Jackie heard voices in the hallway through her sleep.  As she lay on the camp bed in the deserted living room, she turned her head and saw Peter fast asleep on the other camp bed next to her.   She couldn’t see his face, only his blond hair sticking up out of the blankets.  The living room door opened and Rob came in with her Mum.   His boxer puppy, Boots, strained towards Jackie on its leash, its stump of a tail furiously wagging.

‘Hi’ said Rob.

‘Hi, Jackie mumbled, looking up at him.

‘Rob just came round to say goodbye again’ said her Mum.

‘Oh’ said Jackie.

She sat up and stretched out her arms to the puppy.  Rob released the leash and Boots bounded over.  His little tan body wriggled and he snuffled as Jackie ruffled his sleek fur.

Rob shuffled slowly from one foot to the other. 

‘I was just taking the dog for a walk’ he said quietly.

‘It’s very late Rob and we have to get up at 4 in the morning.’  Jackie’s Mum said.  ‘It was nice of you to come.  Maybe you should be getting home though’ she said softly.

‘Yeah, course.  Well have a good trip’ he said looking at Jackie.

He picked up the leash and walked towards the door.

‘Bye Rob’ Jackie said.

He turned his head back towards her.

‘Bye’ he said.

Jackie lay down again and turned her face into the snowy pillow.  Her tousled auburn hair became damp as tears seeped from her closed eyes.

At 5.30 the next morning Jackie watched the lights of Auckland twinkling as the taxi sped towards the airport.  She leaned her head on the car window and hugged herself.   Peter dozed beside her clutching Fred, his threadbare panda bear.

‘That poor boy; he looked lost.  It’s a sin’ she heard her Mum saying quietly to her Dad.

‘Ach, he’ll be alright’ her Dad said.

‘Oh here we are’ said her Mum.  ‘Jackie, Peter, we’re at the airport.’

The taxi pulled up at the departures drop off and the family got out and struggled with their luggage into the vast hall.  The bright light made them squint. 

After checking in they had breakfast at the restaurant.   Jackie and her brother sat morosely picking at bread rolls.   Peter continued to keep Fred close under his left arm.

‘Cheer up you two.  The stop off at Hong Kong will be really exciting’ Jackie’s Dad said brightly.

Jackie looked out at a plane taking off while Peter pretended to feed a morsel of roll to Fred.

‘When we get to Scotland you’ll see all of your cousins again:  Kara, Mary and Lindy.  You used to get on really well with Kara, remember?’ said her Mum.  ‘Oh and you’ll love the fashion in Britain.  They’re way ahead of New Zealand.  I tell you what. I’ll take you to get a nice new haircut when we get there as well.’

‘Yeah, that’ll be good’ mumbled Jackie.

Her Mum threw her Dad a glance and he shrugged.

‘They’ll be fine once we get settled’ he said quietly.

Aboard the Air New Zealand Boeing 747, Jackie sat slumped in her seat listening to the selection of pop songs available through the earphones.  Peter and a boy he’d met on the plane were charging up and down one of the aisles.  Jackie took out a hardback notebook from her denim bag and looked at the photograph that was nestled between the back page and the cover.   She looked at herself, Linda, Arnie and Rob smiling in the sun on the back porch of the house she’d just left.  They were all linking arms, hair shining, Jackie wearing a white muslin top of Linda’s.

Through the earphones the sound of Jackie and Linda’s favourite song started up.  The photograph fell limp in her hand and tears streamed down her face as she laid her head back into the seat.

Anne McGuigan


online creative writing school