‘If we had a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary life, it would be like
hearing the grass grow and the squirrels heartbeat, and we should all die of
that roar which lies on the other side of silence.’ George Eliot
Strange, isn’t it, how all schools smell the same. And I’ve seen
plenty. The same old dead person must furnish all their offices; there’s the
Queen up on the wall, rows and rows of glass cabinets of important books,
inlaid desk with three chairs on this side and the omnipotent view of the
quadrangle. Mum keeps on looking at me as if any of this really matters.
What matters is to me is that she took me away from all of my friends in
Sydney, mid term, and brought me to this godforsaken beach where the
kids are all blonde, white Aussies.
So what was I doing in the Deputy Principal’s office with my 1
mother? There was his name, Mr Forsyth, on the desk. It was also on the
door and the badge he wore. I wonder who needs reminding, him or the
‘So, here we are Mrs Maclaine, and Clio. As I told you on the phone
earlier, we are quite full here and not obliged to take on more enrollments.
But, considering your circumstances and the results of Clio’s aptitude test,
we could take her on as a temporary student until the Principal returns next
week. Don’t waste time with uniforms though, as he will make the final
Aptitude test, is that what he called it? I wonder, if I were a sports
champion would they have bothered? Anyway Mum seemed happy. One
less thing for her to worry about at home, I suppose.
Mum almost jumped out of the chair. ‘Thank you, that’s wonderful.
Isn’t it Clio? I know she’ll be so happy here, and you won’t regret it. She’s a
very clever girl. Thank Mr Forsyth dear.’
‘Um, yeah.’ God, she was pinching me on the back, what was I to do?
Curtsy, shake hands, shit it was only a school. Mum was all right really, just
got excited around famous people and schoolteachers. She’s the one with
the authority problem, not me. Anyway, the guru of the leather desk was
sort of leading her out the door.
‘That’s great, isn’t it dear. So she’ll be here first thing Monday
Come on mum, underneath he’s just a bloke with a couple of scary
women to deal with, time we were going.
The weekend passed much too quickly of course. Mum went out early
Saturday morning and bought the entire school uniform. And she didn’t
stop with the dress; she brought in bags with stockings, hats, blazer, new
shoes and more books than I knew what to do with. I knew she would.
There’s something about a middle-aged woman with a purpose that can still
bully even the most determined schoolteacher.
I was glad to have the uniform. We have moved into a falling down
wooden house; ‘A Queenslander’ said Mum, with her best nostalgic voice. I
couldn’t imagine spending time at a new school out of uniform; especially
when my clothes are completely wrong for this climate. How can things be
so different from Sydney to here?
Mum took my little sister Calliope to visit The Aunts and The Cousins
on Sunday. I convinced her that I had a lot of things to prepare for school. I
don’t know if I’m really determined not to become part of mum’s
Queensland clan, or if I just needed time to myself.
I wish I were three. Calliope loves the cousins, loves all the large
rambling rooms of the house, and loves the verandahs and the mango trees
in the backyard. It does look pretty in the afternoon. It’s still hot although
we are late into April. With the French doors wide open there are wild
black and orange shadows coming through the lattice from the sunset.
Later I found Mum tucking Calliope into the small bed in her large
room. White cotton net hung all around. The sound of Mum’s favourite
record, Pachelbel’s Canon, blew softly into the room like the warm evening
‘Hi Mum, how’s she settling in?’
‘She could sleep anywhere to this record Clio. I think I have played it
to her since she was born. How are you feeling about tomorrow? Anything I
can help you with?’
I didn’t want to tell Mum about the rock sitting in the pit of my
stomach; or the way, every time I closed my eyes I wanted to cry as I missed
‘It’s cool Mum, I’m going to catch the bus. By the way, that lady at the
shop you keep talking to told me where and when. Who knows, I might
even meet someone.’
We walked back along the dark verandah. I’d grown a little taller than
her last Christmas, but always felt that I still looked up at her. She seems so
much happier than when we were in Sydney, there is no way I could tell
her how I really feel.
