The Album That Changed My Life

If you have spent more than five minutes with me, or seen any of my social media, I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise that I am madly in love with Ringo Starr.

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I know baby, I know.

However… My love for the Beatles goes so far beyond my little obsession with the blue eyed Muso of my dreams.

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If we go way, way back, the first time I ever heard them was at my lovely friend Alice’s house in primary school. I remember digging it and when I got home asked Mumma about them.

“We don’t like the Beatles.”

“Oh, okay.”

And that was that until I turned twenty three. What can I say? I’m impressionable.

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I actually can’t remember what it was that spurred my sudden interest. One day I just got this urge to go looking. It was one of my first ‘digging expeditions’ (what I call it when I spend days balls deep in artist’s back catalogues searching for gold).

I found lots of hits I recognised. Lots. I had no idea how many amazing songs they had brought in to the world. I was starting to get lost in their beautiful stories and I’d chuck on an Anthology on a Sunday afternoon.

Then, while scanning the internet for Coachella highlights from my other favourite band, I came across this:

 

 

 

 

I don’t think up until that point that I had ever let a song truly move me outside of the Dreamgirls soundtrack. I. Was. Shook.

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I mean, it’s Alex bloody Turner, the greatest poet of our time, crooning along to a song that had me tingling all over. I had to dig further.

Then I found it.

The album. The most perfect album I had ever heard.

Abbey Road.

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I bought the vinyl within days of my first official listening. The day she arrived I placed her lovingly on my record player and laid on the floor between my giant speakers, only moving to flip her over; a few times.

This album, to me, is start to finish flawless.

This may be less of a review and more of a love letter to the men blew my mind and changed my life. After finding this album, I fell in love with all music. Before, I enjoyed my tunes, but then something shifted. I don’t know if I love people as much as I love some of my bands and songs. I have out-of-body experiences sometimes when I hear something I connect with. I tear up. Oh my God, don’t even get me started on key changes. Orgasmic.

I am forever thankful for every second of music they brought to us, and the passion they’ve instilled in me, but here is my run down of the best 47 minutes I’ve ever had:

SIDE ONE

Come Together
Written by John Lennon

 

 

 

 

 

If you’ve ever tried to learn the lyrics to this song, well done. It’s a mess. It’s got the sexiest vibes and is definitely one of their hotter tunes. It just goes to show, when you’ve got a good bass line you don’t need good lyrics (I tease. It takes skill to write that much gibberish).

Something
Written by George Harrison

 

 

 

I absolutely adore this song. It’s my favourite of George’s across all the albums. It gets me right in the chest every time. I remember the first time I saw Love by Cirque du Soleil and their interpretation was so beautiful. Every time I hear it I’m transported right back to that arena with those stunning acrobats.

Maxwell’s Silver Hammer
Written by Paul McCartney

 

Look, I know I’m weird, but this song it amazing. I mean… hey, this is probably going to be our last album, how about I chuck in a cheery tune about a serial killer? I think Paul and I would be great friends.

Oh! Darling
Written by Paul McCartney

Without a doubt my favourite vocal performance of sweet Paul. He’s got the growl, the range and the fookin passion in this absolute anthem of heart break. I adore it from start to finish.

Octopus’ Garden
Written by Ringo Starr

 

 

This is why I love him. Ringo’s one contribution to my favourite album is one of the most wholesome ditties you’ll ever hear. He is to be cherished, my God. Thank you thank you for Richard bloody Starkey and his gigantic heart.

I Want You (She’s So Heavy)
Written by John Lennon

My absolute favourite Lennon song. As mentioned above, it’s this one that started my love affair with this album. Turn it up loud and lie on the floor. You’ll go somewhere magic, I promise.

SIDE TWO

Here Comes the Sun
Written by George Harrison

Not my favourite of George’s contributions, but definitely one of the defining Beatles anthems, this song is pure beauty. It’s kind and gentle, quite like how I imagine George would have been too.

Because
Written by Lennon/McCartney

Beautiful. From start to finish this tune is a trip. I adore the simplicity of the lyrics, the harmonies, the image of myself floating above the world. It’s just unreal.

You Never Give Me Your Money
Written by Paul McCartney

‘A song written about having no faith in a person’, allegedly this song was inspired by late Beatles financial disputes and the involvement of Allen Klein. All things considered, it’s a beautiful tune and I particularly enjoy seeing clips of Paul banging it out on the piano on his recent tours.

Sun King
Written by Paul McCartney

This song shows off two things: the boy’s incredibly harmonies, and their ability to pull off absolute nonsense.

Mean Mr. Mustard
Written by John Lennon

Of  course the two most offensive songs on the album are mainly written by John. I love him, but he’s so naughty. I adore the visuals of this song though. He’s one hell of a good writer.

Polythene Pam
Written by John Lennon

Poor Pam. There’s nothing wrong with looking a bit like a man. The way this song crashes in to the next is one of my favourite parts of the album.

She Came in Through the Bathroom Window
Written by Paul McCartney

This song speaks to my soul. Written about an infamous groupie gang the Apple Scruffs and Diane Ashley who once did in fact climb in through Paul’s bathroom window. This is the anthem of our star-crossed youth. You’ve got to embrace your inner groupie guys. There ain’t nothing wrong with being a lover.

Golden Slumbers
Written by Paul McCartney

This song has shaken me out of many a bummed out stupor. Paul’s vocals are so strong, and the beautiful lullaby flows perfectly in to the next.

Carry That Weight
Written by Paul McCartney

A sing-along anthem if ever I knew one. I love the whole final medley and I think it’s incredible the way so many strong small songs can blend to take us to the greatest album finale of all time.

The End
Written by Paul McCartney

I get sad every time this song begins, because I know what it means. I’m going to have to get up and flip it soon. From the stunning little solos to the final words to live by, this song is perfection.

‘And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.’

Her Majesty
Written by Paul McCartney

Oh how I used to hate the way this would pull me out of my final note shudders. It’s an irritatingly catchy little ditty but you know what? I can’t hate anything Paul does. This is a hidden track and he’s a wonder.

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They are all a gift that we do not deserve.

Thank you for the music.

Thank you for everything.

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If you haven’t already, you must watch their films. Their quick wit and young faces are magnificent.

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Forever yours,

Harleigh Q

xo

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Girls

Every day millions of baby girls are born in to this world.

A few of us are very, very lucky.

We are born in to love. We have a beautiful home to call our own. We are raised with kindness and patience. We have two people who adore us and do everything in their power to do it right. We can avoid the badness of this planet because we are grounded by love and support.

We really are the lucky ones.

There are lots babies who don’t have it so good.

Having a family who give me everything is something that for the longest time I have taken for granted; yes, I love them more than breath, but I never truly appreciated just how well I did in the life lottery.

As I became a woman I explored the world a lot more. I travelled a lot. My morbid curiosity kicked in and I started studying crime in my spare time as a hobby. My Papi being a prison officer gave me an acute awareness of ‘badness’. I don’t think I ever comprehended the extent until it started to creep in to my life. I realised that heartbreak and poverty and pain are always only a stones throw away from all of us. It is very close to home. It’s getting worse, too.

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I have seen girls and women with sparks and brains and character dim and change and break. I’ve seen the affects a childhood or relationship built on fear can have.

It all kind of came to a head the night I watched the British drama ‘Three Girls’ which is a factual retelling of a harrowing and sickening trend; women who fall prey to evil men.

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For a start, watch it. I cry a lot, but this broke me. I held it in until the end of part one and then I snapped. I felt it, all of it, and I sobbed and I couldn’t stop. I cried for every single baby girl in this world who doesn’t have a daddy to protect her. I cried for every baby girl who found herself out of control of her situation. I cried for every rape victim, every exploited child, every female used and abused with no where to turn.

We know our world is filled with bad, bad people.

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I hate the fact that we have to discuss an entire gender in such a negative way. Of course we know it’s ‘not all men‘. It’s a fact, though, that male violence is one of the biggest issues we have. As women we are raised to always have our guard up and be vigilant. We know to walk quickly when alone, be on our phone, not wear anything too revealing, not make eye contact, avoid going out at night.

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I wish I could open my arms and hold close every single person who has ever been hurt, and I hope that in writing the way I do I will open a dialogue or raise awareness. I just want to talk about it. We are not okay.

Women are forever in an inferior position when it comes to physical dominance. There is a threat of violence and control that most of us are not physically capable of overcoming. When we are in what we think is a safe place, and people we trust betray us, where can we turn? Most of us can’t punch our way out. We can’t assert dominance or command respect. We can’t just get up and leave. That isn’t something that our society is comfortable with as a whole. I can preach equality until I am blue in the face but it is a fact that there are still so many men out there who see women as inferior and treat us as such.

There are girls growing up in worlds where they are told that all they have to offer is their body. They are hurt, they are used and maybe they’re discarded. Maybe they are recycled until they’re too ‘old’ and ‘dirty’ to be considered desirable. Drugs and alcohol are used to get them through. They might be used as a tool in the power play or maybe they’re an escape mechanism. Lower socioeconomic backgrounds are the most vulnerable.

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How can we help them?

Why is the first question that gets asked always ‘why didn’t she say no? Why didn’t she walk away? Why didn’t she defend herself?’

How about: ‘why the fuck are men still raping women?’

We shouldn’t have to raise women to protect themselves. This victim blaming bullshit needs to end.

We are not objects to be used. We are human beings with the same brains as everyone else. We feel pain. We do what we need to to survive.

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Everyone knows someone who has been raped. You might not realise it, because she probably didn’t tell anyone. The majority of rapes aren’t reported for fear of the consequences, be it a further threat of violence from the perpetrator, an inability to escape the situation, or fear of the marginalisation they will face from their peers. Maybe they just won’t get convicted like the sickening graph above.

#MeToo started a few days ago. A queen I have adored for years named Alyssa Milano began the movement on Twitter to show solidarity with women who have experienced sexual harassment and assault. Suddenly, the vulnerable conversations had between close girlfriends are out there for the world to see. Thousands of women are taking to social media to confess their own experiences of sexual violence or violation. It’s not a hushed topic anymore. Now we see just how big this thing really is.

I have had many conversations with fellow twenty-somethings about the times we have been sexually assaulted on nights out. Groping, touching, hurting us because we aren’t giving them attention. We aren’t reciprocating their advances. We moved away when they came too close. We accepted their offer to buy us a drink so now we owe them sex. We danced a bit too sexy so we deserve a hand up our dress. We went out for a smoke and were alone a few minutes too long. I never looked any of them in the eye, many of them I didn’t see coming, so I’m not really sure how I was asking for it. Is that where it all starts for these men? A casual man-handle without consent? Or are there degrees of inner predator?

Every single time I find a way to blame myself. I flirt too much (but I flirt with everyone…), my boobs were out (am I not allowed to be proud of my body?), I caught his eye (I should be able to look around the room without inviting an invasion), I didn’t call him out when he touched me (but his friends were all there and a lot bigger than me), I was too nice and I gave him the wrong idea (and some men wonder why women act like bitches), I went home with him (but I made my feelings about contraception clear).

We still aren’t talking about this enough.

For anyone reading this, and I genuinely hope there aren’t many, who might be going down the thought train of ‘well how do I know if someone is keen then? Am I just supposed to stand with my hands behind my back? Will a girl I hook up with turn around and say she didn’t consent afterwards?You aren’t listening to what we are saying. Unless you are the type of man who puts your hands on a woman without invitation, or takes a girl home who is clearly too drunk to look after herself, none of this is directed at you. If she moves away from you, let her! Don’t play the victim, because you’re not. I know for a fact that my men don’t feel this way, but I have seen the comment sections, I’ve overheard the loud, brutish pub banter, I know what we are up against. This isn’t a crusade against a gender. We love men. That’s the whole point. We want to be able to continue to love men and feel respected and safe while doing so.

Girls and women alike often live a life of fear. For some of us, the lucky ones, outside of a bar or club it’s just a passing thought as we wait for an Uber or walk alone at night. I always hold my keys between my fingers like a weapon and call my family as I walk, loudly stating where I am and that I’m on my way. I’m as privileged as they come with my strong family unit and ‘safe’ suburbs but it is always on my mind. I’m not exaggerating, and I’m not paranoid. Go read the hashtag.

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Today I am taking a stand; this is for my sisters.

