Molly #25

With my face pressed against the window, I watched the miles rushing past as we headed south. The tears running down my cheeks could have flooded the big rivers of the north coast, but they had started to dry up as we left the lush green pastures of sad-eyed dairy cattle behind.

The coastal landscape became a dry blur of trees that kept flashing past my eyes. Every now and then there was a small gap in the trees where a little sandy track disappeared into the bush. After a while I started to wonder what was at the end of those little tracks. I closed my eyes and pictured myself riding my bike through the scrub until it suddenly opened out onto a beach. The sand stretched as far as I could see, and in the distance was a hazy headland jutting out into the brilliant blue ocean. The sun danced with sparkles on the waves and I found myself soaring high in the sky. There was nobody else on the beach, and I felt like the only person left in the whole world.

Suddenly I could smell hot chips and I giggled as I started spiralling down to join the other seagulls where they were fighting over a packet of chips. I landed with a thump and opened my eyes to find Mum was sharing out chips into little paper cups for my sisters to eat.

Outside the window, the landscape had turned swampy and in the distance I could see tall chimneys billowing out smoke. Hidden in the trees was an old car body that looked all rusty. The boot was open and Mum said that was how the people had gotten out of the car.

There were more and more factories as we drove along and they were now close enough for me to see lots of cars parked near the bottom of the chimneys. I thought it was no wonder that the cars ended up so rusty when all that smoke was pouring out. I imagined the people in the factories must become all grey and rusty as well.

The swamps soon gave way to sandy grasslands that had little groups of black and white cows standing behind fences. They were too busy trying to find some grass to eat to notice me rushing past though. There were more and more cars around as well, and soon we were on a freeway and sailing past huge trucks. Every now and then a bearded truck driver would look down at me and I would look back and smile, until all the trucks turned off and we were back in the scrub again.

Then we were swooping down a huge hill and at the bottom was a bridge across a wide river. Dad pulled off the road and we all hopped out of the car to have lunch by the edge of the water. My legs were stiff from sitting in the car for so long and I could feel pins and needles in my feet.

The river was covered with all sorts of boats bobbing around, some with white sails that shone brightly in the warm sun and others with groups of men with fishing rods. There were also some men standing on the rocks fishing and I could smell the salty sea air; it reminded me of the beach near Grandma’s house and I started thinking about when I would ever get to see Grandma again.

I could have stayed happily by the side of that river for ages, but I was soon sitting back in the car and we were driving through the city. There were so many cars that we had to drive along really slowly and kept having to stop at traffic lights all the time. Far in the distance were the skyscrapers of the city centre, but from this distance they just looked tiny. Outside the car I could see lots of children walking to school or climbing off buses. They didn’t look very happy and I supposed that was because they didn’t have a lovely river running down the back of their playground. The only playgrounds I could see were all made of concrete; there didn’t seem to be grass anywhere, just lots of concrete. That made me start thinking of Stephanie again and I kept looking for her face amongst all those children heading to school.

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Leo moon

The Leo moon watches me,
catching autumn leaves,
like when I was a child,
delighted by their changing colours,
myriad shapes that sparkle
as brightly as stars in the sky;
for a moment I study the leaves
gathered in my tiny hand,
the changing seasons
pass me by so quickly,
I long to name each leaf
as I once did, as old friends,
tracing russet memories
through each wrinkled vein;
some leaves spread
like the palm of a lover’s hand
but it is the cordate leaf
over which I linger,
fallen like my lovers heart;
behind the trees
the Leo moon
shines onto my face
glistening tears.

Thursday fragments 5

The clock on the classroom wall was ticking so slowly that I thought detention would never end. I tried to write about Stephen in my journal, but each time the pen in my hand shook and the words just stopped. Instead, I wrote about the book ‘My Friend Flicka’. I had started reading it when I was eleven years old and became completely absorbed in it and the other two books in the series. I still remember the way I felt when I read about Ken sitting on a horse, high on a hill and greeting the sunrise with a sense of freedom. It was just the way I felt when I was on my bike. Every page I turned drew me deeper and deeper into the story until I was living on the pages with Ken. At night when I lay in bed with my book I would get lost in the hills of Wyoming to escape the sadness wrapped around me.

As that year had progressed and autumn became winter, the bitterly cold days kept me inside, safe and warm in my bedroom where I could devour every word of my books while the wind blew outside. Life was hollow and empty, constantly changing under grey clouds as I was caught up in my thoughts, seeing nothing of the real world. During the day I would struggle through school, unsettled and uncertain, writing stories in my head, longing for the evenings and weekends when I could get back to those wild hills.

