The Same Place, Chapter 15: The Trip Home

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Published on 15.02.10 09:51 Age: 14 yrs
Category: The Same Place

Letters : 32606 Words : 5989

By: Cedar

It felt strange to wake up to the open sky and to remember that the tent was gone. She sat up. The sun was just beginning to peak above the horizon. It was the first Outback sunrise that she had awoken to, as on the other days she had slept in a bit later. The rays of the sun cast the surrounding rock in a pinkish hue. Mungo was asleep a few meters from her. She thought about waking him up to watch the sunrise. No. It was better to let him sleep. Oscar was asleep as well. There was no way that she was going to wake the emu up from his night's sleep.

It turns out that she didn't need to wake anybody up. Mungo and Oscar awoke with the first rays of the sun, just as she had.

"Mornin'," said Mungo stretching his arms above his head. "Sleep well?"

"I did," said Kylie. "No more nightmares," she said, adding, "I guess I have you to thank for that."

"Well, I don't know I'd go THAT far," said Mungo being modest. He gazed out at the lake before them. "Wanna swim?"

"I do," said Kylie hesitantly.


"But...well...I'm kind of anxious to get home." It was true. She was. "I was thinking we'd get an early start?" She then added, "if you're feeling up to it. I don't mean to push you after the day you had yesterday. We can stay a bit longer."

"Nah, that's okay," Mungo replied. "I'm feelin' much better, thanks to you. I've got noproblem startin' early. It means we'll get to spend more time with Lars at Kurrajong."

At the mention of the station, Kylie felt an excitement come over her. Tonight they would be at Kurrajong. That meant running water, and a home cooked meal. And a bathroom! And two nights after that? She'd be home and eating her food, using her bathroom, and sleeping in her bed. She had come to enjoy her time in the Outback, but now it was time to go home.

Packing up to leave went quicker than usual. Since they didn't have a tent to pack away anymore, they were ready to go in minutes. Both of them made it a point to check and double check that the water bottles and water bags were completely full. Yesterday had been a close call for both of them. Even though they would be at the station tonight, there was no need to take any chances.

"Care for some sun block?" asked Mungo holding up a piece of charcoal from the fire pit. He was already black and sooty from the ash.

"Actually, I'll use the lotion," said Kylie. She had done the whole 'black and sooty' approach yesterday. It had kept her from burning in the heat of the sun. It worked. She knew that now. But still, she preferred a few minutes of feeling oily and greasy to an entire day of feeling dusty and sooty. "Can you do my back?"

He agreed. "Ready to go?"

"Yes," said Kylie slipping on her pack.

"Let's go, Oscar," said Mungo letting out a high pitched whistle. The emu let out a surly noise, but fell into file behind Mungo and Kylie.

Mungo was true to his word. The hike up the ridge was indeed tough. Yet as they hiked, Kylie couldn't help but notice that she seemed to have an unexpected source of endurance. Sure she was breathing steadily and sweating, but so was Mungo. Yet they both made it to the crest of the ridge without needing to stop and catch their breath.

The view from the top of the ridge was quite breathtaking. It was the highest point on their trip so far, and they were able to see out over the vast and expansive landscape. "There's the Kurrajong," said Mungo pointing to a few small building that seemed a short hike away. "And there's park beyond that," he said pointing to the area beyond the ranch.

Turning around he continued pointing. "And there's where we camped the third night," he said as he pointed to the small winding creek, and where Kylie presumed was the apple tree. He continued pointing, until he came to the final point, "And there's where we stayed last night," he said pointing to the lake they had just hiked up from.

As Kylie watched him trace their route, it all began to make sense. A circle. They had been going in one large circle. She hadn't noticed it out on the hike, but it all seemed so obvious now. "We'll be at Kurrajong early this arvo," said Mungo. "Ya hungry?"

"I...I think I can make it until this afternoon," said Kylie. She was indeed hungry, but she was spurred on by a surge of adrenaline. The rest of the hike was all down hill. "Let's go," she said anxiously.

