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seventy thousand word novella about a backpacker who strikes out for a new life and identity.
seventy thousand word novella about a backpacker who strikes out for a new life and identity.
THAT WOULD BE ME Ian MacNeill i A foot came down on the sand strewn with curlicues and knots of bleached sea bones. It was brown and had pink nails which looked like exquisite simple shells themselves against the nestling and stretched tan toes. Between the big toe and the next lay a plastic daisy - mauve at the centre with wheeling yellow petals. She raised her eyes and looked at where she was. Far out waves cascaded in an emerald turn and rushed frothing over a turquoise lens into which they subsided. It sparkled. Near her they lapped transparent against sand which fizzled to a dazzling white. Ahead was a green headland sweating, inland was a fringe of shrubbery waving, just. 'I can't go on,' she said and sat down. She pulled her frock under but the heat of the sand still came through so she got up again. 'Come on,' he said, 'it's only a couple of metres. Iced coffee.' He laughed his winning laugh and put an arm around her. It was warm and smooth. She looked at it and admired its brownness and curves. 'O K,' she said. Her mind was made up. 'Danke,' she said to the girl who brought her her iced coffee. The girl had looked a little surprised and later came and spoke to her in German. Which she ignored. 'We've been in Thailand. We flew into Cairns. It's incredible. I can never go back.' 'How will you stay?' the German girl asked. She shrugged. 'We can go underground until we're ready to leave,' Lynton said, 'it's huge, they'll never catch us. How did you get this job? Have you got a work permit? Is the money all right?' She listened with some interest to his voice and thought she must never sound like that again and to the German girl's clear strong tones. [Type text] [Type text] 2 1 'It's always bad. They know they can get backpackers to work for very little. It is probably beneath the regulation but ... ' She shrugged in a most interesting way. 'It was better in Cairns, the tourists are rich and give you big tips in the restaurants. Here it is all backpackers.' They all looked around. Through the woven fronds of the cafe along the endless glaring white curve of the beach, out at the lagoon which had turned aquamarine as morning gave way to the approach of noon. The waves had given up turning over the reef. The impulse tightened inside her so that it almost hurt. All right, she noted, I am not going back. It relaxed, somewhat. She and Lynton sat, she in utter silence, listening to the sand being swished by the little breeze, the murmur of voices at the other tables, the shrilling harmony of the cicadas. There was a faint whistling from the palms. 'Let's go back. The guys'll be in from the reef. I can't wait to go. Scuba booba and all that, Reefies whipping by with their white tipped fins.' He sketched a reef shark sweeping by with his arm and hand. He did it very well. She noticed people at other tables admiring him. [Type text] [Type text] 3 1 She looked at him. Deep blue eyes beneath a tawny thatch, salt clinging to his golden brow. A revelation of beautiful shoulder beneath his carelessly worn shirt, picked with his infallible eye from endless coloured shirts in endless markets in one of the endless beach resorts of Thailand. 'This is the best holiday,' he said under her gaze. She was examining his chin which was rounded then square, looked at his mouth as he spoke so he smiled his perfect white teeth. 'It's not a holiday,' she said and rose, gathering her bag which like her sandals, his shirt, was the non plus ultra, not too camp, not too kitsch, not too cute ... serious in its whimsy. She had noticed other girls glancing at it, then her with respect. 'You're right,' Lynton said as they made their way out, 'it's a lifestyle.' Anger bolted up in her. She was unused to feeling so stopped abruptly and pressed a clenched fist to her diaphragm. Her teeth clenched so that she could say nothing and she immediately stepped on. [Type text] [Type text] 4 1 Walking back towards the bunked room she dreaded, she gazed around, gathering the landscape to her, proprietal, inhaled it. 'Hey!' he called to some people watching television in the rec room, 'Are the guys back yet?' She continued on to the dorm. Put her bag down, slipped her sandals off neatly and arranged herself on the bottom bunk, carefully pulling the fabric of her beach frock straight beneath her, smoothing its front. She stared at the springs above. No idea came to her. After a while Lynton came in. He hesitated because he thought she might be ignoring him for some reason sand then bowed over to sit next to her. He rested a hand on her ribs. Then he said, 'The guys aren't back from the Reef yet, they must have be having a really good time. I can't wait. I've dreamt of it.' She noted that she would never say 'really good time' like that ever again and said, 'Same,' and resolved against that too. After a while he said, 'Are you all right?' [Type text] [Type text] 5 1 She would have sat up but the springs above her were too close so she turned her head and gave him the most penetrating look she had ever given anyone. 'I'm fine. Never been better. Wundabah.' 'You sound funny.' 'Do I?' she ventured and found it strong so heaved her body around, forcing him to stand up, and sat herself in his position, bent over on the bunk. 'Have you got your thing - the period?' She stood up and he took a step back. Neither of them was tall but he had always been pleasingly taller than she. She seemed to have grown. 'It must be the climate,' he thought, 'I wonder if I'll grow too. With all the Australian protein. I'll order steak instead of fish now.' 'It was a fortnight ago. Mensa - menstruate - menses - a month you fuckhead,' she hissed inside her head as she took a step forward and wriggled up to him. 'Here?' [Type text] [Type text] 6 1 She shrugged and went to her backpack. In the small settlement she caught sight of herself in the window of the general store. She saw sawn-off jean shorts slung low and thick socks. She looked at her foot. It was wearing her hiking boot. She shuddered. This was not who she was or wanted to be. And suddenly felt the weight on her feet, the heavy clinging to her ankles. She went into the shop and browsed in its air conditioning. 'Yes?' the woman asked rudely. Then in response to the look she was given, 'Can I help you?' 'I would like some socks - cotton. Light. What colours do you have? Plain. I detest patterns.' The last was too much. She wouldn't share anything personal with a shop assistant, unless ... 'And do you have the bus timetable?' 'It's written up outside.' The woman turned her back. [Type text] [Type text] 7 1 She swept a plastic bottle off the shelf and it was in her blouse, held by the top of her shorts. 'Where are your socks?' She had never said it before like that. The woman turned around. 'If you'll come over here.' Now she allowed herself to feel pleased. Of course she wouldn't buy the socks. They were rather nice - light but with substance. And there were some pretty pink ones. She wondered if they'd have them in Cairns. Probably. 'I'd like to think about them,' she said and stepped away. Outside she was aware of the woman scrutinising her as read the timetable. There was one for Cairns at eleven thirty. That was the one they had caught in. Then one at four thirty. That would arrive about six thirty. Eleven thirty was the one. That would give her the whole afternoon to find some where to stay. In the toilet of the cafe she examined the bottle. Just cheap moisturiser, no sun screen in it. She should have checked a little more carefully, she was getting careless. That was stupid. Wasted [Type text] [Type text] 8 1 effort. To some degree. She could use it after the beach. She unscrewed the cap. It smelt cheap. She thwarted an impulse to fling it away, put it in her bag. On the way back she thought she could offer it to some girl who didn't have any. Lynt was asleep on her bunk. Or at least his eyes were closed so she moved very carefully, examining where her things were. She was always very neat, kept things together so they wouldn't be mislaid, left behind. She would put her boots in her pack later. She thought about just leaving them under the bunk. She knelt over her pack. Everything seemed to - ' 'How was town?' She jumped. Lynt laughed. 'You O K?' She remained bent over her pack until she was ready then swung up and around to face him. She listened to her voice regress and as she heard it, forced the placating whine out of it. 'Oh it was really [Type text] [Type text] 9 1 interesting, I saw - ran into that Aboriginal woman who showed us over that sacred site. We had a chat.' 'Did she remember us?' Lynt said. he got up. 'I booked another room for us.' Her heart began to race. 'Did you?' 'Yes. I thought you felt ... needed privacy.' 'Where? This place is so convenient. We've just got to know - ' 'Here.' ' - a few. Here?' 'Yes. They had a double. It's in that cottage out the back.' 'Won't that be a ... I thought we were saving for Byron Bay and Sydney. I haven't ... I'll have to get a job. I wonder if Ilse ...?' 'We're - I thought - we're only going to be here two more nights.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 10 They were in their room in the 'cottage' at the back of the property and he put his arm around her. 'Turn over,' she said. He looked startled which he converted to amused. 'I want to look at you.' He shrugged and obliged, predictably. She gazed down his tapering brown back to the marble white of the buttocks, ran her hand in possession down his spine, pushed between his legs and stroked the back of his balls, jiggled them a little. 'Ow.' She laughed. 'Turn over.' She straddled him, gazing as she moved at his shallow expanse of hard chest like the two sand bars at low tide a channel disgorging the lagoon water back to sea, ran her hand down his sternum. He was perspiring. 'He's such a lady,' she thought and he reached up to hold her hips. 'I must try a draught horse next,' she thought, 'rough and [Type text] [Type text] 1 11 hairy, running with sweat, coarse and bulky, huge, white and matted with black hair.' 'This is good,' he said, 'you're so pretty.' He reached up for her breasts but she placed his hands back down on her hips looking at his biceps bulging. And began to stroke herself. 'Ooh that's disgusting,' he said, entranced. She felt the inside of her highs against his smooth flanks, warm and rode him, somewhat tentatively at first and saw the brown heel of a riding boot lying on moving brown hide, the heel flew out and came in hard on the ribs rippling under the smooth chestnut. She screamed and came. This was her first time. He said, trying to disentangle her hair, 'That was amazing. What came - what got into you?' She looked at him out of idle curiosity and decided to speak, 'Oh I don't know. The sun? What's pawpaw got in it? All I know is I can never go back.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 12 . . . 'She's so gentle. I don't know what's happened to her. She's never ... she's very punctual and - reliable. She wasn't well. All I want ... Her parents ... She comes from the Midlands.' The young constable alone in this outpost of law thought, 'I wonder how you get to fuck a guy like that.' 'Hrm. We have this all the time. Look mate, why don't you go home - back to the hostel ... backpackers, I'll come around and see if she's ... we get this all the time, she's probably gone with old Coral, whatever she calls herself now on one of them walks she does.' 'No. I don't think so, we've already done the walk with Arpinti, she wouldn't ... we were saving for Sydney.' 'Sydney, hey? You want to be careful down there, specially round Mardi Gras time. When were your heading off south?' 'We were going to Byron Bay first - in a week, we didn't really get to see Cairns, we came straight up here.' 'Name?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 13 'Lynton.' He watched the painful lettering, ' No that's my Christian - Trevalley.' 'That's a nice kind of fish round here. What was her name, Lynton?' . . . 'You go,' she had said, 'I'll be all right. I've probably just had a bit too much sun. You said yourself that ... You go, I'll come with you tomorrow. You can find the best spots. Go on, the guys'll be waiting. I'm just going to stay here in the dark and sleep in a bit. It's so good you got us this room.' The moment he had gone her heart started to pound. She dashed to her backpack, then back to the bed and sat, forcing herself to breathe deeply. It could be like a movie, he could come back after breakfast, he might have forgotten something, he might want to brush his teeth, he was like that. And he would come in on her scurrying around in a panic. No way. [Type text] [Type text] 1 14 She had plenty of time - too much. But they could be back early and she could be caught. She opened her book, Sydney on the Cheap. She had found it in a second hand book shop in Cairns before they had fled up to this far flung resort. It was a couple of years out of date but it would give them - her, an idea. Half an hour. She looked up. Now she knew where she was going when she arrived in Sydney. She rose and made her way to Ilse, the German girl's cafe, for breakfast. She carried the stolen bottle of moisturiser. Ilse brought her fruit juice. She ordered a big breakfast. As she was leaving she held the moisturiser out to Ilse, 'Can you use this? It's brand new. Lynt bought it for me and I already had some - plenty.' 'Thank you,' Ilse said, examining it, 'it is quite expensive and I put it on after I swim. And at night. I haven't seen this one.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 15 'It's probably local.' Back at the backpackers she checked that she had everything ready then went across to the office. 'Can I have my passport? I need to buy some things and I want to cash a traveller's cheque.' The receptionist was another English girl. She had established herself in the place because it made her feel important. She stooped to the safe. 'Oh, and my wallet too. I need to check ... my traveller's ...' 'Is this yours or his?' It was Lynton's. She almost hesitated. 'That's Lynton's, he'll be back. Soon. Probably.' The girl surfaced with the security box and handed her the other wallet. [Type text] [Type text] 1 16 She took it and said, 'If I'm not back, would you just tell him that I've gone into town for - to just get a bit of cash.' In their room she read about places to have good time in in Sydney. She was dismissing most of them as she read. She went for a quiet walk around the establishment to settle her nerves and to check her escape route. They always designed these places so you had to pass the front desk to get in and out. The confusion of the plants out the back was discouraging but the cyclone fence had breaks in it and near their cottage part of it had fanned over under the weight of some tropical vine. She would get through the fence and take the path at the back. It was a short cut to a secluded part of the beach. If she were challenged she would just say good-bye, that Lynton was still there. She would continue on her way, sadly. She saw herself as her accoster would, walking down the dusty road, a sad, solitary figure. The only problem was the boots. They had cost her so much - apart from her tickets, the biggest expenditure of the trip. And now she couldn't stand them. They were so unfeminine, they were like something a model in a girlie calendar would be dressed in, grease artfully smeared over a torn t-shirt. But [Type text] [Type text] 1 17 she might need them. And she had worn them in. What if she got the chance to go trekking in Tasmania, or more likely, Mt Kosciusko? She put them on and they were familiar and she hated them so took them off and placed them neatly back under the bed. What would she wear on the plane to New Zealand? Her feet would freeze in her sandals and they were against the law. A girl had told her she hadn't been allowed on the plane in Bangkok wearing sandals and had had to rush back out and buy some running shoes in a duty free shop. She had showed them to her, they were quite nice. She had bought the boots in Liverpool. . . . Settling into the coach as it sped towards Cairns had been the happiest moments of her life. Now she gazed as the outskirts of Cairns thickened into a suburb. She imagined all Australian suburbs were like this - strange flimsy looking bungalows crouching amongst grasses rampant despite the mowed swathes and hung over with straggly pawpaw trees, palms and huge ornamentals with pendulous bracts in screeching colours. [Type text] [Type text] 1 18 She felt a melancholy billow in her; she did not want to live in one of those, isolated in shimmering heat, beaten down with heavy air, always fighting the grass and looking out for snakes and neighbours with rifles and cowboy vehicles. Then she saw the terrace and her figure after an interminable getting dressed, stepping forth. And it was all futile, she was devastated by the freezing pounding of the winds which buffetted you worse than surf. It was all grey and brown and there was always the smell of gases. The footpath rang steely with cold and the bus shelter offered no shelter and when she got wherever she was going it was no where. Mr Craddock's pigeons wheeled over, black and desperate. There was a service station and cluster of shops, white and glossy with plastic advertisements for soft drinks and bread and ice creams. Some smart cars were pulled up. There was no-one about and then a woman emerged and made her way towards one of the cars, trailed by two children tearing wrappers off cones. She watched as the woman turned and told them to hurry. They were dashing from air conditioned shop to air conditioned car. Their home would be air conditioned. Even though they lived ten minutes from the sea they would have a pool. All the turquoise pools. And the big dogs. And the carelessness. [Type text] [Type text] 1 19 . . . She knew she would have to get out of the backpackers hostel she had found. She felt she was almost seeing Lynton approaching along a corridor. Someone asked her where she had come from. She fled the hostel restaurant because she thought she saw someone they had met in Thailand. She found herself in a bar area of an expensive hotel, a waiter hovering over her. He too looked like one of the Svens they had trekked along jungle paths with or watched little elephants being goaded into knocking soccer balls about. 'I'll just have coffee,' she said. 'White. Weak.' He said something about the cafe but it closes at six. She moved to another bar. She pretended she was looking for someone and continued the charade while a Czech girl brought her a coke. By the time she had finished it she was feeling much more comfortable and beginning to enjoy herself; she was most pleased [Type text] [Type text] 1 20 observing what was going on about her. The Czech girl placed a small blue cocktail in front of her. 'I didn't order this.' 'It is a gift.' She nodded towards another part of the bar. A man was smiling at her and nodding. 'Take it away. I can't accept this.' She turned to the man and smiled but shook her head, swept her open palms up in a not quite helpless gesture. The Czech girl watched her, glanced across at him and left the cocktail where it was. He was at her table. 'No harm meant. It's on me. No strings attached. I just thought you might like ... It's called a Blue Lagoon.' 'Thank you. Won't you sit down then?' She decided she wouldn't use the 'then' again. He did. And with a nod of his head indicated to the watching Czech girl to get his drink. It was very suavely done. [Type text] [Type text] 1 21 How interesting. She liked the economy, she felt here was much that could be learned. As she drank and they chatted her mind roamed over him. She wondered if he was hairy. He was built somewhat brutishly, she decided. And that he was a truck driver. She had to get out of here. He was hairy and very dainty in his love making. She surrendered almost to his delicate wiles. She had experienced nothing remotely as expert as this before, not with Hussein then Lynton. He took her to breakfast and asked if she would like to have dinner. No? Perhaps that was a bit too much. If she wanted to have lunch tomorrow ... just leave a note at the reception desk, he was here for a couple more days. She flinched at the other backpackers. She was acquainted with so many. She expected Lynton to turn up any minute. She fled into the streets of Cairns. Her truck driver had pushed two hundred dollars into her hand. She would buy shoes. Then she thought she would get a plane ticket. She [Type text] [Type text] 1 22 had to get away. To Sydney. She could lose herself, get away from these familiars everywhere here once she was there. It would take time but she knew it was a big city. Millions. No-one would find her there. The plane tickets were much more expensive than she had calculated. She told the travel agent she wanted to think about when would be the best time to leave. She drifted along the most unlikely street in Cairns. And found herself in a small department store. She was looking at lingerie. 'Something cool, light, cotton, pure ... white. I can't sleep in this heat,' she said to the girl and idly examined some expensive sets beneath the glass of the counter while the girl went to a rack. She turned apparently looking for the assistant and her expert gaze swept for the security cameras, anyone who looked like a store detective. When the girl came back with something her grandmother would have worn and apologised she smoothed it out on the counter and saw, as if surprised, the sets. 'Oh they're nice. Can I see the apricot ones?' 'We call it biscuit,' the girl said. [Type text] [Type text] 1 23 And she noticed the unconvinced way she rolled her lips forward in what was apparently an attempt to register prudishness. She had noted a teacher warning them against getting into the back seat with boys do it but much better of course. 'The Japanese love this colour. We keep it for them.' 'Oh well you'd better show me the rose petal ones and those with the lace.' She examined them idly and returned her attention to the nightie. 'Yes, like this but I wanted a broderie anglaise trim. Very traditional.' The girl started back towards the rack and turned abruptly just as she was about to sweep the rose petalled knickers under her blouse. 'I don't know if we've got that, what does it look like?' She went with her to the rack and began to explain. 'Oh I know! We've got some like that but they're boxed.' 'Yes, they probably would be.' 'They're English.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 24 She smiled. 'Could I see a couple. I'll choose one of those.' Back at the counter she didn't check for observation again, she simply took the rose petal knickers. Her heart was pounding. The effort not to betray her excitement was thrilling. He will love them, she thought. An older woman appeared and began to fold the sets strewn on the counter. She should have left. Her almost panic resolved itself into a clarity. 'Your assistant is getting me some cotton nighties trimmed with broderie anglaise to look at,' she said. 'Will you give me some idea of the price?' 'Broderie anglaise trim? We haven't any ... Oh, Rachel probably thought ... I know what she's gone to get, it's very nice. A lovely crocheted trim around the hem and inset.' The woman's hand went to her chest. 'Oh. The friend I'm buying this for loves broderie anglaise, I .... ' [Type text] [Type text] 1 25 'You might get it in one of the big hotels. They all have shops. Where are you staying?' 'We took an apartment. We're here for the diving. My husband's very keen. Oh, he's parked .... Thank you. I'll have to come back later.' She just avoided Rachel heading towards the counter with a couple of white garments floating over her outstretched arm. She descended into panic; she should have checked the best way out. She made herself pause to examine some lipsticks. A salesgirl asked her if she's like to have a makeover, she was starting a demonstration in ten minutes. They'd be doing the announcements soon. The audacity tempted her but she thanked the girl and excused herself. 'Anyway, you should change to this ...' she picked up a pale pink lip gloss, 'it'd really suit you with your dark skin.' The tan had to go. [Type text] [Type text] 1 26 She was clear of the department store and her breath was almost heaving now. She went into an arcade and as she walked transferred the rose petal knickers into her bag. The glimpse she had as they passed through the light satisfied her deeply. They were lovely, perfect. She had a watermelon and ginger drink at a stand and headed back towards the hostel. On the way she stole some tissue paper in the newsagent's where she had stopped to pick up an Australian magazine. 'Oh and this,' she'd said, picking up a roll of cello tape as the youth concentrated on the cash register. Her guilt deliciously drained as he cancelled and rerung the total and handed her the change. No thank you, she didn't need a bag, She threw the magazine and tape into her small bag, on top of the knickers and tissue paper. She lay on her bunk and flicked through the magazine, satisfied. Then she went to the ironing room and wrapped the knickers in the tissue paper. Thank you for the lovely time. I hope we meet again. Have to leave earlier than expected. [Type text] [Type text] 1 27 Elsie (P S my real name is Rachel in case we do). She left the parcel at reception for him. She knew the gift would thrill him enormously. And it did. On the way back she got a standby ticket to Sydney. She couldn't stay here. She was on the plane she had wanted, there had been no wait. The old lady sitting next to her went on and on about her son's business and how she had helped her daughter-in-law. Curtains. She was politely attentive though desperate to think. Where would she stay? They'd be landing at ten-thirty. She'd head for Kings Cross. She was seven hundred dollars behind. But then there was the two hundred Gareth had given her. She would have to get shoes with that. Good shoes. She might have to pay more - a lot [Type text] [Type text] 1 28 more. Where would she get the money? Well now she knew one way. She wouldn't feel obliged to repay next time. 'He's thinking of importing his own fabrics, from India,' her travelling companion said. She smiled and nodded and wondered how much she had in her bag and if she would ask her to mind it when she went to the toilet. 'Indian fabrics are wonderful,' she said, 'and very good value. Benares is a good place to go. They have little shops everywhere selling fabrics.' Kay got a notebook out of her purse for her to write it down. 'I can sew,' she said, 'do they ever need anyone?' Kay wrote out their name and number and tore the page out of her notebook to give her. Parting in the airport, Kay irritated her daughter by delaying everyone by taking her notebook out again and writing her name and number to give to the lovely girl she had flown with. Then she made her daughter drive her to a backpackers in Kings Cross. [Type text] [Type text] 1 29 She waited until the daughter had squealed off, Kay waving, and crossed the road and went down the street to another hostel. She instantly loathed the atmosphere. [Type text] [Type text] 1 30 ii The two girls crashed into the dorm, one was sobbing very loudly. She turned over to see what was going on. The comforter glanced across at her and said, 'Poor Lisbeth, she just broke up with her boyfriend. He was gay.' Lisbeth wailed. 'She'd only known him a little time,' her comforter felt obliged to explain further. They were both drunk and probably eccied. The sobbing continued and comments like 'he should have told you', 'at least you haven't known him long', 'he was cute so don't blame yourself you didn't do nothing wrong' and 'at least you didn't sleep with him .... did you? You could've got Aids' came across to her turned back. She heard the Japanese girl get up and later the door opened and closed. [Type text] [Type text] 1 31 She decided to flee the scene too. As she left, the comforter looked up from her ministrations and shrugged. The sobs were subsiding. Michiyo was in the bathroom putting the finishing touches to her make-up. 'Good morning. How are you?' 'Very well thank you, despite ... And how are you?' 'I am very well. I am going out to get a job.' 'Really? Where?' 'Japanese restaurant of course, English not good yet for Australian restaurant.' She caught up with Michiyo again at breakfast. Michiyo was dressed as a girl who was going to get a job in a restaurant. 'You look perfect,' she said. 'Japanese girl always tries to look perfect. Is hard when no - not many clothes. At home, easy.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 32 'Amy has stopped crying. She's asleep. Lisbeth is too. She's snoring. I want to change the room.' Michiyo said English girls were very loud and then looked taken aback by her own words. 'Sorry. You English girl. Some English girls very quiet, you are very quiet, very nice. Sorry but those girls are ... make much noise.' 'They're stupid,' she said. 'That was the first time Lisbeth went out - had been out with that guy, Derwent. They were going to a club in Oxford Street. Amy was going too, I don't think Derwent ... thought they were on a date.' Michiyo shrugged. 'All boys in Sydney are gay. Is good. I like.' 'Do you? Why?' 'Just dance, talk, laugh, go to cinema, no pressure. My English teacher is gay, I love him.' 'Why?' 'He teach me well, take class to restaurant, to club, to beach, to Australian theatre. I love.' She shrugged, 'Japanese teachers stupid, [Type text] [Type text] 1 33 always book and tape, book and tape. My Australian teacher take us out and we talk. Talk and then write and then talk about where we go. Very good method, I think.' 'Oh. And what will you do with your English? Back home in ... do you come from Tokyo?' 'Kyoto, old capital. I do not know, maybe nothing. I get married. But I think I will become a business woman. I want this very much. I tell my parents when they choose husband.' 'What sort of business?' 'Tourist. Kyoto has many tourists, may beautiful temples to look at and gardens and castle. I copy my teacher and take tourists out to look and then we discuss with video and Powerpoint. I sell videos, tapes, cards, books, take to restaurant, to Noh theatre. You know Noh?' It was still early. She had no plans for the day. She walked with Michiyo to the bus and then swung away down to the park. It was a very big park, lapping the harbour so she followed it right around until she could gaze right down and out towards Sydney Heads. She looked at the North Shore, saw Taronga Zoo, knew that over that hill [Type text] [Type text] 1 34 was Balmoral. Though she had had no system, in two weeks she had developed a keen sense of Sydney. The others in the hostel had not, they were using their stay in the city as a staging post on their ways to Byron Bay or to Uluru or Darwin and Kakadu. They were going to get to now Sydney well when they came back in summer. Summer in Sydney was the goal, leading up to Mardi Gras. Imagine being south of the equator and not having done the Sydney Mardi Gras! A boy had told her Christmas Day at Bondi was the thing, that Mardi Gras was for poofs and dykes ... and had looked at her uncertainly before saying, 'Want to come with me?' She had grasped every opportunity to venture forth, to orient herself. She asked a woman who was feebly throwing a stick for a dog what the dog's name was. It was Stella and then the woman told her Nicole Kidman lived in that house, there, when she was in Sydney. She drifted back towards Kings Cross and came across a cafe which was emptying of its breakfast patrons. A newspaper lay in disarray on the bench seat so she went in. She looked up from the paper. A young woman, her age, was rushing down the steps of a block of flats opposite, talking frantically into a mobile, pulling at her skirt which was stretched tight across her [Type text] [Type text] 1 35 beam, her hair was wet and she dashed her free hand at the side of her bob, pulling it straight, her handbag swinging madly over her elbow. She flailed at a taxi which already had a passenger. She gazed frantically up and down the street. She bailed the next taxi up, slammed the door violently behind her as she flung herself across the back seat. She saw the driver turn and snarl at the young woman. 'I could do it better,' she thought. 'Whatever she does.' She asked the waiter if she could borrow her pen and began to jot jobs and contact numbers from the newspaper on a card she had taken from a rack. She heard the waiter say to the cook, 'I'm enrolling in the university. Information Sciences. That is, if I get in.' She gazed at the block of flats the young woman had catapulted from. It was old, it reminded her of London but was ... more tropical, she decided. Then she remembered what she had written in an exam for her A levels - The table could be adorned with an arrangement of tropical flowers to complement the spicy nature of the dishes served. Australian banksia would be suitable as they are long lasting and can be arranged almost horizontally so as not to impede the flow of conversation during the dinner party. They do not have an obtrusive scent. The wine could also be an Australian one. I suggest a spicy Traminer Riesling. They are reasonably priced and so suitable for a luncheon given by the bridesmaids. [Type text] [Type text] 1 36 She smiled. How ridiculous. But it had worked. She crossed the road to assess the atmosphere of the block of flats. It had bevelled glass set in the doors, a beautiful pair of worn brass door handles. She noticed a note taped on the glass so that it faced out into the street. It was type written and offered a room to rent for single female. Phone. She went back to the cafe and borrowed the pen again. When she returned it she said to the waiter, 'Excuse me, I heard you mention the university. Where is that exactly?' Back at the hostel she phoned the number. A deep, irritated female voice answered. She responded sweetly to some questions and arranged to be interviewed tomorrow afternoon. Then she set out for the university. [Type text] [Type text] 1 37 She took it as a sign that it was so easy to find. She asked at Information and was soon roving a floor. She found a door open. A woman was harrying a computer. She moved on. The next open office revealed a man reading. 'Excuse me.' He offered to help her fill the enrolment form in but she'd have to get it downstairs, at Information. She spent an hour in the university library filling it in and scanning the handbook. Now she had to write a one page statement why she wanted to do Information Sciences at the university. It flowed into her head. Soon she was translating it onto screen and printing it out. She discovered that she was no longer satisfied with her ambition to be a primary school teacher, that she had come to understand during her first year as a student of Education that she was deeply - no, too ... something - insincere - very interested in training, vocational training and she wanted to produce vocational training videos. To do that properly she would need a wide ranging understanding of communication, especially as online learning was potentially the better option for vocational learning in some areas, costs which were [Type text] [Type text] 1 38 at present prohibitive were almost certain to be reduced in the next decade ... She had met a Korean boy on the train to the Blue Mountains. He to Sydney to study I T. His ambition was to set up online training programs in Korea. He foresaw a huge future and fortune in it. She had spent the day with him and had had dinner with him at his college a few days later. She was going to see him again even though she could see he did not have what it would take to realise the extent of his ambitions. He was very handsome and she wondered what it would be like sleeping with a Korean. She found herself wondering what she should wear for her interview tomorrow. She really needed a dress. Her skirt and blouse would have to do. Things were going quite well. She decided it was not too late to go into the city and have a look around. She bought a cheap red skirt and slipped a quite nice white blouse under it as she dallied towards the door. All the way to Martin Place she expected the heavy hand of a store detective to fall on her shoulder. [Type text] [Type text] 1 39 Back at the hostel she discovered the blouse was prettier than she had expected. She was getting better and better at this. And Australians were pushovers. The English girls were so ... brain washed, really. What did they care if a lass made off with a bit of merchandise? Weren't we all in it together? But no, they felt the need to protect their exploiters' interests. She had a little rest to calm down. She woke to some discreet coughing. It was Michiyo. Did she want to go out for dinner? To a very nice restaurant? She did. She pressed her old skirt, put on the blouse and her new shoes. She really needed a new handbag to go with them. Michiyo was dressed in a very dark blue silk dress as a business woman going out on a business dinner. Her hair looked as though it had been put up professionally. 'Oh Michiyo! I can't go. You look ... Where are we going? I thought we were just going to some sushi bar.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 40 'Nearby. Nice Japanese restaurant. Mr Yamada and Mr Kakaburi invite us. Very nice gentlemen.' They waited in the foyer of the hostel. Everyone stopped to exclaim over Michiyo. She carried an exquisite handbag shaped like a shell. It was just large enough to suggest serviceability. Mr Yamada and Mr Kakaburi, Michiyo explained, wanted to practise their English so had asked her to invite Australian girl. She was picturing middle aged, smiling, bowing businessmen but they turned out to be young, in fabulous suits. Mr Kakaburi wore amazingly elegant glasses and was radiant. In the restaurant, taking a cue from the careful way Michiyo and Mr Yamada humoured him, she realised he was coked. They got special attention. Mr Yamada and Mr Kakaburi plied her with sake but she followed Michiyo, discreetly nibbling and pretending to sip. They went for coffee and at a certain point Michiyo decided it was over. Bowings, thank yous, being put in a taxi although the hostel was only just around the corner. [Type text] [Type text] 1 41 She thanked Michiyo. 'That is O K. I think Mr Kakaburi like you very much.' At two o'clock the next afternoon she mounted the steps of the block of flats in Elizabeth Bay and pushed the buzzer. The voice sounded even more angry. She was ushered into a small downstairs flat at the back. It had a peculiar synthetic floral smell, as did the breath of its mistress. She perched on the edge of a sofa in the neat lounge room and introduced herself as Michelle. She was staying with an aunt in Summer Hill. Therese Sullivan was a frantically preserved late sixties/early seventies. She smoked and was nervy. Her voice rasped. After a preliminary interrogation she decided to make a cup of tea. Michelle followed her out to the kitchen whereupon Therese swung round and declared she would show her the bathroom and the little - other bedroom after they'd had their cup of tea. She made the tea carelessly with tea bags in mugs and they trooped back to the lounge [Type text] [Type text] 1 42 room. It was a smallish and dark but very neat, decorated with careful, dull taste. 'You have no idea the types who have turned up - you don't take drugs, do you? Have you got a boyfriend? I mean I don't mind the occasional visit but I don't want some man hanging about all the time.' 'I wouldn't be in much.' She thought this might be a mistake. 'I'll have some night classes and I have my job.' 'Oh, I thought you said you were a student.' 'Yes. But I have a part-time job.' 'Oh yes? Doing what?' 'Dress making. In a workshop out at Camperdown. Fashion garments mainly.' 'I used to sew.' 'Did you?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 43 'Yes. I've still got the machine. A good Singer. I was never professional of course, just used to run something up every now and again. You could set it up in the sunroom if you like, every now and again. I wouldn't want it there permanently.' They took their tea to stare at the sunroom. It was an enclosed balcony, an alcove off the lounge room. Back in the lounge room Therese said, 'What do you sew?' 'Um, clothes - depending on the season. In England we did a lot of coats - they're very difficult, out here mainly frocks, though some of those new fabrics - you know the rumpled silks ... and things are a challenge. But I enjoy it.' Therese contemplated this then stood up. 'Come and I'll show you your bedroom.' It was a closet. A built-in wardrobe took up one wall. To deal with being dismayed, she walked boldly across and slid back the door of the wardrobe. On the top shelf was a huge case. [Type text] [Type text] 1 44 'I could get rid of that,' Therese almost blurted it. 'You could fit a desk - a small table beside the bed, maybe. I was going to put in a bedside table with a lamp on it. For you. Up against the wall.’ They went back to their mugs of tea. Therese named the rent. It was accurate for such a room in such an area. Then she lost it a little, 'You seem suitable. You've got a job and we wouldn't be in one another's way and you haven't got a boyfriend - you haven't got a boyfriend have you?' Michelle claimed the prude expression of the girl in the lingerie department in Cairns for herself. To her delight she carried it off perfectly. The girl in Cairns had forgotten to suck in the cheeks as she pursed the lips. It felt fifties, she was back in the fifties, before the pill and proper abortions and when people got engaged and wore stiff hair and stiff skirts. Therese mirrored the expression. 'Some of the types,' she was beyond shuddering but inhaled and sighed. 'Chinesey ones. Short hair, I can't stand lesbians.' This thought gave her a new purchase - she was doing the interviewing. She cast Michelle a challenging glare. [Type text] [Type text] 1 45 'I've never met one,' she said. 