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Crash course

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When we first met Garry Miller, he was oozing confidence. Even on the photo Bec showed us, there was a little confident smirk on his face. It was a face of a man who knew what he wanted and how he was going to get it. Not to mention, handsome and somewhat exotic.

When we actually met him, I realized he wasn't overconfident. He got where he was by hard work, he knew he deserved it. We still could see that hard work on him: he was definitely fit. All in all, he wasn't hard to look at, he had this real surfer look, with spiky hair, little grin and steady stance of not too big, but well toned body.

I know Bec is happy we chose him, considering how well they work together. They never undermine each other's decisions, always supportive. They both are true adults, taking responsibilities and doing everything for us to become proper surfers and decent human beings.

In time Garry became something more than a coach. Sure, we are sometimes complaining about his army drill, but we can see it works. He also became some sort of older-brother-maybe-father figure. He is always there for us, helping and supporting us when needed.

We know very little of him. We know he has a girlfriend. And he can cook. But other than that? Nothing. Well, we learned some little things on the way, but they didn't tell us much of what kind of man he is.

When we were attending dance classes, I could see at the beginning that he was forced to go with us. In time though he became really enthusiastic about it, sometimes jumping around, dancing with a real smile. It was funny to see him like that, the little boy in him coming to the surface. He isn't that much older than us, sure, ten years of age and experience make a difference, but it was nice to see him capable of becoming slightly childish.

NOTHING can shake him. Even when we are angry at him, sometimes yelling and complaining, he can't be moved. On the other hand, when we get into trouble, he is like a steady rock, always knowing what to do. It's one of the reasons we trust him so much.

I know some of us wish to be like him when we're older.


* * *


“How come we never see you surf?”, Cassie asked Garry one Friday, when they returned from their morning training.

“I remember telling you how I broke my leg and lost some flexibility in it. My technique is shot and the last thing we need is you trying to copy it,” Garry explained. “You don't need me to show you the posture in the water, you are perfectly capable of adjusting it yourself with some advice. I can't give you advice if I'm surfing with you, focusing on my posture and not yours,” he added, pouring himself some juice.

“But do you actually surf?”, Loren asked, curious.

“Sure. I'm a surfer, remember? I do surf, just not when you're there to watch,” he replied with his cheeky grin.

“Good news, guys! Garry will pick you up from school today,” Bec announced, taking charge of sending the teens off to school.

“Why?”, Guy asked, suspicious.

“I have something to do in the city and I will be returning home by the time you end your classes. I decided to be nice for a change and pick you up,” Garry explained.

“No-one's in trouble, then?”, Bridget asked, taking her breakfast.

“Not this time,” Garry promised.

“Yay,” Guy replied.

“It can always change if you're late at school,” Garry threatened.

“Why do you always do that?”, Guy asked. “When I'm actually starting to like you!”

“You're welcome,” Garry retorted, unfazed.

When the kids left, Garry turned to Bec, who was busy tidying the kitchen.

“Do you need me before I leave?”, he asked.

“No, I'll be fine.”

“All right,” Garry nodded and turned towards the stairs.

“Are you okay?”, Bec asked after him. He stopped.

“Yeah, why?”

“You've been awfully quiet recently,” she admitted.

He smiled slightly and looked at her.

“I have?”

“Yeah. You try to act normal, but I can see something is wrong.”

“Since when you know me so well?”

“We've lived together in this house for eight months. It's a lot of time to know someone.”

Garry nodded, looking down.

“And you did not deny being quiet,” Bec observed.

“No, I didn't,” he admitted. “But I will be okay.”

“All right,” Bec replied, deciding to drop the subject for now.

“All right,” he repeated and went up the stairs.


* * *


Garry waited for the teens in the van. They spotted the ugly car immediately and went in, still chatting. Garry gave them one “hi” and joined the traffic.