I am opening the dialogue. I am using my voice to speak the truth without fear of offending. I don’t give a shit if I upset someone’s fragile ego. I do not paint everyone with the same brush, today I am talking about men who hurt women. It is real, it is constant and it is happening all around us.

There are thousands of issues in this world, but today, in the wake of yet another man in a powerful position being finally exposed for his disgusting actions, despite decades of protection from his colleagues (see: Harvey Weinstein) I stand for women.

I stand for Rose McGowan banned from Twitter for calling out other men who defended him, I stand for the girls who had their childhood stolen by organisations of men pimping them out, I stand for the girls and women who aren’t safe in their own home.

Let’s stand together, all of us, men and women, against this shit. Let’s talk about it, let’s call it out and let’s make a change.

This isn’t okay. It was never okay.

For women everywhere.

For the facts:

https://www.ourwatch.org.au/Understanding-Violence/Facts-and-figures

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/crimeandjustice/compendium/focusonviolentcrimeandsexualoffences/yearendingmarch2016/domesticabusesexualassaultandstalking

To learn more:

http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/bigideas/fiona-mccormack-preventing-violence-against-women-in-australia/6552078

How to help:

https://www.whiteribbon.org.au

https://www.actionaid.org.uk

Financial aid isn’t viable for all of us, but starting a conversation is a step in the right direction. Look around, and offer your help to anyone who might need it. If you’re one of my beautiful male friends, you can really help us. Don’t ever be a bystander. You have nothing to fear, we love you, but we just need you to understand.

Tara Moss on Toxic Silence

I’m so proud of you guys. It takes a strong woman to speak up and a strong man to listen and learn. Thank you for reading.

HarleighQ

With Love to the Gentle Ones

As a sensitive kid, I regularly get lost in my mind. I over-think, I get stressed easily and I take things very personally. I get overwhelmed, I wind myself up and I get lonely.

And I know I’m not the only one.

This is my love letter to the kind souls I know whose skin is as delicate as hearts are strong.

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Dear gentle one with the furrowed brow,

You are not alone.

That world swirling around your head is so much bigger than you think. Those thoughts weighing down your shoulders will feel a little lighter tomorrow. The sunshine is calling, maybe go see her.

Dear gentle one with the curious eyes and bitten lip,

With the chewed up fingers and the in-turned toes,

You are so fun. You go deep. You listen. I love the way you talk to me, and I love the stories we share. You’re my favourite person, because you’re always there. So thanks for that.

Dear gentle one with the messy hair and the dirty jumper,

Today you’re tired and that’s just fine. If you have a bath, it’s probably calling you. Do you have a podcast? They’re like a gentle brain workout. Take your mind outside of itself. Take it on a moon walk. Delve in to your passion without leaving your zone.

Dear gentle one with the pounding chest,

Do you feel alive? You are so alive right now. You’re thinking about the worst case scenario, and that’s just fine. You’re prepared, now dare to peek towards the best? Just imagine. It might be amazing. You’re ready, now jump. I’ll see you at the other side.

Dear gentle one with the tears in your eyes,

The world is full of anger and hate. It’s true. But you know what else? There’s more love. There’s billions of people in this world who aren’t angry, and they don’t hate. They are sitting in their window watching the sky. They’re reading a book. They’re kissing their partner. They’re writing a song. They’re dancing. You might not see them on the news, but they’re there. They’re probably waiting for you in your favourite coffee shop. Go visit them.

Dear gentle one with the lonely sigh,

You might be lonely but you’re not alone. Close your eyes. Do you have animals? Oh how they love you. Do you have friends? They love you too. Your parents probably love you too. I’ll bet your friend from work loves you; the one you tag in the memes. Classic.

Dear gentle one. I love you. You are my favourite kind of person. Thank you for listening, and thank you for confiding in me. Thank you for the music you recommend to me. I might not like it, but I sure like you.

Dear gentle one who cares so much,

It might hurt you but you have a gift. Your empathy is something to be proud of. You’re a dream human. Imagine if everyone felt the way you do. What a wonderful place this would be. Why not try to make a mini world of your people? Find your tribe. They’re probably in your special place. The place that feels like home, go make it home.

Dear gentle one, don’t ever ever change.

All my heart, and I mean it.

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Harleigh Q
Xo

The Island

It often rained at night, but Shae loved it. The patter on the splintered windowsill reminded her of deep conversations with good friends.

It was 2am on a Thursday and she was wide awake. As she lay on her back, fingers laced and staring at the still ceiling fan, she tried hard not to think about the weekend before.

Where she lived, it was a small community. Most of her friends were fellow mainlanders living at the Resort. They worked during the day, cleaning the rooms, manning reception. Some of them would lifeguard or work the kitchens for a well-rounded experience. They were young, poorly paid and there for a good time.

It was Shae’s second summer at the Resort. Unlike most, she’d stayed for the winter too. The weather was milder and she had nowhere to be. Her father was long lost and she didn’t get along with her mother. As an only child she’d mainly raised herself, and moved away the second she turned eighteen. The Island was a refuge and the Resort was home.

She reached to the nightstand and flipped over her phone. The blue light glared back at her bronzed face. She pursed her lips. She had work in four hours and hadn’t slept a wink.

Shae rolled to her side and pulled her knees to her chest, wrapping her hands around her toes. She squeezed her eyes closed and stretched back restlessly to her former position. Dark brown hairs tickled her eyelashes. Sparkly blue eyes blinked at the ceiling as she blew her fringe away.

She knew she was attractive. Her eyes made for regular comment. Her colouring was so dark, how could she have such bright pupils. Shae didn’t know much about or care for her heritage. Her father had been a horrible man and she knew he was the one she looked like. As her meek and pale Irish mum lost herself to the bottle Shae found herself far away from her past.

Tonight, the main thought spinning around her mind was more recent; the weekend previous, in fact. A man had appeared on the island.

He was there to play acoustic for the dinner guests, and was staying across the hall from her. He was about late-twenties, a modest height. His hair was long and unruly, skin bronzed from many late morning spent with a surfboard. Everyone on the island was intrigued.

Friday night dinner was always an event. They all worked it. Shae wore a frangipani tucked behind her ear and served seafood with a smile. Their uniform was a crisp white shirt, black skirt and a vibrant tropical print apron. They had people from all walks of life staying on the Island. It truly was an affordable piece of heaven.

When the gentle sound of an acoustic guitar began drifting around the courtyard, Shae glanced over her shoulder. There he was; dark haired, serious and ridiculously skilled. It was his talent that caught her ear, not his face that caught her eye. Did he sense that?

~

Shae had a good group of friends in this little paradise. Five spectacular humans regularly gathered on her tiny, worn out balcony with a melting esky made of cardboard and stories galore.

Carlos and Lia arrived the same summer Shae had. The three of them had been super close, and slowly but surely a love for the ages began between the two of them. That was a story for another time.

James was a fun loving, long-haired yahoo who grew up on the south coast and came to the Island this summer for a change of scenery. He fit right in.

Simone was on another level. Her neurosis was rivalled only by her compassion. She was the first one at work every morning and the last to leave, ensuring every single box was ticked along the day. She’d bark cruelly at you mid-shift but tie your shoes for you right after.

Finally, there was sweet Leon. Italian born and raised, he wore his heart on his sleeve. Rarely would a single young lady pass through the dance hall without a hot and heavy experience with young Le. Shae loved him more than sense, but his overly affectionate nature had surely caused a lot of strife. They tend not to talk about the girl from the first week of summer. She said she liked me, he insisted. They nodded curtly like friends do, with only a shadow of doubt in their minds.

Together they were a family; that which none of them seemed to have left behind. Love flowed between them freely. They could be real and honest. Twelve hour work days take their toll on people, but as long as they had each other, they had a place to call home.

That’s why the events of Friday had been so incredibly unsettling for everyone.

~

The after-hours disco began promptly at 12am. A hut which used to house the Spa before it got upgraded to the top floor had been repurposed as a place for the young staff to blow off steam.

Shae turned up with her usual half-drank bottle of bourbon and Leon tossed a coke can to her from behind the makeshift bar.

The last few Fridays a new season guy called Callum had taken his place at the decks. He had the curliest hair she’d ever seen and a penchant for Trap. His remixed were far superior to a shitty little party such as this, but they were eternally grateful.

Taking Lia by the shoulder Shae lead, coke and Jack in hand, to the centre of the sweaty pack. Twenty or so workers would pack in to the tiny room every weekend, without fail. It was their one chance to party before the Sunday check-out rush and a new week began.

Most of them wore as little as possible, dripping their way through tank tops and denim shorts. Hands reached high, fingers spread towards the swaying exposed bulb above them. It danced with the bodies. The room always felt like it was alive, moving and breathing around them as they swivelled their hips and bounced up and down to the beat. Shae’s hair stuck to her face as she shook it from side to side, eyes closed and feeling the rhythm. Waiting for the bass to kick she opened her eyes briefly and spotted the acoustic playing stranger standing against the wall. He wasn’t looking at her. He seemed to have taken a deep interest in a spectacular and enthusiastic Simone. Her cropped blonde hair flew through the air, and mid length white dress clung to her enticingly. She moved like a mermaid, arms entwined.

Shae felt a pang of something. Thankfully she was distracted by James taking her firmly by the hips and redrawing her attention. He grinned wickedly at her and pulled her in for a kiss. Pushing her mouth open with his tongue, she tasted a familiar bitter pill and rolled her eyes. His mainland trip yesterday was productive then, she thought with a sigh. She didn’t need drugs to have a good time, but she wasn’t one to say no, either.

A bug eyed Lia gently tugged on Shae’s hair, pulling her away from James’ mouth. She swallowed and laughed at her excited friend. She had been there for a while already, it seemed.

By the time Carlos appeared, both girls were well and truly on their way to bliss. The music was getting better, and Shae had forgotten about the stranger, until he appeared in front of her. She stopped dancing as he raised his hand to her face and brushed her fringe from her forehead. She narrowed her eyes as he tilted his head, apparently seeing her for the first time. He grinned and moved his hand to her waist. Whatever, she thought. Life is good.

Hours passed; or was it minutes?

Shae and the stranger played a game, moving closer then further until they were nose to nose. As she raised her lips to his, he turned. Shae stepped back like she’d been stung. He moved past her towards an apparently now interested Simone, who raised her arm welcoming him. Then they kissed. It was a deep caress that went on a long moment. Shae felt repulsed. She moved through the crowd with urgency and slammed through the door just in time for her vomit to hit a nearby pot plant. Ugh. Her hand found the cold stone wall and she placed her forehead against it too. Things were spinning. She barely heard Carlos’ words of comfort when he placed his hand between her shoulder blades. Slowly she dropped to her knees and curled up on the concrete. Shae knew it was too much too quick. She had been swigging her Jacks while dancing and it wasn’t sitting too well with the pill in the pit of her tummy.

“Leave me a minute, hey” she groaned to her dear friend. He didn’t. In fact he took a seat between her and the stained plant and rubbed her arm affectionately.

“You, little lady, need to learn your limits.” His posh accent was only slightly condescending.

“I don’t have any,” Shae whispered back. She closed her eyes and sighed.

“Who’s the pretty fella with the hair? I haven’t seen him before. He seems to have a thing with our Simmy.” He laughed darkly. “You too, apparently.”

“Fuck off Carlos.” He always loved pushing buttons.

“I’m just saying that if it were up to me, I’d choose you. But each to their own.”

Shae pushed herself to a sitting position and glared at him. His sparkling white smile was dashing and exasperating. Her nausea had passed, so with a shake of her head she stumbled to her feet. “I’m getting water, and then we’re getting out of here.”

“Beach walk?” Carlos exclaimed.

“Go find Lia.”

They pulled open the doors to the dive of a dance and straight away Shae spotted Sim with her fingers entwined in the singer’s mane. I don’t compete. She chanted mentally over and over as she rooted through a box esky for a bottle of water. I also don’t often find anyone even remotely attractive. Her frustration at herself was growing. She was embarrassed and wanted nothing more than to disappear in to the night with a couple of people who made her feel loved.

~

As they strolled along the beach, Shae, and a swaying Carlos and Lia, she tried hard not to overanalyse the situation. Not really her strong point.

She didn’t notice when they collapsed in to the sand behind her and kept walking until the sun started creeping over the finish line of the ocean beside her. The island was so small she knew it would take her twenty minutes max to get back. Having long realised she was alone, she pulled off her near-dry singlet and shorts. Shae was wearing her favourite blue bikini bottoms. Her clothes discarded in a bundle, she stepped in to the wonderfully warm water and once deep enough, dove in head first. She often went for a dip before work, when the sun was still waking along with the rest of camp. The water was so still she could float on her back, salt soothing her tingling skin.