‘Is this it now, Mum, for good, I mean? No chance you want to go back
‘Clio, honey we are so lucky to have family here. I know it’s hard, but
you will grow to love it, I promise. I hope as much as I did as a girl. Come
on, let’s open all your new things and pack your school bags.’
Some people can tell their friends and family anything. I knew this
girl in Sydney who was a bit younger than me, she would talk to her mum
about stuff I wouldn’t even share with a best friend. I envied her that trust; I
envied the Catholics too. They have their confessionals whenever their
burdens get too great. Me, I keep a diary. I’ve written my life down since I
knew how too. Sometimes just to see the problem on the page can resolve
Look at last week:
Monday: Met no one today. Don’t want to. Can’t tell mum that. ‘Bring some
girls around this weekend, dear.’
Tuesday: Wrote essay for English. All about drugs and death. So much for
writing what you know. Anyway Miss Smith (SMITH??) liked it
Wednesday: So now I’ll never make a friend. Have to stop being clever in
English? Can I act dumb to be popular?
Friday: Stinking hot all day. Walked home in tropical storm.
Will autumn ever come?
There’s a girl on my bus that seems different from the mob. She’s
always either reading a book or doing her homework; doesn’t talk to anyone.
I hadn’t paid much attention because she’s not in my class, but I found out
she’s in my year, and lives quite close.
This afternoon we were both caught in a sudden hailstorm walking
from the bus. I actually found myself laughing when I saw how soaked she
‘Hey, do you want to come in, just until it stops?’ I guess it was my
way of apologising for laughing at her.
‘Well, I’m already drenched, and I’m not really afraid of lightning.’
‘Actually I think that it might be the falling branches and flying
garden furniture that you should really worry about.’
She looked at me for just a moment before she came up the stairs.
Crap, I try to apologise and end up being a smart arse again.
As we spoke, the sky had turned a darker shade of green, and an icecold
wind had cut its way sharply through the humid salt air. I was
beginning to love the drama of it.
I checked out her bag as she dried off on our verandah; Miranda
somebody. What, did all of our parents suddenly read the classics?
‘Come in, come in Miranda, don’t worry about dripping. The place is a
shit box anyway. The water might clean it. Let’s go out to the kitchen, noone’s
home for a while.’
‘Don’t know why you call your house that. You are so lucky to have a
Queenslander at the beach. Not many of them around here. We live in that
boring brick thing on the next corner.’
OK maybe I was wrong about a couple of things. Mum will just love
‘So what do you want to eat? My name’s Clio Maclaine, by the way. I’ve
seen you on the bus. Don’t your parents approve of homework or
‘Yes, I mean no, they’re OK, I just like to do it there.’
‘I know, I would avoid looking at those idiots too, but maybe I’d rather
shut my eyes.’
Wow, somebody who fits in even less than me.
‘So have you just started here too? Don’t you know any of the spunky
‘Not exactly, I’ve always lived here, only I used to go to St. Margaret’s
up on the hill.’
Miranda was walking really slowly behind me while I kept up my
usual frantic chatter. Her hands touched, or almost touched, everything she
walked past. Furniture, photos, paintings, like it was all new to her.
I don’t really know what possessed me to invite her in, she was
nothing like me. I am quite tall and have weird curly brown hair that is
never organised. She wasn’t exactly short, but very pale. Pale hair, pale skin,
and even a pale voice. But it wasn’t about her looks, she was just so much
quieter, more breakable, somehow. Any way, it’s just something to do until
the family get home, doesn’t need to be a commitment.
As we walked into the kitchen, there stood the strangest little woman.
She reminded me of cross between a small alien figure and Dame Edna
Everage. She was so small, and yet everything she wore had some kind of
Australian motif; but all different.
Picture this: Dame Edna shrunk down, wattle flowered skirt, furry
animals on her shirt, and a strange little velvet hat with the Opera house
embossed in something sparkly.
‘Hello girls, sit down and have some of these bikkies.’
Miranda was looking at me.
‘Your mum, Clio?’
