She’d managed without it all these years and probably wouldn’t know what to do with it if she found it. And if she occasionally yearned for it then it meant that she was human, didn’t it?

She wouldn’t mind some respect, though.

She’d loved Joe. Had been passionately, deeply, mind-blazingly in love with him. The type of love you could only experience when you were eighteen and everything was black and white. Somewhere in the part of her that was all woman—mysterious and wise—she’d known that Joe would be the guy who would change her destiny, would alter her mindset, would change her in ways that she’d never believed possible.

She’d never considered that her love for him would spin her life in such a different direction...

Rowan was pulled back from her memories by a store announcement and found herself staring at piles of fruit, multi-coloured vegetables, the perfection of the display.

Apples as red as the poisonous fruit in Snow White, atomic orange carrots, purple eggplant. Six different types of lettuce, herbs, sweet potatoes...and no people. At nine in the morning the supermarket was all but deserted.

She looked down and saw the aisles, shelves packed full of consumer goods. Where were the shouts of the vendors in Tamil? The smell of lemongrass and hot oil? So much abundance, so much choice, no people. So much artificial colour, piped music that hurt her people. Where was everybody? How could there be so much choice and no one to choose?

She wanted to be back in the markets in Hanoi, standing in a queue to touch a statue of Buddha in Phuket, on a crowded train on her way to Goa.

She didn’t want to be back here, in the city that held so many bad memories for her. She didn’t want to deal with Seb, who set her blood on fire, made her feel things that were hot and uncomfortable. She didn’t want to deal with her parents, revisit her past.

She wanted to be back on crowded streets, on the Inca trails in Peru, in an Outback logging town in the Yukon. She wanted to be on her own, having transient relationships with people who expected little or nothing from her.

She wanted her freedom, she thought as she left the supermarket empty-handed. Her independence, solitude.

Money in the bank.

Money... Dammit, Rowan thought as she turned around and walked back into the shop. She’d made a deal with the devil and part of that deal required her to shop for food.


* * *

After she’d spent a healthy amount of Seb’s money Rowan drove towards the coast and onto the main road that led to the beach in the area. Behind her sunglasses her eyes widened with surprise as she took in the changes that had occurred since she’d left. Her favourite beach was still there—of course it was—but the buildings on the other side of the road had been converted into upscale boutiques and gift shops, restaurants and a coffee shop-slash-restaurant-slash-neighbourhood bar.

Rowan headed straight for the restaurant/bar and slid into a tiny table by the window. She ordered an espresso and a slice of cheesecake and silently told herself that she’d add it to the mental tab she owed Seb.

It was such a stunning day. She could see Table Mountain, blue, green and purple, a natural symbol of this incredibly beautiful city. The sea was flat, aqua and green, and the sun glinted off the white sand.

Rowan looked up at the waitress and pointed to the ‘Help Wanted’ sign on the door. ‘I see you need another waitress?’

‘A bartender, actually.’

Even better, Rowan thought. She loathed waitressing. ‘Tips good?’

‘Very. You interested? If you are, I can call the manager over.’

Rowan nodded and within fifteen minutes had agreed to tend bar on Friday night as a trial. If that worked out she could have three night shifts a week. Rowan agreed with alacrity... She’d do anything to add cash to her depleted coffers so she could leave this city as soon as possible.

A stream of feminine cursing distracted Rowan from her appreciation of the scenery and she turned to see a fifty-something fashion plate slip into a chair at the table next to her. She was fantastically turned out, with styled curly hair, large breasts and long legs in skinny jeans. She wore Audrey Hepburn glasses and a very sulky expression.

Rowan felt like a garden gnome next to her.

Rowan took a bite of cheesecake and sighed as the flavours burst onto her tongue. The lady gestured a waiter forward and pushed her sunglasses up into her hair. Fine lines surrounded her light green eyes and Rowan revised the estimate of her age upwards. Maybe closer to sixty, but looking good. She pointed to Rowan’s cup and cheesecake.

‘I think she wants the same,’ Rowan told the confused waitress, and smiled when the blonde lifted her thumb.

‘What do you mean you’ve made a mistake?’ she shouted into her cell, in a French-accented voice. ‘L’imbécile! I booked the Farmyard on the fourth, and I don’t care if you double-booked with the President himself. Unbook it!’