The problem with the Island was that when people came, it took them a long time to leave. The disharmony she felt in her bones right now wasn’t just embarrassment; she was feeling protective of her family. We don’t hurt each other here. She had spent a consensual night between Lia and Carlos before and many a beach tumble with Leon in the wee hours, but they all came from love; a love of each other, their home, their stories. They just wanted a good story. Who was this guy to come along and fuck it up?

Full of a new found fire, Shae dipped below the surface and swam towards shore. When her feet found the sand below her, she rose and flicked her drenched hair overhead. Her eyes began to focus on the shore, leading her to catch sight of something that turned her cold.

Simone was stumbling up the beach towards her from the opposite direction Shae had come. Her white dress wasn’t white anymore; it was red. She was clutching her stomach, and fell to her knees.

Shae had never moved so fast. She sprinted up the beach towards her friend and felt overtaken by horror as she absorbed the scene. Taking Simone’s face in both hands, Shae collapsed to the sand. The blood dripping from the stab wound in Sim’s torso was unstoppable. She tried covering the hole with her hand and holding her friend’s head up with the other, but it wasn’t working. The heat of the blood pouring between her fingers was the most sickening of sensations. She could actually feel the life leaving her.

“Help!” Shae screamed at the top of her lungs, knowing that no one would be around at this time. Helplessly she glanced down in to glazed green eyes. “Sim I have to go get someone. I can’t help you here.”

Simone groaned. Tears were streaming down her cheeks. The last thing Shae ever wanted to do was leave her alone like this, but she would die if she didn’t at least try. She glanced back towards her pile of clothes.

“I’m going to give you my shorts which you need to hold down as hard as you can and I will be back, okay?” the only emotion Sim could express was shock. Her mouth hung open, she wasn’t making noise anymore. Shae placed her head down gently and ran to her clothes. Getting back as quick as she could, she wrapped the shorts in to a big compression pad. “Please try,” she pleaded “Please try to hold this.”

The world became a blur as Shae pounded up the sand bank and along the boardwalk. She knew it would take her at least five minutes running to get back to reception and alert the emergency medic. How long does it take for someone to bleed out?

All she could hear was her heart pounding. Her lungs were stinging as reception finally came in to view.

Some guests were already out laying their towels to come back to later. Leon had just entered the pool area in his guard shirt, setting up for the day. He caught sight of Shae’s blood soaked singlet and freaked.

“Shae! What the Jesus?” she stopped short of the door and ran back to him, bright red and panting, and collapsed against the pool fence.

“Leon, Sim’s hurt. Beach by the hammock,” was all she managed before dropping to the floor and sobbing. Le knew he didn’t have time to comfort her, and he ran as fast as his feet would carry him towards the beach.

The boardwalk was an easy path and he had been a runner in high school, back in his home town of Pisa. His long strides found him there in minutes and a tiny heap of red and white in the sand gave the girl away. As he moved towards her, she was motionless. He skidded to a halt in the sand and lifted the lifeless body in to his arms. She was a small girl, smaller than him and he wasn’t the broadest. He knew he could make it back to the Resort with her. He had no choice.

~

Shae screamed when she saw them approaching.

“Why is she like that? Why is she hanging like that?” She used the fence to pull herself to her feet and moved ahead of them, opening the door for Leon to rush inside.

The reception manager, Margot, was already on shift in her immaculate suit and physically recoiled when she saw the state of the three of them.

“What in the hell are you – Jesus no.” As they got closer she saw the blood stained dress of Simone, her favourite receptionist. Her trembling left hand picked up the phone receiver while her right pointed to the door of staff quarters behind the desk. She hit zero and voice quivering, said to the operator “Tony. We need a medic.”

~

On Wednesday morning a memorial was held for Simone.

Some people said some things and white lilies were lined along the shore.

As a three year vet, her absence was felt everywhere. She had worked every area, met every person. Hushed conversations were had in every area of the Resort. It ran on skeleton staff, relocated from a sister island, as everyone was told to take a few days off.

No one knew what really happened on the beach that night.

Many guests left, shaken by the horror of being so close to death on their holiday. Though there were no witnesses, everyone had their theories.

Some said it was suicide. It’s always the ones you least expect. A few had noticed her getting hot and heavy with Mr Acoustic but apparently she’d left the party alone before him. The worst rumour of all, though, was that it has been Shae. Driven by jealousy, she had hurt her friend.

And we all know who her dad is.

Shae didn’t leave her room until the memorial. She had stared at that ceiling fan and cried until there wasn’t a droplet left. She was empty.

By Thursday, everyone was expected to return to work. Shae and Leon had both been offered longer if they felt like they needed it, but they mutually agreed that any longer with their thoughts would drive them insane.

Lia knocked on Shae’s door at 5am sharp with a freshly cut mango.

“I need you to eat this, and I’ve got you working kitchens today.”

Lia had taken over Sim’s coordinator role. She was in charge of rostering the junior staff. Having done a roll similar at the old mainland hotel she worked at, she was enjoying the power again. She wouldn’t dare admit that to anyone though. The Island had become a game of Cluedo and she was not the one in the library with the candlestick.

Shae looked like shit, which was saying a lot for a very naturally pretty girl. It was a good job she wasn’t public facing that day, but kitchens require cleanliness; forced sponge bath it was.

Half an hour later Carlos arrived at the door and smiled at them both.

“Come on, poppets. We’re going to miss morning brief.”

When the three of them arrived in the staff room, they made their way towards Leon and James. Both of the boys wrapped their arms around Shae as a show of solidarity. She was cold to their touch. The tension in the room could be cut with a knife.

They had their roles and lunches read and the day began. Everyone who had been at the party on Friday was giving Shae the once over. She had never wanted to disappear more in her life. No one had a kind word for her. She was ignored, shoved and glared at until a buxom girl called Pam had actually grabbed her by the hair and threw her in to the freezer room.

“We all know you did it,” she spat at her before slamming the door. A laugh echoed from the others present, and then it fell silent. Shae couldn’t feel much anyway, but she wasn’t there long before James appeared to rescue her.

He pulled open the door and sighed at her. “Come on babe, we’ve had enough deaths on this island.” She usually enjoyed his dark humour, but she couldn’t even muster up a smile today. She almost felt like she deserved the barrage of hate, and she couldn’t work out why.

Is this just killer kid guilt? Is this a delayed punishment for being the child of a monster?

James placed his arm around her shoulders and almost carried her to the back lot pool. It was a lot quieter, covered by shade for most of the day. A woman lay reading on a sunbed and an older man was doing laps. Other than them, they were alone. James lowered Shae to the edge of the pool and she dipped her legs in to the cold water. She felt tears brewing as her feet swayed. Aside from a couple of very reluctant showers and the sponge bath Lia forced on her that morning, she hadn’t been near the water since Saturday morning.

“I know you didn’t do it,” said James lightly. He stretched and lay on his back, feet dangling.

Shae didn’t want to hear it. It wasn’t her friend’s opinions she was worried about.

“I have a theory. I think it was Lia. She wanted that coordinator job. Told me so herself.” Shae scoffed.

“Don’t be stupid. And don’t talk about our friend what way. You don’t know whose listening.” She glanced cautiously over her shoulder. The lady reading had stood and was pulling on a kaftan, making her exit.

James pulled one of his legs out of the water and stared at her.

“Maybe it was me.”

“You’re so deadly.”

“I’m serious Shae. I don’t know what the shit was that we had, but I can’t remember any of that night.” She bore deeply in to his eyes, searching for a hint of a joke. There wasn’t one. Then she felt a shudder. Was he looking for reassurance or trying to confess something?

“Please James. I can’t handle this. You would know if you hurt someone. You’d have been covered in blood. Let’s not talk about this anymore.”

“Right.”

Shae pushed herself to her feet and walked towards the pile of Resort towels to dry off. She fought hard against the visions swimming around her mind. It was all getting to be too much. She couldn’t talk about it with her friends. It wasn’t her first time seeing a dead body, but she didn’t want them knowing that. It would just make the conjecture worse. Tossing the towel in to the large laundry basket, she caught sight of someone new entering the area. Her heart skipped a beat.

The long haired acoustic player moved to the corner of the pool. He was fully clothed, jeans and a white vest. When he felt someone staring at him, he looked up at Shae and smiled. It was a very big smile.

That’s when everything when black.

 

To be continued…

Who Are You?

My darlings.

I'm starting this post having just rewatched the first ever episode of a show I feel I've grown up with, Catfish.

For anyone unfamiliar with concept, Catfish features two amazing men, Nev and Max, who help people who have started relationships online with people they have never met. Spoiler alert, more often than not, the people they are speaking to aren't who they say they are. Be it fake photos stolen from someone else on the internet or pretending to be someone they know personally, it's clear that the Catfishers are unhappy with who they are.

Often they've been bullied or have had a hard time and use this persona like a shield. They don't feel good enough.

I think it takes a pretty cruel person to bring someone in to your insecurity, and use them to boost your self esteem through deception. However… imagine if they channeled their negative life experiences in to making themselves better people. Instead of using a mask of someone else.. imagine the self love they could generate!

Dialling it back, let me tell you my story.

I remember starting high school. It was a big public one a half an hour walk from my house, just outside the Yorkshire village I grew up in. Almost all the kids I went to primary school with went with me. Masses off us trudged through the rain and the snow, across the train tracks to the intimidatingly massive new chapter.

In time I grew to love that school and it's long corridors and kids twice the size of me, shoving everyone around for fun. You had to have a drawstring bag otherwise someone was bound to unzip it and knock your stuff on the floor. You had to keep your hand down in class so no one could take the piss out of your answers. You also knew very quickly who the top dogs were and to remember your place.

Bullying is such a normal part of growing up. I put it down to trying to fit in to this new environment, and me being a bit of a bossy boots by nature, but my two best friends from primary school decided they didn't like me anymore. After that, I had a really hard time making friends.

When I did start to bond with someone, often a false rumour stating I'd said something behind their back quickly ended it. I guess that was the thing with me. If I took issue with someone, I would just say it to their face. Maybe that was my problem. Being too upfront made me a target for the whisperers. I was so scared of what I did say getting twisted that I just stopped speaking. It took me years to get the confidence to voice my opinion back. I make up for it now 😊.

I wound up having to go to a 'friendship group'. It was designed for myself and fellow lonely kids who were struggling a bit. We'd do quizzes and talk about our interests and hobbies. Everyone was weird and it was nice to have people to eat lunch with. Yes, there were a few sandwiches ate in a toilet cubicle. What a cliché.

A few long months in, having truly learned the importance of empathy, I reconnected with a couple of the girls from my primary school. We ended up in our own tight knit group.

Rarely a week went by without some of the five of us falling out, of course, but blissful were the lunch breaks spent giggling our heads off in the hot lunch room and getting kicked out for being too loud. Through many hours spent in the library, I discovered Louise Rennison's book series about the most relatable tween on the planet, Georgia Nicolson. I was proud of my new little Ace Gang.

Times got real tough again when I found out I was moving to Australia. Slowly but surely I felt the girls retreating from me, my closest friend especially. She became quite cruel, and though an adult brain understands self preservation and the primal need to lash out in order to protect ourselves, a scared thirteen year old did not. Some of my memories of this time are so vivid. One, I was sobbing at my work station in Food, not wanting anyone to see me. I'd been handed the notes some of the girls had been passing about me. I think it said something about me being a try hard and a made up thing I hadn't said. I'm pretty sure that was the day we made rice pudding.

In the very end they had tried to fix some of the damage caused, and there was a leaving party at my best friends house with Sing Star, baked goods and lots of trampolining. It felt like the end of the world.

Then I left England and didn't really look back.

As with most new kids, I found myself right back where I started in Australia, too.

This new high school was tiny, and I started week three of term three of year nine to be precise. I was buddied with one of the 'cool' girls. I think my teacher thought she was doing me a favour, but she and her friends were very uninterested in me. We were very different people.

In this school watched Napoleon Dynamite, I heard rumours about a boy getting a hand job behind a textbook in class, and got teased for my big shoes. I had to wear UGG boots and a miniskirt to be cool, and I definitely had to shave my legs and pluck my mad Wog eyebrows. What a different world this was!