But I couldn’t answer, here I was in Woy Woy twilight zone, and I’d
lost the power of speech.
‘Um, hi Mrs Maclaine, I’m Miranda’ .
That sure woke me up. I dragged Miranda out of the kitchen before
she could sample the poison bikkies.
‘Don’t be bloody stupid. She must be some sort of escaped lunatic.’ I
hissed at her. ‘Could be an old folks home around here, maybe she used to
live in this house.’
‘What should we do? Is your mum home soon?’
‘No she won’t dear,’ came the little voice from the kitchen.
‘She has a new job and asked me to be here with Calliope in case you
were late. The little darling is in her room. I’m your Aunt Summer. Come
back in with your friend and introduce us.’
God, don’t tell me I’ve got one of these for all the seasons? What is it
with my family and names?
So instead of going back in to look for some family resemblance, I
raced down to my sister’s bedroom. Sure enough, there she was at a tea
party with her teddies.
‘Look Clio, she let me have milk and biscuits in her for my dollies.
You never do. You want some? They’re nice.’
In a second sweetie. Tell me, did you meet Aunt Summer last week
But she kept on pouring for the tea party. ‘I said you should come,
Clio, the Aunties are nice. This one’s really nice because she has the
‘Ok, Ok, I suppose. Still mum could have told me. I’ll be back soon, I
left my friend in the kitchen.’
What was mum thinking? For as long as I can remember we’ve had
no relatives, no family ties anywhere we lived. No one to talk to except each
other. And now this; she thinks we can just be consumed by strange old
women, just because they are ‘family’.
When I made it back to the kitchen, Miranda and Auntie were
drinking tea at the table. How could I introduce them? They were both
strangers to me. For all I knew, in the few minutes I was gone, they knew
more about each other than I did.
‘Here she is, looking just like her mother when she was fifteen. I
used to watch her too, you know. She hated to be alone, especially in a
storm. I think, between you and me, that’s why I’m here today. But you look
like you’ve been out dancing in the rain, rather than hiding from it.’
I sat down at the table and watched while she poured the tea. I
watched while she put some more of those poison bikkies in front of me. I
watched while she and Miranda laughed out loud at each crack of thunder.
And I watched when Calliope came running in and jumped on her lap
instead of mine. I tried to find myself in all these people, but I couldn’t.
I wanted to scream, but, like every other time, I kept it buried down
inside of me.
Life at the beach improved slightly with the addition of a friend. What is it
that makes a person your friend? It must be more than just being neighbours, or
running out of the same storm together. There has to be one tiny thing that takes you
from your initial coincidental meeting, to choosing to meet again. I guess it’s sort of
like dating. Just getting a little piece of the other person at a time, until the two lives
make more sense together than apart.
I don’t remember how many of these meetings it took for Miranda and
me, but it began to work.
She liked coming to my house after school; even when I wasn’t there.
Some days I came home late, to find Miranda back at the table, or helping
an Aunt with my sister. She loved my mother’s almost endless supply of
female relatives who spent afternoons with us.
If I spend enough time with her, well, maybe I will start to see why
she loves it here.
At first I thought the intrusion of the Aunties would limit what little
amount of freedom I had earned at fifteen. I was wrong. Mostly they were
happy to concentrate their culinary and fashion skills on Calliope; just as
long as I made an appearance straight after school. This allowed Miranda
and I some free afternoons to explore the town.
Depending on the weather, and our finances, most days were spent
along the front where the shops almost met the sand. There was just one
long row of single story wooden buildings with brightly coloured faces,
hanging on to their skin against the salt air like old women who’ve spent
too many years baking themselves. A colourful, flaking testimony to
Squashed between the buildings and the road were mismatched
groups of tables with umbrellas advertising products not necessarily still
It was at these tables, spending an hour or two over a latte long cold,
that Miranda shared with me the history of most of the towns residents. The
last days of summer were spent loitering at shop fronts, watching the
people walkin by, like actors in a play, with Miranda’s soft commentary
barely heard over the crashing of the nearby surf.
