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Cuffs and Protests




Layla Holiday


Copyright © 2017 Layla Holiday

All rights reserved



















I can resist everything except temptation

Oscar Wilde


Chapter One


It’s hard to imagine that just six months ago—before the construction of bamboo tripods, the installation of concrete lock-on devices, the arrival of the Peace Angel and the Knitting Nannas—all the Bentley Blockade consisted of was a few dedicated women, greeting the crepuscular rays of each Bentley dawn by sitting in front of the access gate to the Scarrabelotti’s paddock.  

I never thought it would come to this. NSW Police have deployed 800 officers, and a riot squad, to swarm the camp and surround the drill site tomorrow morning. I shudder as I remember Doubtful Creek. The last thing we need is a repeat of that clusterfuck. But these guys sent up from the big smoke don’t care. They don’t get it, for them it’s simple: protesters are pests; getting in the way and wasting tax-payers’ money. I don’t know how I am going to tell Elle that I will be there tomorrow, at Bentley with her, but not beside her, that I’ll be on duty, practically working against her.

It’s going to kill her. She’s been out there since the beginning, back when it was just her and a couple of others, sitting on deckchairs, in darkness, in front of that gate, waving at traffic passing by.


I unzip my Kevlar vest and, without unbuttoning, slip out of my powder-blue shirt. I feel sick. I stare at my dark-serious eyebrows and peacock-green eyes in the mirror, I look tired. These past few months have been tough, trying to balance the conflict of work and ethics, obligation and love. I’ve lost a little weight but, thankfully, no muscle tone. I work hard for this body. I don’t want to become one of those fat cops who teenagers oink at. I want to be able to chase, and catch, those little buggers if I have to.


Shift changeover was an hour ago, I’m alone in the locker room. I unclip my bra with one hand and turn the shower on with the other.


Chapter Two


Shampooing for the second time, and not rushing, I realise that I’m dawdling, putting off meeting Elle. I go over what I should say, ‘Babe, I want you to know that I agree with you completely, CSG is the asbestos of our generation,’ that’s a good start. ‘Metgasco must be stopped,’ I’ll add to ensure she’s onside.


Then I’ll drop the bomb, ‘I’ll be in uniform tomorrow but it doesn’t mean I’m working for Metgasco, coppers don’t take sides, just do their jobs.’ I know it’s a lie. Fuck, I’m ridiculous. Such a hypocrite. She’s going to hate me.



A couple of years ago, shortly after graduating from the Police Force Academy, Elle and I attended an anti-CSG protest together. I remember that autumn morning. Hot empty blue skies. A sea of yellow placards flooding Lismore CBD. Blues on street corners. Traffic backed up at every intersection. Horns beeping. Drums beating. Blues on horses. People singing. Elle’s hand in mine. Dogs Panting. Babies in prams. People on stilts. Blues on bicycles. Kids on scooters. People in wheelchairs. Afternoon music in the park and dancing on the hill.


Just thinking of that weekend causes my whole body to tingle. I’ve never gotten myself off at work before, I let my hand slide down my neck, between my breasts, along my soapy abdomen and rest on my pelvic bone.


I recall the weather that weekend, of the anti-CSG protest, it was perfect. After the rally, Elle and I rode out to Protester Falls. I remember Elle’s golden-brown, long legs wrapped around my hips, how she slid up close and hung on tight. I could feel her hot breath on my neck and her breasts pressed flat against my back. When we reached the outskirts of town, I pulled back hard on the throttle, well aware that the sudden speed would turn her on.


We turned down a secluded trail and I parked the bike beside some towering eucalypts, their trunks elaborately encrusted in the pale-greens of lichen.


‘Don’t move,’ I ordered Elle in my most authoritative officer voice. ‘Turn and face the bike. Hands where I can see them.’


A fleeting look of confusion was replaced with excitement as she responded to my orders.


‘Shirt off. Shorts down.’


