Emerald Pademelon Press LLC

Ch 23: A Drink of Water from When Fire Jumps click here

A lifetime ago, when Elizabeth was young, all the campus clubs pitched their tents for University Orientation Day. Flags flew from the tops and sides of the tents and posters on walls everywhere proclaimed the clubs: the Bushwalkers, the Christian Union, the Jewish Club, the Roman Catholic Club, the Astronomy Club, the Sailing and Yachting Club, the Cricket Club, the Diving Club, the Let's Just Get Together and Have Fun Club, the Opera Club, the Spelunkers, the Mountain Climbers, the Bushwalkers, Tharunka, the Aboriginal Land Rights Alliance, Women’s Liberation, the Newspaper, the Drama and Film Club.

Elizabeth had walked through the front gates of the university after lunch an hour before. She was now at ease and strolling down the path between the tents in the bright afternoon sunshine, greeting friends from the previous two years' Economics classes and the Christian Union. Sometimes she waved when she saw them inside the tents, occasionally she chatted with friends who were sitting in the outside cafes or just milling around on the courtyard.

She stopped in front of an orange hibiscus tree to listen to a story of a southern hemisphere summer spent in the northern hemisphere snow in Romania. She was laughing when she felt someone hug her from behind. She twisted around to identify her attacker: it was the medical student who was surely her true love and whom Elizabeth just knew would eventually get around to kissing her in private, to telling her that her beauty and modesty were gifts from God to him, and to asking her to marry him.

"OK, kid? Ready for duty?" He removed his arms from Elizabeth, hooked one thumb in his jean's belt-loop and with the other hand pointed towards the sailing club tent.

"David, hi. Duty? Always," she followed him as he walked under a flame tree into the sailing club tent.

They were both members of this club with the weighty responsibility of trying to rope in new members. This was not hard, it was by far the most popular club on campus. The university owned several boats, which meant that going out on the sea was well within the means of the most poverty-stricken student.

"Gidday Isa. How was your summer?" A male voice. At her right side.

Elizabeth looked into the face of her questioner. He was another medical student she had met on a sail the previous year. His only previous impression on her consciousness had been that he was in the same year as Elizabeth's true love, who was by now hanging around on the other side of the tent, grinning at everyone, especially the freshman women.

"Great, Phil. Great. Went to a camp in Tassie with the Christian Union. Didn't see you on any day sails over the summer. By the way, my name's Elizabeth," Elizabeth almost smiled back at him. She looked over to David, who winked at her, and nodded.

"I was in New Zealand, mountain climbing. In fact, if you'll look up over at the Applied Science building in thirty minutes, you never know what you'll see. Anyhow, you're far too pretty to be an Elizabeth. Ciao, Isa!" Phil laughed, his curly chestnut hair swirling around his face as he ran up the walkway, towards the building one hundred yards away.

Elizabeth blushed, hmmed and turned back towards David for advice.

God's Receiver of Modest and Beautiful Women was surrounded by young freshman women, who were listening in awe while he pointed to pictures of boats, "Welcome to uni! Do you want to sign on for a life of sailing in the Sun?"

Some time later the line of prospective sailors thinned and David ambled over to Elizabeth. He wrapped his arms around her from the back and rested his chin on her head, "Well, kid. What about that! Did you notice all the gorgeous young females in the freshman class that I signed on?"

Elizabeth frowned.

 "Just kidding!" David turned Elizabeth towards the Applied Science Building, "Did you forget Phil? Look up at the sky, kid. Some people will do anything for attention."

Elizabeth caught her breath.

Someone was attached to ropes and illuminated by the Sun and moving up the outside of the twenty story building.

She squinted, it was Phil, "Yes," she disentangled herself from David without taking her eyes off Phil, "Yes, I did remember Phil. And I know I always will. Remember him. Always. And my name's Elizabeth."

She started walking towards the building. Towards Phil, dangling in the Sun outside the eighth floor.

When Phil was outside the tenth floor Elizabeth was inside the building. When Phil climbed over the top of the twelfth floor, laughing in the rays from the late afternoon Sun, Elizabeth was on the roof, laughing back at him, "Phil, I can't believe you climbed up! I took the elevator and I'm totally exhausted."

He stumbled towards her and flung his sweaty arms around her, "Isa. Oh Isa, Isa. I'll marry you for a drink of water," he laughed, startling a seagull into scurrying off the building screeching.

"You're on! As soon as you've had a shower," Elizabeth led him past back-slapping climbers and mountaineering equipment over to a card table filled with cups and water jugs. She handed him an overflowing cup.

"Great!" He drank some, drew her close to him again and poured the rest over both of their heads.

She nodded and laughed with him and at him as the water splashed off their shoulders and dripped onto the rooftop.

"Will that do?" He laughed again, looking down at her.

Elizabeth nodded and giggled and shook her head and wondered why she had never noticed that his eyes were as blue as the deep sea on a sparkling summer's day.