Cold and Awake

I groggily blinked my eyes open. I’d been having such a lovely dream – alone on a beach, a beautiful waitress bringing me drinks. Then, all of a sudden, my serene beach had been interrupted by a blizzard that had swept through and ruined my cocktail.

         ‘Wha-what’s… my daiquiri…’ I mumbled.

         I heard a laugh from next to me and opened my eyes fully. Julie was grinning, even as she wrestled with the air conditioner.

         ‘Sorry,’ she laughed. ‘The cooling broke again. Now you should go back to sleep.’

         ‘What’s the point,’ I pouted. ‘I’ll never get that kind of service again.’

         ‘What?’

         ‘What?’ I repeated, trying to rub consciousness back into my eyeballs. ‘Where are we?’

         Amused at how quickly I’d changed the subject, Julie pointed to a sign. ‘Just outside of Adelaide.’

         I nodded, then frowned.

How long had I been asleep?

‘We might have to get this looked at though,’ she said, gesturing at the air conditioner. ‘Neither of us can sleep when we need to.’

‘I’ll look up somewhere that does cooling system repairs,’ I yawned, pulling out my phone.

‘Make sure it’s one of those decent, general mechanics,’ she added as I typed it in.

‘Why?’

‘Well you’ll never believe this, but this car is due for a service,’ she laughed.

‘But we just got it!’

‘We did drive 770 kilometres last night,’ she shrugged.

‘Still…’ I grumbled. ‘We shouldn’t have to pay for that.’

‘Feel like taking a chance on another engine exploding?’ she asked, eyebrow raised.

I rolled my eyes. ‘Fine. I’ll look for a place that does air conditioners and log book services near Adelaide. Happy?’

‘Of course I am!’ she beamed. ‘I love road trips!’

‘This one is starting to wear on me,’ I frowned. ‘And we’re so far behind schedule–’

Pffft,’ she scoffed. ‘Who cares about a schedule!’

‘I do,’ I said. ‘Clearly, I do.’

‘Well,’ she said with a smile, ‘we’ll see if we can fix that.’

Seeing the Palace

Amira stood and glared at the palace on the horizon. The sight winded her like a punch to the gut. Like most of the children in her village, Amira had been raised on stories of the royal palace, of its towering buttresses and gleaming stone walls hewn from the mountainside. And the stories had crawled into her mind and taken root. For years, she had stoked the memories, letting them dance around her mind like the flickering flames of a campfire, rising to an inferno as she dreamed of running through the palace with a ball gown billowing around her. But the Seed Shortage had cast icy water over those dreams. Being forced to buy seeds online, scrambling for scraps of internet connection amongst the muck and dirt of the Hollows — it was certainly no way to live.

“Do you truly think we can do it?” Ro asked from beside her.

Amira scowled, running her fingers gently along a blade of grass. “The palace walls have never been breached before.”

Ro scoffed. “So what?” She shifted under the weight of the rose she’d strung across her back. It was the size of her forearm and bristly with thorns; a perfect imitation of the blood red roses the palace guards used as weapons. “We can’t keep living off those standard garden roses for sale in the Hollow markets. It’ll never be good enough, and you know it.”Amira nodded absentmindedly. When Xylia had first presented the idea for the heist, Amira had readily accepted. It was a chance to leave the Hollows, to see the world’s gardens beyond the brown soil walls that had encased her entire childhood. But now, squinting at the hulking fortress of the palace, she couldn’t help but wonder what kind of job this would be. Amira didn’t know anything about espionage, but why should stealing the seed compendium from the palace be any different to swiping handfuls of soil from market stalls? The most well-protected building in the world, she reminded herself. What she needed was a strong, specialised team, but all she had was Ro.

Lost and Alive

‘So if we’re here…’ I traced my finger down the map as Julie craned her neck to see passing road signs, shouting them out to me. ‘Then that means the next turnoff should be…’

         I slammed my finger down on the page triumphantly. ‘Whittle’s Creek!’

         ‘Nice work honey,’ Julie grinned at me. The car flew along the freeway, the turnoff approaching. We both leant forward to read the sign.

         Ringwood.

         ‘Or we’re completely lost,’ I sighed, slamming the map shut.

         ‘Hey, it’s an adventure,’ Julie beamed, trying to cheer me up. ‘Who knows where we’ll end up! I love that!’

         A reluctant smile tugged at my face. ‘I guess you’re right.’

         ‘Of course, I’m right!’ she laughed. ‘Besides, what else could actually go wro–’

         The engine cut her off with an enormous bang and we both squealed. She grabbed the wheel and wrestled the car back under control, gliding it safely to the emergency lane.

         ‘Are you alright?’ she asked me, wide-eyed, cutting me off as I tried to ask the same thing. We both nodded that we were okay, and leant back in our seats.

