At a Price
By: Kris Me
Martin was sent to negotiate the mining rights on Mary's Cattle Property. He didn't enjoy doing old ladies out of their property as it always came at a price. The last thing he expected was to fall in love with a woman three times his age. However, Mary wasn't your typical old lady next door.
Copyright © Kris Me - 2016 - All rights reserved.
This story is my own work, and you must contact me before you copy more than one page or ten percent of the content, as per the copyright laws of Australia.
First Published by Storiesonline World Literature Company: 12/10/2016 as At a Price.
If you find any of my assumptions fabricated, I would like to remind you this is a fiction story and I have probably taken liberties with reality, as you know it. The characters and events aren't real, as much as we may like them to be.
Australian based dictionaries were used for reference, and Grammarly was used as part of the editing suite. The story was written in Microsoft Word.
If you find grammatical or spelling errors, they are not the fault of my editor or proofreaders who did try to fix my work. However, I do tend to fiddle around after the fact, so all errors are my own.
The book cover was designed in Microsoft Paint 3D using art that is my own design.
The Wiki contains information about the Keltrian people, wizards, the Keltrian magical items, colloquialisms and adapted words that have been created for this universe. Maps, character lists and other information that may relate to this book could be found. Not all information may be relevant to this series of books.
If my Australian colloquialisms or terms need clarification, or you just wish to correspond, I'm more than happy to answer your emails if you send them to:
Thanks to my friends PapaKilo14, Johnny Sinclair and Grisbuff and the other past readers who have offered suggestions to help fix errors.
A ranger - is a redhead
Bickies - or biscuits are called cookies in some countries
Causeway - in country areas, where they can't be bothered building a bridge, they lay large concert pipes between 0.5-2m in diameter in the bottom of the creek and place cement over the top. They will flood in the wet season and often have markers indicating the depth and no side railings, but some may have short posts
Drongo - is a term generally used to describe someone who doesn't think out their actions before acting and fucks things up
Gunna - going to
Gonna - dead or going to die
Ute = Tilly = utility vehicle - it has a cab that seats two or three people and a tray on the back that may have a cover
Van - short for caravan and also Panel Van, (So we're lazy, what's new with the English language)
The screen door banged shut loudly, as it always did when left to close itself.
Mary Anne May placed the insulated container and a glass on the side table. She then eased down, gracefully into the rocking chair. She poured a drink, making sure some of the ice ended up in the glass.
She sat back into the rocking chair, wiggling her butt back a bit more to so her back was supported. To the inattentive eye, it was an ordinary rocking chair.
The long slim fingers of her left hand slid under the arm and found the controls that she had installed there. The first toggle button, when pushed to the front, raised the footrest until her feet were at the desired height. To the back lowered it.
The small dial was used to start the rocker rocking. To the right increased the speed to the left decreased speed. You simply had to put your finger on the side and move it in small degrees until happy with the motion. Mary selected a slow rocking action.
As it rocked back, she grabbed her drink in passing and happily settled in for an hour of peace on her front verandah. She loved watching the waves roll in as the sunset behind her, on the back of her old Queenslander style home.
The rays of sunlight lit up the modest-sized island that was barely two klicks offshore. It was modestly treed and even had a well and a small hut that was hidden out of view. Not many people knew that she owned May Island.
Mary sniffed the air. It had been hot and dry for weeks, but that was changing. She could just see the large black storm being pushed down from the north-east. The cyclone had been weaving her way down the coast for the past week, but she still hadn't crossed land.
The soft breeze from the south-west had warned her that a cyclone that had been sucking the hot, dry air off the land. It was using it to collect a mass of water from the warmed sea as is built up its might.
The wind had turned more to the south in the last hour, and Mary could now smell the moisture in the air. She suspected that Cyclone Pam would come closer to the coast when she decided to move again.
Mary hoped Pam would pass by in the next couple of days and hit land in an uninhabited area further down the coast. Then again, one never could tell with cyclones. They could be contrary, and so far, Pam had been true to her nature.
Pam had slowed again to build her might, and this worried Mary.
Mary's home was set 120cm off the ground.
It was above the half-buried basement that was set up as a cyclone shelter and guest rooms. The height lifted the ground floor of the house high enough so that people could see over the foreshore. The house was set back from the road by about 35m, and a low metal-framed fence separated them.
The land on the other side of the 4m wide strip of tar dropped down about 7m over the next 30m of mowed grass to get to the white coral sands. It was another drop of about 2m and 15m of low sand dunes to the high tide mark.
The short wooden wharf on cement pylons and the attached boatshed was off to her right on a rocky peninsula. They didn't impede her view of the sea and her island. The stretch of land in front of the house had few large trees to obstruct her view. She kept it mowed so that new trees couldn't grow, and she liked it like that.
