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THE VIEW FROM THE LOO

Set in the snowfields of Australia’s Southern Alps, the story centres on a group of friends that ski together every year and the torrid love affair one of them has with a handsome ski instructor. 

Committing adultery is easy and guilt-free for Sara Baldwin; she knows her husband Stanley loves her and would never leave her. She has the best of both worlds. 

However, nothing remains the same and Sara finds her world turned upside down after her husband learns of her infidelity. Their lives are changed forever.

In Store Price: $AU23.95 
Online Price:   $AU22.95

ISBN:  978-1-921406-31-7
Format: Paperback
Number of pages: 167
Genre:  Fiction

Cover: Clive Dalkins
Cover painting: Heather Jacobs

 


Author: Pam Hunter
Publisher: Zeus Publications
Date Published: 2009
Language: English

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About the Author

P

am Hunter was born in Tweed Heads, New South Wales, in 1934. Raised in Queensland she joined the Royal Australian Army Nursing Corps when she turned eighteen, resigning to commence her general nurse training in Townsville in 1954. 

Over the next fifty years, she travelled to many countries of the world as a regular respite from a life committed to the pursuit of excellence for herself and the ever-changing profession of nursing. 

Midwifery was her main love but she was also wooed by academia, pursuing teaching and eventually obtaining a masters degree. A short time working in psychiatry and research was followed by a twenty-year affiliation with diversional therapy and aged care. 

Now living in Brisbane, where she retired in the year 2000, Pam has reinvented herself as an artist and a writer. 

The View from the Loo is Pam’s third novel. Also published by Zeus are Shadows of Time (2006) and Don’t Tell Me What to Do (2007).

Chapter One

T

he chalet was abuzz. Barely an inch of space was available anywhere in the bar or lounge. Skiers spilled out into less frequented areas of the popular resort in their efforts to be a part of a daily ritual – the 5pm detailed report of their day on the mountain. With adrenaline still pumping after a full day on the slopes of Kosciuszko, everyone had a story to tell and all were intent on getting someone to listen. The vitality and excitement was contagious as the alcohol flowed and skiers of all calibres revelled in the warmth and closeness of the many bodies around them. Surprisingly, after the rigors of the day, these bodies were odour free and bursting with unspent energy.

Research findings have established that the nose is the only reliable sensor to evaluate smell, so it could be deduced that the degree of body odour would depend on the persistence of other contaminants in the room and the sensitivity of the individual noses.

Novices anxious to discuss the trials of their day sought out Adam Lang the senior instructor and his offsider Paul Speers, who were surrounded by enthusiasts eager to have their say. The crowd edged closer in the charged atmosphere as both men patiently fielded questions from their numerous fans who hung on their every word. These avid followers soon came to believe that should they remain in the company of such icons, all desired skiing skills would somehow be transferred to them by the process of osmosis.

Although this treatment was a bit extreme, the two men loved their jobs and after five years or more on the circuit had learned to deal with the adulation, accepting it as simply part of the job.

In the midst of such pandemonium, Adam saw the woman he had been waiting for as she fought her way into the crowded room. Catching her eye, he beckoned her to a table near the bar. Sara Baldwin, a slight, dark-haired woman, acknowledged by indicating to her companion Claire to head towards the vacancy. They found the available seats and slid in behind the wooden table. Neither knew if Adam had ensured the availability or if it was vacant just by pure chance. In any case, it wasn’t long before he excused himself from his adoring public, many of them women, to join the pair.

Claire Meredith had been a close friend of Sara and her husband for a number of years but had been skiing with them only over the past two. After meeting the Baldwins through a mutual friend, Claire had continued to visit them on a regular basis enjoying their company, in particular their honesty and openness. Although work was central to her life, she valued them enormously as friends and had never found anything in their demeanour to indicate that they didn’t enjoy a happy relationship. Despite the fact that their personalities were very different they seemed to relate well to each other. One thing obvious to Claire when visiting their home was Sara’s lukewarm approach to all kind of domestic work, notably cooking, an issue that did cause some friction in the household. For Claire this was of no consequence as she enjoyed the company of her two friends where eating out was always a distinct possibility.

It wasn’t until they began the annual trips to the snow together that another dimension was added to their relationship.

Skiers make up a unique group of people who appear to accept an unspoken code of conduct, giving them permission to be self-indulgent. Males or females who were discontent in any way could find an outlet for their woes in the snowfields. Not all succumbed but most were given the opportunity. Claire, rightly or wrongly, was too involved in her career to give romance a second thought, so was stunned to find that Sara had. She made it obvious in everything she did; the way she sat on the edge of her seat, back straight, chin up; her shiny long dark hair cascading down her back and bordering her glowing expectant face. There could be no mistake that she was saying, ‘Look at me, I’m available.’ Why she should be so unhappy in her marriage was known only to her. It was quite beyond Claire who believed that Sara’s husband Stanley was a character straight out of a fairytale: tall, with a fairly good head of hair and handsome. The couple had two children, Luke the eldest at fifteen then Caroline thirteen.

