During the couple of weeks we were staying with Grandma, Dad and Stephen had hired a truck and moved all of our furniture and things to our new house. Mum said Dad had found us a big old house that was just on the edge of town and it sat in the middle of an apple orchard. She said it sounded like a really pretty spot and she couldn’t wait until we got home.
Dad had already started working in his new job on the railway and Stephen spent the time getting his things packed and ready to go to Western Australia.
As we neared the end of the school holidays, Dad drove up the coast to take us home. We all piled into the car late in the afternoon and waved goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and set off back down the coast road toward Sydney.
Dad said we would have to drive right through the night because we had to be in Sydney by morning to see Stephen off at the airport.
The sun was just starting to set behind the mountain near Grandma’s house as Dad turned the car onto the highway and we joined a long line of car lights dotted up the hill as far as I could see.
Mum had made some sandwiches for dinner and as we drove along I ate them and watched the copper sunset getting darker until the trees alongside the road became dark ghosts.
Every time a car came the other way its headlights would light up the inside of our car for a moment until it looked like all our shadows were racing along the road, and then we were plunged into darkness again.
After a while I started to get sleepy and I leaned my head against Mum’s side. My eyes would flicker open every time a car went past, until gradually the lights were bobbing around on the horizon like ships at sea. I felt like I was floating on the water and sometimes one of the lights would suddenly come whizzing towards me and then disappear with a loud whoosh.
I began to dream that I was on a pirate ship that was all dark and sailing towards the lights. Shawn was there, standing at the front of the ship and staring out into the distance. Every now and then I heard his voice call out, ‘Come on, Blue, run!’ before he disappeared over the edge of the ship. I leaned over the side to see where he went but all I could see were fish swimming around. They were big flat fish with bodies made from curved lines that wriggled and wriggled until they vanished when another bright light came whizzing past.
I looked up and this time it was Stephen standing at the front of the pirate ship. He turned his head and looked at me and just stared. I called out to him, but my voice didn’t make any sound. I tried to run but my legs were stuck to the deck of the ship and when I reached for him with my hand his face slowly disappeared into one of the bright lights.
I could feel sadness sitting inside my stomach and as the wind rippled through the ship’s sails I fell to my knees and started to cry.
All of a sudden the ship landed with a thump and I opened my eyes to see the sky starting to get lighter on the horizon. My eyes were itchy and when I rubbed them they felt wet from tears.
I sat up straighter and through the windscreen I could see the distant lights of the city’s skyscrapers gathered together like they were waiting for the nighttime to come back.
We were driving in traffic now, and I recognized one of the schools we had gone past the other time I had been through Sydney. The playgrounds were empty this time because it was still school holidays and the buildings stood in the early morning light looking lonely and sad.
As we got closer to the city centre all the tall buildings blocked out the morning sun and we started driving through shadows. Then we were on a bridge and the harbour below sparkled like a million diamonds. Little boats moved around on the water and there was a big ship tied up to the shore.
Dad had to keep stopping because of the traffic and I could tell he was getting anxious about being late because he started muttering, ‘Oh, come on,’ every time the traffic lights turned to red.
Eventually we turned into the carpark at the airport and then we were all out of the car and running into the terminal. Mum had my hand and was dragging me along, trying to get me to run quicker but my legs wouldn’t go any faster.
Then we stopped running and there was Stephen sitting with some other people in front of a big glass window with a huge aeroplane on the ground outside.
Stephen jumped to his feet and gave Mum a big hug, then shook Dad’s hand and hugged each of the girls. When he got to me, he picked me up in his arms and gave me the biggest squeeze of my life as I wrapped my arms around his neck and started crying.
‘Don’t cry, Molly,’ he said, as he put me back down on the ground. ‘Let’s look at the plane I’m going on. It’s going to be fun.’
He took my hand and led me to the window and pointed to the plane. ‘Just count back seven windows from the front, and that’s where I’ll be sitting,’ he said. I looked at the tiny little round windows and wondered how he would ever fit inside.
As we stood there, a lady in a blue uniform walked up to the counter and announced that it was time to start boarding.
Stephen went round and hugged everyone again, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He picked up his bag and walked over to the counter and handed his ticket to the lady. Then he was walking down a tunnel with all the other passengers and disappeared from sight for a moment. I got a final glimpse of him as he stepped into the plane and gave a brief wave before the doors closed. We stood there and watched as the plane backed slowly away from the building. Then it turned and started going forward, getting faster and faster until suddenly it lifted up into the sky and was flying.
We all stood there silently and watched as it turned into a little black speck and then disappeared. My face was pressed against the cold glass as tears streamed down my cheeks.