Morgaine Riley is a writer and English tutor from Peramangk Country (the Adelaide Hills). In 2021, she was awarded the Peter Davies Memorial Prize for Creative Writing. She has recently completed an Honours in Creative Writing at the University of Adelaide.
The drive to Hardwicke is filled with corn chips and ABBA’s complete discography, with sleeping bags and pillows overflowing into the backseat and making it impossible to see out the rear window. On the first day, the weather is horrible—drizzly and gusty, banging the flyscreen doors and dragging green plastic deck chairs across the veranda.
We sit on the carpet of the beach shack, poring over a photo album from Tony’s Year Eleven exchange to Japan. Jenny gave it to Selene after the twenty-year anniversary. Tony is younger in these photos, only sixteen or seventeen, and it shows in his face and hair. One photo stands out. In it, Tony is wearing light blue jeans and a white t-shirt, standing with his weight on his right leg. His hair is blonde and floppy, like Leonardo DiCaprio, and his smile tilts up to the left. He looks at ease, confident, and very familiar.
Maybe it’s an aura—the way they hold themselves. Self-assured, always in action, with matching cheeky smirks—a forced moment of pause for a camera that will be abandoned quickly.
Something Eddy said about that day at Bullies jolted my recognition. “He got completely washed up, but he came in with this massive grin on his face.” A genuine love of trying, not just succeeding. Something the boys admired about Tony, and I treasure in Selene. I love Selene the way these boys loved Tony, and we mourn for how they could have loved each other.
29th May 2022. Hardwicke Bay
On the anniversary of the day Tony disappeared, we walk along the esplanade to the beach. Nearly every second house has a tractor parked out front, old Ferguson types with big back wheels and rounded corners in pale blues and reds with rust bleeding through; or newer, John Deere green and yellow with encased cabs. To tow the boats out, Selene tells us. More heavy duty than your average four-wheel-drive. Fantastic off-roaders.
We follow the tractor treads in the sand right down to the water line. Lazy and a little hungover, we trail along the beach, jeans rolled up to wander through the low tide and out onto the reef. We squat over shallow rockpools, pulling up crabs for inspection before returning them to their rocky alcoves in a flurry of sand. Pipi casings lie open, pale purple, sometimes pinkish inside, the discards of bait left behind by beach fishermen or washed ashore from their boats.
We’ve been walking for two hours when we realise we’re hungry and halfway to Point Turton. Distracted, laughing about a boy Amber is “talking to”, we track back on wetter, harder sand, less dawdling this time. The tide has already taken most of our footprints.
Only when we are back at the house, and Kali tries to open the doors, do we realise what we don’t have. The keys.
“Are they inside?”
“No, I’m sure I took them,”
“The glove box, maybe?”
Selene pats the pouch pocket of her jumper in horror. “They were in here. They must have fallen out.”
“Tony’s rock?” We all realise at the same time. We’d been bending to place flowers there, that must’ve shaken them out.
Selene and I look at each other.
“We have to check.”
A plan is set out. Selene and I will go and check the carpark, where the keys will definitely be, the others will try and get in through a window and see if any locksmiths are working on a Saturday in the middle of nowhere. No need to panic.
The keys are not at Tony’s rock. It’s obvious almost immediately—there’s only gravel and sparse status flowers for them to hide in.
“Ok, ok, let’s think. Where else would you have been bending down?”
Selene grimaces as we look out over the beach. “Pretty much every rock pool,” she sighs.
“Alright.” I don’t let her see how panicked I am. “Let’s go and look there, then.” I grin, “How hard can it be?”
Mirroring the same stupid hope that I feel, Selene grins back. “Right? Not hard.”
Retracing our steps is tricky, because the tide has come right in, swallowing all of our footprints. Selene scans the deeper, looser sand and I give up on keeping my jeans dry, scouring the shallows for any glinting silver. We’ve been staring at our feet for forty minutes when I stumble across the edge of a rockpool.
“I think we should head back,” Selene yells over the wind. She laughs when she sees me picking my way out to the reef. We must both be mad.
I stop and turn around to yell back, “One sec!”
We stand there, a hundred metres apart, Selene with her hands on her head and me up to my thighs in sea water. Simultaneously, we keel over laughing. Then something catches my eye.
“SELENE OHMYFUCKINGGOD OHMYGODOHMYGOD!”
I fish them off the of the slimy rock and half-sprint half-jump back over the reef towards Selene. I shake my fist, keys clenched tight above my head as we shriek and jump and hug in disbelief.
“That’s gotta be him, right? What are the chances?”