Yet again, I had a hard time making friends. I'm a girl with a lot of passions. At the age of fourteen, it was Harry Potter and Home and Away. I could barely make eye contact with a boy without turning crimson and I was best friends with my family (and still am).

It was a long and lonely summer, but year 10 began my ascent in to one happy young lady. I made friends with four incredible girls. I can't remember how we found each other exactly, but I distinctly remember one incident in particular.

I was eating cheese and pickle sandwiches for lunch. English people reading this know what I am referring to I'm sure. The two Australian girls that would let me sit near them had no idea what the weird brown stuff I had was. They were loudly ridiculing me, for not the first time unfortunately, when a tiny, wonderful, sparkly eyed girl from southern England barked at them 'its Branston pickle?' With a level of sass I've yet to hear since. They soon shut up, and I soon changed who I sat with at lunch.

Next joined Shaz, a witty and cool as a cucumber girl whose best friend had recently changed school. Then there I was Bek, the green eyed and incredibly intelligent girl that I absolutely idolised (and still do). Thus, Ace Gang 2.0 began. We had sleepovers, long chats, giggles and an obsession with YouTube videos. We talked and sang and danced and we're allowed, encouraged, to be 100% ourselves with each other. We were not without our disagreements of course, teenage girls are a nightmare, but we thrived together. They saw me through my first kiss (literally) and all those other fun things 15 year olds do.

I got in to anime and started writing fan fiction and making music videos. I made the pilgrimage to the city for the final Harry Potter book with Abby and Danica, the two pickle-girl life savers, at 530am one brisk morning. I drew a lot, very averagely. I had a puppy Rio and two six month long crushes that went absolutely nowhere. Two others joined our crew, and soon we were going on adventures to Freo for Timezone photos and sushi train.

My second six month long crush, and first taste of heartbreak, got wind of my affections when I got up the courage to ask for his number on the school bus one day. 'I don't know it,' was his earth-shattering response. Lorraine, one of our new editions, heard from a mutual friend that he intended to pretend to like me and then thoroughly humiliate me in front of everyone on the bus the next day, so she decided to berate him in the hallway for all to hear. My heart was crushed but my friend was golden.

Of course, things changed over time. Boys, Abby moving back to England and just growing up different pulled us apart. By year 12 I was back to my lonely self, this time with two equally lonely companions, Jessie and Arran. Those cynical bastards are still my best friends to this day. God love them.

It wasn't until many years later, having lost all of the things that made me me, that I realised just how important it is for us to be true to ourselves.

I can pinpoint the time when I started to lose my kook. I was deep in a relationship where I didn't feel like myself anymore. It can be hard for natural born people-pleasers like myself and every other Cancerian in the world to stay true to ourselves when we're in love. Sometimes we go too far the other way.

For a lot of people it's their experiences with bullying at school that dilutes their colours. They're sparkling too brightly, and it seems to be in a lot of humans' nature to dim that rival sparkle as much as possible. But the thing is, if we don't care what other people think of us, it completely removes their power.

I am incredibly proud of baby Leigh, because my God did she stay true. I wore all of the nerdy, weird shit I loved on my sleeve for all the world to see and I never felt any shame for it. I surrounded myself with people who were proud of me, and I was proud of them. We lifted each other up and protected one another from the evil outside which slowly stopped mattering. My self preservation developed in to completely cutting people out who I feared would hurt me. It's served me quite well so far. I just can't do fake politeness. My face is too emotive. I give myself away.

As an adult I've gone through the cycle again. When I don't feel like I can be myself I tend to retreat. I look inwardly for that place of peace and power. I remind myself why I like me, regardless of if others do or not. I'm still a pleaser, and I still need validation, but I'm getting better. Maybe I need to ask baby Leigh how she did it. Through all the shit, I was always me.

In telling this story I'm hoping that others who have been shaken by self-doubt due of external factors realise that they were never ever the problem. If you have a good heart, that's all that matters. Let your freak flag fly! The most attractive people in the world to me are the passionate ones. I don't care what you love, if it matters that much to you then you're a dream come true. Tell me yours and I'll tell you mine.

At the ripe old age of 26 I know who I am and what makes me happy.

I love the Beatles, I love looking like I just walked out of the 70s, I love loud live music and I love writing. I love connecting with people, and I love talking about aliens and politics and nature. I love the ocean, and I love red wine and cheese platters.

Most of all I love all of the incredible people all over the world that I have met. Be they weird, loud, artistic, spiritual, gentle, wild, funny or my polar opposite, they are completely and unapologetically themselves.

Being a people pleaser isn't as good a quality as it sounds. It's easy to lose yourself, or change to fit an ideal instead of fulfilling who you really are. Being judged is scary. It's a constant battle not to care too much.

Two years ago I would never have walked down the street in my Rockabilly gear. I also didn't eat much and was overall pretty fucking lost.

Now I find myself curvaceous, sassy and proud of my wild outfits and huge smile. I am proud of myself for all I've done, and I love the person I have become very much. I still love all my nerdy things, and I will gladly talk about them to anyone with remote interest (glazed over eyes works too). If it wasn't for all of the negative experiences I've had, not fitting in, feeling lonely, having my heart broken, I wouldn't be who I am now.

None of us would be real without the shit. Don't let it change you, though.

There may be people who love you unconditionally, but it's you who needs to love you most. You're the cheerleader. You're the one whose been there through it all and lived to tell the tale. You're a bloody legend!

Talk about yourself, be proud. It's ok to blow your own horn sometimes. If the people around you don't want to listen, they aren't your people babe. We should all be rooting for each other. What are friends for?

We are all so unique and have so many stories and experiences. We are all part of this great big mad world, but there's only one YOU.

So be you, be free, be everything you've ever wanted to be. Let the love pour out of you. You'll attract the right people, this I promise you.

In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.

So tell me, beautiful people, who are you?

Love your second biggest fan,

Harleigh Q

Xo

A Safe Place – A Short Story

The apartment was more of a room, really. The sleeping area was only guarded beyond a large bookshelf and a neatly hung tapestry. Christopher had painted it himself.

Never wanting Eden to feel like he was intruding her space, night three he had brought home a king size bed sheet he’d found in the second hand store up the street and proceeded to turn the pretend wall in to his new studio. He meticulously drew up the lines to centre the mandala, and created seven shades of blue (no easy feat with cheap material paints).

Their living arrangement was temporary but necessary for both of them. They had met at a love-in the weekend before. Eden’s long, copper blonde hair had captivated Chris from the moment he saw her. She would toss is over her shoulder and it would slide right back over again, thick and fast. He had never seen so much hair in his life.

His own dark blonde matte sat miserably around his ears. It seemed no one in the new group he had infiltrated had ever been forced to a hairdresser by a strict father. He tried not to envy, but he was certainly curious about their stories.

James was the central point of the gathering. Cross-legged and calm, his aura gathered the group without the need for words or gestures. He simply smiled with his eyes closed. His moustache was thick and groomed to perfection. He had no beard, and some impressive sideburns.

When James felt the presence of six other bodies in a circle around him, his eyes opened. He took a long, slow breath and looked at each of them. His gaze was piercing and all-knowing. Most of the group smiled in return. It took everything Chris had no to look away after two seconds. James stared at him the longest.

The record player crackled in the corner as it reached the end of A side Revolver.

One of the men rose to change it. He had on brown corduroy trousers, the most flamboyant vest Christopher had ever seen, and nothing else.

The four others in the circle were equally as interesting to look at. One had hair pulled back in to a waist-long pony tail and wore no shirt at all. The man to her right was staring intently at his hands, as though he was seeing them for the first time. Earlier someone had referred to him as Leo; to his right, a remarkable blonde wearing a handkerchief as a top. Finally, next to Chris, there was Eden.

Chris already knew he was in love with her. Hidden behind the unruly curls were hazel eyes and a magnificent smile; a smile which she had already turned to him twice. Chris didn’t necessarily want this kind of distraction in his life, but there’s no use fighting it. One love to another, he knew he was the worst for it.

Was this one different? It was too soon to tell.

At that moment, Leo distracted him by reaching his intriguing hand out, as though needing help with something. Chris took it, and they awkwardly held on.

After a few moments, the woman on Leo’s left reached forward and placed her hands gently at either side of their clasp. Corduroy stepped inside the circle when he returned from flipping the record and did the same. Soon they were all wrapped in a strange hand embrace, and James was the last to join.

“You are all so welcome here,” he said calmly. They broke apart, and each person settled back in to their space.

“You’re beautiful,” said Leo to the handkerchief wearer next to him. She raised her lips to his and kissed him in response. He bowed his head with a smile. Chris was confused.

Meanwhile, the topless lady was resettling herself on James’ lap and then the striking blonde and Eden were leaving the room hand in hand.

Corduroy laughed and laid backwards, pipe clamped between his teeth. After a few minutes of Chris glancing around, trying not to look completely out of place and uncomfortable, Corduroy raised his body back to seating position and held the pipe out for him to take.

“It’s all good man,” he said with a steamed grin. Chris wasn’t big on drugs, but he was big on a good time, and right now felt like he was living in a different decade to these people. Try new things, he reasoned with himself. And so, he did.

Two hours later Christopher knew everyone by name. Corduroy was named Mikey and was a musician. Topless was named Mary and worked in a law firm as a secretary. The handkerchief blonde, Jane, and Eden were heartbreakingly in a relationship, and James was a full time ‘healer’ also known as a drug dealer. This he already figured from their meeting at the ferry port earlier that day.

The night had been a blur of heavy conversations, shouts of ecstasy and clouds of smoke.
When he woke the next morning on Eden’s sofa he couldn’t remember getting there, but was sure glad he had.

Jane sauntered to the kitchenette in a sheer nightdress and held a pot under the tap. She placed it on the stove and began boiling the water for a morning brew. It was bitter cold, Chris was beginning to realise, and he wasn’t quite sure why they both weren’t more clothed.

“You’re Scottish aren’t you?” cooed Mary without turning around.

“Irish, actually.”

“Different.” She pulled the pot away as the bubbles appeared and poured the steaming hot water in to three tea bag-filled mugs. They were mismatched and chipped but charming non-the-less.

Chris rose to take one and brought the patchwork blanket with him. It was wrapped around his waist, protecting his modesty. Mary really couldn’t care less.

Eden yawned loudly from behind the bookshelf. A rustling of the bed sheets gave her movements away. She appeared from behind it wearing Chris’s shirt and underpants, and smiled at him knowingly. Her hair was even wilder now than it had been the night before. She made no attempt to tame it.

Mary walked the mug up to her girl, cupping the rim with her hand so that Eden could take the handle. They shared a gentle kiss and Christopher looked away.

He felt guilty but he wasn’t sure why.

“How long will you be living with me?” Eden enquired and she perched herself next to him on the small sofa. She sat sideways with legs crossed, facing him expectantly.

“When did I-“ he began and Mary scoffed.

“Honey, were you present last night?” Eden placed a hand gently on what she presumed was his knee. Chris grinned nervously.

“I’m sorry. That was my first time trying… that.” His tone was uneasy. If he’d agreed to move in with this lovely lady with no memory of it, what else had occurred that evening?

Mary took a seat on the coffee table in front of them and rested her head in her hand, mug curled in the other.

“You said you needed somewhere to stay while you set yourself up. You got here yesterday? You did well to run in to James. He’s a good man.” She leant back and took a sip, narrowing her eyes at him.

“I, well, suppose I did, yeah.”

The specifics were discussed at length. In other words, Eden told him it was to be six months, no more or less, and she wouldn’t accept any money until he had a proper job. She had a good income as a switchboard operator, which was enough for both of them to get by.

Mary wasn’t as pleased about the situation, but she had to go away for a while, and she didn’t want Eden left alone.  Chris had asked her where she was going, but he didn’t receive an answer. Instead she took her leave and he was left alone in an apartment with sweet Eden.

The tapestry was coming along nicely one week later. When James and Leo arrived in the afternoon his tee-shirt was more blue than white, so he decided to change. As he placed it in the second sink, in the corner of the sleeping area and next to the only toilet, he heard the group’s hushed voices.

Chris hadn’t wanted to eavesdrop but he had so many questions about these new people. He crept towards the bookshelf and listened.

“How is she?” asked Leo, his voice heavy with concern.

“I haven’t heard a thing,” replied Eden.

