How Deep is Your Love?

RUOK? Day is always gorgeous. I love seeing so many of my friends offer their homes and ears and hugs to anyone who might need it. I love seeing my agents donning yellow and actually asking me how I’m doing throughout the day, not just jumping in to work chat. It’s means a lot.

Pretty recently I’ve been going through some things. Most of us have these patches where we get low, real low, and we can’t really pinpoint why but everything just gets a bit hard.

During that time, I found it really fucking impossible to talk to anyone- and you bitches know I can talk. It probably also seems like I’m a really open person. Things change.

I guess I’ve been trying to work through a lot of deep seeded issues that I have with insecurity and lack of self worth. Ironic when this blog spews that out constantly. It’s so much easier to teach that to be.

It just goes to show how good we are at hiding it.

When you ask people if they’re okay, make sure you mean it. Really listen. Look in to their eyes. Maybe just tell them you love them, even if they’re not ready to talk you.

I want to make sure I do the same.

Thank you to those of you who do this already.

Just mean it, and support your people. Sometimes there’s no solution, they just need a cuddle and an ear.

Don’t judge, don’t preach, just love.

HarleighQ

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Whitsunday Dreaming

There’s always something so therapeutic about travel. Those of you who read my last post about mindfulness know it’s certainly something I struggle with, as do most. The beauty of exploring a new place is the ease with which we begin living in the moment.

This last couple of months have been the hardest I’ve faced in a long time. In the days leading up to my trip I began dreading it. It had been feeling impossible to pull myself out of bed every day, my mind running a million miles an hour, eyes welling with involuntary tears at least once an hour. I was terrified of leaving my comfort zone. However, like usual, I was strong and I persisted.

Sitting on the plane to Brissie I let out a breath I felt I’d been holding for weeks. I was back in my other comfort zone, adventure. I curled up on my tray table, seated between two large strangers and snoozed almost all the way there.

Upon arrival I caught the Sky Train and landed in a place I know like the back of my hand, Brisbane CBD. It was buzzing. I deliberately walked the long way to my hotel. The air was warmer than Perth, the restaurants still overflowed with happy, chatty people. I smiled at a few of them, lugging my old faithful Harley Davidson bag behind me. Upon check in I bonded with the receptionist over our mutual love of downing a wine and making friends with new people in local pubs. She beamed with that familiar Brisbane welcome I always forget about and instantly miss when I leave. She also upgraded me to a top floor South Bank view room. Not bad, Ibis Styles!

Fresh from my shower I pulled back the crisp sheets of my bed and watched Pretty Woman with my curtains wide open and the wheel sparkling up at me. My heart was still aching but my body was content.

The next day I wandered slowly up Grey Street to our glorious head office and met with my team for the first time. I got to hold my best friend again, and apologise to my boss for being such a liability. I drank a lot of coffee.

True to form I ended up scrambling around with a minute to spare before Wyland and I made our way back to the airport. Our Jetstar flight was smooth and on time. Our hotel, Mantra Club Croc, was a darling little resort just up the road from Abell Point Marina (fun fact, it’s also the Topdeck hotel).

We spent the next couple of days swimming, chatting and relaxing with our incredible group of travel agents. We really couldn’t have been luckier. They were all utterly brilliant and equally hilarious. I couldn’t have asked for a more flamboyant and eager group of people to show off our sweet Aussie treasures to.

Wyland, as expected, was my perfect co-host; the organiser to my hyper and the calm to my storm. Wy and I go way back, as we like to say. She was my second team leader at Infinity and is a truly wonderful friend.

Day three of the trip was a big one for me. I decided to take control of my turmoil and cut my heart strings before they tore me any further. Then I went on the best day tour of my life.

Whitehaven beach and Hill Inlet are more spectacular than I can put in to words. My agents and I stood, open-mouthed and awe-struck at a vision so glorious that pictures can’t do it justice.

We then went string ray spotting in crystal clear water and I felt cleansed and whole and calm again.

We used Camira to sail the Whitsundays and they were fantastic. At one point I realised our group had claimed one of the nets at the front of the catamaran for our own and most of the other guests were crammed on the other. Big personalities, what can I say?

The next day consisted of ‘work’, inspecting gorgeous hotels and getting fed and watered by gracious hosts. I can honestly say I can’t wait for my first enquiry. I’m going to convert the shit out of it. If anyone does want any Whitsunday tips and tricks just shoot me a message!

Our final full day was reserved exclusively for one of the seven wonders of the world, the Great Barrier Reef. I have had the utter privilege of snorkelling here three times now. She is spectacular. On this trip we coined the term ‘straws are for murderers’, and it was good to be reminded why. Our government might not give a shit about conservation, but the TNQ guys certainly do. Massive efforts are being made to reduce the damage done to our reef and it shows. The people are so passionate, as we all should be about our precious home. Climate change is real people!

