DISCLAIMER: This is an original story that I have written. The characters are mostly mine, except at the end there which I'm sure you'll know about once you get there. They are owned by Shed productions, so unfortunately not mine.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: This story is based on some real life events. Ok, events I wouldn't mind happening *wink*. This story was inspired by someone very special to me. They know who they are although they aren't really happy about it. The name of Joyce is dedicated to my friend Eponine from Achaea. Thank you to all the friends who have helped me in the little decisions I asked for help with; Chris, Ella, Jim. And I was going to ask Sophie for the name of the beach but I forgot, so, let just call it Hams beach. At least that's what I think it's called. Anyway, enjoy!
CHALLENGE RESPONSE: Submitted for the Passion & Perfection Xmas Challenge 2005
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
A New Chance
An Australian sunset beautiful, stunning. An Australian sunset on Christmas day beautiful, stunning. An Australian sunset on Christmas day with the one you love immeasurable.
Claire turned off the engine and took a deep breath. It's just a picnic, she told herself, a simple picnic between friends. She suddenly chuckled. A simple picnic between friends? Who was she kidding? Her younger friend knew how she felt over a year ago and didn't return the feelings then or since. They were friends. That's all they were. The fact that Claire was deeply and undeniably in love with Joyce was totally beside the point.
Claire put the keys in her pocket and retrieved a small wrapped box from the other. She looked at it for a moment and then quietly gulped as she returned it to its hiding place. She made sure all the windows were closed and got out of her Rav 4, locking it behind her. As she walked around to the rear of the car she looked up at the mountain before her. Ok, so it wasn't really a mountain, but the severely steep driveway might as well have been.
Claire was panting softly as she reached the peak of the driveway. She stood at the bottom of the steps and took a few calming breaths. She quickly checked over her appearance and tackled the first step.
Upon reaching the door Claire knocked firmly on it. She waited there for a moment until Joyce's mother opened the door, all the while fidgeting with one part of her clothing or another. Joyce's mother, Marcie, motioned for Claire to enter just after they had both exchanged their Christmas greetings.
"She's just in the shower. We had a blackout during the night so her alarm didn't go off. She only woke up 10 minutes ago." Marcie explained whilst leading Claire into the kitchen. "Would you like a drink or something?"
"No thank you." Claire answered politely.
"Ok." Marcie smiled warmly. "So, what's the big surprise?"
Claire grinned. "I can't tell you. Then it wouldn't be a surprise."
"I won't tell Joyce."
"Yeah, but if I say it aloud once, then I'd be tempted to do it a second time, and its likely to be Joyce that asks me next."
Marcie frowned. "I suppose you have a point, albeit warped."
Claire was about to answer when Joyce walked in, dressed only in a baby blue towel. Claire's jaw hung freely as Joyce blushed from the unexpected presence of her friend. Although it shouldn't have been unexpected since she was the one running late, not that Claire minded of course.
"Ah, hi "
Joyce's golden skin glistened with leftover droplets of water. Claire's eyes followed the curves of Joyce's body from her calf muscles, to her hips, to her toned arms, and finally came to rest at Joyce's deep brown eyes. Joyce was still blushing. She was soon joined by Claire, who blushed and swallowed when she saw the slight twinkle in Joyce's eyes at her involuntary delight.
Claire cleared her throat after nothing came out the first try. "Hi "
Marcie was oblivious to the reactions of the two girls. "Why don't you get dressed, honey. I'll chat to Claire while you're doing that."
Joyce just nodded and walked out, down the hallway and turned left into her room. Claire watched her every movement, every sway of the hips, every flick of the hair. She didn't know what she was thinking. If she could speak she would have described it as her 'brain is mush'. Her heart was beating that loudly that she barely heard anything when Marcie spoke.
"What's your mum doing today?"
"Um." Claire mentally shook her head. "She, um, is going to a friend's for Christmas lunch."
"Oh, ok. You didn't want to go?"
Claire chuckled. "No. Definitely not."
Marcie frowned. "Why not?"
"Because some friends are worth spending Christmas with, and Joyce is one of those."
"I'm glad you feel that way. I know that Joyce values your friendship very highly."
Claire smiled and blushed in response. She would have said 'I'm glad', but Joyce picked that moment to return to the room. She was wearing a thin-strap dress that went down to just above her knees. The dress was primarily white with some light brown, pale red and yellow floral patterns on it. Joyce looked absolutely beautiful.
"Ready to go?"
"Sure." Claire answered as she stood up and turned to Marcie. "Thanks for keeping me company while this one took her sweet time."
