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Authors: Di Morrissey

The Reef

BOOK: The Reef
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Di Morrissey is Australia's leading lady of fiction. She planned on writing books from age seven, growing up at Pittwater in Sydney. She quickly realised you don't leave school and become a novelist. Di trained as a journalist, worked as a women's editor in Fleet Street, London, married a US diplomat and in between travelling to diplomatic posts and raising daughter Gabrielle and son Nicolas, she worked as an advertising copywriter, TV presenter, radio broadcaster and appeared on TV and stage. She returned to Australia to work in television and published her first novel,
Heart of the Dreaming,
in 1991.
The Reef
is her thirteenth novel.

Di lives in Byron Bay, New South Wales, Australia, when not travelling to research her novels, which are all inspired by a specific landscape.

Di Morrissey can be visited at her website:


Also by Di Morrissey

Heart of the Dreaming
The Last Rose of Summer
Follow the Morning Star
The Last Mile Home
Tears of the Moon
When the Singing Stops
The Songmaster
Scatter the Stars
The Bay
Kimberley Sun
Barra Creek
The Reef

First published 2004 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
This Pan edition published 2005 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney

Reprinted 2006

Copyright © Lady Byron Pty Ltd 2004

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in
any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,
recording or by any information storage and retrieval system,
without prior permission in writing from the publisher.

National Library of Australia
cataloguing-in-publication data:

Morrissey, Di.
The reef.

ISBN 9 780 33042 2154.

ISBN 0 330 42215 4.

1. Great Barrier Reef (Qld.) – Fiction. I. Title.


Typeset in 11/13pt Sabon by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group

Internal illustrations: Ron Revitt and Pauline Jonoch

Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable
products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing
processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.

The characters and events in this book are fictitious and any resemblance to
real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.

These electronic editions published in 2007 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced
or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any
person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any
form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying,
recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the

The Reef

Di Morrissey


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To all those who work to save the sea


For all the women in my family, my women friends and mentors over the years – thank you. I hope I lived up to expectations.

And special love to my mother Kay and my own bella daughter Gabrielle. You're both an inspiration!

To darling Boris, whose love and support makes my life easier and happier. (And we share the delight of Bunya.)

My son Nick for his love, wisdom and gentle humour.

And for everyone at Pan Macmillan, including my publisher the intrepid James Fraser, my editor the gorgeous Nikki Christer, and good road buddy and publicist, the indomitable Jane Novak.

Thank you Ian Robertson for being the sweet old-fashioned lawyer (!) and good mate that you are.

For Rosemary and Jim Revitt. Jim continues to be my biggest mentor since I was a little girl.

Thanks Ron Revitt for the drawings and for being more big brother than Uncle.

A huge thank you to Southern Cross University – especially Professor Peter Harrison, Director Marine Studies and Director SCU Whale Research Centre, for all he taught me on Heron Island and his patient corrections. And David Lloyd, School of Environmental Science and Executive Officer SCU Whale Research Centre (of which I'm proud to be Patron). Also thank you Dr David Miller for medical and nautical advice while we played tennis. And special thanks to Liz Adams for being a great sounding board!


Country Victoria, 1980

The Seventh Wave

stow their holiday necessities in the small caravan, making sure her favourite doll, colouring book and pencils were put in the box with her brother's fishing rod, books and the snap cards.

Christina Campbell pushed the box under the bench seat alongside the dropside table. ‘There, now you know where your and Teddy's things are kept.'

‘Can I have Daisy back now? It's dark in there.'

Christina smiled at her anxious five-year-old daughter. ‘She'll be fine, she's asleep. Daddy wants
everything we're taking packed in the caravan by tonight. You don't want to leave Daisy doll behind, do you?'

‘Where's my bucket and spade?'

‘It's in, darling, we won't forget anything.' Christina hoped she was right. The caravan, though old and travel-weary, was a new acquisition for the family and this would be their first real camping holiday. Most important of all, they were going to the seaside. A first. It would be a welcome diversion from their daily struggle on the farm, battling drought and low stock prices with the bank manager hovering. Christina thought again how her husband Roger had surprised them all with the caravan.

He'd towed it home one afternoon after being away for two days trying to placate the bank manager, going to the cattle sales and talking to other farmers in the same boat as they were. She worried about him spending money on something as unnecessary as a caravan, never believing they'd take it away for a proper holiday. But, for the first time in many months, Roger looked cheerful.

‘Rolly Blake was practically giving it away. Now his wife's gone and the kids want to sell up he figured they'd have no use for it. And you know what, love, things could get a bloody sight worse than they are now judging from what I heard in town. So I reckon we should give the kids, all of us, a bit of a break. God knows when we'll be able to go again.'