We mostly went to Trader Bill’s. It had survived the longest without
any form of makeover; and the coffee was strong and still at pre-millenium
prices. Anyway it was certainly easier to hang out where there was no
actual table service.
We always called the owner Bill, but I’m not so sure. he was a little
man about mum’s age with a really strong European accent. I liked the way
he called us ‘ladies, ladies’, and treated us like we were big spenders or
something. Sometimes he’d ask us to sample some new cake and wait for
our opinion. Mostly he was just frothing the milk and smiling at the passing
There was a young guy doing most of the work at Bill’s. I’d seen him
at school and Miranda thought he was Bill’s son, Nick. I didn’t care, I just
thought he was funny when he tried to imitate the guys from ‘Cocktail’;
swinging dishcloths around like they were martinis or something.
Sometimes we just sat quietly and watched him; he seemed to spend
most of the afternoon exchanging useless bits of information with anyone
from fisherman to small kids. They weren’t customers, just stopped by on
their way somewhere. Who needs a noticeboard around this guy?
If you watched the cafes as often as we did, you could see that the
clientele profile was clearly defined. Bliss, the groovy vegetarian attracted a
crowd of coastal ferals; those with dreadlocks, drums and babies. Macchiato,
the new Italian coffee house, was full of Melbourne visitors. All wearing
navy and white with gold trim, so they could blend with the local nautical
And Bill sort of had the leftovers. Maybe at Bill’s we were all watching
rather than wanting to be watched.
‘Look Clio, here comes Betty Buckley back from her hysterectomy.
She’s looking pretty sprightly for someone who’s had major surgery only a
few days ago.’
‘No, Miranda, I think you are mistaken, that would be her twin brother
Reg, the drag queen ’Salmonella’. And she looks great because she’s
finally decided on that little nip and tuck operation that her doctor
recommended. Betty actually died on the operating table. Reg is raising her
two little kids without telling them of the swap. I’m not too sure if the
huband has found out yet, though.’
We were playing a game we had invented to stay longer at our table.
We gave as many of the people we saw a story. One of us would start,
simple things at first like their name and occupation. Of course the game
became more interesting the more times we saw them. Not only did we
need to remember what we had last said, but had to then invent the next
chapter in their lives depending on the way they looked.
‘Well Clio, it won’t be long now I guarantee. I just overheard ‘Betty’
say it was his birthday this week, so hubby will be in for more surprises
than he bargained on.’
By this time the poor woman and two kids were sort of staring at us as
I lost control and laughed, spitting my coffee across the table.
No matter how hard I tried to make Miranda laugh when an
unsuspecting character walked by, she would never let on. Not me. If she
kept this up for too long I’d be running down to the loo at the park or wet
That was when we met Nick. I don’t know how long he’d been
listening, but he was right behind me with a wet towel to wipe down the
mess I’d made on the table.
‘Sorry girls, but you’re both wrong. You see Betty’s hubby, Buck
Buckley, knows exactly what or who Reg is. You’ll find this is a classic case
of the old threesome going wrong. Reg and Buck have found true love with
each other, and finished off the old Bett. But don’t tell a soul, they’ll never
And that did it for me.
end chapter one 3220 words
Anzac Holiday. When I was a little, about six, I wanted to be a dancer. Just
like all the old hollywood movies on a sunday afternoon. I would be either Ginger
Rogers, in her ball gowns, or a burlesque star getting all her feathers off.
Marching in the Anzac Day parade was about the closest I ever got to performing. If
only I could be in the marching band and twirl the baton. Because I don’t belong to
any community group I often march on my own. Today I’ll make Miranda and Nick
march with me.
‘So why do you do it? Did your grandfather die in a war?’
For Miranda there always needed to be a rational explanation. I don’t
think I knew anyone who died in a war. Maybe mum did. I’ll bet the
Aunties did. When I was about ten years old, there was a group of women
who were in the parade to remember the women who died. I thought that
you never hear about them. The soldiers died, but maybe they chose to be
there. I’m pretty sure that a lot of the women who died would rather have
been somewhere else.