The land curved around on either side of the sandy little cove in low, rocky and tree-studded outcrops. The bay was close to 400m at its widest and about a quarter of that across the low, rocky mouth.
She had always fancied that the bay was meteor crater as it was surprisingly deep in the middle. The beach gave the bay the epileptic shape. Her small motor-assisted yacht had little trouble entering the bay on any tide.
The rest of the foreshore was covered in eucalyptus trees, wattles, palm trees and other natives of varying heights and varieties. They formed a typical sub-tropical rain forest that the Central Queensland coast was famous for having.
If she followed the car tracks, that started on the other side of the narrow-tarred road and to her left, she would be standing on the high tide mark in less than a five-minute walk. Legally she didn't own the beach or the bay anymore.
However, her property ran for about five klicks to either side of her house along the western side of the one and a half lane bitumen road. The road had graded edges, and no one could build on the foreshore. So not many people had a reason to make use of her beach.
The home paddock was ten klicks wide on this side and stretched back about another six klicks behind her. The National Highway and a railway track then separated her from her other block of land. It was about fifty klicks wide and forty deep. By Australian standards, it was a small Cattle Property, but Mary was happy with what she owned.
The nearest towns were about forty klicks to the north and a hundred and sixty-odd klicks to the south; this also suited Mary just fine. The bitumen road that ran in front of her house bumped its way to the south to the corner of her house paddock.
The road then ran to her nearest neighbours, the Bentley's, in the south. A side road ran along her southern fence line ran back to the highway to her west.
To the north, the lane provided a back road into Coral Cove. Not a lot of people ventured down her road from Coral Cove. Mostly it was the mailman, who would also deliver her some groceries if she asked. The Bentleys would do it too when they took the road to town, and they did get the odd tourist.
On this day, Mary was a little surprised to see a Toyota Hilux trundling up her road from the south. She watched as it slowed and pulled off the road. It parked in her wide driveway that led to her eight-bay garage that was on the southern side of her house.
Mary examined the man with interest as he got out of the vehicle. She judged that he was probably close to a dozen centimetres taller than her 172cm frame. He stretched and then bent back into the car to retrieve something from the passenger side.
She checked out the view from behind. He had a very nice firm, arse. The thighs were solid but not overtly so, and she definitely liked the long legs in the black dress pants. As he stood, she watched the thin, white cotton dress shirt tighten across the broad shoulders.
The shirt had pulled out of his pants a little, and she admired the small waist. When he turned to shut the car door, she noted his stomach and abdomen were flat. The chest was nicely muscled, as were the arms and shoulders.
Mary liked a hunky body as much as the next woman did. Just because she was eighty-one years old, didn't mean she was dead.
As the man approached, Mary enjoyed this view too. She wondered what he was packing in the front of those pants to make his assets stand out as they did. His dark brown hair was cropped short, and the face was strong and pleasingly proportioned. Ruggedly handsome was the best description that came to mind.
She picked out the light stubble on his chin that suggested he hadn't shaved since that morning. He had a tan caused by spending a lot of time in the sun. He still had his tinted sunnies on so she couldn't see his eyes. He wasn't wearing a tie, and he had the top couple of buttons undone on the shirt that only just fitted his broad shoulders.
She decided he was a fine specimen of a man.
Martin Connors, known as Marty by his friends, was glad to get out and stretch his long frame.
It had taken him three hours to drive here from the nearest airport. There had not been a lot of stops in between. His bosses hadn't been happy with the responses they had been getting from the landowner, so he had been sent to negotiate with her personally.
His experiences with old women were not great. He and his grandma had not seen eye to eye on many issues. It had been hell living with her when her Alzheimer's had kicked into a higher gear. Getting and then keeping a home career had been a constant nightmare for him.
In the end, he had to put her in a respite hospital. It had been too dangerous to leave her unattended. His Gran had been gone for two years now. She had barely lasted two months after he had placed her in the facility.
He still felt guilty about it, especially since she had raised him since he was fifteen. They'd had their differences, but he had always loved her and felt responsible for her.
Marty looked at the woman sitting in the rocking chair, trying to measure her approachability. The chair was rocking back and forth gently as she sipped her drink and watched him. The first thing he noticed was how she was dressed.
His eyebrows lifted when he comprehended that she was wearing a red bikini and a knee-length sarong that was dominantly lime green with large red flowers on it.
'What the fuck?' he thought.
She had her bare left foot hitched, so her toes rested on the back of the footrest that was attached to the rocker. He could see the firm shapely thigh and calf of the raised leg. They were damn fine legs. Well-toned and tanned, indicating that she exercised and sunbathed regularly.
