Author and ex Bondi resident, Lucille Howe, shares an extract from her new novel – Bondi Blonde – in which the e-book’s protagonist Emily encounters Bondi for the very first time, exclusively with CD-Traveller readers
It was time to find out where exactly I was, a whole day from home, in a new city, in a new country, on the other side of the planet. It was time for Bondi.
I’d been right about how close we were to the beach, but I hadn’t banked on stumbling out of the front door and turning right to find the whole glistening ocean on my doorstep. ‘Wow,’ I said, out loud, then slapped my hand to my mouth, like a Japanese schoolgirl, and giggled. It was, as the Aussies might say, AWESOME.
‘G’day,’ smiled a sexy surfer (So people really did say that!). His rubber seal suit was peeled down from his torso, exposing muscle groups I’d never seen before, moving up and down like piano keys in the blistering sun. ‘Water’s unreal. You should try it,’ he said over his shoulder as he hopped, barefoot, across the prickly granite road and disappeared down some steps.
‘I will,’ I said, lamely, realising that I needed to turn back and get my bikini if I wanted to do that. I felt like I’d stepped right into a postcard. Bondi looked like a biosphere… a place genetically engineered for a utopian micro-society. The beach was a one-kilometre crescent of the whitest sand you could wish to seep through your toes and smooth your mangled feet into soft little paws that you could showcase in a pair of gold Grecian sandals and be fairly proud of. Like a kid’s drawing, it could be portrayed in three simple strokes; the tantalising crystal blue water, the heavenly white sand and backing onto that, a steep grass bank that served as the perfect viewpoint to watch the abundance of intimidating bodies that stood between you and the water.
I’d heard the girls here would be hot, but, my God, I’d already passed about five supermodels on the promenade. The locals had clearly benefited from generations of living by the water, and in the sunny outdoors, and had evolved into super-sleek baby giraffes that would occasionally come down to the watering hole to show off their lithe physiques.
A perfect example stood outside a café, sipping on an oversized coffee with a fluffy little Chihuahua on a lead. Her skinny jeans could have been sprayed on. Her thighs didn’t even meet at the top – you could comfortably squeeze between them without touching the sides. The waistband just skimmed her pubic bone and a smooth, concave stomach was offset by two jutting hip bones. A sheer, tiger-print top undulated over round, perky breasts and rock star, tousled blonde hair framed oversized Gucci shades and petulant lips. My guess was there’d been some work done, but who cared, she looked stunning. And she wasn’t even unusual. Her two friends, and all the other girls I passed up the road, looked like models too. This was not good news at all. Not least for my thighs, which were a dodgy shade of porridge. My flesh hadn’t seen sunlight for five months, and even then, only fleeting glimpses from the safety of the parents’ back garden.
It was hard to tell if these beautiful androids even acknowledged me behind their dark glasses, but my guess, as I navigated another Giselle Bundchen at the Boost Juice counter, was that they looked through me and over me because I definitely wasn’t competition. ‘Em,’ I told myself, ‘you’ve got a great personality.’
How old were these women? It was hard to tell. Teenagers looked like twenty-something porn stars, and women in their early thirties were aged by handbag skin and bling beachwear, but looked like they might preserve that way for the next fifty years. The boys they hung with looked just like they did…the same drainpipe jeans in black, or bubblegum brights, worn with clownish Converse trainers and stripy scarves that made a noose around their mullets.
‘Sorry,’ one the androids purred as she knocked my back with her reusable organic bag and turned to air-kiss her handsome friend. Her adorable terrier did a really un-adorable poo without warning (which made me believe in karma again). But, irritatingly, her friend did the honours before I could enjoy watching her stoop to pick it up. ‘Naughty little La La,’ she scolded. Good one, La La.
I had to find a way to disguise the sign above my head that read, ‘New in Town’. I could memorise the street names, decide exactly which of the million ways I’d like my coffee, or I could do the simplest thing and just get brown, and quickly. ‘You’ll need factor thirty, love,’ said the Greek woman at the chemist as she smiled and her lipstick seeped into the cracks around her mouth.
‘I’ll just take this for the moment,’ I replied and pushed a factor fifteen oil towards her acrylic talons.
‘You’ve got beautiful skin. Why you want to spoil it?’
‘Don’t worry, I’ll wear a hat,’ I lied.
‘Ah, clever girl. Is not good for you pale English people to go burn yourselves.’ And this from a woman who looked like a caramelised baked apple. She and my mum were clearly in cahoots. She was probably right, but I stood out like a kebab at a vegetarian convention. Everyone knows a tan takes a dress size off you, and I needed the help.
Down on the sand, it was ruthless. A group of teenagers in dental floss bikini bottoms, and with cupcake breasts, laughed very loudly as I walked by. The beach had been colonised with acute spatial awareness, and everyone had marked out their patches with fluro beach towels weighted down with shoes, water bottles and more than a few copies of Hunger Games. I spied a group of harmless looking girls who were as luminous as I was, so I dropped to the ground as quickly and inconspicuously as possible, gingerly unbuttoned my top, and hoisted up my skirt to cellulite level. Judging by the flesh on show, nobody would pop an eyeball over a couple of boobs, so long as you didn’t mind the blatant mobile phone camerawork, from ecstatic visitors on the promenade. It was a very strange feeling…hundreds of near-naked people, very close to each other. Twenty-four hours ago I couldn’t have made out a body under the bundles of coats and scarves in transit, but now there were gorgeous, bronzed (on the whole) bodies, stretching and arching and twitching as far as the eye could see. It was kind of…well… distracting.
‘Work it Tony, work it! You’re moving into cardio.’ A couple of wrinkly old men in Speedos came running up the beach, lobbing a squash ball back and forth. Geez! These men shouldn’t have been off their ventilators, let alone,’ moving into cardio’? Wow.
In fact, everywhere I looked there were people running, and in the midday sun too; men running, pregnant women running, Yummy Mummies with prams running… babies with G-force, up front, already getting a feel for the cardio pace. What were they running from? Where were they running to? And why, on such a swelteringly hot day, with an already cotton bud-thin body, would you want to put yourself out? Oh no, not this girl. No, no, no… I’d had enough stress pounding the streets of London for scrag ends of celebrity gossip. I pulled my book up to my face to block them all out, and closed my eyes for a few seconds while Tony continued to smash his way up the beach.
‘Eh. Scuse me, you, er, alright there? You look a bit sore.’
Shit. I paddled my arms in a panic and sucked a bit of spit up from my mouth. My sunglasses were lopsided and my legs felt worryingly stiff as I sat myself up. ‘Sorry? Hi.’
‘Hey, mate. I think you’re burning.’ The pasty girl gang had sprouted a pasty Liverpudlian male who appeared to be standing in my sun and looking very concerned.
‘Oh God, yes. You’re probably right. What time is it?’
‘Quarter past four.’
Quarter. Past. Four. My brain did the maths and, in what felt like slow motion, Scouser boy and myself scanned my body until our eyes met my thighs, which radiated alarm in a Caribbean coral pink.
Bondi Blonde is available to buy from Amazon