Her mother had said it was old-fashioned to sail from England to Australia, but she wanted time to think. Time to plan.
Time to mourn all over again.
Murdoch Foyle was being released. It had been far too long since she’d given thought to the man, keeping his face and the whole thing with Janey in the back of her mind ever since her father inherited the estate in England. It was easier that way. Safer for her sanity, too. If she thought about it too much, it started to drive her mad. As a child, she dealt with it by getting into scrapes with boys who were rough and tumble. As she got older, if it came to her mind, she either reached for something alcoholic or reached for someone to shag.
Either way, she buried herself in something else until the memories went right back to their rightful place in the darkest parts of her mind.
And yet here she was, on a cruise ship heading towards Melbourne. She was going home to keep that monster at Her Majesty’s pleasure for as long as she possibly could. Most of the other people on board would spend their time looking at the sights and then head back to England and off to...wherever they came from. She hadn’t much cared for her fellow passengers while she’d been planning. Polite conversation at mealtimes had been about all she had given them. The rest of the time she’d been holed up in her cabin, either reliving memories or making plans, using a satellite phone to finalize certain things.
The more she could plan, the better she’d felt. The more hopeful she was it would all work.
But now it was time to disembark, and she stood at the railing, looking down at the throng of people on the docks. It didn’t take her long to spot Mac, not with her red hair as flaming as the setting sun. Though if she really wanted to be pert, she could say Mac’s red hair was as flaming as she was, but honestly, Mac was rather low-key about her choice in partners. Much more than she was, at least, but even though it wasn’t as frowned upon to be a lesbian as it might have been in, say, the 1920’s, Australia still didn’t allow same-sex marriage and there was still homophobia in certain areas.
Honestly, it was the modern era. People should be more open-minded, in her opinion, and yet they weren’t, and that bothered her. She believed people should love who they want to love, marry who they wanted, live the life they wanted. It would make the world a better place. And yet people fought vehemently to make sure that that wasn’t the way it was.
Utter bullshit, nothing more.
Though Australia was making strides. She knew people there were being more open-minded in some ways, and there was the talk of a real push for same-sex marriage to be made legal. It was a bright spot in the future and definitely made her more optimistic than she had felt since Brexit happened. Dear Lord, that had been an utter nightmare, and she’d fought more than her share of arguments fighting for people who couldn’t fight for themselves. In fact, now she always made sure to have a scarf on hand and adhesive bandages, in case things got physical. The scarf could be used as a tourniquet, a sling, or given to any Islamic woman who had their hijab taken off.
The current scarf in her handbag had been used for a few of those exact situations, unfortunately.
It was much better to focus on small scale and large scale injustice than it was to focus on her own past. Oh, her past was fraught with more than she wanted to think about, truly, but it had hardened her spirit and softened her heart and, perhaps, that wasn’t a bad thing.
She spotted Mac in one of the tailored suits he knew she favoured, a fedora perched on her curly ginger hair. Truthfully, Mac was a sight for sore eyes. They’d known each other since Phryne had been sent to her first boarding school in England, and it was one fight with a prat who kept pinching their arses and she knew they’d be best friends for life. Mac was one of the few who knew why she was really coming back to Melbourne, and she was one of the fewer people who hadn’t tried to talk her out of it. The only one, actually.
Once people were able to disembark, she made sure her luggage was pulled behind her and went down the gangway to her waiting friend. Giving Mac a wide grin, she let go of the handle of her carry-on and gave Mac a warm embrace. She was a good head taller than Mac but Mac had the stronger grip between them and almost lifted Phryne off her feet. “It’s good to see you, Mac,” Phryne said when they let go.
“Good to see you too, Phryne,” Mac said. She held her arms out still, giving Phryne a good look. Phryne had always appreciated vintage clothing, antiques and things with history, and so today she had on a women’s sailor style dress from the 20s. Then Mac glanced behind her at the stack of trunks and matching luggage being brought over by the porter. “Traveling light, I see,” she replied, raising an eyebrow.
“Well, that’s rather the point of sea travel, isn’t it?” Phryne said with a laugh. “Better than sending it across on its own boat trip, and you know airlines have a two suitcase limit.”
“You and your extravagant fashion,” Mac said, shaking her head. She pulled away and then moved next to Phryne, linking their arms together as Phryne picked up the handle of her carry-on again. “So, have any plans?”
“You know my plans,” Phryne said, her smile faltering a bit.
“I meant other plans,” Mac said in a soft tone. “I know why you’re here, but if you’re planning on staying long term...”
“I have a few things I’m considering,” Phryne said.
“Any chance you could help at the clinic?” Mac said. “I could always use another set of hands.”
“You just want the chance to boss me around,” Phryne said, her good mood at seeing her friend coming back fully. “No, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Better for our friendship if you aren’t the harsh taskmaster I know you are.”
“I am not that harsh,” Mac said.
“Yes you are,” Phryne said, nudging her shoulder into Mac.
“Alright, maybe a little,” she said. “But you’ll do something more than just keep him out of public?”
Phryne nodded. “I will, I promise.” A moment later a chime came from her handbag, and Phryne let go of Mac’s arm to dig out her mobile phone. She got it and opened her emails. “Oh! An invitation to lunch with Lydia Andrews. How lovely!”
“I suppose I can share you with others,” Mac said with an exaggerated sigh.
“Oh, and Aunt Prudence,” Phryne said, frowning.
“Shame I have to go perform an urgent medical procedure of some sort.”
Phryne rolled her eyes. “Ever the drama queen.”
“Are you talking about me or your aunt?” Mac asked.
“To be honest, I’m not entirely sure,” Phryne said, eliciting a laugh from her friend. “I just need to get to the Langham Hotel, change into something more sophisticated than this, and perhaps have a drink to steel my reserve before dealing with Aunt Prue.”
“I’ll join you for that drink,” Mac said. “Though nothing overly strong. I am on call.”
Phryne nodded. “That works for me.” They linked arms once Phryne put her mobile back in her handbag and headed to Mac’s car. For a grand return to Melbourne, so far, it was going well. Hopefully, it would continue to go well...if she had luck on her side.