“Friends and Lovers”….chapter 19

Meg and Luke let Rick do most of the talking on the way back to the Lodge. Meg was lost to remembering, and the dread of leaving it all behind. As the Lodge came into view Luke squeezed her hand in a sudden desperation, and turned to look at her  as if  imprinting her image upon his very soul. Meg smiled weakly, knowing there was no way she could reassure him.

Rick stayed for some afternoon tea, at Jo and Max’s insistence, and when it was time to say his goodbyes, Luke announced he would be going back with him.

“I just want to spend some more time with my old mate before I have to move up to Sydney,” Luke explained, draping his arm nonchalantly around Rick’s shoulder. It all made perfect sense of course, but Meg knew he also needed to be away from her. It would be just too difficult to stay together for almost another week after all they had shared the past two days, and pretend it all didn’t happen. Time apart now, might make it easier later.

Meg gave him a ‘friendly’ hug goodbye, wishing she could go with him, ignore all common sense, and all the people she might hurt, forget about the future, and just grasp the moment. But she knew that would be denying everything she was, and everyone that mattered to her, including Luke. He would go to Sydney and be successful and popular, and take his choice of a myriad of young women who were far more suitable for him than she would ever be, no matter how much the thought of it unsettled her now. She would stay in Melbourne and go back to work and……Meg tried to imagine what else awaited her, and she saw only an endless road dotted with question marks.

Jo was her one saving grace, and they grew ever closer over the next few days. Her words of wisdom and her encouragement were like a balm to Meg’s aching heart, though Jo would never know how her words struck such a chord.

“You’ve got to stay strong Meggie,” Jo said, as they walked along the beach in the morning. “You think you’ve wasted your life on a husband that wasn’t worthy…. that you should have known better,” she said, stopping in front of Meg and taking her hands. “But don’t you know that your life can change in one moment, that even a fleeting experience can be the most profound of your entire life,” she said quietly, her eyes shining. “Like a shooting star,” she added, flinging her arms above her head in imitation. Meg smiled affectionately at her friend, knowing how true her words were, on so many levels.

“Look at us Meg!” Jo continued. “One day we didn’t know eachother, and the next day we did!” she concluded. “It’s that simple.” Meg hoped with all her heart it was.

Arriving home after their stay at the Lodge, Jo returned to work at the shop, yet Meg still had three weeks until school resumed. Even Luke took on some casual work with Max before he would leave for Sydney the following week, to settle in before the first school term started. After such a wonderful two weeks at the Lodge, Meg felt lost, with too much time to think about the short, but ecstatic two days she spent with Luke, and the long year that loomed ahead of her. She couldn’t deny that she would miss Luke terribly, her body rebelling in heated response, although she knew his move was for the best, for both of them. The physical longing would lessen with time, but he had awakened a need in her she would never be able to deny or suppress again; a restlessness that up until now, work and friendship had filled.

The only thing that eased her disquiet, was the time she spent writing. After the story she had written for Jo was so enthusiastically received, Meg was doubly encouraged to write more. The sunlit hours rushed by, each word she wrote seeming to dictate the next. And as each day passed, Meg felt a growing calmness in her spirit, an eagerness to write the next word, begin the next chapter. But the next chapter of her own life was about to begin. School was resuming the following week, and the prospect filled her with an unwelcome restlessness that bordered on dread.

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