‘Come on Miranda, remember, we do it together. I’m pretty sure my
mum’s got a few friends to remember today. Even though they are back in
Italy. Some days she sort of bats for both sides; she loves to be an ‘Ozzie’ as
she calls herself, but still can’t forget her childhood.’
At least Nick’s reason got me out of my bizarre explanation. Maybe I
just love a parade?
We met Nick’s mum the other day. Funny how I’ve known Miranda
longer, but we never talk about going to her house. Mrs Angelini was
lovely. She looked as though she never left her kitchen. No matter what
time of day, there was always something hot and delicious coming out of her
oven. Their house wasn’t far from the shop. Something to be said for a
small town; we all lived in walking distance from each other. I probably
wouldn’t have gone in, but as soon as Nick went inside she came out and
dragged Miranda and I into the kitchen.
Then we had to eat. Ten o’clock in the morning, and she had lasagne
and some other things I didn’t recognise in front of us. Save us Nick, we will
never leave here alive until she makes us eat everything. It’s ok , I really love Mrs
Angelini. I love the way that in this modern world, she can choose to stay
home and cook. I love the way that we still call her Mrs Angelini. Even my
mum wants my friends to call her Ruth. She doesn’t get it. We like the
distinction. And I love the way that Nick kisses her when he comes home
and when he leaves, even if there is only a few minutes break between the
‘Come on, Ladies Ladies, you have eaten all of our food, my mother
will become thin, and my father will be very angry. You have your hats, I
have some medals; it is now time to march.’
And Nick took one of us on each arm and we joined the parade as it
passed by his dad’s cafe. Bill had both the Australian and the Italian flag
flying. But he was shouting like a true blue Aussie.
‘This is it guys, jump in behind the band. You get more applause that
’This is so different from Sydney. Down there I was just a little part of
this enormous swell of women walking down to the war memorial. Here, I
feel as if everyone is looking at us.’
‘They are Clio.’ Miranda hung on tight to my arm while we marched
and I waved. ‘It might be because we are the only ones here from our high
school; actually from any high school.’
I grabbed her tighter so she wouldn’t escape.
‘Look, ladies, there’s Clio’s mum with Calliope. Standing with that
group of old ladies. Hang on, they’re all waving and cheering us.’
’Clio’s Aunties are not old. But look, Clio, I didn’t know that you had
I looked over to see an army of tiny women, umbrellas shading them,
all waving, Nick waving back. Crap, I thought I could keep that part of my
life away from Nick, and other normal people.
Nick grabbed hold of the closest one’s tiny little arm.
‘Come on girls, join us. We’re all marching here for you.’
So there I was, one month into my new school and I had a two great
friends, my mum, my sister, and a tribe of tiny women for my friends to play
And the whole town knew it.
The week following the Anzac day fiasco was the beginning of the
school holidays. Two weeks with no job, no money, nowhere to go but hang
at the beach. Didn’t sound too bad. Nick had to help out at the cafe most
days, but if we gave him a hand cleaning up he could join us faster.
Miranda had more restrictions on where she went than us. I still hadn’t met
her parents. She just said that they worked long hours and didn’t like kids
‘Look at this poster ladies, someone put them up all over town today.
Three bands playing at the hall this friday. Syntax, Sonic Mushroom and a DJ
. 8pm All ages, no alcohol. ’
’So what do you think Miranda? Do you think you can go?’
I don’t know what made me ask her that. It’s like Nick and I know that
her parents are a bit old fashioned or something. We’ve been friends for
months now and I’m no closer to the front door of that house. She doesn’t
complain about them even. We’ve almost been adopted by the Angelinis,
we are pretty much ignored when we go to my house, and yet she just
comes and goes from there and it’s like they don’t exist. Except when whe
can’t come somewhere, that is .
‘Maybe, if I want to. I might be doing something else that night.’
There you go, I think we are friends, we get really close and bam, she
just closes right up when you get too personal. This time I wasn’t going to
let it go. I wanted to go out with both my friends.
