the wheel of life follows
everywhere I go
no matter how much
I try to forget
the wheel of life follows
the wheel of life follows
everywhere I go
no matter how much
I try to forget
When I got home that afternoon there was a letter from Stephen waiting for me. I raced to my bedroom and jumped on my bed as I ripped the envelope open and started reading. Stephen told me all about how much fun the plane ride had been and the things he could see out the window as it flew across to the other side of Australia. He told me how he woke every morning just before dawn in the single men’s quarters in the mining village to get ready for work. He said the weather was really hot, but he rolls out of bed every day and does twenty pushups before climbing in the shower to cool off. During the day the temperature reaches over forty-five degrees celcius and Stephen said it was much hotter than the summers we have at home. He talked about how nice it is in the shower with cool water running over his face. He told me he was enjoying the work and felt great from having put in some long days and getting paid overtime. He was already planning his trip home when he had enough money.
He said he has a big breakfast in the mess every morning and then catches a bus out to the mine. He told me about how the iron red rocks shimmer in the early morning heat haze and how amazing it is to see the sun coming up over the hills as the bus crests the ridge and crawls down into the massive hole in the landscape. He sent some postcards in the envelope so I could see how big the mine was and how enormous some of the trucks were.
Stephen said that he works on one of the maintenance crews, fixing trucks, pipelines, machinery and anything else that needed repairs. He told me that a few days ago he was working on a leaking valve on the water pipeline when the pipe burst and drenched him with water. He finished the job and reported back to the foreman, asking if he could go home and change out of his wet clothes. Stephen said the foreman wouldn’t let him leave so he had to finish the day feeling damp. He told me in the letter he could feel a bit of a cold coming on and thought it was from getting wet and being in and out of the cold air conditioned buildings.
He finished off by telling me that he loved me and hoped that I was enjoying my new school and had made heaps of friends. I read the letter over and over again and started writing a letter back to him, trying to tell him all about how big the house was and how much fun we would have exploring it together when he got back. I didn’t want to tell him about school because I didn’t want him to find out that I was dumb.
I read his letter again and then turned out my light and tried to go to sleep. As I lay in bed, I kept thinking about the postcards of the open-cut mine and how I was dumb and didn’t know anything about numbers, and when would I see Stephen again and get to play with him. The thoughts kept circling round and round in my mind as I tried to get to sleep. Outside my window I could hear crickets chirping and the noise kept me awake.
I thought about getting up and telling Mum that I couldn’t get to sleep, but I was worried that she would just think I was dumb and tell me to go back to bed. So I kept laying there with my eyes closed and tried to think of something nice. My head was starting to get heavy when I heard the telephone ring in the hallway. I could hear Dad’s footsteps thumping down the wooden floorboards of the hall and his loud voice said, “Hello,” as he picked up the phone. There was silence for a little while and I strained my ears to hear what was going on.
I couldn’t tell what was happening so I hopped out of bed and snuck across the lounge room to listen and make sure nothing bad was happening. I heard Dad hang up the phone and as I poked my head around the door, Dad told me to get back in bed. But I could see that Mum was crying and I thought she must have been sick or something. Mum walked over and picked me up to put me back in bed and tucked me in. I asked what was going on and she said it was just the hospital in Western Australia and that Stephen was a little unwell and the doctors were doing tests. She told me not to worry and left the light on, but I couldn’t get back to sleep because now I kept thinking about what might have been happening to Stephen. Did one of those big trucks fall on him?
I lay there for ages and eventually I heard everyone else go to bed for the night. I tried to listen to the crickets and just concentrate on the song they were singing so that I could fall asleep, when I heard the phone ring again. I climbed out of bed and snuck to the door again, but then I realised that something really was wrong this time. I poked my head around the corner and I could tell by the way Mum and Dad and all the girls were crying that something really bad had happened. Mum looked up and said Stephen was gone. I was confused, but all of a sudden I felt my legs were shaking and the room began to spin. The last thing I remembered was Mum reaching out her hand for me just before everything went black.
A few weeks later the school year started and I found myself having yet another first day of school as I sat beside Mum outside the headmaster’s office. My hands were in my lap and I was looking at my black school shoes peeping out from under my skirt. At least this time I was in the same uniform as the other children, but I still felt funny in my tummy as my fingers touched the unfamiliar fabric of my blue skirt. I needed to go to the bathroom, but Mum said I should just hang on because we would be going to see the headmaster soon.