“I’m sure there’s a way we can track her. I know people in London. I can put the word out.”

“No,” Eden hissed back. “We can’t do that to her. She’d never forgive us. This is something she needs to do. We just need to be here to support her when she gets back.”

“You’re a fool,” boomed James, making no effort to lower his tone. “She’s not coming back.”

Christopher knew he better re-join the group before things got heated.

“Where are we going tonight?” he attempted brightly as he walked towards them, buttoning his paisley shirt from the bottom.

James had Eden pinned against the fridge, but pushed himself away from her as Chris approached.

“The Bar,” he muttered as he made his way back to the door.

Leo shrugged with a half-smile, gesturing for Eden to follow. She bowed her head, looking more worried than angry, and did as suggested.

The Bar was below Eden’s building.

When they entered James made his way directly to a gentleman in a fur coat waiting by the taps and they embraced. Eden and Leo took a place next to them and waited to order.

This establishment was unlike any Chris had seen before, and a stark contrast to the old pubs of Dublin. The room was long, with a heavy brown hue and a swirl patterned carpet. There were booths lining the wall to the right and left, and a large circular bar in the centre. It looked like a stage was placed at the far end with a large green curtain covering it. The jukebox blaring ‘Help Me, Rhonda’ was positioned right next to the main ordering station. A young and slim man with perfectly slicked blonde hair was bent over before it, reading the selection.

When Chris took a step he was knocked sideways by an overexcited young woman making her way to the exit. “Sorry,” she blushed, before sweeping past him. A huge man in a leather jacket followed her out. He was old enough to be her father, surely.

Chris started to take more notice of the patrons and nearly lost his footing again when he spotted two men in the corner booth staring intensely in to each other’s eyes. When the record ended and the next song began to play, the man to the edge of the booth pulled gently on his companion’s hand and guided him to the dance floor. They bopped in a loving embrace across the room, miming along with Diana Ross to ‘Stop! In The Name Of Love’. The sight was so foreign to Christopher that he had no idea how to feel. Staring is rude, lad. He shook his head and made his way to the bar, where his friends already had their orders. Eden handed him a dark ale and he downed half of it in one.

“Thirsty?” she breathed with a smile. His heart pounded and he turned away, searching for somewhere to take refuge. When his gaze reached the door, the young girl who had ran in to him before had re-entered, looking proud as punch. Behind her came two blushing men, one the same as before, and the other new and just as large. Their leathers did nothing to hide the coyness of their expressions. Was she setting them up? Chris realised.

“What is this place?” he said out loud without meaning to, and turned open mouthed to Eden.

“It’s a safe place,” she said quietly. The group moved towards a free booth at the back of the venue, past the now-busy dance floor. Chris climbed in first and took his place next to Leo. James and his friend sat to the right and Eden, to his left. She spent most of her drink gazing longingly towards the dancers.

After a while, when Chris was ready for a refill, the unmistakable opening notes of Dusty Springfield’s ‘You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me’ sounded. Eden’s eyes grew wide and her lip trembled. Chris thought he should do something about it.

“Hey, let’s go,” he gently nudged her out of the booth and took her hand, leading her to the middle of the crowded floor. Everyone held each other close, and Chris twirled his fingers in to Eden’s thick mane, resting her head against his chest. His heart was thudding and he hoped she couldn’t feel it. Eden burrowed closer. They moved so slowly they were barely moving at all. He clasped her right hand in his left.

Chris looked up, and was struck by the fact that everyone around them was in love. It was a truly beautiful moment.

As Dusty hit her final high a huge crash and screams forced the entire dance floor in to panic.

Before Chris knew what was happening he was being forced by the crowd backwards, towards the stage curtain, and he pulled Eden along with him.

“POLICE,” echoed the roars from across the room. Chris glanced back over his shoulder, and through the crowd spotted a constable fling his baton across the head of one of the leather-jacket-clad men from before. The other came to his aid and was punched hard by another officer.

“What the fuck is going on?” he cried as he stumbled up the stage and attempted to lift Eden up with him.

“Just run,” she firmed, absolute fear in her eyes.

They pushed with the horde through the stage doors, the screams and crashes following them to the alleyway to the side of The Bar.

Eden halted Chris as he tried to run towards the road. “They’ll be waiting out there; we need to go this way.” They fled towards the back of the building and Eden released his hand. She pointed towards a metal staircase about six feet off the ground, the bottom ladder missing. “Gimme a boost then I’ll help you up.” Her fear had turned to determination, and where she had caught her breath, Chris had lost all of his. Speechless and terrified, he boosted the small woman up to the first rung and she pulled herself up with all her might. He had the sickening realisation that this wasn’t the first time she’d had to do this.

After clinging to the bottom of the ladder and using the wall as a boost, he made it up to the second level of the stairs; someone’s terrace. Eden stopped and crouched, breathing and listening hard. Sirens were blaring as backup was called in. A man was shouting the name Simon over and over somewhere nearby, with no reply. A woman was shouting angrily, until she wasn’t anymore.

After twenty minutes of absorbing the situation, they slowly climbed the remaining stairs to their level and Eden cracked open the window. Once in, they sat together on the small sofa and didn’t say anything for a long, long time.

Finally, not being able to re-watch his mental footage any longer, Chris turned to Eden.

Her eyes were glazed over and lips hung apart. She didn’t move, so he raised a finger to stroke her arm.

She shuddered, but didn’t pull away. Slowly, her gaze turned to his.

“What just happened?” he whispered.

“That was a raid. It’s illegal to be us. We are against the law.” She pressed her lips together. “A lot of those people have been beaten and taken away now. Some are probably in hospital. A few might never see their loved ones again. Fuck, James!” she leapt to her feet and to the phone in the corner of the room. She dialled furiously. Her finger slipped out of the coil and she cursed again. This time she dialled more carefully, and hung her head as she listened to the ringing.

Chris’ ears perked when he heard James pick up from across the room. He stood and stepped closer to Eden, in the hopes he could catch the conversation.

“Thank God,” she breathed, clutching the handset closely. “Are you guys okay?”

Christopher wished he hadn’t heard the words that came next. It was quiet but clear as day.

They got Leo.

Eden threw the received down and marched towards the front door.

“Where are you going, Eden?” Chris called after her, completely unsure if he should follow. She turned on her heel, eyes blazing with fury.

“Down to the station, because I’m sick and fucking tired of losing everyone I love.” She threw open the door and it slammed hard behind her.

Chris stayed.

~

Since 1814 homosexuality was considered a ‘Crime Against Nature’ and this was used to justify the raids of bathhouses, bars and restaurants known to be frequented by the queer community. The official charge was ‘Sodomy’ and men could receive up to 20 years in prison if found guilty.

In the 1950s activists began campaigning for fairer treatment, though ‘solicitation’ was still punishable by prison. It was legal to fire someone for their sexual orientation, and thus blackmail became a common form of power play during this time.

It wasn’t until the 1960s that things really started to change, though there was still a prohibition on serving alcohol to gay people.

The modern LGBT civil rights movement began on Saturday, June 28, 1969 with the Stonewall Riots. When police raided a New York gay bar called the Stonewall Inn, the patrons fought back.

What should have been a safe place for people shunned by family and friends, or a small escape from the closet, was instead a danger zone. The threat of harassment, violence and imprisonment wasn’t enough to deter them, for where else did they have to go?

It wasn’t until 1973 that it became illegal for someone to be dismissed purely for their sexual orientation.

The AIDS epidemic of the 1980s was a new challenge to the community. Fear reared it’s ugly head as the general public once again took a firm stance against the gay community.

In 1993 ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ was put in to place, designed to stop witch hunts against queer people within the military. However, it wasn’t until 2011 that the military were no longer able to expel people based purely on their sexual orientation.

In the early 2000s, civil partnerships became recognised in the place of marriage, so that queer people in loving relationships could have some of the rights that married straight people are afforded.

Finally, on 26th June, 2015, marriage equality is legalised through the United States.

On 11th June, 2016, a mass shooting occurred at a gay club in Miami and 50 people were killed.

In August 2017, the Australian government, unable to come to a decision in house, ignoring the overwhelming poll results of the Australian public, decided to spend approximately $158 million dollars by arranging a plebiscite on same sex marriage. This is a compulsory postal vote asking the public if they believe that queer people deserve the right to marry in Australia.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-03-14/525-million-price-tag-on-same-sex-marriage-plebiscite-study/7243298

When we win, which we will, I hope this government realises what their spinelessness has done to our Country. Our people are having their lives put in strangers’ hands. They are having their love debated by people who don’t need to have an opinion, because it has nothing to do with them.

I hope that one day we have a government who represent the majority, like they are supposed to.

I hope our people know that they are loved, and that we will win this.

I hope that we can finally move out of the dark ages and in to the light of love and acceptance.

I hope that one day some people will realise they don’t have to have an opinion on everything, and when it doesn’t affect you, sometimes it is better to just listen.

I hope that one day we can all be capable of empathy.

I hope.

http://www.equalitycampaign.org.au/

Let love win.

Harleigh Q

xo

The Trouble With Social Media

Hello Millenials, Gen X & Y and Boomers.

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How are you?

Good I hope.

This week I fell from my perch a bit. I have been making a shift in to profiting on this little talent for eloquent bull-shitting lately. I sponsored a couple of my posts to reach a vaster audience and started a little hub of love on Instagram named @HippieHarleighQ and my very own Facebook like page.

It’s a big stretch for me. You guys know I’m an open person, but I’m also extremely sensitive.

Like, very.

I guess I don’t care if people judge my selfies or photo shoots because I know I’m just a normal girl trying to love myself and inspire others to do the same, and the overconfidence is just my sense of humour. But when it comes to someone questioning my insides? Oh boy…

Someone that I don’t know commented under one of my posts ‘sponsored? Hahah’ and I was bubblingly upset for the rest of the day. Yeah. I’m that bad.

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I promptly deleted the ad for the day it had left.

One thing I don’t want to be is ‘Insta-famous’. However, I do want to connect with more people. I guess it’s the same thing, isn’t it?

As a result of my new found need for money, I’ve been spending more time analysing my online presence. I’ve been looking at other people’s pages, reading their captions and hashtags and working out just how they do it.

Due to my ridiculous hyper-sensitivity I’ve also been questioning myself a hell of a lot more than usual.

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Where my anxiety had become very manageable, suddenly I am opening myself up to the devil known as comparison; the thief of joy, they say.

Oh boy, they are right.

I’m not happy at the moment. I have stopped enjoying my moments and I have started caring way too much about other people’s opinions. It’s like being a looney teen again. I’m a 26 year old woman! I thought I was supposed to be over that by now!

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I’ve been working out, eating right and I’ve cut right back on the naughty drinking. I’ve practically quit smoking. I’ve also stopped reading, I’m struggling to write and I’m losing my connections with my friends. Why? Because I’m thinking too much.

One of my spectacularly beautiful and intelligent girls said to a few of us a while ago that she found Instagram depressing. I couldn’t relate.

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I loved Instagram. I loved the amazing #bopo pages I follow; the gorgeous vintage collections, artists and hippie clothing companies that fill my feed. Facebook was much the same; interesting news articles, friend’s hilarious titbits about their day to day and some cool travel photos. I thought it was maybe something she could control by changing who she follows.

I was so wrong.

When you’re in the headspace of comparison (aka: thief of joy) the things you were looking at before that made you smile suddenly cloud your mind in a dark way. I enviously analyse the photography skills of my #bopo girls. I skip over friends’ posts and seek out my target audience to see why they aren’t engaging with me more. I’ve picked people who aren’t giving me as much attention as they used to and I’m agonising over it.

I have stopped valuing the good in favour of the goal.

Specifically, artist friends, do you know what I mean? The success of something locally doesn’t mean much when your reach isn’t vast enough? Something you wrote is no longer measuring up because something from last month did way better?

I want us all to stop.

Stop stop stop.

Social media is not real. We also can’t control who is seeing our posts due to the very money-focused algorithms. Don’t think less likes means people aren’t loving you. They aren’t seeing you.

~

Today I scrolled back through my Instagram for photos that looked out of place (I’m notorious for archiving mismatching colours in favour of a flowing theme rather than honest expression).

I came across my America and Europe photos.

I zoomed in on my and Martina’s smiley faces on our way to the opera dinner in Rome. I remembered vividly how incredible that night was, and how none of us had had signal in that little underground restaurant so we just talked and talked and talked like it was going out of fashion.

