Chapter One:


Charlie's heart pounded and her finger nails bled; she'd bitten them down to the quick while just waiting for the plane to take off. She'd hated flying since she saw 9/11 footage. But the only way to get from Portland, Oregon to Perth in Western Australia was to fly, and this particular flight could take just about twenty-five hours, if you chose the right airline. That meant twenty-five hours in a steel-metal death-trap. It also meant that Charlie's mother had, in fact, chosen correctly. Non-stop, three hot meals a day, four bathrooms. Charlie cursed her mother and father for making her fly, but at least they had her on a plane with more than one bathroom.

She'd chosen a window seat and had her earbuds in for the entire flight. She kept her phone on the charger 24/7, afraid that if it died she'd have to talk to the stranger next to her. When she wasn't eating those three, rather disgusting, hot meals, she had her nose buried in a book or her eyes glued to her cell phone screen as she watched Bates Motel on Netflix. You know that one show you're just absolutely obsessed with? Well, Bates Motel was her show. She never missed an episode and had been rewatching every one since just before her school went on winter break. Her father had shown her the original Psycho one Halloween when she was eight years old, and she loved it. When she was twelve she thought that Andy Perkins was cuter than a newborn puppy. She never told anyone, though.

That night on the plane, she didn't sleep well. She read on her phone or stared out the window, feeling like she was closer to the stars, even though they looked the same as when she was on the ground. She thought of her mother, wondered where she was, if she was binge-drinking in a bar or crying on their couch watching The Notebook with her girlfriends. And then she would think of her dad; Australian-born-and-bred, happily remarried with three step-kids and an all-too-young new wife. She scoffed aloud whenever she thought of her father kissing Brindy instead of her mom.

Just before Charlie's winter break had started, her dad had called her and asked if she wanted to come down and see them during "his kids'" summer break. She'd grunted in reply, which her dad took as a 'yes'. He'd made her mom arrange everything, but he paid for all of the travel expenses. Her mom was unsure about letting her go when there would be two other boys in the house, but her father convinced her. Since Charlie hadn't seen her dad since he'd left the both of them four years ago to "find himself", her mother had pretty much already made up her mind about Charlie's visitation, even though she got no say in it.

And so here she was; on an Australia-bound plane two days after Christmas.