'Someone told me a girl at school - ' 'You wouldn't want to. But at least in my day they kept to themselves and went to men's barbers and drove laundry trucks.' Michelle bestirred herself and went to look at the alcove of a sunroom again. Then she began to collect herself for conclusions. 'Is there a laundry?' There was. A beautiful one on the roof with a clothesline if she didn't want to wreck her delicates in the dryers. And you could see the fireworks from there. At the door Therese asked when she thought she could move in because there were others very keen ... 'Could I ring you on Thursday?' 'Yes. But I wouldn't leave it any longer than that.' Therese slammed the door of her flat. [Type text] [Type text] 1 46 She read the Building Company notices in a beautiful old notice board just near the front door. The newest notice said something about fire order upgrade. The waiter in the cafe opposite explained what that was. So Therese was probably desperate for money to cover these expenses. Michiyo was getting ready to go to work. She was dressed in her beautiful frock again. She was very happy. 'I have new job. Mr Yamada help me. Very good restaurant, businessman give big tip.' Rachel/Michelle lay down to think about Therese and the rent and the evident difficulties of the situation and enrolling in the university and how to get it all together until she could get a foot in. She was awoken by one of the girls who worked at the reception desk. 'The police are here, they want to see you.' Her heart began to pound and she thought desperately about hiding the white blouse and then turned to the girl, 'Tell them I'll be out in a moment. I hope it's not bad news from home.' She lay the blouse under the mattress and carefully smoothed the bed clothes. Then she slipped into her old skirt, her new shoes and [Type text] [Type text] 1 47 checked herself in the mirror, ran a comb through her hair and braced herself. She approached the police - young man and an officious looking young woman. The woman officer pronounced her name. Out of the corner of her eye she noticed someone passing through Reception lingering to listen with the girl on the desk. 'Yes?' The policewoman also noted their presence. 'Have you got a room with a bit of privacy?' They were shown into the manager's office. The policewoman picked up the phone on the desk, 'Don't you think you should ring home?' She rang. 'Hullo?' her sister's sleepy alarmed voice came through. 'Hello Lainie, it's me. I'm in Australia - Sydney. It's lovely. How is everyone, I've just ... ' [Type text] [Type text] 1 48 'Where've you been? Mum's been worried. Lyntie rang us and said you'd run off. Mum's really worried. Dad says he's going to thrash you when you get home. You'll never get anyone as good as him again. What's it like? - It's her, she's in Australia, she sounds funny. - Here's Mum. She's making breakfast.' She focused on her mother, shifted her voice back. 'Hullo Mum. How are you? I broke up with Lynton, I didn't want to worry you, I was going to tell you when I wrote. I haven't had much time. I was going to write a big letter. How's Dad?' Her mother told her her father hadn't had much luck lately ... Just as long as you're all right dear. Lynton was worried, he made a scene on the phone and your Dad ... When she hung up she burst into tears and kept her head bowed. She felt a hand on her shoulder. 'You all right?' It was the woman police officer. 'When you're ready we'll get them to get you a cup of tea.' She heard her go out. The policeman said, 'Broke up with your boyfriend did you?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 49 She nodded. And composed herself. 'I'm sorry about this. It hasn't been long, I was going to write and tell them. I don't want to speak to him after what he did to me.' 'Don't worry about him, he's in Queensland. If he turns up you can get an AVO. You know what that is?' She broke down again and shook her head, pulled herself together as the officer went on about the procedure for obtaining an anti-violence order against someone. 'I don't know how a nice girl like you could get mixed up with a bloke like that. I'll never understand it.' There was an embarrassed silence so he went to see where Robbie, me mate had got to. They left her with the cup of tea. As she sipped she went through the desk drawers, slipped a receipt book into her shorts and a couple of engraved envelopes. She handed the teacup to the receptionist who asked if everything was all right. 'Yes. Just some sad news.' She burst into tears again and hurried towards the room she was now sharing with Michiyo. [Type text] [Type text] 1 50 She hid the receipt book and the envelopes in her pack and lay down on the bed. Despair drew over her like a leaden cover. She sat up. Stood up. She had to get out of here. They were always going out and taking drugs and coming back at dawn. She wanted ... She wished she'd got Mr Kakaburi's number from Michiyo. Where could she get some coke or ecstasy? Someone out there was bound to have some dope. She could ring her Korean friend at the university, he was bound to have something. She made for the bathroom. As she passed through to the recreation area, the receptionist called to her, 'I told Tom. He said not to worry about the phone call.' She was feeling better already. As she entered she saw word had got around. Good. After she was settled Derwent came up to her and asked her if she was O K, people had heard she'd had some bad news from home. 'I'm dealing with it. Some marijuana would help. Do you know anyone who can spare enough for a joint? I haven't got much money and I might have to fly back.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 51 Derwent looked around, turned back to her and shrugged. 'But leave it with me.' He knocked on her door later and waved a smallish joint. Behind him was Paul, a boy from Sarajevo. They smoked it in a syringe scattered lane at the back of the hostel. Instantly her head cleared. 'I cannot go back into that awful hostel. That Amy and Lisbeth are just dying to hear all about it, I can't bear vulgar curiosity.' Derwent splattered with laughter. Tried to apologise but broke up again. Paul shrugged at him and proffered the joint to her. 'Thank you,' she said and took a tiny puff. They were going out for dinner. She just had to dash inside and change, she couldn't go like this. 'What about Amy and Lisbeth?' Derwent asked and laughed again. [Type text] [Type text] 1 52 She collapsed into his inanity and Paul did too. She felt much better in her new shoes and blouse. She liked the red skirt but it was a pity she had paid for it. As she joined the boys waiting outside her room she said, 'Do you feel sometimes you have to pay for something to get ... well ... along?' Derwent did. Paul wanted more information. They had dinner in a Thai restaurant in Oxford Street and then went to a pub to see some drag queens. She had watched them with some indifference on t v but found their presence hypnotic. She gazed at and into their costume, accoutrements, make-up. She watched them move, detailed the way they were and were not. Why were they so flagrantly what they were not? But then they were flagrantly what they were. She was clapping and began cheering amongst the cheering, the clapping, the whistling and jeering. It was an act. Of course. That was it. That was the point. Paul was friends with one so they went back to a tiny dressing room. [Type text] [Type text] 1 53 The drag queens were changing so they shrieked and hissed at her and ostentatiously turned their backs to slip out of one thing and into another. They had noted her captured face amongst the crowd of mainly amused and indifferent faces. Sequins flashed and feathers flew so she said she had just had to come back with Wentie and Paul to tell them how much better they were than the girls in England, much. Paul's friend said, 'We must have a drink. In the bar. Give me a minute to change. No, you stay,' s/he said to Paul. Derwent and she danced. Her mind was on the drag queens. If they wanted to be women why were they so masculine? Why did they screech and flounce? Why did they give it away? No man could be like a woman she thought, with those thick necks and biceps. She thought of Lynton. Then her truck driver and Ronnie, her Korean friend. It could be done, she thought but it wouldn't be like this. It mustn't be an act. That's it. Of course. She remembered. She was aware again of being on the pub's dance floor surrounded by faces and rolling shoulders, red and yellow flashes everywhere. Derwent was soon approximately dancing with a selection of others [Type text] [Type text] 1 54 so she allowed her gaze to flow too. Then Paul joined them and after a while artfully undid his shirt. They danced on and had a drink with Hedda Gobbla and danced again. She found herself dancing with a short square platinum blond. They giggled over a drink and followed Wentie and Paul and Hedda now Graeme onto a club and danced some more. The square platinum girl gave her a kiss and left so she decided to go and Wentie said he'd walk back with her. On the way he said Paul was in love with Hedda/Graeme and it would never work out and he was in love with Paul and they were going to go to Cairns together. She said she hoped she saw that girl again. Then wondered if she had hallucinated her. 'Did you know the one I mean?' But Derwent was talking about once he'd got Paul away from that Hedda, she was just a hairdresser - so typical, isn't it? She said yes. She crept in so as not to wake Michiyo but Michiyo wasn't in yet. [Type text] [Type text] 1 55 She lay in bed, her head aswirl with ideas and schemes and reflections. She wanted to sleep but couldn't stop thinking. She decided to ring Therese on Friday. Michiyo came in. She said, 'Don't worry, I've just got in too. I can't sleep.' Michiyo said, 'Very good night. Do you want a job? Mr Iriye is a very good boss. He wants Australian girl to work.' 'Why? To do what?' 'Japanese customers want to practise their English. I tell him you are English, speak English better than Australian girl, very clear, very respectable accent, like Queen.' She giggled. 'It's good we're both drunk,' she thought, 'only I'm drugged too. What if those constables saw us in the lane? I would've been thrown out of the country.' And she felt despair cast over her again. She said, 'Let's talk about it in the morning, I do want the job.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 56 Michiyo taught her how to bow and said, 'Just laugh like this.' She tittered behind her hand and swayed her head a little. 'Really? Won't they think I'm making fun of them?' 'No way.' Then she said, 'You need nice dress and shoes with stiletto ...' 'Heels?' 'Wear lot of slap.' God. How? She would have to give Therese a bond and maybe a month's rent in advance. 'I don't think I have enough money.' Michiyo took her to a second hand clothing shop not far away. There was an Issey Miyake, all she'd have to do would be unpick the bodice and take it in a bit, or maybe it was meant to be worn like that. Michiyo found a locally designed one which she thought would be much more appropriate. [Type text] [Type text] 1 57 It was more expensive than the Miyake. She said she'd think about it and they went into the city. The despair was creeping up on her again and she felt she couldn't think properly, had a headache coming on. 'Maybe Mr Kakaburi buy you present,' Michiyo said as she handed some expensive shoes back to the sales assistant. She turned to Michiyo. 'Or lend you money. Just till you get started.' She wondered at the expression from her friend's lips. 'Let's have tea,' she said, 'I have a headache, too much sake last night.' Michiyo seemed to like it when she gestured at being Japanese. Michiyo liked this sort of thing. She called Mr Kakaburi. 'Hai!' she said at the end of a not very long conversation and snapped her tiny mobile shut. [Type text] [Type text] 1 58 She thought she would use 'hai!' 'He will come and see you tomorrow. See Mr Iriye tonight.' 'What in? What will I wear?' 'Australian dress. New shoes. Handbag.' They bought the shoes. Her heart was pounding, they cost half her fare home. She said she had a handbag. She said she'd go and get the Australian dress, she'd just get some make-up - slap - first. Her mind was reeling. She bought some - lip gloss, the colour the girl in Cairns had advised. Michiyo approved. They went back to the second hand shop. She was possessed by a fierce determination. She could hardly talk to Michiyo. [Type text] [Type text] 1 59 'I'd like to try this on again,' she said, bearing the Miyake to the assistant. She came out in it and took out the shoes. 'Do you think it will go with these?' The assistant thought they would look really good. She slipped the shoes on and turned to Michiyo and turned immediately back to the assistant. 'Have you got any shoes in a colour which would go better?' The assistant glanced at her feet and said, 'Over here.' The idea of second hand shows made her sick but she followed and agreed to try on the ones the assistant was proffering. How could she do this? 'Let's see, I'm not sure ...' 'If you were thinking of buying the shoes with the dress - they really belong together - we might be able to take a bit off.' 'About how much would they both be?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 60 She could see Michiyo studying her watch. God, they were running out of time. She wanted the Australian dress. It really needed taking up a bit but ... Michiyo moved towards the door. 'This nice one,' she said, 'it's ... what size this?' As the assistant moved to see she swept back towards the dressing room, snatched the Australian dress and the bag with her new shoes in it and disappeared behind the curtains. She stuffed the dress under the shoe box and then pushed the bag out again. 'I won't be long,' she called, 'I'll just try the shoes on with my skirt.' She emerged carrying the second hand shoes and the Miyake, took up her bag and carried them all past the assistant. She put the shoes and Miyake on the counter. 'How much for the shoes and the Miyake?' She was told. [Type text] [Type text] 1 61 'Is that cash?' 'Car waiting,' Michiyo said. 'I haven't got it on me right now and I think my card is over so I'll have to come back. Will you keep them for me?' The assistant said yes but only until Friday. Back at the hostel, she took the dress out somewhat anxiously. 'I got the Australian dress,' she said turning to show it to Michiyo. 'It suit you. Mr Iriye will like ... appreciate.' Mr Iriye was an amazingly elegant and seemingly benign middle-aged man. She bowed. Soon she was in a private room helping four Japanese businessmen choose an Australian wine. Under her tutelage they chose an expensive one. She felt quite confident. She had read Jancis Robinson and watched her devotedly on TV. The waiter brought it [Type text] [Type text] 1 62 and opened it. She poured it for the businessman she thought most senior. He tasted it and bowed. The waiter poured it for the others. She could hardly believe she was doing this. They had not even discussed how much she would be paid. When she saw the men were all sipping the wine happily she excused herself and withdrew. Mr Iriye got a waiter to hand her a plate and took her to a table where he introduced her. She bowed and put the plate down, asked the Japanese couples how they were enjoying Australia. She got them to laugh, glanced at Mr Iriye, saw him looking pleased and accepted the glass a waiter had placed on the table for the Japanese man to offer whisky in. By the end of the evening she was exhausted with the tedium of providing cues and responses for sallies into English. She had responded with subdued excited surprise to several how are you going mates. Michiyo joined her as she lingered outside the kitchen as the last customers left. 'We wash face,' she said. In the toilet she said, 'We wait for Mr Iriye now.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 63 Mr Iriye approached with envelopes. She revived at the plumpness of hers. All the way back to the hostel in the taxi with Michiyo she stroked its plumpness, wondering if it contained tens, twenties, maybe even some fifties. It was a very satisfying amount. If she could keep on making that much every night, say five nights a week for a month she would be out of her present trouble. She was too high to sleep and tossed, tormented by the ordeal she had to face with Therese. And her university course would cost nine thousand. What was she doing? There had to be an easier way. Couldn't she just work and share a place, maybe with some students in say, Marrickville? 'Is good to make a fair bit of money,' Michiyo's voice came across the room to her. For a moment she wondered if the Japanese girl was talking in her sleep. 'Yes,' she said, 'only I need to make more. For a while.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 64 'Of course. Get guests to drink whisky.' Then there was a silence. 'Japanese businessman expect to pay a lot for special service.' The next day she rang Therese. She went around with her money. Therese was shaking. 'You haven't got much stuff have you? I haven't got a lot of room here. I don't want the place cluttered up.' She said her aunt in Summer Hill said she could store some things in her garage. She didn't have much in any case. She handed some money over to Therese as a bond. Therese's eyes fell on it with an avidity which was reassuring. She said she'd move in on Monday or Tuesday. She'd pay a month's rent then. 'Can I have the key?' Therese's money softened eyes went hard at this. She met them with a blank stare. 'When you've paid the rent. I've got to get some cut. I forgot. I might need my spare. You have to go to the managing agent's to get the front door ones, they're special. I'll have to charge you for them.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 65 'Well I'll need my own keys, Therese. What time do you think you can have them?' Therese struggled with this and said she'd give her a receipt - for the front door keys, she wouldn't be needing a receipt for the rent would she? She walked away quite happily. Therese was more desperate than she. Back a the hostel there was a message from Mr Kakaburi. She returned his call. Mr Kakaburi was really in Sydney for the Australian Rules. Did she like it? At the game she said she would get them a coke. This confused him. she could see he was torn between getting her something to drink and having his game interrupted so she explained Australian girls often went to get drinks during football game. She took as long as she could. What was she doing here? She hated football, her father screaming and stamping in front of the TV and coming in foul or elated, in either case, drunk and shouting, after a [Type text] [Type text] 1 66 match. She had always tried to be out when football was on. increasingly, she had tried to be always out. While she was at school the council library had been her refuge. She had absorbed an assortment of books about pets and gardening, cooking, fashion and art. She had worked on her French and her English literature. Most of the librarians were so nice and looked so interesting. They recommended cassettes and C D's. At home she transported herself by plugging into Restoration comedy and operas. She had become obsessed by Pelléas et Mélissande. When Lainie demanded, accusingly, in front of their parents. to know why she played it over and over again, she had offered the excuse it helped her with her French and ‘It’s the atmosphere, it’s so … relaxing.’ 'It's the atmosphere, it's so ... relaxing.' Her sister had responded by warbling in imitation of a diva. 'That rubbish will do you no good,' her father had said, 'you need to concentrate on your dressmaking. You need to think about getting a job. And you - ' he turned on Lainie, 'ought to get your mind on something other than boys and that rubbish you listen to on the radio. You see that she does her homework!' he ordered their [Type text] [Type text] 1 67 mother, 'I don't want her getting a reputation. You've a long way to go before you're married and off my hands.' 'Relaxing,' Lainie had said, 'what have you got to relax from? You don't do nothing.' Mr Kakaburi asked if she would like to go out clubbing after working in the restaurant. Mr Yamada wanted to see Australian club. She said she didn't know, she didn't really have a proper purse. She had noted Michiyo's averted glance from the straw handbag she had bought in Chiang Mai. She had hoped it would pass as chic in the restaurant. Mr Iriye had also glanced away from it. She had decided that in future not good enough was not good enough. Mr Kakaburi pressed something into her hand as she got out of the car at the hostel, 'For purse,' he said. Michiyo was coming clubbing too. She led them up the stairs to an expensive cocktail bar in an Oxford Street hotel. The noise downstairs had been deafening, upstairs [Type text] [Type text] 1 68 wasn't much better. She was glad, the strain of making conversation was taking its toll. She waved, smiled above the mad cocktail she had chosen. Good, they were still looking around, intrigued. Michiyo appeared impressed by her choice of bar. After they had had their drink Mr Yamada consulted with Mr Kakaburi who then spoke to Michiyo. Michiyo said, 'Mr Yamada thinks maybe too noisy.' So they all stood up and left the bar. Mr Kakaburi invited them all to his place. It was a serviced apartment in the heart of the city. He went to a black glass cabinet and poured them all a whisky. He touched a few buttons on a minimal C D player. Very cool jazz blew through the room. After a while Mr Yamada bowed an exit. Mr Kakaburi excused himself and began chopping at some cocaine. He pressed it into three lines. He rolled a hundred dollar bill and snorted one. Another and handed it to Michiyo who giggled and [Type text] [Type text] 1 69 pretended she didn't know how and left the hundred dollar tube to unfurl slightly on the table. Mr Kakaburi rolled another hundred dollar tube and handed it to her. She decided not to giggle, she wouldn't do it well. She would just inhale a bit and carelessly leave the tube as Michiyo had done. But she inhaled nearly all the line. Mr Kakaburi looked radiant at this and said something in Japanese at which Michiyo laughed and clapped her hands. She was monitoring her reaction. She had had speed and hated it and was dreading that this would have the same effect - anxiety. Nothing. Good. It obviously had no effect on her except for that bitter taste now drifting down the back of her mouth and into her throat. She hoped she'd be able to sleep. She began talking. They couldn't understand her but what the fuck they had got her into this so they could listen. She told them everything that had happened to her since she had come to Sydney and that Michiyo was the best friend she had ever had, she loved Michiyo and how kind of you Mr Kakaburi to take me to the football. I am going to get the most lovely purse, it had been excruciating carrying that ghastly thing a donkey wouldn't eat but all that was all [Type text] [Type text] 1 70 over, yes siree as I am sure someone would say. As a matter of fact a lot of things were all over now. Michiyo, I am moving out of that hostel on Tuesday, I've found this place down in Elizabeth Bay, the woman is absolutely ghastly but I think I can handle her in any case what the fuck I can always go somewhere else. I can manage. You both must come tomorrow and help me choose the purse, you have such gorgeous, exquisite taste, Europeans are so coarse. Will you do that? Michiyo nodded. Mr Kakaburi got up and started to dance. Michiyo seemed astonished. She watched, genuinely entranced. He helped her up and they danced. It was fabulous. She had never danced to this sort of music but if you really listened you could. It required something new. Let the body feel into it. Michiyo made excuses. They took her down to a taxi. She took Mr Kakaburi's arm as they returned past the staring concierge in his black marble case. [Type text] [Type text] 1 71 By the time she got back up to Mr Kakaburi's apartment she wished she had gone with Michiyo. She said she wanted a drink of water. As she sipped it she noticed Michiyo had taken her hundred dollars. Mr Kakaburi put an arm around her. She thought she had better go through with this although she wasn't sure. 'Let me think about this,' she said, moving along the couch. She remembered what she had decided about doubts and not good enough. She needed to think about this. Mr Kakaburi let her. Well she couldn't sleep so she may as well. And there was sure to be a bonus in it. She could probably sleep after. His bedroom was probably black and cool grey, like his living room. She hoped it didn't have one of those third rate paintings like that one here. She really couldn't stand bad taste and bad art … she couldn’t exist in its presence. She started to laugh. Mr Kakaburi looked pleased and puzzled. [Type text] [Type text] 1 72 She began to tell him the story about Oscar Wilde and the wallpaper - and stopped when she realised the punch line was 'One of us has to go'. 'I'll stay,' she told Mr Kakaburi and took his hand. At once she realised this was the gesture of a prostitute so she dropped it again and looked down as if covered with confusion and embarrassment. Mr Kakaburi was terribly touched by this, she realised. She had never perceived or thought more clearly. To her horror there was a painting of sky in the bedroom which itself featured a sky blue wall. Mr Kakaburi himself was entirely elegant though; he had flung a Japanese bathrobe around himself. He smelt strange and rather unpleasant, a combination of green tea, seaweed and cocaine, she decided. The caresses grew delicious but she remained dry. The drug. She focused on being a Japanese prostitute in a country inn with a samurai who was really a runaway prince - no count, the Japanese have counts. She was so wonderfully naked, like nature itself against [Type text] [Type text] 1 73 his court wrapped sophistication. He was in her and jabbing. 'Slow, slow,' she murmured, deciding she must learn some Japanese. It was awful. Why had she allowed herself to get into this situation? 'Slow?' he asked. 'Slow and gentle.' 'Japanese girl like fast, hard.' Like hell they do. 'Oh. This Australian girl like slow at first. Especially after cocaine.' He understood that. But he was never going to come and she was beginning to feel raw. She had to put a stop to this but what about the hundred dollars? And the purse? She extracted herself from beneath him and slid down the sheet. She glanced up and saw that he was almost alarmed but curious. She slid the condom off. What was she doing - what about Aids? The aroma of latex wafted up and steeled her to efficiency. But her mouth [Type text] [Type text] 1 74 was a bit dry. No, she might develop a lesion that way, she must get water. She was in the bathroom, rolling it around her mouth, letting it gush over her tongue and roll back to trickle down her throat. She checked the bathroom cabinet for anything lubricant. Moisturiser? - ah, a lubricant. She rolled her tongue around his penis and slipped it into her hand, she sucked his balls. In a moment she knew he was hers. His gasp turned to a sigh which intensified and he squirted as she bent in concentration over her task. She found herself gasping and cooing as he came. She gave him thirty seconds before getting a towel and wiping him off. As she lay beside him she realised she had to go, immediately. He watched in curiosity, dismay and then resignation as she came out of the bathroom and got her clothes. Her mind was fixed on getting her hundred dollars and superficially toyed over the graces of such a departure. She felt she was a natural, it would all come to her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 75 She returned dressed, her hundred dollars secured. 'Don't get up,' she said. At the bedroom door she turned and blew him a kiss. She watched herself perform the gesture; she was like a real whore. 'Good night,' she said to the concierge with such brisk pleasantness that he was forced to let his reproving, professional expression go and bid her good night. As she walked away to find a cab she thought she should have got him to call her one, hand her into it. In the taxi she thought about how she would get her purse. Would she ring Mr Kakaburi and thank him for the night out? Hardly. She would ask Michiyo. Michiyo was in bed. She climbed into hers and immediately fell asleep. She woke being surprised about that. She sipped tea in the hostel café. Michiyo came in, looking lovely and fresh, she thought. [Type text] [Type text] 1 76 Michiyo came towards her carrying a community mug so hideous she wondered how her Japanese aesthetic could bear it. Michiyo dunked a teabag of green tea a few times and slurped. 'When are we going with Mr Kakaburi to buy purse - the purse?' 'I don't know, I forgot - I didn't know how to make the arrangement.' Michiyo considered this confession. 'I will ring him and tell him this afternoon. Two o'clock.' They went for a walk and she showed Michiyo the block of flats she was going to move into. They passed a Catholic church and she took Michiyo in. Michiyo thought it was wonderful. A priest in a white robe was wandering around. He lit some incense and a few candles. Michiyo also lit some candles and returned to the pew where she fell into a trance. She tried to follow suit but her meditation only revealed the strength of the thump in her head, the dryness affecting her everywhere and her careering mind. But she persisted, focussing on her breathing which sounded like a racket to her. Michiyo stirred and they went out. [Type text] [Type text] 1 77 In the dazzling sunshine, the cool breeze blowing the air transparent, the Japanese girl took a deep breath and said, 'Everything very good. Do not become anxious.' Mr Kakaburi came to pick them up and they showed him their room, told him that she was moving out on Tuesday. She was almost completely guided by Michyo's choice. Mr Kakaburi approved the bags they had lined up on the counter for comparison then removed himself to a discreet distance ready to return when they had made the final decision. 'I think this suit Mr Iriye's restaurant,' Michiyo said arranging one in front of the other three finalists. It was smart rather than dainty, black with discreet piping in a sensational mauve. She picked it up and turned it over. It didn't have a price tag. Her mouth became completely arid again and the dryness rushed down her throat. She nodded. She felt confused and anxious, she barely knew what she was doing. Michiyo turned slightly towards Mr Kakaburi who casually made himself available. [Type text] [Type text] 1 78 Michiyo led her to look at some scarves while the transaction was made. 'Don't worry, will be all right,' she murmured. Over coffee, she found Michiyo looking at her significantly and then her eyes drifted sideways. She excused herself. In the ladies she scrutinised herself for any betrayal of her friend's subtlety. Then she berated herself for her awkwardness - the Japanese must think she's a complete klutz. Then she felt furious with Michiyo and M Kakaburi – how dare they trap her in this mad charade? What role was she supposed to be playing? She arrived back at the table and found herself suggesting an action film which had just opened. Michiyo and Mr Kakaburi responded happily to the idea. They seemed delighted when she stepped forward at the ticket box to buy the tickets, though they went through the motions of protesting against this puny act of reciprocation. The film gave her the chance for more contemplation of the situation. She decided to get Michiyo a bottle of perfume and Mr Kakaburi .... something, later, when she knew him better. [Type text] [Type text] 1 79 In their room she discovered, in Michiyo's presence, that Mr Kakaburi had placed a fold of notes in the new purse. She showed Michiyo who looked satisfied with the amount. 'Japanese custom,' she said. Overcoming misgivings about buying something so personal and so insignificant, she bought Michiyo some lavender cologne. Michiyo seemed genuinely pleased. [Type text] [Type text] 1 80 iii She opened the wardrobe to put her dress away. Therese had been through it. She supposed it was inevitable but she had only been there two days. Oh well. She would have to remember to be careful. The only thing was the bank account she had just opened ... She was too tired. She fell asleep thinking she must get another dress for the restaurant. Therese was smoking and sipping at a mug of tea in front of the t v when she came into the lounge room. 'Good morning.' Therese nodded and returned her attention to the t v and her cigarette. She rejoined her with tea and toast. A woman in L A was reporting about film stars. 'Isn't she gorgeous? The Americans certainly know how to do make- up and hair. Oh look at her dress, the hem lines are up again. Any time you want me to go through your wardrobe we could get out [Type text] [Type text] 1 81 your sewing machine and I could help you take up your hems, Therese.' She was stabbed with anxiety as she said it. It had been completely unpremeditated. She froze in horror. Therese gaped. And glanced back at the screen. 'You could help me with mine - not that I have ... I've only got one good dress.' 'I only bother about a few. I don't know why I don't throw the others out - give them to St Vincent de Paul. There's a stall with second hand things down near the church, if you're interested.' She said she knew the stall. 'That's lovely. You've got really lovely taste.' She felt she could do better than that. Therese's taste was not lovely, it was ordinary to garish. They were standing in front of Therese's wardrobe examining her clothes. She pinned up two hems while Therese stood patiently in the sunroom. [Type text] [Type text] 1 82 They got the sewing machine out of the back of Therese's wardrobe, set it up in the sunroom, decided Therese would need to go into town to get some matching thread for one. But she could see what they had at work, she'd just snip a tiny bit from the linings to match. She said good-bye to Therese and set out for 'uni'. She did indeed go to 'uni'. She went to the university library and began reading through the handbook again. She had settled on Bachelor of Arts in Communication (Media Arts and Production). she would concentrate on multimedia and perhaps video. It was composed of a cultural studies strand and a professional strand. She chose a subject called Power and Change in Australia and sought out some of the required texts. She skimmed, settling on sections which arrested her attention. It was quite interesting. She had no idea Australia was like that. Then she wandered around, ending in the cafeteria, looking and listening to the students. Same/different, she thought. She wouldn't sound like that one, oh no. She would have to go to a lecture to see what the Communications students were like, what they wore. She would have to get that thread for Therese's dresses and where could she get some material and a pattern to make her own dress? [Type text] [Type text] 1 83 She settled with another book at a table where a number of girls were discussing an assignment. They were nurses. During a pause she asked their advice, explaining she had just arrived from the U K. One of them suggested a place. And then said she'd show her if she liked to wait a bit, they just had to work out what they were doing in this group work thing. They went into town together and the girl said she'd come with her. 'Australians are so friendly.' 'I'm not Australian, I'm a Cook Islander, except I've never been to the Cook Islands. I was brought up in Auckland and then we moved to Australia. I'm going one day, though.' They looked at the fabrics together and then some patterns. She bought a pattern. Beverley said she thought you could get really good fabrics at Cabramatta where the Vietnamese were. 'Do you know where that is?' They were going to go together and have a fantastic lunch on Thursday. 'My friend knows the best restaurant. She was the one [Type text] [Type text] 1 84 with her hair tied on top of her head with that lily. Minh. She's gorgeous. She'll come with us. As they parted, Beverley taught her to say kia orana. She had forgotten the treads for Therese’s hems. Cabramatta was a Vietnamese town evolved from Sydney suburbia. Minh took over. They would go to this restaurant for lunch. They would have prawns on sugar cane, specialty. They had Vietnamese beer. Beverley told her about the university. She was married and lived in Homebush, she must come with her and her husband to the Flemington markets. Minh was going to become a physiotherapist, nursing was a step on the way. Beverley had always wanted to be a nurse. She found herself telling them that she had decided to do Communications at the university because she wanted to develop education methods online so that people in the Pacific and Southeast Asia could have access to ... and she had broken up with her boyfriend so she came out early to enrol and see about a job and somewhere to live - to get used to living in a foreign place, she hadn't been away from home much and she didn't have any relatives out here, she didn't have many relatives in any case. She had a job [Type text] [Type text] 1 85 in a Japanese restaurant. She was about to say 'in the kitchen' when she realised the beer had got to her and why complicate? Things were already too complicated with Therese. Complication was stressful. Beverley said she would be her family. 'I'm worried about my visa.' After a discussion Beverley and Minh fell thoughtful. Visas were a constant issue for overseas students. 'Don't worry, you speak very good - perfect, perfect English, you are way ahead. Speak English, have a job, way ahead. Get married to Australian boy, no problems.' Beverley nodded solemnly. Minh had no doubts about the fabric shop they should go to, smiling and greeting the owners as they entered. She became authoritative, would only countenance silk. 'They all wear silk, they want me to be Australian.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 86 'You're not Australian, you’re English.' 'Yes but not for long. The Japanese can't tell the difference. Cotton. They want me to be different, simpler. It's much easier to sew.' None of the cottons seemed right to Minh. She settled on a very fine wool, ignoring the looks Beverley and Minh exchanged when they were told the price. On the way back into town she realised her pattern wouldn't do so she got off at Town Hall and bought another as well as the threads for Therese's hems. It was to be a dark blue dress with a small jacket. She knew the jacket would push her sewing skills to their limits. Therese was asleep in front of the television when she got home, a glass beside her and a bottle of gin. She set to work. She sewed Therese's hems first. Shook the dresses out and hung them in the bathroom. Then she laid the pattern out on the sunroom floor. She could not begin cutting. The fabric had cost so much, she should have got another metre but had been intimidated by Beverley and Minh's disapproval of what she was [Type text] [Type text] 1 87 paying. There was no room for error. Suddenly she dismissed her doubts and began. She had nearly finished cutting out the dress when she heard Therese stirring. 'I'm home,' she called, 'I'm in here. I've finished your dresses.' After a while she heard a cigarette being lit. She felt very apprehensive. She got up and entered the lounge. Therese was slumped in the lounge, cigarette dangling between her fingers, eyes closed. She opened them and looked startled. 'Hi. I hung your dresses in the bathroom, they're finished.' After a while Therese nodded. 'How was your day?' 'Pretty good,' Therese said and then coughed to clear her throat. 'Just having a relax in front of the tele. I'll get a cup of tea in a moment.' She hesitated over offering to make one for Therese but some instinct prompted her not to. 'Do you want to try the dresses on?' 'In a minute.' Therese focused on the TV. [Type text] [Type text] 1 88 So she went back to her cutting out. She was contemplating the jacket when she heard Therese stirring from her chair. She stood up and turned. Therese was looking at the material pinned to the pattern strewn about the floor. 'You won't be able to leave that there. What a mess.' 'I won't be leaving it there. I'll hang it in my wardrobe when I've finished cutting it out.' Therese thought about this. 'I don't want that machine left out. I've been thinking about you, where was it you said you worked?' 'Camperdown.' 'You should use their machines. What's the name of the place?' 'It doesn't have a name, it's a small workshop. I mightn't be working there much longer, I'm going out tonight to try out in a restaurant.' She began gathering the material together to hide her distress. Then she turned, 'Therese, your dresses are hanging in the bathroom. When you've tried them on we can put the machine back if they're [Type text] [Type text] 1 89 right. I didn't realise ... You did say I could use the machine. It's only been out one day.' 'Well I've been thinking about it.' Therese went back to her chair. She could hear a drink being poured. Therese was focused on the TV as she carried the pieces of the garments into her room. She closed the door and shook. She shook violently and could not stop. She struggled to get some sort of control. She had to deal with things. She grabbed up her bag and opened the door. Therese looked up as she walked through and out of the flat. She walked to the round about at the end of the road. She descended into the park and set out to walk right around it. She looked at the hundreds of yachts and launches moored in the marina. She continued walking past the yacht club. There was the woman who had told her Nicole Kidman lived here. 'And how is Stella today?' she asked as they were about to pass and stooped to look into Stella's brown eyes. Stella wagged her tail. [Type text] [Type text] 1 90 Stella had had a bit of a cold, that was why she was wearing her coat even though there was no wind. She admired the coat and told the woman where she lived. The woman pointed out a block of flats she had lived in a long time ago before she was married. 