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.

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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

Episode 17 – First day at my new school

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I started school the next day while Mum and Dad tried to find a house to rent. It was just like starting my first day of kindergarten all over again. I sat there looking at my feet while Mum talked with the school headmaster. He looked like he was a hundred years old and as dry and gnarled as all those trees along the road. His eyes were cold and grey as they looked at me without interest.

When Mum left I was taken to my new classroom by a lady with shoes that clicked loudly on the tile floor of the corridor. She knocked at the classroom door and pushed it open to be greeted by the noise of strange children chattering and giggling. I was taken across the classroom to meet my new teacher, Mr Anderson, who was sitting at his desk reading a book. Slowly, the class started to become quieter as some of the children noticed a new girl amongst them. I could hear the ones at the front whispering to each other and I just knew they were all looking at me standing there in my unfamiliar school uniform.

When the lady left, Mr Anderson stood up with me at the front of the classroom. He held his hand up until everyone was quiet and looking toward the front. ‘Class, this is Molly White. She has come to join us here in 4KA so I hope you will all make her welcome.’ I knew my face was bright red, I could feel it burning and I heard some boys toward the back of the room whispering to each other. I just wanted to run away and I knew tears were starting to form in my eyes. ‘Molly, there is an empty desk over near the window. You can sit there. Okay class, it is time now for maths so I want you to open your books at chapter three and we will have a look at number lines.’

I slid into my seat and opened the book Mr Anderson had handed me, but everything looked blurry and instead of number lines I saw rivers of tears running across the page. Cool autumn sunlight came through the window and I could see wisps of cloud drifting by in the pale blue sky as Mr Anderson’s voice droned on about something to do with numbers and lines and hopping from one to four. I thought about the railway line and wondered how many hops it would take before I got back to Stephanie.

At lunchtime I sat on a bench in the playground. It was all bitumen and there was no grass, just lines marked out for all sorts of games. It was like one of those unhappy playgrounds I had seen when we were driving through the city. I looked at the sandwiches in my lunchbox, but I didn’t feel at all hungry because my stomach was tied up in a little knot. I started to think of Stephanie again and began to cry.

After a while I noticed someone had sat on the bench next to me. ‘Are you okay?’ I heard a little voice say. I could see a pair of white cotton socks and dusty black school shoes poking out shyly from beneath a checked school dress.

‘I thought you looked sad,’ the voice said again. ‘I wondered if you would like some of my vegemite sandwich.’ The voice belonged to a little girl, about the same size as me with a face covered in freckles. ‘My name is Ellen,’ she said.

‘I’m Molly,’ I said quietly as I finally found my tongue.

‘Don’t be sad, Molly. School isn’t that bad when you get used to it. Do you want to come and play handball?’

‘I don’t know how to,’ I said.

‘Well that’s okay, I can teach you.’

She took my hand and we walked across to where a crowd of girls were lined up watching two other girls hitting a tennis ball to each other with their hands. As we stood in the line, Ellen explained that I was meant to hit the ball to the other person with my hand, but it had to bounce before going over the line. If you missed it or hit the ball outside the squares then you were out and had to go back to the end of the line. Everyone wanted to get to the king’s square.

Soon it was my turn and I stood in the square opposite a big girl with short hair. Suddenly there was a tennis ball flying towards me and I threw my hand at it but missed completely. Some of the girls giggled as I walked off to the end of the line.

‘Don’t worry, Molly,’ said Ellen. ‘You’ll soon get the hang of it.’

Before I had a chance to have another go, the bell went and we had to go back into class.

‘Let’s play again tomorrow, Molly,’ Ellen said. ‘You’re going to have a lot of fun.’ I wasn’t so sure that I would be able to hit the ball so I was glad that the bell went and saved me from further embarrassment.

The classroom was kept warm by a log fire. Ellen was a fire monitor and she asked Mr Anderson if I would be allowed to help her gather some logs from a box outside the classroom before we went back to our desks.

Ellen told me there was an old man that worked at the school and one of his jobs was to keep the firewood box stacked with wood for the classrooms. She said he was a bit creepy and that I should keep away from him, but there was no sign of the caretaker as I followed Ellen to the back of the classroom. She skipped along and seemed so happy and that made me feel a bit lighter, but the logs were really heavy and I got dirt and little bits of bark stuck all over my school dress when I carried them back to class.

The fire was in an iron box, like a little stove, and I watched Ellen carefully open the door and rake among the embers with a poker. When the flames were dancing around like little devils, I passed her a log and she put it on top of the fire. A shower of sparks and smoke rose into the air and me cough.

When I got back to my desk, I saw that my hands were all dirty. But I wasn’t game to ask Mr Anderson if I could go to the bathroom to wash them so I tried to wipe them clean on my school dress. My hair smelled all smoky as well and I started to worry about what Mum would say when I got home.

Then I began thinking about home and I realised that I didn’t even know where home was, or if we had one. I looked out the window at the clouds again to try and stop myself from crying, but a couple of teardrops still leaked out and fell on my cheeks.

I looked around and saw Ellen watching me. She gave me a little smile and I tried to smile back but my lips wouldn’t move in the right shape. Things improved later in the afternoon, though, when we had some quiet reading time. I picked a book out of a box that was on the floor and we were allowed to sit on the mat in the middle of the classroom and read. Ellen came and sat next to me and held my hand.

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