So, here I sit, sipping a wine on my second flight of the day. I’m a little sleepy, but very content. I can’t say ‘who needs therapy when you’ve got travel?’ Because I certainly need both, but it was really nice to remind myself that my impulse to explore isn’t just a deep seeded need to run away. I’m an explorer, a doer. I grab life by the balls and I jump in feet first. I’m strong, emotional, kind, fun and mental and it’s all going to be okay. Andrà tutto bene.

I have faith in myself, I have love for my country and I have a truly incredible life.

Thanks baby Jesus for the start, thanks mum and dad for the top upbringing and thanks to me for continually attracting good things and being far more resilient than I give myself credit for.

Yours, everyone,

HarleighQ

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Are You Looking After Future You?

I’m not good at hiding it when things are going on. You guys know, I’m not trying to be cryptic. I’m reaching out because I need love and I feel like garbage. So here is it, the bone naked truth.

For the last four years my life motto has been ‘I could die tomorrow’.  I’ve used it to justify massive purchases, give me the courage to book solo adventures, be honest and open about my feelings to people I care about and cut out the ones who don’t care about me.

It has led me down some garden paths, but it has also guided me to a life of courage and confidence (faux though that may sometimes be).

I’ve all but conquered my anxiety, with just the occasional hand ringing, mouth running and cold sweats when I have to do something outside of my carefully crafted comfort zone. I believe we only regret the things we don’t do, because no matter what choices we make, life keeps on rolling.

I want to be the one waving from the train window, not the one standing on the platform.

Now – that being said, I have also realised that I have developed some mad self-destructive tendencies. I mean, what person in their right mind still smokes cigarettes these days? I do. I also love a beverage and a food binge as much as the next addict. The fact is: I’ve used my live fast attitude to justify the highs and the lows of my self-care.

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I’m a woman now. I’m 27, out of home, working a job I love and kicking some goals. However, I’m still doing those dumb things, like justifying online shopping when I have $100 until pay day, and buying smokes when I should be paying for a gym membership instead.

This week I, consciously, did something for future Leigh. I’m not going to deny her existence anymore because you know what? Odds are- I’m not going to die tomorrow. It would be shit if I did, because I still have a lot on my list, but I probably won’t.

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In classic, heart first-head second Leigh fashion, I fell in love. I fell in love with a polyamorous person. I spent months convincing myself that I was okay with it, while deep down harbouring hopes of something more. This week I broke my own heart and walked away.

I still love him and I probably always will, but I had one of those ‘I love you, but I love me more’ moments. I’ve never had one of those before. I’m so used to things ending badly that the thought of walking away from someone I actually care about is almost incomprehensible. It still takes every ounce of strength I have not to go bounding backwards in to warmth and security but… I’m just going to hurt future Leigh even more, aren’t I?

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One fabulous thing about my character is that I’m not a procrastinator. I get shit done. So seeing a maybe in the distance just doesn’t do it for me. I need a now. I am very impatient!

Future Leigh came to me and she painted a picture of a home in Margaret River with floor to ceiling windows, book shelves galore; two giant doggos, some curly, dark haired babies and a man- a man with kind eyes and gentle hands who makes a mean cup of tea and plays with my hair.

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I want that more than I can put in to words. With the amount of love I put out in to the universe, I deserve that.

We only get one life, and if all you know is where you want to end up, you have to fight for it. You need to make decisions now and back yourself, because no one else will.

Most people, believe it or not, are really selfish! They will use you to keep them warm, soothed and smiling and it feels damn good to be that person. But, don’t get caught up in maybes.

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Sometimes you have to be really fucking strong, and love you more.

Now that I’m an adult (note how I keep repeating this so that perhaps I will believe it) I want to start taking care of future Leigh.

I’ve done up a budget (I haven’t stuck to it but you know, work in progress), I’ve got some self-help books as recommended by beautiful friends, I’ve got some writing exercise books too. I’ve got a journal and some pretty pens and a pretty excellent system with my house mate/other half whereby we balance each other’s uselessness with the other’s strength. With her mad organisation and determination, and my charm and haste, together we make a functioning human!

For those of my fellow sweet millennials with a self-destructive streak like me, never fear. We can make a change any day we like. I’ll make my next one on Monday, because I’ve had enough of it this week.

You’re stronger than you think. We all are.

You only live once, so take care of you. No one else will do it as well as you can.

Harleigh Q

x

The 27 Club: Sort Your Life Out

Darlings. I’ve missed you.

Let me begin by saying in actuality I don’t think there is an exact age that you should be expected to sort your life out. We each grow at different paces, and there is no shame in taking a little longer to get yourself on track. This is just my story.

~

I was always scared of turning twenty seven. You’re officially in your late twenties, for a start. Most people around you are married and having babies. Most have solid careers, houses, cars. Most people know what they want and how to get it.

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I guess I’m not most people.

Janice, the Jim’s, Kurt and Amy all lost their lives at 27. Icons of their generations taken at the height of their power by drugs, alcohol and depression.

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Those of you who have been out for a smoke with me will no doubt have heard my white bic lighter story. There’s a disproved theory that all of the 27 Club had a white bic lighter somewhere in the room or on their person when they died. Because I’m a superstitious loon I always carry one- just in case.

