Herbie and Kayla – Excerpt from Mr 303
The following is an excerpt from Mr 303, my new book which was released on March 31st, 2016. Available now on Amazon.
Herbie drove along the freeway heading south while feeling a combination of excitement and apprehension. The drive from Perth to Mandurah should take just under an hour, but he was not ready. As he neared the exit towards Mandurah, he had an impulse to continue on a little further as he suddenly remembered a special place from his past.
A few minutes later, he drove towards the coast and stopped at a set of traffic lights. His thoughts were in too many places and he was finding it harder to focus; he really needed to stop and take a short break. As he rounded the bend on the winding road, a sign informed him that he was close. He had known the area well once, regardless of the development that had changed the landscape since.
He parked his Ute, opened the door, and took off his shoes and socks. He didn’t care if anyone saw an otherwise well-dressed man strolling along the beach barefoot. After locking the car, he headed to the pathway that led to the beach itself and walked along the sand. Herbie’s thoughts were mostly of her. She’d broken his heart once, and he had taken a lifetime to get over it. In fact, he often thought that he’d never gotten over her.
Once, a sweet young girl he’d dated for a few months had screamed at him during a heated argument. Her parting words were that he would never be able to love anyone because he was still stuck on his childhood sweetheart. How true that had been.
The light blue Indian Ocean reflected the sun’s rays; they bounced off the waves and made it difficult to look towards the distant horizon. He walked along and felt the heat from the sand almost burn his feet as he pondered the recent events which had given him cause to both celebrate and to be cautious.
“It’s taken me twenty-seven years to realise it. It’s been a life full of pain and suffering because I realised that I’d made the biggest mistake of my life leaving you. If my life can have one regret, it would be that I hurt you. That I left you,” she had told him with genuine tears. He believed her; he always had, because she would never lie to him…he knew that. He also understood that her life hadn’t gone the way she’d wanted and that the circumstances that’d brought them together had been based on the very circumstances that had pulled them apart.
Seagulls squawked above and startled him a little, though his thoughts and his concerns were too deep to be distracted for more than a few seconds. He walked to the shore’s edge and put his feet in the cool ocean. For a brief moment, he caught a glimpse of his reflection off the water before the waves pushed it away. It was enough— he had seen who he had become. He knew that time had ravaged him, as time does. It had changed him so much; he was no longer that handsome teenager who’d been full of life and longing, filled with inspiration and drive. While he wasn’t unattractive or unsuccessful, he was older and wiser and certainly no longer willing to throw caution to the wind and repeat the same mistakes.
But he loved her. She still controlled his heart. Herbie felt as though she always had, and that is why he could truly never love another.
And now she was back, thanks to her ex-husband, that bastard. Herbie would happily kill the guy and send himself to jail. He’d been lucky to have been married to the girl of Herbie’s dreams and didn’t even appreciate it. He’d shown her abuse and anger when all she’d shown him was love and understanding. I’d fucking kill that guy …if opportunity ever arises… I most definitely would.
Months earlier, during an after-work party in which his colleagues did their usual drunken pranks on the newest members of staff, Herbie had decided to leave his car in the underground carpark in Perth and walk to a nearby bar and meet other friends. Not that he didn’t like his work colleagues, but there were times when he’d had enough of seeing the same faces he spent all week with. As an insurance broker, he spent far too much time in one office and with the same people. The bar he’d gone to was lively and vibrant. He instantly felt uplifted and saw friends there he’d rather drink with.
That’s when he saw Kayla. Her dark hair, cut short, was shiny and well-kept. But despite some aging, she was still the most beautiful girl he’d ever seen. Her eyes danced on their own… she always had eyes that told stories. They had locked gazes, both of them frozen in time, neither able to speak or move. 27 years had disappeared in an instant, and for a brief moment, they were teenagers again. He had known right then that her feelings for him were still strong by the look she gave him.
“You look amazing. It’s been so long… I think about you all the time.”
“You too. It’s good to see you, I’ve been thinking about you too,” she’d told him.
Within minutes, they had established they were both single, and like a dust-storm carrying unwilling leaves in its direction, they were transported to the outskirts of the city for a walk. They’d walked all night in fact. At 6 am they’d found a little café and sat to take a break. Through the course of the night, she’d declared her love for him and told him that if he would have her, she’d like to start again. He’d agreed too quickly but knew he had no choice. His mind screamed for him to be cautious, but his heart answered yes.
He kicked a large dry seashell into the water with the heel of his foot and smiled. Herbie had every reason to be happy. Kayla was his again and since that night many weeks before, they’d gotten closer and closer. They both had kids; all of which were almost teenagers themselves.
What worried him more than anything wasn’t Kayla’s love for him, it was this flu. It had been creeping up on the country’s radar for a few months. There’d been talk of it in New York, then in London and other parts of the world. Then it had appeared in Sydney and Melbourne, followed soon by Brisbane and Adelaide. Then Darwin and Perth began reporting cases. At first, it was the usual stories, often being sensationalised by the media. Then the deaths started appearing on the news. Dozens…then hundreds. City and regional hospitals all over Western Australia had joined the rest of the world in declaring a global pandemic.
He turned and began walking towards his car with every intention to drive to see Kayla in the hospital. He worried that she’d deteriorated, and his heart beat wildly.
“Please, God, no… I’ve lost her once before, please don’t let her return only for me to lose her again,” he said out loud. A young boy carrying a surfboard glanced at him curiously, as though he were crazy. Herbie thought that he probably was. Crazy in love.
The sun beat down on the back of his head and he felt it beginning to burn. Stupid me, not wearing sunscreen outside and it’s 40 degrees Celsius. He jumped in the car and rolled the windows down while he started it, hoping any breeze might help the car cool down while he waited for the air-conditioner to kick in.
With a heavy heart and a troubled mind, he drove to the hospital to see Kayla.