She obeyed and, in nothing but her fine-lace boyshorts, she turned to face the bike. I watched her long-thick hair brush against her generous curves. Her Columbian heritage has blessed her with olive skin that glows as if she’s always just returned from vacation. I let my eyes feast on her lascivious curves. There was a pounding in my chest and an urgent pulsing between my legs.


Take control, I told myself and, taking a deep breath, I approached her. Roughly grabbing her left wrist, I reached into the saddlebag with my free hand. When her eyes caught the glimmer of my new cuffs she shivered and goosebumps appeared on her bare skin.


I cuffed her hands behind her back and let her squirm between me and the bike. Nipping at her shoulders and upper back, I pushed my knee between her thighs and sucked hard on her neck.


The image of her being stripped and shackled with me, fully dressed and in complete control, was an abiding fantasy of ours. I let my hands wander down the side of her torso and over her hips, squeezing, pushing and pulling handfuls of her womanly flesh. It was obvious that she was enjoying the frustration of not being able to touch me back.


I slid my hand into her panties, cupped her slick heat and teased her with my fingertips, eventually letting one finger glide slightly inside. Not usually the vocal type, Elle moaned so deeply, I felt myself gush with longing.


Each time she pushed back against me, my finger slid out, along the full length of her, and with each thrust forward I re-entered her deeper and harder. The husky sounds she made that day—together with the felling of her invitingly warm and swollen sex—were so hot I had to stop myself from peaking first. I pushed her forward and started working her smooth, swollen button. She sighed and jerked wildly. I let my fingers slide away from her clit and ran them up and down the length of her slit.


‘Please, Kat,’ she implored with a growl.


She didn’t need to ask twice. I returned to her firm bud and pressed against it with increasing firmness, stroking faster and faster until she was shuddering violently against the bike. Before long, with her hips pulled down against me, her hands still cuffed and the friction of the fabric between us, I was groaning and shuddering my way to my own spine-melting climax.



I steal a look over my shoulder, the locker room is empty, I’m still alone. My own sex is swollen and aching. I brace myself against the wet wall. With two fingers, I part my lips and let my middle finger rest against my clit. Hot water rushes over my most sensitive parts, the slight pain arouses me further. It’s not long before I’m panting against the tiles, making myself come against the wall of the open showering area.



Chapter Three


Sorry I’m late,’ I say, kissing Elle’s forehead. We agreed to meet at that Thai place on Woodlark Street. She’s already eating a samosa, dripping with hot chilli sauce.


She looks up at me and I feel my expression soften. ‘I miss you,’ I tell her, my voice just above a whisper.


‘I know,’ she says with her mouth still full.


I roll my eyes and she laughs. I do miss her, she’s been camping out at Bentley, almost every night, for the past two months. Her hair is slightly sun-bleached and messy, her clothes look ragged and I notice dirt under her fingernails.


‘How’s it going out there?’


‘It’s intense.’


I can imagine,’ I say, noticing how alert and clear her rich-brown eyes appear. How does she become more breathtaking every day? I silently ask myself.


‘Today people are banging on about George’s son, Stuart, having been employed as a Metgasco salesman for two years. As if it’s some wild discovery.

Of course, the rest of us have known that for ages. That he’s actually been working for Metgasco for five years, trying to convince farmers to sell their land and whatnot.’


I know,’ I say. ‘Babe, listen … I have—’ she doesn’t let me finish.


I wish you could be there Kat, it’s so wild but efficient and organised. Apparently 6,000 more protesters are going to arrive tomorrow, you know, because of the—’ she trails off, her gaze drops and she begins folding her napkin. Her cheekbones are irresistible. I want to forget about tomorrow and let my hand wander up her skirt.


‘The cops have been getting forceful,’ she says, not looking up from her origami napkin.


I know babe,’ I say. I never imagined that our professions could come between us. A lawyer and a cop. But that was before she started working at the Environmental Defenders Office. ‘I wish I could be there, beside you too,’ I tell her, ‘but that’s the thing, that’s what we need to talk about.’