The teens somehow noticed Garry was not up for a chat, so in time they ran out of things to say. Loren was glancing at Garry from time to time, so she noticed that at some point, he paled. He was pretty tan, so when his face turned ashen and he dropped a silent f-bomb, she knew something was wrong.

“What is it?”, she asked in whisper, like the rest of the teens could not hear them.

Garry cleared his throat.

“Okay guys, I'll be honest. I'm pretty sure our breaks are barely working,” Garry admitted.

“WHAT??!”, they exclaimed.

“I'm trying to slow down, I'll stop when I can, but be prepared for jumping off the car when I tell you.”

“WHAT??!”, they repeated.

“I hope it won't come to that, we don't want you to break any bones,” he said, his tone even and calm. “But if it does, I want you to jump as far to the side and back as possible. Protect your head and roll the moment you hit the ground. Do not aim for trees or other cars and run to the side of the road as soon as you can. Do you understand? Repeat.”

“Jump to the side, roll, protect head, run off the road,” Adam said, tense, but focused. The other kids repeated after him, Garry nodded, relieved.

“Do we call Bec?”, Cassie asked.

“Not yet,” Adam replied, looking at Garry, who was focused on the road. “Best if we shut up for now.”

Garry smirked at him, looking at the rearview mirror.

They felt the car slowing. The road was empty and straight, but they knew there was a rail crossing up ahead. They hoped it would be empty.

Loren saw Garry gripping the steering wheel to the point his knuckles went white. She was sure he would not react if anybody asked him a question at that moment.

They saw the crossing, it was closed, the red lights flashing. The road was empty. Their speed was about 30 kmph and dropping.

Garry took a deep breath.

“Jump, now,” he ordered.

They unbuckled their seatbelts immediately. Adam was sitting the closest to the door. He opened it, then he grabbed Loren. She yelped, but allowed him to drag her out of the car. The rest of the kids soon followed. Garry then turned harshly left into a little side road running by the rails and disappeared from their view.

When they stopped on the sandy side of the road, they took a few seconds to be happy to be alive. Soon they found each other.

“Are we okay?”, Adam asked.

“Yeah,” Charley admitted.

“Bumps and bruises, no breaks,” Cassie informed. The others nodded.

They ran towards the road Garry had disappeared into.

They found the van pretty quickly, stopped by the rails. It did not seem crashed, but they could see Garry lying on the steering wheel.

“Garry!”, they shouted.

To their relief, he reacted immediately. He straightened and turned towards them, then got out of the car.

“You all right?”, he called to them.

“We're fine,” Bridget assured him when they reached him.

“Oh, awesome,” Garry replied and staggered. Adam jumped in to help him.

“What's wrong?”, he asked.

“I'm crashing, sorry, it's gonna be ugly,” Garry admitted, signaling he needed to sit down.

“Adrenaline crash,” Adam explained before anyone could ask.

“Yeah,” Garry nodded. They noticed he had trouble talking. They helped him sit, then lay down on the sand. Bridget put his legs up, but then he turned on his side, assuming the safe position.

Charley was the first person to call Bec. The rest of them sat around Garry and watched helplessly as he shivered on the side of the quiet road. Loren reluctantly put her hand on his shoulder. Cassie decided to risk entering his private space and ran her fingers through his hair. Adam gently squeezed his ankle. Garry laid with his eyes closed, breathing deeply and did not react to their touch. A train went past. They did not talk, waiting for Bec.


* * *


That day, we learned that Garry Miller can be shaken and we were his soft spot. Despite his vulnerable position, none of us even thought that he was weak, to pity him. He probably saved our lives. The least we could do was to help him get through this, too.


* * *


With Garry still crashing, the most collected of them all Adam took the position of the leader. When frantic Bec arrived at the scene in her car, he ordered Garry, Cassie and Loren to drive with her to the house, the rest of them were to go there on foot.

“I'm sorry, I'm fine,” Garry kept repeating when they were hauling him to the car.

“For once, shut up,” Adam ordered playfully. Garry was conscious enough to look at him sternly.