Or when we last did, Christina thought, but
she merely opened the door to see what the van was like inside. The kids had come running, and jumped around in delight at the little house on wheels. And Christina had to admit it looked very practical; indeed, well laid out. A woman's hand was evident in the interior. She glanced back at her beaming husband. ‘It's very serviceable. Where would we take it? Surely not far?'

‘I've figured it out. Bernie Allen next door is going to come in and mind the farm so I reckon if we sell that old bull we'll have enough to go right across to the coast.'

Their seven-year-old son Teddy yelped at this. ‘You mean the seaside, Dad? We can go fishing!'

‘You bet. No more trying to find a yellow belly in our dam. We'll fish for the big ones in the ocean.'

Driving to the coast was an adventure, for they got to spend two nights in the caravan. The children wanted to travel in the caravan as they drove but had to content themselves with bouncing in the back seat of the car, pestering their father.

‘Are we nearly there yet?'

‘How much longer?'

‘I want my bucket an' spade.'

The caravan park faced the strip of beach through shady she-oaks. The headland on the south jutted into the ocean and white-tipped waves crashed on rocks at its base. A tidy lighthouse sat on top. At the northern end of the
beach flat rocks were exposed at low tide, filled with rock pools and small channels. Waves lapped over the edge of the rocks and high dunes rose beyond the sand.

The Campbell family were welcomed into the tight-knit caravan community. Most were old hands who went there every year, so the family were quickly initiated into the customs and methods of caravaning. The children had playmates, the men drank beer and yarned, while the women discussed shortcuts in preparing meals and daily chores. Christina, ‘Call me Tina, Roger does', had been shy at first. Most of the women in the park were from city suburbs or small towns and not an isolated farm. It made Christina realise how starved she was of female company.

The family tended to keep to themselves for most of the day, coming back to the caravan with its awning over the table for lunch. Christina indulged in the rare pleasure of an afternoon nap while Roger took the children to the beach for several hours. Evenings were sociable times with games and occasional meals shared with neighbouring campers.

Teddy and Jennifer loved the beach, although they didn't venture into the sea. Jennifer couldn't swim at all and Teddy had only had a couple of sessions at the community pool in town. And town was too far away for regular lessons.

There was a small pool in the grounds of the
motel next door to the caravan park and one of the parents in a neighbouring caravan offered to teach Teddy to swim ‘in no time flat'.

Teddy wanted to catch a big fish. His father had put a new reel on his old rod and now knew the best kind of bait to use. Several of the men had brought back fish they'd caught off the beach and there had been a big communal fry-up of whiting fillets. Teddy wanted he and his dad to catch a bigger fish, like a blackfish or a cod, and so Roger promised to take him to the rock ledge at low tide the following afternoon.

‘Coming, luv? Sit under the umbrella and watch us bring in a big one for dinner?'

Christina shook her head. She looked forward to the luxury of lying on the plastic lounge with a paperback Deadwood Dick while Roger entertained the children. ‘Jenny . . . put your sunhat on. You too, Teddy.'

‘Aw Mum, I've got zinc on my nose. That's enough. My hat'll blow off or something.'

‘He'll be right. Now, you got your bucket and spade, Jennifer? You got the bait, Teddy? Then we're all set. See you later, Tina.'

‘Have a good time. You be a good girl, Jennifer. Don't you wander off. Keep an eye on her, Roger.'

‘Tina, she's happy as can be making castles and emptying the rock pools into her bucket. You have a nice relax.'

‘You sure you don't mind?' said Christina. Roger had offered to take her lounge chair down
onto the sand with the beach umbrella, but Christina found it too hot and glary. She liked the time on her own outside the caravan where she could get a cool drink or make a cup of tea. Sometimes she had a cigarette and a pot of tea with the woman in the next caravan. In the heat of the afternoon it was quiet around the park and Christina enjoyed having time to herself for once, with no pressing jobs at the house or farm, or children demanding attention. She wanted to make the most of this two-week respite before returning to . . . she hated to think.

She sighed and dropped her book in her lap and closed her eyes. Why was her life so damned hard? She was so naive when she got married. God, if she'd known this was how her life would be . . . Her mother's pursed lips and disapproving expression flashed into her mind. Roger Campbell hadn't been deemed ‘good enough'. But who was her mother to have airs and graces? Christina's father was a hardworking, heavy-drinking panel beater barely able to provide more than the basic wage for his family.

Christina didn't want to marry any of the sons of her father's friends or those in their small suburban social network. A chance meeting with a boy from the bush seemed like an escape route. Little did she know. Still, eventually she and Roger had managed to scrape together enough to buy their own small property.

