Molly #6

Later that week we went Christmas shopping. My sisters were on holidays from school by then and Mum made us all get dressed up in our best clothes. I was wearing a pretty pink dress with ribbons in my hair and white sandals. It made me feel like something special was about to happen as I twirled around like a ballerina and watched the skirt of my dress float up.

When we got down town, Stephen held my hand as we walked around the shops in the main street. Wide shop awnings and wooden verandahs hung over the footpath to make it nice and cool in the summer heat. The main street was wide and the shops on the other side seemed so far away. Most of the shop windows were filled with Christmas decorations and the street was busy with cars driving up and down as they looked for somewhere to park. Every now and then a noisy truck went past and filled the air with dirty smoke that made me cough.

There were so many people walking around that I felt like I was going to get swallowed up by giants; all I could see were legs. I watched all the different shoes walking past and wondered what sorts of people were at the top of them. A pair of old lady’s shoes walked past that were black and stiff and in a hurry; a group of white tennis shoes with long girls’ legs and little white socks went the other way with giggling voices. Some old brown boots with mud still clinging to them stepped aside as we walked along. We stopped and I heard a deep voice. “Good morning, Mrs White,” the voice said, then my mother’s voice replied and I heard her talking about the weather and Christmas and some other things until I saw some pretty pink shoes that went ‘click click click’. I wondered what it would be like to walk in pretty shoes with such high heels, so I practiced by standing on my tippy toes until my feet started to get sore. Across the street I could see somebody wearing sandals just like mine. A girl with brown hair was walking with her mother and she waved when she saw I was watching her. I quickly looked away and hid behind Mum’s legs. When I looked back the girl was gone.

I tapped my feet as we started walking again. My sandals made a nice loud sound on the footpath. I tried skipping and that made an even better sound with a nice rhythm. Sometimes we stopped and the girls held skirts up against their waists before putting them back and moving on. Sometimes I had to stand there for ages while Mum and the girls flicked through every blouse on a rack. That is when my legs began to really ache. I tried to imitate the girls and held a dress out to feel the soft material before putting it back and flicking my hair over my shoulder. I got bored with that pretty soon though and started singing songs in my head. I stood in front of a shop window and watched my reflection pulling funny faces as I sang.

Whenever a pram went by I tried to have a look inside to see the baby. I wondered what it would be like to have a younger brother or sister to play with. I would try and be really nice to them all the time like Stephen was to me. Sometimes the babies looked back at me and smiled because they knew what I was thinking.

We walked on and on all morning until my legs got so tired I could hardly stand and my feet were hurting from the sandals. It was getting hot as well, even though we were still on the shady side of the street.

“I want to sit down,” I started to whine.

“Hush Molly,” said Mum, “We’ll stop for some morning tea soon, just hang on for a bit longer.”

“But I want to sit down now!” I was starting to sniffle.

“Don’t worry Molly, I’ll give you a piggy back ride,” said Stephen, crouching down so I could climb on his back. Suddenly I was one of the giants.

As we continued walking I could hear Christmas carols coming out of the shops. “Jingle bells, jingle bells,” I started singing. “Jingle bells, jingle bells,” over and over again as I kicked my legs.

“The next bit is ‘jingle bells all the way,’” said Stephen.

“Jingle bells all the way, jingle bells all the way,” I sang. Stephen held onto my legs tight to stop them from kicking, so I rocked my head from side to side in time with my song.

Eventually we stopped walking and sat down in a café that was nice and cool. Mum bought me a chocolate milk shake and a donut and I sat there watching the bubbles in my drink and listening to the girls talking about shopping for shoes. This didn’t seem like a very fun part of Christmas to me at all, but we were going to see Santa Claus soon so that was exciting.

We lined up behind all these other people and waited to see Santa. Through the crowd I could see a little bit of red suit and his white beard and I could hardly stand still.

Stephen was still holding my hand and it was finally my turn. But suddenly I didn’t want to do it. He looked so big and red and scary that I started to cry. “Come on,” said Stephen, “You’ll be right Molly”. I tried to stop crying and be brave but I couldn’t help it.

