The Track

Lee’s boyfriend dumps her because she’s miserable, so she decides to hike 1,000 km on the Bibbulmun Track in south-west Western Australia. Her brand-new boots carry her along a wind-swept coastline and through ancient forests, but ultimately Lee is on a journey to self-discovery.

Currently revising… read an extract below.

Lee stared at the phone. She didn’t want to answer the call. It was her mother. She dreaded telling her what had happened.

All around her in the food hall, people sat at plastic tables on plastic chairs, eating food off plastic plates and drinking from plastic cups. A plastic straw jutted from the milkshake congealing in its plastic cup on the table in front of her. This whole world was fake. All Lee wanted to do was escape away into nature.

The phone rang again.

She couldn’t put it off forever. Lee inhaled deeply, steeling herself, and picked it up.


“It’s me.”

“I know, Mum. It says so right here on my screen.”

“Well, why did it take you so long to answer then?”

“I don’t know, Mum. I was busy?”

Lee’s mother harumphed. “Of course, you’re busy. You haven’t returned my calls for a week. Well, what are you doing?”

Lee didn’t know where to start.

She looked down at the paper bag from the camping store. Its contents spilled out on the table. A silicon cup and bowl that could be folded flat. A titanium spork, which was a spoon and fork melded into a single utensil. A folding knife that was sharper than any at home in her kitchen. How could she tell her mother that she was out shopping when she should be at work?

“Well, the thing is Mum,” Lee stammered. “Stuart and I broke up.”


“He’s moved out.”

Lee chewed her lower lip as she waited for a response.

“Mum? Are you still there?”

The metallic tang of blood seeped into her mouth.

“There’s more.”

Lee swallowed.

“I quit my job.”

Lee knew her mother would disapprove. She always did.


“You’d better come round for dinner tonight.”

The phone went dead.

It was only a short drive to Lee’s parents’ house. Lee switched off the ignition and shivered. It wasn’t cold but goosebumps rose on her bare arms. Her brother’s kids played in the front garden. The whole family was here then.

She’d better get it over with.

A soccer ball rebounded off the white picket fence as Lee latched the gate closed. She stepped onto the manicured lawn. Astrid and Zeke looked up expectantly with joyous cries of “Aunty Lee! Aunty Lee! Kick it over here!”

Lee deliberately fumbled the kick forcing Astrid to run after it so she could pull Zeke in for a quick hug. At ten years old, he was older than his sister by two years, but he’d been born prematurely and was the smaller of the two. Lee loved him from the moment she first saw his tiny swaddled form in the humidifier of the neonatal ward.

“Hello Zekey,” she said, ruffling his hair affectionately. “How’re things?”

“Oh, you know,” he mumbled. “Grandma’s on the warpath. We have to play outside.”

All her fault.

“It’s okay,” Lee said. “I’m here now. She’ll focus on me instead of you.”

Releasing Zeke, she entered the house and closed the screen door gently behind her. Raised voices echoed down the hall. Lee tip-toed forward, stopping to lean against the door jamb and peer into the kitchen. Light streamed through French doors and bounced off white-painted cabinetry, sparkling clean benchtops and warm wooden floors. Her mother stood at the counter wearing a gingham apron, with peeled potatoes piled on a cutting board in front of her.

Her brother David sat perched on a stool. He wiped his sandy hair from his and he threw his arms out in exasperation.

“What do you mean she’s taking a break from work?” he asked.

Lee’s mother pursed her lips. She screwed up the tea towel she was holding and threw it into the sink.

“That’s all I know!” she said.

They still hadn’t noticed Lee standing there. She cleared her throat.

“My job was making me miserable.”

Her mother bristled. A small woman with dark hair scraped back in elegant bun, she straightened her spine as she spun to face Lee. “You’re not meant to be happy at work,” she said. “If it was meant to be fun, they’d call it fun, not work.”

Lee flushed as she tried to defend herself. “You don’t understand, Mum. I was working such long hours I never had time for fun. I was in complete denial that anything was wrong. That’s why Stuart broke up with me.”

David looked at his hands, grunting, “Ugh, I didn’t know you broke up. That sucks, Lee.”

At the same time her mother blurted, “He was never good enough for you anyway. If you’d just tried a little bit harder, presented yourself better…” She shook her head. “And now you’re too old. You’ve no chance of finding a husband at all now.”

Lee wiped away a tear with the back of her hand. She didn’t want to cry again, but her mother’s words cut to the bone. It was so like her mother to dismiss her pain. She didn’t care about Lee, just about how Lee looked to her friends at church.

Picking up a sharp knife and hacking at the potatoes, her mother continued, “You can’t just take a break from work.” She jabbed the knife at Lee. “You might not have a job to come back to. You’ve screwed everything up, Leanne.”

Lee looked helplessly to where her dad sat in the living room. She wished he would stand up for her, but as usual he wasn’t getting involved. Her mother noted the direction of Lee’s gaze and turned to her father.

“I don’t know why she can’t be more like her brother. A good job, a beautiful family. Is it too much to ask?”

“Yes, dear. Of course,” he nodded his agreement without turning from his newspaper.

“It’s not my fault, mum,” Lee said. “Everything changed.”

“Of course, it’s your fault! You should have tried harder.”

Lee slumped. She’d never been able to argue with her mother. No one could. Even David shrunk at the thought, and he was the golden child. She’d never be smart enough or good enough for her mother. No matter how much she tried. “What are you going to do then?” her mother asked, her tone exasperated.

“I’m going to hike the Bibbulmun Track,” Lee answered. “I’m going to get away from the city and find some peace and quiet. So, I can pull myself together and work out what to do.”

Flinging down the knife, her mother said, “You listen to me, Leanne Kelley! You should look for another job if you don’t like the one you’ve got.”

“It’s Lee, mum. You know I prefer Lee.”

“That’s not what I named you.”

Her mother glared at her.

Lee was relieved when David asked, “What’s the Bibbulmun Track?”

“It’s a bush trail through the south-west,” replied Lee. “It follows the path that Noongar people travelled as the seasons changed.”

Her mother turned back to the food, snorting her disgust.

David’s brow wrinkled. “But you don’t hike. You don’t even go to the gym anymore.”

“I started boxing classes.” Lee felt defensive. “Besides, anyone can walk, David. You just put one foot in front of the other.”

David looked sceptical. “You don’t know anything about hiking. You don’t even own a pair of boots.”

“I can learn,” Lee said. “It’s not rocket science.”

“You never learn, Leanne,” snapped her mother. “You not even listening. I just told you: you need to find another job.”

The aroma of roast chicken hung in the air. How often had Lee eaten roast chicken in this kitchen while holding her tongue and doing what she was told? Well, she wasn’t going to do what she was told this time. She wasn’t going to do what her mother wanted. This time Lee was going to do what she wanted.

“I can learn, and I will. I’ll buy some boots. And I will hike the goddamn track!” Lee shouted.

Sniffling, she turned her back on her family and strode toward the door.

From behind her, Lee heard her mother proclaim, “You’re a wicked child. I don’t know what I did to deserve you.” Her shrill voice resounded off the walls.

“If you leave now, don’t expect me to come running when you need my help!”