Home > Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(6)

Just One Look (Escape to New Zealand, #14)(6)
Author: Rosalind James

“I mean, more in my life. Like a new start, somehow. Marie Kondo, or something like that. Except that I don’t really have stuff. If I looked around and thought, does this item bring me joy, I’d be throwing out my couch and dishes, and then I’d be eating off paper plates and sitting on the floor while ordering the first thing I saw online, the same way I did the first time. No, I think I have to go somewhere.”

“Whoa,” Clement said, serious now. “As in, not Emory?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. Maybe a vacation, because any other hospital’s just going to be another hospital, right? It’s not going to change my life.”

“No place is, unless you go someplace really different,” Jordan said. “Like where, though? Africa? Antarctica? Someplace way out of your comfort zone.”

“Out of her comfort zone means more than ten blocks away,” Clement said, “not Africa. Do you know this woman at all? She’s living two hundred fifty miles from where she grew up.”

“Anywhere but New Zealand,” she said. “I am not going to New Zealand. Not to Auckland, and not to the rest of New Zealand, either. That’s a no.” She held out her glass for a refill. It was a tiny, long-stemmed, cone-shaped thing like a mini champagne flute that was just for liqueurs. Clement and Jordan even had joyful stemware.

Her own glasses had come in a box from Amazon. They didn’t bring her joy, but they held water, and that tended to be enough for her.

Or it had.

“Why not?” Clement asked. “New Zealand’s beautiful.”

“You’ve heard,” Jordan said. “But as it requires a vacation longer than a week, you’ll never know. Maybe I’ll go to New Zealand. And hello? Stepmother living there? Stepsister?”

“Oh.” Clement looked confused. “Uh … I don’t think I know this.”

Jordan sighed. “Her stepmother was from New Zealand. Her father met her there at a conference. Or in Australia or someplace, can’t remember. She was nice, though,” he said to Elizabeth. “You told me she was nice.”

“She was,” Elizabeth said. “I still don’t want to go there. I was eighteen the only time I visited, and—ugh. It doesn’t bring up positive memories. Anyway, going to another country is ridiculous. I don’t have time. I probably just need a vacation. To one of those meditative spas, maybe. And to get my washing machine fixed, and possibly join a gym instead of just using my elliptical machine. You know. More of a …” She waved the fancy glass. “More of a real life. With more … parts.”

 

 

3

 

 

Henry Asks Some Questions

 

 

Tokyo, Japan

March

Facing the media was never Luka Darkovic’s favorite thing. All those questions. He reckoned that his actions spoke for themselves. If people needed more than that, he didn’t have much else to give them.

The media was especially not his favorite thing after a Friday night game that had come six days after the last game and with a full day of travel from Australia in there, a game in which he’d been tackled with bone-crunching intensity by two forwards at the same time, in a hit that had resulted in some extremely annoying shooting pains down his left arm that he was going to have to do something about if he wanted to play next week. Not to mention that the forwards had been Japanese, and he was nearly a full head taller and had at least twenty Kg’s on both of them. Embarrassing, was what you’d call that. Not so bad if you were a back, but for a No. 8, whose job was to break the line and run through everything in your way?

Embarrassing.

Here he was, though, sitting at the table beside Hugh Latimer, his captain on the Auckland Blues, and Rhys Fletcher, the coach, fronting up at the postgame press conference. Both he and Hugh were hastily showered and crammed into their dress shirts, their forearms resting on the table, trying to look relaxed. Maybe Hugh actually was. Luka always felt, at these things, like somebody was about to spring something on him. Why else would they have asked him? It was probably going to be about that double tackle this time, and whether he’d lost a step in his thirteenth season.

They could ask. He was ready.

Questions for the coach, for Hugh, that they answered. Praise for the Sunwolves, like you’d expect, even though the Blues had won by seventeen. You respected your opponent, during the game and after it. Discussion of the drop goal that Will Tawera had executed after the hooter had sounded for the end of the first half, and whether that had been practiced. Of course it had been practiced. What did they think, that a first-five pulled a droppie like that out of his hat? He kept the answer off his face the same way he generally did: by staring straight ahead.

A boy stood up from the group of reporters, then. Eight or nine, something like that. A European boy with sleek blonde hair. He said, in an extremely posh accent, “Hello. My name is Henry Willoughby. I’m the reporter for my school paper at the English School, and I’m here to interview Luka Darkovic.”

“Right, then,” Rhys said. “Interview away.” The twitch at the corner of his mouth told Luka that he was going to enjoy this, and Hugh was outright grinning.

Ah. This was the reason Luka’d been chosen for this media duty, instead of getting a massage that might lessen those electric shocks of pain, not to mention having a beer like a normal person before he climbed onto the plane for the twelve-hour night flight back to New Zealand.

“My first question,” Henry pronounced, “is: What qualities are important to succeed in rugby?”

Exactly what you’d expect him to ask. Luka answered, “Same things you need to succeed at anything. Practice. Focus. Determination. You’ve got to be willing to put in the effort, not just go through the motions. Turning up isn’t enough. You’re training to get better, not just because your coach said you should. You’re teaching your muscles and your mind something new every time. A bit of pain tolerance probably doesn’t come amiss, either.”

He could do this in his sleep. That was the one benefit of all those years in the professional game. Any minute here, he’d be telling Henry that it was a team sport, and that you had to focus on the fundamentals.

“What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t a rugby player?” Henry asked.

“Physiotherapy,” Luka said. “Sorry it’s not something more exciting,” he added, when Henry looked distinctly disappointed. “Commando, astronaut, brain surgeon, whatever it is you’re hoping for. If I weren’t doing this, I’d just be pushing people to get stronger like the sadistic fella I am.”

Wait. Were you allowed to say “sadistic” to a kid?

Never mind. He’d already said it.

“That’s what he does anyway,” Hugh put in from beside him. “Easy transition.”

“It seems like you’d want to do something more exciting, though,” Henry said, because Henry, clearly, was persistent.

Luka may have agreed with him. He wasn’t going to say so, though. “Think I should’ve been a lawyer instead? Battle it out in court? Nah, mate. Physio’s as good as it’s going to get. Could be worse, eh. My family are avocado farmers.”

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