Mum picked me up and handed me to Santa. Suddenly I was on his lap with a big white glove around my waist. “So what do you want for Christmas, little girl?” he asked in a big booming voice. I couldn’t answer or think of anything to say, my voice had disappeared. I just wanted to get away from Santa and back to Mum where it was safe.

“She’s just a little shy, Santa,” said Mum.

“Ho ho ho,” he replied, “why not have a lolly from my sack then.” I timidly reached into the bag and pulled out a red lollipop.

“You should say ‘thankyou’, Molly,” said Mum.

“Thankyou,” I said in the quietest voice ever. I don’t think Santa could hear. Then I was off his lap and back in Mum’s arms and we were walking away.

“Mum!” I said, “I forgot to tell Santa I want to be a princess!”

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Molly #5

The first Christmas I could remember was when I heard my sisters talking all about it in the kitchen. Catherine said the year before I was scared of Santa Claus and cried when we had our photo taken. I didn’t remember that at all but she showed me the photo in the lounge room, and there I was on Santa’s lap crying my eyes out. That wasn’t going to happen this year because I was a big girl now.

“What do you want for Christmas, Molly?” Catherine asked. There was a tea towel over her shoulder and she was stacking the dishes away.

“I want to be a princess,” I replied.

“Molly, you can’t ask to be a princess for Christmas,” Samantha said, her hands making soap bubbles that floated in the air; I watched the bubbles drifting until they burst. “You get presents for Christmas, like on your birthday.”

“Even better than that,” said Catherine, “Santa brings you presents in the middle of the night and leaves them at the foot of your bed.”

“Christmas is so exciting,” Jasmine added with a big grin. She was waving her arms around with a pink tea towel and started bouncing up and down on her heels. “I can’t wait for all those lollys and yummy things to eat on Christmas day.”

“I can’t wait either,” I joined in, clapping my hands together and jumping up and down with excitement as well.

Samantha looked at me over her shoulder and said I should settle down or I wouldn’t be able to get to sleep.

Molly #4

On the weekend my brother pushed me around the backyard in his billy cart. Stephen was fourteen years old and let me play with him without getting annoyed like the big girls did. None of his friends from school lived near us so he was happy to drag me around all day like a teddy bear.

Mum sometimes said he was the dearest little boy anyone could ever want. He loved cars and music and building things, and was content playing on his own or with me. He was very gentle and kept an eye on me to make sure I came to no harm. That didn’t stop him from tickling me though, sometimes pinning me to the ground and making me laugh until I cried. Then Mum came out and yelled at him to leave me alone.

“Aw Mum, we’re just having fun,” he yelled back.

“Just leave Molly alone, she’s only a baby you know.” But I wasn’t a baby; I wanted to do all the things the big kids did.

“Hey Molly, let’s climb the mulberry tree,” Stephen said as he slung me over his shoulder and marched down the yard. “See if you can reach the branch.” He laughed and put me down on the ground. “Molly, you’re so small! You sit there and watch me climb.” Then up he went like a monkey, swinging his legs over and reaching for the higher branches. I sat at the bottom and watched him climbing away up into the sky. It looked like the tree was going to fall over as the clouds moved past so fast. I started picking flowers out of the grass; making little bunches of daisies in my lap and getting dirt on my dress.

“Here, catch this Molly,” Stephen yelled down at me. I screamed as something fell from the tree and landed in my hair.

“What is it? Get if off, get if off!” I cried.

“Oh don’t be such a baby. It’s only a cicada shell.” Stephen climbed down and rescued the cicada from my hair and gave me a hug. He smelled like leaves and bark. “Have some mulberries instead,” he said, trying to make me happy again. I was still whimpering, but took one and put it in my mouth, squealing as the purple juice exploded on my tongue. I had some more as juice ran down my chin and dripped onto my dress.

Then we were in Africa and Stephen was an elephant. “Climb on my back Molly, let’s go for a ride,” he said and lumbered through the jungle down the side of the house. I was the queen of the jungle, swaying from side to side and hanging on tight. There were lots of elephant’s ears and tree ferns and I was a bit worried about spiders, but suddenly we were in a desert and I was riding on a camel, searching for a lost water hole in the sand and finding it at the garden tap.