Oscar made a loud noise, indicating that he would much rather stay and have lunch. But still they pressed on. As if spurred on by an unseen force, Kylie was at the head of the pack. The downhill worked in their favor. They hiked quickly. It almost took conscious effort to not let momentum turn their walking pace into a brisk run.

Eventually they came to the bottom of the hill, and went back to their normal hiking pace. After hiking a bit further the landscape was dotted with the familiar cattle and sheep.

"Mungo, are we back on station property?" asked Kylie.

He briefly surveyed the landscape. "Yeah, I reckon."

Out came her sarong.

"Not goin' nude no more?" asked Mungo. He looked a little disappointed.

"As I said before," said Kylie, "I will go nude when it is appropriate. And right now, it does not seem appropriate."

"So what's ya rules for "appropriate"?" asked Mungo.

"Well, at the Koala Bares, obviously," said Kylie. "And when I'm at home. And with people I feel comfortable around."

"Ya don't feel comfortable around Lars?" asked Mungo. After all, Lars was Mungo's friend.

"If it's just you and Lars, then yes, I will go nude. But if there are any workers, then no." said Kylie. She was about to start hiking, but thought of something. "Huh."

"Somethin' the matter?"

"No. Everything's fine," Kylie replied.

"Then what's on yer mind?" asked Mungo.

"I was just thinking," Kylie began. "When I first came to the Koala Bares as a reporter, I didn't understand the difference between a nudist and a naturist. To me, it all seemed like semantics. You know? Different words for the same thing; naked people. But after being out in the wilderness, I guess...I guess I'm a naturist..." This was a milestone for Kylie. Sure she was a repeat visitor to the Koala Bares, but she had never considered herself a naturist until this point.

"Yer a naturist," said Mungo. "We oughta get goin'. Lars'll be expectin' us."

How? How would Lars know to expect them. Mungo hadn't said when they would be back. So how could Lars know. Ordinarily, Kylie would be full of questions, but she decided to let this go. After all, it wasn't like she was making her documentary any more.

"Goooonk! Goooonk! GOOOONK!"

"Oscar says he's leavin'," said Mungo providing the translation. "Say's he'll meet us back at the Bares."

"Mungo, that's crazy!" protested Kylie. "How is he supposed to find his way back by himself? Shouldn't he stay with us?"

"Way I see it, he found us, not the other way 'round. Besides, how's he gonna get home in Zoot's car? He can't exactly fit in the boot." That was Mungo's logic for you; perfect and precise Mungo logic.

Oscar gave a goodbye 'Gooonk!', and then ran off into the brush. Kylie didn't know how she knew this, but she knew with certainty that she would see the emu back at the Koala Bares just as Mungo had promised.

The two of them hiked on, through the herds of cattle in the direction of Lars' farm house. As they approached, they ran into a young stockman.

"Can I help you folks?" asked the young blonde haired fellow. He had large forearms, and was wearing jeans and a white work shirt. Well, the shirt had been white at one point, but it was dyed a light brown from the evidence of hard work. He eyed them both over.

"We're visitin' Lars," said Mungo.

"Oh. Well that explains a lot," he said noting Mungo's nudity with his gaze. "I'm Seth, by the way," he said introducing himself. "Follow me, "I'll take you to Lars." Instead of leading them to the farmhouse, he led the two to a barn.

Inside the barn, Lars was cleaning up after the animals. His brow was sweaty, and Kylie was impressed to see him doing such a physical job in spite of his advanced age. As soon as Lars saw Mungo his eyes lit up.

"Wirinun! It's good to see you. Miss Burns, you're looking good as well. You're both early."

"We ain't early, we're on time," insisted Mungo.

"That you are. That you are," said Lars jokingly. "I bet you're both starving. Let's go get you something to eat." He put down his pitchfork and led them back to the farmhouse.

"Please make yourself at home. I'll have a quick shower, and then we can have a feast." Lars excused himself and went upstairs to have a shower. Kylie and Mungo took seats around the kitchen table.