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I guess life can go either way, can’t it? It seems twenty seven is a good age to work out what you’re good for, and make your existence count for something. I’m under no illusion that I’m important, or that my voice will be the stuff of legends, but I do know from the beautiful messages I’ve received from people I know well and don’t that I am helping people. I’m good at inspiring people. I’m good at making people feel good. My writing is my purpose, that which I can do anywhere.

Decision Time

This week I decided not to move to Melbourne. After talking about it for years, and countless friends telling me how much I’d fit in, I pulled the plug on my plans one week out. I put my flights in to credit and took a big deep breath and realised that I was poking the embers of a dream I’d left behind a while ago.

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Talking to my spectacular councillor (who I can’t recommend enough) I realised that I have spent years of my life solely dedicated to people pleasing, and following plans because I think I have to, and committing to things I don’t actually want to do for fear of upsetting people. But where is my voice in all of this?

I’m not going to do that anymore.

This week I also made a second huge decision: I’m going back to Australia sales.

I already knew I’d found the love of my life in selling Australia when I moved to Brisbane to pursue my dream all those years ago. I am so thankful for everything I’ve learned while trialing international, I love my Perth Infinity family, but I miss my baby. I miss the surge of warmth I’d get in my chest with every call, waxing poetic about tropical North Queensland and the Outback. Aus is my everything. Between that and my writing, I’m living one hell of a fulfilled and passionate life.

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I’ve never been very good at having a clear vision and sticking to it. I’ve never been very good at decisions in general; but this week I made big ones and I know deep down in my soul it’s right. I have spent so much time living in the future that I didn’t realise that given a few choices, I could be spectacularly happy, right here and now.

Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans – John Lennon

I love my city and it’s wild beaches, my crazy friends, my loud family, my dogs and my nephew. I love our big, wide roads, the bush land, the weather. I am in love with a person, the kind I had reserved myself to believing couldn’t exist here. No where is perfect, but your situation is what you make it.

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I don’t need to run away to another city to be happy. I think running just makes the broken pieces harder to ignore. I don’t need to leave my home to belong. I am my own home, my friends are my home. I am such a lucky girl to have so much love around me.

Jessie and I are going to finish off a dream we started three years ago, when two hopeless blondes moved across the country in search of adulthood and learned lessons galore.

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Now, older and hotter and a whole lot wiser, we’re going to work it out all over again- together. And this time I’ll buy less DVDs.

In short, and the point of this long and rational tale, is that in this life you will disappoint people and you may even disappoint yourself. Your mind will change, your dreams might too. You don’t owe anyone anything. If you find your passion, your happiness, hold on to it with both hands and don’t let go. Do what your gut tells you, always. We don’t live for very long, so live well.

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My name is Harleigh, I’m twenty seven, and I’m gonna be just fine.

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HarleighQ

Why You Are Most Important: the Journey of Self Worth

Our generation is full of a lot of contradictions. If your newsfeeds are anything like mine, you probably follow a few body positivity pages. Maybe you have some pretty quotes or nice messages appearing about loving yourself first. I find in between all those beautiful things there’s still a lot of negativity. There’s the products to whiten your teeth, big perfect boobs on tiny models. Sometimes there’s some cellulite or a makeup free face. Usually there’s mean comments from troll profiles. There’s a few pictures of your friends having a sunset swim, a fun night, a movie quote, a couple kissing.

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Then there’s you; alone on your bed, double chin, hair in a bun, comfortable pyjamas. Scrolling, reading, messaging, liking.

I think my feeds are a pretty happy place to be. I’ve spent ten years of my life on social media. I know how to avoid comment sections I don’t like, tag my friends in memes and quizzes. I get dolled up and blinged out in my gorgeous outfits and take photos I think are lovely and I post them, because I like them. I get likes, sometimes sweet comments. I get messages with compliments or questions about where I got my things, but I don’t do it for this reason. Fashion is probably the one thing that I proudly show off and will cop any criticism. It’s how I show who I am. It’s the one place in my life where I am strong and unbending. It’s my way of showing other people that’s its ok to feel yourself!

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And yet, in regards to all else but my clothes, there I will sit, in my comfy stuff with my annoying broken out skin, pouting lips and heavy heart because I still don’t feel right.

A dear friend woke me up to this: there’s a difference between confidence and self worth.

I don’t doubt that our generation will put all others to shame when it comes to promoting self love. I noticed my beautiful friends have joined me in cutting negativity out of the way we speak about other people. We praise each other for feeling ourselves. We’re less critical, more supportive. We try to lift each other up instead of putting each other down. It’s a beautiful time.

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But where the fuck is my self worth then?

I have got the best friends on the planet, who love me wildly as I am. They show it through responding to my long messages of woe, coming to comfort me when I feel a bit shit, tagging me in quotes and giving me hard lines of advice when I need it. I get mad that that isn’t enough for me to appreciate myself, when I am so loved.