His eyes drifted up to her body to her just rounded tummy and detectable ribs. They settled on her tits. 'No way!' was his next thought. He then wondered if they were fake. The round globes sat high on her chest, and there was bugger-all sag.
He wondered if they quite made it into the 'D' cup size, then he decided that he didn't care. They were firm, round and peeked out of the sides of the bikini top at him. They were tits that any straight bloke would be more than happy to suck and fondle.
As he got closer to the verandah, he lifted his sunnies to get a better look. He could find few if any wrinkles on her chest above her tits or around her neck. Her face also didn't correspond to any of the eighty-year-old women that he had ever met.
She hadn't lifted her sunnies, but the odd small lines around her mouth and forehead were barely detectable. To be honest, he would have put her in the hot mid-twenty's category. Being twenty-seven himself, it put her smack bang in the middle of his fuckable class.
He then wondered if the woman on the porch was a live-in carer. He knew that the woman called Mary May that he was here to talk with was definitely over eighty. There was nothing in his file about her having a live-in carer or any living relatives. It was why his bosses thought that she should be a push-over.
He mounted the six steps and got an even better look at the babe.
"Hi, I'm Martin Connors, and I've come to see Ms Mary May," he said politely to the boobs.
The woman looked him up and down, and he watched the small half-smile lifting her smooth, right cheek that then dimpled. She was checking him out he realised. His estimation of her age being mid-twenties held.
He also decided the tits were positively real, and from his new vantage point above her, they were damn delectable. He felt himself stir, as this woman was a ripping hot babe.
Her trim frame held no excess fat on it, her muscles were toned, and her tanned, beige-toned skin was smooth and unblemished as far as he could see. Her bikini top didn't hide much, and the low-slung sarong exposed her tight stomach muscles and tiny waist.
"Why?" she asked, bringing his wandering eyes back to her face.
Catching himself, Marty responded, "I've been set by Vested Mining Corporation to discuss the mining rights on her property."
He saw no reason to beat around the bush or the why, of him being here.
"Talk to the lawyers," she said as she raised the moisture beaded glass. She took a swallow of her drink.
Marty watched in fascination as several drops of water rolled off the glass. They landed between her breasts and stayed there. The thought of licking them off, for her, sent a wave of desire straight to his groin.
Mentally shaking himself, he said, "We have tried that road, but my bosses have asked me to come and talk to her personally to find out what the problems are. They believe their offer is very generous."
Mary snorted a laugh and then smiled at him malevolently. She was getting fed up with his company's persistence. They didn't want to take 'no' as an answer as it was irritating her no end.
"So, they send a boy, a third of my age, to get me to give up my property," she said with a sneer.
Marty bristled at being called a boy. Then the second half of her statement rattled around in his head. He looked at her with confusion. "Your property? I wasn't aware that Mary had passed on," he said.
He wondering whom Mary had left her property to and when she had died. This fact would seriously affect the negotiations.
"Sweet-cheeks, as hard as it may seem, you are talking to the one and only Mary Anne May that has ever lived here. I've lived here all eighty-one years of my life except when I went to college and when I go on holidays, sonny-boy," she told him with an arched eyebrow and a condescending tone.
She had no idea why she felt compelled to tell him the truth even knowing that as she did, he would have a hard time believing her. She watched his response to her statement. Predictably, he shook his head in denial.
'There's absolutely no way she is that old,' he thought. His mind refused to accept this statement. He sat down, uninvited in the chair on the other side of her small table. He was tired, it had been a long, frustrating day and it wasn't getting any better.
"Look, I know Ms May doesn't want to sell us the rights but what is with the charade? Who are you?" he asked.
'I don't need this shit,' he thought. He knew that his negations were not going to proceed smoothly, not that he had expected them to, but this was a bit much.
Mary sighed, turned the rocker off and lowered the footrest. She got up and walked inside. The screen door slammed behind her, as it always did. Marty was left wondered if he should go after the woman.
He heard her moving around inside. A fridge door sucked closed, and then he heard her heading back to the door. She flicked the screen door open far enough to walk through without it touching her. It then slammed behind her and rattled to a stop.
She handed him a beer in a soft cooler with the logo 'Coral Cove' scrawled across it. She sat back in the rocker and made herself comfortable again. As she filled her glass from the container she had, he screwed the cap off his beer and took a large swig.
The odour of rum and cola had wafted to his nostrils when she poured her drink, and he wondered how much she had drunk before he got here.
One of the company's problems was that Mary was reported as being a self-funded retiree. He had discovered that she didn't need their money. She still paid more in taxes than he currently earned, and he was paid very well.