"So will you eat with us?" asked Kylie. "Or will you forage for something?"

"Nah, I'll be eatin' Lars's food. He's a beaut cook," said Mungo.

"Huh? I don't get it," said Kylie. "Why didn't you eat last time we were here?"

"'Cos we were on the walkabout," answered Mungo.


"It's over?" she asked again. "It's really over? I was...I was having fun."

"So was I," said Mungo. "We can still have fun. But the walkabout's over. I have my story and you have yours."

"I guess I was just expecting to feel...different. You know? I still feel like myself," said Kylie. She had expected the walkabout to fundamentally change her. And, in a way, it had. But she didn't feel different.

It was Lars who answered her. He had finished his shower and was now dressed in a clean shirt and pair of jeans. "But you have changed. The walkabout changes a person." Lars spoke as a person who knew this from experience. Kylie wasn't sure how she knew this, but she could sense something about Lars. There was a common experience that bonded the three of them together.

Ordinarily, Kylie would have been pestering Lars with questions. How long had he known Mungo? Why did he call Mungo "Wirinun"? Who was Malena? Yet Kylie gave a simple succinct reply. "Yes. Yes it has."

"Anyways, I should get dinner started," said Lars. "I was thinking I could make steak. I could also make lamb chops," Lars suggested.


The word had a very pleasant sound to Kylie, whose stomach rumbled in anticipation.

"Steak," said Mungo.

"A steak for Wirinun," said Lars. "And for you, Miss Burns?"


"Beg your pardon?"

"It's just Kylie. No more 'Miss Burns' for me."

"Kylie. Alright then, Kylie, what would you like for dinner?"


With all the orders accounted for, Lars set out to make dinner. As he marinated the steaks, he also chopped up red potatoes for roasting, and prepared spinach as a side dish. Soon the kitchen was filled with the smell of good things. Hunger began to catch up to Kylie. She doubted she had ever been hungrier in her life, and if the smells were to believed, Lars' cooking was going to be something spectacular.

Finally dinner was ready. Grinning with anticipation at the food before her, Kylie cut herself a bite of the thick grilled steak.


"Thank you," replied Lars.

The dinner was a quiet affair. Kylie was too hungry to make much in the way of small talk. The same was true for Mungo. Fortunately Lars didn't seem to mind too much. They each finished off their steaks, and both Mungo and Kylie went back for more potatoes and more spinach.

They helped Lars with the dishes, and soon they found themselves with hot mugs of coffee sitting around the kitchen table. Soon they were all laughing and swapping stories. Kylie was amazed at how easy it was to talk to Lars. By the end of the evening, the two of them were thick as thieves.

They were interrupted only once that evening.

Seth came into the kitchen. "Hey, boss, the crew was going to go into town for a pint. Want to come?"

"No. I'll stay with my friends," said Lars. Seth let them be, and a few minutes later the engines of several trucks could be heard as they drove off into town.

"Well?" asked Mungo.

Kylie knew exactly what he was talking about; a little promise she had made earlier. "Oh, alright," she said. She unwrapped her sarong and let it drape across the back of the chair. "I hope you don't mind Lars."

"Not at all," replied Lars. He too began to undress. "I don't normally wear clothes when I'm here by myself. And normally I wouldn't if it had been just Wirinun. I hope you don't mind. It is, after all, more comfortable this way."

"Of course I don't mind," said Kylie. She had not expected Lars to undress, but it made her feel more comfortable.

They all stayed up late that night, chatting and laughing, and telling stories. Finally it was Lars who announced that he was tired, and would be turning in for the evening. "Kylie, you can have the same room upstairs."

"Thanks Lars."

The three of them left the kitchen. Lars went straight upstairs, and Kylie was about to follow him. She paused when she saw Mungo heading for the front door.

"You're not staying inside?" she asked. "I thought you said the walkabout was over?"

"It is. I just prefer sleepin' outside. I'll have me yurt over me head soon enough."

"I hope you don't mind if I sleep in a bed."

