A quick refresher?
It was already nightfall when Brendan was given his hotel key card after the check in process was completed. He didn’t care much if his room was blessed with the magnificent view of Swan River because he wouldn’t soak up Mother Nature’s beautiful artwork. Most of his time would be spent outdoors, experiencing Perth while tracking down Winnie. What he needed was a comfortable bed to crash on instead.
With the help of the hotel receptionist’s instructions, he made his way to the Crawley-Nedlands campus of University of Western Australia by bus and train the next morning. As he was a stranger to this part of the country, he assumed the role of a prospective student and casually followed the crowd into the admissions office before he waited at the corner. Half an hour later, he found himself being given a tour of the large campus and the accommodation. Allowing himself to rest on the wooden yet heated bench and with one last effort at contacting Winnie, he dropped a text on WhatsApp and hoped for little. Two years of friendship and continuously seeing each other in tutorials were enough for Brendan to understand the inner workings of Winnie’s mind. The girl had the penchant of ignoring messages on Messenger for weeks at one go. Getting her to reply on WhatsApp was a tad bit easier but still took an effort. Brendan shook his head, relieved that at least Winnie came with the brains to answer to urgent and important texts on either social media accounts. His phone vibrated with such intensity that he almost jumped in shock.
It was Winnie, which surprised him.
“You’ve finally got in contact.”
“I read your messages. Why did you track me down in Perth?”
It was not a question of how. It was more of why, which was highly indicative that she knew he’d search for her whereabouts and that their former lecturer fed him with the important information. She knew he was hot on her trail and it wasn’t long before her hideout would be exposed to the light of day. “I needed to know if you were alright. You left without a trace. Katrina and I are both worried about you.”
“I had my reasons.”
“Any of which you want to spill? I’ve time and can listen.”
She navigated past his gentle prodding. “Don’t you have classes to attend to back in Adelaide? It’s not the autumn break yet.”
Smart gal, he thought. Although she was no longer physically in the North Terrace campus, she still kept herself in touch with the university’s academic calendar and events. “Missing a tutorial once is fine. Plus, my friend will cover for me. My flight’s on Sunday. If you’re thinking of throwing me off, it’s not working, Winnie.”
There was a moment’s silence in which she debated whether to reveal the truth or to keep the cards close to herself. Sure, he was someone she trusted. She had come to appreciate his presence in her life over the course of their friendship. He was able to be there for her while maintaining a distance - unlike Katrina, whom Winnie felt was intrusive at times. He was a mature chap who understood the crooked paths of life, but she was unsure if he could handle everything she was to tell. It wasn’t just Katrina’s role that complicated matters. It was his feelings towards her… and as she hated to admit, her thoughts of him. He fulfilled all of the attributes of her Mr. Right but distance was a double-edged sword. He didn’t endure the 3-hour flight to unchartered territories for nothing. He wanted answers, something to assist him in understanding the rationale behind her decision and the reasons leading to it. She’d dish the truth on a plate to him, as per his silent wishes, but she was in no way responsible for the impact on him.
“Fine, you win. Where are you now?”
“Tell you what, Brendan. Meet me in front of Coffee Club Harbour Town in two hours time. It’s quieter there and we’ll talk.”
The call went dead before Brendan responded. Winnie was deranged to have suggested that place. How was he to head there? Couldn't she have suggested somewhere nearby, somewhere closer where he wouldn’t find himself lost like a confused deer? With a sigh, he retraced his footsteps to the admissions office and prayed that whoever was in charge would be able to guide him.