He honestly didn't believe he had a hope of this woman selling even if she had just inherited. He decided on a different approach and sat back in the chair that he has claimed.
"Thanks, I appreciate the drink. So please tell me, how a woman who is over eighty years old looks as young as twenty-five?" he asked sceptically.
Mary shrugged, she took a sip from her fresh drink and then said, "I don't age the same as most people. Since I turned about eighteen, I've aged about one normal human year to about every ten years I've lived."
She rolled the gold band on the middle finger of her right hand and looked at it. She then held her hand out to Marty, as she mentally told the ring to appear.
Marty wondered why she wanted him to look at the ring. While he was looking, it changed from a plain gold band. It was now topped with four square-cut gems arranged diagonally, so the points were in the centre to form a cross pattern.
Nearest to him was a large pale-yellow stone he didn't recognise. A pale blue diamond was on his left. On his right was a rare blue amethyst and to the rear was an opal that was pale blue with flecks of red, green and yellow.
He was surprised by the unusual arrangement, types and sizes of the gems. While they were big, they weren't chunky. It was a nice-looking ring, and he judged it was very expensive. The gold had a fine lustre.
He could tell that at least three of the gems were real. He had no idea what the fourth one was. As a geologist and a lawyer, this fact interested him. The strange gem seemed to have a swirling light in it as she moved her finger.
The ring then changed before his eyes and now looked like a thick plain gold band again. He frowned, blinked and then looked at the woman as she settled back in her seat. He looked at the band again. He was bloody sure it had rocks on it a few seconds ago.
"Yeah I know it's hard to believe. My family has known for generations that it is the ring that is responsible for the slow ageing and excellent health of the bearer. You caught me napping as I didn't expect Vested to send a representative. I had hoped they had given up."
In her defence, she explained, "I do get the odd tourist stopping by, and I send them on their way. This road is not the main traffic route. If I'd know that I had company coming, I'd have put on my glamour. People then think that I'm the old woman that I'm supposed to be."
"Normally, one of the Bentleys calls me and warns me. Unfortunately, they have gone south for a couple of weeks to a family reunion. I also don't tend to get visitors this late in the day. So how come you're here this late anyway?" she asked.
"The plane was delayed, and then I didn't realise it was a full three-hour drive. The highway is in horrendous condition. Don't they ever repair it? I was planning on heading into Coral Cove for the night. I was told I have to stick around until I got a definitive answer from you," he told her.
"Well, the answer is easy; it's still, 'No'. I own the mining, tree clearing and water rights. They aren't on lease arrangements, and it would take an Act of Parliament to get them from me. The only other possible way is to buy me out, and I'm not selling."
"I don't want people living any closer to me than I have now, and I like living here. With a lot of people around, it's harder to explain why I look like I do and don't age as fast as other people do."
"I have been seriously thinking of faking my death and coming back as a relative, but that's not so easy to do in this day and age. Also, finding a lawyer to trust with my secret is not that easy either."
"With Vested Mining now hounding me for the land, the bastard I hired in Brisbane would probably lose the will or re-write it and sell the rights out from under me if I did fake my death," she said vehemently.
Marty thought about what she was telling him. Vested were willing to pay a lot of money for the land and mining rights. Mary was sitting on a gold mine, literally.
The recent aerial scans the surveyors had come up with said that the short and wide range of low mountains smack bang in the middle of her western property was riddled with gold, nickel and copper.
They believed they were the deposits from an extinct volcano. The lower hills that extended beyond her property were worthless in comparison. Any minerals they did have were very deep. The estimates for her property were thirty years of operation and trillions of dollars in sales.
The flatter land near the highway was perfect for building the processing plants, and she had direct rail access, so a spur with a ring line was very affordable. She also had a lot of water with several small lakes on the property.
Coral Cove wasn't that far down the road. It had a deep-water port that could be easily expanded, and there was room to grow the town to supply the support industries.
So, it was a perfect place to set-up for the company, and it would bring new prosperity to the region. They couldn't see why she was being so damn pig-headed.
The only fly in the ointment was Mary. She had point-blankly refused to sell her land or her rights or even discuss any proposal they had sent to her. His bosses were not used to people not bowing to their wishes. They believed everyone had a price.
The couple watched as the shadows from the mainland darkened the bay and crept up to the island. They were thinking their own thoughts, as they drank their drinks.
Marty sighed; he didn't know what to believe.
Marty watched the gorgeous woman in the rocking chair.
She had started it again, and it took him a moment to realise that it was rocking itself. He watched as her lovely tits swayed gently with the motion. He'd met his share of beautiful women, but this one really turned him on.