"Nah," replied Mungo. "You deserve to sleep in a bed tonight. You've done great on this journey. Even better than ya realize. See ya in the mornin', Kylie," he said as he turned to leave.

"Sweet dreams, Mungo."

They parted ways for the night. Kylie went upstairs to the bedroom she had stayed in the last time they were here. There, on the bed, were the clothes she had left. This was the single longest period that Kylie had spent in the nude, and the sight of clothes seemed almost foreign to her.

She set out the clothes on a nearby chair, and slipped underneath the covers of the bed. The mattress was soft and forgiving. As soon as her head hit the pillow, she was fast asleep.

Mungo was waiting in the living room when Kylie came downstairs the next morning. She was dressed not in her sarong, but in the clothes she had left behind earlier. Mungo said nothing. She would go nude where it was appropriate, and from here on out, she no longer felt it was appropriate. That was her right. Mungo was proud of her for being so adventurous thus far. He had not expected she would spend as much time nude as she had.

"Are we heading out already?" she asked.

"Not yet," replied Mungo. "Lars is cookin' breakfast."

Bacon. Kylie smelled bacon.

"Well, I guess we can stay for breakfast," Kylie said jokingly. Lars was a fantastic cook, and she liked the idea of sticking around for breakfast.

They had coffee with breakfast that morning; delicious hot black coffee. Kylie had really missed a morning cup of coffee, so to have one was a real treat. Ordinarily, this would have been the highlight of her breakfast, but Lars easily outdid the coffee with a breakfast of bacon, eggs, and buttered toast. It was some of the best food Kylie had ever tasted, and it made her anxious to get home and make food from her own kitchen.

They finished breakfast, helped with the dishes, and said their goodbyes to Lars.

"So you're going then? It was good to see you Wirinun. Next time don't take five years to come and visit again," said Lars.

"I won't," said Mungo shaking Lars' hand vigorously. Kylie could tell from the seriousness in his voice that he intended to follow through on his promise.

"And, Kylie," added Lars, "you're more than welcome to come back here any time you like. You'll always have a warm bed and a hot meal at Kurrajong."

"Thank you, Lars," said Kylie. "Thank you so much for opening up your home to me. And you're a real excellent cook, too. If you ever wanted to get a change of scenery, you could probably make a great chef at a nice restaurant."

"Oh, that's nice of you to say, Kylie, but I'll never get tired of this scenery. I guess you could say I'm 'married' to the land. But do come back some time."

Kylie said that she would. And you know what? She meant it. She would come back, and would definitely bring Mungo if she did. Lars was a really nice fellow, and she was glad to have his friendship in addition to Mungo's.

There camped beside the waterfall, was a familiar blue tent.

The Kirby's tent.

"Are you sure you want to stay here?" asked Kylie. One encounter with the Kirbys had been plenty. "It's not going to be sundown for a few hours. I'm feeling good enough to walk to the end of the track."

"Really?" asked Mungo sounding surprised. "Well, I guess we could but I called Zoot this mornin' to say we'd be in tomorrow. We could walk to the car park, but I'd rather camp here."

Kylie didn't want to argue with Mungo. He did, after all, have a point. Why camp in a parking lot when a beautiful natural waterfall was available? With any luck, the Kirby's were out trekking for the afternoon, and wouldn't be back until the evening.

No such luck.

"Well, hey there, Kylie," said Amy. "So you're still out here on vacation then?"

"Yeah. Have you been here the whole week?" she asked. The tent didn't looked like it had moved, and both Tim and Amy were wearing the same clothes as when they had first met. Tim wore his khaki shorts and floral print shirt, and Amy wore her sundress. Then again, Kylie was wearing the same clothes too.

"No," said Tim. "We just got in this morning. We had such a great time here, we just had to come back. Now isn't that lucky running into you here like this?"

Kylie obviously had different definitions of luck than Tim and Amy Kirby.

"So when are you going back on the air?" asked Amy. "They've had that, what's her name - 'Annette?' - on the whole time you've been gone."