What is it,’ she says. The teary jerk in her voice suggests she knows what I am about to say.


I swallow hard. ‘Listen, you know that I support you completely, I’m proud of what you stand for, of what you’re doing out there,’ I reach over and put my hand on hers. ‘I’m going to be at Bentley tomorrow, but in uniform.’


She yanks her hand away but holds my gaze, as if waiting for me to tell her I’m only kidding. I say nothing. ’Fuck you Kat,’ she says quietly. Then stands and walks away. I notice she has lost weight too. I throw $20 on the counter and follow her out into the street.



I catch the door of her Jeep and pry it open. She lets go. I stare at her, she just sits behind the wheel looking painfully sad. ‘I’m sorry,’ is all I can say.


‘I know,’ she says, still not looking at me. ‘I’m sorry too.’


What the fuck does that mean? Trying to push down the sharp pain in my throat, I utter a few incomprehensible words. I don’t even know what I’m trying to say.


‘Look, Kat, I love you but,’ she trails off again.


Sudden anger burns in my lungs. ‘But what?’ I demand, loud enough to get a few curious glances from the footpath.


‘I love you, but maybe we’re too different now, maybe we’ve drifted apart.’


No. Fucking. Way. We haven’t drifted apart. You’ve abandoned us to live like a fucking feral out there at Bentley.’ My tone is bitter and I immediately want to take back what I’ve just said.


‘I know you don’t mean that,’ she says.


Sorry,’ I say, lowering my voice. ‘You’re right, I don’t mean that at all. It’s just, I miss you. I haven’t seen you in a week. You said you were going to spend last weekend together, but only turned up, Sunday evening, to do a load of washing. What’s going on? Don’t do this. I don’t want to lose you. Elle, please just come home tonight.’ I lean in and catch one of her tears with my lips. ‘Please?’


‘Kat, you know I can’t do that. Not tonight.’


We really need to talk, about tomorrow.’


Big round tears fall down her face and roll along her jawline. ‘Would you arrest me?’


‘What?’


‘Would you arrest me?’ she sniffles.


‘Would you like me to?’ I ask, trying to lighten things up.


‘I’m fucking serious Kat,’ she says, slamming her palm against the steering wheel. ‘Would you arrest me?’


‘Jesus,’ I exhale. ‘No, I mean, I don’t know. I don’t think so. It would depend.’


‘Depend on what?’


‘Elle, I don’t know, depend on things. I can’t answer that.’


‘I’ve got to go. I’ll be home on Thursday. We can talk then.’


Please, don’t leave it like this. Come home.’


‘Let me go,’ she says, pulling on the door.


I know there is no point arguing.



Chapter Four


I don’t let myself cry. Arriving home, I water the plants, feed the cat, put the TV on and do crunches on the lounge room floor. I try to sleep but can’t get comfortable. I toss and turn and eventually switch on the light and look for some Panadol. Great, it’s 3am, I haven’t slept and I have a headache.


‘Tomorrow’s going to be fucking fantastic,’ I say out loud to myself.

I play a guided meditation tape but the guy’s voice pisses me off. I flick through Facebook. Elle is tagged in countless photos. I don’t know any of these jokers with their arms slung around my girlfriend’s shoulders. A pang of jealousy instantly becomes a nostalgic ache in my groin.



I must have drifted off, because I’m suddenly awake and my phone is beeping. The bedside light is on and the Panadol are still sitting beside the glass of water. I reach for my phone. It’s an executive update about the raid. I surge out of bed, pull my pants on and grab my car keys.



Chapter Five


By the time I get out to Bentley the darkness is shifting, a few birds are chirping, the whole place is awake and buzzing.


People are moving about with purpose and determination, I notice that the entire camp is operating like a sophisticated piece of machinery. Women, guided by torchlight, paint rainbows on kids’ faces. Flags are being raised. A couple of old farmers lean against a fence, smoking rollies and a couple of surfer-looking dudes, standing beside a kombi, smoke a joint.