Her relaxed yet sexy pose was just begging him to come over there to kiss and fondle her. He thought of what he wanted to do with her. He wanted one of those tits in his mouth for starters.
She had rested her foot as she had when he first arrived. The itch to run his hand up that thigh to investigate what was hidden by the sarong was strong. He felt his cock thicken as he wondered if the hair down there was shaded as dark as the auburn hair on her head.
He snapped out of his review when she laughed softly. His eyes went back to her face in question.
"Boy, you keep staring at my cunnie like that and I just might let you have your wish," she said with a throaty chuckle.
Marty found himself blushing furiously, something that he didn't do very often these days. He took the last swallow of his beer. It was very unusual for him to get lost in a fantasy over a woman he had just met, certainly not as easy as he just had.
Something about her was tickling his fancy and stirring up his desire-meter something fierce. He returned his thoughts to what she had told him, to get himself under control.
"Let's say that you are Ms Mary May. How did you say you made yourself look old again?" he asked.
He looked at her and then blinked a couple of times. "What the fuck?" he expelled as his eyes widened more in shock.
Her hair was streaked with silver and age lines had appeared on her face and neck. She held up a hand, and the soft, supple hands now had a thin knurled look, wrinkles and age spots.
Her lovely tits seemed to hang lower, and little wrinkles appeared on her upper chest. Her skin had lost that tautness of youth, and her muscles seemed less toned.
Then Marty blinked again, and she looked like she had moments before. He shook his head. 'Damn I must be more tired than I realised,' he thought.
"How did you do that?" he asked her.
She shrugged. "Sweetie, I can do a lot more than trick your brain into believing what you want to see. Oddly, young children are the hardest to fool," she said reflectively.
"Did you do that changing thing with the ring?" he asked. He then thought it was a stupid question and could have kicked himself for being gullible enough to be dragged into her fantasy.
She shook her head as she looked at the ring. "No, it has a mind of its own. I don't know why it wanted me to show you it's true self. That was very odd. You are now one of a very small number of people that I've ever shown the ring too."
"Why me? Why do you think you can trust me with the secret?" he asked.
He had felt a strange feeling creeping over him when she had shown him the ring. Yet he hadn't put it down to anything that the ring could do. Then again, how can a ring do anything?
He wondered if he was dehydrated or maybe he had a bit of sunstroke. He'd only had one beer, so he wasn't drunk. He did know that this was the weirdest conversations that he had ever had.
Again, Mary shrugged before saying, "I don't know the full why, but I do know that it does, and it has a reason for why it wants you to know about it. It must assume that it believes that we can trust you."
Frowning, Marty then asked, "Something I don't understand. If you have looked as good as you do now for the last sixty-plus years, why have you never married?"
Mary chuckled and replied, "I think you answered your own question."
Marty was watching her lovely titties when she laughed. It wasn't helping his cock stay flaccid. As far as he was concerned, her looking not much older than she did now by the time he got to eighty would be awesome.
"So, you have never told any of your lovers that you don't age the same as them?" he asked more than stated.
Mary shook her head. "Nope, I nearly married when I was about thirty, but things didn't work out. So, I don't tend to keep my lovers around for more than a few years at most. If they get clingy or bossy, I move them on."
He frowned, "Didn't you love any of them enough to keep them and tell them of your secret?"
She frowned in return, "Actually, no. I never found it hard to move them on. I guess I can't love like other people either. I was fond of a few of them, but not enough to keep them. The fact that I've never had a child by any of them, probably helped most of them leave."
"That's sad," he said. After a few moments, he said, "You could have adopted."
Mary looked at him, surprised, "If your wife couldn't have kids, you'd do that?"
It was his turn to shrug, "What goes around comes around. My parents adopted me and loved me very much. I lost them to a drunk driver when I was fifteen and had to live with my adopted mother's mother. I'd like to think that my wife if I ever have one, would consider adoption as an option if she couldn't have kids."
"My parents left me a Trust so I could get my Law and Geology degrees. Unfortunately, grandma developed Alzheimer's, and towards the end, I couldn't look after her. We didn't have any other family to help."
"Did you ever find your genetic parents?" she asked.
"Nope, and I have never found any legal records of the adoption. It wasn't done through an agency, and I can't find any records of the woman named on my birth certificate. I do know that my parents were not my biological parents as they told me that much."
"You hungry?" Mary asked him.
Surprised by the question and change of topic, he nodded, "Yeah, it is getting late. I had better get going. May I come to see you tomorrow? I'd like to talk to you some more."
Mary looked at the sky. The breeze had picked up, and she suspected the cyclone wasn't far off Coral Cove and had started moving again. It would probably pass them in the next couple of days. It had slowed down several days ago to rebuild.
