The Rebel

By: Victoria Purman



*

Maggie absentmindedly walked the aisles of her local grocery store, ambling along with the trolley in front of her. She didn’t need much but was taking her time, eyeing the displays, trying not to buy any chocolate. Instead, she chose bananas and dropped them into her supermarket trolley. She remembered the bandaids for Evan. Some apples. Fresh bread rolls. Chicken fillets, a lettuce and tomatoes. It looked like burger night tonight.

It was nice to be out of the house, even if it was doing a household chore. Sometimes—no, a lot of the time—she felt housebound and confined. She hadn’t envisioned this for her life. Before she’d fallen pregnant, she’d been a traveller. A restless So-Cal gal with a rucksack and a passport, she’d hopped on a plane whenever she’d scraped up enough money from waitressing and cleaning jobs. She loved being a gypsy, never planning where she might venture next. First it was Morocco via Paris, with side trips to Croatia and Spain thrown in; and then New Zealand, where she met a couple of Tolkien fans who were flying to the land of the long white cloud determined to throw their wedding rings into Mount Doom. When she was fruit picking in the South Australian Riverland one Down Under summer, she’d met a wild Irish girl named Marion and they’d travelled together to the Indonesian island of Bali. That’s where she’d first met Cooper. In a dingy bar in the main tourist strip in Kuta, she and Marion had braved the crowds of drunken Australians and met two surfers. Cooper Malone and Vance Walton, brothers in arms and brothers on the waves. The striking blond-haired tanned athletes had just returned to the tourist town after surfing in Uluwatu. Vance had looked across at her, grinned, and said ‘G’day.’

Maggie’s life had been linked to both men ever since.

She hadn’t travelled since Bali. That gypsy soul was now a sensible accountant who worked from home. It was a long way from her old life, but she’d made it work for her and Evan. She took him to school, and then worked in her office, the third bedroom at the front of the house, which overlooked her quiet street, until it was time to pick him up. Sometimes she worked at night, after Evan had gone to bed. Her mom was close, in the home Maggie had grown up in, which was a blessing for emergencies like today.

It had been the two of them—her and Evan—since he was born. When she’d finally tracked Vance down in South Africa and told him she was pregnant and that she was keeping the baby, he’d made it perfectly clear that fatherhood wasn’t his bag. ‘I’m trying to break into the professional circuit, babe. I can’t be tied down like that.’

In her heart she’d known Vance wasn’t a long-term bet. She’d known it that first night, when he’d slipped an arm around her but kept an eye on her friend Marion, whose Irish eyes and Dublin brogue were as compelling as her long red hair and her curves. She wasn’t that upset, because Cooper was handsome and so tall, and had looked at her with a glint in his eye that she imagined was flirting. But he’d disappeared with Marion not long after their first drink, and the gypsy in Maggie decided she didn’t care about being anyone’s second choice. She was young and adventurous and this was only going to be for a few days of fun—maybe a week—in the heady tropical heat of Bali, and Vance was too gorgeous to refuse.

When Maggie realised she was pregnant, on the way to Vietnam, she turned around and went home to California. Her travelling days stopped and her sensible life had begun.

Vance was true to his word about not wanting to be tied down and had never bothered to come to California to meet his son. But Cooper, the tall handsome Cooper, had dropped in the summer after Evan was born. He’d been in San Clemente to prepare for a surf competition and had turned up on Maggie’s doorstep with a stuffed koala for Evan and a bottle of Australian wine for her.

Their friendship had grown in the years since. As his surfing career had exploded, he’d travelled more and more and had made a point of sending postcards to Evan from wherever he was in the world. The colourful collection now filled the wall above the desk by Evan’s bed. Kangaroos and bears and lions and elephants; he’d found cheesy animal cards from around the globe to delight his young friend. Maggie had followed Cooper’s career online and in the sports news, and whenever he was on a break from competitions, he would fly in and crash at his San Clemente house, instead of going home to Sydney, and simply hang out with Maggie and Evan.

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