Tuesday evening was nice. Despite being December, the clear skies above the Wombat State Forest encouraged the weather to grow cold early. Pretty good luck that it was such nice weather. Eve was throwing the ball for the family dog. Their other dog, was lying on the couch.
The parents were drinking cider and everything was so calm. Eve was only mildly worried about her cat and how Ellen, the house sitter, was going with her. She was sure Ellen would be fine with the animals that had been left back in Melbourne. She’d done it before.
The family locked the dogs away, and the five of them hopped in the car to drive into Blackwood for dinner. Parma night. Eve had a schnitzel. She’s lactose intolerant so parma is not an option for her. Her sister was grumpy about something. No one at the table knew exactly what was souring her mood that night. She was always angry about one thing or another.
When the family arrived back at the house after their Parma night, they let the dogs out to go to the loo. Everything was normal. They sat in front of the tiny old telly in the living room and watched a film of the father’s choice: Thor: The Dark World.
Good movie. 10/10 would recommend.
Eve remembers going to bed that night, probably around 11 or 12, and chatting with her siblings. She set an alarm for nine the next morning. She wanted to go into Trentham to look at the shops. One of them had some cute necklaces that she wanted to get a second look at.
Katie, Dom, and Eve chatted for maybe an hour and a half. Their lives are pretty boring. There used to be gossip. When they were younger there was always gossip. But then Eve came out and Katie got a boyfriend. Now there’s only Dom’s love life to talk about, and the only love in his life is the computer.
Finally, after Katie had angrily pulled the battery out of the very loud clock, Eve fell asleep. She went first. She always fell asleep first.
She woke up at nine the next morning. Not a care in the world. She left her siblings sleeping, not bothering to wake them for she knew that they would just drop back into Neverland once she left.
Eve made a cup of tea. Then she had to make one for the mother because she saw that Eve had one. The mother is tea obsessed.
The mother had agreed to drive with Eve into Trentham that morning. And at about 9.35, they left.
She said goodbye to the father and she gave the dogs a nice scratch on the neck each. She pulled on her favourite boots and was ready to head out.
The car trip was uneventful. They listened to Muse and watched as a wedding took place in one of the paddocks to the right of the car. The couple was lucky; it was a lovely day for a wedding.
Eve loves the trip into Trentham. She likes how the road dips and turns and how they go past all these old houses clearly built during the gold rush. Most of them are falling down but some have been maintained.
Eve held her breath as the car went past the cemetery. She was 18, but she lived in a family of children, so she held onto her childhood idiosyncrasies. You know, the one where if you hold your breath as you go past a cemetery you gain an extra day of life. Obviously there’s no way to test if it’s true. But she does it anyway. Perhaps it will bring her good luck.
The mother found a spot right next to the main park in Trentham. It is a boring park but Trentham is only a small strip of shops with an IGA and a pub. Not as good as Daylesford, but better than Blackwood.
The mother parked the car.
“There go the phones.” Eve said. There is no phone service where the house at Barry’s Reef is, so as soon as the car pulled into the small town, both their phones began to buzz.
Once the mother yanked the key out of the ignition, she pulled her phone out of her bag and looked through her messages. Eve was joking around, getting ready to get out, when the mother said, “Wait. This is actually really serious.”
Of course, Eve was thinking that her friend Ellen, the house sitter, had knocked a vase over or something. So she said, “What’s wrong?” Eve was still smiling.
The mother put her hand on Eve’s arm and she hates being touched so she knows that this must be something bad. The mother said, “It seems that Jarrod has been in a car accident.” Her voice sounded horrified.
“Oh okay, are Moni and Danielle in the hospital with him?”
“Eve, he died.”
Eve could not believe it. To be honest she still cannot quite believe it. She remembers that moment; it was the first time that she realised that people die. Obviously she knew rationally that people die, her Grandfather had died just a few years before but he was old and had smoked for 75 years. This was when Eve realised that young people die. Without reason.
“It was in a car crash.” The mother said.
“This is just some sick joke.” Eve said.
“Eve, it’s not. This is real.”
“Jarrod, the fucking idiot, must have stolen Danielle’s phone. He must have. Then he used his mum’s phone to text as a joke.”
“Why would he text us?” The mother is crying now. Eve cannot cry. His sister is her best friend, not Jarrod.
They exited the car. All she could think was that she had to call Ellen. So she did. Eve called her. She called the home phone when Ellen didn’t answer and then she called her mobile again when Ellen didn’t answer that.