‘Come on Mand, I’m not going either if I have to hang out with him
all night. He’ll leave me alone or something. Ask your parents if you can
come with us.’
Nick wouldn’t dump me, and Miranda probably knew that, so it was a
pretty flimsy argument. Because of that I could see that she knew how
desperate I was for her to come. It was all about hanging out together, the
three of us. I really wouldn’t go without her; for other reasons.
‘Look, I’ll try OK? Come on, let’s go to your place. The Aunties are
bound to be baking for all their friends in your mum’s kitchen.’
My family have lived in a lot of different houses, different suburbs,
sometimes different towns. Since Calliope was born I guess its been a little
harder to move, so I can get used to one place. But we’ve never had a
garden like this one.
From the back door you can only see about half way down, until the
mango tree and all the other scrubby plants underneath get in your way.
Behind the kitchen is an old rose garden, Aunt Summer said if she keeps
feeding them they’ll flower better next spring. There is an old pathway I’ve
uncovered that runs from the roses, around the mango and down to the
back of the yard. It is so overgrown down here that the plants form tunnels
or caves wherever you walk. We’ve been trying to clear up a bit, not so
much that you can see everything, just enough space to have some old
canvas and cane furniture, and a cool, dark place to hang out.
The furniture mainly came from underneath the house. Broken
memories of somebody’s I suppose? Since we’ve been cutting out all the
weeds, a lot more fruit trees are appearing: avocado, orange and some
others that I don’t know.
Who knows, next year we can lie underneath the huge knobbly
branches of the mango, picking up tropical fruit from the lawn.
I was nearly asleep on the old striped day bed the next day, trying to
figure out how we would get Miranda to this friday night’s party. A
harlequin bug walked along the branch above my head. It carried its family
around on its back to the new house. It made me think of mum, all the
moving and changing, but all the time there we are, Calliope and I, hanging
on to her back like a couple of bugs.
‘Watching clouds, are we Clio?’
‘Clouds, mum? No, bugs. How come you’re home? You sick?’
‘What, can’t I just spend some time with my girls?’
‘No, it’s just I thought they couldn’t get along without you; you never
take a sickie.’ Mum’s worked in the local doctor’s surgery. The hours there
fit in better with us, but they never let her off early.
’I’m not sick, I put in for some time off while you were on holidays. I
thought we might go out on a little adventure, just the three of us.’
‘We have to sneak out without the Aunties, you mean.’
‘I thought you girls loved having them here. You’re friends certainly
don’t mind all the food they eat. ’
’It’s OK mum, I suppose they are growing on me, give me time.’
I didn’t want to admit it to her, but the old girls weren’t so bad. At
least I wasn’t babysitting all the time.
‘Come on then, I have a picnic ready, I have a favourite spot in mind.’
I felt like a little kid again. Rugs, pillows, books, a ball, some drawing
things, a huge basket of food, three girls and half and hour later we were
I’d never been to this place. Probably nobody came much. You
couldn’t even see it until you parked and walked over the bank and down a
gravel road a short way to a wide creek. Mum and I often went on her little
adventures before Calliope was born.
Sometimes it was a disaster; we’d have travelled miles along a narrow
track through gigantic sugar cane, only to find nowhere to turn around
except a huge muddy bog. Go back, I’m getting out, I’d shout. We are not going
any further if you don’t know where you’re going. She’d just laugh. Isn’t this fun
Clio, don’t you like my adventures? Thank god for the invention of themobile
phone, I say.
‘This is nice, mum. Can you swim in the water?’
‘Well, you used to swim nude in there when you were tiny.’
’Don’t tell me you were naked too, I can’t quite see my mum as the
‘Good, I won’t tell you then.’
That didn’t actually answer my question, but some things you don’t
really want to know.
The food was great, Calliope was under the tree with a big plate of
cheese and salami and bread, while we filled ourselves with a salad and
warm chicken. I lay back on the rug, and watched another kind of bug,
smothered in little baby bugs.
‘When was I here, mum? I would remember living here wouldn’t I?’