As Adam took the seat opposite Sara, Claire cautiously checked him out for any obvious signs of the liaison she knew to exist between the two. She saw a very good-looking man of about forty, medium build with thick fair hair obviously bleached by the sun. He wore it soft although at present it was flat and dishevelled after wearing his beanie for most of the day. Worn at near shoulder length his hair provided a background for his steady grey eyes set in his suntanned face. Currently sporting glowing cheeks from a full day spent in the sun, the mark of his goggles clearly visible, Claire could understand Sara’s fascination and couldn’t help but imagine how many women he had. Who could blame him? A single man at the mercy of so many drooling females! He could have his pick.

On being introduced to the people at the table, Adam simply made eye contact and nodded to each in turn. When it was her turn Claire felt the magnetism of the man as he briefly looked at her. She quickly looked away.

Sara fidgeted impatiently until the formalities were completed and Adam was seated opposite her before asking about the times for the up and coming races. His voice as he answered was clear, deep and soft.

As the drama unfolded, it ran through Claire’s mind that she liked this man called Adam. She liked what she saw. She liked what she felt. On the other hand the very thought of being romantically involved with him scared her to death. In her mind, you could fall madly in love with him then he could leave you for someone else. Oh no, not for this lady.

Drinks were being ordered all round and Claire said yes to Adam for a glass of chardonnay. No sooner had he left to get the drinks from the bar than Stanley appeared, fighting his way through the throng to take up a seat beside her. Neither of the women had seen him since lunchtime when he had taken a break from the downhill skiing to practise his skills at langlauf or cross-country, a pastime he found much more to his liking than the rough and tumble of downhill racing.

This alternative branch of the sport requires differing techniques, clothing and ski gear. Broadly speaking cross-country skis can be divided into two categories, general touring and mountain skis with a great deal of variation within those groups. All touring skis require that the heel be free to enable the skier to walk, while sliding the ski forward across the snow at the same time. The use of stocks assists in this movement, propelling the skier along and when changing direction.

Stanley’s greeting was almost lost in the noise that was being generated from the numerous conversations going on around the room simultaneously, but he still looked at everyone in turn seated at the table. He was like that. Sara said hello and suggested he get himself a drink as Adam was already getting some for the table. He headed for the bar. While he was away, Adam returned with the drinks and soon after left quietly. It was conceivable that some communication went on between the pair but Claire did not see it. The change in Sara’s appearance after Adam had departed was remarkable. No longer was she an interested, glowing young woman. For some time she just stared at the spot where he had been, obviously not believing that he had left. For her, the light had simply gone out. Surely Stanley will notice, thought Claire. He can’t help it.

“Did you see Adam?” Sara asked her husband innocently.

“No, why? Where is he?”

“He was at the bar but just left. I’ve invited him to the lodge for dinner tonight. Remember, I mentioned it this morning?”

“No, but that’s OK. I haven’t seen him for a while and I wanted to talk to him about the run down the mountain on Saturday night. I’d love to do it.”

Stanley was referring to an event that occurred at least once during the ski season. A group of skiers armed with flares took off after dark to the top of the mountain then, playing follow the leader, they followed a predetermined trail to the valley below. From a spectator’s point of view, it was a magnificent sight, the mountain looking like fairyland as the flares moved silently with the skiers descending through the dark cold night.

“That will be next Saturday, the day before we go home, almost a week’s skiing before the run. You’ll be in great nick,” Sara pointed out to her husband.

“I should be. I’ll tell Adam tonight.”

As it was getting towards teatime at the different lodges, even the most enthusiastic skier was getting hungry and looking forward to the substantial meal that was usually served. Sara made the first move, finishing her drink and beckoning to Stan that it was time to go. The others followed her lead. Many had already drifted away to their respective abodes to shower and dress for the evening. Stanley followed Sara and Claire out of the chalet, stopping near the entrance to collect the women’s skis then slowly plodding up the hill through the snow to the lodge perched on the hill. It had a great view of the valley and the gentle slopes made for skiing. They were all sensibly rugged up against the elements so none was cold and they were thoroughly enjoying the crisp cold night air after the warm closeness of the chalet.

On reaching their destination, they stowed their skis in the appropriate places and then removed all outer clothing plus boots, placing them in the drying room until needed again. Wearing ski boots in the lodge was prohibited.

Although much energy had been used during the day there didn’t seem to be any stopping this mob. All it took was a long hot shower and a good meal. Those two things had the ability to revitalise the already pumped up body, convincing it that the night was still young and that there were many more things left to do.

