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Authors: Georgia Blain

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Darkwater

BOOK: Darkwater
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All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the
Australian Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.
Darkwater
ePub ISBN 9781742740027
Kindle ISBN 9781742740034
A Random House book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060

First published by Random House Australia in 2010

Copyright © Georgia Blain 2010

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the Australian
Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia.

Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
www.randomhouse.com.au/offices

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry
Author: Blain, Georgia
Title: Darkwater/Georgia Blain
ISBN: 978 1 86471 983 3 (pbk.)
Target audience: For secondary school age
Dewey number: A823.3
Cover photograph courtesy Getty Images
Cover design by Christabella Designs
Internal design by Midland Typesetters
For Odessa
TABLE OF CONTENTS

Chapter one

Chapter two

Chapter three

Chapter four

Chapter five

Chapter six

Chapter seven

Chapter eight

Chapter nine

Chapter ten

Chapter eleven

Chapter twelve

Chapter thirteen

Chapter fourteen

Chapter fifteen

Chapter sixteen

Chapter seventeen

Chapter eighteen

Chapter nineteen

Chapter twenty

Chapter twenty one

Chapter twenty two

Chapter twenty three

Chapter twenty four

About the author

one

I'm not sure who found Amanda Clarke's body. I think it was her mother, but I may be wrong.

I imagine it was dinnertime, and she called them both – ‘Amanda, Daniel, come to the table now' – used to receiving no answer. Putting her glass down, the ice clinking, she wiped her damp hands on the edge of a tea towel, and wandered through to the family room where Daniel lay on his stomach, the seagrass matting pressing a pattern into the pale skin on his arms, chin resting in his hands as he watched the last of
Get Smart.

‘Off,' she told him, flicking the switch despite his protests, the image collapsing into a tiny pinprick of light before black covered the screen; although, she was not an assertive woman, so perhaps she simply left the television on, hoping, foolishly, that he would do as she asked.

In the hall she called Amanda's name again, shouting up the stairs to her daughter's empty bedroom and, when there was no response, she returned to the kitchen, its back door open onto the smooth green lawn that sloped down to the river's edge.

Slipping on her sandals, she stepped out into the still-warm evening, the sky a deepening mauve through the high branches of the white gums. In the distance a sail clinked against a mast, a rhythmic sound that repeated itself over and over again as she walked across the garden to look down to the reserve four houses away.

She saw her from there, a strange, dark shape floating facedown, one foot wedged in an outcrop of rock, the sandstone pocked with oyster shells. Or maybe she had to keep walking, crossing the lawns of the neighbours' houses, calling her daughter's name a little louder each time, almost running now, before she saw the shape, there in the water, although she still may not have been sure what it was. Perhaps she cut through the scrub that bordered the Parsons' garden and the reserve, pushing back the scratchy branches of the bottlebrush to reach the white wooden railing running along the uneven stairs. It must have been almost dark by then, only a single streetlight illuminating the path, although most of the time the globe was broken because we kids liked the darkness (or at least we did until Amanda's death), and would throw rocks up at it, jumping back when we made a hit, the glass showering down on our heads as the brightness gave way to sudden black.

I hope it wasn't Amanda's mother who found her. When I imagine that, it's like the ground giving way, collapsing with a rush, a landslide into emptiness.

‘
Fact:
' I wrote in my diary at the time, the page headed with the date, February 16, 1973. ‘
Amanda Clarke is dead. They found her at the waterfront. Drowned, they reckon.
'

It was an exercise book, covered in cut-out pictures from magazines, my favourite pop stars, women in tight Amco jeans and halter-neck tops, and perhaps the odd logo from an advertisement, a word or two, there only to break up the images.

I kept it hidden at the back of my wardrobe, occasionally taking it out to write about what had been happening in my life. Most of it was dull – Sonia irritating me, or Cassie having a crush on my older brother Joe – but lately there had been more space given to Nicky Blackwell, his name appearing with greater regularity since the time he had stepped back to let me in the school gate before him, winking at me as he did so.

In the past I had only ever written on the evenings when I was bored. But in the weeks following Amanda Clarke's death, that changed. I took that book out most nights and it seemed she occupied nearly all of the pages I filled.

‘Dead' and ‘drowned'. I underlined both those words and then scribbled out the line that lay beneath the second. She was dead, that was a fact, but whether she had drowned was not so certain. Sitting at my desk, I chewed the plastic end of my biro and looked out the window to the darkness of the night sky.

The first I heard of her death was that morning at school. The sun was glaringly hot as we stood in our assembly lines. We shuffled our feet, the bitumen burning through the thin soles of our sandals as we waited for the principal to come to the microphone. Behind me, the boys started their run of remarks about the girls in our year; I was used to them sniggering about Sonia's tanned legs and Cassie's long blonde hair, or if they turned their attention to me, it was the word ‘tits' that I heard muttered, and I would glance behind me, fixing them with a stare designed to chill, before turning back to the podium where Mr Castle reiterated rules into the microphone. But this morning there was no sniggering, because within moments of flicking on the PA, the amp crackling for an instant, he told us that some of us may have already heard the news, but for those who hadn't, he was very sorry to let us know that one of our fellow students had been found dead – ‘down by the waterfront, yesterday evening'.

‘Who was it?' we all asked each other, our whispers flickering along the lines like the blowflies that buzzed between us, settling for a moment only to be brushed on to the next person. ‘Amanda,' someone said, and then the word was running fast like fire down each row, burning hot, until someone cried out and Mr Castle was shouting into the microphone: ‘Order. Order this instant.'