‘We didn’t stay long honey, you were about Calliope’s age and we
stayed in the big house we are in now, for nearly a year.’
‘A year? In that house? I don’t get it. I thought we always lived in
Sydney. Why that house? I don’t believe it, I remember when I was that
age. Surely I’d remember being here before. Why didn’t you tell me,
‘I really thought that you would remember it by yourself. . . .
eventually. Coming here today, I thought might help. Funny how I came
back to that house then, and now. It makes me feel safe, I guess. But it’s not
important. Come on, let’s all go paddling, I’ll bet it’s freezing.’
It was nearly dark by the time we finished our lunch and returned
home. Mum and Calliope had slept on the rugs together, while I sat under
the wattle, which was just starting to break out into giant golden balls, and
Why can I not remember the place my mother talks about?
What is it about the house that I can’t find in my mind?
Where is the little girl who only lives in memories?
Do I really want to find her again?
That night I dreamt a terrifying dream. All night I knew I had a task,
and it was so huge, so terrifying, so impossible, yet I had no idea what the
task was. All I knew, was that I woke up during the night and felt as though
a huge weight had been placed on my back that I could not remove. It was
crazy, there were no monsters or bogeymen, but I was afraid to go back to
sleep and face the task again. I knew I couldn’t tell anybody, it just sounded
I woke feeling sick, too tired to leave.
Aunt Summer came into my room. ‘Your friends are outside, are you
getting up now, sweetie?’
‘Could you tell them I’m not coming out? I don’t feel very well,
She waited a moment or two, ‘OK, if you’re sure, honey. Just go back
to sleep if you’re not well.’
I didn’t sleep. After I heard them leave I went into the kitchen to find
the usual biscuit making ritual happening. I couldn’t believe sometimes
how tiny she was. The genes were certainly not passed down to Calliope
and me. It’s like the aunties are descendent from leprechauns or
‘Do you feel like some food yet? There are some muffins over there
and I have a tray of brownies here if you are hungry. Can you eat?’
‘Auntie, tell me about when I was here before.’
‘Before what, darling?’
‘When I lived here in this house, you know, when I was three.’ She
went on with the baking, bloody baking, instead of answering me. ‘You
know what I’m talking about, Auntie. Tell me everything.’
‘I didn’t realise you remembered, Clio. You’ve certainly never showed
any signs of it since you moved here. I thought it was too long ago for you
to have those memories. There was one day, you know, when you were
taking those old things out of under the house, when I thought you might
have. You were such a sweet little thing, and we often spent time down
there, before you left again.’
I tried to sort out my feelings into words. ‘What I don’t understand,
Aunt Summer, is why, when we’ve been here all this time, I just found out
yesterday that this used to be my home. It can’t be that mum just forgot to
tell me, like a bloody shopping list or something.’
’Don’t you think that this might be something for you and you’re
mum to work out, Clio?’
’I’m not that little girl now, OK. She doesn’t want to talk to me. It
can’t be that bad, but if no-one tells me, I will think it is.’
She finally had stopped cooking and sat down with me. While we
both had stopped speaking, so had the sounds outside stopped. It was as if
everything was patiently waiting for her to speak.
’It’s not bad, Clio, and it shouldn’t be a secret. darling. Your mother
brought you here, to this house, her house, when she needed to get away
from your father. I didn’t realise that you hadn’t always known this. We
certainly didn’t keep things from you. Maybe it’s you that has blocked it
‘What do you mean, her house. She doesn’t own a house. We have
always rented all the places we lived in.’
‘Darling, maybe it wasn’t then, while your grandparents were alive,
but it certainly is her house now. Has been for a few years, I should
imagine. But you’re not feeling well, today. Let’s talk about the old days
tomorrow, or any other time you want. Go and have a rest darling. Tomorrow
when I come back I’ll bring you some photos of then. You were a gorgeous
little baby, you know.’
I started to feel myself spinning around, inside, not outside; like I had
lost a grip on a merry-go-round. She looked so calm, but I didn’t
understand any of it.
a story i am working on about fitting in, moving house, finding your place when you are 17