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I think I come across pretty confident most of the time. I’m not going to lie, I do love me. I think I’m pretty and funny, and I have a good heart and I let the people around me know how valued they are. I care.

But, all it takes is one person, who for whatever reason I have decided matters more to me than me, making me feel like I’m not important, for the carefully constructed walls of self-belief to come crashing down.

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A man I admire greatly called Matthew Hussey has done so many videos on this topic: core confidence. It’s important to appreciate yourself first, and not let other people bring you down. It’s attractive to know who you are, be strong in your convictions and unapologetic.

Comfort, Nice and Perfection.

Yet, full of life and love, guard-less and boundless, I’m lost within my own self doubt about 70% of the time. The above video really spoke to heart. I recommend a watch.

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It’s easy to say you shouldn’t care what other people think, and take it on the chin if someone you like doesn’t like you back. I’m unsure if I’m just missing that self-preservation chip that other people have so readily in place, but I really really struggle to keep feeling good about myself when someone doesn’t value me the way I hope they will.

I had an epiphany the other night. Something that I probably already knew, but is really hitting home.

It doesn’t matter how loved you are by other people, if you don’t really truly value yourself.

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I might love me, but I’m not valuing me. I let other people dictate to me how important I am with how much attention and love they give me, instead of realising that if they mattered at all they wouldn’t make me question myself in the first place.

My art is my lifeline, my writing is my soul purpose. I love to read, draw, sing and dance. I love music. I love people. But I seem to lose me every time I put myself out there, because instead of embracing all of those things and pulling back in to me when I feel devalued, I push harder outwards until I get a hard no and all the things I just mentioned don’t matter anymore. Only validation from someone else can soothe me. It’s bloody bullshit really. This need for everyone to love me isn’t fun anymore. It’s toxic.

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I feel like there might be a few of you, like me, who do the same. Why do we so readily give ourselves away? Why do we try so hard? It’s not even like I want to be in love. I know I’m not ready for it. I think I’m just desperate to be loved by everyone though. Why?

Life is so short. People aren’t always going to be there. In fact, you are the only one whose going to be there at the end of it all, looking back and thinking, did I do it for me or someone else?

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I want to do it for me.

I’m moving to Melbourne in July. It’s the one thing in my life I am 100% sure I am doing for me. Regardless of whatever ever comes to pass, there will be music, dancing, writing and reading. There will be tears, I’m sure, new friendships and probably many more failed relationships, but I am me. I will always be me.

To my queens: do not change because you think it will be easier. Do not hurt others because they have hurt you. Pull inwards, and go back to you. You are home base. Only answer the door to people who show that they care. You are valuable. You deserve to feel valued.

Do the things that make your heart pound. Do the things that make you sigh with relief. Stay inside you, if that’s what you need. Only venture out when your cup is half full.

If you’re single, your happiness should be your number one focus. We’re going to spent the rest of our lives taking care of other people. This is our time.

Like Matthew says, contentment within yourself radiates outwards. Suddenly you’ll find yourself attracting all kinds of wonderful people, because your magnetism is grounded by your security within yourself. Only when you’re ready, though.

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Boys are boys. Girls are girls. Sex is sex and you are you; glorious, kind and gentle. Love comes when it’s meant to. Kindness costs nothing. Don’t send drunk messages. Don’t forget who the fuck you are.

The further you bend, the harder you’ll break. 

I shall leave you will the immortal words of sweet Michael.

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Don’t change for you
Don’t change a thing for me

Worship the ground you walk on baby, like you do for others. Don’t be ashamed to be your own biggest cheerleader. I’m in the bleachers cheering you on too. Stop trying for others. Let them try for you. Vanity is a myth. Why the fuck shouldn’t we love ourselves?

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Live every day like it’s Rex Manning day.

Love you.

Harleigh Q
Champion of self love

Xox

Yesterday – A Short Story

Syd woke with the sun again. The light filtered through the venetian blinds and hit the honey brown of her eyes. She blinked slowly, her dream of the night gently fading from memory. The sheets were pushed down by her feet. The evening had been warm, but the morning cool left her tummy cold to the touch. She wasn’t wearing a thing but a pair of bikini briefs. She traced her finger gently up her thigh, along her hip bone, and rubbed the back of her hand against her heavy lids.

The tanned body beside her stirred; his face turned towards hers, lips parted, still snoozing.

Syd moved her hand towards him, and pressed it to his cheek. She traced the outline of his mouth with her thumb. This beautiful man, with thick black hair and bright green eyes, was hers.

For years she had dreamed of this moment. For the longest time she wasn’t sure if it would ever come. A slew of men talked their way in to her heart and her room with no thought of staying. They left her cold and deserted, and cursing herself for letting them in in the first place. Still, she didn’t change. She let those smooth Casanovas with their big smiles and firm touches have their way with her body and soul, until after a while she didn’t have much left to share.

