Owen and Nate looked at each other. Owen shrugged. ‘Thought we might pick up something at Maccas.’
‘Maccas? Why don’t I take you to the patisserie on the esplanade? We can eat there before I set up for the day.’
Owen looked at Nate again, before saying, ‘Thanks, Dad. Then I need to get to work, and Nate…’
‘I need to go home and change, Will. I have a shift at the club this morning. They wouldn’t appreciate me turning up like this.’ He gestured to the board shorts and tee-shirt with the surf school logo he was wearing, a hangover from his days helping Will out, something he still did from time to time.
They had placed their orders for bacon and egg focaccia with tomato relish and been served with black coffee, when Will remembered Cleo’s concern about her daughter. ‘How was Hannah last night?’ he asked, surprised when Owen winked, and Nate shifted awkwardly in his seat. ‘What?’ he asked, looking from one to the other for an explanation.
‘Nate took Han home.’ Owen chuckled.
A flush crept across Nate’s cheeks. He didn’t speak.
Then Will remembered a comment Owen had made some time back about Nate liking Hannah, and one Cleo had made to the effect that Hannah was interested in Nate but didn’t think her feelings were reciprocated. The agony of being young. Though was it any easier at his and Cleo’s age? There were still the uncertainties, the fears, the indecision. Had last night changed things between the two young people?
‘So, Nate, you and Hannah?’
‘She was upset. I didn’t know what to do to help. We…’ He threw an angry glance at Owen.
‘Hey, it’s okay,’ Will said. ‘Her mother’s beside herself wondering what she could have done to avoid the confrontation last night. If something good’s come out of it, if it brought you two together, so much the better.’
‘Hmm.’ But Nate looked a touch happier.
The rest of the meal passed pleasantly with the three discussing Owen’s chances at the championship, and Will providing his son with suggestions of how he could improve his technique. ‘Though what do I know,’ he said, finally. ‘You’ve achieved more than I ever did.’
‘Thanks, Dad.’ Owen grinned.
Wait till I tell Cleo, Will thought, as he left the two younger guys. He took out his phone to call, then remembered she’d be at work by now. He’d drop round later, perhaps with a bottle of wine. He smiled to himself, anticipating her reaction.
Cleo worried about Hannah all day. As soon as three o’clock came around, and she knew Hannah would be finished with classes, she tried to call her. But the call went to voicemail. She tried again at intervals only to get the same result, the tears welling up as she listened to Hannah’s voice stating she wasn’t there right now but to leave a message and she’d get right back to her. She left messages but there were no answering calls. Her daughter didn’t want to speak to her.
Kerri-Ann, on the other hand, had dropped by as soon as Cleo arrived at the café that morning.
‘I’m so sorry about last night,’ she said. ‘If I overstepped the mark, I apologise. I acted without thinking – it’s a failing of mine. I saw the notice about the meeting and thought it might be interesting. It was. I really sympathised with the anti-development feeling in the room. Then I saw you. I guessed it was your daughter with you. I know what you said about her not wanting to meet me, but I thought if we met like that, by accident, in public, it would be okay. I’m sorry,’ she repeated. ‘And I’d really like to talk with you again.’
Cleo bit her lip. She couldn’t handle this right now, maybe not ever. Last night had reinforced the strength of Hannah’s feelings. She wished she’d never heard of Kerri-Ann Randall, wished Stan was here to deal with her himself. It washisresponsibility not hers. But she couldn’t dismiss a sneaking admiration for the girl who’d had the courage to travel to the other side of the world to meet a sister she didn’t know. And she’d felt a stirring of something akin to guilt when she let her leave without making any arrangement to meet again.
Back home, Cleo couldn’t face cooking dinner. She wandered around the kitchen, opened and closed the fridge, opened her laptop and closed it, then she picked up her phone.
Before she could press Hannah’s number, it rang.
‘Han! Thank goodness. I’ve been trying to reach you.’
‘I know.’ There was a pause. ‘Nate said I should call you.’
Nate? Was there a note in Hannah’s voice as she said his name that hadn’t been there before?
Hannah started to speak, to berate her mother for what she called her disloyalty. ‘How could you, Mum?’ she asked, after a long string of abuse during which she listed all the times Cleo had disappointed her in the past. ‘I told you I wanted nothing to do with her. I don’t want or need a sister. Dad…’ Her voice broke and she hung up, leaving Cleo staring at the blank screen.
Cleo didn’t know how long she sat there, trying to figure out how to reconnect with her daughter. Mixed up with her distress at Hannah’s feelings, was a tinge of pleasure at the hint her relationship with Nate had changed in some way. It wasn’t anything Hannah had said, more in her tone when she spoke his name. Cleo recognised her tone. It was the one she used when she spoke about Stan, maybe even when she talked about Will. It was as if her voice was caressing his name.
She was still sitting there, heedless of the fact the room was now in complete darkness, too upset to rise to turn on a light, when she heard a knock at the door. Forcing herself to move in the faint hope it was Hannah, come to apologise in person, Cleo made her way to the door.
Although disappointment was her immediate reaction, Cleo gave a sigh of relief when she saw Will standing there holding out a bottle of wine.