That year had gone by slowly until the sun eventually came peeking out from behind the clouds, getting stronger every day until it finally shone brightly on me as I lay in the long grass with the smell of spring in the air filling my lungs. By the time those first hints of spring came, I had reached the final page of the last book in the series. Closing my eyes and turning my face towards the warm sun, I felt like I was ready to be more adventurous and face the real world on my own terms.

But that seemed years ago now. Here I was on my sixteenth birthday sitting through lunchtime detention and still hiding from the outside world. I looked at the list I had made of all the books I wanted to read and wished I could get them for my birthday, but I had never told Mum about it so how would she know?

I picked up my pen and started writing again.

Unwilling heart

Unwilling heart, embrace love,
That thief, that stranger
Who comes at night,
Shunning daylight’s eyes,
Soothing the sad sighs
Of my unwilling heart.

Power of voice

I am a small pebble,
Cast aside – unwanted, unloved.

If you hold me in your hand, I will glow;
If you hold me to your heart, I will shine.

If you throw me away
I will be lost forever.

Lull me to sleep,
For I shall not rest,
Even with my eyes closed.

I can sense the dance
Between mover and witness,
Those inner impulses
Are fixed into reality;
Fragments of text
Define my understanding,
Drawing thoughts with words
That echo my shifting consciousness.

My spine tingles
As you fix me with your wayward smile,
Studying the pebble held in your hand.

Episode 26 – Saying goodbye

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.

Episode 23 – Stephen

One afternoon I came home from school to find Stephen laying on his bed and listening to the radio. His hands were behind his head and his eyes were closed. There were clothes carelessly thrown all over the floor.

‘You’re home early,’ I said as I threw my school bag on my bed. Lately he was getting really down in the dumps and I was worried. He didn’t normally throw his clothes all over the floor like that.

He opened his eyes and turned his head to look at me, sadly I thought. ‘I lost my job today, Molly. They just told me they were putting some people off and I was the newest starter so I had to go first.’ I didn’t know what to say so I just gave him a little smile.

‘Well, at least we can play together again, can’t we?’ I said hopefully. He just looked at me for a moment and then turned his head away and closed his eyes again. I didn’t know what else to say so I just sat on my bed quietly and read my book.

After a while he sat up and put his feet on the ground. ‘I’m sorry, Molly,’ he said. ‘Do you want to go and play in the tree house?’

I closed my book and we both went outside to play. The afternoon sun was still hot, but it was nice and shady in the tree house. Stephen helped me climb up first, and I sat on the platform with my legs crossed while he climbed up the ladder.

‘What do you want to do?’ I said.

‘Oh, I don’t know. Why don’t you just play and I’ll watch.’ I watched his face but he had closed his eyes again and was leaning back against a branch of the tree.

I started playing with a doll, making her climb up the tree, but every now and then I would look up to see if Stephen was watching. He kept his eyes closed for ages, but then he started talking about going away somewhere, maybe to Western Australia to work in the mines. Mum had recently received a letter from an uncle who worked over there and he said Stephen could easily get a job there if he ever wanted one.

‘But you don’t want to go all that way, do you?’ I didn’t like hearing him talk like this. Usually he was so happy and fun to be around.

‘I might have to if I can’t find any work here.’

I was worried about him going away, but a week or so later he found work picking fruit at a local orchard. He took me with him one weekend, out amongst the green leafy cherry trees and the hot red dirt between each row. Stephen showed me how to pick the cherries by twisting them with my fingers and then putting them in a tin until the farmer came to collect all the full tins.

After a little while my fingers began to hurt so Stephen said I could stop picking. I sat on the ground under the shade of the tree instead and started to read my book. Every now and then I took a cherry out of the tin and popped it into my mouth. They were different to the mulberries I had eaten before. Some of the cherries were a little tart and made me pull a face. In the afternoon I got tired and lay on the ground and watched Stephen climbing on the ladder way up in the cherry tree. It reminded me of when I watched him climbing trees when I was little. I closed my eyes for a little while and all I could see were red cherries dancing before my eyelids.

The cherry picking lasted for a few weeks and then Stephen started working for a builder. He told me he spent the day carting bricks and things around. It seemed like everything would be okay and he would be happier, but then he got put off by the bricklayer because there wasn’t enough work around.

Soon after another letter arrived from Western Australia to say there were some apprenticeships available. I saw the forms spread out on Stephen’s bed and he just stared at them all afternoon. It was a few days later that he came home and filled the forms in.

‘I just can’t stand being out of work any longer, Molly,’ he told me in bed that night. I lay there with tears forming in my eyes because I couldn’t bear the thought of him going away.
He was really excited a couple of weeks later when he got a letter to say he had been accepted. I found out he was to start in a few months time after being cleared by a doctor and some other things. At least that meant he would still be at home for Christmas.

