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Writer in Motion

November 2019

A few years ago, I participated in the Writer in Motion Blog Project. Over the course of a month, writers worked together to produce their most polished draft based on the writing prompt below. It was a fun event, and I enjoyed working with other writers as we critiqued each other's work. My story A Day on the Water appears below.

A Day on the Water

Amanda set off the flare and the flame ripped through the darkening sky. Straining on her tip toes, she scanned far into the distance but all she saw was vast stretches of blue sea.

With the still blue waters of Sydney Harbor far behind them, it would be only a few short hours before dark. Her step mum, Stella, and her father were shouting at each other below deck and she hummed to herself to block out the noise.

Closing her eyes for a moment, she imagined a dazzling white rescue boat powering towards them. But when she opened her eyes again, nothing was there and her head dropped to her chest, heavy with disappointment.

Freezing in her light, black blouse, she thought about going downstairs to get her windcheater, but the sound of Stella yelling from the cabin was enough to put her off.

“I cannot believe this!” Stella yelled. “I cannot fucking believe this is happening!”

“Calm down, Stella,” Amanda’s Dad tried to placate her, “everything’s going to be alright. The rescue boat is on the way.”

“Don’t touch me! Don’t you dare fucking touch me! This is all your fault! It was your fucking idea! We’re all going to die and it’s because of you!”

At this, Amanda’s step-sisters joined in. “Are we going to die, Mummy? Are the sharks going to eat us?” For a moment, Amanda forgot her own distress; they were only kids. They must be terrified.

Amanda’s Dad emerged from below deck, struggling up the ladder carrying a bright yellow life vest. His face was heavy and lined with worry.

He squinted up at Amanda. “You better come down from there and put this on.” He held up the life vest.

Bristling with irritation, Amanda shrugged him off. “I’m alright.” She was nineteen years old and did not appreciate being spoken to like a child.

“Come on, come downstairs now. The weather’s coming in, you’re not safe up there.”

“It’s better than being down there.” She jerked her head in the direction of the cabin. “I’m not coming down till she stops carrying on.”

Ted gave an exasperated sigh. “Don’t be like that, she’s upset, that’s all. I’ve radioed for help, everything will be alright.”

“It better be!” Amanda jumped down from the mast, agile as a cat from years of gymnastics.

“That’s my girl!” Ted tousled her dark, windblown hair.

Amanda put on her life jacket. Electric yellow lightening split open the darkening sky and thunder roared all round them. Diagonal spears of rain pelted down as Ted and Amanda hurried into the cabin.

Bedraggled, they brushed the rainwater off themselves under Stella’s venomous glare. “Good to see you’re looking after Number One Daughter, leaving me to cope on my own.” She indicated the two children, whose sobbing faces were burrowing into her breast.

Amanda’s fists turned into balls but her Dad cut in before she could say anything. “Stella, this isn’t doing anyone any good. Yelling and screaming is only upsetting the children. I’ve been on the radio and help is on the way. We just have to sit tight.”

As Ted walked towards Stella and the girls, another shock of lightening flashed through the high cabin windows. The yacht lurched from side to side, nearly knocking Ted and Amanda off their feet.

Ted raced into the control room and picked up the radio. The static crackled as he yelled into the receiver. “This is the Eliza Jane, do you read me? Repeat, this is the Eliza Jane.”

The radio spluttered for a moment and then went dead. Ted banged the receiver on the bench.

“Shit!” He yelled. “Shit, shit shit!”

The little girls started screaming and their mother pushed them away. She ran into the control room and shouted at her husband. “Do something, you idiot! Why can’t you do something?”

Amanda rushed over to the pale little girls and wrapped her strong, dark arms around them. In the chaos, she could not help but notice the contrast between her and her sisters; they were plump and translucently pale whereas she was willowy and swarthy.

Sobbing loudly, the little girls clung to Amanda. “Calm down,” she soothed, “everything’s going to be all right. We’re just having some rough weather, it will all be over soon. Sit tight until the rescue boat arrives and in the meantime, how about a song?”

She wiped the children’s faces with her bare hand, then rubbed their snot and tears off on her blouse. Taking a deep breath, she forced a smile on her face and started a rousing rendition of “Ten Green Bottles”, hoping the counting would distract them. She sung as loud as she could, trying to block out the sound of Stella and her father arguing.

A deafening thud came from the side of the boat, knocking Amanda and the girls to the floor. With her heart thumping, Amanda looked up to see the water pressing in on the windows of the cabin.

Maddison screamed and pointed her chubby finger at the cabin door. “Look! The water’s coming in!”

And sure enough, water was pouring through the wooden slats of the cabin door. Panicked, Amanda looked to her father but she couldn’t catch his eye. He was engrossed in placating her step mum, who was crying hysterically into his chest.

Amanda shook her head. “Typical,” she said under her breath. It was going to be up to her to look after the kids.

Amanda stood up and the water lapped around her ankles. “Alright, then, girls, stand up and let’s make sure we’ve got our life jackets on properly. You remember what you learned in swimming lessons? Keep calm, and just float on top of the water.”

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