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Liza finishes sorting her washing, climbs onto the bed, and kicks her legs over Kit’s.
Kit runs her hands along Liza’s sharp, brown shinbones, feeling that familiar bubbling of envy at her friend’s ridiculously great legs. Why can’t she have a body like that, instead of this short, scrawny one?
“You have to help me pack,” Liza says. “Promise?”
“Of course.” Kit pouts. “And you have to promise you won’t have too much fun without me.”
“Highly doubtful.” Liza inspects the ends of her hair, pulling the wiry coils straight.
“And you won’t find a new best friend?”
Liza just looks at her. “I’ll be gone four weeks, Kit. Four weeks. I’m just hoping I can manage a conversation with these girls, let alone to make friends with them.”
“You’ll be fine,” Kit tells her for the thousandth time. “Mai’s fun. Tam’s a sweetheart, even if she seems tough. And Olivia’s awesome.”
Kit frowns as she thinks of Olivia yesterday. Kit’s never seen her friend so miserable. Olivia’s usually so assured and self-sufficient. But she’s so messed up over her exams and Will. Poor thing. She wants to tell Liza to look out for her while they’re away, but Olivia begged Kit not to tell anyone about exams. So instead, she just says, “Hey, Olivia might seem kind of, I don’t know, distant or whatever, but she’s going through some stuff, that’s all. Give her a chance. You’ll like her.”
Liza shrugs, like she’s only half listening, and continues to inspect her split ends.
Kit taps her fingers on Liza’s leg. “Anyway, who knows? Maybe you’ll meet someone on this trip. Have an exotic one-night stand with some Mediterranean hottie.”
“Maybe.” She stares out the window, her eyes closing against the sunlight streaming through the window. “Doubt it.”
Kit watches the pink staining her best friend’s cheeks fade slowly.
Liza’s cheeks were even pinker the night of the end-of-school party, when she dragged Kit out to sit on the kerb, an uncharacteristic bottle clutched in her hand, and told her about this Alika girl.
The fact that her best friend was telling her that she had spent the last couple of months in some fraught, unspoken thing with a girl didn’t surprise her, exactly. But that Liza was finally saying anything to her about it did.
The fact that Liza might be gay had crossed Kit’s mind a couple of times over the years. It would explain why she’s so damn shy around guys. And it would explain why, at eighteen, she’s never had a boyfriend despite some of the incredible talent Kit has spotted at those athletics comps.
But even though she’d thought about it, Kit never said anything—in case it hadn’t actually occurred to Liza yet. And Kit had known that her best friend would tell her if and when she had anything to tell her.
And that turned out to be the night of their final classes. Liza was so drunk and fevered with her need to tell Kit about this mess she had gotten herself in, she skated right past the liking-girls news. Instead, she went straight to the part where she had started some clandestine thing with a girl in her training squad, an impossibly withdrawn, beautiful nineteen-year-old who was apparently barely willing to admit she was a lesbian to herself, let alone to someone else.
Kit kept her arm wrapped tightly around her Liza’s waist as she told Kit about this girl. Liza swiped tears from her eyes, telling her how the only time this girl seemed to acknowledge Liza was when she was jumping her in the car after competitions or climbing into her bed at night at the training institute. Not that Liza didn’t want to be doing that, she said. She just didn’t want it like that. And Kit just held on and let her cry it out. And when the tears were done, Kit wiped the tears from her friends face and told her to dump her.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that they even broached the topic of Liza being gay in general, when Liza admitted how nervous she was about coming out to her parents, and about dropping two big revelations on them at once. But by then her coming out to Kit just didn’t seem like a thing. So why make it one? At that point, the fact that Liza had stopped talking to this girl who kept treating her like crap seemed way more important than workshopping her sexuality. That kind of seemed like a done deal at this point.
“Hey, does Alika know you’re leaving next week?” she asks
Liza shrugs. “Don’t know, don’t care.”
“Good,” Kit tells her, even if she doesn’t one hundred per cent believe her.
She looks over at her friend. She’s gazing out the window, a small frown on her face. Kit hopes Liza does meet someone. Someone who likes her out loud and who makes her feel like the awesome, beautiful person she is. She deserves it. Maybe even needs it a little. She’s the sweetest, most quietly funny and wickedly insightful person Kit has ever met in her life. And she thought that about Liza when they were eight. Now Liza and the rest of the world need to know it.
“I wish you were coming with us,” Liza suddenly moans.
“So do I.” Who wouldn’t choose four weeks of travelling in Europe over four weeks of working double shifts all week to pay off one party? Not even a good party. A party where she found Liam lying in the bath fully dressed with that stupidly hot Rachel perched on the end with her perfect pixie hair and MAC red lips.
