The sand poured through the tiny hourglass. It was on a keychain that her uncle gave her when he came back from some trip when Maree was only five. She thought it was amazing – the sand was blue and so fine that she could barely see it pass through the pinched neck. One half was designed to look like a smiling face and the other like a frowning face. Even now, she had to have all the sand in the smiling side before she could put it away.
It was one of the last things she packed. She put the box outside her bedroom door and walked through the empty house to the kitchen where the clean products were stacked. It only took fifteen minuets to scrub her room; all that had to happen now was the removalists would come to take the furniture. Some auction house was taking it all. Maree picked up the box and strode to her car. As she drove away, she didn’t look back.
It was only afterwards that she realised what she’d said. She hadn’t meant to draw attention to it. She hadn’t meant to be rude. She just hadn’t thought. So many eyes had looked at her with confusion and repulsion and she was confused. What had she done? It was only afterwards. And her face burned with humiliation and regret.
The breeze caused the papers on the table to flutter. The flutter of the papers woke her up. She jumped slightly and spent twenty minutes trying to figure out what the noise was. When she saw the papers fluttering, she was relieved it wasn’t someone breaking in to her house, but annoyed that it was something so small. She didn’t get back to sleep.
The sweat was dripping down her back as she sat without moving in her seat. It was over thirty outside. She was sure that they’d said that if it went over thirty they would get sent home. Yet here they were. Maths. Last class of the day, ten minutes before the bell. Her face was red, and she could see the sweat forming on her arms. If it was thirty outside, it had to be at least sixty in here. Well, maybe thirty-five. Still too hot for calculus, not matter what Ms Sexton said. In her stupid shorts. The clock looked like it was going backwards and then melting like some painting someone showed her in a book once. That was how hot she was. She was walking through a desert surrounded by melting clocks. Another drip slid down her back in into her underpants. She was going to explode.
Evelyn found that even scrunching up her nose made her sunburn throb. She’d put on sun cream just like she’d been told by all of the Aussies that worked at the front desk, yet she still ended up looking like a leg of ham. Added to this, Bondi Beach had been windy and sand got in all of their food.
Sitting in front of the computer, waiting for the Skype call to connect, she wondered why she had felt the need to get so far from home this Christmas. It was probably her parents. Whose parents get divorced when their kids are in their forties? At forty-seven, Evelyn was the oldest, and she hadn’t been prepared to deal with another Christmas with all the aunties asking when she’d settle down – especially not now.
The call clicked in.
‘Oh, God! Evelyn, did someone pour boiling water on you? You look awful.’
Ducking behind a bush, Tandi hoped that her boss hadn’t seen her. She’d called in sick because she wanted to see Offspring and they weren’t doing a sideshow. The Big Day Out was it. But spotting her boss there was going to totally spoil it – she would probably get fired.
After counting to sixty slowly twice, she tentatively raised herself up to look for him. He was standing right in front of her, frowning.
She looked despondent, but a ray of hope struck through. If he was here, he wasn’t at work either. Perhaps he wouldn’t fire her.
‘Yeah. But it seemed to have cleared up and my friend had a spare ticket. I’ll make sure I get all my work caught up by the weekend. I promise.’
‘No, don’t worry about it.’
Tandi looked quizzically at him.
‘I’ll have any personal belongings sent home. Clearly, your priorities are not with the company.’
He turned to walk away, but Tandi couldn’t leave it there.
‘What about you? Hypocrite.’
Her boss stopped and slowly turned. Tandi’s stomach dropped. A teenage boy ran up to him.
‘Can I have some extra cash, Dad?’
Shaking his head, her boss looked away from her, handed his son twenty dollars and walked off.