I saw myself standing at the top of the Rocky steps, one of my biggest life goals, for the second time.

I scrolled a little further and saw the gorgeous beach photos I took when I went down the coast with my Kate for a sneaky getaway, and the Melbourne food market tour I went on when I was learning how to use my new DSLR.

Not a single one of these times did I have my fucking phone in my hand.

I then scrolled back up and looked at my tagged photos, and I saw my face hanging in an art gallery in Maryland.

No, no one has written a song about me and no, I haven’t appeared in a music video and no, I haven’t collaborated in writing a great song, but someone liked my face so much that they decided to stare at it for hours and create a beautiful work of art that is now selling for $650USD. One day I might be hanging on someone’s wall. Wow.

What the fuck is wrong with us? Why do we always strive for what we don’t have or feel discontented when our lives are filled with amazing things to be proud of?

We can’t blame the media for everything. It’s not going to change any time soon. I think it’s our own doing, in a lot of ways. When we don’t switch off, we don’t absorb.

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Our phones are glued to our hands and life is witnessed through a screen instead of through our square little eyes.

~

I’m going to try to make a conscious effort to switch off more often and get out in to that big bad world without a shield of phone to guard me, and I’m going to see how my happiness level goes.

I have an inkling I might feel just that little bit lighter; and not just because my phone is a brick for the blind.

If we don’t get out there and do, how can we be?

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I hope this little shake up helps some of you guys too. I hadn’t been able to pinpoint my lull but now I have, I’m going to try to fix it as best I can.

One hour free of technology after work each day to focus on my other things e.g. pile of unread books and neglected keyboard and guitar.

You’re all beautiful, interesting people. That’s why you’re my friends.

Now let’s go and be that without validation (said the queen of needing validation). Life is short, don’t spend it sad because some people are cooler than you.

No one will ever be as cool as Ringo Starr. It’s time we accepted it.

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Forever your honey,

Harleigh Q

Xo

Band Aid – A Short Story

Trigger warning: this story contains references to some heavy shit. I’m not going to say exactly what because I don’t want to ruin it, but you get the idea. There is also time hopping, and neither the characters nor the story are based on personal experiences.

Enjoy xo

~

The scream of the crowd was so coarse it almost sounded like waves crashing in to rocks.

P’s knee-high boot heels clacked and echoed through the empty hallway. Everyone was watching the show, and she was on her way out. Her once soft blonde locks were pulled back in to a messy bun. Her chiffon maxi was fraying at the bottom and torn at the knee. She hiked it up and slung the oversized denim jacket she stole over her shoulder. One of her three lighters fell from the pocket to the tiles below. She didn’t stop to collect it.

~

The tour had been grand, to say the least; twenty five shows in thirty days.

The bus stank of stale cigarettes, spilled bourbon and sweat. It was dirty and it was home.

P usually slept on the top bunk, far right. Reuben was on the bottom. He was always on the bottom.

He wasn’t married, which was a bonus. He was one of the few she knew who let the life consume him without pretending to be a human outside of it. The only person he was hurting in the process was himself. He had a bad habit involving injectables and could fall asleep anywhere, guitar laid gently in his lap.

Smith was the daddy. He would carry the boys both figuratively and literally from time to time. He always had time to talk because he was the singer. Making noise with his mouth was his favourite pass time, and he especially loved the sound of it. He tried to be sober once and it lasted three weeks. In P’s mind, that was an excellent effort. His bunk was always immaculate.

Mick, the bassist with the permanent chip on his shoulder, was the polar opposite. Purposefully destructive, his anger was palpable. Everyone but Smith wanted him to leave. Even he wanted to leave. Coke doesn’t pay for itself, however, and he wasn’t going to get girls outside of his rock star persona. Matted brown hair hanging in his face, deep set green eyes and a forever furrowed brow; P thought he would almost be attractive if only he’d lighten up. Smith and Mick had known each other since they were four years old. Smith was the kind of man who made family out of anyone. Mick knew he wasn’t going anywhere without destroying the only long term relationship he had.

Shane was the happy-go-lucky drummer with a permanent grin and glint in his eye. He was just happy, man. He knew how good he had it. His sandy blonde hair sat in a Beatles’ style mop. Often compared to a young Ringo, there was a constant stream of giggling fans in his presence. The girl he’d married at twenty one only ever made an appearance when they approached places she found interesting. She flew to Sydney last week for a two day shopping and fighting spree. The rest of the group avoided the bus like the plague in that time. The usual complaint was the fact that Shane refused to book them a hotel. P suspected she knew exactly what ghosts were haunting that bed.

Lastly there was Matthew; Matthew the Manager. Matt was kind and intuitive, older and a gentleman. He was P’s favourite person. He was British. His thick Yorkshire accent could calm anyone. His hair was long and grey, often in a neat pony tail. His beard was trimmed, beer belly was prominent and hairline was receding, though no one would ever say that out loud. His shirts were always pressed to perfection.

Matthew had been big in the 70s. He was part of a folk trio who had taken off in the hippie community. Their songs about love and unity still struck a chord today with many wandering music fans, and he often had groupies of his own after each show. He’d always take time for a chat and an autograph. He never lost patience with anyone. It was a gift.

The other boys were less inclined to be so accommodating, though that depended on how short the skirt was.

P shivered as she used her modest body weight to press open the emergency exit door. The air was bitter cold. Their tour was ending in Melbourne, and at 11pm this August night the atmosphere was unkind. A speck of rain tapped her nose, and she pushed her glasses further up the bridge. She wouldn’t normally wear them at night, but she wasn’t in the mood for answering questions and her eyes always betrayed her.

Passing a pack of huddling fans in fur coats and Doc Martens she made her way towards the main road. She felt the looming tour bus presence behind her, but daren’t chance a glance at it. The events from the night before still brought a heap of bile to her throat.

She shook her head firmly to remove the thought and pulled the denim jacket tighter around her shoulders.

A taxi with their light off wizzed past her. Her phone screen was too damaged to order an Uber. She could barely receive a phone call.

On the corner she waited, for a touch too long. The cold was creeping its way in to her bones. The shallow breath escaping her mouth appeared in small clouds before her.

The girl had been young; too young, P had known from first glance. Buried beneath the layer of beautifully applied mac products was a child, no more than fifteen. Her gold halter neck hung loose at her undeveloped chest, but she supposed the boys were more likely looking at the shapely thighs on full display under her barely-existent mini. P had watched her carefully from her perch on Reuben’s lap. She had won her way in with her armful of flowers and gram of cocaine poking out of the wrapping. Where the fuck did she get that? was all P thought at the time. P was very used to sharing the group with other women, but she hadn’t expected this girl to hang around. The young ones get a bit giggly and see themselves to the door when the hard stuff comes out. Not this one though. She knew what she was doing, and it was equal parts mesmerising and terrifying.

P had shook her head as her brown leather boots found the floor. She lifted herself up and walked slowly around the circle that formed at the coffee table. The girl glanced up at P, and with a little smug smirk she made herself an enemy.

P marched from the room and found her way to the bathroom. A moment’s reflection in the mirror had her questioning her own motives. Do I want rid of her for her wellbeing, or because I think she’s a threat? She bit her lip. P was older when she hit the music scene, early 20s, passion before sense. She’d always been prone to hero worship in the place of love, but times were changing. These boys were now men in their 30s. She’d began following their tour three years earlier until eventually she’d become part of it. Every June she waited for the call, and this year it was Matthew instead of Reuben.

“’e needs you, Miss Thing,” he’d affectionately referred to her. It started the day they met. Her vintage Harrington had caught his eye and he nodded with fatherly approval and pride. You’ve really got it girl. You’ve got that thing they all want. Mystery.

Mystery is loneliness, thought P.

Apparently one bad trip too far, Reuben was on his final warning. Maybe his muse could fix the problems six months in the studio had festered. Maybe not.

The tour started wonderfully. Family nights, as P liked call them. They’d sit around and wax poetic about dreams and ideas, their solutions for all misery and corruption. Matthew would let out his billowing laughs and shake his head affectionately at the dreamy souls that surrounded him.

“You young ones, just you wait,” he’d say. “I once thought I could change the world too.”

P and Reuben were as close to love as two broken people can be. She sought therapy in his affections and he seemed to find his own in illegal substances.  He needed her physically, but mentally he was never quite there. In a way P never thought of herself as the type who would enjoy someone actually loving her, so this was easier; a story, with highs and lows and adventure and nothing else. It would end, as everything did, and she would go back to… what? Nothing. Sometimes nothing is better than the alternative.

Oh how her mind had changed. P used to dream of taming a wild musician, someone to share her passions, to dance and sing and dream with. Now she knew better. Artists can’t love. They’re too busy giving their all to their creativity. There’s nothing left but scraps.

A taxi pulled around the corner, yellow top light beaming. P raised her hand and it slowed before her. She wasn’t really sure where she was going, but it would be far away from here.

~

“Can you see with those glasses?” remarked the driver. He had a thick accent, it sounded Eastern European. P couldn’t manage a reply. Her gaze didn’t shift from the passing street lights.

A flash of big brown eyes returned to her mind, large and bewildered, pleading. P let out a heavy breath like she was trying to expel the memory. This time it wasn’t working. Her eyes welled painful but blinking away the tears just caused them to spill down her cheeks. Now she wanted to vomit.

That’s not my world, she told herself over and over. It’s not me. It’s not my fault.

The taxi stopped at a red light and P pushed open the door just in time for the puke to hit the pavement below.

“Hey!” growled the driver. “You can get out if you are sick. I will have no mess in my car. You will pay for it.”

P wiped her mouth with the back of her hand and slowly pulled the door closed with the other. “No,” she gasped, “I’m sorry, I’m okay now.”

He narrowed his eyes in the rear view mirror, but continued towards the city no less.

P pulled at some material in her hold-all and out came a t-shirt of Reubens. It was black, the band’s logo emblazoned on the back. She wiped her mouth and hand on it before throwing it on to the seat beside her.

~

When P returned to the room that night, the bouncers had already moved away. The music from inside was thumping. Smith had on Appetite for Destruction, his favourite post gig blow out album. Matthew pulled the door open just as she had reached for the handle. His face was paler than usual, and he avoided her gaze.

“I don’t think you should stay around, Miss Thing. Those boys don’t know what’s good for ‘em.” He bowed his head and gently moved past her, his hand grazing her shoulder as he went. P watched him go. The drugs are out, she guessed, before turning back to the door and letting herself in.

She wasn’t expecting the half-naked teenager to be even more naked than before, nor was she expecting Smith and Mick to be watching hungrily from the couch as she danced to Rocket Queen on the coffee table.

Shane had two slightly older but still young ladies perched on his knees at the far end of the room, joint hanging out of his mouth and eyes closed as he head banged to the beat.

Reuben was holding a pipe in one hand and reaching to the young one with the other.

She hopped off the table and bent over before him as he placed the pipe between her lips. The wind was knocked from P’s lungs.

“Reuben!” she snapped from across the room, but he wasn’t listening. A cloud of smoke shielded his face from her. When it dissolved she saw the wide smile once reserved for her. Every cell in her body wanted to rip him limb from limb, but something was holding her back. No, it was someone.

Mick had his arm wrapped tightly around her waist, holding her firmly in place. He had a good five inches on her, and was the only one in the group to frequent a gym. She saw his tattooed bicep flex as he pushed her backwards against the door, blocking her view.

“Don’t,” was all he said in his deep, intimidating way. P didn’t.

What felt like an eternity passed and Mick still hadn’t let her go. P found her words. “What are you doing?”

“What I was told to do. Reuben is busy. Why don’t we leave him to it?” It wasn’t a question, and he was standing so close she could barely catch a breath.

“What do you want?” came out as a whisper, which frustrated the shit out of her. She was strong; she wouldn’t be intimidated by this idiot. She tried to stand up taller, so his right hand closed around her arm.

“It’s almost the last night on tour, what do you think I want?”

“Fuck off Mick,” she snarled. “How dare you?”

“You think Reuben gives a shit?” he retorted with venom. He moved just far enough to the side for her to catch a glimpse of the girl now straddling the only man she’d ever let herself get close to. Her stomach dropped completely. Her throat went dry. Her words were gone again.

Mick didn’t speak this time either, he just yanked her forwards painfully, throwing open the door and tossing her outside of it in one fluid motion. She hit the floor with a thud and felt something sharp pierce her knee. He stepped out and closed the door behind him.