They would be busy battening down the hatches in the Cove and didn't need another boy from out of town to worry about if Pam had started to move. She needed to check the weather report.
"You ever been in a cyclone?" she asked Marty.
"No, why?" he asked, wondering at the new change of topic.
Mary shook her head. "Come on we'll put your car in the garage. You'd be safer staying here than staying in Coral Cove."
Marty looked at the sky. He hadn't heard the news since he had left Brisbane that morning, as he tended to listen to taped stories as he drove.
"Shit," he said while getting up from the chair. "I'm booking in at The Coral Caravan Park. I'd better ring them."
"How long were you planning on staying in the area?" Mary asked as she walked with him down the stairs and to his car.
"Well, officially, I'm on a working holiday. The bosses wanted me to spend some time schmoozing with you, so they told me I have a month. If it is possible, I want to go and do a more hands-on survey of the ore deposits. I'm also to drive around and check out firsthand what amenities are here and what other land is for sale."
"I'm surprised Andy had a van or a cabin free for you," Mary commented.
Marty grimaced. "He didn't. My bosses and I forgot it was still the school holidays. We didn't realise Coral Cove was a popular destination. I was able to book one night in a caravan. I will have to look for something a bit more permanent tomorrow or buy a tent."
Mary giggled. "Well if Pam does decide to speed up and cross the coast early, I think you would be more comfortable in my basement than a caravan tonight. She has been coming down the coast for a while and had been harassing every town that she passes."
"Coral Cove hasn't had a big cyclone like Pam crossover in my lifetime, so you never know if it's our turn again or not. They tend to do the same spot about every hundred years or so."
Marty didn't like the sound of this at all. However, he did know that this was a cyclone region. He would have to check just how many crossed in this area on average. It was four times more expensive to build in a place where cyclones were prevalent.
Marty didn't think his bosses had thought it all through and had only seen the dollar signs from selling the ore. He shook his head at this blunder.
Mary then said, "Please don't tell Andy you're staying with me. Just say you found alternative accommodation for the night. You had probably better ring your girlfriend too, so she knows where you are."
Marty replied, "I won't tell Andy I'm staying here if you wish. I might have to call my boss to say I arrived safely, but I don't have to worry about the girlfriend. I'm not involved with anyone at present. I've been moving around too much this last couple of years to keep a relationship going."
Marty realised it had in fact been closer to eighteen months since he been serious about anyone. He'd had a couple of quick dates but hadn't bothered pursuing the woman after about the second or third date. A couple hadn't even got past the first date.
Mary walked past him and down to the garages. She opened the second large roller door so that he could put his car in her eight-bay garage. He grabbed his phone and contacted Andy.
Marty told Andy that he wasn't going to make it tonight. Andy told him he hoped he had a safe place to stay. Pam was moving again and had picked up speed. They were trying to convince the campers to go home, go inland or transfer to a hotel.
Marty passed this information onto Mary when she rejoined him.
Marty drove the car into the garage and was surprised by the array of vehicles.
After getting out of his Land Cruiser, he walked around the vehicle that was beside his rental. "Fuck me! Is that an original 1953 Holden FJ Panel Van?" he asked.
It was painted in Royal Mail Red and had the black leather bench seat and white interior paint. It gleamed like new.
"It was my first car, don't knock it," Mary said defensively.
"Knock it! It's awesome. Wow! What I'd give to own one, it looks brand new."
"Well, it's not stock standard. I souped up the engine years ago. Then I modified it again to get better fuel economy and make it a bit more environmentally friendly. Do you want to see in the back?" Mary asked.
Marty nodded enthusiastically, so Mary opened the horizontally split backdoors. "Seriously! It reminds me of the vans that were called Shagger's Wagons."
Mary chuckled. "Well, it's my touring car. I love to take off and go where I like. This baby has dual alternators and four batteries in a compartment behind the bed to run everything."
"It's even got an inverter, and I can plug into a van site. The fridge, lights, stereo, hot-water jug and my laptop can run for three days without the engine being started."
"It's got a tank that holds a hundred litres of freshwater, and I even have a portable shower. She can get about seven hundred klicks to a tank of fuel, and the suspension is to die for."
"She handles dirt roads like bitumen as long as you stay under eighty. You should see some of the places I've had this baby," she told him as she stroked the vehicle fondly.
The double-bed mattress was behind the cab, and curtains could be drawn for privacy. The storage cupboards and visible flooring were done in a light, pink-toned wooden finish. Cabinets were mounted along the top sidewalls. The interior paint was white.
At the base of the bed were wider cupboards that held all manner of things and stopped the mattress from shifting. The small fridge was on the left side of the vehicle in the back corner. It had a small workspace over on top.