I don’t care. I’m not on duty yet. It takes me a good fifteen minutes to find Elle, she’s busy helping an elderly lady into a lock-on device.


She wasn’t expecting to see me. She looks me up and down. Here I am, standing in front of her but in my old Adidas track pants, a white Tee and runners, rather than a uniform. She doesn’t know how to react, her rich-brown eyes regard me with concern.


I let a moment of sadness slip between us as I recall what she said last night, about us drifting apart. But then I remember why I am here, shake my head and smile.


Her shoulders drop a little as she smiles back.


‘Sorry for interrupting’ I say awkwardly, because I’m lying. I’m not sorry. I can’t take my eyes of Elle. ‘Can I steal you for a moment?’


Of course,’ she says, handing her chain over to another volunteer. ‘I’ll be right back,’ she tells the lady who she has been assisting into the lock-on device.


Hey there Kat,’ says the lady, who is actively being chained against some type of concrete-filled contraption and who, is now, looking up at me.


‘Woah, hi Dr Valley,’ I stutter, scolding myself for not recognising her earlier.


‘You can call me Sue out here. We’re sure glad you’ve made it. We need all the people we can get today.’


‘Ah, yeah. Of course.’ I reply, realising Elle hasn’t told anyone I’d be waving handcuffs not placards today.


I’m not sure if the water in Elle’s eyes are tears of sadness or relief.

We step away and she looks at me expectantly.


‘In privacy?’


‘Huh?’


‘Where’s you’re tent?’ I ask soberly.


She leads me down the hill.



It’s dark in her tent, but it’s organised and clean and smells of her rose-scented body scrub.


What are you doing here? I thought you were meant to be working,’ Elle begins to ask.


‘Promise you won’t tell anyone.’ I interrupt, trying to suppress the giddy tone in my voice.


‘Tell anyone what?’


‘What I am about to tell you,’ I grab her hand. ‘You can’t tell anyone, not yet. Promise.’


Sitting with her legs folded beneath her, she bounces a little. ‘What? Oh my God. Tell me already!’ she says, shoving me playfully.


Okay, okay,’ I grab her hands and draw her toward me. ‘No one will be arrested today,’ I whisper into her ear.


‘How can you know that?’ She asks pulling away and looking me straight in the eye.


I cut straight to the chase, ‘Metgasco’s Rosella exploration licence has been suspended. It will be announced this morning. We’re withdrawing. You’d better get ready to celebrate.’


‘Are you serious?’


I make a shushing sound and place a finger over her lips. She’s scanning my face in disbelief, then smiles and nips at my finger.


This time she shoves me roughly and I collapse back, pulling her down with me.

She pushes my hands back above my head and straddles my stomach.


I strain to kiss her but she arcs back and pushes down with her hips.


My torso automatically tenses and rises up to meet her. She’s got a firm hold on my wrists. I’d give anything to grip those hips.


‘I’ve missed you too,’ she says, leaning down and lightly brushing her tongue along my lips.


A sound, that I can only describe as a whimper, escapes from my mouth, which amuses Elle.


She licks the outer edge of my ear and flicks the lobe with her tongue.


‘Elle,’ I gasp, arcing my back. I’m about to take over but I feel her resist.


We’re doing this my way,’ she practically purrs.


I surrender completely.





Chapter Six


Elle peppers the side of my face, my neck and collar bone in tauntingly light kisses. I fight the urge to writhe beneath her, telling myself to keep still, forcing myself into submission and giving her absolute control. She relaxes her knees further apart, I feel the softness of her inner thighs as she thrusts down against my hard, toned abdomen. Her head tilts back, her eyes close, her lips part a little and her breath is laced with the most delicate of moans. She’s utterly gorgeous. I must have done something right in a previous life, I think, watching her succumb to desire as she fucks me through our clothes.