Liza shifts across the bed so she’s lying next to Kit. She wraps her hands around Kit’s arm and squeezes it. “You were, like, the social glue.”
“I know,” she says again, resting her head against her friend’s shoulder. Kit’s already keenly aware Liza’s terrified she won’t get along with the others. What she doesn’t know is that everyone feels like that. Her cousin was furious when Kit broke the news. Olivia was even more depressed, and Mai told her outright that she was a stupid, freaking idiot.
She sighs. She will get her shit together this summer. She will. She grabs her friend’s hand and shakes it. “I’m so sorry, Lize,” she says for the zillionth time.
“It’s okay,” Liza says softly.
They lie there in a shaft of muted late afternoon sun. Kit listens to Liza breathe slowly next to her. She’s going to miss her so much.
“I’ll miss you,” Liza whispers, as if she’s heard her thoughts.
Kit snuggles up to her friend and smiles. “I’ll miss you, too.”
Travel and the friendships are definitely the dual inspirations for this book. Travel was such an important part of my coming-of-age experience. But so too were the friendships forged or redefined while on the road. While exploring the world, I’ve made lasting friendships, but also discovered things about people I’d known for years. I’ve even lost a friend. And I wanted to put some of those experiences in a book.
My latest book, Points of Departure is about four girls who travel overseas together after they finish high school. Liza, Tam, Olivia and Mai have been abandoned by Kit, their social glue, who can no longer go on the trip. Most of them barely know each other, making the experience awkward at first. But over four weeks they visit a range of cities—each one chosen by one of the girls—and get to know themselves and each other a lot better.
Travel is a quintessential part of the Australian experience. Despite our distance from anywhere and everywhere, we Aussies are an intrepid lot. We’ll happily coop ourselves up in a long, metal projectile in the air for nine, 15 or even 24 hours at a time if it means we can go somewhere new and explore. But we value travel not just for an adventures to be had in new places, but the way it challenges us and confronts us with new experiences. How it helps us to know ourselves better. This, more than anything, is why travel has become such a fundamental part of growing up.
In Points of Departure each of the characters are learning about themselves. Olivia is confronted with the sense that she has been unthinkingly following expectations for so long, and realises she needs to discover what she wants. Tam, on the other hand, has to leave her beloved home to truly discover the strength of her bond with it. Shy Liza has to learn to exist without the safety harness of her best friend by her side, opening her up to new friendships.
And this notion of friendship was vital to the story. I wanted to show that sometimes the biggest impact of travelling is not about where you go but who you’re travelling with. The girls in this book don’t know each other that well at the beginning of their journey, but being together twenty-four-seven in unknown territory forces a connection. And then what starts out awkward becomes a kind of solidarity, and eventually, friendship. The kind that only comes with sharing an experience like travel.
I didn’t just want the story to be about new friendships, though. I also wanted to write about the experience of old friends travelling together. I was inspired to do this after a conversation with a friend, where told me about the first time she went overseas. All she’d wanted from her post-graduation trip was to leave her mundane, suburban high school hell behind and find the cosmopolitan, worldly, adventurous girl she knew she was really supposed to be out in the world somewhere. She travelled around with an old high school friend for the first few months, and said this experience was nothing like she imagined. Instead of enjoying having the security of his company, he started to feel like this dead weight around her neck. That was because she realised it was impossible to reinvent herself with this constant reminder of who she used to be by her side. His presence forced her to continue to be that old, high school self when all she wanted was change.
I didn’t want to regurgitate my friend’s experience, but I did want to illustrate how travelling can change or redefine friendships. I did this with Mai and Olivia. While not hugely close, they were in the same social group for years in high school, and have the familiarity of years behind them. On this trip Olivia is trying not to face a secret she left behind, but the presence of Mai forces her to constantly face it. And as Olivia re-examines who she’s been the last few years, Mai also becomes a symbol of the version of herself Olivia wants to leave behind.
I also wanted Olivia to actually get to know and appreciate Mai in a way she hadn’t before by the end, though. I wanted to show that experience of seeing something you’ve never seen in someone before, because you’ve unconsciously shoved them neatly into a box and stopped looking. Or you’ve never been with them in a situation that challenges that image you’ve created of them. The shared experience of travelling allows Mai and Olivia’s friendship to grow beyond the surface-y same high school clique camaraderie, into a deeper understanding.
I wrote this book because I feel like my time travelling with friends have been some of the most exciting, difficult, fun, annoying and ultimately enriching things I have ever done, and what has happened in those relationships has been as important to me as the places where they happened. And I wanted Points of Departure to show just a little of that.
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