Resisting the New Doc in Town Online - Lucy Clark

CHAPTER ONE

THIS WAS ONE of the many times Richard Allington was pleased he was six feet five inches tall. In an effort to stay awake and combat jet lag, he’d taken up his mother’s suggestion and come to Maroochydore’s annual Moon Lantern festival, but now, as he stood in a crowd of thousands upon thousands of people, he wondered if he’d made the right decision.

There were so many people, jostling to get here or there, calling out to their friends, waving or just shoving past without a care. Many different languages were spoken, but thanks to his travels he found himself able to understand the odd word in Mandarin or Japanese as people continued to shove past him. Up on the huge open stage, with its large flat screens on either side, was the last dance act, a group of young Indian women, dancing in colourful saris.

Richard clapped with the rest of the crowd as the women finished and left the stage, and the master of ceremonies came on to announce that with the full moon now rising in the night sky, the extensive lantern festival would soon begin.

Smothering a yawn, Richard moved through the crowd towards the stage, interested to see just what some of these ‘lanterns’ actually looked like. He could well imagine they’d be nothing like the lanterns Miss Florence Nightingale would have carried around hospital wards.

From what he could see, the lanterns were all at least over two metres high. So far, he’d seen one in the shape of a tiger, one in the form of a bee buzzing around a honey pot and another made to resemble an old yellow taxi. He’d read a sign earlier explaining that the lanterns were all made with balsa wood frames then covered with tissue paper and decorated. It certainly sounded like a skilled operation and Richard could well appreciate the time and effort people had put into making these lanterns.

‘I don’t want to do it!’ The loud, vehement words cut through the crowd and a few people turned to see what the commotion was all about. Richard was one of them, and as he shifted closer to where the young male voice had come from, he saw a heavily tattooed and pierced teenager, dressed from head to toe in black clothing, glaring fiercely at the woman before him.

He was standing in a group with about twenty other young teens, all dressed similarly in dark clothes, congregating in the lantern marshalling area, waiting to take their turn in carrying the amazingly structured lantern next to them. The young man, who Richard guessed to be about sixteen or seventeen years old, had his arms crossed defiantly over his chest, towering by a few inches over the woman who was talking to him with assured calmness.

Richard couldn’t help but stare at her, captivated not only with the way she was handling the teenage tantrum with amazing alacrity but also by her beauty. She couldn’t be more than about five foot six, slim with a long auburn plait swishing down her back as she moved her head. She was dressed in flat, black boots, denim jeans and a white top. Neat, casual, classic.

Although he had no idea what had initially caused the young man to flip out, Richard couldn’t help but admire the way the woman had instantly taken charge of the situation, defusing what might have resulted in a teenage, ticking time bomb.

Some of the other kids were trying their best not to listen, but others were clearly supporting the woman, agreeing with her. A few of them pointed to the two-metre-high lantern they were about to carry along the snaking path that wound its way through the large crowd. Richard looked away from the woman for a moment to look at the lantern. The words ‘Maroochydore Drop-In Centre’ had been printed carefully on the side. He instantly looked back to the woman. Was she a social worker of some kind?

He couldn’t help but edge closer, not necessarily wanting to hear what the woman was saying to the young man, more intrigued to know what her voice sounded like. Was it as beautiful as her face? As calm as her attitude? He shuffled his way through the crowd and was soon closer than before.

‘You’ve put so much work into this lantern, Drak.’ Her smooth, clear tones floated through the air towards him. ‘I think it’s important for you to carry it in the parade.’ There was no sarcasm or censure in her