There was another little girl sitting in the waiting room and she was swinging her legs back and forth in the air. Every time I looked up she was staring back at me so I quickly looked down again and wished the headmaster would hurry up. The girl started humming to herself and I sneaked another look and found she was still looking at me. Before I had time to look away again she suddenly grinned and poked her tongue out.
Just then the door to the office opened and Mum took my hand and led me inside. As I walked past the little girl her lips mouthed the word ‘bye’ at me. I just grabbed Mum’s hand tighter until the door closed behind us, and then I found myself sitting stiffly on an uncomfortable chair.
“Mrs White,” the headmaster said as he read from a piece of paper in his hand. “I see from these report cards that young Molly has struggled a bit in some subjects.” He looked at Mum over the top of his glasses and I felt like she was getting into trouble.
“Well, she is good at reading and spelling,” said Mum. I looked down at my bony knees which were now poking out from under my skirt. I slowly started pushing my skirt down to cover them and was hoping that nobody would notice.
“Hmmm,” the headmaster replied, “but a ‘D’ in mathematics! We need to try a bit harder, don’t we young lady?” Suddenly he was looking at me and I found myself nodding slowly. He put the paper down as though he had come to a decision. “Mrs White, she is very small for her age as well, and perhaps you should consider holding her back a year. I do have my concerns over her abilities, so for now I will put her in Mr Rogan’s class to see how she goes. He is very good with slow children.”
“She’s not slow, Mr Brown,” said Mum. I could tell she was getting a bit annoyed. “She is shy, and sometimes that has meant the teachers have ignored her when she actually needed help. She is a very bright child.”
“Indeed, Mrs White, parents always know what’s best.”
He looked over his glasses at Mum for a moment before standing up from behind the desk. Mr Brown opened the office door and offered to shake Mum’s hand as we walked out.
“You can leave little Molly with my secretary. She will take her down to the classroom.”
Mum shook his hand and before I knew it the interview was over. When we got outside, Mum gave me a hug.
“Be brave, Molly,” she said and kissed me.
I kissed her back and said goodbye, then followed the lady across the playground. I hadn’t realised before that people thought I was a dumb kid. I kept thinking about that all morning as I tried really hard to do what Mr Rogan asked. I wanted to show him that I wasn’t dumb, but the harder I tried the more the numbers in my book kept getting mixed up. Sometimes I thought I had the right answer but when I checked the sums, I confused myself and would change all my answers and then just try to guess the correct number. By the time the bell went for lunchtime, my head was spinning so much it was hurting and I knew the headmaster must have been right.
I followed the other children out of the classroom and they ran off toward the playground. I found a bench under a tree and sat down to eat my lunch. I pulled my book of ‘Storm Boy’ out of my bag and started reading the last few chapters again. Mr Percival, the pelican, had been injured by some hunters and Storm Boy was looking after him until he got better. As I ate my lunch, I found myself back on the sand dune playing soldiers with Shawn. I didn’t realise at first, but a little tear dripped down my cheek and landed on my book with a plop. I kept reading until Mr Percival had been killed by the hunters and then Storm Boy was sent away to town to go to school. I knew exactly how he felt as he sat in that classroom and all he could think about was the lost freedom of the sand dunes.
We left the airport and travelled all day to arrive at our new home just as the sky was getting dark. I was so tired that Mum carried me inside and put me in bed straight away and I slept soundly all night without waking at all. I had no dreams that night, just the blankness of sleep until I woke up with the sun and the birds in the morning.
I forgot where I was for a moment and just lay there in this strange room trying to work out how I had come to be there. Slowly as my mind started to wake up I took in my surroundings. The room had only one bed and it was along the wall underneath the window. From my pillow, all I could see out the window was blue sky with a few grey clouds that looked like puffy cotton balls. My toys were all in a box in the corner and my books were placed in a bookcase against the wall on the other side of the room. I guessed that Stephen had unpacked and put my books there, and I started thinking of him again and felt the sadness that was still sitting inside my stomach.
I decided to get up and see where I was before anyone else woke. I kneeled on my bed and looked out the window and marveled at the beautiful palette of autumn colours falling from the trees. There were piles of leaves in the yard and I could see a wisp of smoke rising into the air from one of the piles.
I couldn’t see where the road was from here because of all the trees, but I could see a laneway that I thought must lead back down to the road. The front yard had what looked like the traces of an old circular driveway and I could see where there had once been a fountain in the middle. There was another yard to the side of the house that was terraced with a rose covered archway leading to the lower level.