Still pinning my wrists above my head, she plants one thigh between my legs and pushes against me. The need to stay quiet intensifies the hot passion pulsing through my body, I momentarily feel light headed and sleepy. I want her weight on me like this forever. I open my eyes and her eyes lock with mine. With a cheeky smirk, she starts making long, slow grinding motions.


My own wetness has soaked the lace of my panties, which are rasping against my clit. It’s a delicate pain in the most sensitive of places.


She’s grinding me with shorter and faster motions. Remaining still, I stop myself from screaming.


‘Fuck me,’ is all I manage to gasp.


‘When I’m ready,’ is her cruel reply.


She’s pounding me now and it’s too much, I arc my back and shove my hips forward.


‘Baby, I’m going to come.’


‘You’ll come when I tell you to come,’ she whispers bluntly.


I don’t know when she became so dominant, but it’s excruciatingly sexy.



Much to my dismay, she climbs off. Then slithers out of her pants. The light is dull but I can see that her thighs are glistening with desire. She rips my shirt over my head and forces me back down. She straddles me again and smears her wetness all over my abdomen. I wriggle down until she’s kneeling over me and I’m face to face with her spectacular pussy. I clutch her hips and lick her ever so lightly. She tastes sweet and familiar, I have to stop myself from sucking at her greedily. She quietly quivers above me and I press my tongue deep inside her, reaching for her most aromatic places.


She leans backward. I hold her lower back and support her position while driving my tongue in further. My chin and the tip of my nose are brushing against all the right places. She sinks into me and thrashes against my mouth.

She’s bends back further, starts kneading her own clit and fucks my face frantically. She’s rubbing herself so ferociously, it must hurt. I continue pulling her down against me, my tongue pulsing inside of her. She continues rubbing.

I’m supporting her whole weight now. I hear her suck in a breath as her whole body gyrates in silence. I push my mouth hard against her, forcing my tongue in deeply, and push it forward as she convulses and cums in my mouth. Still holding my face, she falls to her side and lets her body tremble with orgasmic aftershocks.


Fuck that was hot,’ I whisper, grinning like a fool.



Chapter Seven


Following Bentley, my life gradually returned to normal. Elle stayed out at the site for five days after Metgasco’s licence was suspended. The protesters performed a closing ceremony before pulling the camp apart, and clearing the paddocks.


She slipped back into her Monday to Friday, nine-till-five, routine. We went back to working out at the gym, trying new restaurants, and devouring Netflix series.



My roster request to take Elle’s birthday weekend off was already approved before we discovered the body in the bathtub. Yesterday evening, I decided to postpone camping, stay back and work on the case over the weekend.


‘That won’t be necessary officer Kody,’ Stone uttered without taking her eyes off the computer screen.


I was dumbfounded. She hasn’t been working here a week. I was simply mentioning it to her, not asking for her permission. I don’t trust her, rolling in here full of head honcho, homicide detective, attitude.


Seriously Kody,’ she said, swivelling around and looking up at me with her very deliberate and very intelligent hazelnut-eyes. After a long day of running her hands over her hair, strands of honey-blonde hair had fallen from her braid, slightly softening the sharpness of her angular features.


I can’t help but notice a hint of hardness, and perhaps a desire for agony, in her features. She has the most perfect teeth I’ve ever seen, brilliantly white, super straight with a charming little gap between the two, upper front teeth. Her figure is exquisite, she moves elegantly, although there is a hint of masculinity about her gestures which, no doubt, has evolved through carrying a gun and spending countless hours analysing gruesome and disturbing crimes.


‘I might be a blow in,’ she admitted, ‘but I’ve been a detective for ten years and have never worked on a case as fucked up and cruel as this. It’s been a tough week. Don’t think I haven’t noticed you working your guts out.’


Until then Anna Stone hadn’t uttered more than three words (usually to specify her coffee order), or glanced, in my direction. It was as if she hadn’t noticed me at all.