She'd make damned sure her daughter did better. She wanted Jennifer to have a good job,
something she could fall back on if she needed. Like teaching, nursing, working in a bank. Christina didn't trust, or like, men much. They couldn't be relied on to live up to their promises. She'd watched her father wear her mother down, so many women friends had talked about their disappointments in marriages, and Roger hadn't turned out to be the success she'd hoped. Maybe she wanted too much. Roger did accuse her of never being satisfied with her lot. If she had a career, a job of some kind, maybe things would be different. But what could she do? She had two young kids and was a farmer's wife on a dying farm.

Tina stubbed out her cigarette. Well, she'd have to make the best of it for now. Once the kids were older and when the farm had, hopefully, come good, then her life might change for the better.

To Roger the coast was a world free of cares. Free from the endless round of jobs to be done, the gutwrenching sight of thin cattle, scrappy feed and near-empty dams. Of constantly feeling tired and depressed but putting on a brave show for his cheerful and eager children while a weary Christina wore a tight, unhappy face.

Here he felt like a kid again. He and Teddy talked at length about rigging their lines, casting, and how they'd land their big catch. He kept glancing back to Jennifer, who was totally absorbed in
paddling and peering into the rock pools, finding small shells, seaweed and pretty rocks to put in her bucket of water. She was an independent little thing, he thought, fondly. She'll be all right in this world. He just hoped Tina wouldn't lay all her ambitions on Jennifer and try to live the life she never had through their daughter.

He knew they were having a tough time financially, and it had drained them both of all feelings. They went through the motions, but the closeness, the affection, the friendship, weren't there. Had they ever been, he wondered with a flash of insight. He knew how Tina felt and it made him feel more inadequate and sad. She'd known what he was, what he'd aspired to do – own and run his own farm – and he'd done that. His mother had told him to marry a girl off the land, they knew what they were in for. A girl from the outer suburbs of a big city wouldn't last when they hit the inevitable tough times that were part of country life. Well, at least Tina was sticking by him.

He tried not to listen to a niggling voice in the back of his head that questioned their staying together. Maybe they'd be better off going their own ways. If it wasn't for the kids. They were the glue that held them together. And Roger adored his kids – the thought of not being with them every day was anathema to him. As his mum said, for better or worse, you made your bed, you sleep in it.

His musings had distracted him and he glanced at his son concentrating and fiddling with his reel
before he turned to check on Jennifer. She wasn't there.

He felt the bile rise in his throat and he took a step back and then saw her small figure, her sunhat blown off and caught at the back of her head by the elastic band, as she crouched over the pool at the edge of the rocks. She'd obviously followed the small channel to the edge of the sea, fascinated by the life in the flowing underwater highway. But she was too close to where the waves came onto the rock ledge.

He turned away and shouted past Teddy, ‘Jennifer! Jennifer . . . go back to the beach. You're too close to the . . .'

Teddy turned and looked at where Jennifer was crouched, so none of them saw the looming large and unexpected wave.

They say it's every seventh wave. But who was counting. This swollen wall of water must have been waiting, gathering the ocean volume into its breast so that it was full, robust and consuming. In a charged rush it flushed itself up and over the rocks in a release of foaming energy that swept all before it. Roger was bowled over and staggered backwards, helplessly reaching, grasping, straining towards the disappearing figure of his son. Both were swirled beneath the churning white water and bumped off the ledge.

Jennifer hadn't seen it coming either. She'd lifted her head at the sound of her father's voice,
then her world was turned upside down. She didn't understand what had happened. She closed her eyes in fright as she felt herself being tumbled off-balance, felt something hard against her leg, a roaring in her ears.

Was she floating? Flying? She opened her eyes. All was silent and calm around her. She was suspended in a blue void. Was that sunlight ahead? A small bright red and green shape buzzed past her. She turned her head. It was a beautiful little fish. A very busy fish that darted down to where a lacy pink and purple carpet was spread. Slowly she saw other movement: the gentle sway of a long necklace of green seaweed, the pulsing dance of a cluster of translucent lavender anemones hiding a hovering tiny orange and black fish. Bubbles floated past.

‘I'm under the water,' thought Jennifer. ‘I'm in the city of the sea!' She'd been imagining the channel in the rocks as being like a busy road leading to some magic place – and here it was. She moved an arm, kicked a leg and found she could move effortlessly in this strange world. She stretched out her arms and felt herself moving upward. The blue shimmered with golden arcs like wheat fields.

But then a great black shape shot in front of her and lunged at her in a hiss of bubbles and she felt herself grabbed and forced up towards the light. In a panic she tried to fight off whatever was holding her, but suddenly she was thrust out of the
beautiful world to crash through the surface of the ocean. There was a watery, wavy image on the rock ledge, a man waving and shouting something. Was it Dad?

BOOK: The Reef
4.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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