A Story of Now: Chapter 53

“Ta-da!” Pete holds out his arms.

Claire, still sleepy eyed, looks around the living area and blinks. It’s spotless, the cleanest it’s looked since they first arrived and unleashed six people’s holiday on it. The tables are clear of glasses and mugs, the wooden floor swept, the rug shaken out, and the cushions piled neatly on the sofa.

“I did the kitchen too.”

Claire steps into the kitchen. The same again. Spotless. The surfaces are wiped clean, the dishes washed and piled up on the sink. The floor sparkles.

“What have you done?” She shakes her head.

He grabs her by the shoulders. “Happy belated birthday, Claire. Told you I’d think of something.”

She can’t stop staring. “This is amazing. I didn’t even hear you. When did you do this?”

“I woke up early, and I was bored, and I realised we’d have to clean up a lot. Thought I’d get a head start.” He hangs a damp tea towel over the back of a chair. “I’m sure there’s still stuff to do, but I wanted to help.”

“Pete, you’re possibly my favourite person in the world right now. Thank you.” Claire tells him.

The others wake one by one, each stopped in their tracks by the sight of the immaculate state of the cottage. Instead of spending the morning cleaning, as planned, they throw their bedding into the washing machine, make sandwiches with the last of the food, and take them down to the lake for a breakfast picnic and a swim.

“Pete, you are so my hero right now.” Nina pulls the crust off her sandwich and tosses it to Blue. “Thanks to you, we get one more swim.”

“I promised Claire a birthday present, and I’m a man of my word.” Pete looks at his watch. “I’d better get on the road soon, though. I have a family thing on tonight.”

“Oh, I don’t want to go home.” Eli sighs and lies back against the sun-baked rocks. “And I don’t want to go back to work tomorrow either.”

“Me either. I don’t want to go back to the real world.” Robbie pouts. “And just to make my return truly special, I have a 6am shift tomorrow morning.”

“Well, I have to work tonight,” Nina moans.



Claire tosses the last of her sandwich to Blue. He sniffs it and then snaffles it in one mouthful. “Hey, Neen, maybe you should go back with Pete—if that’s okay with Pete, of course. So you’re not late? I need to stay another couple of hours and hang out the sheets and towels and stuff so it’s ready for Mum and Dad. I don’t know what time I’ll get back.”

“That’s no problem,” Pete tells Nina. “As long as you don’t mind my crappy old car. Benny’s kind of cranky, but he’ll get us back, I promise.”

Nina laughs. “Nah, I love a bomb. Especially a bomb called Benny.”

Mia sits down beside Claire. “Do you have much to do? I can stay and help if you want?”

Before Claire can speak, Robbie sits up. “Well, if Mia stays to help Claire, can we grab a ride with you, too, Pete? I have something on tonight.”

“Yeah, of course. The more the merrier, Benny says. I’m going for one more swim, and then we can get going.” He jumps off the rocks and into the water.

Claire stares down at her hands and wonders how it happened so quickly that she’s been granted this unexpected gift of more time alone with Mia. She wonders if Robbie is doing it as a favour or if he really does need to get back. Either way, she’s grateful.


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