Read The Search Online

Authors: Margaret Clark

The Search

BOOK: The Search
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About the book

Coolini Beach is the coolest place to be if you want to meet drop-dead gorgeous guys. The surf’s where they like to hang out. But when the city chicks arrive like flies after honey during the holiday period the competition gets tough for Serena and her friends. And rough when the bikies come to town. Coolini Beach Cafe is where you find out what’s going on and who knows the latest gossip. Be there or be square.

For my friend Joy, with love
And for the Surf Searchers:
Beau (Bozzer), Dylan (Swinger),
Geoffrey (Callum), Michael (Knockers),
Ryan (Pecker), Ben (Salt), Josh (Bruce)
and Kara (Lucky Legs)
.

CHAPTER 1

‘I’m telling you, it was Geoff Jansz! I swear, he walked in, said “G’day”, sauntered over, looked at the shelves, and strolled out again.’

Flick rested her hands on the shop counter and looked out through the windows at the rolling breakers crashing on the shore.

‘What did
you
say?’

Liz straightened from stacking tins on the shelf and leaned forward eagerly to hear more about this exciting event. Important people never came to Kayah Cafe: they usually went to Lorne and sat at the outside tables sipping cappuccinos and looking bored. Trust her luck to be taking a food order to Randy, the camping ground manager, when someone famous rolled in.

‘What did I say?’ Flick shrugged her shoulders. ‘I didn’t say anything. I just sort of mumbled at him.’

‘What? You couldn’t think of
anything
to say to
Geoff Jansz?
’ Liz blinked her eyes rapidly the way she always did when she was agitated.

‘Well, what would
you
have said?’

‘ “What’s cooking?” I’d have said that!’

‘Oh, sure. Like, he’s got a cooking show on TV, and everyone in the world probably says that to him. Anyway, I was still in shock. Sort of dumbfounded. I knew his face but I couldn’t put two and two together, until I woke up to who he was. Anyway, he’s a cookery expert. What if he’d actually bought something and eaten it?’

‘There’s nothing wrong with Kay’s homemade pies,’ said Liz huffily. ‘People drive from Warrnambool for her seafood ones. And her chicken Thai pies are unbelievable. Just imagine, he could’ve taken one bite, fallen in love with her steak and onion, and put her on TV.’

The two girls were serving in the Kayah Cafe at Coolini Beach, and they’d been really busy because it was the start of the summer season. Kay had been baking her pies non-stop all winter in the quiet season, filling the freezers ready for the tourists and holiday-makers who’d come flocking to the tiny
township in summer. She’d also baked batches of her famous Kayah cookies, fruit slices, and cakes too. It was hard to keep up the supply in the peak season, because not only did she bake her own pies and cakes, but she catered for the buses that brought tourists to look at the koalas up Coolini River Road, en route to see the Twelve Apostles, Lochart Gorge, and the rugged coastline.

Coolini Beach was the stop-off point for lovely takeaway country-style lunches from the cafe, eaten in the park or on the beach. And more and more buses were beginning to stop there, encouraging their passengers to order lunches, pile back in the bus for the short drive up the road for photo opportunities with koalas, then return to collect the food.

The cafe was actually part of the general store, which sold everything from food to fishing hooks. It was named after Kay, who owned it, and her daughter Roxie, who also helped run it. She was the ‘ah’, as in R for Roxie. Kay didn’t live at Coolini Beach: she said it was too close for comfort and she’d never be able to relax. She lived with her husband at Child’s Creek, a ten-minute drive away.

The Coolini Beach general store was the hub of the small village, but there weren’t any houses
close by. It stood on its own on a side road. The locals picked up their papers and mail and gossiped about who was doing what, when, why and how. If you wanted any news, you went to the store, where the news was so hot it burned your ears most of the time.

Surfers bought their wax, zinc cream and sunscreen there, drank litres of Big Ms and Breakers, scoffed down hamburgers with the lot and buckets of hot chips; the campers bought milk, bread, papers and groceries as well as pizzas for their dinner; tourists driving along the Great Ocean Road stopped for cappuccinos and sandwiches, bought postcards of the native animals; TV stations did cooking segments on the beach round the point, which was what they must have been doing with Geoff Jansz, because Maggie came into the store and said there was a Channel Nine van parked near Little Beach and a crowd of people on the sand near the rocks.

‘Geoff Jansz’ll be cooking up seafood,’ said Flick. ‘He came in here but he didn’t buy anything. He just took off his sunnies and said g’day to me.’

‘I was peering at them with my binoculars,’ said Maggie, whose house was nearby. ‘This fat bloke rolled in at sunrise and was stuffing around building a fire and setting up big black cooking pots.’

