By: Amarinda Jones

Chapter One

Mary Dalton lay on her back, arms outstretched and legs spread wide allowing the gentle yet high swell of the waves lift her up and down like driftwood bobbing in the ocean. Driftwood. Yeah that’s me. She had come to the conclusion that her life was like that of wood. She was there but no one really paid attention to her until their need made them look her way. Then it was “Mary do this” and “Mary do that”.

And Mary did whatever was asked of her. It wasn’t because she was the obedient kind. Far from it. Meek was not in her vocabulary. She really wanted to tell them to

“fuck off and leave me alone.” But she didn’t. Mortgage repayments and other bills stopped her from saying what she really wanted to say. “Oh, but one day I will,’ she muttered to herself as she moved her hands back and forward in the water.

On this calm summer’s day as she relaxed and allowed the ocean to take hold of her body and carry her back and forth at its whims, she felt relaxed for the first time in a long time. Despite her driftwood status, a raw edginess of anxiety had been gnawing at her. Why? She couldn’t say. It was like she had to do something or go somewhere or it would be too late to do what she was meant to do. “Whatever that is.” And that in itself was odd to Mary. She had no idea why she felt so anxious.

Work was boring and her life was drab. If it wasn’t for the fact she was battling with her mother over her sister’s upcoming wedding and the insistence of the Dalton matriarch that Mary had to be escorted by a man because without one it would look

‘odd’, there would be nothing happening at all.

“Which is nuts, because my whole family is odd.” Besides it was unlikely anyone would notice if Mary was there or not. Her sister Fran was always the main focus of attention. Apart from her sibling’s overly large nose, which her mother declared haughtily to anyone who commented upon it “It’s a sign of aristocracy”, Fran’s overly blonde hair, contact lens enhanced blue eyes and a whippet-like body was a designer’s dream. Mary, with her average nose, her average, plump body and average brown hair was just there. On the sideline. Generally looking bored. As she would be at the wedding, because it was all about Fran and her mother. That was understandable. The bride always stole the show. Though, if Mary relented and wore the god-damn awful, red hooker-like dress her mother wanted her to wear that was too tight and made her breasts all but explode from the plunging neckline, she would be the centre of attention for reasons other than matrimonial. Her mother’s theory was, “You have to put yourself out there, Mary, and show them what you’ve got. You’ll never get married otherwise.” To Mary, exploding boobs were too much information and there was no way Mary wanted to bring any rational, normal man to a family wedding and scar him for life. And marriage? While it was her mother’s goal for all her daughters, it was not Mary’s. She planned to wear black mainly because she looked good in it and she knew it would drive her mother crazy.

She thought about Fran’s fiancé. The word ‘sucker’ came to mind. Will Williamson had no idea what he was letting himself in for hitching up to the Dalton clan. He was nice, normal and as far as Mary could tell, not impaired with an insane mother who sought world domination. That he chose to marry Fran indicated he may have a hidden flaw in his carefully, Ken doll-like demeanor or it was indeed true and opposites did attract or he was from Mars as her sister Clare believed.

Mary wondered if her younger sister would be at the wedding. That at least would be fun to see their mother suck in her breath in horror as her lesbian sister showed up in a man’s dinner suit, with her latest girlfriend in tow, as she threatened to do. Mary hoped she did. Clare, she liked. Clare never worried about what other people thought of her. Clare was a free spirit. “She’s not driftwood like me.” Clare was like a burning building on fire. People watched and waited for the inevitable explosions.

She sighed and pushed down her sunglasses so they barely clung to the end of her nose. She always went swimming with them on. Those, and a battered, old straw hat and a black Rash Guard ‘rashie’ swimsuit that covered her from shoulders to just above her knee. She wore it because her skin was fair and the Far North Queensland sun could rip the hide off you if you weren’t prepared. Besides Mary was always reluctant to display her thighs. At thirty-two she had long ago accepted she had cellulite and all the miracle cream and exercise in the world couldn’t shift it.

So she covered what she could and felt a little bit better about herself.