'It's changing,' she said, 'they're squashing places in where you wouldn't believe they could. Everyone wants to live in the city these days. It used to be for interesting people, now they get their kids off their hands and they want to move in from those suburbs. You can't blame them.' She reached the point and gazed down the harbour. The sunlight striped the hills on the North Shore with a deep comforting green scattered with the glowing of red roof tiles. Below her the gold light struck bars of emerald in the water. She could feel the fading sun bringing life back into her shocked face. She wanted a cup of tea desperately. She was about to go into the cafe when she determined she would save money so she went into the corner shop instead and bought teabags and milk. She hesitated over and rejected biscuits. She could have something to eat at the restaurant. Therese shifted in agitation when she walked in. 'I'm making a cup of tea. Would you like one?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 91 'No. Thanks ... Yes, that might be nice. Get me ready for dinner.' She sat down with Therese and they sipped their tea in silence. 'What's it like out?' 'Lovely. The wind's dropped.' 'It'll soon be summer.' When she had finished her tea she got up. 'Finished?' she said to Therese, holding out her hand for the mug. 'What? Oh. Not quite.' Therese took a gulp of the barely touched tea. She got ready for work. On her way through the lounge room she said, 'Wish me luck.' 'What for?' 'This new job. In the restaurant.' 'Oh. Good luck.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 92 She felt more than dejected. She could barely touch the plate of morsels the chef offered her. How could she perform for the customers? The whisky glowed in front of her. She was getting really desperate. If only it were sake, she thought, taking a sip. Ugh. She couldn't bear whisky. Then she noticed the avidity with which the table host responded to her sip. She took another sip and said, 'Very good whisky. I have not had a very successful day so I am hoping it might brighten me up.' 'Have a go mate,' the Japanese man said and his guests looked admiringly and then at her, smiling. 'You bet I will, mate.' The roughness of her Australian accent thrilled her. The host almost sprang back. Then, 'Ahhhh,' he sighed with delight. There were murmurs and a ripple of applause. She noticed Mr Iriye observing. [Type text] [Type text] 1 93 'You've got to keep those kangaroos tied down.' 'Too bloody right.' She burst out laughing at this and clinked his glass. Everyone was most happy. She escaped to the next table and managed some more whisky. She could see why people drank it. Poor old fucking Therese and her cold perfumed gin. At the end of the night Mr Iriye sent Michiyo to her. 'Mr Chiaki san would like you to have a drink with him.' She was aware of Mr Iriye watching for her reaction. 'Tonight? Not tonight ... I don't think.' Her mind raced on - what if she had to move out, she should really buy a sewing machine, that fucking Therese, she couldn't stand it, what would it be worth? what would she have to do? 'Perhaps another night,' she said. 'Would you please tell Mr ... what's his name? I am too tired tonight. I have to ... What would a Japanese girl say, Michiyo?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 94 'Um, sister sick, has to go home to look after her.' 'I'll do it, I'll tell Chaiki san myself.' Michiyo stopped her. And she noticed Mr Iriye moving off to deal with Mr Chiaki. It was perhaps a good thing because Mr Kakaburi turned up. She asked him to sit down and would he mind waiting while she said good night to Mr Iriye. Mr Iriye handed her her envelope with a new grave searching look. What did it mean? 'I'm drunk on all the whisky,' she whispered to Michiyo, 'please come with us.' Mr Kakaburi didn't seem to mind. They went to an expensive hotel and had a relaxing time. Mr Kakaburi told her she should sell her property and buy shares. 'What shares?' she asked. [Type text] [Type text] 1 95 He wrote some down for her. 'Which ones are Australian?' He looked puzzled and then inspired and wrote down some more names for her. He dropped Michiyo off at the hostel and then took her to her new home. 'Thank you,' she said, 'I really needed that. And thank you for the stock market tips.' She touched the back of his hands and was gone. Therese's flat was silent and reeked of cigarette smoke. A note declared itself in the immaculate lounge room -Will you be here on Sunday? Kath is coming. After considering the implications of this, she carefully printed underneath Therese's intermittently controlled writing Would love to meet Kath. I got the job! She opened Mr Iriye's envelope in her room. Mr Chiaki or someone must have been very pleased. She would see how many of Mr [Type text] [Type text] 1 96 Kakaburi's shares she could buy with what she made tomorrow and Saturday and then she would go back to building up her bank account. Sunday could look after itself. Tomorrow she would check the hostel for any mail and get a post office box at Potts Point, she would go out to the university and read some more books and find out how you buy shares ... Therese did not really matter, she could always move into another hostel for a while. All she had to lose was the reek of cigarette smoke. It was disgusting. It was a good thing so many of the Japanese smoked. She hoped Mr Kakaburi couldn't smell it, he was so immaculate himself. Therese was waiting for her when she made her way to the bathroom in the morning, upright with a mug of tea on the table beside her lounge chair. 'Good morning.' 'Good morning Therese.' She kept going. Her anxiety had given way to anger. If Therese wanted her out, O K. She'd get her money back and let Therese know she wouldn't get anyone better - or probably anyone at all - to help her pay for the fire order renovations. She made straight for her bedroom but Therese spoke. 'So you'll be here to meet Kath on Sunday?' 'What time Therese?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 97 'Lunch time. I said to come at twelve. I'll make some sandwiches. I'm going in to D J's to get some decent bread. I'll freeze it. We'll probably have a glass of wine, Kath always brings a bottle. She's like that. She's a real good friend. We've known one another since the Delprado and Hunt days.' She smiled and kept going. Therese was getting ready to go out herself when she left. She didn't bother to call out good-bye. While she was in the post office organising a post box she noticed they sold mobile phones. She bought one. As far as she knew, Therese's was left unused for months on end – she could see problems over splitting bills - and she wanted to be able to make calls without Therese listening. Then she went to the university. On the way she bought a paper. She couldn't see Minh or Beverley. She dabbled in some more of the recommended reading for her Information Sciences course, lifting her eyes when her brain had started to go leaden to think about what she would do. She couldn't hide out here every day avoiding Therese and [Type text] [Type text] 1 98 pretending, there were months to go until she could really begin her course. She couldn't wander around town all day. And what was she going to do with the cut out material hanging and lying in her wardrobe? Could she hire a machine somewhere? Minh might know someone. She flicked through the paper to Employment - not much. Here was one for a machinist. What if she went back out to Cabramatta and asked in the fabric shop? She told the girl sitting next to her in the students' cafeteria that she had to get a job and the only skill she had was dressmaking. The girl said to see a counsellor, they might be able to help and get one of Saturday's papers, they have all the jobs in them. She told the librarian she had forgotten her card, all she had was her passport ... could she borrow last Saturday's ... she'd sit just here. The librarian pointed to a pile of newspapers. There were three likelies. She got out her phone. This was her first mobile phone. It wasn't the exquisite hi tech masterpiece Michiyo used but it was rather pretty. She went outside and rang. When she had clicked off from the first call she was in love with it. It gave her confidence, it made her feel secure. The second caller wanted the work done at home on your [Type text] [Type text] 1 99 own machine. She ended with two appointments for Monday. She wanted to rest now. Therese, flanked by gin and facing the TV, was surprised to see her. 'You're in early.' 'Yes,' she replied, fighting down an urge to say a lecture was cancelled, she had no lectures on Friday afternoon, she felt sick ... 'I have to have a rest before my new job. At the restaurant. How was your shopping?' 'Good. When you've got a moment we should have a chat.' In her room she fought down a tumult of attitudes, responses, approaches, modus operandi. 'I'm making some tea, would you like some?' Therese said she'd just had some - late lunch. She sat down in the other lounge chair and focused on the TV. It was a chat show. She wanted to laugh. [Type text] [Type text] 1 100 Therese cleared her throat. 'Kath thought it would be a good idea if we talked about expenses.' She smiled and nodded encouragingly. A little cough. 'The phone.' 'I have a mobile, Therese. You can borrow it if you're going out somewhere and ... ' 'The gas and the electricity.' 'My understanding was that we were going to share expenses, Therese. I'll pay half the power bills.' 'I just thought ... You mightn't be here as often as ... as much as I ... I thought you said you'd be out a lot.' 'I do have uni and a job. I've got to feel at home though, as though I can come in and - come and go as I please.' 'You can, I didn't mean ...' [Type text] [Type text] 1 101 'Therese, I can't live like a mouse, you know. I am paying rent, the sum we agreed on. I've paid you a bond and a month in advance.' 'I know. Kath just thought I should make things clear.' 'I thought things were. What did Kath want to know?' 'Nothing. It's got nothing to do with her. I suppose. She likes to be involved.' 'I'm looking forward to meeting your friend.' She made the word the mildest innuendo. It worked, Therese broke into a babble - they had been the legal secretaries at Delprado and Hunt, they used to go out on Friday night with the sailing club boys after Kath got her divorce and if they had to work late they would go for a curry at India Down Under it used to be just up the road here Kath used to love it and she'd helped Kath find a flat to buy here once her divorce came through - she did well out of that, the flat, I mean when she sold it when she married Mort. She was wonderful to me when I was sick one time, used to come and visit me nearly every day in the hospital, I don't know how I ... 'She sounds like a real good friend.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 102 'She is, she is. The best friend I ever had, like a sister to me - better than a ... ' After a decent interval she said she'd just go and lie down now before going out to her new job. In the restaurant. 'It's Japanese. In town.' As she was crossing the lounge Therese said, 'The machine's there for when you want to use it.' She turned. 'I don't Therese, I have access to an industrial one at my other part time job. I'll help you put it away when you're ready.' Therese met her with blazing eyes as she was leaving. 'No need,' she said as soon as she appeared, 'Kath will help me with that. On Sunday.' And then her eyes fell. The restaurant was very busy. She brooded on ways of getting the whisky replaced with cold tea as she made Australian conversation with the customers. She was also picking up some Japanese phrases. They were useful for dropping from levity to a more formal tone to terminate her time with the customers. Mr Chiaki's whisky had left her with a taste for its powers. Thank god she didn't have to gulp it [Type text] [Type text] 1 103 down like some cowgirl in a saloon; it was her role to be coarse to a degree but the occasional sip was all that was required. She had to stop thinking about it, just do it, play it as it fell. It was a miracle of a job, she wasn't going to muck it up. She noticed Michiyo's eyes harden a little when Mr Kakaburi told them Mr Yamada couldn't come out with them. She suggested they all go out dancing together. Despite the queue of young people outside they were welcomed in immediately. They took to the dance floor straight away. Michiyo seemed to forget her disappointment in the pleasure of dancing. Mr Kakaburi certainly loved dancing. In the Ladies she told Michiyo she was tired, she had to go home, she had a big day tomorrow with the woman who owned the flat and she wanted to be fresh, she felt as if she was worn out. As she said this she felt a strong pull of fatigue. It had all been too much. She needed to rest. It had all been a great rush since she had fled Lynton in Cairns, she needed to go slow and consolidate now. What was she doing? This was mad. [Type text] [Type text] 1 104 She made her excuses to Mr Kakaburi but it was so loud in the pulsing, strobed club they had to go outside. She begged Michiyo to stay with Mr Kakaburi and go on dancing. She suggested to Mr Kakaburi they meet on Sunday at five in town, they could go to a film or just have coffee. She was very tired now, she had to go back to her flat. Therese had refused offers of assistance in arranging the lunch but had taken advantage of the opportunity to ask for a hand to get the sewing machine back into her wardrobe. She had fussed in the kitchen and over the dining table for a couple of hours, there were flowers, the windows had been flung open She felt underdressed in her skirt and blouse when Therese appeared in a self-belted floral frock wrapped in an elaborately impractical, highly decorative pinny. Her hands shook pitifully. 'Kath, this is Michelle.' Kath was a presence, bright fabric stretched smartly across her billowing volume, matching shoes and bag, very done hair, very made-up face. The suggestion of genuine taste and a glint of humour saved her from looking like a retired madam. [Type text] [Type text] 1 105 Therese made off with Kath's bottle of wine after her friend had settled herself on the couch. 'So, Michelle, tell me about you,' Kath began after her first sip of wine in its crystal glass. Michelle said she had come out from England to study Journalism at the university here in Sydney and had got sick of student digs so when she had seen Therese's ad ... ' A plate was clattered on the table. 'I believe - Therese told me you used to live here, in this area.' 'Down the road, Therese helped me find the place - Didn't you Treesie? I'm just telling Michelle how I used to live down the road. In 'Cambridge'?' 'Oh, Cambridge.' 'Do you know which one that is?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 106 'I've never been there. I've heard it's very lovely, the river and the colleges.' 'No! you silly goose, not Cambridge, 'the Cambridge', the house, the building, it's down near the cul de sac. That's where my flat was, the one Treesie helped me find. It needed a few things doing, I wasn't having that kitchen, not that I cook much, and while they were in I had the old bathroom ripped out.' Therese called them to the table. Therese was contemplating her table. She came out of her trance to tell them where to sit. Then she swept aside a net throw to reveal her art. It twinkled and shone, a posy sallied out of a silver horn in ferny fronds framing delicate shapes of pink and white and red. Their damask napkins where rolled in heavy silver rings. The plates were edged with heavy madder and gold. In the middle was a huge glass platter which radiated little triangles and rolls of brown and white bread interspersed and surrounded with tiny sprigs of parsley, radish roses and tissues of lemon. She gaped. It was truly astonishing. Who would have guessed Therese carried this within, this delicacy and application? It was a [Type text] [Type text] 1 107 past era, at once more refined and elaborate, more careful and innocent than any she had been in touch with. 'Therese is famous for her sandwiches. These look beautiful Treesie! We girls used to look forward to them every birthday and thing in the office, didn't we Treesie?' Treesie nodded and indicated that Michelle should help herself. 'If there's anything you don't like just leave it.' They were fragrant and various - asparagus, crab and cucumber, ham with an edge of mustard, liverwurst, tomato and cheese, salmon, egg, celery, lettuce shredded infinitesimally. 'Oh Therese, these are really special. Where did you learn to make them like this?' 'My grandmother, dad's mother. A better person never trod the earth.' She raised her glass. Kath's wine was crisp. She complimented her on it, said she was very interested in Australian wines. 'Kath knows a lot about wine.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 108 'Too right! Mort and I like a drop. He's the real expert.' She actually began to enjoy herself. She told Kath that her father was a doctor and her mother had been a real estate agent before she got married. She had one sister who was younger, still at school. She missed them but she loved Australia, she didn't know how she was going to go back at the end of her course. 'When's that?' 'I've got three more years to do, I'm doing honours.' 'And they make you go back at the end of it?' 'Yes. I'm afraid so.' 'You'll have to find a nice Australian boy. Treese and I will keep an eye out for you, won't we Treesie?' Treesie nodded. She had nibbled at a few sandwiches and drunk some wine, her hands were now subdued to a tremor. They adjourned for coffee and Therese produced petit fours. [Type text] [Type text] 1 109 Kath squealed and popped two on the little silver platter Therese had placed on the coffee table with the coffee cups. 'I love the mocha walnut ones! And the pistachio. Let's face it, I love them all.' She laughed again. 'Remember those chocolate things we used to buy on Saturdays when we weren't going out? We'd have them for a late supper.' She explained. 'They're from the Croissant d'Or up the road. Have you discovered that?' She said she could hardly wait. 'Therese tells me you sew.' Therese shifted uneasily in her chair. 'Yes. It's ... I learnt at school and now I've got a part time job sewing garments up - you know, sleeves on, that sort of thing. It's pretty boring, piece work but I've got a new - ' 'Therese said you sewed her hems up beautifully.' 'Oh, hems are easy.' 'I'll have to get you to do some of mine.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 110 There was an uneasy silence. 'They can make an outfit look dowdy - that's why they do it of course, shift the hems up and down. The bastards.' Kath brayed a laugh. She smiled at Kath, shifted her smile to Therese who smiled tightly and nodded encouragingly. 'Actually, I was telling Therese, I've just got a new job. In a Japanese restaurant. In town. It's all at night so ... I'm waiting. I was getting a bit sick of the garment work. But I still want to keep a hand in there. I've got some work I want to finish for myself.' Therese propped herself on her legs and tottered towards the room's most distinguished feature, an art deco sideboard. From it she extracted liqueur glasses and then a bottle. 'For when we're ready.' 'The Drambuie. I wouldn't mind a bit with some more coffee, dear. Treesie knows me too well.' The Drambuie was good. [Type text] [Type text] 1 111 'I love living here, I've always - since I came to Australia - at first when I got off the plane I was in one of those backpacker places ... then I moved in with Aunty Winnie - she's Dad's older brother's wife, he's dead, in Summer Hill. But when I was in the backpacker's to be with these girls I met on the plane I walked down here and knew that's where I'd really like to live. I had to - ' 'Yes. I loved it when I was here. It really suited me after I left Gus, my first husband - ' She mimed tippling and then recollected herself. 'The bastard. Oh he had his points, I suppose. I must have married him for some reason. Can't remember what it was though.' She barked her hard laugh. 'Treesie helped me to find this lovely place down in 'the Cambridge'. We had a lot of fun, didn't we Treesie? Remember old Mr Trenbath?' They hooted. And Therese had to light a cigarette. At which Kath frowned and started to fan the smoke away. 'He was always trying to get us to go out with him. He must've been seventy if he was a minute.' 'Oh I don't think he was that old,' Therese said. 'The dirty old dog!' [Type text] [Type text] 1 112 'What's this place called? I've never noticed.' 'Longleat'.' 'Longleat?' She was astonished. Then she wanted to laugh. 'It's some castle in England, or something. So old Lady Tierney told me.' 'Have you met her? She lives on the top floor here. I used to run into her all the time when I lived around here. Husband made his money in ducting - you know, those pipe things they use in air conditioning.' 'They were always in the Sunday papers.' 'Oh Treese, you know he was always dragging her off to those charity things. She wouldn't say boo to a goose and she never dressed up. Wouldn't know how. I remember one time - ' 'She's the one from the old family, he got his start in the war, like a lot of them.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 113 She decided she would see them through this and then make her escape. Kath glared at Treese until she had finished and turned to her. 'It was in the papers.' 'It was the Women's Weekly.' 'They were showing photos of the women at the Caulfield Cup. You know how they say 'here's Mrs So and So, she wearing silk taffeta and a hat by Freddie Fairy? Well they had old Lady Tierney and they wrote 'in a cotton shift.' Kath barked at length. 'Can you imagine? I'd have died. I wonder what the old fella said to her? I bet there was a blue. Can you imagine?' she demanded again of her. She shook her head. 'She's not interested in clothes,' Therese said and got to her feet. As Therese made her way towards the bathroom Kath called after her, 'What is she interested in? What does she do all day up there in that big place? She's got help, she doesn't even cook. One day she told me she didn't know how, she buys everything already ... ' She turned to Michelle and rolled her eyes. Then she lifted her hand and [Type text] [Type text] 1 114 inclined her head as if checking to see if there was any possibility of them being overheard, 'How are you getting on?' She was surprised. 'Well. I think we're getting on well. It's an arrangement that should suit - ' 'You're a godsend. I can see that. You've already done her ... I'll tell her she's lucky to have you.' She groped for her bag beside her on the floor and brought out a wallet from which she extracted a card which she held out by a tip between two fingers. She had to get up and walk across to get it. 'Give me a ring,' she mouthed. They were composed when Therese reappeared, herself composed. 'Would anyone like more coffee?' she asked, poised half way between the kitchen and her chair. They didn't but she rose and said she had to get ready. It had been lovely. She was meeting some friends. And began to clear the table. 'Oh leave it,' Therese said, 'I like doing it.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 115 'She does.' When she reappeared from her bedroom it was evident that the two were deeply ensconced in Drambuie. 'Don't you look lovely. Doesn't she Treese?' She went over and stood in front of Kath. 'It's been lovely meeting you, I've heard so ... ' She held out her hand. 'You'll have to come over. What sort of a sailor are you? Mort's got a boat. The only way to see Sydney.' She went over and bent toward Therese who after a moment's doubt lifted up her cheek. It was like kissing a turkish delight. On the way down the front steps she felt the thrill of success. At the bottom she turned and looked back up. Yes, there in painted-over lettering was 'Longleat'. She turned and there was a cab. She hailed it and slid gracefully in. When they had started off she started to laugh. 'I'm sorry,' she said to the driver, 'someone said something very funny. I can't believe it. Have you been in Australia long?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 116 Mr Kakaburi wanted to play some games in a video parlour so she shot some people with him. She concentrated on the corners as they raced cars virtually and indicated her impatience when he wanted to go back to shooting, however she persuaded him to dance on the moving light. A little crowd gathered to watch. As he was very good, they clapped. He was very happy. She wondered if he was coked. They saw a film which she tried to explain to him over dinner. 'How do you buy shares in Australia?' she asked. He was pleased she was taking his advice. His skin shone in the lights of the restaurant and the red neon outside cast fascinating lights in his wonderful black hair. She decided she wanted to look at his body again. It was pale and hard and sleek, it felt smooth. Her skin lapped it up. His slightly acrid smell kept her satisfyingly distant. He was careful and kept looking at her to see if he was doing anything wrong. She found herself desperately wanting to laugh as she had in the taxi. She flushed with power and let herself go, surrender, guide, wriggle and writhe into pleasure. She came. He came and held her tight. She [Type text] [Type text] 1 117 could feel he was very pleased. Then she decided to leave a little before she ought to. She put on her underwear in front of him, left the room to complete her dressing, passed through to the bathroom and emerged groomed, stood there waiting. 'Huh?' 'Australian boyfriend takes girlfriend to taxi.' He scrambled out of bed. He stood with an arm around her on the street. She refused money for the taxi. He looked very happy as she waved. Therese had reduced her lunch to nothingness. She wondered what she had done with the flowers. The wine bottle stood at attention next to the immaculate kitchen tidy. [Type text] [Type text] 1 118 'Thank you for the lunch, it was beautiful,' she said to Therese the next morning, 'those wonderful sandwiches ... ' 'I should do it more often.' Therese lifted her head and breathed in at the memory of her success. 'What did you think of our Katherine?' 'Oh very nice. Very smart.' 'She's that all right, no flies on her. She put away most of my bottle of Drambuie that I got. Still I keep it for her, she's been a good friend.' 'Does she sew?' Why did she have to go and say that? Couldn't she have just kept quiet? 'I mean that suit she was wearing would have cost a fortune in the shops.' 'Mort's more than comfortable. I don't think Kath would've married him if ... She's got no time for no-hopers.' 'I gathered she wasn't short of a quid.' She had overheard this expression on the bus which serviced the area. The woman who had used it had seemed Therese's type. She tried not to scan Therese to gauge her reaction. A woman on the TV was demonstrating a recipe. [Type text] [Type text] 1 119 'I don't care for fish with sauce,' she said. Then when there was no response, 'Do you?' 'Never had it. Kath goes in for that sort of thing these days. No wonder she's ... She's never been slim.' 'She looked - ' 'Men seem to - some men seem to go for the fuller figure.' Had she really said that? She wanted to laugh. This was good, she was really enjoying Australians. Then she remembered the fabrication she had given Therese and Kath about her circumstances and panicked thinking she should have made notes about it last night - what exactly had she told them? Therese seemed to be enjoying their talk too because when she attempted to rise she broke the silence with, 'Yes, you've got to admire her, she comes from nothing, she'll tell you so herself - or she used to tell everyone, I'm not so sure these days, Mort's a bit fussy - I wouldn't call him a snob but ... I don't suppose everyone has to know everything about you.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 120 This time she did stop herself from talking. The woman on the TV was deveining the most enormous prawns. She noted how it was done. 'She can be a bit common. You might have noticed.' She shook her head. 'Oh she does that stupid coughing thing - like this,' Therese hacked deeply into a tubed fist, 'whenever anyone tries to have a cigarette. Stupid. Calling attention to herself like that. No need.' She nodded. 'She said she'd ring you about her dresses but don't do it unless you feel like it. She meant it about going out in Mort's boat though, she means what she says, never lets you down. She's been a good friend.' She resolved to ring Kath on Thursday. She glanced at the first factory and knew she wouldn't work there but went through with the interview. [Type text] [Type text] 1 121 The second excited her. It was in the garment district in Surry Hills. It was convenient to the university. The clothes being machined were very bright and fashionable. No-one looked Anglo. Everyone seemed happy and expansive. She felt a Latin rhythm twitching in her ankles, she wanted to dance the samba, the rhumba, to cha cha. The man in charge said he would try her out. Piece work, ten to four, some overtime when they had a rush on. What was her tax file number? She said she'd forgotten it but would bring it with her tomorrow. She walked away thinking about the colour of the print on the introduction cards she was going to have made - just her name and mobile number. Was that madder on Therese's good plates too serious? That night when she closed her eyes a vision of Lynton's chest seemed to become Mr Kakaburi's. She started to cry wondering about Lynton. [Type text] [Type text] 1 122 [Type text] [Type text] 1 123 iv 'Would you like to tell us a little bit about how you went in your A Levels? I see here you got a very high score in Textiles and Design and ... an even higher one in Every Day Sciences. I don't think we have that one here. Anyone heard of it?' He smiled collusively along the panel. 'I came in the first ten in E D S - Every Day Sciences.' 'That's good. Did many girls at your school - what was it again?' He ran a pen along the pages she had supplied. 'Did it specialise in that subject?' 'No. In the U K. It involves physics, chemistry, biology and economics applied to every day life. People wanting to work in the hospitality industry or the medical sciences usually do it.' There were three other panellists beside this man who was the very one who had kindly guided her when she had first wandered along the Information Sciences corridor. One of the others was the woman harrying a computer, the other two were from Nursing and Design. [Type text] [Type text] 1 124 'Oh.' His patronising benevolence was replaced by a startled respect and curiosity but he failed to penetrate her obliging smile. The computer woman took up the case with a dismissing glance in the direction of her co-panellist. She smiled in sisterly encouragement. 'I see from your statement you are particularly interested in online training, can you tell us more about that?' 'Certainly. I ... became aware of the vastness of distance when I came to Australia. I met people who were travelling further than a lot of - I met students in Cairns who were travelling to Townsville for lectures and seminars and doing the rest of their courses online. I mean it's - in European terms its a huge distance, like into the next country or further. As you can see, I was already interested in education but I found with part time jobs and things - people from all over the world I was meeting here and in Thailand - anyway I found I was becoming very - I was becoming very interested in the possibilities of online training. Vocational. Vocational rather than educational. I was thinking of teaching primary school children but that's developed into ... that's broadened into an interest in developing online material for training. I'm thinking of the hospitality [Type text] [Type text] 1 125 industry and communication competencies which would be applicable across - well all industries and workplaces, actually.' There was an exchange of impressed glances - who wanted to go next? Dr Design took up the challenge. 'That's very interesting. Have you thought - I'm wondering why not something in I T then, you know, why not go for a course in web design, or - ' 'Is Dr Cheung doing a bit of proselytising here?' The other panellists joined the computer woman in a chuckle. 'I see here from your statement that you think there is a great future in this kind of training, how would you see it applying to nursing, for example.' 'Nursing is a very special area - you're dealing with human life directly - so what I see is maybe some initial training online with follow-up one-to-one or small group training, maybe of new equipment or familiarising the nurses with new drugs - I don't see online or video as replacing direct training by professionals - experienced professionals - but I see it as a very useful, potentially, [Type text] [Type text] 1 126 training technique in the future. And in a country like this where distance and isolation from big cities ... I can see these new technologies giving opportunities to people who might be isolated and need to diversify their skills because local industry is changing or even dying.' She couldn't go on. She felt she'd lost herself completely. She couldn't even smile or look at the panellists. After a silence and the computer woman asking the other panellists if that was all, she was thanked and told she would be informed. Her last impression was of the computer woman nodding and smiling conspiratorially at her as she left the interview room. Beverley was waiting for her in the cafeteria. 'How did you go? Did they ask anything you couldn't answer? You'll be all right.' She was very tired. Working two jobs was taking its toll. She still went to the university library and had prepared as well as she could for the placement interview but now she felt as though she had said next to nothing and that incoherently. 'You always feel that way after an interview,' Beverley consoled, [Type text] [Type text] 1 127 They met Minnie at her favourite food bar in Chinatown. Minh had found another university which would accept her into Physiotherapy if her exam results were exceptional. 'Did they ask you why you wanted to do Information at the university?' she asked. She nodded. 'I knew it! Did you say all the things we worked out?' She said she hoped so, she didn't feel as though ... She arranged to be in the library on Saturday to act as a panel member so Minh could practise for her interview. The girls at Polka Dot Fashions looked up from their machines when she walked in. 'How did it go?' Francesca asked. Mr Hidalgo, the manager came out from his office to listen too then sent everyone back to work. Polka Dot was not exactly a sweat shop, it did altering and made up clothing for fashion shops and tailors who left patterns and fabrics to be cut out by a number system. It was piece work so the pressure was self regulated to a certain extent. [Type text] [Type text] 1 128 Except for the gentlemanly Mr Hidalgo who had long and intense experience of the trade in the Philippines and the tailors and couriers who dropped work in, it was a female establishment. The women had developed a girlish, high spirited ethos which was a defence against the burden of their roles as mothers and wives and for some against bitter memories of very grim previous work experience. Several nationalities figured but most of the machinists were Filipina. Polka Dot's business was dependent on its reputation for careful work and the handling of expensive fabrics. Mr Hidalgo and the supervisor, Leni, a no-nonsense Croat-Australian, checked all the work for even and closely aligned stitching. The machinists wore cotton gloves which they had to pay for themselves. Leni frequently inspected these and ordered fresh ones to be worn. This was the key subject of complaint amongst the workers. No food or drink were allowed into the work room, no smoking on the premises, the doors were to be quickly shut against any outside dust and dirt. According to legend, Mr Hidalgo had once berated one of their best customers, a temperamental tailor, for loitering with the door open as he took a mobile call. She had paced herself well and carefully extended her skills and speed. She really enjoyed working with the different fabrics. Leni had twice made her stop and unpick work to do again - to the disguised [Type text] [Type text] 1 129 joy of some of her co-workers - and had hovered and interfered as she dealt with a new stitch or some unfamiliar fabric. She had pretended to be worried at the loss of time and therefore payment but what she was getting was a fraction of what she took home from Mr Iriye's restaurant. The women took a superficial interest in her but as most of them had to rush away to pick up children or get home to do the shopping and make the dinner, interaction was confined to the workplace. She had told them she had a boyfriend in England and when he had finished his course - Engineering - and she had finished hers - Teaching - he would come out to Australia and they would get married. At the mention of citizenship she had fallen silent. Everyone had understood and the matter was whispered about behind her back but not alluded to in front of her again. She felt pretty sure she could get away with more than the others at Polka Dot. One night she had stayed back to talk to Mr Lim. After she had been at Polka Dot for a few weeks she had asked Mr Hidalgo if she could bring in her cut out frock and jacket and use the workplace sewing machines to sew them up. He said she would have to speak to Mr Lim. [Type text] [Type text] 1 130 Mr Lim was related to the owner who was rumoured to be a Hong Kong millionaire only interested in this business because some of his family lived in Australia. Mr Lim dropped in a few days a week, usually late, to gather figures for the accounts. She had approached him after the others had gone and Mr Hidalgo was supervising a courier and a wedding dress. Mr Lim had been about to say no when she gave him the saucy smile and the twist of the head she had seen a girl at the university employ on one of her lecturers. Mr Lim had hesitated. She had thrust her breasts out and swept a smile which curved down as if in modest invitation over them and rose to meet Mr Lim’s frightened, longing stare. He broke his gaze to glance, worried in the direction of Mr Hidalgo. She had returned half an hour later, knocked on the door and swept into the yellow bulb-lit cubby hole which served as the office. ‘I just thought I’d come to see how you were getting on,’ she said, advancing on Mr Lim with her beasts thrust forward. She stood almost against him then leaned forward and rubbed her breasts against him. Mr Lim stepped back, staring at her with an expression [Type text] [Type text] 1 131 lingering from amazement towards terror. She wanted to laugh. Then he reached out and clasped one breast and the other then hastily removed his hands. The pressure of his touch shocked her, she gasped. She pulled herself together and flounced out, turning to give Mr Lim a wink which he would recall with great pleasure to the end of his days. 'I can never do that again,' she said, 'it just came over me.' And she gave him a radiant smile before sweeping out into the factory area. In some trepidation he showed her how to lock up. Mr Lim must have spoken to Mr Hidalgo. When she had finished her costume she resolved never to use Polka Dot's machines for her own purposes again. Then she determined she would never need to. Not long after the incident with Mr Lim which she had recalled obsessively for days, probing for glimmers of hilarity, she found herself idly saying to Mr Iriye that if there were special customers [Type text] [Type text] 1 132 who wanted to practise their English more she might be able to have coffee with them. He nodded, smiling, as if he had hoped this would happen. She had decided she would confine herself to blow jobs and be utterly discreet - they would want that, her important businessmen. She borrowed a book on geisha from the Kings Cross library. She found it compelling. Then she discovered another book about them. She devoured that book too. Michiyo would notice, what would Michiyo think? Michiyo had seemed to follow her lead and moved out of the hostel. She was now sharing a place with another Japanese girl and a Korean girl not far from Mr Kakaburi's apartment. She was supposed to be saving up for her business in Kyoto. 'Asian girls like to live in CBD,' she had shrugged. It was a very big apartment and the two other girls seemed to have plenty of money and not to take their studies very seriously. 'Their parents are rich. Lucky girls.' Who knew what was going on. She enjoyed being immersed in this new life, perilously high and confident. Mr Kakaburi had introduced her to some people he [Type text] [Type text] 1 133 described as 'friends' but maybe they were business acquaintances - did it matter? - as his 'Australian girlfriend'. He had asked her to choose an Australian name for him. She had come up with Cal, short for Calvin. He had looked worried and evidently consulted with someone because the next time she saw him he was very pleased. 'Cal very cool name,' he beamed, 'I use for Australia.' She told him she was looking for a laptop to use at uni next year. He took a great interest and had made her stare, perplexed, at eight different ones before saying this was the one she should get. 