"Actually I'm not going back on the air," said Kylie. "Lynette is the new anchor," said Kylie correcting Amy's mistake with the name. "In fact, I'm leaving the news business for good."

"I'm leaving the news business for good."

Had she really just said that? When exactly had she made up her mind? It must have been at some point between their night at the lake, and the night at the Flying O Station. Yet having said it, she recognized it for truth. She was not going back to the world of the TV news. She had other plans for her career, and for her life, that did not revolve around the TV news.

Tim and Amy's jaws dropped in surprise. Even Mungo looked surprised, in a way that seemed to say, 'I knew it, but even I'm surprised to hear you say it.'

"What? Really? That's too bad," lamented Tim.

"Yeah, no offense to Lynette, but she's not very good," added Amy.

"Now why is that?" asked Kylie.

"She's too...perky," said Amy. "Look, I know that she's young and energetic, and that she'd probably make a good sportscaster. But as a news anchor? It all seems a bit inappropriate. You can't be perky and report the real news. Because the real news isn't always happy. You have to be serious sometimes, like when a disaster hits, and I just don't think Lynette is serious enough to do your job."

Kylie immediately corrected Amy. "It's not my job anymore. It's Lynette's. And she'll grow into it. Even I had to grow into it. I wasn't a great anchor my first few years, but I got better." A week ago the news of Lynette's shortcomings would have been music to her ears. But now? Now, if anything, she felt a sort of camaraderie with Lynette. She knew all to well the scrutiny that goes into a life behind a news camera. She was done with the TV news, and wished Lynette all the success she could muster.

With the news of her departure from the TV news the conversation drifted to other things; politics, sports, books, movies. Kylie was surprised to learn that behind the Kirby's fandom of her news broadcasts, they were actually very nice people once they could get past the whole 'idol worship.' She was actually starting to like the Kirbys.

They ended up sharing a communal campfire. It was nice to see Mungo get a much needed break from starting the campfire. The Kirbys also offered to share their dinner of beans and rice over tortillas. This time, Kylie accepted their offer. Mungo did too. There was plenty to go around, and every one ate their fill that evening.

They spent the evening talking and making jokes. Kylie was surprised to discover that she was having a wonderful time. Were these the same Kirbys that had annoyed her so much a few nights ago? They were clearly the same people, so it must be a different Kylie Burns who was interacting with them.

After a while, Mungo announced, "I'm goin' for a swim." Just as he had on their first night of the trip, he swam in the pool at the base of the waterfall.

"Are you going to swim as well?" asked Amy.

Not getting to swim on the first night was something that Kylie had lamented. The water looked pleasant and inviting. Mungo looked like he was having a good time. "Oh, that's alright," said Kylie.

"You should," said Tim. "Amy and I went for a swim earlier this afternoon, and it was great."

That little extra bit of encouragement was all that Kylie needed. "Alright, I'll do it," she said. Kylie took off her jeans and her T-shirt. The Kirby's gave her supportive grins. Kylie then took off her bra and panties. The look on the Kirby's face? Priceless! Gone were the supportive grins, and in their place were looks of shock and surprise.

It was amusing to Kylie that the Kirbys had been accepting of Mungo's nudity, but were so surprised by her own. At any rate, she didn't care. She was going to have her swim.

The Kirbys meanwhile beat a hasty retreat back to their tent, arguing as they went.

"Come on Tim, let's go!"

"But I..."

"Now! You know you didn't have to say anything."

"Me? You were the one who started it."

"I did not."

Kylie and Mungo enjoyed their swim without interruption. When it came time to get out, Kylie was forced with a dilemma. She did not have a towel. She could use her sarong in place of a towel, but that meant that she couldn't use it as a blanket. In the end, she decided to air dry. She did not redress, and slept on top of her sarong. Mungo slept a few meters away on the bare dirt. The Kirbys did not give any indication to suggest that they would come out of their tent this evening.

Kylie had pleasant dreams that evening. None of them were about Fisher's Creek.