It was a shell of a woman sitting alone at the bar that night that Julian arrived. He was equable, he didn’t speak to her. He ordered a drink and went back to his friend. When Syd glanced over her shoulder at him, he was looking right at her. That electric stare cut straight through.

It still did.

Her touch must have woken him. He pressed his lips together and kissed the tip of her thumb. Syd sighed, and rolled away from him. She gradually wiggled backwards until their bodies completed a puzzle. Julian wrapped his arm around her stomach and pulled her in tighter.

“I love you,” he whispered. His breath tickled her ear. Syd wanted to cry. He buried his nose in to her auburn hair and breathed deeply. They stayed like this for a long time, lost inside a waking dream. When Julian’s lips pressed against her neck, Syd melted in to him completely. His body grew firmer. She enjoyed her favourite wake up call.

A while later, hair wrapped in a towel and smelling like mint and vanilla, Syd emerged from the bathroom. Her feet hit the cold tiles and she tapped towards the kitchen. She could hear the coffee grinder.

Inside the door, Julian’s hair was still dripping with sweat. He grinned at her and ran his fingers through it. “I love you,” he cooed again, planting a kiss on her forehead. He drew his hand down her back, fingers tickling her spine. She let her towel drop a little lower. “I’m going to shower.”

Syd watched him go.

“Don’t drink all my coffee, Sydney,” he called back to her. She smirked; her shoulders slumped at the memory. The first time Syd had stayed with this man, she had unwittingly used the last of his important Columbian beans to make a coffee that tasted like rocket fuel. Since then, she knew not to help herself, and he had bought her a jar of Moccona just in case.

Syd heard the shower running and walked toward the record player. A jazz artist she hadn’t heard of was replaced by the Rolling Stones. It was Saturday morning, after all.

She flicked the switch on the kettle and leaned back against the counter.

It had been three blissful months in the arms of this bronzed Adonis. Originally from Argentina, his family immigrated to Australia in the eighties. At thirty five, Jules was a little older than Syd. He had travelled extensively in his twenties, which made him wise. He had a social conscience she had never encountered before. He seemed to genuinely care about everyone and everything. The first time this struck her was also the first time she’d seen him cry. They were watching a David Attenborough documentary on a lazy Sunday afternoon. His eyes welled as he watched their planet die on television, and swiftly Syd started to care a lot more too.

He made her better, she decided; a better person, a better lover. She was selfish in her youth. She was selfish full stop. She really had to watch her words sometimes. Her fiery hair was matched only by her fierce tongue. Growing up bullied severely for something as ridiculous as your hair colour gives a girl plenty of opportunity to develop a defence mechanism.

Perhaps that was her problem with men. She could handle taunts and rudeness, sly comments and cruel stares. What she couldn’t handle was kindness. Syd would protect herself and her friends from any bro with the audacity to neg them out but give her a nice guy, a man with a compliment and a flashy grin and she was putty in his hands.

She couldn’t understand how her friends were so good at weeding out the genuine ones and the liars.

“None of them are genuine, Syd. That’s rule number one,” said her cynical best friend Marie between puffs of her menthol cigarette.

“That can’t be true Marie. If it were… what’s the point?”

“Exactly.” Marie narrowed her eyes at her foolish companion. Syd flushed crimson and felt overcome with sadness. I refuse to believe it.

One month later, she met Julian.

Syd was nestled cross-legged on the sofa when he emerged, glistening wet and a towel around his waist. She loved his rugged beauty, how natural he was in body and mind. When wet, his hair touched his shoulders. He shook it out like a dog and grinned at her.

“I’m worried. Why are you looking at me like you want to murder me?”

Syd laughed at bit her lip. “I was lost in memories; I won’t kill you until you’re old and rich.”

“I don’t plan on being either.”

“If you keep importing that coffee from Colombia, you won’t be.”

Julian winked at her before entering the kitchen. Syd sipped her painfully average instant coffee and groaned. “Can I have a sip of your rocket fuel?” she called.

“Seeing as you asked so nicely… absolutely not,” he said, poking his head around the door. “You disrespect my coffee. You disrespect me.”

“God forbid,” said Syd darkly. This man, she thought. He loves his coffee more than me.

She thought back to the night before. Syd and Marie had gone for dinner, which turned in to dancing. Marie was wild and fun. As Syd’s only single friend, she was the one she always turned to in times of need.

“He worships you, and I hate both of you,” she bellowed in to her ear over the loud music. Syd felt smug, but sad. Her friend was stunning. She deserved the world.

“He’ll come one day,” she shouted back.

“Nah,” laughed Marie. “You took the last good one.”

Syd frowned when she thought of her friend. She was the most supportive, strong woman she had ever met. Is there really someone for everyone?

“I have a surprise for you, my golden Goddess,” Julian began when he reappeared. He pulled a piece of paper from behind his back.

Julian was an artist. Not a struggling one, as his full time job as a law clerk saw to. He hated it, but it was a means to an end, as he often stated. He didn’t have many work friends. The few times she’d been out with them, they were dull and unfriendly. One night in particular stuck in Syd’s mind. His boss, a heavy set man with a terrible comb over had looked her up and down and tapped her on the behind.