P looked down at a small pool of blood, a piece of glass. She pulled it out quickly and covered the wound with her other hand, her back to Mick the whole time. She had never liked him, but now? Now she hated him.

“He’ll fuck anyone, and I’ve heard the same about you.  I know what the fuck you do when you’re not with us. I know who you hang out with. You’ve got a reputation to uphold Miss Thing,” At that he pulled her up by the back of her shearling jacket. P spun and held the piece of glass up to his throat.

“You fucking touch me and I swear to God I’ll slice your neck and your wrists. You’re a shit bass player anyway and the boys would be a lot better off without you.”

Mick stepped back with his hands up, utter fury across his face. P lunged for the door.

It slammed hard against the wall when she flung it open. She saw the back of two heads, one blonde and one brunette, both messy and unkempt. Between them she saw wide, glazed over eyes and lips parted in an ‘oh’. The wild eyes fixed on hers and filled with tears, the girl was crushed beneath the weight of them both, but she didn’t make a sound. Reuben flicked his long dark hair over his shoulder and let out a howl of laughter, Smith took the girl’s chin in his hand and her eyes flicked to him. That was all P saw.

Her head was ripped backwards as Mick grabbed her by the hair. He pulled her so hard that she hit the floor again, this time with her head catching a badly placed amp on the way down. He entered the room and clicked the lock behind him.

“Who invited that cunt anyway?” he barked, but that’s all she heard. Welcome to the Jungle was playing now. Her vision went blurry, and then it went completely.

~

When P awoke she was still in the hallway. Her head was in someone’s lap, and her hair was being stroked. When the haze subsided, she saw the young girl gazing down at her. Her cheeks were streaked with mascara and dry tears, but when P’s eyes flickered open she had smiled.

“I’m Isa,” she whispered.

P couldn’t move, her head was still pounding, so she stayed in Isa’s lap. “I’m P,” she replied eventually.

“Oh, I know who you are,” the girl grinned back. “You’re my hero.”

What a bizarre thing to say, thought P. But the pit of her stomach was still churning, and what she had witnessed came flooding back to mind.

“Are you okay?” she asked meagrely, knowing what stupid question it was.

“I’m better than you,” Isa giggled. Her youthful jubilance seemed betrayed by the state of her hair and makeup. P had no idea what to make of her.

“I’ll take you to the hospital,” P said, slowly forcing herself up in to a seated position. The aching inside her skull was almost intolerable, so she lowered her head in to her hand to block the light. They were alone, and it was silent.

“Why would you do that?” Isa asked quietly. “I’ve been having fun.” Fuck, thought P. That’s not what it looked like. She turned one squinty eye towards the girl, who in turn raised her eyebrows at her. “I’m here because I want to be, and they wanted me to be, and you are lucky I am.” That petulant smugness had returned. P lost a few sympathy points.

“Fine,” she muttered. “Help me up then.”

The girls struggled to their feet. P looked down at her bloody knee and sighed. It looked worse than it felt. “Are you going home now?”

“Smith said I could stay the night, actually. He said there’s a free bed on the bus and my mum thinks I’m at a sleepover anyway.” She was proud of herself.

P knew the free bed was hers.

Both girls stood in silence for a moment. Isa shuffled awkwardly.

“Well, I think they’re waiting for me in the bus so… I don’t know if you’re invited.”

P wanted to spit. Her whole world was being torn apart by a Lolita. “Fuck off then,” she barked.

Isa sighed heavily. “I don’t want you to hate me.” P turned to look at her fully.

“You have no idea what you are getting yourself in to. I just hope for your sake they treat you better than they have me,” and with that she bolted down the hallway, never looking back.

Sitting outside the emergency exit door was Matthew. He had on two knitted jumpers and a parka, and was holding a cigar. He jumped to his feet the moment P appeared, and within seconds she found herself in one of the tightest, warmest hugs of her life. The tears weren’t voluntary but they came anyway, like a flood gate giving way after a long, wet winter.

Several minutes later, when the weeping subsidised to sniffs, Matthew placed his hands on her shoulders and pulled her back to see her face.

“P you’re one in a million darlin’. I really can’t ‘elp this. It’s the life they want to live and I’ve got to let them live it. If they aren’t ‘appy, we don’t get a record and then we’re all finished.” He brushed a limp blonde strand behind her ear and lifted her chin, so she would meet his eyes.

“Matt you’ve got no idea. She’s a child and they’re disgusting.” He looked hard at her for a moment.

“No one forced her to be ‘ere.”

Those were not the words P was expecting. Her world began spinning. They’re all as bad as each other.

~

Matthew begged P to stay for the last night on tour. “We’re in’t middle of nowhere,” he’d pointed out. Out of a sick sense of desperation for that not to be the end of her story, she agreed. One more day, she told herself; one more night.

When P returned to the bus at 4am, all was dark and silent. Isa was not in her bunk, nor anyone else’s.

The sun rose a few hours after, and having not slept a wink, so did she.

She ambled in the brisk morning air to what looked like a tradesman’s deli and bought herself a black coffee that tasted like tar. She just needed a purpose at that moment, and a morning coffee seemed appropriate.

After staring in to nothingness and smoking three cigarettes, P wandered back. She passed Shane’s ladies of the evening on her way in to the car park. Their hushed whispers rung heavy with excitement. Smith was standing by the door of the bus, cigarette in hand.

“Good morning beautiful,” he purred. P narrowed her eyes at him. Are we really just going to behave like normal? He furrowed his brow at her.

“Get out of the wrong side of the bunk this morning?”

P made a decision in that moment. She reminded herself why she was still there, she needed to get to civilisation, she didn’t want her adventure to fall to pieces, and from then on it was quite easy for her to pretend like the night before never happened. In fact, it was almost as if it didn’t.

Mick ignored her like always, and Reuben had given her cheek an affectionate stroke as he passed her on the way to the bathroom. They dozed through the four hour drive, interests only peeking when the Melbourne skyline came in to view.

“Honey, I’m home!” cooed Smith as he gazed out the window. Reuben wrapped his arm around P and kissed her gently on the top of her head. She tingled from the spot his lips touched to the tips of her toes. “It’s almost the end,” he sighed in her ear. She leaned back to look him in the eyes. He grinned that same old grin at her and her heart melted just a little less than usual.

~

The show was due to start at ten but the supporting act was running over. It gave the boys time for one more beer. As she followed them on their purposeful march to the stage she felt her heart break in to a million tiny pieces that she wasn’t sure she would ever be able to put back together again.

One by one they pulled back the curtain. The excited screams from the crowd grew louder each time. Reuben was the last to enter, and this time, he didn’t look back.

Neither would P.

Defining Success

The term ‘success’ has come up a few times in my world lately.

I was having a really interesting chat with my Sarah over a daytime cocktail bowl. We realised that many people have a pretty standard view of what makes a person successful.

I’m starting to realise that my definition is quite different from the norm. I thought I’d analyse a few of the definitions I know to help me better understand the different perspectives.

Do we really all judge ourselves and each other by these standards?
~

Money

Let’s start with the thing we have been trained to value above all else since the day we could count: moola.

It makes the world go round, there’s no denying it. I know people who can’t breathe unless they have several thousands nestled deep within their untouchable savings account.

They have the freedom to buy the nicer things, treat themselves on occasion. But there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing those numbers tick up and up every payday.

It’s starting with nothing and making decisions each day that get you to a place of calm and comfort.

That self control is impressive to say the least. While others blow it all in an online shopping spree over a glass of wine (guilty) the knowledge that no matter what life throws at you, you’re prepared and on top of it. You’re not a slave to a bank or in debt to anyone, that’s success.

Career

The driving force, the crowning jewel. Oh, to be a boss!

It’s not just about power, though it feels damn good to take control, it’s about having a reason to get out of bed everyday.

There’s a fire in your belly, a drive, a force pushing you to give your chosen path your whole heart and soul.

Lunches ate at a desk between phone calls, balls with awards and glamour and recognition. Seeing your name on the leader board, a thank you email, a cuddle from someone you helped. There are so many reasons to be proud.

Degrees, commutes, essays, studies. Getting to work and leaving in darkness. A sense of total achievement. Glory, recognition, importance; maybe even fame.

A career is a purpose alright. It’s the highest highs and the lowest lows with the people you spend more time with than friends and family.

Putting your heart in to your work? That’s success.

Knowledge

What an overwhelming thirst it is, to understand, to comprehend the world and her wonders.

News articles are beautiful things. The media can be a necessary evil at times but they’ve learned how to weed out the scare tactics and get to the heart of the facts.

Books are fuel. They’re an escape and a companion. Like two lives running simultaneously, there’s the conscious person and the person living inside the stories, past and present and everything in between.

Documentaries are relaxing viewing. Dates and events are stacking in mind, occasionally skewing but always sparking interest and pride.

Deep, stimulating conversations with companions who share your need to understand, to challenge, to explore. To hold your own with the passionate and intellectual alike, that’s success.

Possessions

I can’t count how many people I know with slabs, cars and engagement rings. They’re somewhere along the building time scale or checking out display homes. They’ve got a fat deposit in their bank account ready to burn. They’ve got a beautiful, brand new car. They’re living in their own self-designed haven.

They’ve worked damn hard, they’ve made sacrifices. They didn’t get to go out and play, go on the holidays. But, to buy the ultimate independence? That’s pretty incredible.

They’ve got beautiful things. They might have beautiful hair and makeup and jewellery or maybe it’s just a beautiful home, a well taken care of vehicle. They’ve dedicated years to it, they deserve it. Now, time is theirs. Life is pretty and peaceful. Work is necessary, but it’s a means to an end.

A home, a base, freedom. A sense of pride. That’s success.

Love

I’ve met an incredible bunch of men and women in my life, but there are a few of them who have had a small sadness in their eyes. These are the ones who tell me they’re failing. They mention a want for a person above all else. They are lonely. They don’t see life beginning until they find someone to share it’s ups and downs with. Nothing can begin until then.

This group value love above all else. A job is a job, and experiences aren’t as good unless there’s someone to share them with.

They seek a soul connection, and oh how their energy lifts and life sparkles when they find someone who feels the same.

Being single is a minefield at times, being single in your late twenties can be stressful, especially. Most of my people have found their partners in life. I’m surrounded by engagements and weddings.

Cementing the feelings, starting the story.

Love conquers all. That’s success.

Experiences

Finally we come to my personal measure of success. Stories.

To me and many others, a life spent in one place is a life half lived. The world is gigantic and magical and so full of dreams to be realised and lives to intersect.

We want to expand our minds through experiences. We want to see how everyone everywhere lives and breathes. We want to understand them. I love humans and I do think love is a great measure of success, but the stories I share with people and the memories I create are what I crave. They’re how I feel alive and satisfied.

I may not have any money in the bank, and I have to work damn hard to afford my own impulsiveness, but to me it’s all worth it.

A life lived on the edge of adventure, without fear or limits, that’s what it’s all about to me. Being able to jump in head first, that’s success.

~

I decided to ask some of my friends their thoughts. How do they define success? What are their goals? I think millennial success is a whole different ball game.

An angry Scot of the Highlands

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I just want to be happy and healthy in whatever I do. If I am comfortable to be able to fuck around and continue acting like the 10 year old I basically am mentally, whether at work or at home, I reckon that’s success. But also can’t get past the Ol’ material indicators of success too. House, car, job, family etc

A sassy Swedish feminist

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Success means destroying your opponents. We’re not here to make friends.

I want babies in a beautiful apartment and to be financially stable enough to take them for daily baby chinos in my Sportscraft shirts, chinos and loafers and spend the weekends getting fucked up on red wine whilst my babies are being cared for by the Swedish au pair (because she’s not a white supremacist she wanted me to add that the reason she wants a Swedish au pair is because she wants the baby to be duo lingo).

An angelic Kiwi vagabond

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I think to me it means waking up and going to sleep happy, having goals and a purpose to live for.

My life goal is to live in harmony with the land! Being self sufficient only taking what’s necessary to survive. Always has been – long way off that yet. But you know I’ve achieved some things like not eating animals.

A dreamy Brisbane fairy

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Success to me is that feeling of accomplishment and pure joy after realising you achieved something you were striving for. It fills you with courage and soaring pride. It makes you realise and relish your unlimited potential. It opens you up to the next challenge. Success fuels self-love.