'Very expensive in Australia,' he had shaken his head sadly. It was lying on his coffee table the next time she visited. He had chosen a black one with purple trim to match her handbag. She thought maybe he loved her. She had rung Kath as requested. Kath reaffirmed herself as an ally, told her just to let Therese drink, there was nothing she could do, they'd all tried. Kath brought her long monologue towards an end by saying, 'It's her birthday on the twenty-first of November. Birthday's are important to her. Very. She loves the opera. I can't stand it, I'm always worried those huge women will sit on those silly little men. Anyway, she's got you now, that's good. You like that sort of thing, don't you?' Then that they must have her out on the boat some [Type text] [Type text] 1 134 time, she wanted to show her to Mort. What was she doing for Christmas? The only night she had free was Monday and the Monday closest to the twenty-first the Australian Opera was doing Lulu. Oh well. She ran it by Therese. Therese said she would consult her Kobbé's Complete Book of Opera. The next day she gave her response. It was very modern and she didn't like modern opera except for Benjamin Britten and Janàcek - Katya Kabanova - was one of her favourite operas and she loved Jenufa but her favourite was - 'do you know much about opera? No? You should start with Rigoletto, I have the complete recording, we'll listen to it one afternoon. When you're not busy.' She had never seen Therese as interested as this before. So they were going to give Lulu a go. She dreaded the evening but it was necessary. Therese had her hair done. She consulted on whether her frock was fashionable enough. She thought about new shoes. [Type text] [Type text] 1 135 Therese spent all afternoon getting ready and was sitting waiting at exactly seven as arranged. They were to have a drink in there. This is all wrong, she thought. She squirmed as the evidently lesbian Gräfin Geschwitz insinuated herself towards Lulu in a dinner suit. Therese seemed to be gazing stonily at the bizarre and melodramatic goings-on on stage; the music was far from accommodating. She made up her mind to suggest they leave at the first interval. She had booked a table for supper at a nearby hotel but they could go early and if it was full there were plenty of other hotels nearby. She would ply Therese with drinks. She badly wanted a couple of whiskies herself. No, Therese did not want to go at the first interval. No she didn't want champagne, or anything, but you go ahead. Therese appeared to be frozen with a determination to be polite and stick this out but as they gazed down the harbour she suddenly burst out, 'Isn't it wonderful? The sets are so ... they remind me of beautiful old films. And the costumes. Like Cary Grant and whoever.' Back in the theatre Therese was restored to immobility and so she remained throughout the opera until the moment Geschwitz flung herself between Jack the Ripper and Lulu. Therese began to cry. [Type text] [Type text] 1 136 Over supper Therese cried again at the recollection.. She composed herself complimenting the choice of wine. And had to struggle to overcome her embarrassment when the waiter brought out the special birthday cake. She rather gallantly waved her champagne at the people at the next table who had struck up 'Happy birthday' when it appeared. Therese was having a wonderful time. In the taxi going home she said, 'I won't sleep all night, that was the most wonderful thing I have ever seen. The intensity!' She herself didn't sleep at all well. She blamed the coffee they had had with the cake. She was tormented by the opera. Why did all those people bother with Lulu - Dr Schön, Alwa? A distinguished woman like Geschwitz wouldn't waste her time on a creature like that. It was so ridiculous. As if ... It was a stupid opera. She thought longingly of Pelléas, why couldn't it have been that? Therese's note read Thank you so much for my birthday treat. I will never forget it. I have never been so spoilt. Lulu by Alban Berg is now one of my favourite operas. It was so exciting! Thank you once again. She found it when she came in late from a night at the restaurant which had extended into a whisky with a Mr Naito. He had wanted to [Type text] [Type text] 1 137 come and see where she lived and had become increasingly abrupt when she demurred. She had ended by saying her mother was not well and would be woken up. His eyebrows had shot up at this, as far as she could tell, in genuine astonishment. She had pressed her advantage by saying quite loudly that she would like him to see her to a taxi now and had risen. He rose, glancing around the hotel area and had followed her to the entrance. He had handed quite a lot of money to her in the cab but she had dreamt of more. She wondered now if she should get her own place but dismissed the idea. Apart from the expense, she was growing fond of Therese. One morning a week later she had been alerted by the sound of Therese's phone ringing. It had to be Kath, returned from Malaysia where she had accompanied Mort on a trip - 'part business, part pleasure'. Therese had waited in vain for a call or card. From her room she tuned into Therese's abrupt cadences and then the call was over. She found Therese sitting very upright and staring unseeing at the TV. She barely answered her greeting. On the way to Polka Dot she checked her post office box. A letter from the university congratulated her on securing a place in Information Sciences. Her place in the course was conditional upon her being granted an appropriate visa and on the verification of her [Type text] [Type text] 1 138 secondary and tertiary education achievements. This evidence should be presented to the Department Secretary for sighting as soon as possible. Photocopies must be validated by the issuing authority. Please provide English translations by a translator accredited by the National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters (NAAATI) if the documents are in a language other than English. You will then be provided with a letter to present with her other documentation to the Department of Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs when applying for a study visa. The International Students Office is pleased to advise any overseas students about visa requirements and on any other matter in relation to overseas students at the university. Her immediate pleasure was doused by the idea of the bureaucratic quagmire she had to wade through to begin at the university. It was impossible. But as the fabrics ran through the powerful needles guided by her hands she began to count off the steps she required. Lainie would help. She would ring her best friend Gemma and get her to help Lainie to send the right things. She would tell Gemma not to tell Lainie or her parents but she had ditched Lyntie because she had met an Australian boy who was The One. She couldn't help it, it just [Type text] [Type text] 1 139 happened. Gemma would be appalled and thrilled. She had always been rather keen on Lynton herself. The visa business was a nightmare. But she spoke English, she had half of one year's fees already, she had a tax number, she had a respectable home, she had a job, she had shares ... She could say she did a lot of overtime and special work for weddings and other occasions like funerals. She would go and discuss requirements at the International Students' Office. She would ring in her break and make an appointment. She must make more money. Lady Tierney was just in front of her when she arrived home from the restaurant. She had been greeting the quiet old lady ever since she had moved into 'Longleat'. Lady Tierney paused on the stairs. 'That was such a kind thing you did for Mrs Sullivan - on her birthday. She told me about it. I know it meant so much to her. She knows how lucky she is to have found you ... ' 'And I feel very fortunate to be living here,' she replied with professional brightness. [Type text] [Type text] 1 140 Lady Tierney turned again to look into her. After a while her eyes seemed to say, 'I see ...' She flinched. 'Nevertheless ... ' Lady Tierney said before going on her way. She fell asleep worrying about just how much wise old Lady Tierney had discerned. In the morning she sat to drink her tea with Therese who was in front of the TV. 'I saw Lady Tierney last night.' A nod. 'She seemed very well. She asked after you.' Therese swung around, 'Why'd she do that? What did she want to know?' 'Nothing. She just said to say hello. She just asked how you were.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 141 'She knows how I am, I just spoke to her the other day. She ought to mind her own business. We've all got to pay up by the sixteenth, I know that.' She sipped and watched the woman who was showing them how to make waffles in a waffle-maker. 'I love waffles,' she said, 'with raspberry jam. I used to go into college early when I got my student allowance and have one with coffee. It was fresh in the morning.' Therese glowered at the screen but she could not help herself, 'Do you? How's Kath? Have you heard anything?' 'Why do you need to know that?' Therese's eyes were blazing. 'I ... don't. I ... just wondered.' 'Well don't.' After a considerable silence Therese offered, 'Kath Ravel has forgotten her old friends while she gallivants around ... those - Bali or wherever with that Mort Ravel who made his pile in the eighties when everyone else went bust - in real estate, she says. Huh! Buying up mortgages that some poor battler got stuck with when the interest rates went through the roof. Scum. Carrion crows. Frank Sullivan had [Type text] [Type text] 1 142 his faults and he wasn't much of a businessman in the end but he didn't prey on the down-and-outs.' Therese became a little contrite after this outburst. 'I suppose she didn't have time. He'd have been rushing her off her feet and in that heat with that weight she carries she probably didn't get a moment to herself. You needn't mention what I said.' 'Is she back yet?' she ventured after a while by way of a response. 'She came back last Sunday. Didn't hear a thing, she could have been blown up for all I knew. That Mort wouldn't have bothered to let me know.' She got ready to go. She had an interview at the university International Students Office that afternoon. Mr Hidalgo just nodded when she said she would be away for a couple of hours in the afternoon. A woman wearing brown trousers and a cream shiny shirt ushered her brusquely into the small office. The officer seemed to become genuinely interested as she made out her predicament. She said she had the money to pay her fees for next year now and she would have [Type text] [Type text] 1 143 the money for the following years but she couldn't exactly show that. What would the best way be to present her information to the Department of Immigration. She explained that she had two good jobs at the moment and that she could continue with the other one - the night one which paid very well - while she was studying. It wouldn't interfere, it was flexible - the tourist industry, acting ... showing people around, helping them to feel at home. The Student Officer felt perplexed - what attitude she should assume? She was used to the prevarications of international students, they drove her to subdued hostility but this girl seemed a different kind of case. She noted the officer looking doubtful so said, 'I have some shares. I don't want to sell them. I promised Mum when she took me to the bank and they brought them up from the strong room that I wouldn't ... ' She looked down. And then raised her eyes to say, 'She's gone now.' The officer considered. 'They're not enough? They don't generate enough income so that you can show the Department you have a sufficient source of income?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 144 She shook her head. 'They'd get me through a year. Or so. In an emergency. But I promised Mum.' The officer thought. 'It can all depend on how you put it. We can't fill the forms in for you, that would involve us in a legal situation and that's not what we're here for but there are experts who can help you to put things so that the Immigration Department - so that you make your case to the Department as strongly as possible. So that the assessing officer sees things your way. If you see the difference.' She nodded she could. 'It can make all the difference. I'm not supposed to do this but ... ' She pulled a card from her wallet. 'This person will be able to help you. She's very reasonable. She used to work for the Department so she knows all the ... right ways to put things. I should declare my interest here, she's my partner actually but that has nothing to do with it, she's just someone I know who can help you where the university can't. She can't offer guarantees but she's got a lot of experience in citizenship applications. Her success rate is quite high. Of course some cases are hopeless but you've got a lot going for you.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 145 The officer finished the interview by requiring assurances about her abode and phone number, that she did have the money up front to pay the fees. The next day she examined the many ads in the local paper for lovely young women wanting to earn extra money. As she sewed she concluded that she couldn't do that. For sure there would be someone who would take a lot of the money she earned. And just who would she end up being involved with? It was probably safe - well some of them seemed to be, there were so many some of them must be almost respectable but she couldn't take the risk. She should do it for herself. She had managed Mr Lim, she had extricated herself quite graciously from the predicament with Mr Naito, she felt she was expert at managing the Japanese businessmen at the restaurant. After the restaurant she went into an adult book shop she had noticed. It was not far from Mr Kakaburi's. There was only one other customer and a man and woman attending. The atmosphere was strange - the shop was lit with appalling brightness, everything seemed to shine in the cellophane or the plastic wrap it was tightly bound in. There were glass counters of implements and racks of apparel, chained against theft. High on a wall a video was playing. On [Type text] [Type text] 1 146 the screen two girls, a blond, the other with very dyed black hair were cavorting while a very ordinary looking not young man wanked. Every now and again he would rise and caress one of the girls. She was fascinated. 'Anything special I can help you with dear?' the woman was standing beside her. Her expression was professionally blasé. 'No. Um, I was looking for magazines, a selection.' The woman looked thoughtful. 'We have a selection of second hand magazines. Videos and C D's - we have a much bigger range ... no- one goes in for magazines much these days, except collectors.' She eyed her with sudden attention, in case. 'Over here.' She followed. The other assistant, a man who seemed to be the woman's partner, took an interest too. She thought they both looked as though they had once been prostitutes. She was more fascinated by them than the array of [Type text] [Type text] 1 147 magazines displayed. She chose three hastily. What if someone had seen her come in here - Mr Iriye or Michiyo, one of the customers? She prayed Therese wasn't up. The brown paper bag looked so obvious. She had decided to tell her they were patterns she had to deliver for work tomorrow. Therese was up but had passed out in front of the TV. How long ago, she couldn't tell. An almost entire cigarette of ash lay in the tray. She put her things in her room and set about getting Therese to bed. Then she tidied up. Therese was fiendish about clearing evidence of her drinking. The gin bottle with its accompanying tonic empties were carefully wrapped in newspaper first thing each morning and hurried down to the ‘Longleat’ rubbish bins. Therese hated to be caught doing this. On her way to Polka Dot, she rang and made an appointment to see the immigration consultant. They were to meet in a few days. She worked from home. 'Home' turned out to be a few suburbs down Parramatta Road. The door was opened by an older and rougher simulacrum of the university International Student Officer. A hairy knee high dog [Type text] [Type text] 1 148 growled. 'Quiet! Natalie, still!' The simulacrum offered a challenging glare. She asked to see the name on the card. 'That's me.' The so-who-wants-to-know look continued to hover. She considered leaving then offered an explanation. The expression melted. 'Oh sorry, you just caught me in the middle of something. Come in, I was expecting you.' She followed her nervously down the hall of the single storey terrace, Natalie sniffing after her. The place flowed into a sunny courtyard into which a bright red car was jammed. They settled in a small room opposite a kitchen. 'Don't take any notice of Natalie, she'll calm down soon, she's not used to strangers,' the immigration consultant said. She took out a clip board with a form on it. [Type text] [Type text] 1 149 The fee quoted had been quite high. She contemplated the consultant. The woman not only had an air of aggression but also of shiftiness. So she decided to see how it went. They got through the clip board form. And had a chat which took her no further than she had been with the partner at the university. 'I'm about ready for a cuppa, how about you?' She attended in the kitchen as the tea was made with exquisite attention. It was served in delicate cups with a lemon biscuit which melted in your mouth. The consultant confessed to being the cook. Then she got tough and real. 'You haven't got enough money,' she announced after she'd wrung the truth of her financial position out of her. 'But I'll be earning - ' 'They all say that.' At the downcast look she added, 'Never mind, you're way ahead of a lot.' She sketched some strategies, all of which would take too much time or seemed impossible. [Type text] [Type text] 1 150 By the end of the interview she was feeling more despondent than when she had arrived. They made an arrangement for her to bring the forms from the Department. She paid in cash and no receipt was offered. The consultant summed up at the door, 'You're fine on two out of three - travel, you don't have to worry about that; course fees you've got - now we've got to concentrate on living costs. Are you sure there isn't anyone who could say they're going to provide for you?' She said she'd think about it but she didn't think so. 'What would really help is if you married some nice Australian boy ...?' She said she didn't think she could do that. That night the consultant and the officer had a stimulating time speculating whether she was in fact a Sister. 'You know those English intellectual types, you can never tell, they're so femme.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 151 'Like Virginia Woolf.' They were very satisfied by their common interest in her. She wondered if Mr Lim ....? No. Mr Iriye? She wondered if Cal was considering Australian citizenship. She spent the night in the restaurant contemplating Mr Iriye. She realised she knew nothing about him. Was he married? Was his wife here or in Japan? She would ask Michiyo. Michiyo said she knew nothing about Mr Iriye's personal life, it was not the Japanese way to ask many questions. A few nights later she approached Mr Iriye after the last customer had gone. She explained she wanted to stay in Australia. Did he know any way that would help her to do that? Mr Iriye shook his head and said he was very sorry. She said one way was for someone to say she had enough money to live on for a while. All they would have to do was sign a piece of paper. [Type text] [Type text] 1 152 'Ah,' Mr Iriye said. She knew enough from reading the geisha books to leave it at that for the time being. She decided to consult Michiyo on a suitable gift for Mr Iriye. 'It is very hard question. I do not know him. Usually whisky, perhaps. But he owns restaurant.' She explained the idiom 'taking coals to Newcastle'. Michiyo repeated it thoughtfully. She realised Michiyo was very embarrassed by her questions about Mr Iriye so she explained her motive - to get him to sign a document to say she would have enough money to live on in Australia. Michiyo looked at her in astonishment then suggested they study his ties and then see if they could find one which was in line with his taste. 'You could give tie, see what happen.' She was quite excited by this idea, mainly because it enabled her to feel as though she was on the geisha path. As soon as she was able, she went into the city and began to study ties. The variety overwhelmed her, she had had no idea they came in such a huge range of designs and colours. She felt she was entering another [Type text] [Type text] 1 153 reality. Her father hardly ever wore them, she recalled being so proud of him when he did - going to a funeral once and a wedding - but she could not summon any memory of his tie. She imagined it had been some horrible brown, a snaking pattern. She sought refuge from her confusion in the area dedicated to colognes. A breathtakingly beautiful and exquisitely groomed young man took a lot of care spraying some samples on rectangles of cardboard for her. He asked if he could know who it was for - brother, boyfriend, father? It all depended what sort of guy ... She explained it was for her Japanese ... friend. Very smart, up to date. But what if she wanted to get something for his father who was coming to visit? It was a Japanese custom to give gifts - you know, beautifully wrapped from the right store. He smiled. And dealt in turn with the two different problems. She left the store with a carry bag containing a beautifully wrapped cologne for Cal and many squares of scented cardboard in her handbag. That night instead of going to sleep perusing the porn magazines as she had for the last week or so, she masturbated to the scented cardboard rectangles. She was a geisha who had a series of lovers, each one represented by the lingering traces of scent. She felt the [Type text] [Type text] 1 154 tatami matting beneath her white socked feet, the weight of the kimono and obi, heard the rustle of bamboo outside the sliding doors of her cottage, saw the shadows of their elegant long leaves waving in the light of the stone lantern beside the raked white sand. This lover was a count, he had read her his poems after she had made him tea. Now he was close. It was autumn. She inhaled the scent; cool pine. The next day she went in and bought that one. She was very disappointed the beautiful young man wasn't so made an effort to be charming to his replacement. She decided she would see the beautiful young man again. She would walk through the store and come across him as if by chance and tell him which one she had chosen in the end for her Japanese friend's father. She knew the moment she arrived at an inconvenient five-thirty P M that her second appointment with the immigration consultant was going to be a travesty. The girlfriend was there, and in contrast to her university self, eager. The consultant was embarrassed enough to make an awkward explanation. Which she ignored to show her displeasure. [Type text] [Type text] 1 155 The girlfriend Official kept amplifying the consultant's obvious remarks - find a business mentor who'll say they need you in their organisation, maybe your current employer, or employers? Apply for a residency on the basis of your current jobs and balance that with your student visa. 'Or you could get married to the right kind of Australian, if you see what I mean, for a while,' the Official from the university added with a bright ironic smile. Who, sitting opposite her desk in her university office, would have known she could smile? She had had enough. She rose. 'I don't think I could do that,' she announced and gathered her bag to her. 'Don't go, I haven't ...' The consultant began. But she was already moving towards the door. She stepped elaborately around the dog which had risen to sniff at her departure. The door needed to be unlocked. The consultant was there with the key and some reclaimed self possession. 'Haven't you forgotten something?' She tried to make a joke of it. [Type text] [Type text] 1 156 'The invoice?' 'I was expecting a professional service.' 'That's what you got' ‘I don’t want to be involved in this strange collusion in any way. What would the university or the Department of Immigration think?' 'She ... I just thought she might ... You might ... ' 'I feel very uncomfortable with this.' 'No need, everything is confidential here.' 'I was expecting more.' 'What? What more?' 'I expected us to spend the time actually drafting my applications and covering letters.' 'You're not ready, we needed to do some exploring of possibilities.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 157 She took out her purse and handed over half the fee. The consultant took it and looked at it. 'Um, this isn't enough, it's ... ' 'I haven't stayed for anything like the length of the consultation. You didn't give me a receipt for the last one.' This created a very awkward pause. She turned to the door. Which the consultant unlocked. She stepped outside. 'I could give you names in the Department, names likely to be sympathetic to your case. We could draft a letter .... Ring me!' The consultant called to the departing back. That night the consultant and the Student Officer had one of their strenuous rows. It ended in bruises. 'Mr Iriye very pleased you drink so much whisky,' Michiyo said during a moment's respite from the customers. [Type text] [Type text] 1 158 Her reading about geishas had sharpened her sense of nuance in Japanese expression. She really liked whisky now, was developing her taste, preferring certain brands over others on offer in the restaurant. Tonight, after the encounter with that awful immigration consultant, it had been very helpful to sip away gaily. 'How much should I drink? I thought ... ' She suddenly felt quite angry with Michiyo. 'You like geisha, geisha always drink a lot when customers drink too much.' Michiyo tittered into her hand. It was a most uncharacteristic gesture. Her anger turned to puzzlement. Was this a good or bad thing? After the restaurant she revisited the adult bookshop and selected some more porn. She included some gay male porn. She found it very soothing to sit up in bed contemplating the photographs and reading the stories. She felt she was understanding some tacit reality. But in the dark her mind flew back to Michiyo's comment. What did it mean? She would ask her. Her dreams took over from her thoughts. Michiyo was her geisha 'sister'. They were tittering, clattering together down a cobbled road on their way to work. It was raining and they had their most expensive silk kimonos on. Her wig pressed almost unbearably on her head. Then she realised neither of [Type text] [Type text] 1 159 them knew the way. The wind was blowing her umbrella so that it forced her along. She looked around and recognised the street - it was painfully squalid. She was being pushed home, in her heavy wig and painted white face and sumptuous silk. Her father would hit the roof. She struggled against the terrible wind. In the morning she decided the pile of porn was getting too high. She had noticed the adult bookshop bought second hand books and magazines. She would return some on her way to the restaurant. She would ring Gemma. She would ring about five-thirty, that would make it seven-thirty in the morning there. Gemma sounded sleepy but when she realised who it was shrilled, 'Why haven't you written? Everyone says you've broken up with Lyntie. Where is he? He rang your mother.' She said, 'Listen. I met someone, my soul mate. I just ... It was easier just to get away from Lynton. I realised he's not the one. When I met Mark - he's an Australian. I can't ever leave him. I've enrolled in a course here. I knew you'd understand but I need my A levels certificate and my university results. Will you help Lainie to send the right things? She knows where they are in my desk drawer. I just want you to make sure she sends the right ones. I need them right away. Mum always liked you, she'll listen to you. Just tell her I [Type text] [Type text] 1 160 met someone who was right for me and ... I'm bringing him over to meet you all soon. At the end of next year. Please Gem, you know what Lainie's like, she'll get it wrong or forget or something. I really need them.' She gave Gemma her post box number and finished the conversation by raving about Australia. 'You sounded different, I didn't recognise you at first, now you sound like you, you must be getting an Australian accent. I didn't know they sounded like that.' 'They do in Sydney, it's very cosmopolitan - at least Mark's family speaks ... the Australian accent's changing, it's not like you hear on T V, only country people speak like that. You'll have to come. How's Vi? You'll never guess, I'm sewing for a living, it's great. How's working in Johnston's?' She shuddered when she clicked her phone off. She didn't want to know anyone there. Then she thought she'd better start writing to Mum and Dad, that way she could keep things under control. The policewoman who had found her in the hostel was often on patrol in the area. She always smiled at her. When the policewoman smiled [Type text] [Type text] 1 161 back she reminded her of their encounter. She thanked the policewoman and explained everything had worked out all right and she wasn't being harassed any more. She loved Australia and had been awarded a residency here. Should she come into the station and register or something? Robyn said no. 'I'd like to buy you a cup of coffee. Do you go on patrol with that guy who helped?' 'I can't even remember who it was. Oh, this is Hamid.' She smiled at Hamid and told them to drop into the cafe on the way back if they liked, she'd organise coffee and cake for them there. 'Thanks. We might.' She went over to the cafe opposite 'Longleat' and organised to pay for whatever they might have. Robyn and whoever was patrolling with her always waved and exchanged pleasantries from then on. [Type text] [Type text] 1 162 The restaurant became busy with company Christmas parties. The tips were sometimes enormous. Mr Iriye had discreetly overseen her availability after the restaurant. She had several discreet liaisons with businessmen and believed she had handled them very well. She believed her understanding of geisha helped her to transact these encounters with grace. While she knew geisha did not offer sexual services, she believed comporting herself like one inspired restraint and dignity in her clients. Her study of porn had helped her imagine her way into the role but had made her afraid of danger and bizarre demands. So far prostitution had proved easier in the act than she had imagined but the self-disgust afterwards was intense. However she did not intend to follow this profession for long and the self-disgust was resolving into fear others would find out. Mr Iriye signed an immigration document guaranteeing her a year's work at the required level of income. She bought a few more shares, using her laptop. [Type text] [Type text] 1 163 [Type text] [Type text] 1 164 [Type text] [Type text] 1 165 v Kath insisted she join her and Mort and a few friends on their 'yacht' for Christmas Day. Therese had declined and she was worried about being seen as betraying her flatmate if she accepted the invitation. She told Kath she'd ring her back. 'You go. I hate yachts - it's not a yacht in any case, it's a launch, not very big. You end up getting sunburnt no matter what you do, how careful you are. I like my creature comforts. That Kath needs her head read. We usually go to a hotel. Mort must have got to her. I bet he's invited his business mates. Poor Kath, she didn't know what she was getting herself into. Desperate to get married. Oh well, she's done that now.' All of this turned out to be true enough. The best part of her day was accompanying Therese to mass in the morning. The priest was in a white robe and sandalled, the service unexpectedly informal. The congregation were invited to greet one another. When she turned around to greet someone behind her she discovered she was shaking the hand of the policewoman Robyn. [Type text] [Type text] 1 166 Therese put a large note in the offertory. She felt ashamed of the coin she had contributed. As they were both leaving the flat she pressed a note of equal value onto Therese to give to the mission where she was going to help serve Christmas dinner. She headed off to the Rushcutters Bay marina where Mort was taking her and some other guests on board. She realised she had made a mistake as she stood on the pontoon waiting for Mort's boat. Near her were some others. She guessed they might be her fellow voyagers so decided to get it over with - she went up and inquired. They were. She introduced herself. Her heart sank when the boat pulled in. It already seemed overcrowded. Everyone else on board was at least middle-aged. Mort all but dribbled at the sight of her - to Kath's satisfaction and rage. The idea was to take everyone to a popular picnic spot, more or less accessible only by boat, and there to have Christmas dinner. [Type text] [Type text] 1 167 Eskies impeded movement about the boat. The conversation was desperately jolly. Kath was screeching, demanding laughter, ordering her guests to get into the champagne and beer. The unloading took forever with the small rubber duck making infinite journeys back and forth to the overcrowded beach. People were ordered overboard so the eskies could be ferried. She had not brought a swimming costume so was told not to worry, to 'skinny dip' as it was a nude beach. Male eyes swung at her when Kath demanded this with a thin overlay of levity. Several women had tried to help Kath but she seemed to feel her responsibilities had to be borne alone. She kept casting eyes at Mort to see if he could see what difficulties she was labouring under, begging for his approval. Mort on the bridge was too busy drinking and smoking a cigar with a couple of elect males. There appeared to be no shelter on the beach. They had not brought beach umbrellas. One of the guests suggested they try somewhere else. 'What a stupid idea! We're almost unpacked now.' Kath's eyes were demented. But she was able to turn and join in the cheering as one of the men stripped and jumped overboard. [Type text] [Type text] 1 168 'That's how we do things in Australia, we're down to earth. We could all swim too,' Kath said to the other women still assembled on deck, 'save Ted all that trouble of coming back and forth in the ducky.' 'You won't get me in that water,' one woman responded, 'I grew up near here, it's shark infested.' No-one was comfortable on the beach. Two dogs dashed madly about until one of the men in their party yelled obscenities at them. Its owner paused from trying to corner it to yell back, 'It's Christmas for Christ's sake! There are kids around.' Kath wobbled up to her, champagne bottle thrust out. 'I bet you don't get this in England.' Her eyes were now bloodshot with desperation. When Kath tried to pour champagne into her plastic flute she withdrew it so that the champagne slopped onto the sand. Kath grabbed her hand and forced champagne into the nearly full flute. 'Drink up!' she hissed. 'It's Christmas. You wouldn't be getting this in ... Look at it!' Kath gestured wildly at the vista. She looked around. The slim curve of the beach was covered in Christmassing parties. Children dashed about here and there. A little girl clutched her fists to her eyes, crying. Some of the parties were nude, they seemed more decorous. [Type text] [Type text] 1 169 The sun was terrible. 'We'll go back on the boat after we've eaten. Why don't you guys go for a swim while we get the food going?' She thought she'd better help. Kath seemed unable to let anyone assist. 'Get those oysters in the shade, they'll go off. Mort paid a ... No, we'll have the turkey later. Where's the cocktail sauce for the prawns? Put the bread and butter ... ' There was no shade. The champagne was warm. The men stood around drinking beer, one was leering contemplatively. Behind the beach the bush shimmered, in front of it the water shimmered. It was not yet noon. Relief seemed everywhere about them and unobtainable. She could feel the sun burning her forearms. Why hadn't she listened to Therese? She had to have something to drink. She approached the knot of her party, gathered on the industry of Kath but they were ignoring their hostess’ labours, guiltily or righteously superfluous to them. The [Type text] [Type text] 1 170 women turned away from her. The men seemed to turn in a bunch to leer at her. 'Isn't this lovely?' she said to the kindest looking woman near her. 'Yes. It must be very different ... I hope you're not homesick, are you?' 'Not at all.' She considered for a moment that this was only too true. She'd made up her mind to ring her family in front of Therese tonight to prove something or another. She looked around again and the scene resolved her deep discomfort with this party of middle aged harridans and their leering, pompous spouses. The bush screened the back of the beach, rising shadowy green to a canopy below which white branches twisted and silvery white trunks streamed with pink grey ribbons of shedding bark. Pleasure craft gambolled on the harbour, a huge Manly ferry paraded by. As soon as she could, she would go for a walk in the bush. There were shallow wide stone steps up towards a dressing shed. There would be a tap. That must be the way out. She would escape. There must be a car park just up there somewhere, She had noticed they hadn't gone very far from the city, Manly was over there. She could catch a cab to Manly Wharf. Probably someone, Australians being what they were, would give her a lift. She would be out of here soon. She would lie on her bed all [Type text] [Type text] 1 171 afternoon. She would make her phone call in front of Therese and go out as planned with Michiyo and Cal. 'Where did you get that frock? I be that's an import.' She turned, pleased, to the woman in crisp white shorts and an evidently new blouse. She was very tanned and had a yachting cap with a blue and gold badge on the front perched on top of a bush of pepper and salt hair. She had heard some of her dry, whimsical remarks as they had throbbed their way and had determined to get to know her. 'Of course. St Tropez.' 'You must have plenty of money.' 'Oh I do.' The woman turned away. The women seemed to be exchanging satisfied looks. They turned away again. She suddenly hated them. They were blowzy cows tricked out in the most absurd taste. Look at that one! My god, in shorts. [Type text] [Type text] 1 172 'Here love, try this.' A man thrust an oyster shell beneath her nose. She had never eaten an oyster. It looked vile. 'No thanks. But I'd like a prawn.' 'I bet you would,' one of the men growled. There were guffaws. She was resolved. She was getting away from this. But when she was ready. She was thirsty and she wanted to try some of that food. She went forward and took the biggest prawn from the mess of them held by a platter. It spiked her with its feelers as she broke its head off. She pried its shell away from underneath.' 'Here, put the shells in this,' a man proffered a plastic plate, 'You'd better use a knife to run down its back. Got a knife for deveining the prawns, Kath?'' 'Find it yourself, I've had this.' He found her a knife and showed her how to take the vein out. 'Now give it a wash in the harbour.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 173 It was delicious. She attacked another. Most of the others were guzzling oysters. 'Want some cocktail sauce?' Kath was at her side with a plastic bottle. She spurted some on a plate for her. 'Have you got any juice?' 'Juice?' 'Yes, like orange, or ... Any soft drink would do, I'm really thirsty.' Kath suggested a beer. She smeared some pâté on a biscuit. Mort thrust a rag of flapping turkey skin towards her mouth. She bit at it and the men cheered. She let it fall from her mouth onto the sand and deliberately helped herself to another prawn. She found the knife and slit right along its back before carefully dragging the vein out. She rinsed the prawn in the sea and eating it headed up the beach towards the dressing sheds. [Type text] [Type text] 1 174 'Where are you going?' Kath yelled. She felt thirstier than she had ever felt before in her life. She turned the tap over the wash stand on and stooped to drink. The water was warm and tasted metallic. She headed straight on up past the dressing sheds and there was a track. She proceeded up its shallow broad steps marked by sandstone edges. She was feeling better and better as she left the beach behind. She looked around. She was in the bush. It was still and very warm, as she had always imagined it would be. This was Australia. It was Christmas Day. She thought she had read a children's book with a bush Christmas in it. It was just like this. She was swept by joy. She felt so at home here, in this still solitude. She knew she belonged here. She was meant to be here. This feeling was proof. She swirled around with her hands in the air. The climb was beginning to get steep and the track ran into another at right angles. She didn't hesitate, she just knew where to go. [Type text] [Type text] 1 175 The track meandered and rose, sank again. The bush thinned out. She was winding along a coastal track through strange low gorse and thorn bushes. Cliffs fell to the harbour on one side of her, a steep impenetrable hill of grey green and olive rose on the other. Things rustled and scrambled at her approach. She thought she would soon be able to see Rushcutters Bay across the Harbour. She had obviously taken the path away from Manly but she was enjoying this even though she was getting burned. It must end soon. It didn't. Her thirst was becoming terrible. She was lost. She waved at a boat for help. If it came in she would plunge down the cliff somehow and they would take her off and probably drop her off near home. Or would they ring for help? Why hadn't she brought her phone? The track seemed to be closing in on her, thorns scratched at her bare legs. This was ridiculous, she should turn, she could even go back to Kath and Mort's party. But it must lead somewhere and she had been on it so long she must be near wherever it went. Rocks heaved their back out of the heath like whales. She noticed tiny yellow flowers amongst the serrated hard leaves of a strange little bush which sprang up in stalks; pink stars flustered amongst softer grey leaves, the pink was so bright. Stretching up and before [Type text] [Type text] 1 176 her, the heath land now revealed patches of brooding colours - brown and purple reds emerged from what had seemed a uniform sage. The rocks were blotched with papery lichen, some of them seemed to sparkle, they were silvery really when you looked at them. A stunted tree like a fir struggled out of the waves of hard little shrubs. A huge black snake vanished from a rock in front of her with a flash of the reddest red. It must have been a mirage, or something. It had been so quick and silent but she couldn't go on. It had been huge and so black and red. It might come back or there might be more. She dare not sit down. She was afraid to go back. She forced herself to take a small step on. Then she couldn't move. She would have to stand there. She was afraid to wave to a boat in case that attracted the snake's attention, if there had been a snake. Someone must notice her; they would come in close to the cliff to see if she needed help. Their boat would toss on the waves near the shore and she would scream for help. They might send a helicopter and winch her up. She would thank them and have a bath when she got back, it would be very hot on her sunburned skin. She wondered where she and Michiyo and Cal would go tonight. She would wear her pink silk. She must get some decent jewellery to go with it. She would lift it. She could not move. What could she do? If she screamed and screamed it might frighten the snake away and someone would hear. It might startle the snake into attacking. Even though it had vanished in a blood red bright flick, it had looked aggressive. She had to sit down, [Type text] [Type text] 1 177 she was starting to get dizzy. She could not move, her knees locked at the sight of the narrowness of the path. If she could only sit down, she could lie along the path and roll sideways into the bush, it must be cooler down there. Even if the snake did bite her she would only be frightened for a while and then she would die peacefully, like Cleopatra. The bite wouldn't hurt much, it would be like an injection with two needles. All this would be over. Her mother might come out to Australia to weep over the body. It would do her mother good, she would have something to talk about and make herself special for the rest of her days. Her mother would be the talk of the terrace. She would meet Therese. Her mother could use her money for the air fare and funeral. She wanted to be buried in Australia. Would they find Lyntie and invite him? He would be jealous that she had found her way into the real Australia while he could only act as if he were expert at it. He might have gone back. The steep hill seemed to have a declivity in it and then a shallow oval containing a particularly brooding shade of green. 