The train burst from the tunnel and the bay came into view. Rebecca squeezed her eyes shut before opening them again, and twisted the gloves in her lap. She had not expected the scenery to be so magnificent. Mountains, verdant with lilli pilli, wild cherry and cabbage tree palms, shadowed the town, which was tucked into the elbow of the bay like a babe in the crook of his mother’s arm. On the other side of it, flat rock platforms jutted out into the ocean. The sea beyond the bay was vast. It spread to the horizon and shimmered with a spectacular shade of sapphire blue. The surface was calm but Rebecca knew there was nothing more treacherous than the sea. A fluttery feeling disturbed her stomach and she looked away. It was ironic that she should have been assigned this coastal town when there were hundreds of inland centres equally in need of her services. Perhaps it was fate. Perhaps a divine reminder of mistakes made that could never be forgiven.
The train slowed and came to a stop in front of a station with a weatherboard office and waiting room. The ‘Welcome to Shipwreck Bay’ sign was sun-bleached and in need of paint, but below it somebody had planted a bed of purple pigface which was vibrant with spring blooms. Rebecca tugged down her suitcase from the rack and pulled her gloves over her hands. She stepped onto the platform at the same time the stationmaster appeared from his office, rubbing his bald pate before he replaced his cap and hitched his trousers over his substantial belly. He stopped in his tracks and widened his eyes when he saw her. ‘Are you on your way to Melbourne, Miss?’
His gaze slowly ran over Rebecca from her pump shoes to her calot hat. She was used to that look. Even girdled and clothed for business in a nipped-waist tweed jacket and pencil skirt she couldn’t hide her curvaceous figure. Men – young, middle-aged, old, ugly or handsome – always regarded her like a delicious cake they wanted to gobble up. It bemused her now that she was no longer young. At thirty-two years of age she was as good as a spinster. And with her round face and hooded grey eyes, she did not consider herself especially beautiful. Yet men always stared even when there were far more attractive women in the room. ‘You’ve got something magnetic about you Becky,’ her friend, Marion, always told her. ‘Men just can’t look away.’