“They’re a rotten crown.” Julian cooed in her ear that night as they Uber’d home.

“You’re worth the whole damn lot of them,” she finished. They shared a passionate kiss. That was the first time he told her he loved her.

Syd moved in a few days later.

Since then, Julian’s cartoons never failed to brighten her day. Syd looked down at his latest creation: a sleeping red head with a caption ‘My World.’

“This is for you,” he beamed.

“I’ll frame it,” she teased.

He looked so proud. His chest puffed out, his wonky grin. She wanted to eat him up.

“I will draw us old and in rocking chairs.”

“I’d rather live it!” She said with love. He stuck out his bottom lip. Syd had a tendency to shut him down without thinking. “Draw our future.”

“Right after I get eggs,” he muttered. “We don’t have any left.”

“I’d rather some toast. You can’t make eggs.”

“It is my life goal,” he announced loudly to the empty room, “to make you the perfect egg.” She was more interested in his slipping towel but nodded along anyway.

“Keep trying.”

When Julian closed the front door, and said I love you for the third time that morning, Sydney didn’t say it back. She knew he knew. She said it with her eyes, meeting his and welling up. She said it in the way she brushed his hair out of his face as he finished his latest masterpiece. She said it when she made the bed, and laid out some of his clothes. She said it in ways that spoke more than words.

She knew he knew it.

But she spent the rest of her life wishing she’d said it that morning.

When the police knocked on the door an hour later she was already so anxious her hands were shaking. He hadn’t answered her texts; he hadn’t picked up his phone. He was always hopeless with that damn phone but today she knew he took it with him.

Maybe he left it in the car? Maybe the store was closed for some reason. Maybe he ran in to someone he knew and got talking and lost track of time.

‘Where r u?’

‘Is everything ok?’

‘Did the car breakdown? Do u need me to come get u?

She saw the uniforms and the look of sorrow on their faces. As soon as they opened their mouths it was like one of those silly cartoons when everything is fuzzy. She didn’t remember falling to her knees or how one of them had picked her up and walked her in to the living room. The noise coming from her mouth was something foreign; a pained moan from a ghost. Something she’d never heard before.

She heard the words ‘accident’ and ‘fatalities’ and something about a truck turn-over.

A hot cup appeared in her hand; his cup. She took a sip discerningly and gagged. It was rocket fuel. It was his coffee. She threw the cup across the room and it smashed in to a million pieces along with her heart.

“Never touch his coffee!” She screamed. She was held tight again a chest that wasn’t his and she thrashed with all her might, becoming a crumpled heap on the floor. Who can you call?

No one.

There is no one.

He’s gone.

~

Six months later she sat in a cafe with Marie. Her voice was fuzzy and cartoon-like and Syd’d eyes glazed over as she stared at the barista. He had long floppy hair and flashed her a smile. Her stone face remained unchanged.

“Cherish the ones you love Marie,” she said flatly. Her friend fell silent. A hand cupped hers.

“Always,” she said quietly.

Self-Love Part Three

In this edition of millennial bs I’m going to tackle some confidence killing taboos. As I know a lot of you are just like me, hence you being my friends, I hope this will make you feel a little bit better about being a sweet hot mess.

Be you sensitive, needy, emotional, shy, an over-sharer, awkward, a bit daft or all of the above, I'm sure you'll find something in here to make you feel a little bit cooler. You're actually very very cool.

The People-Pleaser – I Love You

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Hi, my name is Leigh, and I want everyone to love me.

It’s an issue.

Working in sales it is of the utmost priority that I can bend at will to fit myself around the person I am talking to. I need to fulfil their needs, make them feel comfortable. Most of all, I need them to hang up the phone with a smile.

Making other people feel good makes me feel oh so good.

I absolutely love my job.

There’s nothing fake about the way we all adapt to people though. We have so many sides to our personalities, and after a while you just get good at picking which side it is that this person is going to respond to most. Is it the dry, sarcastic down to business woman? Is it the sweet, giggly joker with the compliments? I find I’m a little bit different with everyone I know. I’m sure we all are. There’s only a handful of people who get to see inside my head, and I’m very careful about who I truly let in; because I’m actually mental.

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There’s nothing more earth shattering than being your true self and having someone reject you. It happens though.

That’s why I think it’s easier to put on a bit of a show, and know that if you’re making people feel good, they’re going to regard you well. If it doesn’t work, it is okay, because that wasn’t 100% you anyway.

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I guess maybe it’s a defence mechanism, this performance. This need for love runs through every fibre of my being. Maybe it’s manipulative… who knows! I am a Slytherin after all.  Maybe pretending I don't fall fast and hard is a show in itself. Jeez Louise I wish I could switch it off! It's hard work being this open and emotional all the time. I could do with a holiday from it.

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The Faux Vanity – I Love Me

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Hi my name is Leigh, and I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but I love a good selfie.