'A pool,' she thought, 'I will force my way up to it and there will be a pool with clear water. I will lap it like an animal.' A man with a beard appeared. His broad hairy brown chest was crossed with the red straps of a back pack, a bottle of water bounced in a sling against his hips. [Type text] [Type text] 1 178 'Hello,' he said. 'Merry Christmas.' 'Yes. Merry Christmas.' 'Isn't this beautiful?' She waved expansively at the Harbour and the hill. He nodded appreciatively. 'I am just waiting for a snake to go away. I frightened it. So I am giving it a few minutes to get away.' 'A snake?' He looked very pleased. 'Where?' She realised he was a backpacker. 'It's gone. But it's better to let them move right away in case they get alarmed ... just in case. It doesn't happen often.' They stood respectfully. 'I would like to see it.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 179 'Unfortunately, it's gone. May I have some of your water?' Nothing had ever tasted so good. The bottle sparkled before her eyes as she gulped and she wondered where she should steal the jewellery. It was all she could do to not drink the lot. 'Oh sorry,' she said, professing surprise she had drunk so much, 'I must have been thirsty.' 'That is O K.' 'I think we can go on now.' 'Are you walking to the Spit too?' 'Yes.' 'Perhaps we walk together?' 'She made room for him to pass and followed behind. She knew she had been saved by God, that unknowing he was an angel sent. She would never doubt again. [Type text] [Type text] 1 180 Soon the bushes thinned out, the rose and joined another, broad and easy. Then there were trees again. 'You want to rest here?' She told him that her name was Shelley, she had always lived in Sydney. She came from Wahroonga on the North Shore. She had left a family Christmas at the beach because she had to get back to meet friends for a party but really she had wanted to get away and walk along this track because she used to walk here with her best friend who was now in England. His name was Olaf. He was missing his friends too, he had left them in Vietnam where they were doing some work helping some villagers put in tanks. It was soon apparent they found one another attractive. Olaf shared some dried fruit and the rest of his water. They moved off the track into some trees and began kissing. Olaf sat on a rock and pulled her to him. [Type text] [Type text] 1 181 All she was aware of was the hair on his chest and his smell - sweat and sun block. 'Is this O K?' he asked. She put her arms around him and pushed forward between his legs. He pulled her t-shirt off and undid her bras. She undid his belt and unbuttoned his shorts. He smiled and stood up to wriggle out of them. She looked down and saw his stout hairy legs ending in hairy socks and hiking boots. She laughed and slipped her hands into his briefs and caressed his buttocks. They were hairy too, they felt wonderful. She ran her hands softly over them. 'That is really good,' he said. She peeled his underpants down. As he manoeuvred them clumsily over his huge boots, almost falling. She steadied him. 'All right?' And pushed him back down on the rock. His cock rose up against his stomach, it was thick. She knelt down and flicked at it with her [Type text] [Type text] 1 182 tongue. 'I am the spirit of that snake,' she thought. Then she licked his cock. Soon it tasted fragrant and heady. 'The taste of basic cock must be universal,' she thought. He pulled her up and undid her shorts, ran his hand down and placed it over her pussy and began teasing her lips with a finger. She smiled and pushed forward into him so that his finger rode into her. She caressed his hips and the top of his buttocks. 'This is the best Christmas.' And she laughed for it. He held her back to look at her. 'Are you O K?' 'Yes. I'm having a really good time.' She snuffed him in and the dry bush and the sea air off the Harbour. They held each other and then were together, rocking. He stood up and moved her around onto the rock. She lay back with her legs around him, her feet held against his bum as it clenched and rocked. She was examining him, his sexiness, when she suddenly came in a dazzling burst of light. Then she was aware of him, struggling to finish. She watched. It seemed to be such an effort for him, almost [Type text] [Type text] 1 183 painful. She felt sorry for him. He was so sweet and such a sexy beast. She ran the soles of her feet over his bum. 'Ohht, ohh.' And he sighed. As they walked on he reached out to hold her hand and when the track allowed it he put his arm around her shoulder. They passed in front of a house, then another and along a narrow beach lined with houses. Someone offered them champagne from a lawn. Olaf looked at her and they were on the lawn, sipping champagne and admiring the view. They were invited in and given smoked salmon and turkey. She played at being bashfully in love and dumb. Someone had to leave, did they want a lift? Olaf still wanted to walk to the Spit. She smiled and asked how far it was. Apparently it wasn't all that far. They were welcome to stay if they wanted to, someone would give them a lift later. They were given a slab of Christmas cake and waved good-bye to. [Type text] [Type text] 1 184 As they strolled down the beach they heard - 'Weren't they heavenly?' 'You could say she was.' 'So was he, why'd he have to go and put his shirt on?' 'Why'd she?' Olaf smiled at her and slipped his hand into hers again. She stayed bashful and dumb. They caught a bus into town at the Spit. By Martin Place Olaf was realising she intended to go her own way, he asked if he could come with her. She sadly told him she was going to her grandmother's - first - and ... She sadly shook her head. He was staying at Bondi, would she come over for coffee? Or they could go to a movie. She made a date for the day after Boxing Day. He gave her a loving good-bye kiss. Therese was just in herself. 'You're early. How was it?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 185 'You were right.' And she burst into tears. She told Therese it was because she was so sunburnt. 'You are too, look at your neck. Didn't you ... I asked Kath to keep an eye on you.' Therese shook her head in savage disgust. Then the phone went. 'She's here. She's very sunburnt Kath, I asked you - ' Therese held the phone out to her. She shook her head and ran sobbing to her room. Therese knocked gently and entered. 'It was awful. I was getting burnt and I was too shy to get changed and go for a swim, the men ... ' 'Did any of them lay a hand on you?' 'No. No. They just ... made comments and the women went along with it.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 186 'Did Kath?' She nodded through her tears. Therese rose impressively from the bed. 'You have a shower. We'll put some tomato on that sunburn, it's the only thing for it.' After the shower and the laying on of many slices of the Tom Thumb tomatoes she slept. She woke to the ringing of the phone. 'Yes. She's here.' ... 'She's sunburnt, naturally.' ... 'Well no wonder.' ... [Type text] [Type text] 1 187 'What went on, Kath? What went on exactly? She's a sensible girl, there must have been a reason.' ... 'So you should be.' ... 'I mean Kath, you were the hostess. She's a young girl. From overseas. I don't know what went on but I do know she's sunburnt and came in in a state. She's not the type to tell tales out of school but she did say she didn't like the behaviour of the men. It doesn't take a lot to come to certain conclusions, does it Kath? A pretty young thing from another country, not knowing what was going on amongst a lot of bastards ogling and make comments. I wouldn't have let her go if I'd thought ... Naturally I thought you'd keep an eye on the proceedings. I don't know what's happened to you Kath but you know one thing, I've got no time for women who don't look after one of their own when the men are molesting.' ... [Type text] [Type text] 1 188 'There are many ways of molesting, Kath, as you know only too well. If you'll think of old Mr Kitchener and his ways. If we hadn't all stuck together on that one he would have got away with it. In any case he did, for years. I'll probably never know what went on exactly but I've got a pretty good idea and I'll tell you what, I'm disgusted.' ... 'No you can't talk to her, she's sleeping.' .. 'No I won't get her to ring you later, she's upset enough.' ... 'Why would she run away from a Christmas party in the middle of nowhere and come home in a state then Kath? Wake up to yourself woman, people don't do things for no reason.' ... [Type text] [Type text] 1 189 'I'm glad she did! They deserved their Christmas spoiled. And you can tell that Mort from me I'm thinking of having the police onto him. They can't get away with things like that these days.' The phone was slammed down. She thought she'd better deal with this now. She got up. 'That was Kath,' Therese said after she'd sat in front of the T V. 'I gave her a piece of my mind. She wanted you to ring her back but I told her not to hold her breath. I don’t know what she’s become. She never used to be like that, was all for women's rights when that came in, called herself Ms and all that.' She took a deep draught of her gin and tonic. 'How are you feeling?' She said she felt much better, the tomatoes had done wonders. They watched the children's film in silence for a while. It splashed about the screen in fascinatingly artificial colours. Then she rose and got herself a whisky. She doubled what she usually poured into the glass. After she was settled in front of the T V again Therese said, 'Thank you for the necklace dear, it's too much. But I'll always treasure it. [Type text] [Type text] 1 190 I'll put it in my will for you. It'll suit you too, especially when you're older. We'll never get another one like that.' It was lapis lazuli. She had agonised over a suitable gift for Therese, finally rejecting the idea of a scarf as too obvious. She had gone into a very established jewellery shop and made herself familiar with the place and the assistant as she tried on pearls, then as if whimsically, decided she needed colour for summer. The lapis necklace had been very much more expensive than a scarf but not much in comparison with the pearls. She would never wear it herself. 'Oh look at the gold clasp,' she had exclaimed to the assistant, 'isn't it awful?' She had caressed the necklace. 'The blue is lovely. I'll take it! It'll do for the beach over Christmas. You need something bright, don't you?' She told Therese she was going to ring her family. First she rang Cal and confirmed their meeting with Michiyo. 'You got me up.' Lainie said, 'it's only ... eight. Oh, here's my mother, she must've been in the loo.' There was a silence then Lainie came back on again, 'Oh, thank you for the Australian bracelet. I don't know where I'll wear it, it's very modern. Did you get our parcel?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 191 Her mother's tones ameliorated the disgust she felt for her sister's accent. [Type text] [Type text] 1 192 vi The day after Boxing Day she ran into Derwent. He was back from Cairns. 'Paul?' 'You know, from Sarajevo, he was in the hostel ... ' 'Oh him! I don't know. He went off somewhere - Magnetic Island - with this American guy who had been in the Gulf War, or fighting Osama Bin Laden, or something. A bit of a hunk but really screwy, I think he was some kind of user, you know? How was Christmas? What are you doing for New Year?' They were going to go to Engeneered together. It was to be held in a space that had been a furniture warehouse. Derwent knew the guy who was doing the lighting design and the main D J, Sailor, who would supply them with the necessary vitamin supplement. She walked back to Therese's pleased, her brooding regrets about Ollie broken. What would she wear? Should she ask Cal? She hoped Michiyo would come. She decided on cool and simple. She had the perfect shoes - lovely sandals, pink with low heels. [Type text] [Type text] 1 193 Cal was going, Michiyo gave her the money for the ticket and the drug but might turn up later. She and Cal and Derwent and a friend of Derwent's, Opalene, met in a cafe. They sort of ate and took a tablet. God knows what it was. She snapped hers in half with a knife despite Derwent's protestations and was anxious as Cal tossed his into his mouth and beamed. Then they went for drinks. The bar was very crowded and she felt completely at home. It was so easy to meet people and talk. She didn't want to leave. They were on the street fighting for a taxi. They walked. Which was such fun. Engeneered was dark and threatening with lights dashing like screeching wraiths. The music was an esoteric, highly refined version of what you would expect. Derwent waved to the D J. 'Isn't she great? This is perfect to get things off. Off. Are you off? I'm getting off. Eeehad, it's happening. Is it happening for you? It is for Cal, isn't it mate? I can tell. You're a sly one.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 194 Cal's eyes were twinkling. They were dancing. The wraiths had become coloured spirits dancing with them. She wanted to be by herself. To think. There was something she wanted to think about. She waved that she was going away for a moment. As she turned she saw Ollie. Her heart almost stopped. He noticed a figure in the crowd freeze and focused. His gaze revealed his struggle to accommodate an appropriate attitude. She watched as anger, pain, pride swept his face. He managed a gallant nod and turned back to his dancing. She was transfixed with regret. Then she found herself making her way to the edge of the crowd. She bought some water. And remembered she wanted to think about something. [Type text] [Type text] 1 195 She looked around. She felt cold. She wanted to go home. She wanted to be in bed with a cup of tea. She hated this party. She thought she would go back to England. She could probably pick up some courses when uni started again. She could be back into her course by the end of Hilary term. Lyntie would be there, they could get together, together. A boy was standing in front of her, saying something. He seemed astonished and frightened. He began yelling. It was Lyntie. Her vision panned. There was a security guard. 'Excuse me,' she said to Lynton. She approached the security guard, Lynton shouting in her ear. 'Excuse me ma'am',' she addressed the burly woman, 'this man is harassing me.' The security guard swung her attention onto the petite figure in the lovely top and short skirt. 'Is he? Leave the lady alone sir, she's not interested.' Lyntie started to shout things. [Type text] [Type text] 1 196 She walked off. As she did she noticed the security making calm down gestures to Lyntie and then, as he was about to go after her, reach out to put a restraining arm on him. The last thing she saw was Lyntie knocking it aside. She walked calmly away from Engeneered. New Year erupted. 'Happy New Year,' she said to herself when she was on a well lit, busy road. She waved to some people in a car who had yelled greetings. She unscrewed the cap of the water bottle and toasted the New Year. Oh, she remembered what she wanted to think about - some jewellery. She would steal it from the shop where she had bought Therese's necklace. She made her way back to the bar they had started from. She bought a drink and started to feel warm again. It was actually a hot night. [Type text] [Type text] 1 197 She looked around. The music crashed in on her. She moved a little to it. A girl next to her asked her where she was going. 'I've already been,' she replied. The girl cracked up and told all her friends. They all wanted her to say something again. She was asked if she wanted to go on with them, they were going to Engeneered. 'Oh,' she said, 'I've got to get back by two. I'm staying on a yacht and the launch is picking me up on the beach then.' She told them she was from Nassau. She loved Sydney, thought she would stay. She felt the temperature drop, she had gone too far. 'Nassau? Where's that? Fiji?' one of the girls said. She resolved not to overplay again. They were gone. She was talking to some young queens. 'Why don't you go to Engeneered?' she said, 'I know ... I know some guys who are going and I think it could be your kind of space.' 'And what would that be?' the sharpest demanded. Everyone was so paranoid tonight, it must be this drug. 'Oh you know, I think you've all taken what they've all taken.' Why should she care? [Type text] [Type text] 1 198 One of them screamed with laughter and two of the others joined in. The sharpest turned away. 'You're so cu-ute,' one of the queens said. She moved away. A leather queen was staring at her. He was big and hairy. He winked. She winked back. She watched him approach. He had the lumber almost down. 'How're you tonight little lady?' She thought about this. 'It hasn't been an auspicious start.' He looked taken aback. 'What are you doing out and about by yourself?' 'I'm not.' Again, he looked taken aback, glanced around. 'Where are your friends?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 199 'Everywhere.' And as he looked as though he was going to back off she said, 'You gotta cruise.' He suddenly grinned, 'Too right.' There was a pause as he examined her. 'You're really cool.' 'I'm so thirsty,' she said, 'this water is not really doing it. What sort of beer is that?' She watched him as he went off to the bar for her. She wished Michiyo would turn up. If only she'd brought her mobile, why had she been so afraid of losing it? Cal would be ... He did the walk better from behind. His bum looked cute peeping over the top of his leather strides beneath the chaps. She wondered how old he was. She sipped the beer and wondered if this is what his piss would taste like. 'Who do you like here?' he asked, nodding at the crowd. She looked around. They all looked like really silly nowhere people. A girl was brooding on a stool. [Type text] [Type text] 1 200 'Her. And you?' 'Really? Thanks.' She didn't bother correcting him. 'Oh, did you mean ...? ' There was an almost awkward pause. 'He's O K,' he said. 'I'm looking for a play mate. To play some interesting games. All non penetrative. I'm not really into that.' She nodded. 'Ever done anything like that?' She thought she might tell him she'd never done anything at all like that but it seemed too much to say and implausible though at that moment she thought of herself as a virgin. She was a young girl, looking out through these worldly eyes. She wondered what she could learn. She liked the idea of non- penetrative. She was over penetrative. What if she'd caught Aids [Type text] [Type text] 1 201 from Ollie, or anything? What a fool she had been. How right she had been not to meet him again. She was swept by despair and regret. He had been so sweet. None of that could have happened. She must be hallucinating on this stupid drug Derwent had given her. She hated Derwent, he was just a stupid pusher with illusions of ... delusions of grandeur. 'That sounds interesting,' she said, 'but I ... you have to be in the mood.' He pondered her and then nodded. 'Are you?' 'Not tonight.' 'Pity.' After a while he moved off. She left the bar. Too slowly it became clear that there was not going to be a taxi. She began the walk back to Therese's. It seemed endless. Sometimes she slipped her sandals off. She walked deliberately on [Type text] [Type text] 1 202 the yellowest Moreton Bay figs; some of them burst deliciously against her soles. She sat next to a boy prostitute in a bus shelter. She prayed for a bus. She walked on. Looked at some clothes is a small designer shop; they might do for some occasion - a student event, say a ... She wondered if Australian students gave barbecue lunches at their parents' homes. Not the sort she intended to mix with. She was going to start crying about Lyntie, he had been so upset. He had been yelling about thinking she'd been kidnapped and killed. She couldn't cry here. She would cry at home. Please god don't let Therese be visible in any condition, she couldn't talk to her, didn't want to look at her, she could - not - say - a - word. She was walking down the hill towards 'Longleat'. A cool breeze rustled in the leaves of the big Moreton Bay at the bottom of the hill and reached her. A fruit bat squealed. She felt relief. Soon she would be in bed, she would remember what she wanted to think about. All she had to do was get past Cerberus Therese. She would sleep. Tomorrow ... She would ring Cal after she'd rung Michiyo, late. 'Longleat' lay enchanted. As she walked its panelled corridor she became a princess returning to her chamber after a wearisome ball at which she had to dance gallantes and sarabands with suitors who did not suit. She sank onto an oak bench. She slipped off her sandals again to feel the cool of the terrazzo. Some people yahooed outside. [Type text] [Type text] 1 203 She was safe. She was at peace. She would never leave 'Longleat'. Why did she go out tonight? As she opened the door her mood was shattered by the reek of cigarettes and the whimperings of the TV. Therese was slumped in front of it on a strange falling forward position, her mouth was horribly open. An excited thrill ran through her; Therese was dead. She hesitated. First she should switch off the television which was giving her a headache. Then she should empty the ashtray which was giving her a headache. Then she should take the gin bottle away and wash the glass because it didn't look good. Then she would push Therese upright and call the ambulance. She would go into Therese's room and find the lapis necklace because she could return that tomorrow and ... No. Not return. She had other plans at that jewellers. What did she care about the necklace? It was Therese's. She switched the T V off and went into her room. Then she went to the bathroom and very gently took off her makeup and moisturised her skin. The sunburn had faded. Her pupils were dilated. She would take a Valium and drink a litre of water. [Type text] [Type text] 1 204 She stepped through the living room carefully ignoring its occupant. She sat up in bed with a glass of water. There was another beside her. She took the Valium. She sipped the water. She wondered if she ought to do something about Therese but that all seemed too difficult. She needed to sleep and think about something. In the morning it would be better. She could say she had wished Therese a happy New Year when she got in at .... two-thirty and ... It occurred to her that Therese had been drinking herself to death. She supposed she'd have to move. Now what ... ? She would get up and in the afternoon go into the jewellers and see what they had and how they had it. There must be some way ... Therese's body would have gone by then. When she rang the police she would ask for Robbie. She got up and went to the bathroom. She glanced at Therese. She wondered if she should do something, it might not be too late. But Therese wanted to die. It was perfectly understandable, obviously it all got too hard eventually. She was probably very dead and the whole building - Lady Tierney - would be disturbed by the fuss. Ten o'clock tomorrow would be a much more reasonable time. She supposed she would have to ring Kath but she could manage that, after all. She could get Robbie to do it but it might be better to do it herself, she could say something to Kath ... something that would give the woman pause to reflect. [Type text] [Type text] 1 205 She woke feeling very well and then, at the sound of the television, remembered she had to deal with Therese. She opened her window. The slight breeze smelled of rotten figs and some flower. She felt cool and safe, her sheets were smooth. Last night did not happen. No Therese. No gin bottle. The room was clean. The window was open and the breeze blew a channel of freshness through. 'Happy New Year.' She jumped. 'Didn't mean to startle you.' 'No. Oh, happy New Year. It's going to be a good one.' Therese advanced with a mug of tea. 'If you say so. What did you get up to?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 206 'Oh I went out with some friends - to a warehouse party.' She was beginning to realise she felt very well, relaxed, radiant. She mustn't be too bright. 'They're probably still there.' 'Came in early did you?' 'Early? No, it must have been - oh, fourish. What time did you go to bed?' 'No idea. I didn't check. No fella?' 'Not last night.' 'That's the way. Take your time. No need to rush. Marry in haste, repent at leisure.' Therese settled with her tea. When she came out of the bathroom Therese had nodded off. Cigarette smoke was being whipped away by the breeze. She thought she might go for a swim and then into town. [Type text] [Type text] 1 207 Coming back into the building after her swim she ran into Lady Tierney. She wished her happy New Year. Lady Tierney invited her up for afternoon tea. 'I'm sorry but I am going into town to do some shopping.' 'I don't think the shops are open today dear. What was it you wanted?' She explained she had been sent a cheque from England to buy some jewellery for Christmas and hadn't had a chance to choose a piece yet and she wanted to write and thank ... 'How sensible. But I don't think you'll find ... a good jeweller open. Tomorrow, everything will be open.' Lady Tierney's flat took up the whole top floor of 'Longleat'. It was decorated superbly in its original furniture. After they had settled she asked if she might look at the paintings. It was too soon but her breath had almost been taken away by the astonishing beauty of the room. [Type text] [Type text] 1 208 Lady Tierney accompanied her. 'They're all Australian, Michelle. Sir Hugh ... indulged my interest. Are you interested in art?' She said she was, very interested but still only learning about Australian art. 'That's by Margaret Preston, she is my favourite. I believe she's fashionable again. I ... knew her when she wasn't and she was kind enough to allow me to view her wonderful work. She grew and developed, they all do. Some are better earlier in their careers. I like the Whitely there better than the things he did later on when he was famous. Miss Preston ... Look at this, she had such sympathy for the Aboriginals. No-one did at that time. She persuaded me to buy some ... Sir Hugh hit the roof but Miss Preston was right, of course. The framing cost more than the work.' It was a bark painting of a lizard enclosed in a deep frame. 'Is it ... Did you buy it in ... How old would it be?' 'I don't think anyone knows. Margaret Preston bought it on one of her car trips into the middle of Australia. It must have been the sixties - [Type text] [Type text] 1 209 the early sixties when I bought it, she was moving into a nursing home and rang me ... I had it framed in about 1963. I went to this fellow I knew in Beard Watson's - that was a beautiful store where I used to buy gifts and cards to send overseas. In those days the cards were all gaudy or funereal. This man used to import beautiful cards. I lost contact with him when he left Proud's. It's a jeweller's, he moved there after they closed Beard Watson's but ... ' she examined her guest for the briefest of moments. As they sat over their tea she breathed in the heavenly scent of Lady Tierney's flat. It couldn't be potpourri, it was so subtle. Perhaps it was Lady's Tierney's talc, she would go to the bathroom before she left and check. 'And how is Mrs Sullivan?' 'Oh. She's ... She's not out and about much, she's a ... She pops down the road occasionally to the shop. We've had a quiet Christmas together.' 'I sometimes worry ...' 'Yes. She hasn't been very well lately.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 210 'About her of course but also about you. I fear there are times when it must be very difficult for a young woman to ... I am sure she's very grateful for your company and help. I know you do the shopping ... ' 'There isn't much. I just get it delivered from the supermarket. I'm out most of the time. I work, you know.' 'Yes,' Lady Tierney said in a way that for a moment alarmed her. Just how much did this woman know? 'I'm afraid Therese is ... not out and about much. Lately.' 'If you ever need ... Always remember I'm here if you need to get away sometime. We old ones love the company of the young.' She asked if she might use the bathroom. It was vast. The tiles spellbound her. But she did remember to look in the cabinet. It contained a jar of cold cream and a bottle of eau de cologne. The scent was very faint. The bottle had probably been there since the fifties. 'I was admiring the tiles in your bathroom. Are they from the fifties?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 211 Lady Tierney looked surprised and then briefly annoyed then she said pleasantly and briskly, 'Oh no dear, this flat was built before the War. I think you'll find it's all deco - art deco, they call the style.' 'Oh, I know that.' They adjourned to the lounge room. Lady Tierney asked if she'd care for a sherry, or ... something else? They settled on a whisky. As she stood in Lady Tierney's foyer being bade good-bye she was again spell bound. 'I must take this with me, this must become part of me, ' she thought as Lady Tierney again said that if she ever needed to ... just have a little chat ... She moved a little and thanked Lady Tierney. She said, 'May I just look at this lovely painting?' Lady Tierney watched as she turned in the direction of the painting. It was an interior looking out into the garden. Sunlight spilled from the garden into the room. On a table near the window stood a vase with a disarray of tall and tangled flowers, evidently picked from the garden. [Type text] [Type text] 1 212 She was there, in the room, looking out into the garden. She noticed the sunlight falling on the flagstones. She ordered herself to breathe it in, to take it in and make it part of herself. She was suffused with warmth and peace. 'It was painted by an artist who ... It must seem very old fashioned to you. My father bought it for my mother. D J's used to have a wonderful gallery in those days. I think it reminded him of his own home. It's from the twenties. It does seem to breathe the atmosphere of those times, don't you think?' She turned just as she was about to go. 'Could you recommend a jeweller?' 'Oh dear, I only know one or two, jewellery was never .... They used to go to ... ' It was the very jeweller she had in mind. The one who had sold her Therese's necklace was serving her. She had noticed a much older man and had preferred him. She would see how it went. Doubtless they had cameras everywhere. [Type text] [Type text] 1 213 'Yes. I bought some jewellery from you before Christmas now I want to get something good.' 'I remember, the lapis lazuli necklace, for the beach.' This was not good. 'I need something plainer, more serviceable for ... Lady Tierney suggested - thought I would find the right thing here.' She was blundering. She had awoken feeling depressed. Now she was irritable and her thinking was slow and unclear - Derwent and the drug he had pushed on them, whatever it was. She felt furious. She couldn't afford this sort of thing. 'Were you thinking of another necklace?' The older man who had been hovering now approached. 'And how is Lady Tierney? So good to hear the fine old names being mentioned.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 214 She thought she managed the smile well - cool and a little sparkle. 'She's very well. I had tea with her yesterday. She did think this was the place to go for what I need.' 'And ... I'll serve Miss ... ?' 'Woodburn.' 'Miss Woodburn. You could look through some ... Did I hear you tell Rohan that you had a necklace in mind?' 'No.' She was rather pleased with Woodburn. God no, 'Michelle', would have been enough. Damn that drug. 'I am looking for a nice, plain, serviceable piece of jewellery to dress up a bit but not to make too much fuss.' 'I see.' Rohan moved a little aside for the older man but made it obvious he was not leaving. 'Miss Woodburn - I served Miss Woodburn for Christmas - I believe she is very pleased with her selection.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 215 'Oh yes, thank you Rohan. Rohan was most helpful,' she assured the older man, 'but this time I want something ... a little less colourful - not gold, Rohan.' They were both staring at her, fascinated. Oh dear, not good at all. She smiled back. The older man pulled himself together. 'Was it for a special occasion? A wedding?' 'No. I just want some ... superb piece to dress me up when I feel like plain and simple. I hate all this fuss around.' 'Are we thinking of diamonds?' 'I think so, everything else is ... too much. Except emeralds. But they seem to ... want to do things with emeralds. A simple necklace or even the right bracelet.' Rohan was on his way. [Type text] [Type text] 1 216 She and the older man browsed around the shop, considering. Rohan laid three velvet boxes on the counter. They took their time getting back to him. She thought the first one was like something some new film star would have borrowed to wear to some second rate awards ceremony and refused trying it on. She allowed the older man to clasp the second around her neck. 'It sits quite nicely,' she conceded to the mirror Rohan had brought her. 'They're Argyle diamonds,' the older man said, indicating a cluster of three pink diamonds at the end of the third necklace. 'Oh, I didn't know they had any diamonds in Scotland.' 'No. They're Australian. You only get them in Australia. They're very rare.' After he had unclasped it she sighed. 'Those two are very nice. But I need to think about what I really need. I would like to see some bracelets but today it would be too much. I'll drop in again. I need to think about it properly.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 217 'Of course. Put those away Rohan.' 'Do you mind if I just have another look around? It'll help me to form an idea.' 'Please.' 'I'm also thinking maybe of an Art Deco piece, something with a bit of atmosphere.' 'Well if Ms Woodburn is thinking of simple ... Art Deco does tend to be elaborate. But as madam wishes. We have a few estate pieces.' Over tea in a cafe she was furious with herself. She had really fucked that up. She raged against Derwent and New Year's Eve. She could have done that a million times better, just cornered Rohan and kept her distance while working out a way of slipping something into her bag. Shit! Now they knew her. To some degree. She would have to pop in again to smooth things over but obviously that place was a no go. She'd have to find some other place. O K. That was a better idea. She'd strike while they didn't recognise her. She'd find another place. She thought there was a likely one along Castlereagh Street. Maybe she'd be better going to a small establishment, maybe one in the [Type text] [Type text] 1 218 suburbs. The Art Deco thing was a good idea, there must be very good second hand jewellery shops. She'd ask ... Someone. She really needed a local friend. Maybe some gay guy, not like that pathetic Derwent, someone who knew that sort of thing. Someone you could really talk to. She'd never had a lot of friends. She stopped off at a pharmacy chain store on her way back to Therese's and disconsolately dropped a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of eau de cologne in her bag. The alarm went off and a security rushed up to ask her if she minded him looking in her bag. 'Of course not,' she said. 'Did you pay for these?' 'Oh. I was just thinking about buying them, I must have forgotten. I don't want that toothpaste, I was just thinking about it but I'll take the eau de cologne. How much is that?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 219 She interrupted the lecture with, 'I come here frequently, ask any of the girls. If a customer can't forget an item when they're in a rush without being accused ... As if I would steal a tube of toothpaste and a bottle of cheap perfume. I just wanted it to give to my niece.' She unsettled the manager enough for him to end by merely suggesting maybe it would be better if she shopped elsewhere in future. As she gazed out of the train window at Woolloomooloo Bay she realised her heart was pounding. A small smile played on her cold lips. [Type text] [Type text] 1 220 [Type text] [Type text] 1 221 vii She had her hair styled so that she could brush it up for the restaurant at night. She kept dresses and shoes at the restaurant, cycling them through the week. No-one there seemed to think what she was doing extreme, indeed Mr Iriye and Michiyo seemed to think it appropriate. 'Is good for you,' Michiyo said. Cal wanted to go to a university party. 'Not overdoing it, are you?' Therese asked. Was there a hint of irony in the question? Two or three times a week Mr Iriye would say, 'Special guest would like to meet you later.' As her bank balance grew she began to worry about tax. She thought of going back to the jewellers and sinking the lot into a pair of earrings. Then she thought she might withdraw almost all of her thousands and hide it in her room. Then she thought that was asking for trouble so she consulted one of the advisers her bank proclaimed [Type text] [Type text] 1 222 were ready to give her safe investment advice. She agreed to putting some of her savings in a fixed term account then said, 'What about tax?' 'It's taxed,' the woman looked surprised. 'Of course it's taxed, everything's taxed, no getting out of it.' Anger flushed through her at this and she thought, 'We'll see about that.' She told the woman she was worried about having to pay two taxes - English and Australian. The woman advised her to see a tax accountant. Cal told her not to worry. She did. How could she explain the money she was accumulating? She thought again about buying the earrings. She thought she should get diamonds, or emeralds, from a good second hand dealer. Then her eyes picked up 'estate jewellery' in the paper. It was an advertisement for an auction. Michiyo went to the viewing with her. They were both very impressed. Over tea Michiyo said she might buy some pearls. [Type text] [Type text] 1 223 The auction was on Monday afternoon. They had another hasty look at the items and marked a few possibles in the catalogue. She found herself putting her hand up for a brooch she had admired. It was a platinum butterfly. A swirl of small rubies lay in the centre of each diamond-inlaid wing. The bidding went up. She put her hand up again. Out of the corner of her eye she could see Michiyo shift in agitation. It was hers. For just above the lower estimate. But still nearly all she had saved. Darkness billowed in her head, her stomach went cold. She let her head fall a little towards Michiyo. 'Oh good, ' she said. Michiyo bid for some pearl earrings but dropped out quickly. She thought they might just slip out of there but remembered she had filled in her name and address to get her bidding number. Why hadn't she given a false address? As they moved towards the pick-up area a woman they had spoken to briefly during the viewing on Sunday said, 'You did well.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 224 She handed over her credit card with a little composure. When she took the brooch out of its worn case over afternoon tea in a nearby hotel she was able to smile. It was charming. How the diamonds sparkled. The rubies suggested eyes set in the wings, they seemed to glow wisely with gentle passion. 'At least you can tell it's real. I love art deco.' Michiyo didn't answer. Then she said, 'I will go to the next auction. Do you want to come?' She said she would but she wouldn't bid for anything. That night in her room she tried the brooch on. It was silly and looked far too good for her, she felt. The next afternoon when she rang to check her account balance she felt satisfied that it no longer had an inexplicably large amount in it. That night she pointedly examined the amount her client had placed on the table for her and had given him an annoyed and disappointed look. He grudgingly added two more large notes but as she made her exit she noticed that he looked pleased with himself. [Type text] [Type text] 1 225 In the taxi going back to Therese's she suddenly remembered an occasion when Michiyo had pointed out rock melons piled on a fruit barrow and told her that single ones were offered in special wooden boxes in some Japanese shops for very large sums. 'Why?' she had asked. 'For special gift, status gift,' Michiyo had explained. 