Tucker isn’t loud like Jamie nor is he quiet like Charlie. Nathan Tucker is even tempered, kind, fun and smart. He likes to read, watch funny movies and search for star fish in rock pools.
Nathan Tucker likes to cook but isn’t lazy about cleaning up after himself. He’s a really good swimmer and loves boogie boarding but will stay in the shallows of the front beach for hours, playing with the younger kids.
Nathan Tucker is …
“Charlie! Dinner in ten.” Charlie’s mum calls from the kitchen.
“Coming.” Charlie replies. She turns her head towards the Tucker’s one more time.
Charlie sighs, unfurls her legs and climbs down from the swing chair.
Opening the sliding door leading into the Green’s family room, the smell of spices and cooking oil fills Charlie’s nostrils, making her mouth water.
Charlie’s mum loves cooking curries. The hotter the better, even in summer. Tonight’s curry smells like one her Sri-Lankan favourites. Charlie immediately heads to the fridge and pours herself a glass of milk.
“Any sign of them?” Her mum calls from the kitchen.
“Not yet.” Charlie replies, as she places her glass on the table.
“Don’t worry, Charlie, Ava will be here soon enough.” Charlie’s dad messes her hair as he walks past.
“Hey!” Charlie cries out.
“I don’t think it’s Ava Charlie’s pining for.” Jamie yells from the couch.
“Shut up, Jamie.”
“Truth hurts, Charlie.”
Charlie stomps down the hall to her bedroom.
Closing the door behind her, Charlie pulls a box from her ‘secret place’ and once again reads the note from Nathan. Hurriedly written on the last day of the previous summer holiday, just before the Tuckers left.
Thanks for a great summer Charlie. Have fun in year 10. Can’t wait to see you again next summer. I will miss you. Love Nathan
“Love, Nathan.” Charlie whispers softly to herself. “Love.”
Not like, not a heart symbol or a smiley face but L. O. V. E. Love.
Thinking back to the last day of the holidays. The day Nathan and Charlie walked home from the beach on their own. The day Nathan held her hand for the first time and smiled at her. His funny, awkward, crooked smile. The one he uses just for her.
He held her hand. He left her a note. He wrote love Nathan on the note.
Charlie’s been waiting all year to see Nathan. To ask him if he missed her. To hold his hand again.
And now they aren’t here.
They are never this late.
Charlie hides the note away and stands up.
As she enters the family room, she hears a dog barking, the sound of voices from over the fence.
The door to the veranda slides opens.
A head appears.
“Hi, Mrs Green. Mr Green. Is Charlie home?” Nathan asks.