“For once, I will let you get away with it,” he replied, pointing his shaking finger at him. Adam grinned.

“See you at the house,” he said and waved his hand after them.

“Wow,” Guy breathed, watching them go. “That was... something.”

“Yeah,” Charley nodded and turned to Adam. “Man, I knew you were unshakable, but that was impressive,” he added, clapping Adam's shoulder.

“To be honest, I was very close to crashing myself,” Adam admitted, putting his arm around Bridget's shoulder. “And I wasn't the one driving the car and trying to save our lives.”

“I've never seen Garry so shaken,” Bridget admitted, letting Adam push her forward.

“Well, he's never had a reason to be before,” Charley admitted.

They slowly went towards their house.

Then they got there twenty minutes later, Bec was on the phone with a car mechanic, Loren and Cassie sat by the table drinking orange juice, and Garry was nowhere to be seen.

“Where's our heroic coach?”, Guy asked, dropping his bag on the floor.

“Upstairs,” Cassie replied.

“Yeah, he's drained,” Loren added. “He was getting better on the way here, but Bec sent him up anyway.”

“Well, it's high time someone boss him around for a change,” Adam replied with a smile, pouring himself some juice.

“He will pay you back for this, you know that, right?”, Bec asked, entering the room. She was smiling though, so it was not too much of a threat. Adam only shrugged.

“How are you?”, Bec asked them, sitting at the table. “No breaks?”

“No, nothing's even seriously bruised,” Bridget assured her. “To be honest, it would have been an exciting adventure if Garry hadn't crashed so hard. It made me realize we had been in real danger.”

“He will probably kick himself for making you jump out of the car, that could have been dangerous,” Bec said. “But he said he hadn't wanted you in the car as you had been approaching that crossing.”

“We didn't even think to question his decisions,” Charley admitted, playing with an apple. “He was so sure, so focused. And he started crashing AFTER he was told we were okay.”

“Hey, he supported us no matter what before,” Cassie added. “He may think it's embarrassing he reacted so strongly, but we have to assure him it's fine and we understand.”

“Don't worry, we'll take care of him,” Loren promised with a smile.

“Knowing Garry, it would be the best if we just tried to forget the whole adventure,” Bec said. “He doesn't need your excessive gratitude or care, just understanding if he behaves slightly different for the next day or two.”

“Different how?”, Guy asked. They could see he started to worry Garry would push them even harder than usual.

“Somewhat subdued, I think,” Bec explained. “You deal with your training and homework. I will deal with adrenaline-drained Garry,” she added. They felt they were dismissed.

Bec met with the mechanic and went with him to get their van. The kids were left alone, but for once they didn't feel like taking advantage of it. They were quiet the whole day, knowing Garry was probably asleep in his room. They did their homework, some of them went swimming in the pool, the others surfed. When Garry didn't come down for their afternoon training, they went for a run on their own. Loren saw Garry once on his bed, through the crack in his door – he was asleep, lying spread face-down on the mattress. Bec must have put a glass of water on his nightstand, it was untouched.

They gathered again at the dining table in the evening. Garry resurfaced for the first time they got back to the house. His hair was tousled, but he looked refreshed and normal.

“Hey, kids, you okay?”, he asked when he saw them. He sat on his usual spot.

“Yeah, we're fine, thanks to you,” Bridget replied.

“I think we can order pizza to celebrate,” Bec suggested, which was met with collective “YEAAAAH!” from the kids.

“Seriously, man, are you okay?”, Adam asked Garry.

“I'm fine now. Sorry again for that crash, it wouldn't happen if I was alone in the car.”

“We kinda appreciate it,” Cassie replied. Garry gave her his little smirk.

“So, if we all are here together, I have a few words to say,” Garry started, standing up. The teens sat at the table, Bec was looking for something in the fridge. “First, thank you so much for your cooperation during our little adventure today.”