I think we have officially come to the era where it’s becoming acceptable to like the way we look. Some days I think I look like a bag of dicks but some days, I’m feeling it! I like my wog nose and big mouth and brown eyes. I like that I still have my boobs despite losing quite a lot of weight. I like my curvy hips.

The way I see it, we are only in our twenties once. This is the hottest we are ever going to be. I want my teenage daughter one day to have some photos of me to look back on, and laugh and think ‘what the fuck was mum wearing?’ But also aspire to vibe with confidence and like what she sees when she looks in the mirror, because mum does.

I feel like the ‘fake it ‘til you make it’ ideal is our best bet of living a happy, confident life. This world is full of negative forces trying to get us to spend money on products we don’t need. There are false representations of body ideals, Photoshop, magical camera tricks. I have filled up my Insta feed with amazing body positivity pages that make that app a pleasure to scroll through. I used to be so ashamed of my cellulite and stretchmarks, and the way my tummy wobbles a little bit when I walk. Now I genuinely don’t give two hoots. We all have it! I mean don’t get me wrong, I am still desperately insecure. I just have a core confidence that I can come back to every so often that reminds me that I am brilliant when people make me feel otherwise (and I let that happen a lot sadly).

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We don’t have to be shy and uncomfortable and unhappy in ourselves anymore. We are allowed to like the way we look. It’s absolutely mind boggling that we weren’t in the past. Being labelled as vain is so bizarre to me. There’s nothing wrong with self-love. We should all be enjoying ourselves, or making it our mission to do so.

If you see someone’s selfies and your inner thought is ‘ugh, they are so vain’ that’s honestly a bigger reflection on you and your insecurity, and you may want to take a moment to reflect. There’s no need to put other people down. It’s not going to make you feel any better. People can be confident and nice.

My personal reaction to my friends gorgeous faces plastered on my newsfeed is YAS QUEEN YOU’RE PERFECT, YOU’RE BEAUTIFUL, YOU LOOK LIKE LINDA EVANGELISTA, YOU’RE A MODEL and that’s how it bloody well should be.

Lift up your sisters.

The Love Guru – I Love Everything

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Ah that old chestnut. Hi I’m Leigh and as Jessie coined it, I have a lot of love to give.

A big challenge I face in my life is the fact that I will pour affection in to people, probably because that’s how I was raised, and I take it ever so personally when they don’t receive it well and pull away.

A skill I really need to develop is working out who needs my love and who doesn’t.

Receiving affection from people, kind words, attention, hugs, makes me feel really good. It’s my love language. Words of affirmation and physical touch are my jam baby. Guess who has a stable family unit and grew up watching Rom Coms – me!

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Because I am so willing to give my emotional support wherever needed, it tends to mean that I will expect a lot in return. Most people are not as sensitive as me, and they don’t necessarily need someone to talk them off the ledge for an hour every night while they over-analyse the way someone said something. I mean, I am getting a lot better, with many thanks to the strong ladies in my life who have started taking the ‘snap out of it’ approach. Every so often though, I do need my fellow gentle angels to give me word caresses too.

I am ridiculously lucky that I have these people in my life. They might live all over the world, but I have people who listen to my rambles, and check in on me, and send me love where it’s needed, even when it’s not in their nature to do so.

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I think I've got the best looking support network on the planet I mean holy shit…

I want to thank each and every one of you, for getting me through my darkest time. It’s because of you I can keep being my stupidly sensitive, overly-loving and deeply caring self. I have not let the world harden me.

I know one day my soulie will come along, and for them I won’t be too much. I’ll be just enough. It’s because of you guys that I never lose my faith, because if my ladies can love my madness, I’m sure I’ll find someone in my life who will want to marry it.

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Have faith, single people.

My message, through my own story, is to stay soft. Do not let someone’s rejection make you scared to love, or be labelled a clinger, or whatever other stupid thing people say to put people down when openness scares them.

People have their own issues, and a lot of the time it’s not their fault. They might have been really hurt by people, and it might be really hard for them to open up or trust. Sadly, it’s really common.

So sweet little butterfly people do not take it personally. Your love is just enough. You are perfect. Do not play games, or be cruel, or be mad at them. They’ll work it out eventually. Just put your energy where it is appreciated.

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The Good Intentions – Lets All Just Love Each Other

At the end of the day, I think all most of us want is to love and be loved. We want the people around us to be happy and healthy. We want to smile lots and cry rarely.

It might be demon people in your life or demon chemicals in your mind but most of the time the above just isn’t possible, and that’s okay.

Try not to let the black hole swallow you up completely. The world is full of good and bad, just make sure part of the good bit, no matter what.

Love you.

Harleigh Q

xo

The Millennial Crisis

HarleighQ is back, baby! I hope you didn’t miss my love-filled rambles too much. I came to the realisation that something has been missing in my life, and although I don’t always take myself seriously as a writer, this thing is my baby! I have been throwing myself in to my fiction (we’re about 10 chapters in to my yet untitled epic) but my baby needs to be nurtured. As do I.