I had been pleased to learn that the new D was going to be a she, rather than a he, a bit of back up in such a testosterone-fuelled field never goes astray.


However, that gladness had soon turned to resentment, earlier in the week when she looked right through me, and my attempt to introduce myself.


‘Look, you don’t strike me as the sort of copper who requests for time off often. It must be something important. Go, try to enjoy yourself and shake off this horrid case for a few days.’


Right,’ I stuttered, ‘uh, yeah, okay. Thanks. Uh … hope the weekend is better. I mean, see you next week,’ I rambled like a total kook.

She returned to the screen. And, it’s quite possible that I imagined it, but I’m almost certain that she licked her lips, after looking me up and down, as she swivelled back around on her office chair.


Chapter Eight


Everything’s perfect. I woke before dawn this morning and rushed out to set-up camp, decorating the tent with battery-operated fairy lights, tea-light candles, several arrangements of native flowers and a new mattress fitted with 1000-thread-count Egyptian cotton sheets.


Protester Falls was named after the protests responsible for preserving this small patch of rainforest back in 1979. It’s Elle’s favourite place and its history inspired her to become an environmental lawyer. She also loves the curiously natured Albert’s lyrebirds.

We have breakfast at Harvest then take country-side roads out to Terania Creek.



Let’s walk a bit, then set up,’ I say, parking the car.


‘Let’s go lyrebird spotting,’ Elle squeals and claps her hands. Once again, she closely inspects the Canon Powershot that I gave her this morning. It’s the latest superzoom, completely different from Olympus 35mm Film Camera that she always had hanging around her neck when we first met.


Back then, Elle and her housemate, Sara, were avid photographers, they even used the spare room of their apartment as a darkroom. In the beginning, I went out and bought a camera, pretending to be interested in photography, just so they would let me tag along. I suddenly remember the smell of caffenol and the desperate and depraved sex the three of us had in that darkroom.



It’s peaceful out here and after ten minutes of wandering among the soft-green climbing ferns crocheting thin-trunked Bangalow Palms, and admiring the burnt-brown patterns on the white trunks of scribbling gums, I’ve all but forgotten about the murder case that has been plaguing my mind this last week. It’s good to be in the bush.


Elle has stopped up ahead. Crouched down, she points the camera at a ground-dwelling lyrebird, scratching and pecking at the darkness of the rainforest floor. I’m amazed by the artistry of its elaborately marbled chestnut tail-feathers.

She takes several shots and, still crouching, flicks back through them. She turns to me with a brilliant smile.


‘This camera is fucking unreal,’ she says. ‘I love it.’


‘Great.’


Let’s go put up the tent?’ she asks and suggestively raises one eyebrow.


‘Sure,’ I can’t help smiling, she has no idea.


Back at the carpark, she heads for the car boot, calling out, ‘throw me the keys.’


‘Just wait,’ I say, extending my hand. ‘Do you remember seeing that sweet, secluded spot last time we were out here. Let’s check it’s free.’


She shakes her head but lets me lead her into the bush. ‘Damn,’ I say when we arrive at the spot. ‘It’s already taken.’


She looks at the tent, then at me and then at the tent again. ‘You sneaky little shit,’ she says, elbowing my side.


I grab her elbow, unzip the tent and guide her inside. I switch on the fairy lights and she coos with delight. I decide to leave the candles for later.


I’m not generally such a romantic, but the recent possibility of losing Elle has inspired me to demonstrate just how much I cherish her.


She runs a hand over the tawny-coloured sheets, admiring their silkiness. Her head is slightly tilted to the side in a manner that accentuates her long lashes and the fullness of her dark-raspberry lips. I want to take her now but I’m frozen in a moment of ineffable admiration.