They cheered. Bec put a bottle of beer into Garry's hand. He nodded to her in thanks.

“The biggest thanks to Adam, who kept calm and took over when I was incapacitated,” he continued.

More cheers.

“Also, I give my thanks to Loren, Cassie and whoever was gripping my ankle when I was crashing,” Garry continued, blushing slightly. “It kept me grounded and focused on then and there, so while usually I try to be untouchable, I will not bite your hands off for that. So thank you for the support, it was appreciated.”

Bec gave the aforementioned girls (who were surprised that Garry had been even conscious at that moment) a one armed hug, Guy and Adam exchanged a high-five.

“Honestly, you all did great today and I really hope we won't have to get through this kind of experience ever again,” Garry finished, toasting them with his bottle.

In the cacophony of shouts and clapping, Garry's strong voice could be heard again:

“But that does not mean you can skip tomorrow's training!”

“Aww, man, you're doing it again!”, Guy complained over the laughter.

“But, let's not forget about the biggest hero in today's adventure,” Cassie started, when the noise died down.

“What, the van?”, Guy asked, he got a few groans in response.

Bridget turned to Garry.

“I think we all owe you a huge...”, she started, then the rest of them, including Bec, finished:



* * *


Next day was Saturday, so they could sleep until 7, not 5. When they came down to the beach for training, Garry had bags under his eyes and wet hair, like he hadn't slept all night and already went to the pool. They didn't comment and after a short greeting they started their routine.

It went normally. Garry was demanding as usual. He was less of a drill sergeant, though, slightly subdued, just like Bec predicted. The kids did not feel like disappointing him today, so they did their best. When after the training they went to eat breakfast, Garry did not involve himself in the conversation, focused on his food.

“What are we going to do over the weekend?”, Adam asked.

“I'm afraid that with the van being repaired, there's not much we can do,” Bec informed.

“We can stay local,” Charley said.

“And we will,” Garry spoke for the first time since they started eating. “Forecast is very promising, so there's a lot of surfing in your nearest future.”

“Yay,” Loren squeaked, waving her hands in the air.

They loved surfing, that's why they were here. And they could avoid Garry's brilliant ideas to exhaust them, so it was a plus.

By the time they were finishing their breakfast, the phone in the office rang. Bec went to pick it up. After a minute she called Garry. She sounded worried, so when Garry closed the door behind him, Cassie and Guy crept close to try to listen in.

There was a male, angry voice speaking, Garry and Bec apparently had the caller on loudspeaker. The kids realized that it was probably one of their parents, being angry about their adventure yesterday.

“Sir, that decision was based on many factors. I decided they were safer if they jumped than stayed in the car,” Garry was speaking, calmly and surely, as always. He was losing his cool only when they were doing something stupid. “No, sir, let me explain,” he was saying. “We were approaching a closed rail crossing and I had no chance to stop before we reached it. I knew there was a side road just before the crossing, but I did not know what was behind the opening. So, for one thing, I might have had to crash into something after I turned into that road. Second, the van could have fallen onto its side if I turned too harshly or my speed was too high. The road we were on had sandy sides, no trees, no other cars. I decided then that the kids were safer outside the car, if only they landed properly, which they did.”

There was a pause from Garry, the man asked some question.

“No, sir, I would never make them jump out of the car if the crossing was open. My goal was to stop and keep the kids safe and in one piece. My role in this school is prepare them for pro circuit, so I would never risk them break a bone or get seriously hurt. They are my responsibility and I knew it when I applied for the job. My decision to make them jump was not made lightly, I knew they could have been hurt, but I decided that it was more risky to keep them in the car,” he repeated.

“Legal team of Solar Blue's owners and police officers who were at the scene also said that it was the best decision, given the circumstances,” Bec added. “We have these opinions in writing, we can send you a copy if you want.”

Cassie and Guy decided at that moment it was best if they returned to the table, so they didn't hear the rest of the call. They shortly informed the rest of what they had heard.