“Camels can last for weeks without water,” Stephen explained, “But you had better have a drink Molly, because people need water all the time.” He turned the tap on as I climbed off my camel and we took turns drinking from the hose, splashing water all over our faces and giggling as my dress got wet and a little bit muddy. We stood in the shade of the mango tree and the afternoon breeze blew cool against my wet legs.

I jumped as some bees started flying past, making little whirring sounds through the air. Stephen told me to stand really still so they wouldn’t bother me. “They’re only on their way to make honey,” he said. As I stood in the one spot, not game to move or breathe, so many bees flew past that I thought they must be making a lot of honey.

Later we found ourselves on a deserted island, lying on the beach and wriggling our toes in the sand under the shining sun. “You know Molly, when I grow up I want to join the army,” Stephen said with his hands behind his head. He already seemed grown up to me and I liked things just the way they were when there was still so much unexplored backyard. I liked playing with Stephen because he was fun and looked after me.

“I don’t want you getting shot,” I replied, suddenly scared at the thought of him going away. I sat up and looked at his face to see if he was joking.

“I won’t get shot,” he said, “I’ll be too good for that. I’ll be a commando and sneak through the jungle so nobody knows I’m there.” His voice had turned husky, as though he was stalking an unseen enemy.

“You could be a bus driver,” I said helpfully.

“Nah, who would want to be a bus driver?” he replied scornfully.

I watched twists of cloud drift high in the sky and slowly change shape. A dark cloud floated across the sun and threw a shadow over my face as we fell silent. I closed my eyes and could hear Stephen breathing.

After a while I got bored and sat up again and asked him about school. “What’s it like at school?” I was looking forward to going to school next year but it worried me a bit.

“Some of it is fun Molly, but other bits are just boring. I like lunchtime the best because we get to play outside. There are all sorts of games going on; most of the boys play Red Rover or British Bulldog, but you won’t be able to do that because you’re just a girl. There’s also this little hill that you can roll down and that’s a lot of fun!”

I sat with my legs crossed and watched his face and the way his expressions changed as he talked. It was the playground part of school that was really worrying me. I didn’t like the idea of all those rough boys running around. “At least I can play with you at lunch time, can’t I?”

“Oh no Molly,” Stephen laughed, “I’m in high school so we won’t even see each other during the day.”

We fell quiet again and I looked down at my knees. They were all bony and dirty as they stuck out from under my dress. I broke up little bits of twig that were lying around on the ground and tried to balance them on my knees. If I kept really still they stayed where they were, but if I moved they fell off and I had to start all over again. Stephen was still lying on his back with his eyes closed and we stayed like that until it started to get dark and then we headed inside.

“Where have you two been,” said Mum from the kitchen as we walked through the back door. The screen door slammed shut behind us.

“Just playing,” Stephen replied as he got a biscuit out of the tin.

“Oh Molly!” said Mum with a frown, “Look at how dirty your dress is! Those mulberry stains will never come out, you naughty girl. Off to the bath with you before dinner.”

I climbed into the nice warm water of the bathtub, all soapy with bubbles. Suddenly I was a mermaid, swishing my long tail in the water. “Mum, do mermaids eat fish?” I asked.

“Of course they do,” she said as she rubbed shampoo into my hair. “They eat fish and crabs and wear shells in their hair.” Yuk, I don’t like fish, but I liked the sound of having shells tied in my hair.

“Mum, could I have shells in my hair like a mermaid?”

“Maybe, when you get older Molly,” Mum said.

For the rest of the night I dreamed about being a mermaid and swimming with the fish, but I didn’t want to eat any of them. There were lots of pretty shells though, and the ones in my hair sparkled like all the colours of the rainbow.

Midnight

bare feet, slowly, soundless,
turn the doorknob inside
darkness, crying softly,
smells like clean skin

red hair, loose bun,
white tee, maroon scarf,
black jeans, doc martins,
leather bag holding my heart

raindrops against the roof,
thunder rattles windows
against my body
shirt falling loose