Hair was washed every night. After being covered all day by a beanie, it cleaved to one’s scalp like peel to an orange. No one would want to go partying looking like a piece of fruit.

It wasn’t long before the bell sounded, informing everyone that dinner was ready and to ‘come and get it.’ Sara had already gone to the dining room to set the table and meet Adam who had arrived a little early for a pre-dinner drink.

“Hi,” she said in greeting. “A glass of wine?”

“Sure, but let me do it.”

Adam took the glass out of Sara’s hand and filled the two glasses from the cask that had been nicely chilled in nature’s refrigerator – the snow.

“A nice drop, eh Adam?” was a common greeting from other guests as they entered the dining room and settled down at their own tables for a drink before eating. The friendliness towards Adam was not surprising, as he was well known in the valley and often a guest at the lodge.

Sara was overcome with a feeling of importance as Adam took the seat next to her at their table. He’s so sought after, she thought, but he’s here with me. They saluted each other, “To us,” and raised their glasses preparing to enjoy the evening, unperturbed by those around them. After all, they were old friends.

Stanley and Claire were in no hurry and followed at a more leisurely pace. There was no romantic interest between the two but there was an unspoken understanding, each of them realising that they shared a great deal in common. Both tended to remain in the background despite a strong motivation to be leader. Lack of confidence and a bruised self-image held both of them back from achieving their real potential and over the years, it had become more difficult to talk about their feelings.

Stanley had joined the Mormons in an effort to achieve a better understanding of himself and others, while Claire became further involved in her work; similar ways of dealing with the same situation.

For him the Mormon faith became the answer. It taught that, ‘the family is the basic unit of the Kingdom of God on earth.’ And as he followed these teachings, he found a new understanding of himself and those around him and became immersed in the faith. For Sara it was a different story. She had joined only after encouragement from her husband who had accepted Mormonism as a way of life and not just a Sunday-only teaching. He spent many hours each week in Church-related activities, eventually becoming a lay preacher. Claire respected her friend’s belief but had rejected Stanley’s offer to become a follower some years before and that had been the end of the issue. Instead, Claire spent twenty more years in the search for her real identity, rebuilding her life away from work when she retired at the end of the year 2000.

Sara and Adam had just finished their drinks as Claire and Stanley arrived in the dining room. Sara rose, saying that she would get the dinners from the servery to allow the two latecomers to have their drinks. Adam backed up for another drink with them, the two men taking the opportunity to talk about the great season and the overseas success of some club skiers. Claire felt a little uncomfortable in Adam’s company; she couldn’t figure out why but realised that it was not a new feeling. In the past, she had felt the same way when she met a successful handsome man. Almost as if she held them in awe – they were perfect, she was not. To avoid feeling unnecessary, she busied herself helping Sara with the meals and the moment concerning Adam was forgotten.

Tonight, a substantial meal of sausages with onion gravy accompanied by potatoes, carrots and peas was on the menu, followed by fruit, custard and ice cream. It was all gone in a moment and everyone appeared to enjoy every little morsel, leaving next to nothing to go into the bin at clean-up time. All members scraped and stacked their own plates, making them ready for those on kitchen duty. Guests were an exception to this rule and Adam was allowed to remain seated while Sara waited on him.

The washing up was done according to a rotating schedule, where three people from each of the ten tables would be rostered daily to do the task. With many people helping the chores were completed quickly, leaving time for conversation and an after dinner drink. It was a very pleasant time in the life of the lodge, a time when people could get to know each other without being overwhelmed by a much stronger desire to ski. In fact, it was the only time.

It wasn’t long after dinner that the children were whisked off to bed, their parents and grandparents not far behind them, but there was always a handful of night owls who were ready to party on. Those at Sara’s table fitted this category and soon after finishing their drink, someone put voice to the thoughts of almost everyone else. “Anyone want to go down to the chalet?”

All eyes focused on the speaker then nodding their heads, they turned towards their friends or spouses to see their reaction. “What a great idea,” breathed Sara, looking covertly at Adam, who did not acknowledge her glance.

“Only for a short time,” cautioned Stanley. He was an early-to-bed man and today he was very tired after skiing all day, something he didn’t always do.

Sara and her party made their way to the drying room to collect the gear they needed to rug up for the walk from the lodge to the chalet. It was not too far but it would be unpleasant without the proper clothing.

Claire picked up her après-ski boots, took her jacket off its hanger and snatched up her gloves from the drying room. This room was very small and was only meant for hanging wet clothing. The connecting outer room was quite large so she moved in there to don boots and outer clothing before going out into the crisp cold night.