‘They wouldn’t catch much to fry up from those
pools
,’ Liz pointed out. ‘There’s only rock cod and the occasional leatherjacket.’

‘Nah, they would’ve brought it with them, probably a barramundi from up north and mussels from Melbourne,’ said Maggie derisively. ‘You can’t believe everything you see on TV, you know. Can I have a packet of B&H fours?’

‘Thought you’d given up smoking,’ said Liz as she reached for the cigarettes.

‘I am. I’m doing it gradually. I’ve gone from twelves to eights to fours. I’ve been smoking for forty years, you can’t expect me to give it up just like that. I’m weaning myself off the nicotine slowly.’ She looked at the packet. ‘Trouble is, I smoke more to get my fix. I’d better take another one.’

As Liz reached for another packet of cigarettes, Kay bustled in carrying a box of tomatoes from the coolroom. She was a short, cheerful woman with twinkling brown eyes and a happy disposition — that is, when she wasn’t getting stuffed about by people like Rob who was the village sleaze and came into the store every day.

As Maggie left the store clutching her cigarettes, Kay looked at Liz and grinned. Maggie had been giving up smoking for as long as Kay could
remember, which was for the last four years she’d owned the Coolini Beach general store.

Liz was fifteen and this was her first summer behind the counter, although she’d worked there last Easter with Kay, her daughter Roxie, and two other teenagers called Angela and Braden. Her parents had a beach house high up on the hill behind the store, so they’d been pleased when Liz got herself a job over the summer holidays.

Flick was eighteen, and it was her first summer at the store too, but she hadn’t given away much information about herself, only to say that she’d come from Adelaide on a working holiday. Astute as she was, Kay had figured there was something else to the story, but wisely didn’t press Flick for answers. She was glad that the two girls were good workers and got on well with each other and the customers.

‘So,’ Liz said, as Flick started straightening up the shelves, ‘did you meet that drop-dead gorgeous surfer down the beach last night?’

‘I did.’

‘And…?’

‘He’s
sixteen
. I can’t go out with a sixteen-year-old!’

‘You’re only eighteen.’

‘Exactly!’

‘Perlease! It’s not like you’re ten years older than him or something.’ Liz studied Flick as she bent over to rearrange some of the bottles of soft drink in the help-yourself fridge. ‘And you look younger than you are.’

‘Thanks a lot.’ Flick stood up and tugged impatiently at her shoulder-length blonde hair with one hand. ‘This hair of mine desperately needs a trim. My fringe keeps falling in my eyes.’

‘And nice eyes they are too,’ said a male voice.

Flick suppressed a groan as Rob came into the store, the plastic strands of curtaining swishing against his portly shape. Sleazy, he never stopped flirting with Flick or trying to cop a feel when she walked past him to get something.

When it was hot weather like this, she wore shorts and a midriff top with a black and white checked apron tied round her waist. Her legs were long, smooth and tanned from running along the beach and surfing, when she could get away from the store. She had on her short socks and sneakers, because working all day on her feet made them ache like mad by the end of the day.

Flick surveyed Rob with her usually warm brown eyes, which had just cooled by several degrees. He always looked like he needed a good soaking in a
deep bath. He was wearing a torn T-shirt that had seen better days, and his shorts rode low on his hips so that his beer belly flopped over the top. Dirty feet in rubber thongs completed his ensemble, and he hadn’t shaved for three days. He was rude and crude, and never stopped boasting about his job and how it was so important to the wellbeing of the campers. He cleaned the toilets and shower blocks every day, a job that he thought gave him status. He called himself a dunny budgie, and when the girls went to the Ladies there was always another new notice pinned to the back of the door. Everyone tried to fix the spelling on Rob’s notices, which got him riled up, resulting in yet another notice.

Pleese put your tampins in the bin providid. Bye order. The Dunny Budgie
, had been there this morning. By lunchtime it would probably be
Do not throe yur cardboard emptees on the floor. Bye Order. The Dunny Budgie
. His other favourite ones were
This toilet is knot to be bloked up. Bye Order. The Dunny Budgie
. and
Pleese do not pea on the seet. Bye Order. The Dunny Budgie
.

Flick had asked Nathan, one of the surf lifesavers, if Rob put messages on their toilet doors, but apparently he didn’t.

‘The blokes would tear them off and shove them
down his throat,’ Nathan had said. ‘You girls should do the same thing.’

Complaints to the camping committee got nowhere. Dunny budgies were hard to come by, and they didn’t want Rob to get offended and walk off the job, especially in peak season.

‘What about
us
getting offended?’ Flick had protested when she’d met the committee chairman taking a proprietary stroll through the sites.