the house is quiet,
bruised petals purple,
hair flattened,
voices low, for now

Molly #3

Pouting, I hopped off the stool and wandered into the lounge room. “Come and sit over here, Molly,” Mum said, looking up as I came into the room. She had some sewing on her lap and the television was on. I could still hear the girls singing in the kitchen. Dad was sitting in his arm chair reading the newspaper; he didn’t look up when I came in.
I sat on the lounge and picked up one of my favourite picture books, the one with animals in it. I heard Mum sigh, but I wasn’t sure whether she was tired or frustrated. Dad cleared his throat loudly and Mum looked at me and smiled secretly with her blue-grey eyes, as if to say, ‘I smile just for you’. But she turned back to her sewing and I looked down at my book. I couldn’t read yet but I was going to school next year and I couldn’t wait to learn how to make sense of those black squiggles on the page. I already knew some letters and the sounds they made. “That one is ‘cuh’ for cat,” I said out loud. I wondered where the cat was; maybe he was out chasing mice. Yuk, I wouldn’t want to be a cat and eat mice.
The newspaper rustled as Dad turned the page. “The price of petrol is going up again,” he said. “It’s a wonder anyone can make any money these days.”
“Oh dear,” said Mum, “It never stops.” Her busy fingers painted stitches in the cloth. “I ran into Robyn today. You know, I think her and Paul will get married soon.”
“What makes you think that?” Dad replied.
“Oh, it’s just a feeling. The way she talks about him. She was looking at flowers.” Dad grunted and continued reading the newspaper; Mum kept sewing. “I think it would be lovely if they got married.”
“It’s about time, anyway.”
“’Duh’ for dog,” I said as I turned the page. I don’t like dogs very much because they are scary the way they bark and jump all over you. I’m glad we don’t have a dog. “Woof! Woof woof!”
“Molly, be quiet,” said Mum, “We are trying to watch the television. Just read quietly to yourself, please honey.” The needle stabbed the cloth, leaving a row of neat little stitches. “She will make a beautiful bride.”
“Paul had better get a proper job first,” said Dad. More singing could be heard coming from the kitchen.
“Oh, they’re only young. They have plenty of time; they want to travel first.”
I turned over a few more pages. “Huh for horse.” I had never seen a horse up close, only those ones across the road. They looked nice standing there and eating grass. I wondered what it would be like to ride one. Maybe I could be a princess and ride through my kingdom on a beautiful white horse. Everybody would come out of their houses to see me go past and I would wave back at them.
“I wonder when the wedding will be.” Mum was already sewing the wedding dress in her mind.
“Is that all you can think about?” The newspaper rustled again.
“Sh for sheep.” I like sheep; they are all soft and woolly, I thought to myself as I ran my fingers over the picture. “Baa, baa.”
“Molly! I think it’s time for bed; you are being far too noisy tonight.” I looked up at Mum quickly because she was annoyed with me. “Come on, let’s go and clean your teeth and I’ll tuck you in bed.”

Molly #2

By the time I was four years old I had grown from being a baby to be a small child with curly red hair and soft milky white skin and a trace of freckles forming across my nose. Mum called them sun kisses and said they made me look beautiful. All of the excitement from my birth had worn off a bit with the other children though. By now I was just another part of the family, although I was much smaller than the others and always seemed to be a step behind. No matter how hard I tried, I just couldn’t keep up with my sisters and they seemed to be interested in more grown up things than I was.

We had moved away from the mountains to a town near the coast because of Dad’s job. This new world was the bright green of a huge backyard, a big house with a verandah across the front, mango trees, mulberry trees, and lots of open space in between.

Over the road from the house there was a farm that ended up in a swamp at one end. Sometimes I dreamt I was flying across that swamp, looking down on the world as I floated on my silvery wings, until I was suddenly running through water with legs of lead; the lights of my bedroom hung just out of reach of my fingers and I woke up crying as my mother came in and held me until I fell asleep again.

Dinner time each night was full of noise and bustle with everyone sitting at the dining table talking at once. The television blared away in the background as Dad listened to the evening news, competing with cutlery rattling against plates. The girls talked about things that were happening at school, or repeating jokes that were heard during the day, followed by lots of laughter. Sometimes Mum would jump in with a question and set the conversation off in a completely new direction until Dad roared at everyone to be quiet when he wanted to hear something on the news.

After dinner, my sisters could always be found in the kitchen washing the dishes. Catherine was the eldest of the girls at twelve years old; a lot like my mother, she was down to earth and sensible.

