The last day of summer was a stinker and nobody was surprised, least of all Zoe Quinn, who thought no good deed goes unpunished as she packed her car. By eleven am there was no comfort in the shade and the weather app on Zoe’s phone predicted worse by noon. She made her way through the city traffic and then parked as close as she could to the reserve, turned the car off and groaned as cool air gave way to instant, stifling heat.
The beach umbrellas in the back of her car were going to look pretty even if they served only as decoration, rather than any real protection against the heat. As she stepped out of her car a white van pulled up beside her.
The passenger side door on the van opened and long tanned legs appeared followed by the impressive six-pack of an able bodied helper who squeezed out between the vehicles. Zoe smiled up into the familiar face and held out her arms for a hug, enjoying the embrace just a little too much despite the heat.
“Great to see you River,” said Zoe.
“You too, Zo,” said River and they made their way to the back of the van.
“On time, and all here,” said the beach bleached blonde digging into the stacks of chairs and boxes in the van.
“And much appreciated, Zac” said Zoe, opening the hatch of her car. “We’ve got plenty of time. You can start with the tables and chairs, that’ll give us the shape of the place.”
“What did I tell you?” said Zac. “She’s worse than my mum,”
Zoe rolled her eyes and lifted an armful of umbrellas, turned and walked to the space on the grass she had booked for the party.
“From there to there,” she said, pointing at a cluster of gum trees and a tall narrow sculpture. “Only as far as that big tree, but all the way to the edge there. We want two trestle tables together, so we’ll end up with four square tables. We also want one trestle for gifts and two for the food. Mia is coming with the tablecloth roll and the scissors.”
“And speak of the devil,” said Zac, watching a small red four wheel drive reversing into a parking spot.
“Fantastic,” said Zoe waving her arms around above her head.
Zac put down the stack of white folding chairs he was carrying. He thought of the slab of beer behind the drivers seat in the van, but it would have to wait until the party kicked on at Riv’s place.
“I brought sustenance for the workers,” said Mia, carrying an armful of water bottles to the shade beneath the biggest tree. “Frozen,”
“You are the best,” Zoe said, grabbing one of the bottles.
While Zac and River set up the chairs, tables, and umbrellas on weighted stands, Zoe and Mia cut the tablecloths to length and taped them down, put paper plates, knives and forks and cups on them and then strung bright red and yellow bunting around from tree to tree and to the ground so that it formed a loose boundary.
People started arriving at ten to twelve. By a quarter to one the caterer had come and set up the grazing table and almost everyone had arrived. The gift table had a decent amount of presents on it. As instructed, everyone was drinking their own soft drink, although Zoe saw a few pretty suspect-looking containers.
“She’s here,” Zoe heard someone say, and she walked towards the cars. She saw Ashleigh before Ashleigh saw her, and watched her face as she cycled through shock, panic and finally resigned good humour.
“Surprise!” Everyone seemed to say it at a different time, but that kind of worked and felt casual and set the mood. Ashleigh walked up to Zoe and hugged her.
“I’ll kill you later of course,” she said.
“Of course,” Zoe laughed. “Happy thirtieth.”
Ash turned to her husband and told him “You’ll keep, Ryan,” and he shrugged and smiled.
“I was under orders,” he said. “Zoe’s orders,”
The food was a big charcuterie spread that was already warm. Zoe encouraged everyone to eat as soon as possible to avoid any possibility of food poisoning. People helped themselves and sat in cliques around the tables, laughing and complaining about the heat. After only an hour, someone suggested kicking on to Rivers place early for the pool and booze portion of the day. Zoe felt a bit frustrated after all the trouble she’d gone to, but she didn’t complain, and anyway, all the photo’s on Instagram were proof that everyone had had a blast so far. The thought of jumping into a pool was heavenly.
Everyone helped stow the party back into the van and some of the cars and not one person bailed out. It was going to be a big night.
River had inherited his grandmothers house at Bondi Beach, so he was used to hosting the crowd.
Thankyou for reading the first draft of the first part of the first chapter of my book. If you look carefully, you’ll see it’s imperfect and that’s exactly the way a first draft is. I have many more words to write, and I can’t wait to share them with you. Sometimes the first draft ends up being pretty close to the final draft, but more often as I write the story, events that occur later in the story necessitate changes, tweaks, huge chunks being shifted around or deleted. Welcome to my story.
I assert ownership of all the words in my blog from today forward. This is an original work and it belongs to me.