It was Kate Bradshaw, Amanda's best friend, two lines back with the senior years. She fainted, her body hitting the concrete with a thud, the row broken as the others in her year clustered round her, while a teacher, Miss Tilley, told everyone to let her through.

It didn't take long before Mr Mulley, the PE teacher, and Mrs Acton, the assistant principal, carried the stretcher out to where Kate was now sitting up, head between her knees. They told her to lie down and two of the boys in her year took one end of the stretcher, while Mr Mulley, with smooth tanned muscles from years of surfing, hoisted the other end, and they carried her towards the sick bay.

As I watched, I saw my brother Joe in the line that Kate had been standing in. He was white, eyes round and dark against the paleness of his skin. ‘Are you all right?' I wanted to ask him, worried that he, too, might collapse onto the asphalt, but we were all being told to get back into line, everyone, this instant.

‘This is a shock to all of us,' Mr Castle said, and I was surprised that even he seemed upset because he was not a man to show emotion. ‘The police will be visiting the school today and have requested our cooperation.'

Again, there was a rush of whispers, a flurry of words hastily hissed from person to person. Why the police, we all wanted to know, and we looked around to see whether anyone had any knowledge, anything at all to help us work out what was going on.

The microphone crackled and Mr Castle adjusted the volume on the PA. ‘In the meantime, classes will be conducted as normal.' He paused for a moment, before finally uttering the word he used every morning to signal the end of assembly. ‘Atten–' and the ‘en' was always drawn out for maximum effect – ‘SHUN.' This last syllable, however, was like a lead bullet, fast, loud and furious, followed by the mass slap of over eight hundred pairs of ankles clicking together. All that was missing was the salute, and I would stretch out my palm, fingers together, arm pointing downwards rather than up, to give him the
Heil
I felt he deserved. But not that morning. My hand stayed limp by my side.

As we turned towards our classrooms, I looked once again at my brother, whose face was obscured by his mat of white-blond hair. Behind him was Stevie, who had been Amanda's boyfriend until she dumped him a week ago, giving my brother some hope that if he waited a respectable amount of time, Amanda might finally turn his way. Stevie's face was still, his gaze fixed on the back of my brother's head as they walked in single file towards the science block. Behind him the girls who knew Amanda broke rank, some crying, others talking; they had their arms around each other, their heads bent low as they dissected the news in disbelief. Only Cherry Atkinson stood apart, her long dark brown hair in two ponytails. She twisted the end of one in her fingers as she trailed behind, looking out at the glittering line of river that ran along the edge of our oval and up to the bridge where magic mushrooms grew in the dark rich soil under the shade of the overpass.

There was of course no hope of normal classes. As soon as we were out of Mr Castle's gaze and in the cool of our room, we did not go to our desks. What happened? We all asked each other the same question over and over again. Sonia, who was, I suppose, my best friend (although Cassie sometimes had the honour) couldn't believe I didn't know a thing.

‘Why would I?' I asked, irritated with her now.

‘Joe,' she told me. ‘Duh.'

I rolled my eyes as I sat on the window ledge, one leg up on the chair in front of me. Most afternoons Joe hung out at the waterfront. A group of them did. But he knew nothing. Or at least, that was how it seemed, and I tried to remember if there was anything that had happened the previous evening to indicate otherwise.

‘Maybe she was murdered.' Cassie plaited her hair and took an elastic off her wrist to tie the end. ‘It's creepy down there.'

‘Where?' I asked.

‘At the waterfront.' Cassie looked at me, her bright blue eyes rimmed with silvery eye shadow. She chewed on the edge of her fingernail. Suddenly she burst into tears.

Sonia put her arm around her. She, too, started crying.

At that moment, Miss Ingleton, who was our home-room teacher, clapped her hands. She was new to the school and even though it had only been a couple of weeks, we liked her.

‘Everyone is upset,' she told us. She sat on the edge of her desk and crossed her legs, her knees visible through the split in her faded wraparound skirt. ‘Talking about what has happened is good.' She looked around the room. ‘But I'm not sure that guesswork and rumours are going to help anything. If any of you have any questions, ask them now and I will do my best to answer.'

Cassie sniffed loudly. ‘Why are the police coming?'

‘As far as I know, they are not entirely sure how she died. They are hoping that some of the students may be able to shed some light on this.'

‘Do they suspect someone...?' I couldn't finish the question.

‘I don't know,' Miss Ingleton told us.

She walked towards the other window, which looked out across the heat-parched oval. There was a small bird on the ledge and it cocked its head to one side, chirruping loudly in the momentary silence. Miss Ingleton turned back to face us.

‘We should take a minute,' she said, ‘to think about Amanda and to send loving wishes to her family.' She bowed her head and closed her eyes. In the stream of light through the window, she was pale, illuminated, and we all looked at her, unsure as to whether we too should close our eyes. The classroom was quiet. I could hear the slow flick of the mower blades outside, and I knew the gardener was starting at one end of the oval, cutting lines into the green as he made his way up and down the great stretch of grass. Someone walked past the window. I could hear their footsteps on the asphalt that bordered the row of classrooms. They had probably been sent to carry a note. I looked around and saw that most of the class has their eyes closed now, heads bowed, in the same pose as Miss Ingleton, still standing in the stream of light. I shut my eyes too.

Amanda Clarke is dead, I thought, and I tried to see her face but I couldn't. In the darkness, it was the waterfront I saw. The mud at the tide edge pressed tight against my eyelids as the river slipped back, murky and dark, to reveal the rocky outcrops of sandstone and the crusts of oyster shells.

BOOK: Darkwater
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