She was still wearing her school uniform and her straight brown hair hung down to her shoulders as I watched from my stool at the kitchen bench. Her hands moved with the tea towel as she dried the dishes, while her green bangle bounced up and down her arm. It caught the light and sent diamond sparkles dancing across the kitchen bench; I tried to catch them in my fingers.

Samantha was ten years old and the ring leader, always setting the direction for the other girls to follow. Her hands were covered in long pink rubber gloves as she scrubbed the dishes in the sink and then placed them on the drying rack. She had her back to me and all I could see was her long black ponytail bouncing up and down as she moved back and forth on her bare feet. Every now and then her head turned slightly and I could see the sharp outline of her face.

Jasmine was busy putting the dishes away as Catherine dried them. She was a dark and mysterious eight-year old, a little unsure of herself in the shadow of her two older sisters. She longed to be part of the inner circle with the two older girls but was often left on the outer, so she made up for it by being mischievous and full of fun. Sometimes she was quiet and moody as well, and I often caught her green eyes looking into space, deep in thought. I sometimes wondered what she was thinking, but she never told me because I was just her little sister.

As my sisters washed and dried the dishes together the kitchen became a stage filled with singing, dancing and laughter. “The marching band came down the street,” Samantha sang in a loud voice with her feet marching around the sink.

“And with her head upon his shoulder…” Catherine’s voice was higher and sweeter and it made me think of the wings of a butterfly as she danced across and put her head on Samantha’s shoulder. I wanted to cry because it sounded like such a sad song.

Jasmine joined in for the chorus as she put some more plates back in the cupboard; Catherine and Samantha always sang the verses on their own. I had heard some of the songs they sang being played on the radio during the day, but I didn’t know this one at all; the girls must have learned it at school. I tried to join in and made up the words in my little voice.

“Billy, don’t take your pillow,” I sang from my stool.

“Molly! That’s not how it goes,” laughed Catherine musically.

“Stop being annoying, Molly,” Samantha said with her hands in the sink and flicking her long black ponytail back and forth, just like the cat’s tail. She was always like that, but I wasn’t being annoying; I was just trying to join in.

“Billy, don’t take your pillow,” I started again.

“Mum! Molly is being annoying again!” Samantha called out.

Mum’s voice came back from the lounge room, “Molly, leave the girls alone. Why don’t you come in here and read a book?”

Molly #1

When I first began to be conscious of the world around me, there was a quiet house during the day when it was just my mother and I, then she would take me with her tucked up in a pram on the way to give my father his lunch. From the pram, the world outside the house was all sky and occasional tree branches stretching their fingers out to try and catch birds.

In the afternoon my sisters and brother would come running into the house in a whirlwind of noise and excitement. The air seemed to swirl with laughing children as I was such a tiny baby and they always seemed so big. A smiling face would suddenly appear in front of me, squeezing my hand then running off again. Sometimes they would sit and nurse me for a moment, as I gazed up and listened to their voices talking and laughing.

Night time was much quieter after my father got home from work. As I fell asleep each night I could hear the muffled sounds of the television coming from the next room and the rumble of trains passing by as my mother read stories to me.

I never felt as loved as those moments snuggled on the lounge next to my mother’s warm body where I was safe. I watched her lips moving as she read; pink and gentle, they changed shape so often, and every now and then I could see the tip of her tongue. I moved my lips too, pretending that I was reading silently along with her. As she turned the page, my mother looked at me and smiled.

I smiled back but my head was feeling heavy, like it was full of cotton wool. The cushions were soft against my face, with little buttons that I traced with my fingers. I wondered if tiny little people like the ones in the story lived in villages under those buttons. Then I became tiny as well, so tiny that I could crawl under the pillow button and feel long strands of cotton tickling my face.

Breathe in

breathe in
breathe out
all the air you breathe
we breathe
because I need you
in my life
breathing life and energy

when you switched on to me
you were sad
about someone else
going round and round
until our breaths became
shared air

Every spell begins with a blank page

Every spell begins with a blank page,
connecting me to things I haven’t said;

putting thoughts into my incantation
for they cannot remain in the past,
ghosts of lips on glasses;

I’m not a bad person, I tell myself
I’m just lost with insecurities,
willing to sacrifice
to make my love spell come true.

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