Flash Fiction

Courtenay Place, Two Sections Please

This story placed third in the Tandem Press short story competition for young New Zealanders in 2001, written when I was 17 years old. The accompanying anthology was published later that year. It was one of my first pieces of flash fiction and my first published story.

When Olivia’s parents separated, her mother went to live on Mount Victoria. Her father Liam got the better half of the bargain: house in Wadestown, swanky Merc, nice collection of children.

Olivia’s life was conducted in a kilometer radius from her home on Grosvenor Terrace to Wellington Girls’ College and back again. Some nights she went to Island Bay where Tom lived, the boyfriend at the time. A skateboarder, all her friends disliked him.

Her father was often stressed. His job involved much driving out of town to the Hutt Valley and up the Kapati Coast. She saw little of him after beginning Year 13. A lot of the time she was alone at night, watching the Interactive Shopping Network on television.

Liam started bringing home women, too. Olivia didn’t know how old they were, but he was forty-five and they weren’t. She guessed the youngest to be in their mid-twenties. The one who lasted the longest was Emma, thirty and a bank clerk.

‘You don’t talk much, do you Olivia?’ Emma said one morning, out of the blue, standing in the doorway of the kitchen. Olivia spun around, caught unawares as she stared out at the road below and the people in their suits and trainers walking to work.

‘Huh?’

Emma strolled in, wiping her hands on her silk dressing-gown. Olivia wasn’t sure about the way Emma walked around in her pyjamas. It reeked of the fact she and Liam were sleeping together, that it wasn’t his wife in his bed anymore.

‘I notice that you never talk. Why, Olivia? Is there something wrong?’

Emma’s hair was sleep-tousled. It was dyed a dark red although Olivia could tell it had been blonde before Emma had taken to it with her rubber gloves and supermarket Nice ‘n Easy. She stared at the cherry-topped, silken princess.

‘Of course there’s nothing wrong,’ she said. Emma pulled out a mahogany chair and sat down. She was eyeing the half-full French press but Olivia wasn’t about to take the hint.

‘Your father was wondering if you wanted to talk to me about your plans for next year?’

Next year Olivia would turn eighteen. She was smart enough to know what was being asked. When was she moving out?

‘Because,’ Emma continued, ‘Liam and I are thinking of selling this place and moving to an apartment in town.’

Her hands were clasped in front of her. Olivia’s eyes wandered to the window and gazed out over the water. The prison on the other side of the harbour was grinning at her.

‘You needn’t worry about me, Emma,’ she said. ‘You won’t see me again.’

School beckoned downtown. She didn’t go. She boarded a bus at Grosvenor Terrace and rode to her mother’s house. Courtaney Place, two sections, and she had left home. It was quite funny, really. She had always hated public transport.

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