On the other side of the floor was a box holding other camping accessories. It sat on top of two foldout chairs and a tiny fold-up table. Marty could easily imagine taking off in this car and pulling up anywhere to camp.
"Will you marry me?" he said jokingly but also half-seriously. Finding a woman who loved cars and camping was rare in his experience.
Mary laughed and replied, "Come on, spunky, let's get your gear. I'll get you some linen so you can make up the bed while I rustle up some food for us."
She waited while he grabbed his laptop and a bag from the car. She closed up the garage behind them once he was ready. She looked up at the dark sky and noticed the wind had increased to occasional gusts.
The outside lights under the walkway showed them the way to the house.
Mary let him drop his laptop inside the front door.
She then took Marty through a second door that opened onto the verandah near the front door. From the small landing, she flicked on the lights over the stairs. She went down the two-tiered stairway to the room below.
Marty followed her, but he stopped on the second landing. "Seriously!" he exclaimed.
Mary looked back at him, then back to the room, that was laid out before them. A small kitchen with cupboards, a sink, a huge combo fridge/freezer, a large convection microwave and twin stove elements in the black marble bench, was set against the back wall to the left of the stairs.
The Chrome legged and black-topped table for eight with red cushioned chairs sat in front of it. The corner to their right was set up like a home movie theatre with a huge screen and surround sound. A big, plush and curved red couch that could seat eight people, with their own side-tables and personal footstools, faced the screen.
The floor was a mix of light and dark-grey timber tiles and the walls white. A black-topped bar was against the far wall, and you could dance or stand and talk in the space between the lounge and the bar.
Behind the dining table was a green velvet three-quarter sized pool table. Two benches with red cushion seats sat against the back wall leaving enough separation for the players. The rack of pool cues separating them.
On the back wall that the kitchen finished on were three doors. Marty soon learnt that the room nearest the kitchen had two double-bunks. One set was on either side of the room. Twin doored clothes cupboards were at the end of the bunks, and there was a wide space between them where kids could play on the big multi-coloured thick mat.
The middle room was a big bathroom with a toilet, a deep, wide bath and a very large shower cubicle done in blues and white. A deep, slim towel cupboard with sliding doors separated the toilet and the shower.
The other room had a massive four-poster bed in it with cupboards, a vanity unit and two comfortable seats with a between-table in one corner. It was done in blues, honey-coloured wood furniture and was gender-neutral.
Marty noticed all the rooms had the squat, long windows near the top of the 3m high ceiling and they were double-glazed and tinted but not covered. He also noted the ducted air conditioning. He was suitably impressed with the setup.
The one-room she didn't show him was behind the stairs. Marty determined that it was under the front verandah and wondered why the door didn't have a handle. He could only assume that the area wasn't used and forgot about it for now.
Mary left him to settle in.
After showing, shaving and changing, he went back upstairs to find Mary.
He found her in a bigger kitchen than the one downstairs. It was done in solid, honey-coloured woods and had an ageless beauty about it.
Upstairs was divided into two halves. The lounge room, the formal dining room and the kitchen made up the northern half. Each room was separated by a wall with a large arched entrance. The kitchen also had a small breakfast nook and access to the large back verandah.
The three bedrooms made up the southern half of the house. The entrance to each bedroom opened into a different room in the other half. The main bedroom room was at the back with an ensuite and opened into the kitchen.
A bigger bathroom separated the other two equal-sized bedrooms. The large lounge had entrances into the front bedroom and the main bathroom on the left as you entered. Another door led to a small study that sat behind the dining room. The middle bedroom accessed the dining room.
He noted that she liked pale, pastel paints on the top half of her walls and the bottom half was pale honey, wooden wall panelling. She didn't have carpets just the beautiful wood floors that were several shades darker than the panelling. Large thick rugs were strategically located in the rooms.
The lounge room was cozy and had soft, grey leather chairs. Touches of red gave contrast, as did the red mahogany stained display and TV cabinets. The main dining room table and chairs and their accompanying sideboard were of the same wood.
Mary had some land and seascape pictures that were predominantly red and orange on the walls. He was surprised that there were few knick-knacks in the rooms. The odd pieces she had were unusual, and he guessed there were stories behind them. Her home felt peaceful and lived in.
"Sorry about the food but I wasn't expecting company. I hope steak and salad are okay," Mary inquired when she spied him looking around.
"More than okay. Thank you for taking me in. I'm sure I will be a lot happier here than in the overnight van," he said taking a seat at the small breakfast table that sat against the wall that separated the kitchen from the formal dining room.
Mary dropped a beer in front of him and then asked, "Do you want a glass or are you happy with the bottle? I do have wine or soft drink if you prefer."