"Oi! It's not my fault the there was a blackout!"
"I know, I just like teasing you." Claire grinned.
Joyce glared at Claire. "You. Out. Now."
"Yes Ma'am!" Claire saluted. "Bye Marcie!"
Claire exited the kitchen, heading towards the front door. She was closely followed by Joyce who was shaking her head at Claire's antics. They walked in silence out of the house and down to the car. Once inside, Joyce was the first to speak.
"Where are we going?" Joyce tried, although she knew that Claire wouldn't tell her.
Claire just chuckled in response as she pulled away from the curb and took the necessary right turn, then left, and then right again, to get onto the highway so she could go southward towards their destination.
"Well?" Joyce insisted.
"Well what?" Claire smirked to herself.
"Where are we going?"
"I am so not telling you!" Claire said as she began to break for the traffic light up ahead.
"What if I don't want it to be a surprise?" Joyce tried to pout but couldn't quite keep the smile off her face.
Claire accelerated as the car in front responded to the green light. "All I'm going to say is that you'll like it."
"I know I'll like it, I just want to know what it is so I can like it." Joyce pleaded.
"Obviously it's not in Newcastle because you're about to get onto the freeway."
"Is that so?" Claire grinned as she, instead on going straight ahead at the roundabout to get onto the freeway, turned left at the roundabout.
"Or not " Joyce frowned in confusion. "Ok, seriously, where are we going?"
"Will you just relax?" Claire smiled. "I won't tell you where we're going. You will like it. And you should be able to guess by now anyway."
"Oh Ummm are we going to Alicia's for lunch or something?"
"Or something." Claire waggled her eyebrows.
"Ooo! That's sounds kinky!"
Claire laughed as she turned left. "We're nearly there."
"Good." Joyce smiled. She was actually excited about her surprise, and hoped that Claire would like hers. "Are we going to my old house or something?"
"You like saying 'or something' don't you?"
"Yeah, just a little."
"So, are we?"
"Are you sure its 'or something', coz this is my old street you're about to turn onto "
Claire turned into Joyce's old street but pulled off the road straight away. She pulled the car to a stop a few seconds later, putting the hand brake on and turning the car off. She turned to Joyce and smiled.
"This is it?"
Claire nodded, worried that Joyce didn't like it.
"Awesome! I haven't been here in ages!"
"That's what I thought."
"You came here just for me?"
"Well, not exactly. You can see my island from here." Claire replied. Although it wasn't really her island, she just called it that, and she did mainly just come here for Joyce, but she wasn't going to admit that. Claire got out of the car, closely followed by Joyce who took the hint. Claire locked it, and then they both walked around to the back of the car.
"I'll get the stuff out of the car, you can go wait at the table." Claire smiled.
"Are you sure you don't want any help?"
"Yep." Claire paused for a moment before continuing. "Positive, no doubt what so ever"
Joyce grinned. "Good. In that case I'll go wait by the table."
Joyce turned and walked past the knee-high wooden poles and over to the table. Claire took this opportunity to open the boot of the car and quickly slip in the Christmas present she got for Joyce into the picnic basket. When she looked back to Joyce she was standing at the cliff edge gazing out over the water. After depositing her load onto the table, Claire continued walking over to Joyce who made no indication that she knew Claire was approaching her.
"Good view." Claire commented, although she wasn't entirely talking about the ocean.
"Yes, it is." Joyce said as she turned to face Claire. "I miss it."
Claire smiled slyly. "Well, maybe we should come here more often."
"Is that a hint?" Joyce smirked.
"Never." Claire grinned. "Let's eat, I'm starving. That's a hint."
They walked back to the table and took a seat opposite each other. With minimal talk they sorted through the picnic basket, divided it up, and started to eat their fill. It was only after Claire put the basket beside her on the seat that Joyce noticed a small wrapped object sitting on the table.
"What's that?" Joyce frowned.
"That is your Christmas present."
"I get a Christmas present?"
Claire nodded as she was chewing on a piece of carrot. She swallowed it and said, "You can't open it now though."
"Because isn't an answer."
"Because I want you to wait."
"Wait for what?"
"You're in a quizzical mood, aren't you?"
"Well if you stop trying to surprise me I might not need to ask you incessant questions."
"Ironically, I'm finding this quite amusing." Claire observed.
"That does not surprise me."
Claire just grinned in response as she took a bit of another carrot piece.