'So,' she thought, 'I am a status gift.' She realised she was becoming skilled at her profession. She was sure Michiyo was entertaining clients too. How else could she afford to live in that apartment? She was so discreet. Her determination to keep her own career completely hidden hardened. She would stop all of this when she knew what she was doing. She ran into Beverley at the university. Beverley seemed surprised, studied her, 'You've changed,' she said after taking her in. [Type text] [Type text] 1 226 She felt that anger and apprehension bolt through her again. 'Have I? In a good way I hope. How?' Beverley considered then said. 'I don't know ... You seem more grown-up, older - no! I don't mean like that, more like ... I don't know. It must be your new hairdo, it's really modern.' Minh had got into Physiotherapy in the other university. 'I knew she would, she's so clever. They are. They're so focused. I try to be. I learnt such a lot from her. I'll miss her. We used to work together.' 'I'm here now, we can work together.' Beverley nodded with a knowing sadness. 'That'll be good. You know where I sit in the library.' Her fellow students were mainly young, though in some classes up to a third were mature age. She felt drawn to the latter but thought she should throw her lot in with the young ones. The harried computer woman who had been on her interviewing panel turned out to be a lecturer in Post Modernity and Issues of Identity. She took a seat at the back of the lecture theatre. [Type text] [Type text] 1 227 The computer woman strode onto the platform and introduced herself - Doctor Barbara Barbarolli. 'Don't think this is just a wank where you can rave about your fave celebrity identities. I have no intention of training you to be feature writers for Who Wears What Weekly, though I suppose that's what some of you will end up writing for.' She grimaced around the auditorium in an effort to elicit collusive laughter. There was none. So she shrugged and pelted on. 'This is a course - probably the most so of all first semester courses - which demands the utmost in rigour and application. If you don't know how to reference you'd better find out. I believe Stefan - that's Dr Wyniarsky - will be taking you through that in Comms and Info. You have to get your theoretical underpinnings absolutely down solid. Zohra - Dr Nabhan - and I work fairly closely together to see that by the end of your first year you are cognisant with the writings of the main theoreticians in media and identity studies. You can't understand what's going on in the contemporary world without them. Obviously issues of identity are the most important feature in the post industrial landscape.' 'Obviously,' someone nearby muttered. This did raise a few collusive titters. Doctor Barbarolli glared in their direction. 'It is no laughing matter if you can't - and most people can't - understand the factors which [Type text] [Type text] 1 228 mediate your lives - your self of sense within the information environment which threatens to overwhelm post modern humanity and the manipulation - wilful manipulation in many cases - of media consumers so that they become unwitting victims of post national strategies by post industrial power foci ... this is obviously very different from and very much more than those simplistic notions of globalisation which so many of you seem to espouse these days.' She noticed someone nodding sagely in the middle of the auditorium. Doctor Barbarolli had also noticed and dashed a contemptuous look in the wannabe's direction. 'I've designed this course to be as challenging as possible, to expand your horizons so that you see yourself as where you are in the twenty-first century. I'm told some of you feel knocked around by the journey we undertake together exploring how post modernity inflects and challenges our cosy senses of identity but the serious students, the real students, take away from this course - or so they tell me, inform me - a whole new way of looking at the world and negotiating with it. In short they came out of this course much more effective people. They thank me for not accepting late work, or taking three marks off for every day that work is overdue, unless of course there is an accompanying doctor's certificate - from a reputable doctor, [Type text] [Type text] 1 229 naturally. That's one of the things you've got to pick up straight away - discipline. None of this excuses and mucking around. I don't allow late entry to my lectures or seminars, you're either with me or not. If I can get in on time so can you. I want to see process journals with all submitted work. Plagiarism is a huge issue and I don't have the time to run a search on everything handed in to me. I'm supervising five Ph D's this year. You know what's being done to universities across the country and internationally except for some pockets of favoured compliance - I'm sure you can guess where they are and I can assure you there are one or two even in this university who ... some of you will find out ... I'm sure some of you are with me on that.' No-one dared nod this time though Doctor Barbarolli again swept the auditorium with her predatory gaze searching out manipulative assent and the threat of reactionary dissent. There was neither. A sea of troubled faces gazed back at her. She tossed her head; she was more than satisfied. She had had a few complaints - true, she had handled them as you would expect and it was really more or less her Department now, but [Type text] [Type text] 1 230 Dennis Loeb had ... I suppose you could say, cautioned her. She was subverting his whole dreary approach. He was just another tired fag hanging on hanging in. A guttural whinny issued through her mouth. As she rounded on them again a retired psychiatrist taking the course so that she could talk to her son noted that the woman was a failed hypomanic. She'd take a bet the bitch wouldn't see the year out. 'I can't do whatever she was talking about. What can I change to?' the girl sitting next to her said as they rose to make their way out. 'Don't give up. Some of them try to scare you in the first lecture, that's all she was doing.' 'Are you sure?' They decided to have coffee. The girl's name was Allison. In a blinding moment she hesitated over introducing herself as 'Michelle'. 'Iseult' came to mind. It was a name she'd once seen [Type text] [Type text] 1 231 written on the lapel badge of a girl in a government office. She had longed to look and sound as Iseult had - warm, secure, confident, charming, smiling with beneficence. 'My name's Iseult,' she said, 'but my father always called me Michelle - after the tyres, I'm sure. Oh, do you have them out here?' Their animated mutual discovery was interrupted by a friend of Allison's, Lauren. They had been at school together. Lauren barely acknowledged the introduction. Allison tried to obliterate the rudeness by telling her about the affront of Dr Barbarolli's introductory lecture. 'And I was hoping to get an identity out of it,' she proffered. 'What do you mean by that?' Lauren turned on her and demanded. 'The subject's called Post Modernity and Identity,' Allison explained, smiling at Iseult. 'I know that,' Lauren said, 'I might do it. I'm not sure Communication Civics is right for me.' 'Lauren's doing Arts/Law,' Allison explained. [Type text] [Type text] 1 232 'Who was in the lecture?' 'I didn't see Wynona - she's a girl who went to a school near ours, I used to talk to her on the train. I'm so glad I found Iseult. What have you got next?' They had Media and Society which Lauren also did. They went off together to look for text books before it began. 'Look at the price of this!' She picked one up for herself. 'Are you buying it?' Lauren demanded. 'It's on our prescribed list.' 'They'll probably have it in the library or there'll be plenty of second hand ones. You must have money to burn.' Lauren paused at this thought and scrutinised her. Lauren insisted on standing at the back of the lecture theatre to see where the people she knew were sitting. [Type text] [Type text] 1 233 The lecture theatre was filling so she told Allison she was sitting over there and said good-bye to Lauren. 'See you after the lecture,' Allison called as she made her way to a seat. After the lecture Allison hurried to catch up with her. 'How did you find that?' They stopped and talked for a moment about the lecture. When she made to move off Allison said, 'Wait. I said I'd wait for Lauren. We're catching the train together. Where do you live?' 'Elizabeth Bay. I share a flat there.' 'That's beautiful. My uncle used to have a place there. We could walk to Central together. Are you going home?' At that moment Lauren arrived. She explained that she was on her way to work. 'Work? Doing what? Not McDonald's I hope.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 234 She turned on Lauren. 'Actually I have two jobs at the moment. I work in a sweat shop making garments some mornings and afternoons and I work in a restaurant five nights a week.' Lauren was a little taken aback but recovered quickly. 'You won't be able to keep that up now we've started. I've heard - Lou told me - ' she turned to inform Allison, 'I've heard the first year is the hardest, once you're through that and you've got less subjects then you can relax a bit.' 'I'm not sure he's the authority,' Allison said. 'I think he'd know.' She moved away. 'See you tomorrow,' Allison called. 'Where's she from?' she heard Lauren ask. 'What school did she go to?' As she worked in Mr Iriye's restaurant that night she thought about Allison. She knew Allison had been taken by her. She was the sort of [Type text] [Type text] 1 235 young student she should mix with. She had spent too much time with Lyntie. They had got together too soon. She hadn't mixed enough. That was what university was for. She had to meet people, make real friends, somehow. She felt overwhelmed by what lay before her and very sad and was fighting back tears when Mr Iriye brought a special businessman to meet her after he had bowed the others in the party off the premises. She was very polite and ingratiating but suggested perhaps they could meet for a relaxing drink some other time, perhaps later on in the week if the businessman did not have other more important things to do. She examined herself in the mirror when she got back to Therese's. Was she starting to look coarse? She couldn't go on drinking like this. Could she arrange for the bar tender to keep cold tea in a whisky bottle? That's what she'd always thought bar hostesses drank. Did Japanese businessmen really expect the hostesses to get inebriated with them? She could act it, she was sure. The businessman she had been too sad to entertain turned up late the next night. Mr Iriye cast her a worried, commanding glance. [Type text] [Type text] 1 236 She saw the look of relief pass over his face as she moved into hostess doing special favour mode. She would deal with Mr Iriye and the cold tea tomorrow. Now she dealt with her client. She had developed a routine which worked with most of them. She never left with anyone who was actually drunk. She never appeared to be hurrying them; she had discovered that if she did the clients almost immediately slowed down and control became an issue. She kept eyes downcast and smiled unless the clients were practising their English then, as she looked over their shoulders or at their ties, she assumed a very serious and impressed expression and told them how good their English was. She tittered at anything she thought might be a joke. She affirmed anything they said about Australian girls and what they liked. In the taxi she made sure they had money. To do this she would get out her own credit card and look at it and shake her head sadly. 'Can't visit hotel unless cash to get taxi home,' she would say. She watched as they tipped the cab driver, it was an indication of whether they were big spenders. She was constantly worried she would be recognised. She felt the cab drivers would be less likely to remember her somehow if they got tipped generously. She managed an anonymous look and a smiling Japanese type nod for reception staff. Only one drink in their suite. If they looked like they wanted to get drunk with her, she'd say, 'I must go home in a taxi after you have had two more drinks. The taxis late at night are [Type text] [Type text] 1 237 very, very expensive and I do not have any money.' If they did not understand she would shrug while keeping her eyes downcast and reaching for her purse to open and show that she had no money. She slipped a shoe off if they had not made a move after the drink. She would get up to leave if that did not trigger an advance. As much as possible she discouraged them from touching her, going from caressing to blow job as smoothly as possible without interference from them. She always tried to initiate the next stage of the action without seeming to do so, however if they made the move she had leaned it was better not to respond too quickly. If she felt the money was not enough she sat down again and pretended to look for something in her purse. This always worked, occasionally spectacularly. She rehearsed stories in case anyone said they saw her with a Japanese businessman last night. She thought about buying a wig as some sort of disguise and went to try some on but felt they only drew attention to her. She wore mainly black or sombre purple with a series of discreet scarves which she thought possibly looked like a uniform provided by some international company. [Type text] [Type text] 1 238 How could she be a friend of a nice girl like Allison when she lived the life she did? Then she thought of Lauren whom she had instantly disliked and been in awe of. She resolved to be as she had been in England and before she ran away, simple, nice. But she had been no more than an idiot battered by every influence and she had really never been as innocent as people had taken her to be. No, she could not go back to being such a victim. She would gradually get command of her life. She took the butterfly brooch out of her drawer. This was the start of her new self. She would be strong. She would be clever. She would take her place and belong in it. This all now was a means to an end, it would be over soon. She would forget it, these would become merely the years she had to work to go to uni. She could see a job, a really good job ... maybe in television production, she might even take some role in front of the camera, she would work for News Limited, Rupert Murdoch had been an Australian, he stilled owned everything in the media in the country, she would be able to travel the world, she would more than likely end up in New York. She would get away from this. No-one - only Mr Iriye, Michiyo, no-one else really knew - would ever tell on her, they wouldn't dare. People always made up stories about celebrities, in any case no-one really seriously believed them. This was white water, fast and dangerous, soon it would shoot her into a great serene lake. [Type text] [Type text] 1 239 She and Allison became friends. Lauren continued to regard her with suspicion but her hostility lessened with the adjustments to university life and the fact that they were often in one another's company. One day they found themselves walking away from the university together. She told Lauren about Mr Iriye's restaurant. Lauren thought her father entertained clients there sometimes. 'But what are you doing in Australia?' She told Lauren that her mother had never travelled and was determined her daughters should see a bit of the world. 'That's like Allison's mother - though she's travelled. She wants Allison to meet people other than her school friends. She thinks she ought to get to know how the other half live - not that you're the other half, exactly!' She hooted a laugh and touched her shoulder impudently. 'That's why Allison's taken you up.' 'Oh and I thought it was because she liked me,' she said. And they walked on in silence. She told Mr Hidalgo that she couldn't come in to Polka Dot as much now she was at university full time but would he please ring her if a rush order came up and think about her for holiday work? [Type text] [Type text] 1 240 All the girls were watching. As she came out of Mr Hidalgo's cubby Leni came up to her and put an arm around her waist. 'You come back, come to see us.' She told everyone she still wanted work sometimes, if they had a big order, to help out, help everyone out. 'I remember,' Francesca assured her. She walked away feeling close to desolate. She felt she was severing her last tender with reality. On the way back to the university she slipped into a remaindered book shop. She came across a book about Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery collection. She bought it. Sitting up in bed that night flicking its pages she had an idea for her first essay for PoMo and Iss Idsshe would write about how Elizabeth Taylor used jewellery to confirm - create? - an identity. Allison looked dubious when she told her. Lauren said it sounded ridiculous, where would she find the references? [Type text] [Type text] 1 241 She said she already had one. When she was sixteen a local cinema had advertised National Velvet at a Saturday kids' matinee. At school Gemma had gone on and on about it after seeing it on video. That Saturday had turned horrible with her mother weeping over her father's gambling on the football so she had sneaked off to see the film for herself. It had transported her. Something in her had leapt at and clung to the fierce determination of little Velvet Brown. She had been unable to suppress her weeping when the Pie appeared out of the fog after the last hurdle in the Grand National, Velvet's mother in the grandstand on her feet with anxiety for her daughter's well being. She had wanted to sit in her seat and weep and weep after the film but the elderly usherette knew her mother and would have talked about it so she got up with the few kids and shuffled out. On the way home she thought Velvet shouldn't have fallen off at the end, she wouldn't have. Velvet should have won. She wondered if she should try to be like Velvet's assured sister, Edwina. [Type text] [Type text] 1 242 When she got home she looked at her mother and her heart had sunk. There would be no gold medal from swimming the Channel to give her to get to whatever Grand National awaited her. She borrowed an Elizabeth Taylor biography from the local library and spent Saturday afternoon in the university library reading it. On Sunday she took the National Velvet video around to Cal's to see if little Elizabeth Taylor wore jewellery while cantering around on the Pie. Oh Monday she took the articles recommended for the essay out of Closed Reserve in the university library. Allison and Lauren came across her. 'You haven't started that already?' Lauren declared, but the statement wavered into, 'Have you?' She had. 'But it's not due till two weeks after Easter.' She explained that she didn't know what her work load would be like so she felt she had better get started. [Type text] [Type text] 1 243 She skipped through the main articles required for their first assignment. They were responses, adjustments to the peripheries of the standard works. She barely understood them but took a few notes where she felt they were relevant. The next day she brought the main text to the library with her and began a dash through its impenetrable pages. She took verbatim notes from Dr Barbarolli's lecture. Allison and she were in the same seminar group. It was the one Dr Barbarolli took herself. At close quarters Dr Barbarolli managed a kind of patronising, placating enthusiasm. Nevertheless no-one dared contribute. 'Well who's actually read it, then?' Dr Barabarolli demanded of the group cowering about her after she had pronounced vigorously on the topic for the first twenty minutes. She thought she had better speak now or she would never find the confidence to. 'I understood Pachmann as saying that identity is created through family, culture and in modern post industrial societies through media and aspirations.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 244 'Media is culture in post industrial societies, I was hoping we had got beyond that.' Dr Barbarolli swept the group. 'Someone else must have ...?' Her face reddened. Allison's hand came out and touched her own for a moment. Dr Barbarolli noticed. She began a tirade about how the media promulgated 'culture'. She took up her pen and began to take notes in order to compose herself. Dr Barbarolli's discourse shuddered to a mid sentence stop. 'Usually we do not take notes in seminars, you can do that in lectures. Seminars are for discussion. You do the reading and we discuss. Usually someone reads a paper and leads the discussion but as we are just beginning I thought we could all discuss Pachmann's notions of modern identity formation. That's why it's essential to read the prescribed readings for the seminars.' 'I see,' she found herself saying very firmly and loudly. 'I was just noting something that had not been made clear to me. It was not my [Type text] [Type text] 1 245 intention to violate any code. Thank you for making that so very clear.' The silence was phenomenal. Dr Barbarolli stared at her then she smiled her patronising smile. 'That's what I'm here for. We're all here to share in the process of clarifying and refining ideas.' 'Oh I didn't mean the idea, I meant the code. As a new comer I had no idea that one couldn't jot an idea down on the wing as it were, in seminars.' 'You're from ... I remember your interview, you transferred from another university didn't you? Which one was it again? You were lucky to get in. Which are you?' Dr Barbarolli consulted her class list. 'Can we get on with this?' the psychiatrist thought they'd better give this appalling woman a bit of a thrashing straight off or they'd be in for it all semester. 'I'd like the opportunity to talk about what we have to do for this first assignment. I think we all get that you can't take notes in seminars but I don't think we all get what this assignment entails exactly.' She intended to impress her son by doing well. [Type text] [Type text] 1 246 'Can I record it?' a boy asked. Dr Barbarolli found she had quite a lot of explaining to do. 'Wasn't it wonderful when that boy Royce asked if he could record it?' Allison said over their coffee debrief. The several from the seminar laughed. 'I loved it when that older woman said, That's news to me, when she said that thing about reality T V and personality formation.' They all hooted. 'Wasn't that utterly?' 'At least it was interesting.' 'That's one way of putting it.' 'She's such a heavy.' 'What are you doing for your assignment?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 247 Someone said, 'You're joking.' when she said she was doing Elizabeth Taylor: Jewellery and Identity. They all stared. She shrugged. Allison said well she was doing Sydney Anglicanism and its contribution to the formation of identity. The session broke up in doubt. She wrote the essay on her laptop in the library. She took bits from Dr Barbarolli's lectures, fitted them to the obviously related bits from the required reading and took pleasure in selecting which of Taylor's pieces of jewellery she would discuss. It all began to make sense to her. She believed it. She was a convert to the words of the theorist. Her discussions with Allison were intense. She had been unfair to Dr Barbarolli, the woman was committed. She would go and see her. Dr Barbarolli was astonished to see her. No other first year student had come to see her during the time allotted for individual consultation. She had come to think of it as a blank in her timetable [Type text] [Type text] 1 248 to be used for her own purposes - she was struggling over a paper she might offer to a conference coming up in Amsterdam next year. Dr Barbarolli listened to the questions and found her hostility towards this reactionary and clueless girl overwhelmed - she was so sincere. The harried woman became entranced by her own dealing with this new acolyte's doubts. Dr Barbarolli watched her leave with a warm sense of pedagogic satisfaction: every now and again - not often but every now and again - one of them almost made you feel it was worthwhile. This was Dr Barbarolli's second year of teaching at the university. She was one of its graduates herself. She had just got her Ph D and wanted to turn the opportunity given her to earn a bit of money into an established career. Her goal was tenure; then they would see. She walked away determined never to bother again. The interview had given her a headache. She was delighted to discover she got a very high mark for her assignment into which she had taken pleasure scanning coloured photocopies of the relevant examples of Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery. Allison also got a high mark and a recommendation she broaden her outlook in the next assignment. The psychiatrist complained about [Type text] [Type text] 1 249 her mark. Dr Barbarolli amended it after she had checked the student profile, Perhaps I was a little severe on your analysis and application of Westbrook to the influence of magazine advertising but always remember most studies have shown adolescent boys do not read much, especially magazines. The psychiatrist, who had specialised in troubled adolescents, snorted a laugh at this, mainly because her mark had been raised from thirteen out of twenty to eighteen. Michiyo reminded her the next jewellery auction was on. Michiyo bid more than what she had paid for the butterfly brooch for a string of small pearls. 'It is a very good idea you had, jewellery is an excellent investment. No tax,' Michiyo said as they sat in triumph over afternoon tea again. She was very pleased she had managed to stop herself from bidding. 'We should think about art too,' she replied, 'they say it can be a very good investment.' Michiyo sipped her tea and took a bite of a scone while she gave this serious consideration then she nodded, 'You know about it?' She wanted to laugh but she nodded seriously back, 'I have an idea - anyway I can find out. No big bank accounts, no tax, that's our aim.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 250 Michiyo nodded slowly again and smiled at her. Michiyo excused herself. Her mind swung to her major assignment for PoMo and Iss Ids. By the time Michiyo reappeared she was absorbed in the search for a suitable subject, something not desperately original. As Michiyo sat down she noticed she was wearing the pearls. She was impressed: her friend betrayed no self-consciousness, it was if she always wore them. She decided to do eminem. This time other students looked thoughtful rather than askance when she told them her chosen topic - was their chosen subject too straight for this course? She called it eminem - 'Would the Real Shady Please Stand up?'. Allison asked her to her home for lunch one Saturday. They could spend the day working on their assignments together. She looked up from poring over one of the theorists to find Mrs Blackmore, Allison's mother, standing at the door, staring at her. She [Type text] [Type text] 1 251 suppressed an impulse to nudge Allison and look in the direction of the door as if at a bizarre and disturbing occurrence, instead she smiled and nodded encouragingly. Allison looked up and tried to introduce her mother who had advanced into the room but her mother had already begun, 'You must be Iseult, Allison's new friend. Allison tells me you are out from the Old Country, what part are you from?' Allison interrupted the interrogation by telling her mother they were just in the middle of getting something clear. 'I'll see you at lunch then,' Mrs Blackmore said to Iseult. Iseult smiled a warm smile. 'But Mum Iseult and I ... I thought we might make sandwiches and have them with a thermos in the Old Paddock, it's such a lovely day and Iseult doesn't know this area at all.' 'Haven't you been up this way? Allison told me you live in Elizabeth Bay, did she tell you that my husband's brother - he's no longer with us - used to live there? It was such a lovely flat. I can't remember the name of the building. Where exactly is your flat?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 252 She explained. 'Does it have harbour views?' 'No. Unfortunately.' She smiled warmly again but more firmly this time. 'Allen's flat had magnificent views. The young boy he used to share it with couldn't keep it on after ... we heard. The rents must be a fortune these days?' She ignored the question. 'Allison said you work - was it as a waitress?' 'Yes. And in a garment factory.' 'Really? You could help Allison take up some of her hems, the length she has them makes her look dowdy, don't you think? She has no fashion sense, never has had. You might help her - .' 'Mum, Iseult hasn't got all day, she's got to go to work tonight. We have to hand this in before the end of semester.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 253 'I'll make the sandwiches. There's chicken left over from the other night.' ''I've already made them.' 'What did you use?' 'There was smoked salmon and I used some of the chicken.' 'I was keeping that salmon for a special breakfast treat for your father, I was going to do scrambled eggs and - ' 'I'm sorry. I didn't use it all.' 'You didn't use the chicken and smoked salmon together, did you?' 'No Mum.' 'I'll check what you've done. They're in the fridge I suppose?' Allison nodded. When her mother had gone she started to cry. [Type text] [Type text] 1 254 'Don't worry,' she said, laying a hand on Allison's, 'all mothers are like that, she's just trying her best to do the right thing.' 'No they're not! She's so oppressive. I wish she'd get her own life.' With that Allison pulled herself together and refocused on the work in front of them. Mrs Blackmore was waiting for them in the kitchen. A travel rug lay in front of her on the kitchen table and there was a basket with a thermos sticking out of it. She was wearing a jacket. 'Ready? Allison is such a serious student, I never had to make her do her homework, she was away in her room as soon as she got home from school. Didn't reappear until I called her for dinner. I'm so glad she's found a friend who's more worldly than she is. Lauren Toogood's been a bit of a blessing - someone to go to uni with but I'm not sure she lives up to her name. Does she?' 'I'm sure she does ... ' Then, 'I haven't known Lauren very long.' 'You've known her as long as you've known Allison.' 'Yes. That's true.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 255 Mrs Blackmore rose. 'I've made us café au lait and Iseult and I can have some of your father's fudge with it.' Mrs Blackmore swept up the rug and handed it to her, 'Allison can help me carry the picnic basket, it's quite heavy.' Allison rallied from utter defeat. 'I thought we might walk. We'll put these things in the car and meet you there.' 'We can all walk. Good idea, it is such a lovely day, you were quite right.' 'But the basket?' Mrs Blackmore took the rug back from her daughter's guest. 'You can manage between you, strong young girls like you what with Iseult having to rush round with heavy trays and you riding all the time. Let's see your shoes - yes, she can walk down the road in them. They're lovely dear, where did you get them? You could take Allison along when you go shopping next.' Iseult was rather enjoying herself parrying Mrs Blackmore's impertinences or ignoring them. The air sparkled. A tiny cool breeze [Type text] [Type text] 1 256 flicked her hair. They had walked past stately homes. All was quiet and ordered. She had seen a house that she imagined was the original for the painting in Lady Tierney's foyer. She could see the view from the room at the back into the garden. It might even have been on such a day as this. She felt at ease. The Old Paddock proved to be a park which commanded a sweeping view. They settled at its further edge. There was a piercing scream. A dog started to bark. 'I wonder what's disturbed the Richardson's peacocks? That Amber Gelter will be on the phone to the Council, again' Mrs Blackmore laughed. 'Is Louis Richardson part of your clique?' 'No Mum, we don't have cliques.' Allison turned to her friend, 'You know Lou? That's where the noise comes from. They have peacocks, some of the neighbours complain. They can be quite noisy, as you heard.' She had gone white. 'Are you all right?' 'I think I'm getting a migraine.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 257 'Why? You haven't been eating oranges. Did you have any of that chocolate I left for your brother on the breakfast room table? Let me look at you.' Mrs Blackmore decided they had better get Allison home to her tablets. She dashed the curtains across in her room. 'Lie down. I'll run Iseult to the station. Don't move. We can get this before it starts.' 'It's already started.' 'I was hoping she might have grown out of that,' Mrs Blackmore said in the car. 'Princess Margaret used to get them.' At the station she turned to Iseult. 'I'm so glad Allison's got a friend like you, she needs bringing out of herself, she's so like her father - he's the quiet type too. Her brother's more like me. Boys have to be pushing ahead. See if you can encourage her. I'll come shopping with you. We'll get her a nice winter coat. Sometimes my heart sinks when I see her going off in the morning, she looks like a strapper at the races. She could lose a few kilos. I'd better get back to her. I'll call the doctor, he'll charge a fortune for a visit. This can go on for [Type text] [Type text] 1 258 days. She has to use suppositories, can't keep a thing down. He might give her an injection if he thinks its bad enough.' She almost jumped when the woman grabbed her forearm in an intense grip. 'Remember, I'm counting on you to show her a few things, she's so naive I could scream.' As she stood on the pavement outside the station watching the car screech off she realised she hadn't thanked anyone or even said good-bye. Therese was draped as if dead again that night when she got in. She carefully opened the window to allow the night air to disturb the fug but closed it again because it was cold and she was worried Therese would get pneumonia. Though she was exhausted she lay awake worrying about the woman. She was getting worse. She was incoherent at times and she looked dreadful. She hardly seemed to eat at all. She didn't know what to do. She thought she might consult Lady Tierney but then decided that was not a good idea; Therese would be sure to find out if Lady Tierney said or did anything at all and would regard it as a betrayal. Should she call an ambulance now and tell Therese later she thought she had collapsed? She could ring Kath, it was an emergency of sorts. [Type text] [Type text] 1 259 She felt sick herself. The cold tea ploy did not seem to be working. The waiters ignored the bottle she had carefully prepared and pointed out to them. It had disappeared after two nights. The customers often poured huge drinks for her from the bottles they had bought and were insistent on her drinking. Tonight her potential client had not been able to make up his mind and she had lost patience and smilingly excused herself, saying she was not well. The customer had been offended and Mr Iriye had looked annoyed. What an awful day, she was getting a headache herself. She should stay away from Allison, it was all too complicated having friends. She couldn't invite her back here and there was that demand her awful mother had put on her. What did she think she was? She suddenly felt sick and rushed to the bathroom. She vomited and vomited to the gall. Her head began to crash. She crept past Therese and into bed but had to go back to the bathroom to get a headache tablet. Therese had not moved since she had arrived home. Perhaps she really was dead this time. She got up late still feeling sick. Therese was still slumped in her chair. She went over to her and examined her. She leant forward [Type text] [Type text] 1 260 and touched her. Therese jumped awake at her touch and she jumped back. After a moment's confusion Therese said, 'I must have fallen asleep in the chair.' And gave a sort of laugh. Therese hauled herself up, staggered, shouted, 'I'm all right, don't touch me! Never touch me,' and swayed towards the bathroom. She retired to her room and waited for Therese to leave the bathroom then she showered and escaped to uni. She rang Mrs Blackmore. Allison's brother answered the phone and said Allison couldn't talk, she had a migraine. She asked to speak to the mother. She thanked Mrs Blackmore, trying not to be perfunctory. Mrs Blackmore asked her to get any notes Allison might need from the lectures she was missing. Then she rang Kath. Mort answered the phone and said, 'What happened to you on Christmas Day?' He hardly waited for an answer before shouting for Kath. She heard herself described as 'it's that girl who lives with Therese Sullivan in Elizabeth Bay'. Kath was ready to hand out punishment. 'Yes? Who is this?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 261 After she had explained herself Kath snapped, 'What do you want, Michelle?' She told Kath she was a bit worried about Therese and - 'What's the matter?' She trod carefully. 'She seems to be drinking a little bit more than is good for her, lately.' 'Wouldn't be the first time. How bad is she?' 'Pretty bad. I think.' 'I don't know why you're ringing me, I can't do anything about it, you're the one who caused a rift between us.' Now that this moment had come she gave it a moment's silence, 'I'm sorry about that,' she declared, 'but that is not the issue here, I'm ringing to see if you have any advice. I am quite worried, obviously.' Kath took a while to consider this, 'The only person she will listen to is her old doctor - Skelton. I haven't got his number but his practice is in Bondi Junction.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 262 'Thank you Kath, I'll look it up.' Kath hesitated now. 'It's the only thing. She's been off the rails before. He fixed her. If there's anything I ... She has to get really bad before she'll snap out of it, they're all like that. I believe. What stage is she at?' She said she had no way of answering that question, thanked Kath again and said good-bye. Kath put the phone down feeling cheated out of her right to indignation. She retired to the university library to worry. Would Kath rush over to Therese's? In her present state Therese would more than likely resent the intrusion. Kath would tell Therese that she had rung her. What would the implications be for her? She made a note of the name 'Skelton' then added 'Bondi Junction'. How did Michiyo manage the whisky thing? Once or twice she had noticed Michiyo was inebriated herself when they said good night. Maybe it was just part of the job. [Type text] [Type text] 1 263 Her mind sought relief remembering how lovely Allison's neighbourhood was. She got up from the desk to find out about peacocks. She had pictured one swaying about on a sunny lawn behind a wall which protected the house and its garden from exposure to the quiet, leafy, serene road Mrs Blackmore had marched them along to reach the Old Paddock. [Type text] [Type text] 1 264 [Type text] [Type text] 1 265 viii In the break she decided she must do something about Therese. Sunday was usually her day with Cal but she offered to make dinner for Therese on Sunday night. Therese shrugged. She roasted a leg of lamb. She drank whisky, Therese drank gin, they both drank wine. Therese pushed the food around her plate, lit a cigarette and ignored the lemon delicious pudding. After the meal Therese fell asleep in front of the television and she just made it into bed herself before falling into a dead sleep. When she got up the next morning Therese was doing the dishes. She protested and they finished the task together. The break yawned. [Type text] [Type text] 1 266 She had already spoken to Mr Hidalgo about a few days work at Polka Dot. She was still worried about having to explain her income to the Australian Taxation Office one day. She felt she could pass at least some of it off as work at Polka Dot and the rest might be accounted for by her work at Mr Iriye's restaurant - tips, and all. Besides, she couldn't hang around with Therese all day and she couldn't spend the whole break in the University library. Allison called and asked her for lunch the next Sunday. They were doing an order of Summer frocks at Polka Dot. She found that even though the work left her low on energy for the restaurant, she felt more real, more purposeful while she was there. She loved joking with the other women. She told them she was studying to be an English teacher. She had to decide what subjects she would do next semester. PoMo and Iss Ids had been part of the compulsory Cultural Studies strand. She decided to follow it with Post Colonialism and Information Dissemination. She was staring at the notice board thinking about doing Video for Media Production, the other compulsory strand, when Lauren approached. 'Oh, hi.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 267 'Hi.' 'I can't decide. I think I'm going to do Video as my Media Production subject but it seems ... Wouldn't Online be more useful?' 'I'm doing Video.' 'Are you, Lauren? Why?' 'It's more useful. You use it with everything. The techniques apply to everything - film, digi, everything.' 'Allison's doing Film.' 'She would, she's so traditional. She told me you're going to be there on Sunday.' 'Yes. I'm really looking forward to it, it's such a lovely area.' 'Yes. It'll be mainly locals, except for you.' Even though she was keen to discuss her subject choices this comment made her change her mind about asking Lauren to have [Type text] [Type text] 1 268 coffee. 'I've got to go. I think I'll go and see if Dr Barbarolli is in and ask her what she thinks about doing Video. See you Sunday.' Dr Barbarolli was in. She smiled in spite of herself at the sight of her student. 'I'm glad you've come up to see me. I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed reading your assignment on eminem.' 'Oh. Thank you. I hadn't realised you'd had a chance to mark it yet. I came to ask your advice on what to do next term in - ' 'You should definitely think about doing Post Colonialism and Information Dissemination. Zohra - Dr Nabhan - does a brilliant job of teaching about Aids awareness in preindustrial societies. She's so good.' 'That's good. I'd already decided to do that, I'm more worried bout the Media Production strand. Dr Barbarolli allowed a little grimace to play across her stern, dedicated features. She was a little puzzled by this. 