Kylie awoke the next morning. The sun had been up for a while, but Mungo was still asleep. Better to let him sleep a bit longer. He had pushed himself hard these last few days. They both had.

As Kylie began to wake up, her eyes were immediately drawn towards the beach around the waterfall. There on the beach were a pair of khaki shorts, a floral print shirt, and a yellow sundress. Undergarments were strewn about rather haphazardly.

Kylie strained her eyes. Behind the waterfall were two faintly visible shadows, in the shape of their campsite neighbors. Even above the noise of the waterfall, Kylie could hear them.

"Ha ha! This is kind of fun!"

"Shhhh! Do you want to wake them up?!"

Kylie turned to her traveling companion, and nudged him awake. "Mungo wake up."

"Huh?" he asked groggily.

"Let's go," she said quietly. "Let's go home."

"Positive. Let's go." She was about to leave, but stopped. "Give me just a second!" She ran off and came back a few seconds later. "Okay, now I'm ready to go."

"Oh, I just left a little 'surprise' for the Kirbys," said Kylie as she gave him a knowing wink. "Let's get going."

They discretely packed and left without ever alerting the Kirbys of their departure. Sure they might be a little disappointed to see that Kylie had left without saying goodbye, but they ought to be thankful. More than anyone, Kylie knew that skinny dipping was an act best done with close friends. An unwanted audience had spoiled the experience for her when she was a child, and had indeed spoiled things for many years to come. She would give the Kirbys all the privacy they needed.

"Yeah, it was," said Amy as she put her dress back on. She surveyed their campsite. Something about it had changed. "They left!" she said when she realized that their campsite neighbors had vacated the campsite.

"Huh, so they did," said Tim a bit surprised.

"It was probably because you were making too much noise," chastised Amy. "Leave it to you to scare them off!"

A wry grin came to Tim's face. "I'm not so sure about that..." He pointed to a spot on the ground by their tent. "Look."

There, scrawled in the dirt was a message for the Kirby's. It read 'Kylie Burns' followed by an email address, and 'Koala Bay Bares' followed by a phone number. It was the message that Kylie had left behind for them.

"Well that was nice of her," remarked Amy. "But I don't get what 'The Koala Bay Bears' is all about."

"Ha ha! I get it," laughed Tim. "Koala Bares, not Bears. Get it?"

"I don't see what you're laughing about. I don't see what's so funny about...oh, wait, I just got it!"

Again, Kylie and Mungo made good time. They stopped to eat berries along the trail, as they had done on the first day of their hike. But tonight? Tonight they would be home and could have anything they wanted for dinner. Kylie was mentally weighing the options in her head. How about fish? Or pasta? Or a nice piece of chicken? In some ways, the anticipation of the meal was likely to be better than the meal itself.


She was almost home.

As they hiked on some of the more trafficked trails, it was interesting to see how people reacted to Mungo. During their first trip through, there had been a few people who had reacted unfavorably to Mungo's nudity. But today? Everyone they met seemed to be in a good mood. People smiled and waved.

At last, they came to the parking lot. At the sight of a certain familiar VW beetle, Kylie's spirits soared. No more hiking! Hooray! The car's owner was standing next to the beetle. He was wearing the same clothes as when he had dropped them off. And, yes, he still looked like a tourist.

"Zoot! It's so good to see you," Kylie gushed she ran forward and gave Zoot a hug.

Mungo was close behind. "I don't suppose you'll wanna hug me," he said. "I'm covered in ash."

"You think that's going to stop me?" said Zoot, who gave Mungo a big bear hug. "I don't care if you get my shirt dirty. What do I need clean clothes for anyway?" He laughed at his joke. They all did. "Let me take your packs," he said putting them in the boot. "I bet you're ready to get home."

Kylie and Mungo each admitted that, yes, they were.

"You can have the front seat, Mungo," Kylie offered.

"Nah. I wanna sit in the back." So that was how they sat. Zoot drove, Kylie sat up front, and Mungo sat in the back. Mungo's reasons for sitting in the back quickly became obvious. He stretched out and fell asleep in the back seat. Kylie didn't wake him. He had earned a nap.