I hopped out of bed and went to the front door and walked outside to get a better look. The house had verandahs on all sides and I pushed the door open and stepped out into the crisp morning air. There was a building out the back of the house that I later found out had once been maids’ quarters a hundred years ago. Attached to one side of the house was a ballroom and there was a shed at the back that had once been stables. There were lots of rainwater tanks around the house and one of them stood on a tower high above me and I could see a little dribble of water running down its side. The tank looked all grey and rusty and I didn’t think I would ever want to drink any of the water that came out of it.
I went back inside and started walking quietly through the house to explore. At the front of the house was the lounge room, and when I looked into the next room I could see Samantha and Jasmine asleep in their beds. To the side of the lounge room there were two little rooms. One was the bedroom I had first come out of and the other one had Stephen’s bed and things in it, with a door that led outside. I went back through the lounge room and down a long hallway that ran down the middle of the house. A room at the end had the door shut but I could hear the sound of Dad snoring inside, so I guessed that was the main bedroom. There was an open door on the opposite side of the hall and when I peeked inside I could see Catherine’s head sound asleep on the pillow and her arm thrown over the top of the blanket.
I tiptoed away and followed the hallway as it turned right and led to a door on the side verandah. At the point where the hallway turned was another doorway that led into a dining room and at the other end of that room one door took me back into the kitchen and the other was a double door that opened outside to the ballroom. There were so many doors I thought I was going to get lost.
The kitchen was a huge room with a dining table in the middle. At one end of the kitchen was a large wood-fired fuel stove, and beside it was a door that led to an enclosed verandah with a walk-in pantry on one side and a little room on the other. Mum later used that little room for her sewing. Off that was the bathroom, and I soon discovered another bathroom that I could only get to from outside the house.
I found my way back to my bedroom and sat on my bed, looking out the window again. Mum had been right, it really was a beautiful spot and I felt a thrill of excitement as I thought about how much space there was to explore. It was just like the wide open spaces of Ellen’s farm, but so different because instead of being dry and dusty everything was moist and vibrant.
I hope you are okay this morning. I know how stressful the last few months have been and my thoughts are with you. Remember that you’re not alone, not matter what it might feel like. Things haven’t been going that great here for me either and this past week was just the worst!
Monday I started off tired, but it was my own fault because I had stayed up too late reading on Sunday night. But that’s okay, I got through the day and had an early night. I met up with Hayley at lunchtime and we sat in the university refectory to eat. I’m tired of the construction going on all over campus and long for the days when this was a grassy peaceful place to hang out!
Tuesday is when everything really turned to sh*t!!! It started with that kangaroo leaping in front of my car. I had nearly came to a stop and just gave her a nudge and she gave me such a look of shock! I thought the damage wasn’t too bad but then the engine warning light came on and the mechanic said I needed a smash repairer and they said I needed to talk to the insurance people and suddenly I was without a car and left feeling helpless. I had been keeping my anxiety and some sort of control up until then but now it’s in overdrive!!!
Still no news on my car and when lunchtime came I Hayley was running late and in the end sent me a text to say she had been held up at work and couldn’t come. I finished reading my chapter (Runelight by Joanne Harris, great book!) before leaving. I really needed some friendship company today but not to be. My anxiety is deepening and I can’t stop the tears flooding my eyes every now and then. I haven’t been this low for ages.
Thursday was wet and although I like a nice rainy day as much as the next girl it didn’t help my feelings at all. Not even the glistening leaves could make me smile today. I spoke to my dad on the phone for a while. Mum wasn’t well enough to talk and dad just said ‘stuff happens’, or something like that. I fell asleep crying into my pillow.
The worst thing is I feel like a complete failure. I know that’s is wrong but when bad stuff happens it just magnifies everything! I met Hayley for lunch on Friday and we had a nice chat. Then Stephanie and I had a fight while I was cooking dinner and we both went to bed feeling crap. She came in later and we made up but it was a rotten end to a rotten week.
I’m off to Adelaide for a week tomorrow so today is about relaxing and packing. Everything has to be up from here, doesn’t it?
Anyway, have a great trip and remember that you are loved.
During the couple of weeks we were staying with Grandma, Dad and Stephen had hired a truck and moved all of our furniture and things to our new house. Mum said Dad had found us a big old house that was just on the edge of town and it sat in the middle of an apple orchard. She said it sounded like a really pretty spot and she couldn’t wait until we got home.
