Janet Pywell ellie BravoOn Saturday morning I am restless.

It is early, birds are singing and the roads are deserted. Five minutes from my house I am in the country riding the Harley over the Craigantlet Hills, winding down country roads until I don’t want to know where I am.

I don’t want the road to be familiar.

Hedgerows are thick with white Hawthorn, bluebells on the forest floor are swaying in the breeze like dancing girls. Pungent white-flowering garlic flutter in clusters by the roadside and baby blue forget-me-nots cuddle together like best friends.

In the distance, the sun shines on fields of a Picasso-yellow rapeseed field. It contrasts with the backdrop of the shimmering blue sea.

When I stop on top of a hill I feel vibrating in my chest. I reach into my pocket for my mobile and my day is radically changed – for the better. With zest and excitement, I turn the bike toward home. I am filled with anticipation of my day ahead.

An hour later I meet Maria, Lily and her best friend Charlie outside the City Hall.

“I hope you didn’t mind me calling you at such short notice but I couldn’t face this alone,” Maria says.

“I was thinking of coming into town anyway,’ I lie.

Lily hugs me and Maria introduces me to Charlie. She is the complete opposite of Lily. She is overweight, has pixie ears and a hooked nose. I warm to her immediately.

“It’s my birthday tomorrow,” Charlie announces. “I’ll be nine, and I love shopping.”

“It’s my birthday in August, I’ll be thirty-four and I hate shopping,” I reply.

“I didn’t realise I was a year older than you. I thought I was much younger,” Maria teases.

“God bless your imagination!”

“You really don’t like shopping?” Lily screws her nose up at me.

“No! Unless it’s on the internet and I get it delivered like I did this jacket.” I tug the lapel of my red Harley jacket.

“I want a leather jacket,” Lily announces.

“You won’t want to wear leather in the summer, it’s too hot!” Maria says. “Besides it’s not your birthday today!”

“I need shoes,” Charlie announces. “High heels for my holiday.”

I meet Maria’s gaze above their heads. Her brown eyes are warm and sparkling.

“And Maria – what do you want?” I ask.

“Is it too early for lunch and a large glass of white wine?”

We dodge the showers dashing in and out of the shops. It’s a warm day with a cold wind. the streets are busy with weekend shoppers and tourists who wander with maps in their hands gazing at famous landmarks; the Linen Library, the City Hall, and carrying packages from Victoria Square and the House of Fraser.

I am happy to wait with Maria while the girls are in the fitting room, trying on tops and skirts, giggling and posing. We pop into a few shoe shops then wander around accessory shops avoiding the pricy designer stores in the main shopping mall.

I drag them into the High Street and find a bookshop, and we wander between the shelves discussing novels, writers, and the merits of bestsellers. The girls have read Roald Dahl, Enid Blyton and Doctor Who so I buy them adventure-loving books by Ali Sparks, The Shapeshifters Set.

Finally, Maria and I share a mutual look of understanding.

“It must be time for lunch?” she says.

It is warm in the restaurant so I throw my jacket over the back of the chair. Underneath I wear a  short-sleeved checked blouse. I pull my hair up into a bulldog clip and gold bangles clink on my wrists.

We are sitting in Avoca eating lunch. Burgers for the girls, salt and chilli squid, and a glass of wine, for me and Maria.

I have a mouthful of food when Charlie suddenly pushes past Lily lunges across the table and tugs open the neck of my shirt.

“Wow! Look at that!”

She must have been peeking inside my blouse because she spots the tattoo across the top of my shoulder.

“Not all who wander are lost,” she reads.

Three pairs of eyes turn on me and I blush.

Lily nearly rips the material to get a closer look at my shoulder. I hold the palm of my hand at my chest.

“Hey, hang on, let go!” I say.

Lily is upset she has not seen it first.

“Elly!” she screams. “You never told me you had another one. Let me look! I want to see it! What is it? Mum, when can I get a tattoo?”

“When you’re eighteen!” Maria is physically restraining Lily from climbing into my blouse.

To calm them I flash my shoulder quickly so they can read the undulating words inked on my skin, then cover myself, conscious of the stares from other diners. Then I spend the rest of my lunch eating and trying to distract them, attempting to deflect the attention from my body art.

When we leave the restaurant the girls walk on ahead and I feel Maria’s eyes burning at the inky stars under my ear lobe.

“What have you done to my daughter?” she asks. “She thinks you’re wonderful!”

I blush.

I am still reeling with their unwanted attention and I so say nothing.

“As a matter of interest, do you have any more tattoos, I should know about?” she whispers. She hooks her arm into mine and then laughs at my embarrassment.