A clear sky enhanced by a full moon covered a thick carpet of dry snow as the group plodded their way down the hill, passing a couple of lodges to the chalet below. The chilly night air provided a graphic record of each skier’s breathing pattern as their warm breath hit the frosty mountain clime. The group was silent as they sucked in the freshness and purity of a magical night in the snowfields.

Even the two lovers were briefly held in the spell of nature’s splendour as they brushed aside thoughts about ways of meeting later that night. These thoughts were fraught with danger but they were powerless to control them.

On reaching the chalet Adam excused himself, saying, “I won’t be long, need to do something,” detouring to his room in the ski school which was situated directly opposite. The rest of the group went directly to the bar where all the activity was to be found. The room was nearly as crowded as it was at 5 p.m. when they had last been there. Some of the revellers hadn’t left and were now in full swing. Their obvious enjoyment, along with the sound of pulsating music, gave the room a festive atmosphere. The effects were contagious. After removing their jackets and gloves and stowing them at an empty table, Stanley and Sara went immediately to the dance floor after telling Claire that they would order some drinks from the bar after they had had a dance. In the meantime, Claire joined Bert and his wife Louise, a married couple from the lodge, at the empty table.

“Is Adam coming back?” Bert shouted, trying to make himself heard over the din. All Claire could see was his mouth moving but she could not hear a word.

“Sorry, what was that?”

Quickly realising that further attempts at conversation were futile, Claire simply shrugged her shoulders and took a look around the room. Adam had returned and Sara and Stanley left the dance floor to join him at the bar. Claire anticipated that it was going to be some time before she got her drink. That prediction turned out to be true as before long, Sara and Adam were headed empty handed towards the table. Stanley had suggested that they, “Go and sit down. I’ll get the drinks. There’s no sense in all of us waiting.”

Taking advantage of the crowded and dimly lit room the two lovers held on to each other for the brief period it took to cover the short distance. The intensity of emotion raced between them unnoticed by anyone else in the room. They reluctantly separated on reaching the table and sat opposite each other. Over the previous few months, they had developed a number of strategies to assist in covering their affair, but it was becoming increasingly more difficult. Their feelings for each other often came into conflict with matters of social acceptance.

Because of the high noise threshold, a night out at the chalet was not the place for deep and meaningful conversations. It was more conducive to body contact, a concentration on drinking and fantasising about those around you. Claire had witnessed the meeting of Adam and Sara on the dance floor and silently gave them credit for hiding their feelings behind a façade of indifference. She could understand how romantic and often illicit relationships could thrive in such a setting as this one. Who could resist the pulsating music accentuated by an over-abundance of alcohol, together with the closeness of so many virile bodies oozing with the invitation to come a little bit closer. The difference in her friend’s relationship with Adam was that it had survived the light of day when most -barely lasted the night. There was now no longer any room for pretence.

It wasn’t long before Stanley arrived with a tray full of drinks. Claire took her chardonnay and sat back to enjoy it as the sounds of humanity swirled around her. As it had taken some time for the drinks to arrive, she guessed that it would probably be the first and last of the evening. But that was OK. By the time they had finished their drink it would be past 10 p.m. and time for bed. All were feeling the effects of a long day and after a valiant effort to talk above the noise, most of the conversations at the table came to an end.

Adam and Sara had accepted the fact that there would be no further opportunity that night for them to have even a short time together, so Adam finished his drink and, getting to his feet, said to all at the table, “I have work to do. Goodnight, see you tomorrow.” His eyes settled on Sara for a split second before he turned and walked over to Paul at the bar.

“I think it’s time we went too,” Sara said in her usual authoritative but quiet manner.

At that, most of the people at the table finished their drinks and set down their empty glasses.

“Here, I think that this is yours,” Stanley said as he handed Claire her jacket.

“Thanks.” She smiled as she picked up her gloves from the table and then waited for Sara to move away so she could get out.

On making their way through the bar to the door, Sara became aware that Adam was still talking to Paul so stopped to remind him, “I thought that you had work to do? Hi Paul.”

“Hi Sara. Adam was just leaving,” and he turned to the bar to pick up his drink.

Adam walked to the door with Sara and her party, everyone putting on their jackets as they went. “See you,” he repeated when they arrived outside into the beauty of the night. The fresh clean air was almost unbelievable and they gazed on the pure whiteness of the scene scarred only by the trunks and limbs of a few trees under a clear, moonlit sky. They sucked in the pure essence of it, as their boots dug into the soft crisp snow and slid over the icy patches when they made their way up the hill to the lodge. All were exhilarated and breathing deeply as they reached the door of the building after the brisk walk from the chalet.

Leaving their boots, jackets and gloves in the drying room, they were in bed within fifteen minutes and asleep as soon as their heads hit the pillows. Sara, the noted exception, ignored the physical exhaustion to think about her ongoing love for Adam. She must find a way to see him tomorrow. She must.

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