She looks up, with heavy eyelids, and begins to crawl toward me. Her lips are parted and her eyes are full of intention. She’s so sexy, I almost step back but her hands are on the back of my thighs and her pert breasts are pressed against my legs. She pulls me toward the mattress and starts unbuttoning her shirt. She keeps it on but lets it fall open, revealing her golden-brown stomach, her piercing and the fact that she’s not wearing a bra. I push the shirt open and trace the outline of her perfect brown nipples with my tongue.


I rip off my shirt, cup her cheeks and press my forehead against hers. ‘I love you,’ I whisper before kissing her delicately. I run the tip of my tongue along the outline of her lips, meandering and licking the corners. She allows my tongue to slip in, I push it up and drag it along the front of her teeth. Her tongue finds mine and massages it briefly before her mouth sucks my tongue wantonly.


We fall back. The awareness of skin on skin, nipple on nipple, takes my breath away. I let air rush into my lungs, then kiss Elle possessively. I shove my thigh between her legs and rock forward, pressing my own centre against her hip bone. She digs her nails into my back and rolls her hips rhythmically. Shock waves of desire crash in my apex, flooding my underwear. With my hands beneath her head, we grind against each, slowly at first.


Elle drags her nails down my back. Her hands find my hips, digging her fingers in. Our movements become fast and violent until we are grinding against each other fiercely. Her back raises up, she pulls my hips down and releases a soft sob before collapsing back onto the mattress. I moan as I pump desperately against her. She finds my lips and swirls her tongue around in my mouth. I whimper into her mouth, convulse and fall against her.


My heart is pounding and my breath is unsteady. I brush some rouge hairs from Elle’s face and utter, ‘happy birthday baby.’


‘It couldn’t get any better,’ she says yawning and lets her eyes fall shut.


‘It’s not over yet,’ I tease hazily.



Chapter Nine


We’re swarming the house. The stomping is astonishingly loud. There’s so much shouting. Shots are fired. I kick in the bathroom door. A slashed-up hand reaches out of the blood-stained bathtub, I tug and tug on the hand but can’t pull the tortured body from the water. I scoop up the eyeballs floating in the tub and twist them back into the empty sockets of her face. She’s blue and screaming and sinking further and further into the water. I grab her hand and heave but it slips and slips, again and again, from my grip. The putrid smell fills my lungs and I chunder into the bathtub.



I’m sweating and gasping for air. Elle’s hand is rubbing my back. ‘Shhh,’ she says. ‘You’re okay, you’re okay.’ I run my hands over my forehead, push back my tight curls, take a sideways glance at Elle and look around the tent. There’s air in my mouth but it’s not reaching my lungs, I force it out and attempt to breathe through my nose. Something’s not right. I fumble around for my shirt, pull it over my head and open the tent.


‘What are you doing,’ she asks.


’Just stay here,’ I whisper.


She clenches the sheet to her chest, narrows her eyes and frowns.



I’m assaulted by the light as I step outside. It’s so fucking bright, I blink and shield my eyes. There’s no one around. It’s all sunshine and birdsong. I hear Elle call my name, but something still doesn’t feel right. Looking for a sign, or something, I walk around the tent again.


‘Kat,’ she calls again.


I spot three snapped twigs at the back of the tent, and then, about ninety centimetres away, some crushed leaves in the shape of a footprint. Did I hear footsteps?


Kat,’ Elle says quietly, knowing better than to sneak up on me.


I spin and instantly face her.


What’s going on? Did you find something?’ she asks, her words seem to drip with fear.


Her shirt is on inside out and she looks genuinely scared.


You fucking cocksucker, I scald myself. Of course, she’s scared. Everyone’s on edge with this body in a bathtub bullshit.


Hey, yeah … Nothing to worry about. Just a lyrebird scratching around back here, he just scampered off in to the bush.’ I lie straight to her face and interlock my fingers behind her neck.


‘A lyrebird?’ With one eyebrow is raised, her mouth twists into a cute little pout of disbelief.


I stifle a snigger. ‘Let’s go up to the fall? I packed a picnic.’


Layla Holiday


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