" was it?" asked Zoot.

"It was great," said Kylie, and indeed it had been. "It was tough, and I don't think I've ever been more tired, sore, and dirty ever before in my life," she admitted. "But all in all, it was fun."

"Yeah, tell me about it," said Zoot.

So Kylie did just that. She told him about bush walking through the park and meeting with the Kirbys. She told him about Kurrajong. She told him about their trek through the rugged outback; about what they ate, how they started fires, and about some of the birds and animals they had seen. Kylie told Zoot of their scary situation, when they nearly ran out of water, and Oscar had come to the rescue. And she told him of the voyage home. There were a few details that she omitted. She didn't talk about her failed attempt at a documentary. There was nothing to talk about there. She also didn't mention her dreams, and how Mungo had 'walked' in her dream. She didn't know if Mungo would want something like that kept secret.

"Sounds like a great story," said Zoot, "but I don't believe all of it."

"You don't?" asked Kylie a bit surprised.

"Yeah, that part about Oscar? Sounds fake to me. Nobody would believe that." He added, "I don't doubt that there was an emu, but there's no way it was Oscar."

Kylie did not argue the point. If Zoot didn't believe her about Oscar, that was his decision. She believed what she believed. "It was a really amazing experience. It helped me get some perspective on my life. And my career."

"Yeah, Loxie filled me in on that," said Zoot. "I'm sorry to hear about you losing your job. So you're holding up alright?"

"Better than alright," said Kylie. "I...I learned that there's more to life than TV, the news, and my career. I don't know what I'm going to do next, but I'm not going back to the world of televised journalism. And I don't think I ever would have come to that realization if I hadn't gone on the walkabout." She could swear that when she said that last part, that Mungo had smiled at her from the back seat. But when she turned around, he appeared to be deeply asleep.

"Well, it sounds like you've got it all figured out," said Zoot.

"Well, I wouldn't go THAT far," said Kylie. "But I feel good."

"Good," said Zoot. They were nearing the gravel road that lead to the Koala Bay Bares. "Hey, we were planning on having a welcome home dinner. You'd be one of the guests of honor. You interested?"

"I...I'd really like to be getting home. I'm sorry, Zoot," she hoped she hadn't hurt his feelings. "I would just like a quiet evening at home. I need to unwind, eat my own food, use my own bathroom, and sleep in my own bed. I hope you understand."

"After all that time in the Outback, I can understand that. How about next time you drop by, we'll make you dinner?"

Finally, they arrived at Koala Bare's parking lot, and Zoot pulled the car into an empty space. The parking lot was empty of people, and for that Kylie was thankful. She liked her friends at the Koala Bares just fine, but she really just wanted to go home. If anyone besides Mungo or Zoot knew she was back, she wouldn't hear the end of it until she had personally said hello to almost everyone at the resort. This was better. It would let her get home without making her feel guilty about not staying longer.

Kylie's heart soared. There was her car! In less than an hour she would be home. Zoot got her pack from the front boot, and helped load it into Kylie's car. She gave him a hug, and thanked him for the ride. She offered to give his some money for petrol, but Zoot declined.

"So are you going to say goodbye to Mungo?" asked Zoot.

"He's still sleeping. I wouldn't want to wake him," said Kylie.

"He won't mind," said Zoot. "I'm sure he wouldn't."

So Kylie went to the passenger door and opened it. She gently shook Mungo awake. "Mungo? Hey Mungo?"

"Hmmm....yeah," he said yawning.

"I'm going to go," she said. "We're home now." She gave him a quick kiss on the cheek. "I had a great time, Wirinun," she had let the Wirinun slip on accident. "It was fun. Thanks, Mungo."

He smiled warmly. "Yer welcome, Kylie."

Yet the loneliness passed as she pulled up her driveway. It was replaced with feelings of relief. She unpacked her car, and got the hide-a-key and opened the front door. Kylie dropped her pack in the front hall.


She was home.



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