Her boyfriend, Jack, was the one who ended up picking up the phone. Eve asked him to put Ellen on.
Then Eve told her, and she just said, “what.”
Then she told Jack and he said the same thing. Eve remembers feeling horrible. Jarrod was the brother of one of Ellen and Eve’s best friends. Moni was like a sister to them, so this was almost as if they had lost a brother too.
Of course, Ellen was in Melbourne. So she and Jack went round to Moni’s to see if she and her mum, Danielle, needed anything. There was no guessing as to whether they would be okay.
Then, Eve googled it. A car accident killing a teenage boy isn’t going to go unreported.
She found the article. It was on The Age website.
Two Teenage Boys Killed in Fiery Car Crash on the Princes Freeway
The police did not know much. What they did know, was that it had happened at 11pm on Tuesday night. Eve and her family had just finished watching a film. The police knew that the boys had lost control of the car and it had veered off the freeway and into a tree.
What Eve knows, from living in that area, is that the tree has no friends. It stands alone on the side of the freeway, nothing 10 metres either side. Just bad luck.
Eve and the mother got back in the car. They sat there. Eve sent Moni a text. She told her that she loves her and that she’d be there for anything she needed.
“I don’t believe it.” Eve said.
“Me neither.” The mother replied.
She does not remember the drive back to the house. She does remember that on their last bar of coverage, just as they reached the top of a hill, Ellen’s mother had called. Ellen must have told her. Who wouldn’t call their mum in this situation.
Eve sat silently as the mothers talked through the Bluetooth of the car. They had pulled over to the side of the road to keep coverage.
Ellen’s mother told them that because Moni, and Eve’s other friend, Phill, had been camping for a music festival, Phill’s mum had had to try and find their campsite with just a picture. So in the wee hours of the morning, Moni and Jarrod’s parents had to drive up to the middle of nowhere and tell their daughter.
$500 of expensive concert tickets down the drain. Jarrod’s a selfish bastard.
They were only 5 minutes from the Reef when the mother hung up. They trudged inside. The siblings still were not awake. So they told the father first.
“Shit. Was it that crash on the Princes Freeway?” He had asked.
“Yeah, how did you know?” The mother put her bag down and sat next to him.
“I went to the top of the hill to download the paper.”
They still had to tell the siblings.
Jarrod was in Katie’s year level and she knew him well. They were each others’ first kiss, or so she says. He always denied that.
They could not believe it. Of course they couldn’t. Eve still couldn’t.
They sat down at the table, as a family, a bittersweet comparison to dinner the night before.
They had to decide if they wanted to come home early. First they were visiting some friends in Buninyong, but after that they went home. Home to Melbourne.
So that the mother could see the other mother and Eve could see her friend.
She still missed her cat, but she was in the back of Eve’s mind.
The mother and Eve arrived at Moni and Danielle’s at about 6pm Wednesday night.
They had a lot of family over; Danielle’s siblings were flying in from Perth. The house was pretty crowded. Death brings people together.
Moni told Eve the story:
“He was meant to go during the day.
“Mum told him that he could only go to that house with his friends if he went during the day and with the adult. The responsible, 30 year old adult.
“He didn’t leave with Ethan until 10.30 or something, I don’t know. Idiot.
“Ethan only just got his Ps a few days ago. The news is gonna say that he was irresponsible but he actually did 180 hours, 60 more than he needed.
“It was just bad luck.”
“Just bad luck.” Eve nodded solemnly. That would become their mantra.
“The police showed up here at about 1am. They told Mum to get Dad over, he said into the phone ‘What’s the little turd done now?’ Mum said ‘Paul, just get over here.’”
Moni swallowed. Eve hadn’t seen her cry once yet.
“The police said that Jarrod was in the passenger seat. That he and Ethan had missed the Western Ring Road turn off and Jarrod was on the phone to his mates asking for directions. His last words were, ‘oh shit’.”
“I still can’t believe it.” Moni is like Eve, she does not like being touched, but Eve put her hand on her knee anyway. Moni smiled at her.
“Mum’s a wreck.” Moni said, she glanced into the other room.
“I would be too.” Truthfully Eve was. She still couldn’t believe it.
On New Years Eve, Ellen and Jack and Eve were in Williamstown watching the fireworks. They toasted Jarrod as 2016 became their reality.
Jarrod died on Tuesday December 29th at 11pm. He was 2 weeks away from his 17th birthday. He was never going to be a dancing queen.
On Wednesday December 30th at 10am Eve realised that people are not invincible. That anything can happen. It was just bad luck.