         ‘Well, looks like we’ll be finding a mechanic operating in Ringwood,’ she laughed.

         ‘Just find me a Ringwood burial plot too,’ I groaned, putting my head in my hands.

         ‘It’s just a little bump in the road–’

         ‘Oh, Jules,’ I sighed, ‘this whole trip has been a disaster.’

         ‘I’ve had a lovely time!’ she protested.

         ‘We don’t even know what state we’re in!’

         ‘Why do we need to?’ she asked with a smile.

         ‘Well, for starters, we need to know if this is a Ringwood mechanic that does RACV Inspections.’

         She rolled her eyes and laughed. I chuckled with her for a second, then squeezed her hand. She squeezed it back.

         ‘Well,’ I started, stretching my shoulders. ‘Feel like coming for a walk?’

         ‘I’d love to,’ she smiled.

Giving Special Attention

Hi, my name is Georgia, and I am the CEO of Melbourne’s leading law firm. I was asked to be a guest writer for this website this week, so I’ve decided to take you through one of my daily schedules. It takes a lot of skill and perseverance to become as successful as I am, so I’m glad my work is finally being recognised. I hope you enjoy this post, and remember to connect with me for potential opportunities or any questions you have!

On Friday morning, my office hosted one of the most established office tinting companies Melbourne currently has. They arrived right on time, laden with toolboxes and equipment to help them do their job correctly. In most other companies, these tradesmen would be greeted by a lowly office assistant, however, I take a more hands-on approach to my business. I feel that mingling with the lower members of my team is a great way to earn their trust and respect. So, I left my plush private office and greeted the men from the office glass tinting company. We employed them specifically to tint every single one of our windows. Our office building is a standalone building on the outskirts of the CBD, and we own it all, so it’s up to us to maintain it. I’ve heard several other companies in our area talk about the benefits of tinting windows, so I decided to look into it. It turns out there are a lot of amazing benefits such as reducing heat in summer, that I believe could be particularly useful for my office. 

Anyway, I gave the workers some tea, which I had made myself. I never do things like make tea anymore, as it is usually left for my assistant, but I wanted to make a good impression. I am hoping that these workers will be chuffed by the special attention they are receiving, and give us some discounts moving forward. If nothing else, it helps to establish a business relationship with other successful companies.

My Retail Job

Most of the time, working in retail is a lot of fun. People always roll their eyes when I say this, but I truly do enjoy customer service. Getting to talk to people every day? Getting to share my recommendations and my opinion? I adore that stuff. It’s like being a lawyer, but with so much less stress. I work in a clothing store, which is amazing since I am surrounded by clothes. The only downside is that I am on my feet all day, for hours at a time. They hurt so much when I take my shoes off at night.

Last week, I started looking for a place that does podiatry self-referral. Cheltenham has a few of these around, which is lucky since I don’t really have the time for going through the whole process of getting a referral. That’s another downside of working retail: I often work odd hours. When regular offices close, I’m still working. It’s even worse during busy periods like the Christmas period, or Black Friday, since the store stays open all the way until midnight to accommodate all the frenzied and last-minute shoppers.

Part of me suspects that my foot issues are coming from the type of shoes that I am wearing. They’re a very fashionable shoe, but they’re not particularly comfortable nor supportive. I do want to change them at some point, but I don’t want to spend money, and I don’t want to look ugly in them, either. I’m thinking about getting some heel and arch support insoles for flat feet, as a bit of a compromise. I know I used to have flat feet as a child, but I’m not sure if they have improved in the decades since. I’m not even sure if they can improve at all. Frankly, I know nothing about the muscles in the foot. That’s why I’m grateful for podiatrists.

Summer Beach Heat

Now that it’s summer, I’m spending a lot of time at the beach. We live in the city, so my friends and I usually pack our gear into one of our cars and make a whole day out of the trip to the beach. We’ll usually leave in the early hours of the morning, stopping off at a cute cafe along the way to grab some breakfast or brunch. Then, we’ll drive to whichever beach has taken our fancy on that particular day. We like to switch it up for the sake of variety, roaming around to both Melbourne’s most popular beaches and best-kept secrets.

Sometimes, it can be a problem not knowing where we are heading off to until we actually leave. For example, one day my friend was driving when we noticed her vehicle needed a car air con regas. Not a single one of my friends knows anything about cars, so when the air conditioner stopped working, we were very confused. It was a hot day, and we were already sweltering beneath our piles of beach towels and spare clothes. That would have been bad enough, if it weren’t for the fact that we were in the middle of nowhere, with absolutely no clue where we were, and no knowledge of where the nearest mechanic would be.

After a few minutes of arguing, we decided to use our phones to find the best car mechanic Moorabbin had to offer. According to the directions given to us by the app, we happened to be in the suburb of Moorabbin at the time, so it seemed like the most logical option for us. We rolled down all our windows and tried to construct makeshift fans with folded pieces of paper, but the heat was pervasive. It ended up being about a five minute drive to the mechanic store, and we luckily all made it there without fainting from the heat!