They waited for “their adults” at the table, glancing at each other.

“'Legal team'?”. Garry asked Bec as they were leaving the office.

“You were asleep all afternoon, that gave me a lot of time to get things sorted out without you knowing,” Bec replied with a shrug.

“But to get a legal opinion in one afternoon? Not to mention, on Friday?”

“We are owned by a large corporation and I can be persuasive.”

“True,” Garry admitted, then looked at the kids at the table. He paused. Then he pointed his finger at them. “Do not do that,” he ordered.

“Do what?”, Loren asked innocently.

“Oh, you know what,” Garry replied, returning to his spot at the table.

“But we don't,” Guy protested.

“Really?”, Garry asked, pointing his thumb at the office door. They decided not to argue.

“Who's cooking today?”, Charley asked.

“I am,” Garry admitted. He was not on the schedule, but from time to time he volunteered. They knew there would be a feast when he finished.

“Oooh, what did we do to deserve such a treat?”, Bridget asked with a smile.

“You? Absolutely nothing. I have no idea why do we bother to feed you at all,” Garry quipped and with that their breakfast was finished.


* * *


I have this weird game I play every time Garry or Bec do something particularly adult. It's called “what would Dave do”. I'd known Dave – our almost-would-be coach slash funny friend – only for a few hours, but considering his approach towards life, I could play it easily. So, if we were driving with him and he would notice the breaks weren't working, what would he do? Panic? Send us out of car immediately, at 50 kmph, so we'd break a few bones? Or would he be able to stop the car like Garry did, then he would brush over the topic, not really realizing the danger we just faced? Or would we argue with him if he told us to jump? Then it would be too late and we all would be hit by a train?

In what shape we would be right now, under his coaching? Would we have any chance at pro circuit?

Garry is younger than Dave, but so much more grown up. He's taking this job incredibly seriously, he's fully aware of his responsibilities. Dave did not have this kind of vibe. We would not trust Dave as we do Garry, just like I would not trust, for example, Charley or even Adam if he was the one to signal us to jump. I consider them my best friends, yet when it comes to making life threatening decisions, you'd want a trustworthy adult to make them for you.

And the way Garry knew that we were listening to their phone call? How 'adult' or 'parent' was that???

Garry is a great partner in fun, treating us like equals in games, but when it comes to being our acting father or a coach, that equality disappears. He becomes obviously superior to us. And it's a good thing, to be honest. That's what makes him so different to Dave.

I asked Bec if she was happy that we chose Garry. She openly admitted, that yes. She said that with Dave, she would have had six real teenagers and one overgrown one to take care of; with Garry her responsibilities are divided, he's a real support for her. I can see she's looking up to him, just like we do.

I really hope he's supported enough in his 'parental' duties. Because recently, life has become more of a burden for him, apparently.


* * *


Loren entered the office after their afternoon training session and sat opposite Bec.

“Something is seriously wrong with Garry,” she announced.

“Why do you think so?”, Bec asked, putting away the papers she was busy with and focusing on the teen.

“It's hard to explain, but... If it was only about the accident, he would have got over it either yesterday, or today during breakfast. But I can see there's still something on his mind. And it must be serious if he lets it show.”

Bec agreed with her, internally. She didn't express it in any way.

“And what do you expect me to do?”, she asked instead.

“I don't know, but I know he wouldn't tell us what's wrong, so maybe you could find a way to snap him out of it.”

“Out of what?”

“This gloom that's eating him away. I've never thought I would say it, but I honestly miss the drill sergeant.”

Bec decided that Loren was far too perceptive for her own good. She still hid it.

“Sorry to disappoint you, but I, too, noticed something is going on. He would not tell me what and I asked. I don't know what else I can do,” she said.

“Come on, Bec, he looks like he needs our help, he's asking for it, probably without even knowing. It's not like him!”

“I agree,” Bec rushed to assure her. Then she paused. “I might have an idea. But if he receives a call and turn visibly murderous, try to warn me before he kills me, okay?”