Marty shook his head, "The beer will be appreciated. I don't drink a lot normally, but I am on holidays, so I'm indulging," he said and then grinned at her.
Mary raised an eyebrow and went to organise the food.
Mary had the radio playing softly in the kitchen.
They heard the 'Whuoart, Whuoart, Whuoart' sounds that were used for the standard emergency warning signal. Mary got up from their just finished meal, to listen to the broadcast for the cyclone warning. Marty joined her.
The rain had started lashing the house, while he had been in the shower, but he hadn't realised it was raining until he went to go join Mary in the kitchen. He guessed that they were going to get a lot more rain if Cyclone Pam was moving closer.
The broadcaster told them that Pam had intensified to a category four. She had started moving inland, and the eye was now only eighty klicks off the coast. People to the south were to expect heavy rain and strong winds. Coastal areas to the north were already experiencing severe flooding.
Pam was expected to travel in a south-south-westerly direction and to make land in the next thirty to forty hours. She was projected to cross over the coastline approximately sixty klicks south of Coral Cove.
"Not if I have anything to do with it," muttered Mary.
Marty looked at her. "So how do you stop a cyclone coming over the top of you?" he asked with interest.
Mary looked at him and wondered how much to tell him. He already knew about her ring and her ageing issue. He had taken it surprisingly well. For some reason, the memory of the other ring she owned popped into her head. She had never found an owner for it.
She cast her eyes over Marty. He was a hunky bloke, and she had enjoyed making small talk with him over dinner. He had a quick wit and was obviously well-read and intelligent. She didn't like why he was here, but he hadn't mentioned the subject while they ate. He had seemed more fascinated by her.
"I'll be back in a minute," Mary said and left him standing in the kitchen. She went downstairs to the basement and placed her hand on the door under the stairs. It swung back and gave her entrance, so she walked over to one of the small chests on the bench and opened it.
Mary lifted out the small square box and then the ring that looked similar to her own in style. The differences were that a dark red ruby replaced the amethyst, and a dark green emerald replaced the opal, and where she had a blue diamond, this one had a smoky diamond. The odd gem was also a darker green than hers was.
Her Granny had told her that her ring was designed for controlling nature, air, fluids and living things; it had a measure of control over the weather. It was for a Nature Mage.
The other ring was for an Earth Mage and was for controlling the powers of the earth, energies and the shaping of non-living materials. The diamonds increased memory and ability to learn, and the strange gem was for magical power.
She had also told Mary that the rings were bonded together in a manner she didn't understand. As long as a person was alive and wearing a ring, they wouldn't be happy in love until they found a bearer for the bonded ring.
The rings didn't like to be separated from each other for long periods either. If a partner died, the other ring would return to the box. The box would return to the bearer of the other ring if the other partner had it some distance from them when they died.
Mary tied the second ring in one of the ends, where she had tied off her sarong at her hip and went back upstairs. She was in two minds how to proceed. She had a feeling that if the ring accepted Marty, he would be able to help her shift the cyclone if it stayed on its current course, even though he was untrained.
The problem was that it would bind him to her, and she didn't know him well enough to know how he would feel about that fact, or how it would affect her for that matter. She had been on her own for a long time.
If the ring accepted him, he couldn't give it back, and they would be stuck with each other. 'Shit' she thought. 'Why now and why this bloke? I'm old enough to be his grandmother for Crikey's sake.'
She arrived in the kitchen to find that Marty had stacked the dishwasher for her. She watched as he grabbed a cloth and sprayed the benches with cleaner before proceeding to wipe them down. He had put the leftover salad away, cleared the table and seemed competent in the kitchen.
He looked up and smiled at her, then went back to his self-appointed task. Mary grabbed her drink off the table where she had left it. She took a long swallow to empty the glass. She needed another, she decided. As she made her drink, she asked if he wanted another beer.
"No thanks, I'll have what you're having if it's okay?" he replied as he rinsed the cloth and hung it up to dry.
So, Mary made two rum and colas and then handed him his. "Game of pool?" he asked as he accepted it.
Mary grinned and agreed.
When they stepped outside, they stopped to watch the rain pelt down.
"We will probably be flooded in by lunchtime, tomorrow," Mary said mater-of-factually.
"How long will we be stuck for?" Marty asked as he opened the other door for her.
Mary replied, "Several days once the rain stops. There is a creek you crossed about two klicks down Lower Bay Road from the highway. That one tends to come up fast and stays up the longest when the storms come from the south or west."
"It has a large catchment area, as it is fed from the southern side of my other property before cutting through the Bentleys' place to the south of me. With the cyclone coming from the north, the other creek is the bigger worry."