Will was looking forward to the day. He and Martin were teaming up with Owen and Nate to form a working bee at the house the boys had moved into. They planned to make a start on the garden while Ailsa was going to do something connected with lining drawers and shelves.
After an early morning surf, he ate a quick breakfast then showered and dressed in the shorts and tee-shirt he deemed suitable for gardening, plus a pair of boots he resurrected from the hall cupboard. He’d bought them several years ago when he and Dee went hiking in Tasmania and hadn’t worn them since, but the state of the garden he was going to work in demanded tougher footwear than the sandals and thongs he was accustomed to wearing.
School holidays were over, meaning the demand for surf lessons and board hire was practically non-existent. Luckily, over the past few years, Will had been able to supplement his income by offering classes to the local schools, but it was still too early in the term for them to have started. He normally used this time to get his accounts in order and maintain the boards for the coming season. Today, although manual work, would be a welcome respite, and it would be fun to work with Coop and the boys.
When he arrived, Martin and Ailsa were already there. They were in the kitchen drinking coffee, and Nate was regaling them with some tall tale of a party which had caused chaos in the club the previous evening.
‘Here he is. We can get started now,’ Martin greeted him.
‘I’m not late, am I?’ Will checked his watch. ‘We did say nine o’clock.’
‘No, Dad. Coop and Nate’s mum have just arrived. We thought we’d have a coffee before we got going, and Ailsa brought along these scones.’ Owen pointed to the plate of fluffy scones on the table.
‘I’m not much of a cook,’ Ailsa apologised. ‘Not like Cleo – or Ruby. But I do like to bake scones from time to time. Cleo will be along later in the day when she finishes up at the café. She promised to bring café leftovers for dinner.’
‘Right.’ Will hadn’t expected to be here for dinner. Maybe he could slip away before then. But why should he? There was only an empty house to go back to.
The morning went quickly, and they made more progress than Will had anticipated. They managed to clear most of the overgrown parts of the front yard, and Martin had disappeared to pick up a load of plants from his sister’s garden centre, insisting he’d be able to get them at a good price. ‘Bev might even let me have them for free,’ he said, ‘given it’s for a good cause.’
To Will’s surprise, when he returned with the trailer of his ute filled with a variety of plants, bushes and bags of mulch, he was also in possession of three large pizzas and a slab of beer.
‘Thought we could do with some sustenance,’ he said, grinning at Ailsa’s suggestion he could have brought something healthy fromThe Pandanus Café.
It was when they had demolished the pizzas and were thinking of going back outside, that Ailsa delivered her bombshell.
‘So, Will,’ she said, ‘have you thought about what I said?’
Will looked at her in surprise.What was she talking about?’
‘At the surf club,’ she said patiently, ‘when you were trying to work out what to do about that woman.’
Will was perplexed. He tried to recall what she had said. Wasn’t it something about another woman? ‘I don’t think…’ he began.
‘You haven’t, have you? And I bet she’s still bugging you.’
‘A bit,’ Will admitted. Joy had continued to call and text him but, at least, with the surf school doing less business, there wasn’t as much chance of her turning up on the beach. He’d been hoping she’d just disappear. She’d said she was a tourist, so would be going back to where she came from at some stage – hopefully soon – and that would be an end to it. ‘But I’m not in the market for another woman.’
‘I wonder…’ Ailsa said, the gleam in her eye making Will squirm. What was it about women that made them want to match people up? Just because she and Coop had made a go of it didn’t mean he was ready to do the same. Besides, who could she possibly have in mind? Surely not Bev? They’d known each other for ever. She was like a sister to him.
‘Maybe you couldpretendto have someone.’
Martin chuckled, causing Will to squirm.
‘No, seriously, Will. If she saw you going around with someone, she’d back off. No woman likes to be a third wheel.’
Will wasn’t so sure. Joy Taylor didn’t appear to be the type of woman to be easily deflected from her goal – and it seemed he was her goal.
‘Who do you have in mind, honey?’ Martin asked, buying into what Will saw as a poor sort of game.
‘Let me think.’ Ailsa paused, but only for a moment. ‘I know,’ she said, her eyes brightening. ‘What about Cleo Johansen, Hannah’s mum? You met her when the kids moved in.’ She looked at Will, a question in her eyes.
‘Who?’ Will scratched his head, trying to remember the woman. He had a vague recollection of a dainty dark-haired woman, of someone telling him she managed the café in Bev Cooper’s garden centre, but apart from that, his mind was a blank. ‘I don’t think so.’
‘Oh, she’d be perfect.’ Ailsa clapped her hands together. ‘And she’ll be here later on, when the café’s closed. We can set it up then.’