“Oh-kay...”, Loren agreed reluctantly. “What are you going to do?”

“Breach his privacy,” Bec admitted. “It's better if you don't know the details.”

“Is it going to help him?”

“You asked me to snap him out of it. Any reaction will be good at this point.”

“Not if you get hurt!”

“I was kidding about him killing me,” Bec protested. “At least I hope so,” she added.


“Anything else?”, Bec asked cheerfully.

“No,” Loren replied, resigned. “I hope whatever you're going to do, will work.”

Bec watched her leave the office and close the door. Then she looked into some folder and picked up the phone.


* * *


The next morning was no better for them or Garry. The bags under his eyes were even more pronounced, he talked less than yesterday; they trained harder than ever. Loren was slightly disappointed with the lack of change for the better, but she decided that maybe Bec needed time.

Just as they were finishing their routine with a run, Garry's mobile started ringing. He signaled to them to go forward, while he slowed down a little and picked it up. They were close enough to hear his end of the conversation.

“Oh, hi. How are you? … Oh, did she, really? … Yeah? What did he say?”

When he received an answer to the last question, he stopped. The teens started slacking, too, but it was met with a raised eyebrow. They only shrugged, like they intended to just wait for him, not listen to what he had to say.

“That's great. Awesome,” Garry said and they could see the relief he felt. They started to wonder what this was all about. “Let me know when you know for sure, okay? … Sure, I'll pass it on. I think, though, that she won't bother you again, as I'm going to strangle her the moment I see her. Which is now. Bye,” he finished and ended the call.

They glanced towards the house. They could see Bec, who just stuck Garry's surfboard into the sand. Hers was already there.

“Who's in trouble?”, Guy asked.

“BEC!!!”, Garry yelled at the top of his lungs and launched himself towards her.

“Oh, damn, he's fast,” Adam commented, watching their coach sprint on the sand.

“Did you notice that after all these months of training, he still has more muscles than us?”, Guy asked.

“He's got a head-start,” Charley replied.

“Oh, my,” Loren whispered, then yelled: “Bec, run!!!”

Bec noticed them, noticed Garry running at her with a murderous expression on his face.

“Oh,” she whispered and started running away from them.

She didn't have a chance. Garry caught up with her after maybe a hundred meters and pushed her onto the sand, so they both fell and rolled. When they stopped, Garry knelt above her head and barked down at her:

“How dare you call my mother!”

“I was worried about you and you wouldn't tell me anything!”, she replied, panting.

“You still shouldn't have.”

“I know and I'm sorry, but I hoped she would tell me what's going on.”

“Did she?”, he asked with a smirk that suggested he already knew the answer.

“Not really. She told me to ask you about your girlfriend, herself and some family curse,” Bec replied, relaxing. “She also gave me a few hints how I can make you feel better,” she added with a smile.

“Wow. She must have got really worried if she gave you that much,” he said and allowed himself to fall to the side. He was lying on his back, closer to the water, so he felt small waves washing his bare feet. He didn't mind.

Bec propped herself on her elbow and looked down at him.

“So, what's going on?”

After a few minutes, the kids approached them cautiously, watching as they talked.

“Does anyone need rescuing?”, Loren asked loudly from some distance. Garry raised his head and looked at them.

“Not at the moment. Go get some breakfast,” he ordered and laid his head on the sand again. The teens dutifully obliged, leaving them alone.

“And for the family curse...,” they heard Garry say, apparently continuing his story. Loren smiled. It seemed that Bec managed to convince him to talk about his troubles. She was intrigued, but decided to respect their privacy. She did not hear the rest of the story:

“... a lot of my family's members died in car accidents. But we're either just unlucky, or idiots when it comes to traffic,” he said with a shrug. “Still, when I noticed that the breaks weren't working, my first though was 'is it my time?'. Then I remembered the six teens in the back. My grandmother likes to believe we are cursed for some reason, which is odd, because it's not exactly Aboriginal kind of belief.”