My life goal is to be happy. I believe I’ll achieve this by continuing to grow, change and challenge myself.

A wild and wonderful full time Asia explorer

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Success is that feeling when you look back and realise how far you have come. success is consistently growing and changing as a person and knowing there is no finish line, it is consistent work and passion that isn’t always easy but nothing worth doing is easy.

My life goal is to always be learning and using my knowledge to bring others happiness and enjoyment, no matter what I might be doing, and to always be moving. I like being on the go and doing new things or visiting new places. I want to continue doing it as it keeps me content and happy.

A kind and loving Kiwi healer

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Success is finding love and someone to share life with.

My goal is actually less about my career and more about building a solid life long, committed loving relationship with someone and having babies. If you don’t have a family to share your life with then what do you have. Nothing means a lot if you don’t have someone to go home to.

A fierce and fabulous Pocahontas

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I guess I feel like I’ve achieved some of my dreams, but others I’m still working on (and I’ve certainly failed along the way!).

I am not sure about life goals but the next few years I’m focusing on education and finance so I have a foundation to work on my other dreams, which are more travel and one day starting a family of my own (i’d totally love to take my kids on adventures like living in a caravan or something crazy and whatever). Also, trying to reconnect with my creativity cause I’ve always wanted to write a novel but never taken myself seriously.

I do have two quotes I like that help me out though, can’t remember who said them:

“Ordinary things, done consistently, produce extraordinary results”

“Every accomplishment stars with the decision to try”

A mystifying and sensual lead singer

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I consider success to be doing the things that you are doing well, getting better and better at them by doing them a lot and then having something to show from it; maybe while attempting to maintain a level of sanity without slipping into complete poverty, and being good to others along the way.

My life goal? huge question.

One of them is to have a large and varied body of work.

A bush doof king

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Success? The first word that popped into my head was “happiness”.
The second word was fulfilment.

My goal is to leave a lasting impression on the people around me. That may sound silly from someone who shouts anti establishment because who cares what people think about you. But I do care about the people I love and trust. So that in turn would make me happy, fulfilled and therefore successful.

I think I could write a whole blog about what success means to me. (hmm me too)

A London style cat

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Success to me means: feeling like you have taken yourself to new levels, where you have excelled more than you though you would. Being full, not craving for more all the time because you are finally mentally, emotionally or financially happy and fulfilled.

My life goal is to stay alive, healthy & keep being happy. Influence & inspire however I can. Plus be successful by my definition.

A vintage Goddess

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To me success has never meant wealth, it’s not materialistic, it’s never meant fancy cars, homes, careers or acquiring ‘stuff’. Ugh! Gross! Living a successful life is in kindness, compassion, respect and becoming the best person you can. Always growing.

My life goal is to strive to be the best person I can be while I’m on this planet. Be bold and adventurous while being kind, compassionate, honest and hoping that the people I love feel my love. Oh and to dance… it’s cliche but always dance like nobody is watching.

This guy

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To me, success is recognition. It doesn’t really matter what you’re doing, but if other people are noticing then you’re probably pretty good at it. You could be the best painter in the world but if you don’t share your art, you’re not making anyone’s life better with it, you might have brightened your living room but where’s the fun in no one enjoying it? Being loved is success.

My life goal is to have a ground floor or first floor converted unit in Melbourne, some plants, a crate bed that I painted, fairy lights. I want a big record collection and someone to enjoy them with. I want to be known within my circle as an excellent cook and host, and I want to feed my huge family around a table outside where everyone helps themselves and we all talk too loud and dance after dinner.

~

In conclusion, I don’t think we can really attribute success to one thing. It’s subjective. If you’ve found what you want in life and you are going after it with all you have, you are on the road to one hell of a fulfilled life.

If you’re fighting some demons on the daily but putting those feet on the floor, one in front of the other, ticking gently on, you’re succeeding.

Good on you.

If you focus on the area that you don’t think you’re succeeding (e.g. me and my finances, lol), and compare yourself to others, but neglect the amazing things you have done (.e.g travel the world), you’re going to be very unhappy. Happiness is success. Be proud of yourself.

Don’t let anyone make you feel like you aren’t doing well just because you’re focussed on an area that they might not appreciate or value the same, either.

Life is short, do your thang.

Get it, my darling dreamers. I’m proud of you.

Harleigh Q

Xo

An Epic Ending

I’m going to start this one with a brief explanation for those who might not know me very well about just why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio was such a spiritual experience for me.

I was raised on music. My most vivid memories from childhood are my first album (B*witched) and how bashed up my Spice Girls one got. I heard Lighthouse Family croon as we drove the Yorkshire countryside in search of adventure. I heard Papi singing Paul Weller to perfection at the top of his lungs. Mumma loved Simply Red and Style Council, Sade and real soulful RnB. Papi put Eminem’s Encore album in the car and I cheekily learnt all the lyrics in my room at night while I drew and Mumma questioned the language. My sister bopped in her walker to Will Smith and my Nan taught me about the incredible Tina Turner and Elvis Presley. Papi heard about England’s next big thing, Arctic Monkeys. That album is part of my life story, man. As well as everyone one that followed.

I love music. When I lost myself music found me. I fell in love with the Beatles, INXS, the Stones, Plan B, Steely Dan, Prince, Bowie, Sticky Fingers, Johnny Cash, Elton John, The Specials. Too many more to mention.

I found my bands and learned what it’s all about to live and breathe it. I connected with people who showed me even more new magic and let me share in the love of theirs.

My favourite guitar solo of all time is Prince during While My Guitar Gently Weeps. Paul’s speech for John, again for Ringo. Mick’s for the Beatles. Epic Clapton declaring ‘Music is all you really need. Love and music is all we need’.

I love travel, but music is the love of my life.

And this is the home of music.

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Johnny Cash was the featured artist. His old tour bus was sitting outside. It made me long for days I never spent on tours I never witnessed. I must have been a GTO in a past life… there’s just something in this soul longing for it all and I can’t explain it.

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I could have spent days there but I was emotionally vulnerable and feeling incredibly overwhelmed with love when I walked out (20 minutes late, but I did navigate the gift shop at record speed.)

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Cleveland was a beautiful city, and to top off my best day I got to go see one of the best films I’ve seen in years. The last time a movie I watched jumped instantly in to my top five it was Lost in Translation.

Baby Driver was a musically driven, beautifully written and actioned packed dream from start to finish, taking place in a world I wish I belonged. The gentle dialog and tune connection between Baby and Deborah is the stuff of my wildest fantasies. I could curl up and live in this film. Watch it, please.

Moving far away from my whimsical reminiscences let’s jump right in to next destination.

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We stopped briefly at an Amish village for lunch on the way to Chicago which honestly creeped me out. It’s just so isolated. It hurts my heart every time someone looks in my eyes with longing when I tell them I’m from Australia. I know I am beyond lucky, but I made a choice to dedicate my life to travel. To me, to travel is to live. I really hope some of these lovely people get to explore my home one day the way I am with theirs.

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Happy 4th!

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We spent the day the most perfect way, at the baseball! The beers went down too smoothly, and everyone was in the highest of spirits. Especially our Contiki team.

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It was like walking around with minor celebrities.

That evening we all relaxed in a park by the beach with chilly bins (hah) and lots of American apparel. We danced and drank and laughed as we waited for the fireworks. It was a very memorable experience.

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Our drive from Chicago to Madison was one of my favourite drive days. We went to a fresh food market, and I found my future husband.

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That afternoon we got merry at the Coopers brewery which had the most fantastically camp and fun presentation. I’ve switched beer loyalty purely based on it.

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I dug Maddison. I was super unwell while we were there but the dinner spot had one of my main men on the wall, a fabulous play list, and there was a Beatles themed bar there! I am returning when I come back to cover the middle states, that’s for sure.

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The next night we spent in a cute little spot called Sioux Falls. This began the beautiful run of mellow country towns.

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Apparently corn worship is a thing in this place.

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One of the coolest places we checked out was Badlands national park. This was the first of many incredible natural wonders we were about to explore.

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Mount Rushmore was next on the agenda. The town we stayed in was so picturesque. I loved it. Night one was spend curled up in the spa.

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Mount Rushmore is just as spectacular as you’d imagine. It really took my breathe away seeing it in real life.

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The highlight of the day for me though was witnessing to the gradual progress of the Crazy Horse memorial. It’s a gigantic tribute to a hugely important Native American war leader and historical figure. A multigenerational family have dedicated their lives to carving him in to the rock face on native land. It’s no small feat and who knows if it’ll be finished in our life time, but they accept no government funding. Tourism is the main income for this project, and they also run a school for local native kids on site. It’s all pretty incredible.

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That afternoon we had a family picnic by the lake. It’s so special to be out in nature and relaxing with friends.

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That night was movie night! Spot batman pants.

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Next we headed to the cowboy town of Cody. I gracefully bowed out of the rodeo this time but the next day was without a doubt one of the best of my life. Yellowstone National Park.

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The pictures speak for themselves. Certain spots smelled like Rotorua but the natural beauty of these formations was unparalleled. This is my favourite National Park.

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We even saw a bear!

The next day was a treat and a lot like popping over to Switzerland, Teton National Park!

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We had lunch at the tiniest brewery ever.

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That afternoon I made a bold choice and went for a trail ride. My horse was called Toughie and was a total gentleman.

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This was followed by an epic cook out and some interesting party games.

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It was a truly stunning place.

A brief city stop brought us to Salt Lake City, and we got to check out how the Mormons do things. Most of the state of Utah are Mormon!

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Kanab was our next stop and along the way we checked out Bryce National Park. We wandered the rim and wondered at her beauty. Each park is so unique.

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I loved the next. This was my third time at the Grand Canyon in just over a year but first time at the North Rim. I spent most of the day with my tunes on relaxing and absorbing the serenity. It’s way more chilled on the North end so it was perfect for just being for a while.

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The next day was wild. Zion National Park blew my mind. We did a few little hikes to pretty running rocks and drank in the fresh water. This was our final day with nature so we enjoyed her fully.

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Finally, here we were. Almost two months down and well and truly ready to go out with a bang. Hello Vegas!

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I absolutely love Las Vegas. Every time I’ve been (which is now four times) I have a different and brilliant experience. I love the happy people on holiday, the bright and vibrant casinos, the shows that leave you on the edge of your seat, the next level night life. Night one we played on Fremont street as we were staying downtown.

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I was in groupie heaven as we discovered two excellent 80s tribute bands, one for the pop hits and one for the spandex boys with long curls and rocker voices. Oh my.

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Safe to say the free day was a rest day. We checked out a few bars but it was aaaaall about day three for me.

We started with the Neon Museum, a collection of old Vegas neon signs. They all had a story and the place was magical.

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Next it was my favourite things, Bubba Gumps and fried chicken before a second viewing of the greatest show of all time… Love by Cirque Du Soleil. Rin and I toe tapped and gasped and swayed to the best songs remixed to perfection and yet again I danced giddily out with some merch.

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Our final night on Contiki involved party buses and the one and only Ghost Bar. I even ran in to one of my gorgeous NSW agents from my Brissie days. Only in Vegas.

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We danced and cuddled and tried not to get emotional about the end of our epic journey. Ten of us started this together. It’s a long time and there’s a lot of love there.

Our last day was hungover and sad, but it’s okay. I’ll be seeing you.

My flights home were entirely uneventful, unlike the ones there, so that was a relief.

I’m in heaven being at home with my family. I missed them, as I always do. Especially my little man.

~

So now we begin my transformation year. I have worked my bum off and now I’m allowed to work from home. This means I can smash the savings and get back to Brissie as soon as possible (one year is the goal). Until then, it’s me time.

I’m going to read, play my instruments, write my stories and enjoy my family. Most of all I’m going to focus on my health and happiness. When I figure out a miracle cure for a fucked up relationship with food I’ll let you know! 24 and 25 were magical exploration years, now at 26 I’ll cocoon before the butterfly returns.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my adventure.

An important message I want to put out there is that if you want to travel, explore and live a nomad life, just do it! Don’t succumb to the pressure of getting on the property market or buying expensive things you don’t need if that’s not where your heart is. You don’t have to study something you aren’t passionate about. You don’t have to have a brand new car or expensive clothes.

Make a choice, and then go after it with everything you have. It’s the only way to live. Never do anything by half.

I’m not doing anything that you can’t. 

Remember, our stories are only just beginning…

Harleigh Q

Xo