‘He’s harmless. Just ignore it,’ was the response.

Nathan worked in the store from four till nine doing the pizzas. The rest of the time he surfed, was a lifeguard on Saturdays, and slept in a small tent up the end of the camping ground. His mission in life was to pull as many chicks as he could during the summer months. He was good-looking and he knew it — tanned body, dyed blond hair, wicked brown eyes, and he had a really good build. To ensure he maintained it, he worked out on the monkey bars every day in the kids’ playground, so everyone could admire his muscles.

As Rob was eyeing off Flick’s neat butt in her white shorts, Nathan came in for his regular lunch order of a chicken and salad roll, a bucket of chips, a sausage roll with sauce and an apple juice.

‘Gotta keep up my strength,’ he said to Liz with a
wink as she served him, looking flustered, which she always did when he came near her. ‘I’m up to twenty-six.’

‘Twenty-six what?’

‘Chicks.’

‘Oh. Yeah. Right.’

Liz tried to sound cool but felt her cheeks reddening. She thought Nathan was the most sexy thing on two legs, but he never gave her so much as a second glance. To him she wasn’t a beach babe, she was the scrawny-looking, flat-chested kid in the store.

Liz had short, straight brown hair, serious green eyes and her solemn little face was covered with freckles. She was as thin as a stick. She knew she wasn’t Nathan-bait, but it was nice to dream sometimes. Flick kept telling her that Nathan was a full-on jerk and to forget him, there were plenty of other really nice guys around. Nathan was trouble with a capital T.

‘Rob, are you going to order or are you just decorating the place?’ called Kay from the kitchen.

‘I’ll have a burger with the lot but no onion or pineapple, double cheese, sweet chilli sauce, salt, no pepper, on a sesame seed bun,’ he said, ‘and can you put it on my tab?’

Kay grimaced as she went to make his burger. He already owed about two hundred dollars for meals,
petrol and smokes. She was about to hit him with a bill for what he owed and she knew he’d argue about it, even though it was entered into the computer and there definitely weren’t any mistakes.

Most of the regulars ran up a tab, but they all paid on time. Except for Billy Weezy, and he’d cleared off up north and no one knew where he was. But everyone on the coast was glad he’d gone. Billy had lived in a rundown shack at Kane River and he was bad news. All the Weezys, who lived out bush when they weren’t in jail, were notorious! The police had suspected Billy of doing a series of house break-ins round the area, though they couldn’t prove it. There was no evidence, although certain items had turned up mysteriously for sale in Melbourne pubs.

Kay got busy at the hotplate and made Nathan his chicken roll while Rob’s burger was cooking, and deftly packed it into a carton. Flick had pulled the cappuccino machine apart to clean it because it hadn’t been frothing up very well. Someone had told Kay to soak the spout every night in cold water but it hadn’t solved the problem.

‘Oh, no. Here comes the first bus,’ she groaned, looking up from prising clogged, wet coffee grounds out of the machine. ‘And it’s only half-past eleven. It’s not supposed to be here till twelve.’

‘Hey, Liz,’ said Nathan over his shoulder as he was sauntering out the door. ‘You wanna go out, like, to the movies?’

Liz’s heart jumped into her mouth. Her hands trembled as she rearranged the fruit platter in the display case, and two apples tumbled off the plate. She scooped them up without looking at him.

‘I don’t mind,’ she mumbled at the apples.

‘Well, if you hang round here long enough and grow some tits someone’ll eventually ask you.’

He grinned and strolled off as Liz went crimson.

‘Creep,’ yelled Flick after his retreating figure, as the first of the bus passengers came through the door. The gangly-looking guy with glasses looked shocked.

‘Oh, sorry. I didn’t mean
you
!’ said Flick hurriedly, as more people jostled through the doorway.

‘Don’t worry, love,
I’ll
take you to the movies,’ said Rob, winking at Liz from his corner near the magazines, where he was scanning the pictures of big-busted, half-naked women.

‘Omigod,’ snuffled Liz, brushing at her eyes with the back of her hand.

But there was no time for Flick to comfort her as the passengers milled round looking at the chalkboard menu.

 

Soup of the Day:
homemade chicken and vegetable

$4.00

Roman Holiday:
hot salami in fresh tomato sauce and penne

$7.00

Shark Attack:
flake fillet fried in breadcrumbs with salad in a bun

$5.00

Kay’s Heavenly Burger:
chicken, avocado and salad in a bun

$4.50

Veging Out:
vegie burger, salad and chips

$5.00

Big Bird Burger:
emu steak with salad in a bun

$6.00

Seafood Surprise:
medley of seafood in crispy pie

$3.00

Bucket of chips

$1.50

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