“Why would it matter if it was Aboriginal or not?”, Bec asked.

“Because she's an Aborigine,” Garry replied like it was obvious.

“Your grandmother is an Aborigine? As in, you're at least a quarter Aborigine?”

“Yep. What, you don't see it?”, he asked, flashing his teeth in a smile.

She looked at him closely. She did see it now, in his nose and eyes. She smiled at him and decided to drop the subject – as interesting as it was, it didn't matter now.

“I'm sorry about your girlfriend,” she said.

He shrugged, but didn't comment.

“How's your mom?”, Bec asked.

“She told me that preliminary results are optimistic. She will know more in a week,” he replied, still lying on the sand. “To be honest, if these things happened separately, within, let's say, a month, not a week, I would probably handle it much better. So, what else my mother told you?”, he asked.

“When was the last time you surfed for fun? Solely for fun, not caring about your posture or what the judges might think about your broken leg?”, Bec asked instead of answering.

The kids at the house decided to not wait for Bec and Garry with breakfast. When they finished eating and started to clean up, Adam looked out the window.

“Is that Garry?”, he asked, pointing at the familiar figure... on his surfboard, riding the waves.

“Is that Bec?”, Bridget pointed at the second figure, following Garry.

The kids ran to the window and watched 'their adults' have fun. Garry rode the waves like the pro surfer he was, Bec was not much worse, though it was obvious she was less fit than their coach.

They both were not giving it their max, the kids could see it. It was surfing for fun, to spend energy and get some more out of the sheer joy of it. At some point, after maybe half an hour, Bec allowed herself on the wave Garry was currently riding, so no-one was surprised when they crashed into each other. When they resurfaced, they were both laughing, splashing water. They returned to the shore and fell on the sand, lying beside each other, with their feet closer to the water.

“I'm sorry for worrying you,” Garry said, catching his breath.

“Hey, next time remember that there are people who care about you,” Bec replied, gently patting his shoulder. He looked at her, water dripping from his hair and nose. He looked much younger like that, Bec decided. Like responsibilities added at least five years of age to his face; when he forgot about them, just for a few minutes, his natural charm took over. She noticed the deep brown of his eyes, the flat nose with wide nostrils, two little scars between his eyes, freckles all over his face. He was watching her watching him and did not say a word.

'No,' she thought. 'Don't look at him like this.'

On the other hand, why not? She could, right now. No-one could stop her. There was no-one to be jealous about this anymore, no-one to steal him from.

'Maybe, one day', she decided. Not yet.

“So, this is how we cheer you up,” she said. “Make you talk, listen to you and then get your mind off things.”

“Yep. That's how simple I am.”

She sat up, then stood and reached towards him.

“Come on, coach. We have breakfast to eat,” she said. He took the offered hand and did not let go when he got to his feet. They walked towards the house in silence.


* * *


In the evening that Sunday someone put a drawing on the fridge door. It was slightly crude, like child's drawing, but out of the six of us, no-one has any artistic talent, so anyone could draw this. It showed Garry in his favourite black singlet, standing on the roof of our van like on a dead dragon, but he had a timer in his hand instead of a sword; Bec was standing behind him with a steaming mug (probably coffee), and the six of us were kneeling around the “dragon” with our hands raised high, like we were worshiping Garry.

We tried to ignore it. Bec snorted when she saw it, but didn't say anything. When Garry noticed the drawing, he leaned on the fridge door and silently laughed for five minutes – I checked.

We don't know what was wrong with Garry. I know Bec knows, but she wouldn't tell us. All we care about is that the Garry we all know and love, has returned. He opened to us, showed some kind of vulnerability at least three times last week. Do we respect him less because of it? No. We've always known he is human. So whatever happened to push him to his limits, I hope it won't happen again. If it does, I'm sure he knows now that he has people he can lean on and talk to, just like we can count on him – no matter what.