'It's compulsory.' 'It is if you chose the artisan approach.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 269 'Artisan?' 'That's what we academics call the Production part of Information Sciences.' 'I see ... ' She thought she'd better go. 'I have to too. I need a caffeine fix after marking this shit.' She flicked her hands at the student papers strewn all over her desk. She glanced anxiously to see if her own was one of them. She saw Allison's on Smoking and Identity Formation in Young Women. A word followed by a fence of exclamation marks had been scrawled across the comment sheet. 'That new place over the road isn't too bad.' Dr Barbarolli sent her coffee back. It wasn't strong enough. 'You may as well do Video,' she decided for her acolyte, 'Film's just a wank, if you were serious about it you'd be at AFTERS.' She allowed herself to look puzzled. [Type text] [Type text] 1 270 It was the Australian Film, Radio and Television School. ' T V ... more or less the same. Christ it's appalling you can't smoke in these places. The nicotine fascists have really taken over. Online ... well Howie Robertson runs that. You may as well do Vid, it's as good as any.' 'What about Performance and Events?' 'Performance is Gayle Che. They call it Laurie Anderson Studies. That's all she knows about. She's got a poster of Lou Reed in her office.' Barb Barbarolli snorted. She laughed merrily at the snort. It was so like the manner in which Therese dismissed every gentle suggestion that she consider light, fresh air, food, life. Dr Barbarolli felt a great success. The vindictively strong replacement coffee had made her elated. She gazed at this girl and was enraptured by the image transmitted back. [Type text] [Type text] 1 271 Outside, Dr Barbarolli mined her huge bag for cigarettes and lit one. She snapped an ostentatiously long draught deep into her lungs, held it for admiration and exhaled strongly. She recalled Allison talking about some girls using cigarettes to embrace toughness, imperviousness. Allison had accurately mimed a version of what Dr Barbarolli had just performed with such extreme vigour. Allison said they usually did it striding along. A particular moment was when emerging from some smoking prohibited zone such as public transport. As if telepathically, Dr Barbarolli strode off. She crushed an impulse to call out good-bye. Allison's brother picked her up from the station. 'Al said you'd be well dressed,' he said as he rushed around the car to slam into the driver's seat. She took her time getting in. Dressing for this occasion had been a challenge. She had settled on dark blue wool slacks with a rose wool three-quarter coat she had made herself between finishing at Polka Dot and going to the restaurant. She had tried the butterfly brooch with it but it had overdressed a very smart look. She had determined to wear the coat [Type text] [Type text] 1 272 with the greatest of casualness and to divest herself of it as soon as possible. It was a dull cold day. The cold was into her bones. It reminded her of her home town but it was thirteen degrees. How had she borne it, all those months of sub zero and no sun? Today was an aberration, the sun usually shone and when it rained it drenched. Sydney was completely unlike the seeping damp and darkness, the freezing steel of those cobbled and bricked streets ringing beneath your clattering feet. Macalister Blackmore charged the car towards the family home and skidded to a stop in a spatter of gravel. She forbade herself to thank him. He was handsome and trying to be rough. She thought he had probably never had sex and in an access of envy and pain loved him for his blow hardy innocence. 'Al's nervous. she's been cooking for two days. It's a waste but I can't wait to eat it.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 273 She handed him her wine to carry. He looked surprised then proud to be treated as malely responsible. Elizabeth Taylor's jewellery had led her to the old Duchess of Windsor's collection. She had followed up Wallis Simpson's career with intense interest. Diana Vreeland had written that she had never had food such as Wallis had served at a lunch for Edward when the divorcée and the king were first acquainted, also that she had run into Wallis in a lingerie shop and she had been buying the most exquisite things. Mrs Simpson had been invited to a country weekend at which the king was to be present and had said, according to Vreeland, 'It's either this weekend or never.' She enjoyed choosing the wine. That was simple - white and expensive from some boutique vineyard no-one had ever heard of. However, she wanted to make some gesture which would go some way towards obviating the debt of hospitality. Caviar seemed too flagrant, chocolates too heavy for a lunch. She thought of getting up early on Sunday morning and making biscuits but she didn't want to use Therese's kitchen after having so soon betrayed her offer to make then both a decent dinner they could share on Sundays. She searched several shops and in a specialty kitchen supplier near Polka Dot had come across glacé chestnuts. They came in a round tin wrapped in old-fashioned waxed paper which had been pleated [Type text] [Type text] 1 274 towards the centre of the tin. The assistant had examined them and said, 'What are these ... ?' and tried to pronounce marrons glacé ... 'Never seen them before.' That had confirmed the choice for her. And surely they were perfect on a day like this, a European day? Immediately after greeting her, Allison asked her brother to see to the fire. They had a quick chat before Allison led her into the sitting room. Six people were scattered about it. Lou Richardson's attention had swung to her as soon as she entered, Macalister, who was sitting on the arm of the chair occupied by Lou, followed his gaze then returned it to his hero and then went to provoke the fire which was burning low in a beautiful sandstone fireplace. Flanked by Allison she stood smiling at the other guests. Lauren glanced at her then went over to take Macalister's place on the arm of Lou Richardson's chair. 'Hi!' she then exclaimed. 'You remember Iseult don't you Lou?' She smiled at Lauren and nodded hello to Lou whom she had met in the Union at the University. He was a year ahead of them in Information Sciences. [Type text] [Type text] 1 275 Allison introduced her to Clarissa, a school friend, Carl, another friend and Graeme, a cousin. Except for Macalister they were all about the same age. They were all students. Allison settled her near Clarissa and Carl. It was all so easy. Clarissa was doing Design, Carl Agronomy. Allison bade Macalister follow her out. He returned with a glass of wine for her. 'Allison said to ask if it's not too early for you.' She took the glass and smiled. Macalister coloured. After a while she slipped out to see if Allison needed help in the kitchen. Allison was pouring soup into a tureen. Lauren crashed in immediately after her and also offered to help. She followed Allison into the dining room. A cool sweetness enveloped her. She paused. The table was beautifully set, decorated with a small arrangement of flowers from the garden. The sweet scent had come from a few freesias artlessly accompanying jonquils in a plain glass vase. The arrangement evoked some of the old Still Life paintings she had discovered in the books of Australian art she had taken to perusing in idle moments in the University library. [Type text] [Type text] 1 276 Outside a watery sun played over bare, smooth boughs which displayed tall, thin purple and pink magnolia buds. A path of stone flagging ran around the edge of a lawn. She was possessed of the place; this was where she belonged. The awkwardness of settling at the table soon dissipated in uni chat. She asked Macalister who was sitting next to her about school and what he wanted to do next year. He thought he might do Info Sciences too but maybe Electrical Engineering. Clarissa was very interested in sixties and seventies style. Carl thought he might specialise in dry land farming. Graeme was doing Dentistry. 'I'll do it,' Lauren proclaimed when she rose to help Allison clear the soup plates. She sank down without voicing her offer. Lou asked her how she was liking Info. Lauren hesitated at the door but continued. She told Lou and the others that she was finding it all a bit strange but very interesting. [Type text] [Type text] 1 277 'It's like that in First Year,' Lou said, 'you get into it though.' He was doing a different version of Info Sciences and was now thinking of going on to Law. 'I was interested in Policy Formation and Introduction but I can see I'd go better if I had a Law degree.' 'Like Lauren,' she said. 'Not like Lauren, she - ' Lauren swept in bearing plates, followed by Allison with a dish of canneloni. 'It took her two days to make,' Macalister said. In the criss-crossing conversation which followed she had an opportunity to tell Clarissa she had developed an interest in art deco. 'There's plenty around where you live - plenty around here too. I like later stuff, Scandinavian influence especially. I want to design fabrics, I love all that Marimekko stuff with big circles and bold colours, abstractions but I love all those frilly fifties and sixties patterns with stylised animals and things too.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 278 Carl told them how eucalyptus trees could provide a fabric tougher than hemp and was much, much cheaper to produce. Allison suggested he and Clarissa could go into partnership but it transpired that eucalyptus fabric was too tough for clothing but Carl would see whether it would convert to upholstery fabric; he held out a hope that it might. The conversation flowed about a singer's debut in a film. Graeme said, 'I heard he was in a gay relationship.' 'That's one of the things I had to get used to when I started Info, I suppose that's partly what you meant.' 'About what?' she asked Lou. 'You know, you said it was a bit strange starting Info.' 'That's right Lou, let her know she's really on the North Shore.' Allison glared at him. 'I found it a bit weird too, at first.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 279 'Lauren, Maggie Archer and Teensie Jacoby were an item at school, you knew that, everyone knew that. So were Linda Uys and Rubie Jollie.' 'Linda's with that Leon Kaufmann now.' Still ... ' 'Don't get me wrong, some of my mates are gay, now, it was just - ' 'Whoa! Gay? Really?' Macalister demanded. 'I'm used to it now too,' Clarissa said, 'half the Design School is gay, all of the teaches are - the guys, in any case.' 'Really?' Macalister said again. 'Get used to it, Mac, it's called the real world. Now come and help me get the salad.' Macalister followed his sister out. 'Is she upset because we're talking about gays in front of Macalister?' Clarissa whispered. [Type text] [Type text] 1 280 'She's not upset,' Lauren said. 'I don't think she's too pleased with me,' Lou suggested. 'I think she thinks I let the team down. Did I?' he asked her, 'it's you she thinks I've offended, or something.' The bolt of anger shot through her. She had to keep her mouth shut. The table was staring at her. 'Naturally Allison detests homophobia, it's down there with racism, isn't it?' Clarissa, who was black, squirmed a little at this. 'Sure. It sucks. Some of my best mates are ... now.' Lou offered this in his deepest, most authoritative voice. She detested him. Who the fuck did he think he was? What had he done to warrant the patrician, authoritative air? [Type text] [Type text] 1 281 Though he couldn't interpret it, he glimpsed the intensity of her expression and flushed, turned aside. 'More wine. mate? he asked Carl. Carl held out his glass. She wanted to shriek with laughter, instead she made her eyes twinkle at him when he stole another glimpse, trying to work out her reaction. He smiled back broadly, with relief. Lauren thrashed around in her place. 'I don't know,' she said, 'anyway, most of them grow out of it.' 'You're an expert, are you?' was Lou's response. The spirit of the luncheon had sunk very low when Allison and Macalister entered with the salad. 'What's the matter?' Macalister asked. 'Nothing,' Clarissa said. 'We were just talking about uni. You'll see when you go, it can be hard to - starting can be a bit of a strain.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 282 'You should come out and have a look around with me, I'll buy you a beer,' Graeme said. 'You'll like the blokes. You should do Dentistry, that's where the money is, you know where you're going.' 'I was about to ask Lauren and Lou if they knew anything about P C Ids,' she said brightly to Allison and turned to those two. Everyone stared at her. 'Excuse me?' Lou asked, smiling in anticipation.. 'Post Colonial Information Dissemination ... or a k a Post Colon Insem or, for the experts, just Pocied.' 'Pocied ... that's brilliant,' Lou grinned broadly and rubbed his hands together in glee. Lauren disappeared. The lunch party rose to affability over dessert and gathered around the fire again for coffee. Allison produced the marrons glacé which Lauren wouldn't touch but Lou declared he really liked. [Type text] [Type text] 1 283 She wanted to be out of there. Lou was talking to her a lot and though she had resolved that he was just an older version of Macalister, he made her feel queasy. 'I must go soon,' she whispered to Allison. 'Why? Graeme wants us to go and see that movie. Lauren wants to go on to a club after. We can send Mac home after something in Chinatown.' 'I've made other arrangements, I'm sorry.' Allison was very disappointed but pulled herself together to stop her calling a cab. They would all drive into town together. Lou wanted her to come with him. She was relieved to be with Cal. Once she had sunk into his huge couch in front of the T V she considered the idea that she really loved him. He had been cool at first because she had not spent time with him the previous Sunday but couldn't stop his easy good nature bubbling up in the company of his Australian girlfriend. He was thinking now [Type text] [Type text] 1 284 she was his real girlfriend. She had encouraged him to cut down on drugs and to be sensible with his money. He loved those occasions when she was not too tired to be picked up after work in the restaurant and they would go out for a drink or coffee or come back to his place. His chief disappointment in her was she would not take his advice about buying shares. He was surprised tonight when she gently raised the subject, asking for advice. She had brought up the subject when he had begun to stir himself to go out and she had been beset by the fear that they would run into Allison's luncheon party. After she had agreed to invest in the ones he suggested and they had had a couple of whiskies to seal the deal she suddenly decided she did want to go out, to hell with those racist, homophobic, pretentious bores, she would enjoy introducing Cal as her boyfriend. But they did not run into Allison's crowd. That night in bed, as her head spun with the day, she thought Allison wouldn't have been taken aback to meet Cal. She could see Allison being polite and pleased to meet him. Lauren would have been thrilled. She decided she must tell Allison about Cal. She wondered if Allison wasn't a real friend. [Type text] [Type text] 1 285 [Type text] [Type text] 1 286 ix She made a beef stroganoff several days in advance for her Sunday evening with Therese. Cal had tried to persuade her to stay with him after their afternoon together and she had been very tempted. They had had a wonderful time lunching with Michiyo and a Japanese man in Watson's Bay and then walking all around the Gap. The scrawny shrubbery was being blown flat by the strong wind, the waves tossed and crashed, trailing white veils. The air had filled them with strength and excitement. Therese said, 'What's this?' picking up the spinach linguini she had prepared to accompany the beef stroganoff. It slithered from the fork back onto the plate. She was furious and ate in silence. The meal was not a success and she drank too much of the good white wine she had bought especially. She woke with a bad head. [Type text] [Type text] 1 287 Therese was still passed out in front of the television which she had turned off after she had cleaned up the plentiful remains of the splendid meal. She went into her room and called Dr Skelton. She left a message. Dr Skelton rang back and asked what the problem was. Containing a mounting rage, she told him that she was frightened that Therese would fall when she wasn't here and do herself some real damage. She then said she thought Therese ... He might want to have a look at Therese. There was a silence then Dr Skelton said he would be there sometime between eleven fifteen and noon. Therese had come to by then and had accepted a cup of tea. She was confused and looked like a battered rag doll. Dr Skelton was quite an old man. He bowled past her and was at Therese in a moment. Therese submitted to his rough ministrations without question. 'Do you know who I am?' he barked. [Type text] [Type text] 1 288 'Of course. What do you take me for?' she said. Without further ado he took out a hypodermic, plunged it into a phial, withdrew a clear liquid then plunged it into Therese's arm. 'Where's the phone?' He called an ambulance and issued instructions. Then he made another call and issued more instructions. 'Pack her some things. The ambulance will be here in ten minutes. All she'll need is a couple of changes of underwear and a nightie. You can take her anything else she needs later on. Why did you let her get into this condition?' He shouted at her. 'You should have called me weeks ago.' The rage shot out of her. 'Don't talk to me like that. I called you when I dared. How dare you come in here and behave like that? What I've just witnessed amounts to assault. Be careful or you might find yourself under investigation. You don't know who you're dealing with here, you low life fucking ... ' She was going to add 'scumbag' but saw her outburst was having the required effect. [Type text] [Type text] 1 289 'All right, all right, calm down. I thought ... Let's concentrate on the patient here. Will you pack her a few things? Just get a dressing gown over what she's got on, they can change her in the hospital.' She accompanied Therese. It turned out to be the psychiatric ward of the local public hospital. Whatever Dr Skelton had injected into her made Therese very compliant. She went on to the University. From then on she visited Therese every day, either on her way to the University, or in the afternoon before going to the restaurant. She always took a magazine, flowers, some delicacy. After a week Therese said, 'Dr Skelton saved my life.' As far as she knew he hadn't seen Therese since his abrupt departure. Over the next three weeks the colour returned to Therese's face and she began to fill out. [Type text] [Type text] 1 290 She escorted Therese home with a small suit case and bag of medicines and instructions to make sure Therese got to outpatients once a week for a vitamin B shot. When she got in that night it was as if Therese had never been away. There she was, sitting in front of the T V, smoking, gin and tonic bottles on the table beside her. She stopped dead, utterly appalled. ‘How are you feeling Therese?’ 'Much better.' She had decided to make a documentary for Media Production. The University supplied her with a video camera which Cal scorned. He presented her with an exquisite one. She set to work shooting people going to work. At one of her production seminars she was criticised for not seeking permission before capturing people. Another young woman agreed, yes she was as bad as Candid Camera, it’s unethical. This led to an intense discussion of the ethics of documentary making. Her case was forgotten in the clashes and corrections of points of view. [Type text] [Type text] 1 291 Lauren was in the same group. As they walked away from the class she asked Lauren if she thought what she was doing was unethical. 'They're ridiculous!' Lauren said, 'It's not as if anyone is going to see it.' The work came with the editing. She laboured for weeks over her few minutes of tape. She had watched Leni Riefenstahl's film of the Berlin Olympics three times and was determined to give her seconds of women waiting at bus stops, trying to catch cabs, standing in queues to buy train tickets, hanging onto poles as train carriages swept in and out of stations, a fluid, dance-like quality. The whole was bound by shots of Allison from behind, sitting in a train seat, applying make- up then pinning her hair into respectability. The final shot was Allison, now immaculate, being approached by Lou dressed in a business suit on a deserted platform. He says a few words to her, she nods and they move off together. Towards the end of the semester all the Media Production students gathered to watch one another's productions at a series of seminars. Their teachers assessed their efforts at these events. She invited Cal to the screening of her work. Her obsessive editing paid off; her video was much admired. One of the assessors, a very self-important young man who had got the job at the University on the strength of [Type text] [Type text] 1 292 having worked on a few training videos said, 'You didn't shoot that with our equipment, what did you use?' She told him. His eyebrows shot up. 'What did you have to do to get hold of that?' She felt enraged, thinking she would have her revenge with a sexual harassment charge but managed not to respond. Cal glowed with pleasure. Lauren took the opportunity to offer the comment that she wasn't sure what the video was about, it seemed to make Allison look like she was going on a date with Lou but what had all the other women to do with it? At this several theory teachers exchanged glances. Lauren had just lost rank on their assessment scales. Dr Barbarolli, who was there to demonstrate her interest, cleared her throat importantly, 'I think we might consider the title of the work.' She had called it 'All Women are Whores'. Lauren realised she had blundered. Lauren's video was called 'Visit to the Dentist'. She had persuaded Graeme to let her video him while he was doing a prac at the Dental Hospital. 'Visit ... ' showed a little Aboriginal boy waiting with his mother, going into the surgery, looking apprehensively at the equipment. Graeme, though trying to be reassuring, looms at him. It ends with the boy walking out and bursting into a huge smile. The student audience went 'Ohhh.' It was made with beautiful clarity. Lauren scored the highest marks for Video. [Type text] [Type text] 1 293 Allison's short film was the most popular of all the different media productions. It was called 'Practice'. It showed Macalister and his mates at footie training. The afternoon turned to dark. Allison's camera played over the last rays of the setting sun on the grass, illuminating the eager, youthful faces. Then the oval lights exploded across the dark screen and blazed, the young faces were now garish and desperate. After the training session the youths smoke and drink beer. The final shot was of them all lying around, apparently passed out. The arrangement of their bodies roughly suggested a flower. Allison had persuaded some of them into quite graceful poses; their arms seemed to reach towards their neighbour. The audience laughed and applauded. 'How did you get the crane shot?' the officious young video teacher asked. No-one liked him so when Allison said, 'I hired a crane,' everyone laughed. She had to go to work after the seminar but she persuaded Cal to go on with the crowd to dinner and clubbing. He had a very good time with the students. The next day when she rang him he told her that Allison and Lauren were very nice to him. Lauren talked to him a lot. Lou was a great guy. She suppressed an urge to cross examine him on what he had told them but shrugged the urge off - she told herself she didn't care any more, she had other things to think about. She was overburdened with final assignment deadlines and the need to study for exams. She felt hysterical with fatigue. She told Mr Iriye [Type text] [Type text] 1 294 she could not talk to any more special guests after the restaurant for a while. She could barely manage a smile and the simple banter required for her hostessing role. Cal said, 'You should sell some shares now.' He told her which ones. Why? she wanted to know. Michiyo was selling hers, so she did the same. They made a considerable profit. She began to worry about explaining her bank balance again. She couldn't afford the time to go to auctions at the moment. Therese had begun to decline again, had refused to attend the hospital for her vitamin shots. She thought of Dr Skelton with apprehension and, in desperation, told Therese she would cook dinner again for them on Sunday. She had an exam on Wednesday. She resented every second she put into preparing the dinner but felt impelled to make good her offer. It was the accustomed disaster. She drank whisky throughout in order to get through it. After dinner she began to prattle wildly. She told Therese how much she hated working in the restaurant, that it was wrecking her chances to do well at uni. 'Leave then,' Therese said. [Type text] [Type text] 1 295 'As you know I have financial commitments.' 'We all have those my girl, you'd better get used to them, they never go away. You seem to managing O K, I must say.' 'Only because I do special favours for some customers. I can't ... You know, after hours.' Therese contemplated her hard. 'I thought you might be running a little business on the side, what with your clothes and ... ' Therese returned her attention to the T V. She realised what she had said and fled to the kitchen and started to clean up. Neither of them had more than touched the meal she had prepared. As she washed, dried and put things away, she contemplated her life with appalling drunken clarity. She would just have to go on. She filled a jug with water and took it and a glass with her to her bedroom. On the way she said good night to Therese. Therese was slumped in her chair. [Type text] [Type text] 1 296 She took a tranquilliser and began sipping her way through the water. Therese was so drunk she wouldn't even remember, she told herself. She would move out. No-one spoke to Therese in any case. No-one would believe her. She would dump Cal. And Michiyo. She would stop working in Mr Iriye's. She would go and see Mr Hidalgo and start working in Polka Dot as soon as uni was finished. She would buy some more jewellery. Maybe a diamond watch, no-one would notice that. Then she told herself not to be stupid. Therese came out of the bathroom as she emerged from her room in the morning. She couldn't help giving her a look of hatred. Therese stopped her on the way out. 'Don't worry I'll tell anyone,' she said, 'if that's what that look's about. I know a single girl has to do what she can for herself. Your secret's safe with me.' Outside she decided she couldn't face uni. She walked down the road to the bus stop. She felt as though she was burning up with rage and remorse. Why, oh why, why, why had she been so stupid? If only she hadn't volunteered to make the meal in the first place, she knew she was exhausted. And if she had to do that couldn't she have stayed off the whisky? That was what was to blame. [Type text] [Type text] 1 297 Lady Tierney came towards her. As the old lady approached she burst into tears. Lady Tierney sat beside her in silence then rested a hand on hers. 'I'm sorry,' she sobbed, 'I can't stand it any more. The atmosphere ... and I've got exams.' 'You mustn't let anything interfere with your exams,' Lady Tierney said, 'have you some other place to go?' 'No. My aunt's in England, visiting Mum.' On the bus Lady Tierney placed her hand on her hand. Lady Tierney suddenly rose and said she would get off now. 'Don't worry, we'll work something out.' She watched Lady Tierney standing, peering anxiously after her as the bus bore her off. She stole a packet of liquorice from a confectioner's. Went to a department store toilet and ate a piece. She carefully placed the packet in a tidy bin as she exited the store. Then she went to the jeweller's. [Type text] [Type text] 1 298 Rohan beat the older man to her but the older man called, 'And how is the lovely Ms Woodburn today?' She instantly felt a lot better. The diamond watches were all awful 'I was looking for something more discreet,' she told them. 'Would you like to see something rather special?' the older man, suddenly inspired, said. She nodded. It was perfect. A bracelet, a single strand of baguette diamonds. 'We're keeping it for someone special, such as yourself,' the older man said. She tried it on. She had to have it. 'May I borrow a loupe?' She had read that Elizabeth Taylor never went anywhere without one in her handbag. [Type text] [Type text] 1 299 Both Rohan and the older man were taken aback but the older man said, 'Of course,' and indicated Rohan should fetch one. He rushed off to do so. She was hypnotised by the magnified diamonds. She slowly drew them, one by one through the brilliant circle created by the loupe. 'As you see, the matching is sensational,' the older man said. 'Not only the carats,' Rohan said, 'but the colour and brilliance. Her trance was broken by one, near the clasp, slightly duller than the others. She stopped, put the bracelet down and handed back the loupe. She noticed the withering look the older man gave Rohan. The older man was about to say something so she said, 'Not today. We'll talk about it some other time. Earrings today. I believe you promised me some lovely little emeralds. After she had chosen she said, 'I want to pay in cash, Can Rohan accompany me to the ATM?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 300 She handed Rohan the money to carry, saying, 'We'll work out what's what in the shop.' She had taken out more than the cost of the earrings. As they walked back together she asked Rohan about himself, his ambitions. He wanted to work in a jewellery shop on Fifth Avenue. She went on to the university, barely giving a thought to the thousands of dollars worth of jewllery lying in her bag. She clasped them to her ears for the second time that night after she had changed in the restaurant. She noticed Michiyo's glance of interest turning to admiration. When she got back to Therese's that night there was a note from Lady Tierney asking her to pop up in the morning to see her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 301 [Type text] [Type text] 1 302 x There was another guest at Lady Tierney's. Mrs Coleman was an old friend who lived near by. They chatted amiably and inconsequentially. Then Mrs Coleman had to go. She made moves to go herself after Lady Tierney came back from seeing her old friend out. 'Can you stay a little longer?' She settled again. Mrs Coleman lived alone, had done so for many years since her husband died. Her daughter lived overseas. Her old housekeeper had retired to a nursing home. Now all she had was one who came in nearly every day and cooked; she was Portuguese and her English was not very good. A man came for the cleaning. Mrs Coleman had such a big place, in 'Casuarinas'. Did she know it? It was the big old place around in Onslow Avenue. Mrs Coleman was beginning to feel a bit lonely every now and again. There had been a break-in - not into Mrs Coleman's flat which was on the top. She’s not the nervous type. Lady Tierney had known her since before either of them was married. [Type text] [Type text] 1 303 Mrs Coleman had married late. She had always been very independent. She returned to Therese's, her head swimming. It seemed she was being offered an escape from Therese. Mrs Coleman rang her a few days later and invited her around. Lady Tierney accompanied her. The flat was vast. The housekeeper served them tea. She was shown a room with a view down the harbour. There was a balcony. A breeze ruffled the perfection of the afternoon. 'It's very quiet, you would be left alone so you can study.' Lady Tierney left them to get to know one another. 'Would you be interested in staying here for a while? We could have a trial, say six weeks. Then we could talk about how we were getting on.' She said she would have to think about it. Did Mrs Coleman realise she came in quite late most nights as she worked in a restaurant? [Type text] [Type text] 1 304 Mrs Coleman was out late sometimes herself - at the Opera House, or playing bridge. Did she play? Pity, she would teach her how when the university holidays began, if she liked. Since Lady Tierney’s first hint she had ravaged the idea of living at Mrs Coleman’s but as she walked back to Therese’s she tried to talk sense to herself. What if it didn't work out. What if Ms Coleman turned out to be capricious and demanding? She could be without a home in six weeks and facing ... what? She could find another place to live. But she was used to Therese's, it suited her in so many ways. The nicotine laden atmosphere engulfed her as soon as she turned her key in the lock. Mrs Coleman's flat had had an odour of coffee beans and sea air. Therese was watching a rerun of a T V series which had been popular in the previous decade. Therese turned from it to say hullo, what's it like out? As she simpered and joshed in the restaurant that night she felt guilty about betraying Therese. And should she stay until the exams were over? What if it didn't work out and she had to find a new place in the middle of the exams? But Therese was the one who said a girl has to do what she could for herself. She knew her secret was safe with Therese. Therese had been the best friend she'd ever had, in a [Type text] [Type text] 1 305 way. When should she ring Mrs Coleman? Should she talk it over with Lady Tierney first? Lady Tierney told her not to worry, Mrs Coleman just wanted to know someone was around at night. She might appreciate it if she offered to help with the power bills and to pay for her phone calls but she doubted that would be an issue - she wasn't thinking of making long phone calls home every night was she? When she announced she was leaving, Therese said, after a heart stopping silence, 'It's your decision,' and then ignored her assurances she would come and visit and any time she wanted anything ... She would just be around the corner. The next day Therese said, 'It was only while I was getting the money to pay the special building levy in any case.' She paid a man to help her move. Therese sat through it, watching the T V. When her things were out in the van she went back and handed her key over and bent to kiss Therese. Therese's cheek was cold. [Type text] [Type text] 1 306 She began to weep in the van and got the man to stop while she cried and cried. He couldn't take it and got out to stand off at some distance. She decided she would cry for as long as she liked. Then she panicked, thinking she would never be able to stop. Eventually she forced herself out of the van and to approach him to tell him to drive on now, she would walk and catch up with him outside 'Casuarinas'. She gradually got some semblance of control. 'I'm surprised to find I am a bit upset,' she informed Mrs Coleman, 'I suppose it's the pressure of the exams.' She cast a meaning filled glance in the direction of the removal man. Mrs Coleman nodded in conspiratorial womanly understanding. She began to have breakfast with Mrs Coleman, who was not an early riser, in the sunroom. It was next to her bedroom. The view towards the Heads was more direct than in her room. Whenever possible the windows were open. Mrs Coleman wanted to know about her studies, thought she had heard of Foucault, assured her she was always reading something, was interested in current affairs. She felt ashamed of her ignorance. [Type text] [Type text] 1 307 Mrs Coleman was very pleased though when she responded in French to a French phrase. They batted phrases in the air like a game of shuttlecock. Still in this spirit, she batted one at Allison. Allison batted one back. Allison said she so much regretted giving up French and admired her accent. Her parents had allowed her to go on a school excursion to France for three days, after they had complained and worried and threatened her with the cost of this indulgence. It had been wonderful. She had been in a trance of happiness transforming a drab enough but foreign reality into another possibility. As a special treat, the hotel in Dieppe which specialised in this sort of excursion, served un petit déjeuner français - a bowl of disgustingly weak café au lait and a croissant with a plastic pat of Euro jam. She had recounted this wonder to her parents and sister. 'Well you won't be getting that sort of muck around here so you can forget it,' her father had said. But she hadn't and had worked fervently at her French in order to keep this wonder alive. She had begun to hate working in the restaurant. Since moving into 'Casuarinas', her life had taken a secure, pleasant tone, now she wanted leisure. She was terrified her exhaustion would ruin her; the [Type text] [Type text] 1 308 possible ways were innumerable. 'I'm going to have a holiday when all of this is over,' she told Allison. 'You should, you certainly deserve one. Where will you go - back to see your parents, I suppose?' 'Oh no!' she had declared with horror. Allison had looked surprised. The next day she said, 'Would you like to go to la Nouvelle Calédonie avec moi, after Christmas? We could practise our French. It's the wrong time of year but it'll probably be no hotter than here.' She had never heard of New Caledonia. It looked very South Pacific in the atlas. Mr Iriye told everyone the restaurant would be closed for two weeks after New Year. She went up to Allison's to talk the possibility of their holiday in New Caledonia through. Mrs Blackmore came into Allison's room and seated herself on the bed. 'I hear you're off to Noumea with Allison, it should be divine.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 309 Allison stared balefully at her mother. 'I've heard it's lovely - very sophisticated but expensive. A good thing you have a holiday job Allison. You girls should have a wonderful time, I'd like to go myself.' Allison opened her mouth in anguish. Mrs Blackmore laughed, 'Oh don't worry! I won't spoil the fun, I know what you girls are like, away together.' 'We're going to work on our French. Iseult's is good, she's frightened of losing it.' Mrs Blackmore smiled a knowing smile, eyebrow raised. 'Work on the French boys more like it.' She hated the woman. Mrs Blackmore swept onto her feet, smiling hugely. 'The experience will do Allison good. You need experience dear,' she said significantly. Her daughter reddened. Mrs Blackmore turned on her daughter's guest, 'I'm sure you and that Lauren are just the ones to show her how to get it.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 310 'Lauren's not coming Mum and I'd appreciate you not mentioning it in front of her, we haven't told her yet.' 'Oh. Want to keep all the French boys to yourself eh? Ooh la la.' And she made her exit laughing. She caught them later in the kitchen and her attitude had changed. 'I don't want you mixing up with those natives, Allison. You'll have to watch her for me Iseult, she's never known what's good for her. Come for dinner and we can have a proper talk about it.' 'Iseult's got exams and she's still working, Mum.' 'She certainly puts you to shame. You'd better do well in those exams, what excuse could you have? As for that brother of yours, if he doesn't get the score he needs in the HSC your father will hit the roof. They have no excuses,' she turned to inform her daughter's friend. Back in the city after the encounter with Allison's mother and loathing the thought of the restaurant and another smiling, lascivious eyed Japanese businessman, she went into a book store to lift a travel [Type text] [Type text] 1 311 book on New Caledonia. A boy standing behind her suddenly said, 'D'you want something?' She started and recovered almost simultaneously. 'How dare you speak to me in that tone. Of course I want something - a book! Now get your supervisor.' The boy backed away in shock and returned with a harried looking woman who said, 'Is there a problem here, Miss?' 'There certainly is. This young man - Denzil - ' she said after leaning forward and peering at his name tag, 'startled me by creeping up on me and shouting. He doesn't seem to know where anything is and his manner is nothing but rude.' 'I'm sure Denzil didn't mean to startle you,' the supervisor shot the assistant a glare. 'Maybe I could help you to find what you're looking for. You go and see if you can offer assistance to that man over there, Denzil.' They watched Denzil's ineptitude together. 'He's just new, some of these young ones ... They send me anything these days, half of them have never read a book.' 'I'm sorry to hear that,' she snapped at the supervisor, 'but I won't be coming back.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 312 As she walked towards the restaurant her phone rang. To her astonishment it was Dr Barbarolli. 'Hi. Just ringing to see how you're coping with the pressure of exams and to say not to worry about PoMo and Iss Ids, you can't go wrong there.' The lecturer sounded strange so she said nothing. 'I was wondering ... if we could have coffee and talk over ... things, things over.' 'Is there some problem with my assessment?' 'No. No. I thought you might like to talk over your video and your thing on eminem - you might be able to publish it somewhere. I thought we could get to know one another better.' 'It's a bit awkward at the moment, I've just moved and I have the exams and I've still got to hand in my assignment for Post Colonial Information Dissemination.' 'Don't worry about that, I'll speak to Zohra - Dr Nabhan - ' [Type text] [Type text] 1 313 'What would you say?' 'I don't know, just that you've got chronic fatigue syndrome or something - you can get a medical certificate, can't you?' 'No.' 'What about coffee where we had coffee before? What're you doing tomorrow?' 'Quite a lot actually. Isn't this a bit irregular?' There was a silence on Dr Barbarolli's part now. She was about to hang up when Dr Barbarolli said, 'I thought you understood me. I thought we had an understanding. You came and saw me and we struck up a rapport. Why are you doing this to me now?' Her breath was taken away. 