Craving Candy: Chapter 6

Laura didn’t have to get up early the next morning so of course she found herself wide awake and staring at the ceiling.

As the light drifted through her blinds and began to spread like molten gold through her tiny student apartment she turned to look at one wall to her left, the desk and chair barely three steps away and then to her right the tiny kitchenette. The space was so small and cost her nearly $400 a week. 

It was a rort designed to gouge Chinese students, the irony of which was not lost on her.

Money. Money. Money.

It was all she thought about these days. 


She’d dragged herself home from her late shift and fallen gratefully into bed, awaiting the blissful sleep she needed. Instead her brain that had been screaming for rest started to whir and jerk and grind in her frustrated skull. Money.

She tried to think about the border being open, going to see her parents in Darwin after being away for so long, money.

Tried to think about the semester nearly being over, going gratefully into her final year of study, money.

Thought about wanting desperately, viscerally, to drive up the coast and stay at the beach for a few days; swim and surf and drink a few cocktails with her friend who had moved up there to be an accountant, money

Money. Money. Money.

All she thought about was money. It consumed her every waking thought. Her rent. Her food. Electricity. Internet. Tuition. The car. Her parents’ ballooning debt.

Money. Money. Money.

She couldn’t handle it anymore and threw off her thin sheet, squeezed herself into her old speedos and drove to the University pool. Parking, she glanced at the petrol light on her dashboard and grimaced. She needed petrol. She’d sent her parents all her savings. Did she even have petrol money? She would need it to get back home. 

The pool was large and strangely empty, the smell of chlorine and the feel of the goggles on her face oddly comforting in their familiarity. She dived in cleanly and swam, and swam, and swam. Trying to clear her head of that incessant pounding voice.

Money. You need money. You’re drowning.

You’re drowning!

She pulled up short in the middle of the lane and took a deep, sharp breath of humid air. Then she rolled onto her back – something she wouldn’t be able to do if the pool was busier – and just lay floating for a moment, feeling the tension of the water support her.

The problem wasn’t her, she thought, finally organising her panicked thoughts into some semblance of order. Yes her grades were suffering because she was working too much but she wasn’t failing. Her parents would be disappointed but she could add MDataSc to her CV whether she got a 5 or a 7. Even in the pandemic, data science was a burgeoning field. 

She could get special dispensation to defer her fees. Extend her study for another year by going part-time. Find a permanent part-time job. She could make it work. 

But this wasn’t about her. She was just one part of a vast tapestry involving a lot more people than herself. Her Uncle had cleaned out her parents right before Covid hit. The business was struggling. They’d have gotten through with their savings but those savings were gone. The bank was being unreasonable. They’d secured their business loan with the house.

Would they lose their house? Would her parents, her own parents, her 60-year-old parents be homeless? Homeless and unemployed in the shrinking Darwin economy during a pandemic? 

With a sudden swirl of movement, Laura flipped back onto her stomach and began stroking furiously down the pool. She needed her brain to just turn off for a moment, just for a minute. But it ticked on incessantly regardless of her and still failed to come up with a solution.

“Whatever you do,” Mei had told her when her parents decided to move home to Darwin after 30 years in Brisbane, “don’t get talked into going home or marrying some imported trust fund kid. Because that grandmother of yours will try it on at some point. She’s just waiting to make her move. That branch of the Chens was always obsessed with staying Chinese, whatever that is supposed to be.” And Mei had given her red hair an assertive flick that spoke volumes about her position on the matter.

Laura reached the end of the pool and hoisted herself up with one smooth movement onto her feet. She picked her way over to her towel and took a moment to get her breath back. In the bag by her left hand, she felt a vibration and fished out her phone. She’d put it on silent the night before and forgotten and now she had 8 missed calls and as many texts.

“Lolly, it’s Phil,” the latest message said. Another man who called her Lolly. When she’d first gone to work for him he’d laughed at her name and said he had an Aunt Laura who everyone called Lolly. She’d made the mistake of admitting that had been a nickname when she was a kid and here she was. Permanently Lolly.

“We’re finally reopening,” Phil said and Laura let out a whoosh of relieved air, “Get back to me. I can give you some shifts this week, Thursday to Saturday. If you want them. People are dying to get back to the club scene. God, that’s a bad choice of words. Anyway, we have restricted numbers and no one can dance but they can drink and it should be busy.”

Laura hated bar work, hated nightclubs. Hated the hot crush of people, the dark small sticky room of drunken strangers, the endless thump thump thump of the unchanging music. But Phil paid well and didn’t tolerate any nonsense. Three shifts this week would make a big difference. At least to this week.

She moved quickly through the other messages – two from her mother, one from her store manager complaining about her studying during her shift and one from the University. And then she noticed a text from Cynthia yesterday that she’d missed in the excitement of staring vacantly at an empty 7-Eleven for three hours.

It was about a job. That was a little weird. She knew about Cynthia of course and had even met her a few times. But her branch of the family tried to pretend the Macdonalds didn’t exist for some reason. Nobody would tell her why. That usually meant a scandal the likes of which had rarely been seen. 

She often suspected the existence of the MacDonalds was the reason behind her Chen grandmother’s obsession with them ‘going native’, especially if there really was a MacDonald somewhere in the family tree. As there must have been.

Thanks, Cynthia. I’d be interested in hearing about it she texted back and left it at that. If Cynthia was genuine she’d come back to her. And you never know, this may even be something that could help with her current predicament. 

And with that thought, the brain lurched back into his new obsession.

Money, it whispered.

Money. Money. Money. 

She grabbed her things and headed to the showers hoping she had enough petrol money to get home.


4 thoughts on “Craving Candy: Chapter 6

      1. I’m definitely hoping for a love triangle with two overbearing men literally yanking her between them. A chaebol competing with a childhood friend who’s never told her how he feels but is super jealous will be perfect. Oh, and of course make the last half all about them. That’s what I want.

        Liked by 2 people

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