CHAPTER SEVEN - EXPLORATION
I worked the weekend with Bryan in his van, selling show bags to the thousands of people who came through the show. I had never seen so many people, nor did I ever imagine that so many would be in one place. At one time Bryan mentioned it had been a quiet show. That completely blew my mind. Everyone seemed so happy and carefree. I was yet to experience any of the evil my father spoke of.
After the last of the people left on the Sunday night the rides, food vans and stalls started to pack down. Bryan and Judy pulled me aside and offered for me to travel with them. I would continue to stay with Judy and work with Bryan. I agreed immediately. They had been so nice to me and they were my first friends in the outside world, I wasn't ready to lose them.
On the Monday before we all left in convoy, Judy had driven into a bigger town and arrived with a stack of books. Judy was a retired school teacher, who had married later in life and went on the show trail with her husband who died a year later. She stayed with the show as an honour to him, but wanted to give me a proper schooling. I took the books willingly, I was excited to learn about my new world.
I drove with Bryan along the great ocean road as he pointed out landmarks like the 12 apostles (in which there were only 8 as the others had collapsed into the ocean), and the London bridge (which had also collapsed years before). He told me how the great ocean road was built by returning diggers of World War One and is a memorial to them. I learned more on the drives with Bryan than all my years in the community. While Bryan told me the history and geography of our surroundings, Judy helped me with math (in which I knew a little), science (which was a completely foreign subject) and my reading and writing.
We went on like this for the next two years. I was welcomed by everyone in the show community, and soon became the youngest member of their makeshift family. We travelled all around Australia, and into the centre. I couldn't believe how big this place was, and knowing it was just one of 7 continents I was in awe.
I'd started slowly opening up about my life to Bryan and Judy, giving them bits and pieces now and again. It was a few weeks after my 17th birthday, Bryan and I were sitting at a table playing poker. Bryan was teaching me how to read people, how to find people's tells.
“You're bluffing.” He says confidently with a smirk on his face. I squint my eyes at him.
“How do you know?” I ask curiously as I look down at my lonely pair of 2s.
“I know your tell.” He says casually, sitting back in his chair with his card extended in front of him. I purse my lips.
“What is it?” I ask, unaware of anything giving away my pathetic hand. Bryan chuckles gruffly.
“Well, I'll tell you only so you know how to bluff better, but never tell anyone their tell ok?” he says and I nod in understanding. “When you're bluffing or nervous, you tap your middle and index finger against your cards... I've seen you do it against your leg as well.”
I look down at my hands and stop my fingers from tapping making Bryan chuckle.
“Good girl. Now I'm going to raise.” He says.
“Fold.” I say with a sigh as I put the cards down on the table and Bryan laughs
“Told ya.” He smirks triumphantly.
“You have a tell too you know?” I say with a small smile. Bryan raises an eyebrow, looking at my with curiosity.
“Yeah? And what's that?” he asks. I shake my head
“Nah, you don't tell people that.” I say as my smile widens, Bryan chuckles and shakes his head.
“Too right.” He states, but with a hint of pride in his eyes. Bryan picks up the cards and shuffles them. He deals them as he talks. “You know... for a kid that grew up in a cult... you certainly have a good head on ya shoulders.”
“A cult?” I ask, having never heard that word before. I reach out and pick up my cards. 3 aces, a king and a 2.
“Yeah a cult... I thought it might have been a commune but from what I've pieced together... it sounds more like a cult.” He says as he scans his cards.
I deliberately tap my index and middle finger against the cards as I put some poker chips in the middle. Bryan tosses some in the middle as well.
“What's the difference?” I ask. I throw out my 2 and Bryan deals me another card. Another king. I continue to tap my fingers against the cards.
“Well... a commune is usually people all together, living simple.” He states as I raise the pot.
“Like us?” I ask as I look around the camp grounds.
“Yeah I guess that's probably right.” Bryan chuckles before he moves all of his chips into the middle. “Whereas, a cult usually has one nutcase at the top that everyone else follows blindly.” He continues.
“That's an accurate description.” I say as I push all my chips into the middle, meeting his call. Bryan shakes his head and clucks his tongue.
“Then I'm damn glad I took a chance on you and didn't send you back to that. 3 of a kind!” He puts his cards down showing his three 9s. I smile and place my cards down.
“Full house.” I counter smugly. Bryans jaw drops before it turns into a wide smile.
“Well I'll be damned...” he says, his voice full of pride. We're interrupted by a car pulling up and a woman maybe in her late 40s stepping out. Judy rushes out of her trailer and wraps her in a hug.
A boy steps out of the passenger seat, he's my age, maybe a bit older. His hair is black, his eyebrow and lip pierced. He wears a hoody and faded jeans and a permanent scowl on his face.
“Whose that?” I ask Bryan, nodding my head towards the boy. Bryan doesn't look at me when he responds.
“Trouble.” He says seriously. I watch the boy curiously as Judy speaks to the woman who is with him. It reminds me of the first time I saw Tommy. Watching him from afar. But this is different. Tommy had this aura around him that showed his goodness. He had an honest soul and a calmness to him. This boy seemed dangerous, wild, exciting. I was intrigued.
I watched as he stormed into Judy's caravan, Judy just rolled her eyes and hugged the woman. The woman got in her car and drove away. Bryan and I watch as Judy walks into the caravan. We hear yelling from both of them before the boy walks out, slamming the door behind him. I watch as his back disappears into the bush behind the camp.
I turn to Bryan wide eyed. I'd never seen such behaviour. Sure in the past two years I'd seen some fights at the shows, but never in the tight knit show community. Bryan looks at my expression and chuckles.
“That, my dear, is what you call a temper tantrum.” He says with a smirk. I look back towards where the boy had disappeared and shake my head.
Judy comes out of her caravan and walks towards us, carrying three beers in her hand. She hands one each to me and Bryan, I take it hesitantly. I've never been allowed to drink alcohol before.
“You're 17 now Katie, maybe a year off being able to drink by law, but old enough in my eyes.” Judy says. I look to Bryan who nods his head, then open my beer. I take a small sip, the bitter taste covering my tongue. I must screw up my face as Judy and Bryan laugh.
“It gets better after the first sip.” Bryan tells me. I nod and try again, after the third sip I start to enjoy the taste. Bryan was right. Judy sits down at the table and plays with the label of her beer bottle in her hand.
“That's my grandson Brandon. He's going to be traveling with us for a while.” She sighs. Bryan and I look at each other, talking with our eyes. “He's rough around the edges but he's had a hard life. His mums had enough so she sent him here for me to straighten out.”
“Fuck knows what I'm gonna do with him.” Judy shakes her head. Bryan sips his beer and sighs.
“We'll work it out. Katie can move into the spare bunks in my caravan.” Bryan says. I nod at Bryan and Judy and Judy hesitantly agrees.
“Come on Katie, let’s go make room for the terror.” We all laugh and I follow Judy back to our van to pack up my things.