I was destined to live in Australia. The weather, the people, all of it was calling to me. Ever since I was a child I would spin the globe in my dad's study and my fingers would always find themselves tracing over the continent as if there was a magnetic connection between the my finger tips and my true home.
When I realised the whole going to University to get a degree, getting a job, marrying the perfect guy and living behind my picket white fence with two or three perfect children wasn't for me, I had to get away from my old life and find myself. And this is where I planned to do exactly that.
This scene unraveling before my eyes was far more than picturesque. It was probably the most beautiful thing I'd ever seen. The french doors of my new temporary home gave was to the view of the crystal blue ocean below the rough greenery of the edge of the cascading cliff that lay out beyond the glass. From what I could see of the small stretch of beach there was no one around, then again I don't know what I expected, Aunt Grace had told me it was a private beach for this house and the one next door.
The house was larger than I remembered, it's not surprising considering the last time I was here I was only young. The three bedrooms made me feel a little lonely, being alone, but I've always loved this house. I was so excited when Grace and her husband Stephen offered for me to stay while she was away all summer with Madison. Despite Madison and I almost being identical, we were only cousins, although we were always mistaken for sisters and sometimes even twins. We were never particularly close but we'd always play games and mess with people, pretending to be each other.
It was peaceful and cosy here, and I knew this would be the perfect place to find myself and discover what I really want to achieve in life, before I go spend thousands of dollars in tuition for a life I'm not even interested in.
My last suitcase was unpacked tightly into the the dresser of the spare room I'd been given for the summer. Finally finished with my unpacking filled me with a sense of relief that I could take the nap that I was longing for as soon as my feet stepped off of the plane and was hit with the warm Australian air.
Quickly, I texted my mom, reassuring her that I was settled in safely. I nestled my head onto my pillow and rested my aching body on my new mattress in my new bedroom. I'd slept in this room before when I stayed for a few weeks at a time. However, it had changed slightly since I'd last been here. The walls were painted differently, a horrible mix between burnt orange and a baby pink. I wasn't sure who would've painted it such a colour, but Aunt Grace has assured me I could do whatever I wanted with the room as it was mine now, for whenever I wanted to stay. With that in mind, I'll need to fix it at one point.
I wrapped the lightweight sheet tighter around my frame and sighed gently. I was perfectly content. The glass window across from where I lay was cracked open slightly, allowing a gentle breeze that swept over my tired eyes from time to time. I could hear the faint call of seagulls and the aroma of tanning oils and the salty waters of the ocean was seeping into my nostrils each time I inhaled.
--- --- ---
As soon as my eyelids fluttered open, I realised I must've slept for at least a few hours. This jet lag would take a while to get over. My legs shook slightly down the creaking staircase and continued to shake until I managed to make myself a soothing cup of coffee. As I lifted the cup to my lips, I glanced out towards the ocean again, the sun was setting and there was a tall boy sat on the deck outside the french doors of the kitchen.
The guy slowly rose, turning around. He seemed deflated, while I watched him, he suddenly noticed me from outside. Immediately he was sprinting towards the door, his expression changing dramatically to one of sheer relief.
I was slightly uncomfortable, he was looking at me like we'd known each other for years, even though I'd never seen or met him before. I set my cup down on the counter, the clinking sound echoing throughout the empty home. He was yelling something through the glass at me I couldn't quite make out.
Cautiously I went to the door, twisting the lock slowly, I opened the door, silencing the tan skinned boy. He had big brown eyes and a prominent facial structure. He wore a tank top that revealed a small tattoo peaking out from just below his collarbone that I couldn't help be curious about and his hair sat in a dark mess on his head. He was attractive, I'll admit, but his actions confused me.
Without warning he grasped me, wrapping strong arms around my shoulders. "What the hell are you doing here?" His voice was warm and inviting, but my heart was racing and I was fighting the urge to shove him off me.
"Ugh, I'm sorry, but do I know you?" I could feel the heat rushing to my cheeks, my voice was squeaky and quiet.
"Madison that's not funny, cut it out." He let out a hearty chuckle and I could feel his chest rise and fall against mine. Finally, he pulled away from me, freeing me from the unexpected embrace. He was smiling so much his cheeks must've ached, "I thought you were going away for the summer."
"Madison? You know Madison?" I took a slight step back, still unsure of the situation. "I'm sorry, I'm Madison's cousin, Stefani."
"Oh, I see." He changed again dramatically, his smile dropped and his cheeks were now a dusted pink colour. "I'm sorry, yeah, she's told me about you before." He muttered something else underneath his breath that I couldn't decipher before running a hand through his hair in frustration. He seemed distraught.
I pursed my lips together, unsure of what to say. "Are you alright? I thought they would've told you I was coming."
"Yeah, yeah they did. I just didn't realise you looked so alike. I mean, she told me you guys were similar but I had no idea." He wouldn't look at me now, but his face had softened and he reached his arm up to scratch the back of his neck.
I bit my lip, glimpsing at him again. My heart couldn't help but ache for this mysterious boy. He wasn't the first person to confuse Madison and me. It was understandable. "If it helps, you're not the first one to confuse us. Would you like to come in? I can make you a coffee if you want."
His eyebrows arched up and I caught his gaze again. "Me?"
I could feel my cheeks flushing again. Perhaps I overstepped, after all this is an odd situation. "Well yeah, I mean I'll be here all summer so I just thought that-"
"No, no, it's cool," He interrupted my explanation, taking a step inside. His eyes wandered throughout the home and he gave me a small smile. "I'm just surprised, s'all. I'm Calum, by the way."
I wanted to ask him why but I didn't want to linger. "Nice to meet you, the name's Stefani. Incase you didn't catch it the first time."
"Yeah, like Gwen Stefani." He giggled softly to himself.
I playfully smiled, my dimples showing as I rolled my eyes. "That's the one."
He took a seat on the couch in the living room, seeming more comfortable in the house than I was. It made sense, if he's as close to Madison as I'd guessed, he probably spent plenty of time here. "Okay Stefani, so what brings you to Australia? I can tell you're not from around here."
"Well, I was in need of a change and I was allowed to stay here for the summer," I explained with a shrug of my shoulders. "And what about you?"
"I was born here and haven't moved since. I live right next door, the only other house nearby really." He returned my shrug with a lick of his lips. "So, welcome to the neighbourhood, I guess."