Which brings me to the topic at hand… the Millennial Crisis.

Welcome to the beginning of a series I’m going to call ‘First World Problems’ where I will unashamedly discuss things that are petty but relevant to my generation, because we all deserve to be heard, and we all need to know we aren’t alone.

Our government rarely listens to us, we’re struggling financially, we don’t know what we want to do with our lives, our love life is a shambles, our mental health is struggling, our friends are just as fucked up as we are or they’re already married with kids. There’s constant pressure to work out our future, have savings, be loved by everyone, settle down and appreciate how ‘good’ we have it. Fucking hell. Hello quarter life crisis. My name is Leigh and I have no idea what I’m doing.

I’m sure I’m not alone in expressing my guilt when it comes to how overwhelmed I feel. I often sit and reflect on how it was for our parents’ generation, and their parents. They didn’t have the freedom we do, the endless opportunities when it comes to careers and following our dreams. They were ruled by obligation and inherent sexism. We are so lucky! We are so privileged! Yet why do so many of us feel like we are swimming upstream, mere seconds from drowning?

I think it comes down to the simple fact that we want happiness to be a constant, not a fleeting memory. Every human on this planet deserves happiness. Otherwise, what’s the point? Just because it’s taken until now for us to practically be able to pursue this mentality doesn’t mean that we’re wrong, or dumb, or dreamers. We’ve just finally come to terms with how short life is and how important it is to live it to the fullest. Why shouldn’t we spend it smiling and choosing not to hurt anyone in the process?

What’s my crisis? Take a seat friends.

I am a dramatic person. I will own that. But I also struggle with quite severe anxiety. It’s come on as a mixture of things in my life, a combination of genetics and experiences I’m sure. Sometimes I don’t know where to draw the line between my dramatics and an actual genuine feeling of being overwhelmed by life. Then I start to feel tremendously bad. I have the most incredible family, and career wise I am totally sorted. But you know what? Everything else is a struggle! I’m allowed to admit that. At the moment, it really is.

I travelled so much in the last couple of years with little regard for future Leigh, and now I’m paying for it. It was so worth it at the time, but now my life is on hold while I move home to do damage control. Yeah that’s right, most of my issues are totally self inflicted!

Let’s not even get started on my love life. There’s a reason I declared myself Millennial Bridget Jones on Facebook the other day. I am well and truly stuck in Daniel Cleaver faze. Honestly? I don’t deserve any better either. I’m not ready.

I’m pretty lonely, living in quite an isolated suburb in an isolated city spending more time with myself than anyone else. I’m an extrovert. I drive myself and my family crazy after a while. I really am a lot. I start fixating on things like the news as a mental escape which only drives me more mental.

I feel guilty when I don’t believe all of the claims in the #metoo movement pinpointing men in Hollywood, my heart bleeds for my American friends dealing with a tyrant like Trump. I want to cry because our government wasted billions of dollars humiliating my friends in the queer community just to prove a point, and the reef is dying, as are the people abandoned on Nauru. There are so many things swirling around my mind at all times that sometimes I wish I could revert back to childhood, when my only worry was if my bike chain fell off. Even then, I knew how to fix it.

None of this is a poor me, or a poor us. But if we don’t change this mentality of ‘you don’t know how good you’ve got it’ whenever people bring up mental health issues, we’re going to go backwards. We have come so far from that toughen up mentality. Let’s keep moving.

We are such a powerful, caring, socially conscious generation. I’m writing this post to remind my beautiful friends that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed. We are just trying to do our best, and make the world a better place as we go. That weighs really fucking heavy sometimes. We are trying to reverse decades worth of damage. We have to remind ourself and our peers daily that it’s okay to be who you are. You don’t have to hide anymore. You don’t have to feel ashamed; be it your sexuality, mental health, gender identity, kinks, dreams, stupid financial decisions, putting travel before your career or vice versa.

You don’t have to be strong and closed off. Openness is beautiful. It’s not dangerous to let people in, to wear your heart on your sleeve, to stand up for what you believe in. It’s okay to be kind, honest, sweet. Getting hurt is a part of life. Pick yourself up, dust off, and let them all back in again. If you need help with that, I’m always here with advice. I don’t follow my own, naturally. I’ve got lots of love to give though!

Pain is relative. I have nervy b’s every few days and you know what? I’m going to stop beating myself up over my sensitivity. I have pretty valid reasons to be upset most of the time, and just because I’m privileged doesn’t mean I can’t cry. We all need to cry it out sometimes.

We don’t have to know what we’re doing, or where we’re going. We just need to be kind, listen to our hearts, surround ourselves with supportive people and the rest will follow.

I love you all so much. Never feel like your feelings aren’t valid. Life is a roller coaster, baby. It’s better to feel the highs and the lows than nothing at all.

Some people may call us weak, but you know what? I’d rather be weak than an asshole.

I hope a few of my fellow crisis kids feel a little better after reading this. I promise, you aren’t alone. It’s going to be okay.

Harleigh Q

Xo

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

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…