The cicadas are out, loud and insistent. Probably, so are the snakes, but we don’t see them.
My sister and I run across Omi’s backyard, narrowly missing the bees gathering pollen from the tiny grey wildflowers. The grass is bleached pale green, cracks of dry earth visible beneath. Sparrows twitter in the cool branches of the trees.
I am wearing my pink swimsuit with the white polka dots and bows, but you wouldn’t know it, covered as I am by an oversized t-shirt, mandatory for my own protection against the harsh Australian sun. My sister is hopping from foot to foot at the edge of the lawn, just out of reach of the chilly water which spurts from the old metal sprinkler. Eager, I run at the drops, letting them hit me first in the belly and then on the bum, the water dampening my t-shirt. We create a game, jumping and squealing and dodging the streams as they spit fountain-like from that silvery metal triangle.
Omi giggles as she sits ankles crossed in her old summer housedress on the creaky green porch swing. She calls out to us from the shade of the concrete verandah, asking if we want an ice-cream. It’s a tough choice, part of me would prefer to continue with our game, see if I can defeat the water. But ice-cream is part of the package at Omi’s house. I hold onto the wooden stick with my fingers trying not to lose any of the melting chocolate shell as my tongue searches for the creamy strawberry flavour underneath.
I sit on the swing next to Omi, my damp bathers drying quickly in the hot air. My sister has finished her ice-cream and has gone to play by herself in the trees, her t-shirt knotted at her belly-button.
The sprinkler has been turned off to conserve water. The water droplets on the nearby trees slowly disappearing.
Inside, the house is dark, all curtains closed to shield the rooms from the oppressive heat.
I lean back and listen to the sound of the pedestal fan as it shifts warm air around the kitchen.
My husband and me, we’re on the beach.
The water is pristine, turquoise. So perfectly clear. Perfectly, just like in those magazines with their advertisements for tropical island holidays. Perfectly clear, and perfectly calm, except for the waves that lap the sunny shore. A slight breeze causes the tall palm trees to sway gently. Back and forth.
It sounds like falling asleep.
We lie back in hammocks artfully installed at the edge of the beach. A Tiki Bar, with its ironic thatched roof dully beckons for business with steel drum beats.
Tourists loll about, raw pink skin in place of the usual patchy white. Eyes hidden behind sunglasses, big, wide, floppy straw hats and creased pages of beach-read novels. It’s impossible to tell who is awake and who is asleep.
Twenty-something women in bikinis cradle cocktails in coloured plastic cups, condensation seeping down the sides. Tin buckets filled with Coronas and melting ice cubes stand sentry for couples as they recline on identical sun lounges. A bloke reaches for the long neck of another Corona and takes a swig. His girlfriend with the professional spray-tan raises her fingerprint smeared I-phone above her head, staring intensely into the camera hole. She shakes out her salt-dredged hair, adjusts the straps of her bright white bikini top, parting her lips just slightly.
A perfect selfie.
The boyfriend doesn’t react, continues to stare at the football replay blaring from his own phone screen.
The afternoon lazes away in a sandy haze of sugary vodka and fresh sunburn, as we all wait hopefully for that tangerine sunset.
In the company of half-empty cups and hotel-issued towels, we shield our eyes from the glare, desperate for the clouds to part.