'I think you've misunderstood - ' 'No-one round here understands me! Even Zohra. That prick Loeb's trying to drive me out. Just cause I don't follow his line on power [Type text] [Type text] 1 314 dynamics and media representations. He's so not where it's at. You'll have him next year, you'll see. He's like totally sided with that bitch Connie Zulaika - did you know she was a shrink? I bet she's a Freudian, I should have picked her.' 'The Connie in our tutorial?' 'Yes.' She had liked Connie who had rolled her eyes in amusement at her once when Dr Barbarolli had been haranguing them about some incomprehensible theoretical detail. 'Look, I've got to go, I'm at work.' 'Ring me. Ring me tonight. Have you got a pen?' 'No. I'm sorry.' And she hung up. The whisky she drank in the course of her duties that night went to her head. A customer gave her the remnants of his bottle to take home. She watched as it fell from her fingers to the terrazzo floor of Mrs Coleman's reception hall. 'Who's there?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 315 'It's just me.' She became aware that she was sounding drunker than she might. 'I just dropped something, I'll just clean it up.' Mrs Coleman appeared swathed in an incredible pink nightgown and matching headwrap. 'I'm sorry,' she said, stooping to pick up the biggest shards of glass. She was furious with herself. Why had she done this? Mrs Coleman watched as she went back and forth from the kitchen. She noticed the emerald earrings as this girl bent to pick up another jagged piece of glass. 'Do you know where the mop is?' 'Leave it, you've got most of it, Mr Tim is coming in the morning in any case.' 'I'm sorry I woke you. We had a few drinks at the restaurant - it was such a busy night. Mr Iriye gave us all whisky.' 'I wasn't asleep, I'd just got in myself.' Mrs Coleman departed. [Type text] [Type text] 1 316 She sat up in bed sipping water from a glass, the jug of water beside her. She had taken a period pain tablet which someone at uni had told her was marvellous for hangovers. She felt a certain warmth and then worried that Mrs Coleman had been furious and she would not last the six weeks. Well, she would insist on it. Then the exams would be over. What would Lady Tierney think? She looked out her window. The harbour was a darkest blue velvet lain with twinkling, some moving, lights. Gum tree branches were silhouetted in one corner. They were so fine, graceful, contorted. There was nothing like them back home. She could not give this up. What had made her drop that bottle? Why had she sounded so pissed? Mrs Coleman was sitting at the breakfast table when she entered. Mrs Coleman went on drinking her tea. 'Good morning.' 'Good morning' 'I'm so sorry about last night, I must have been so tired. Mr Iriye was so kind. It was frantic in the restaurant. He was so kind to give us all a drink after. He kept pressing me to have another.' 'Hm.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 317 'Well not every boss would feel ... would be so kind ... show his appreciation to the staff, a lot would just expect you - ' 'You want to watch some of these men, they try to get innocent girls not used to drink to ... imbibe, so they ... hope the girls will get ... careless.' 'Oh no Mrs Coleman, Mr Iriye is a respectable married man.' Mrs Coleman bestowed a compassionate, knowing gaze on her inexperience. Then she poured her some tea. 'You know,' she continued, 'it might not be a good idea to wear ... expensive - I gather ... your earrings, the ones you had on last night, looked very nice. We don't wear things like that unless we're being escorted, or in a hire car, or something like that. You never know who's lurking. We don't do it, you know.' What was this woman talking about? 'Oh, the earrings! I have to wear them. My grandmother would want me to. She gave them to me as a bon voyage present. I can't just leave them sitting in their case, can I?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 318 'As you wish.' Mrs Coleman failed to make it sound like the remonstrance she intended. She turned her phone on as she came out of her first lecture. It rang. 'Why didn't you ring me? You said you would.' It was Dr Barbarolli. 'Who is this speaking?' She waved the others to go on. 'Barb. I thought you were going to ring me.' 'Dr Barbarolli?' 'Yes. When are we having that coffee? I've got so much to tell you. What are you doing this afternoon?' 'I've got to get my assignment finished. I told you that.' 'Forget it. Zohra's gone over to the poofs. I knew it'd happen. That's what happens to all of them who work on Aids issues.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 319 'I thought she was a friend of yours.' 'She was - is - Was. That's what I to want to talk about, maybe you and that Adrian boy could round up some other cool students and you could go and see the Dean.' 'The Dean?' 'It could help me. Dennis Loeb said I should go now. He's even getting someone else to mark the exams. I think Moustafa Khaoum, you don't know him but he's Muslim. I think. Can you imagine? Obviously this can't be allowed to happen.' Her head was empty. 'Hullo? Are you still there?' 'Yes.' 'So we could meet and discuss a strategy. I'd tell you what to say. You really liked the course. So did that Adrian boy. I gave you a really top mark for that eminem assignment and that other thing you did, the first one. Not everyone would have done that for you. You [Type text] [Type text] 1 320 were so lucky to have me. I know you didn't actually come top but ... Anyway, we've obviously got a special rapport so I knew I could count on you. We should have dinner.' 'I work every night. In a restaurant.' 'I could come there. Where is it?' 'That mightn't be a good idea.' 'It's coffee then. Get Adrian whatever his name is. We can get rid of him after we've told him what to say to the Dean. I bet Dennis has been trying to get into his pants, or something, anyway he'd know something. Someone must have something on him. They're all the same, they're always talking about how hot some boy is. Even Zohra's been trapped in their conceptual matrix.' 'I don't really know Adrian. I'm afraid I have to go now.' 'Stop! Wait! When are we going to meet up? I really need you.' 'We're not, I don't think.' 'For coffee, just for coffee.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 321 'I have to go.' 'Why are you letting me down now? Who's said something? I know what's going on, they're getting the students to complain. All you've got to do is tell the Dean that. I'll protect you. There's a whistle blower protection policy. You know everyone loved my lectures and seminars, they got so much out of them. I had to stop them taking notes all the time. Surely you can see it? It's practically the entire Desouza Programming for Power paradigm. They're hardening the software by transposing the terms in order to get rid of the intrusive flow from without the discursive matrix, the one who threatens to short the power circuits and down the program. You can see that. Obviously you can't let that happen. You led me to believe I had your support.' 'I led you to believe nothing of the sort. I don't know what you're talking about and if you ring me again I'll have you charged with harassment. Sexual. There's a policy on that too. Try adding that to your troubles. You're a low down conniving cunt and I don't want anything at all to do with you. And if you ring me again ... There'll be a record of this call, you know.' She stubbed her phone off. She was panting. She should have just rung off as soon as she heard who it was. She rushed on to find the others. [Type text] [Type text] 1 322 As soon as she could she signalled to Allison and they went off to the toilet together. She told Allison that she had had a call from Dr Barbarolli. 'She sounded mad. She wants me to have dinner with her.' 'What for?' She shrugged. 'Don't. It's improper. She could get you into ... It's good you told me. If there's any problem I'll say I heard the phone call. We should make a note of it right now. We'll get it witnessed. I'll get Lauren to sign it. We'll date it and put the time on it.' 'Not Lauren.' 'Why not? O K. Who then?' 'I think it'd be better if it's a boy. What do you think of Adrian?' 'Adrian? Why him? Isn't he - ' [Type text] [Type text] 1 323 'Connie Zulaika told me once you could trust him. She's an analyst, you know, a Freudian.' 'No. I had no idea. I thought she might have been a ... I didn't know you knew her. You're so good with people, they never tell me anything.' Allison decided they should see Professor Loeb. What if Dr Barbarolli tried to interfere with her assessment? She felt nervous waiting outside Professor Loeb’s office, what if he thought the whole ting was jus silly? He popped his head around the door and called her name, looking from one to the other of the two pretty young things sitting, waiting daintily. Professor Loeb asked them if they'd like a cup of tea then told them not to worry, Dr Barbarolli wasn't marking any of the exams, she had nothing to do with the assessments from now on. It was more than unlikely that she wouldn't be teaching them next year. Nothing to worry about but if they had any further doubts just come and see him straight away about it, here was his mobile number. She might [Type text] [Type text] 1 324 just be having a few personal difficulties at the moment ... If she tried to contact them again, ring him immediately. They walked away from Professor Loeb's office in silence and then she began to talk about their trip to New Caledonia. They would go as soon after the New Year as possible. 'New Year's Day would be good,' Allison said. When she got in from the restaurant that night Mrs Coleman was sitting watching t v, still dressed from her night out. 'Oh there you are. How was it tonight? Plenty of tips I hope.' 'How was your night? Did you win?' Mrs Coleman stretched her neck to emphasise a coral necklace and after inquiring whether she'd like a cup of tea, brushed at her ears with her fingertips. She was wearing matching earrings. She smiled admiringly at them and said good night. Several days later at breakfast Mrs Coleman said, 'I have lovely amethysts - a necklace - with diamonds. You can clip off sections of it and wear them as earrings. My husband gave it to me. He said it [Type text] [Type text] 1 325 belonged to the Empress of Russia, the one they shot, the last one. I never go anywhere where I can wear it any more. I must show it to you.' 'I'd love to see it, I love jewellery - I only have one or two things I wear but I'm very fond of them. You've seen my earrings.' 'Yes. Your grandmother must have very good taste.' 'She does, rather. How did you know?' 'Well she gave you the earrings.' 'Oh. Of course!' She blew a little laugh through her lips. 'The only other thing I brought with me is a rather silly brooch. But I love it. It was my other grandmother's.' 'Your family must be very smart.' 'I don't think I've shown it to you. I hardly ever wear it. And I did listen to what you said. It's quite valuable, I think. I'd hate anything to happen to it.' As she made her escape she said, 'I'd really like to see your jewellery. That coral necklace was the most elegant thing I've seen. My grandmother would have admired it greatly.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 326 'Which one?' 'Oh both of them no doubt.' That night a special guest insisted on intercourse. She was adamant about a condom. He didn't have one. She carried some but she was very reluctant. She never wanted to have intercourse for money again. Blowjobs were something different. And she found this client particularly repugnant. He offered her a lot more money. She embraced him. After, she was wretched. The next day she went to the local doctor and told her she had had unprotected sex. After the kindly old woman had given her a prescription she asked her why she had done something so foolish. [Type text] [Type text] 1 327 'I don't know. I got carried away. I'm not used to drinking.' She wept. She agreed to counselling. She went to a pharmacist in the city. The woman glanced at the script, studied it, then scrutinised her. 'Wait here. I'll see if we have any in stock.' 'Don't bother! Just give it back to me.' She stalked out. She decided she wasn’t going to get the script filled but as she passed the chain store pharmacy where she had been caught lifting the toothpaste and eau de cologne she suddenly swung in and handed the script over. She bought water but waited until she was in the university washroom before she washed the tablet down. She had her last exam that afternoon. That night she decided she would never have sex for money again, even if she was HIV positive. [Type text] [Type text] 1 328 A fortnight later she went to an art auction with Michiyo. She spent a great deal of her savings on an Adrian Feint Still Life. While she was examining it before the auction she overheard a woman say, 'He was gay. You can tell, can't you?' This had made her determined to own the painting. [Type text] [Type text] 1 329 [Type text] [Type text] 1 330 xi Lady Tierney let her into 'Longleat'. She knocked and knocked on Therese's door. Finally there was a 'who's there?' Therese said she'd see about going to Christmas dinner in a hotel. Then warmed enough to her presence to ask if she'd like a cup of tea. She walked away from 'Longleat' feeling something important had been accomplished. She had in some way grown up. She had confronted Therese's anger, sat with it until her fear had abated. She had watched Therese's anger and hurt give way to pleasure in her company. She knew Therese would come to Christmas dinner with her. Which hotel? Mrs Coleman told her she'd be lucky, they would all have been booked out long ago. [Type text] [Type text] 1 331 But she found one. Now she turned her thoughts to what she could do about Mrs Coleman and Christmas. Eventually she decided to offer to make her a suit. Mrs Coleman demurred then agreed. They went into town together to choose the material. She persuaded Mrs Coleman that a blue patterned silk would suit her then sent her to look at patterns while she paid for it. The material would have to be cut on the bias to match up the pattern. She spent far more than she had intended. Mrs Coleman had something of a paunch so she dissuaded her from one pattern and into a pattern which had a frock which fell from two darts wide apart under the bust. It was matched with a loose one button jacket. She suspected that it was beyond her sewing skills but thought she could always take it to Polka Dot and persuade Leni or someone to help her. She decided to make a visit in any case and see if she could get work there after she and Allison had returned from New Caledonia. [Type text] [Type text] 1 332 She thought about buying a sewing machine then went around and asked Therese if she could use hers. She sewed with inspiration. Therese rose from her chair every now and again to inspect her progress. She fitted the parts to Mrs Coleman and repinned, stood back to look, adjusted the pins, took the garment off Mrs Coleman and basted. She called Mrs Coleman back, fitted, unpicked, pinned again and sewed. The round neck had to be just high enough, the short sleeves long enough. The frock should not have been difficult but she was determined it would be as flattering as possible. The fall of the fabric depended on the darts. She wanted to suggest a waist. Mrs Coleman stood impassively through the pinning and pinning. At one point she looked up from her position kneeling at Mrs Coleman's feet and wondered what she was doing here. What was this worship about? Some sort of masochism. Never again. She nearly tore her hair out over the jacket. Therese told her to go for a walk. When she got back she was astonished to find Therese had basted the sleeves in. The stitching was precise. The pattern met up almost perfectly. 'That's marvellous. How did you do it?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 333 Therese returned to her chair. She could not wait to get Mrs Coleman to try it on. As she carried it around to 'Casuarinas' She smelled the nicotine in the silk. She smiled. At last Mrs Coleman stood in the finished suit, appalled. It was too impressive. Wherever would she wear it? 'You'll have to get married now so I can have a wedding to wear it to.' 'You could wear it to your own,' she replied. Mrs Coleman almost sprang back. 'Mr Coleman's only been dead for five years.' She helped Mrs Coleman out of the suit. She was going to fold it in tissue and place it in a box then wrap it in plain rich wrapping paper to give to Mrs Coleman on Christmas Day. Over bridge that night Mrs Coleman smiled at the thought of her own gasped response to the idea she should marry again and wondered if indeed she might. Her unconscious smile was misread around the card table. [Type text] [Type text] 1 334 She got Allison a history of New Caledonia. The Christmas lunch with Therese remained an ordeal until Therese noticed some children running around the restaurant. Therese regarded them at length. 'It's a good thing I never had children, I would have spoilt them rotten.' She gaped. 'How? How would you have spoilt them?' 'I would have let them do anything they liked. I would have given them everything they wanted. What I could afford. And I couldn’t, I would have worried about.' A little girl came up and took a potato from Therese's barely touched plate. Therese carefully cut some of the turkey, wiped some gravy on it and raised it on her fork. 'Open up,' she said. The little girl unhesitatingly obeyed. Therese popped it into her mouth. 'Chew it twenty times,' she commanded. The little girl began chewing dutifully. Her mother rushed up, apologised and said, 'She'd take the food out of your mouth.' And laughed nervously. 'I guess she's at that stage.' She smiled at the mother. [Type text] [Type text] 1 335 Therese ignored the mother. The mother whisked the child away. Therese examined the food on her plate. After several minutes of increasingly desperate conversational effort about children and Christmas, Therese responded. 'It's not only for children. Adults have got to have a good time too. There's a child in all of us, you know. It has to be let out. Christmas is a good time to do it. And birthdays. People should never forget birthdays. These women who stop having birthdays aren't doing themselves a favour. Men have started to do it too. Some men. There's nothing worse than a vain man. Frank Sullivan could be vain. He was very particular about his turnout. That must have been what attracted me to him in the first place. Can't think what else it could have been. One time he put on some weight and I had to keep him on a diet till he lost it. I must say he didn't look too bad once he'd lost a stone. One thing he appreciated in me was his shirts. I sent him off looking immaculate. People commented. Spanky Franky, they called him. Behind his back at work. One little trollop told me at one of their Christmas parties. I put a flea in her ear. The decorations are lovely, I love those coloured lights. They're wonderful these days, blinking on and off and making patterns but I don't think you can go past the coloured bulbs. I [Type text] [Type text] 1 336 suppose people don't do it any more. They used to put them in their trees - trees in their gardens. You've never seen anything so beautiful. Special bulbs, you couldn't just paint them. And I suppose you had to have a special set-up, you know in case it rained or something. I used to look forward to it. I used to walk with my girlfriend and we'd admire them. At night, through the streets. She's dead now. One year I went alone. I wasn't afraid, you weren't in those days. You could walk down the street any time without thinking about being attacked or having your pursed snatched, or something. I don't know what's happened to Australia, it's all those migrants. Got to be. Not you! Not your type from the Home country. The foreigners. You know the ... They come from everywhere these days, they let anyone in. It's not safe. And those birds, silver with the spun glass tails that you clip on the tree. The coloured glass balls.' They went outside so Therese could have a cigarette before pudding. Therese ate a bit of the pudding with her coffee and cognac. She was persuaded into another cognac. She gazed with intent at the waiter who hovered with the bottle over Therese's snifter, then lowered one eyelid towards it. He got it and half filled the snifter. She tipped him very generously. [Type text] [Type text] 1 337 Therese nodded off in the taxi but started awake when she put her hand on Therese's when they reached 'Longleat'. Therese grabbed her hand with astonishing alacrity. Therese's hand was icy and bony. 'Thank you,' Therese said, 'it was such a lovely Christmas. Best I've had in years.' And was gone. She went on to 'Casuarinas' and went to bed. She was going to Michiyo's later. Michiyo had a new Australian boyfriend. He was in real estate. 'It's good to have Australian boyfriend. In Australia,' Michiyo said. She could see Cal didn't like him so they only stayed as long as they should. She wondered if she could get out of sex with Cal. But it was Christmas, whatever that meant to both of them. During it she thought she was past sex. Noumea was lovely. She and Allison made daily journeys back and forth between Anse Vata and the Baie des Citrons. [Type text] [Type text] 1 338 They'd made a pact to only speak French, which they broke but made amends for by encouraging boys who only spoke French. Their carefree air combined with a quality of subdued substance made them very attractive. Allison was throwing herself into the Noumean life style, cultivating a tan, dressing in the wildly colourful sarongs fluttering from the many stores around the market where Allison insisted on sitting over coffee each morning. She was trying to stay out of the sun, kept revisiting the Tjibaou cultural centre and the deserted local museum. The other young tourists were making her uneasy. She was haunted by thoughts of Lynton and had to persuade herself into knowing it was almost impossible he would be there. But what if they came across someone she had met in Thailand, still lingering in this part of the world? She told Allison she wanted to get out of Noumea, it was too touristy, she wanted to see the Loyalty Islands, that she wanted the real Nouvelle Calédonie. [Type text] [Type text] 1 339 Allison was allowing herself to be drawn into something with a local boy back for a few weeks before he had to return to his course in a Polytechnic in Nantes. She said she was going, she found Noumea empty. Allison said she would catch up with her in a few days, she wanted to see how she coped by herself. The resort she chose was on what seemed to be the least developed of the Loyalty Islands. It turned out to be a few local huts set aside for tourists. The dazzling white sand drifted everywhere. In the morning the lagoon beach was a cliché miracle of marble white and turquoise blue. She found her French more than adequate to the colon French of the locals. Every night she had dinner alone in a large hut lit by steady kerosene lamps. The waiters argued over serving her the fish and vegetables she ate. She discouraged them. After dinner she would sit on the edge of the lagoon regarding the golden star patterns cast across the soft deepest blue of the sky. The moon rose golden and turned fiercely silver as it sailed its course. The waves lapped. The wind whispered in the palms. It was ridiculous. [Type text] [Type text] 1 340 She had brought some reading to prepare for next year's study but found herself dropping into a torpor. Drowsiness dragged her down again and again. She slept and slept. The four days till Allison's arrival became endless. She was very afraid of the inertia which had gripped her. She forced herself to take walks as a way of fighting the weight which kept dragging her down to sleep. She ventured along the little paths she found radiating out from the village. She did not even start when a huge pig barred in a camouflaged pen suddenly raised its snout at her and squealed. She made herself get into her swimming costume and glide across a grotto formed in rocks around the lagoon. Then she made herself push off from the other side and glide back again. She greeted some people in a collection of dilapidated huts as if she had known them always. They responded with equal indifference. She decided it was the elemental life, dragging her under. Going to meet Allison's plane was an effort. As soon as she saw her, she realised Allison had changed. During lunch it occurred to her that Allison was no longer an innocent. So Allison was no longer a virgin. Her mother would be pleased. [Type text] [Type text] 1 341 She wanted to say, 'You fool! You were much better off the way you were.' Allison smiled at her as if she knew what she was thinking and called the waiter over for nothing but to flirt. As if synthesised with her transformation, Allison's French had become much more fluent and idiomatic. 'Allison,' she said when the waiter had gone off to get colder water, 'he thinks you're encouraging him.' 'And I might be. I haven't decided yet.' She was appalled. Again Allison seemed to read her mind. She smiled her new, worldly smile and said, 'You're not to worry, I won't embarrass you.' 'I'm not worried about your embarrassing me,' was all she could say. The lecture on how these boys saw one as a cash cow, a way of escaping their confined lot, evaporated in her mind. She decided she should get Allison back to Noumea as soon as possible. Allison would surely be bored by this nothingness. [Type text] [Type text] 1 342 And by the end of the next day Allison did seem to have been gathered in the arms of torpor herself. But she said, gazing out at the almost nothingness, 'You were so right to come out here, it's so basic, cleansing after all that nonsense.' She did not dare ask, 'What nonsense?' She was alarmed by this new Allison who seemed to be so worldly, to know everything. She had decided to get away from her as soon as she could. She would get clear of her. They were doing some different courses this year in any case. She would make sure they were in different seminar groups. As if in reaction to this silent rejection, Allison padded across the dark hut and slipped into bed beside her. She froze. Allison put her arm over her, said, 'It's not making you too hot, is it?' And sighed her amused sigh. She awoke deeply rested. She knew there was no escaping Allison now. [Type text] [Type text] 1 343 By the lagoon the next day Allison said, 'I'm thinking of becoming a lesbian when I get back.' She thought. 'Oh no, not me.' And as Allison laughed her too knowing laugh she heard herself countering it - terse, hard, straight forward - as Therese, 'Are you Allison? Why do you say that?' Allison's response was a deeply complicit look. Oh there's no escaping Allison now, she thought again, she knows everything. I'll have to stick by her and try to keep her quiet. 'It's probably simpler. I've got things to do.' She could not say, 'What? What have you to do?' 'I've probably always known that,' Allison continued, 'but not known. Not denial exactly ... but some kind of avoidance. I want a career, I've always wanted a career. That's what I've always wanted but didn't spell it out to myself. Until now.' She gestured a wide yawning type stretch at the lagoon. I've always wanted to travel.' Allison [Type text] [Type text] 1 344 turned towards her, 'Obviously you always knew that ... Did you?' she asked. She nodded, a little too enthusiastically. Allison looked at her as if considering her afresh. After a thoughtful silence Allison said, 'You know who really likes you?' Her heart clutched again. This was getting too much. 'No?' 'Lou. Lou really likes you. Seriously.' 'But ... Isn't Lauren ... after him?' 'Yes. She's been after him since she arrived on the scene in first year of Senior but she hasn't got a chance, she's too pushy. She knows she hasn't got a chance. I told her but she can't help herself. She's desperate to belong, that's why she's so attracted to him. She thinks he's the very centre of it, which in a way he is - his mother's the centre of it, she used to keep a pony where the Old Paddock is now - but all of that's over. And who cares anyhow? Who wants to spend their whole life on the North Shore? Lauren's an idiot. She'll be on the move as soon as she wakes up that she can't have him, she'll probably end up in Mumbai running the film industry there.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 345 At night Allison just got into her bed. In the morning Allison greeted her with, 'And how is ma sœur this morning?' They befriended a local girl doing a Nursing Practical in a nearby village. She introduced them to the District Nurse who invited them to accompany her on a visit to a clinic on one of the furthest islands in the group. She was worried, the excursion was to be on the day they were supposed to fly back to Noumea. 'But we don't go until five, that's the whole day. Kitti said we'd back in plenty of time. We can pack and just be ready to jump on the plane. Bertie will look after our things. I'm going,' Allison said. It was a glorious day. They walked to the end of their island, where a boat took them across a dazzling sea. The remote island was small, the clinic, run by a nun, hardly more than one of the local houses. [Type text] [Type text] 1 346 They inspired awe-struck curiosity. The children hardly dared peep at them. Kitti talked to the nun, took some blood samples. She couldn't watch it. 'I'm going for a look around.' Allison followed. They saw how quickly simplicity could shade to squalor. The fled back to Kitti, were given coconuts to drink, a little piece of yam and fish to eat. They retreated from Kitti's work again and sat under the palms by the lagoon. The sun was passed the meridian. 'We'd better hurry Kitti up,' Allison said. Kitti would not be hurried. It was after three when they boarded the boat again. [Type text] [Type text] 1 347 'You were right,' Allison said, 'we'll miss the plane. I wanted to have three days in Noumea, now we'll only get there and then we'll have to go straight to the airport the next day.' The plane only made the round trip from Noumea to their island every second day. She said nothing. She didn't care. She didn't care if they missed the plane, she didn't care if they missed their flight from Noumea. Allison asked Kitti to ask the boatman to make his boat go faster. Kitti ignored her. 'Don't you understand? We have a plane to catch!' Allison shouted at the captain. When they landed on their island Kitti said, 'We will have to go along the beaches, it is quicker.' They had to wade across a lagoon. She thought it was glorious. [Type text] [Type text] 1 348 The tide was coming in. Crossing the next lagoon was a little more difficult. Allison baulked at the next. They were already up to their waists. 'We could drown, their might be a current. What if a shark comes? This is the time of day they attack.' She just kept going. The water climbing above her waist felt delicious. She hoped they would have to swim. She didn't care if she drowned. Perhaps her little backpack would fill with water and drag her under. She didn't care if a shark attacked. Allison took strength from her graceful indifference and followed though every dark shadow seemed to presage being torn to pieces. Soon they were walking, not too fast, along the familiar lagoon. There were their bags where they had left them. Of course Bertie had not taken them as requested to the airstrip. He came around smiling, offering to help. Allison ignored him. [Type text] [Type text] 1 349 She thanked him and tipped him when they arrived at the airstrip. The plane was late. The pilot told them to hurry on, it was dangerous flying in the dark. On the flight back to Sydney she thought, 'I don't care what happens to me, I have become a terrible person.' Mrs Blackmore met them at the airport. 'Darling! I'm so proud. You did so well. I opened the letter from the university, I knew you wouldn't mind. Your brother got into his course. Now your father wants him to do Medicine, he did much better than we expected. How was it dear? Let me look at you.' She watched Mrs Blackmore's face. She saw it registering the change in her daughter. 'Oh get away from me!' Allison suddenly growled and pushed her mother away. Mrs Blackmore's face was swept by astonishment, then hurt. [Type text] [Type text] 1 350 [Type text] [Type text] 1 351 xii Her phone rang. 'Guess what? Mum's cousin died, you know that one who worked in the hospital? She left us - ' 'Who is this please?' 'It's me! What's wrong with you? Mum's cousin left us some money. Mum said I could use mine to come out and visit you. I've always wanted to go to Australia. Renee's neighbour went and had a great time. She said - ' 'What about work?' 'I'm going to leave that. I can always get another job. Mum says you're only young once so I may as well and she wants me to see how you're getting on.' 'She could come herself.' 'Don't be daft! That'd spoil things. Anyway, she's too nervous. Here.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 352 Her mother's voice entered the mobile after a hesitant silence. She let her know she was well and this year's uni work was going well. 'I know you'll look after Lainie,' her mother said, 'she can be a bit headstrong at times.' She could hear Lainie protesting in the background. 'I don't know how I could do that, Mum. Where's she staying?' 'Um. I - thought - we thought she might stay with you.' 'That's not possible, Mum.' There was a silence. 'Well ... You might be able to find something for her, something safe. Not too expensive, I don't want her spending it all on a trip. She could do - ' Lainie was saying something about 'close to it all, like Bondi.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 353 'Bondi's probably a good idea, they have good backpacker places there. I'm sure Lainie will feel comfortable there.' Her mother said she was getting the solicitor to send her a bank draft for the amount poor Gina had left. It was about what she earned in two months at the restaurant. 'What are you doing with yours?' You and Dad might like to go on - You could get something really nice with that.' Gina had only left it to the young ones. Poor Gina, she never had much of a life, did she? After she had thumbed the phone off she fell to thinking about the money. It was coming at a good time. Although she no longer had to pay rent, she felt more uneasy about money than ever. There was something strange going on at the restaurant. Mr Iriye seemed worried and not so concerned about standards and the waiters were not as solicitous as they had been. Even the presentation of the food appeared to her expert eye less careful. She had been relieved because there was now no pressure to entertain special guests after work. She and Mr Iriye still exchanged perfectly understood glances on those occasions when a 'special customer' had inquired about her [Type text] [Type text] 1 354 availability. She consented when she thought a large sum might be involved. But she longed to escape the restaurant. Michiyo said not to worry, everyone just getting a bit slack, the restaurant had been opened a long time now. She was constantly aware of how much she needed to finish her course. She needed to make the money for next year's fees and then there was the year after if she did honours. It would all be so much easier if she wasn't an international student. If only Cal was Australian. Cal had bought an expensive sports car and was taking delight in driving her around in it. At first he had even insisted on picking her up after work and careering through the streets of Sydney. She had enjoyed the carelessness of it, the car sliding through the quiet streets, the warm wind slipping by. Then she had felt uneasy not inviting him in, though he seemed to understand. After he got a ticket for speeding she was adamant that she was too tired for these late night drives. She had to go to Mrs Coleman's and get sleep so she could keep up with her uni work and the restaurant. She watched Lainie emerge from the Arrivals door with a sense of horror and disgust. She introduced her sister to Cal and while they [Type text] [Type text] 1 355 waited for Lainie's luggage found she could barely endure her sister's talk. She stared stonily away. Cal had covered her revulsion with polite questions and laughter. Then he made a serious blunder. 'You should stay in Kings Cross, backpacker's there, near your sister. Bondi no good, too far.' 'There's the beach there,' she interrupted. 'Yeah, that's a good idea. Kings Cross, I've heard of that.' 'You're thinking of the one in London, it's nothing like that.' 'No. Vic - that's Renee's cousin - said it was cool.' She was seething. Cal, misinterpreting her silence, cheerfully drove to Kings Cross. She took control sufficiently to manoeuvre Lainie into the place where she had stayed when she first arrived in Sydney. [Type text] [Type text] 1 356 'I'll see you tomorrow,' she said after she had seen her sister settled. 'Don't go out tonight, even if you can't sleep. It's not safe. But you won't listen to me.' Outside, she told Cal she would walk home. She decided he had to go, he was such an idiot. Who knew what blunder he'd make next? She wanted to ring into the restaurant, sick, but decided it might take her mind off Lainie. Obviously she had to get her away to Cairns or Darwin as soon as possible. What about New Zealand and bungie jumping? But most of all she had to settle this rage and brooding, it was out of all proportion. She went back with a special guest to his hotel. She knew she was at her worst. Her rage must be palpable. He wouldn't or couldn't come and teased her with a very small amount when she abandoned the effort and got dressed. Though she knew he was teasing her and would give more if she played the game, she threw the note away shouting, 'What's this? You've got to be fucking kidding! So I've got to pay for your lack of horniness. You're going to be a laughing stock in this town after I've had my say at the desk.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 357 He was at the door with her and pressing more notes into her hand as she made her get away. In the taxi she counted them. Pretty good. She should try that again. She added the sum to her inheritance and decided she would go to her jeweller's and get something. Maybe a ring. Yes, maybe she should start wearing rings. A little dress ring, say with emeralds. Maybe she could get something that would match her earrings. Oh no. That would look too awful. Perhaps another brooch. She had worn the butterfly three times. 'Good morning Miss Woodburn. You look lovely today.' 'Thank you Rohan.' She told him she wanted to see something simple with Argyle diamonds. A brooch. A simple pin would be perfect, to go with her new suit. Rohan dithered and the older gentleman came and asked how Miss Woodburn was today and could he be of assistance? She bought a brooch, a circle of diamonds. Rohan said she could wear it as a hairclip too. [Type text] [Type text] 1 358 The older gentleman exchanged a look with her, then he, inspired, said, 'We've still got your bracelet!' And scurried off for it. She tried it on. 'It would go rather nicely with your new brooch,' the older gentleman said. 'Yes,' she said, 'it would. I think I am to be given a gift soon. Enough. If they mention my name would you show them this?' The older gentleman carefully cosseted the strand of diamonds away and bestowed on her a tender look. She got Rohan to accompany her to the ATM again. 'I'm so thirsty, I must have a cup of tea. Where will we go?' She encouraged Rohan through a cup of tea. The older gentleman could not contain himself when they reappeared, he hissed at Rohan and snatched the money she had again got Rohan to 'mind' and bristled while handing over the beautifully wrapped parcel and receipt. Then he controlled himself to [Type text] [Type text] 1 359 accompany her out of the shop and for a short distance along the street. 'Thank you so much Mr ... ?' 'Clinton. No relation,' he said, 'to the President.' She laughed and bade him farewell. During her seminar she obsessively calculated what her jewellery might be worth second hand. And her painting. Could she take the brooch back? She rehearsed what she would say to Rohan and Mr Clinton. She would have to get a new suit to do it in. She needed one for autumn in any case. She would get something lovely in a sensational deep purple, maybe with white - or even yellow piping. Something very Audrey Hepburn. But she would need the diamond brooch to wear with it. It was perfect. She had done the right thing, she needed it. She was writing an essay on Audrey Hepburn for Semiotics and Information Matrices. She had placed as an epigram under her title - the face of Audrey Hepburn ... has nothing of the essence left in it ... The face of Garbo is an Idea, that of Hepburn, an Event - Roland Barthes, Mythologies . She had little idea what this meant but as [Type text] [Type text] 1 360 everyone sitting around the cafe had looked impressed when she had told them she was going to use this as a kind of key, she had decided to go ahead with this idea. So far her research consisted of detailing what Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's and venturing opinions about what Audrey Hepburn's costumes in the film 'signified'. The last note she had written was consider the historical context. She was engrossed by a picture book of sixties style and was thinking of using its Introduction as the basis of her essay. Lou said, 'You should talk to Clarissa, she's into all that sixties shit. Why don't we have yum cha? Or dinner? If you like.' She settled for yum cha, thinking she could bring Lainie along, keep her diluted in the crowd, and that would be that done. She called in to see Lainie on the way home from uni. She wasn't there. Good. At the restaurant Mr Iriye told them he wanted a meeting when all the guests had gone. Mr Iriye made a speech in Japanese. He nodded to the headwaiter who had stood beside him. [Type text] [Type text] 1 361 'What did he say?' she asked Michiyo. The headwaiter picked up a tray with a bundle of envelopes on it and started to distribute the envelopes. 'Closing the restaurant.' 'Oh when?' 'Now. It is closed.' 'When? I mean, when? Why? I mean.' 'Now. