Making a move
Diane stood on the lip of the cliff. This is it, she thought, there’s no going back now, her mind closed to her surroundings and focused on her next move. Taking a deep breath she tipped her body forward and allowed herself to topple slowly over the edge.
Diane’s family had just moved to a remote mine in outback Australia. Her father had been offered an executive position with the large mining company and her whole world had turned upside down. At thirteen years, she’d made long term friends, had niches in her favoured sport and hobbies, a part time job at Kentucky Fried and good relationships with her school teachers.
She hadn’t been a willing partner to this chaotic shift in her universe. There’d been tears, tantrums and pleas, all to no avail. Her dad had accepted the lucrative offer as it was something he had been hoping for and working towards, and would serve him for the rest of his working life. Her mum never made waves. Whatever her dad said, she did without question, followed like the proverbial sheep. She’d already started sorting things into categories of ‘keep’, ‘sell’, 'take to op shop’, or ‘chuck out’. They obviously didn’t care about her future. A real estate agent had been to evaluate the house and it was placed on the market, a hideous ‘For Sale’ sign hammered into the front lawn.
Diane’s best friend, Jessica, was as tearful as she was, and they promised to keep in touch, send selfies and phone every day. When she was old enough, Diane swore she would move back again. They’d get jobs, rent a little unit somewhere and everything would be wonderful. When they got married, they’d have a double wedding. They spent hours poring over bridal books, looking at gorgeous dresses in the shop windows and discussing bridesmaids, reception venues and honeymoon destinations. Never considered their future grooms may have other ideas. But they were happy in their little world bubble; then the bubble burst.
Diane cried every night for weeks. Central Australia was stinking hot and irritatingly dusty. As the family of the company’s executive officer, they lived in one of the best homes in town, even having a lovely green lawn and garden cared for by professional gardeners. The kids at school teased her about her weird accent, calling her a Pommie. Her mum comforted her slightly by explaining South Australian settlers had been free people, not convicts, with a better education and therefore better speech habits.
She was a bit intimidated by the brash, loud kids at school and kept to herself. A couple of the girls in her class made an effort to befriend her by sitting with her at lunchtime, which she appreciated, but they just weren’t Jessica.
This morning’s excursion to the local water hole had been organised by two of the class teachers. Parents were encouraged to come along and it would be a huge picnic. Of course, Diane’s father couldn’t come and her mother was ‘busy’ doing something. Actually, she was glad they weren’t coming. She would have felt very awkward. As it was, she wished she’d never come. Still – given the option of either the excursion or double maths class – not a difficult choice really.
Poison Waterhole was contained on three sides by high, sheer cliff faces. No-one was sure how deep the water was, but it was agreed it was dangerously deep. And being in the shade of the cliffs for most of the day, the water was incredibly cold. Diane shivered slightly in the cool breeze that breathed across the water. There was a path on one side leading to the top and some of the more adventurous kids ran up and looked cautiously over the edge, waving boldly to the others. Rumour had it that a number of people had actually jumped off the cliff and into the water below. Rumour also had it that a couple of people had died doing it, but no-one was really sure who or when it had happened.
Inevitably, the boys started egging each other on, daring one another to take the leap. Then the girls started, calling the boys ‘scaredy-cat’ and meowing loudly at them. It was easy for Diane to move quietly through the mob without anyone noticing.
She walked steadily up the path and onto the lip. As she stood quietly looking into the black water far below, someone noticed her and began to call anxiously. She breathed deeply and steadily, rocking forward and backwards on the balls of her feet. As she leaned forward and toppled over, she could hear girls screaming.
Below her every face looked up, mouths agape in horror and unbelief as their eyes, unbidden, fixed on her descent.
Clamping her legs tightly together and tucking her head between her forward thrusted arms she moved into a pike, then arms crossed to her chest, a full twist, followed by a double somersault. She then speared straight as an arrow into the water, her entry so neatly precise that barely a ripple showed on the surface.
No-one moved as their eyes were focused on the water. They waited. And waited. Suddenly two of the fathers snapped into action. Ripping their shoes and shirts off they dove into the water, swimming frantically to where Diane had disappeared. With a rush of water and gasp of breath, she burst through the surface like a dolphin, and swam smoothly to the bank.
Her class teacher wrapped a large towel around her shivering shoulders and asked if she was okay. Diane nodded.
‘Where on earth did you learn to do that?’ Her teacher asked.
‘I represented South Australia in the National Diving Championships for the last two years – one gold medal, one silver medal.’ She quietly added, ‘My ambition was to go to the Olympics, but I guess that won’t be happening now that I live in this dust bowl’.
‘Don’t lose hope Diane. Just because we live in a dust bowl in the outback doesn’t mean we can’t be involved with great things. I’m sure we can work something out for you.’
Diane looked hopefully at her teacher. ‘Mrs Webber; do you really think I can continue my training here?’
Mrs Webber smiled. ‘Yes I do.’
Diane was suddenly surrounded by a mob of kids all asking how she did that, saying how tough she was, how amazing it was to watch her spearing through the air, and she felt as though she could maybe fit in with these people.
She realised she was smiling, even laughing. Perhaps things weren’t so bad after all.
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I like that this turned around towards a happy ending. Everything felt earned and balanced. Great story.
Thanks Graham. The story is fiction but the setting is real. We lived in Mount Isa (a huge mining corporation in central Queensland) for a number of years.
Skill is always admired. Love the foreshadowing and ending. I like "the hideous For Sale sign..." Great job!
Thanks Paula. Glad you liked it.
Excellent story, Alice. You have captured the feelings of the young girl very beautifully when her family shifts to a new place. Her progress to finding a place for herself in the new school community is very tellingly described. Loved the story.
Thank you for your kind comments Ravi. I've moved a lot in my life, and I know how it feels.
Great story, Thank you. As it starts it seems to be about a disaffected teenager intending to take her life in response to a somewhat minor problem she faces. It is not until she starts into her stunts on the way down that I realise there is going to be a happy ending. An unexpected and original twist. I am new to Reedsy so do not know the proper way to reply to your kind comment on my recent story 'The Checka.' For what it is worth, it is basically true, although I have the changed names. There had to be a happy ending as one of the girls...
Thanks for you kind comments Ron. I've moved a lot in my life and after a while you just get resigned to it, but as a younger person it was more difficult emotionally. Re CheKa It must have been harrowing for you mother and her family, but thank goodness, your mum survived. And here you are making your mark on the world! Well done.