After they had finished eating they packed the basket and its remaining contents into the back of Claire's car. Claire had asked Joyce if she wanted to go for a walk and Joyce readily agreed, wanting to show Claire one of her favourite places along the beach. They both walked down to the beach along a narrow path in a comfortable silence, each just enjoying the other's presence.
When they eventually reached the beach they continued to walk in silence, occasionally looking at the other, both blushing when caught looking. Although Claire thought Joyce was acting a bit strangely, she didn't pick up on the true reasons behind this oddity.
The end of the beach was fast approaching so Claire stopped to turn around. She was completely confused when Joyce kept on walking.
"You coming?" Joyce called back to her.
"Coming where? It's a dead end."
Joyce grinned. "No it's not."
She slipped into a gap in the rocks that Claire hadn't noticed before. Claire frowned but followed, not wanting to be too far away from Joyce, and especially not out of sight. She too slipped through the gap and was surprised to find a small half open cavern. The bit without a wall was view to the ocean, with waves rolling softly on the soft sand.
"Wow " Claire whispered in awe.
"I thought you might like it." Joyce smiled.
Claire turned to face Joyce beside her. "You planned this?"
"As soon as we pulled over, yes." Joyce blushed slightly. "I've wanted to show you this for a while now "
"It's beautiful." Claire said, never taking her eyes from Joyce's.
"Yes, it is."
They stood there, trapped in the moment that neither expected would last so long. Finally Claire regained her senses and removed Joyce's present from her pocket, holding it out to the younger brunette.
"You can open it now." Claire whispered, trying not to disturb the peaceful lull that had befallen the two girls.
Joyce took the gift from Claire's hand and into her own, turning it over and over to discern some kind of clue as to what it was. She eventually gave up guessing and carefully unwrapped it, passing the decorative paper to Claire to hold. It was a small jewelry box, Joyce noted, and when she opened it she revealed a stunning silver bracelet. She looked at the bracelet, at Claire, and back to the bracelet. Small tears were forming in her eyes as she took in the treasured gift in her hands.
"Thank you " Joyce's whisper was barely audible as she held the present tight and flung her arms around Claire's neck. Claire wrapped her arms firmly around Joyce's back, and they both just held each other for several minutes.
Eventually Joyce pulled away and held the bracelet out to Claire. "Would you mind?"
Claire smiled and took the bracelet from her, clipping it together around Joyce's wrist. They looked at it and noted how well it fit and looked.
"It's my turn now." Joyce said, clearing her throat as she began to pace in a small line.
"Your turn for what?" Claire asked, unsure of Joyce's meaning and worried about her sudden turmoil.
Joyce took a deep breath. "I need to tell you something, something that I'm pretty sure you'll like, and it's sort of my Christmas present to you, but not really. I just happen to be telling you today because I've been too scared to tell you before, but I believe now is the right time. And I was planning to tell you soon anyway, and have been for a long time, but, as I said, right now seems like the time to do it. Now, I don't want you to freak out, not that I think you would "
"Joyce, just say it." Claire cut Joyce's ramble a couple of hundred words short.
Joyce spun around to face Claire. "I like you."
Claire frowned. "We're friends, I know that already."
"No, I mean I like you, as in 'more than a friend'. I like you Claire. I have for a couple of months now. And my feelings get stronger with each passing day."
Claire was speechless. Had all her dreams come true? Did Joyce really like her?
"Do you remember that day my mum had the family photo albums out?"
Claire just nodded.
"Well I continued to look at them after you left, and I found something. It was a drawing of two women, and I felt this sense of familiarity with them, like I knew them or something. But logic states that I clearly don't since the drawing was done over 200 years ago. Anyway, I read the back of it and it said: HS, my love is eternally yours, in this life and the next, and all those after, NW."
Joyce paused for a moment to regain her breath. "I took it as a sign, that what I was feeling wasn't just a fleeting suspicion of my imagination. It was real. It is real."
"You like me?" Although Claire had been listening to Joyce's every word, she only took in that small detail.
"Yes, I do." Joyce stepped forward and took Clair's hands into her own.
Claire's face broke into a smile, and not just the regular kind. This smile was glowing, it was huge. Joyce wouldn't be surprised if they could see it from the moon, although the cavern roof may have stopped that.
They both stepped into a tight embrace, and held on as if their lives depended on it. They stood there for at least an hour, just holding each other. They didn't let go as a boat went past, or someone popped their head through the gap to see if anyone was in there, or even when Claire's mobile phone beeped, alerting her to a message. They just held each other.
As the sun started to set, a whisper could be heard from Claire's shoulder. "Don't let go."
"I never have, Helen." Nikki replied.
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