Dad had already started working in his new job on the railway and Stephen spent the time getting his things packed and ready to go to Western Australia.
As we neared the end of the school holidays, Dad drove up the coast to take us home. We all piled into the car late in the afternoon and waved goodbye to Grandma and Grandpa and set off back down the coast road toward Sydney.
Dad said we would have to drive right through the night because we had to be in Sydney by morning to see Stephen off at the airport.
The sun was just starting to set behind the mountain near Grandma’s house as Dad turned the car onto the highway and we joined a long line of car lights dotted up the hill as far as I could see.
Mum had made some sandwiches for dinner and as we drove along I ate them and watched the copper sunset getting darker until the trees alongside the road became dark ghosts.
Every time a car came the other way its headlights would light up the inside of our car for a moment until it looked like all our shadows were racing along the road, and then we were plunged into darkness again.
After a while I started to get sleepy and I leaned my head against Mum’s side. My eyes would flicker open every time a car went past, until gradually the lights were bobbing around on the horizon like ships at sea. I felt like I was floating on the water and sometimes one of the lights would suddenly come whizzing towards me and then disappear with a loud whoosh.
I began to dream that I was on a pirate ship that was all dark and sailing towards the lights. Shawn was there, standing at the front of the ship and staring out into the distance. Every now and then I heard his voice call out, “Come on, Blue, run!” before he disappeared over the edge of the ship. I leaned over the side to see where he went but all I could see were fish swimming around. They were big flat fish with bodies made from curved lines that wriggled and wriggled until they vanished when another bright light came whizzing past.
I looked up and this time it was Stephen standing at the front of the pirate ship. He turned his head and looked at me and just stared. I called out to him, but my voice didn’t make any sound. I tried to run but my legs were stuck to the deck of the ship and when I reached for him with my hand his face slowly disappeared into one of the bright lights.
I could feel sadness sitting inside my stomach and as the wind rippled through the ship’s sails I fell to my knees and started to cry.
All of a sudden the ship landed with a thump and I opened my eyes to see the sky starting to get lighter on the horizon. My eyes were itchy and when I rubbed them they felt wet from tears.
I sat up straighter and through the windscreen I could see the distant lights of the city’s skyscrapers gathered together like they were waiting for the nighttime to come back.
We were driving in traffic now, and I recognized one of the schools we had gone past the other time I had been through Sydney. The playgrounds were empty this time because it was still school holidays and the buildings stood in the early morning light looking lonely and sad.
As we got closer to the city centre all the tall buildings blocked out the morning sun and we started driving through shadows. Then we were on a bridge and the harbour below sparkled like a million diamonds. Little boats moved around on the water and there was a big ship tied up to the shore.
Dad had to keep stopping because of the traffic and I could tell he was getting anxious about being late because he started muttering, “Oh, come on,” every time the traffic lights turned to red.
Eventually we turned into the carpark at the airport and then we were all out of the car and running into the terminal. Mum had my hand and was dragging me along, trying to get me to run quicker but my legs wouldn’t go any faster.
Then we stopped running and there was Stephen sitting with some other people in front of a big glass window with a huge aeroplane on the ground outside.
Stephen jumped to his feet and gave Mum a big hug, then shook Dad’s hand and hugged each of the girls. When he got to me, he picked me up in his arms and gave me the biggest squeeze of my life as I wrapped my arms around his neck and started crying.
“Don’t cry, Molly,” he said, as he put me back down on the ground. “Let’s look at the plane I’m going on. It’s going to be fun.”
He took my hand and led me to the window and pointed to the plane. “Just count back seven windows from the front, and that’s where I’ll be sitting,” he said. I looked at the tiny little round windows and wondered how he would ever fit inside.
As we stood there, a lady in a blue uniform walked up to the counter and announced that it was time to start boarding.
Stephen went round and hugged everyone again, and gave me a kiss on the cheek. He picked up his bag and walked over to the counter and handed his ticket to the lady. Then he was walking down a tunnel with all the other passengers and disappeared from sight for a moment. I got a final glimpse of him as he stepped into the plane and gave a brief wave before the doors closed. We stood there and watched as the plane backed slowly away from the building. Then it turned and started going forward, getting faster and faster until suddenly it lifted up into the sky and was flying.
We all stood there silently and watched as it turned into a little black speck and then disappeared. My face was pressed against the cold glass as tears streamed down my cheeks.
why do I run
every single time
a bottle of wine
on the floor
one lipstick stained
the other broken stem
shattered, like the night air
by the sound of a slap