Then I got a letter from Ellen; she told me that she was going to stay in Melbourne with her mother and wasn’t coming back. To top it all off, Dad came home one night and said we were moving again.

I was very sad and confused when I went to bed that night. Everything seemed to be happening at once. I sat on my bed with my legs crossed and started to write a long letter to Ellen to tell her my sad news, but every time I tried to use my pen the page was blurry with tears. I wanted to tell her that I would be her friend forever and would visit her in Melbourne one day.

Stephen came and sat on the end of my bed. ‘Don’t worry, Molly. I won’t be gone that long. Once I’ve got some experience for a few months I’ll be able to come back here and get a proper job.’ He gave me a big hug and I left wet tears all over his shoulder. Eventually I finished the letter and popped it in the mail box.

Episode 22 – Ellen leaves

A few weeks later Ellen and I were sitting on my bed reading books. I was laughing at a funny passage in my novel and Ellen was smiling at me because I kept making her laugh. Sometimes we went on like that for what seemed like hours, but Ellen was always the first one to get bored with reading. This day she seemed a bit restless and her smiles looked a little sad. I wasn’t sure what was wrong but I didn’t want to ask and upset her again so I just tried to find funny parts of my book to read out so that she would laugh with me.

‘Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas,’ Ellen suddenly blurted out.

I looked up from my book. ‘What?’

‘Mum and I are going to Melbourne for Christmas. I wanted to tell you earlier but I couldn’t.’

‘When… when do you go?’ I wasn’t smiling anymore. I had thought we were going to be together for the whole summer holidays. I didn’t know whether to feel happy for her or not but I knew I felt unhappy for myself.

‘We catch the train after school on Friday. Mum said that she wanted to visit her sister. I haven’t seen Aunty Vicky for years… I’ll write to you every day, Molly.’

‘I’ll write to you as well, but I’m really going to miss you, Ellen.’

‘I’ll miss you too, Molly, but you have to promise not to tell anyone, at least until after we’ve gone.’ I looked at her face closely. I felt like there was something she wasn’t telling me. How come she had never mentioned going to Melbourne before, and why the secret?

‘I won’t tell anyone,’ I said, ‘I promise.’

She looked happy; no, more relieved than happy, and gave me a hug.

‘It’s going to be all right,’ she said. ‘Mum and I will be safe. Aunty Vicky lives on the beach just south of Melbourne.’ She had become chatty now, but I was still worried. ‘I remember going there a few years ago,’ said Ellen, ‘It was when I was little and it was really pretty and colourful. These little wooden houses were on the edge of the beach and we walked on the sand every day.’ Ellen stopped and looked at me thoughtfully. ‘You’ve gone quiet, Molly.’ She kissed me and I put my arms around her neck and she leaned her head against the curve of my arm. There was so much I wanted to say to her but I just couldn’t think of the words. I closed my eyes to stop the tears from falling.

As we sat there silently for a moment, I tried to think of myself in Ellen’s place. There were no secrets between us and my mind ran with thoughts of rabbits and bruises as I tried to understand Ellen’s struggle. We sat there clinging to each other for ages until Mum called out from the kitchen,

‘Molly, Ellen – it’s time for dinner.’

‘You mustn’t tell anyone,’ Ellen whispered as we walked out of the bedroom.

Final goodbye (a letter unsent)

Dear Kyle,

It has nearly been six months since you vanished from my life. I wanted to tell you how much you hurt my feelings when you ended our relationship by text message. I think you owed me more respect than that after all we had shared together.

You said once, in jest I thought, that the world would not end if we ever broke up. Well I can tell you, my world did not end even though I have been very sad and confused. I am over that now, but I wish I didn’t see your damn Nissan Xtrail everywhere I go. I try not to look, but sometimes I just can’t help but glance at the driver to see if it is you.

I also want to tell you how much I really was in love with you, even though I know your feelings for me weren’t as strong. I would never have imagined getting married until you were by my side. All of a sudden I understood how two people could link their stars together.

Do you remember earlier in the year when we thought I was pregnant? I was scared but secretly hoped it was true. I still remember how intense my feelings for you were on that night we forgot to be careful. I had never wanted you so badly. Perhaps that is what scared you away. I will never know because you never spoke about it.

As a final note, I want to say goodbye to you for the last time forever. I don’t want to see you again because I don’t think my tarnished heart could handle it. I am getting stronger every day and learning to find my way back to the pathway of happiness. I no longer love you, so please stay out of my thoughts.

Regards,

Molly-Louise

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