Adult Doll House

When I was younger, I spent a lot of time with my dollhouse. It was this cute little pink thing I had received for Christmas one year, made from a combination of plastic and wood. As a child, I would sit in front of it for hours at a time, rearranging tiny pieces of furniture and moving my dolls around within it. I guess it came as no surprise to anybody that when I got the chance to renovate my own real, adult house, I became slightly obsessive. I looked through the best kitchen renovations and design companies Melbourne had to offer, and ended up choosing one whose portfolio aligned with my own vision.

Since I know I’m not planning on selling my house any time soon, I’ve decided to really lean into my aesthetic when working with the designers on my new kitchen. People have called me unique in the past, and I’m sure they often mean it as an insult, but I’m proud of the things I like. Rainbows? Vintage art? Eccentric plush couches? It all makes a room appear so much more interesting. None of this ‘minimalist’ stuff. I want my home to have its own personality. I wouldn’t want it to become sentient or anything. All I want is for someone to look at it and say, “Hey, that reminds me of you.”

Once my kitchen renovation is complete, I’ll need to get started on the laundry renovations. Melbourne houses like mine have two laundries — one upstairs, and the other in the basement — so there’s a lot to think about. However, that’s not for a little while. Until then, I’ll be working with the designers to establish all the little details for my new kitchen. We’ll have to plan things like cabinet and countertop materials, where to put the new stainless steel sink and appliances, and all the new pantry space I’ll need to hold ingredients for my baking.  

 

Grieving the Workshops

Charlie had been back in New Hobart for two weeks now, but she still hadn’t seen Fred. She’d spent most of that time in bed, because apparently, she had been badly concussed after the attack at Cambridge. It must have been a delayed concussion, though, because she’d managed to get through two whole conversations on the radio just fine.

Then again, Charlie didn’t really know that much about concussions. 

It was hard not to feel down about how much the Ivory Skull had lost in the attacks by the Little Men. The old car mechanic near Brighton was in ruins, so far beyond repair that it wasn’t funny. They’d lost so many numbers. People, too. They’d lost a lot of numbers and a lot of people.

It made Charlie want to head out and start hunting these Little Men, or Little Devils as she’d started thinking of them as. She knew it would be foolish to do so – there was no chance she’d survive. Regardless, something had to be done. It kind of felt like they were just waiting for the Little Devils to finish the job. They were sitting ducks.

Charlie gazed out the window, watching the twinkling lights of New Hobart. It really was a beautiful little bastion of humanity. Maybe the Little Devils would recognise that and leave them alone.

She sighed. Oh, how she’d miss that old Brighton auto repair shop. She would have vengeance for what those Little Devils had done, one way or another. Charlie simply hoped that the rest of the Ivory Skull would join her in hunting them down.

Perhaps it was time she took matters into her own hands. Fred Bentleigh had been busy since her return – that was fine – but if he wasn’t going to take the time to see her, she’d have to get proactive. She’d waited patiently long enough. It was time to storm into his office and demand to know what he thought about this business. 

No more pretending to be mechanics working in Hobart between them. Things were serious now, and she needed to start treating it that way.

 

Glass Factory Conquered

By the time Rylee reached the other end of the glass manufacturing room, there was enough scattered glass along the production line that you could swim through it. You’d end up with hundreds of cuts and then probably bleed out, but you could technically do it.

It reminded her of the time she’d helped Mai move, many years earlier. Her older sister had bought a beautiful tabletop of frosted glass. They’d grabbed the glass from the truck and began carrying it to her new apartment. Maphira had slipped a little, so they had gently put the tabletop down. What happened next was something Rylee would never forget.

The glass tabletop had shattered into thousands of pieces right before their eyes. They hadn’t dropped it with any sort of force. No, the corner had simply touched the ground and the whole thing had exploded. She supposed that the glass had become unstable in the truck, and once some of the particles got shifted again, the whole thing had collapsed. It had been so broken that even a business offering commercial glazing wouldn’t have been able to fix it.

Rylee had never thought she’d see that much shattered glass again. And yet, this was so much more.

Thankfully, the turrets had stopped firing once she’d crossed the factory’s main room. However, the sirens and red lights continued to give her the world’s mightiest headache. Rylee had nothing on her to get rid of the pain, so perhaps she’d be best off looking for some water. 

To get out of the production room, Rylee climbed one last glass balustrade. Near Melbourne, people were bound to be pretty annoyed about the delay to glass production they were about to face, Rylee supposed, landing on the steel walkway.

Many challenges likely lay ahead, if she wanted to find the owner of this glass and steel production business. But first, she had to take a little detour to get a drink.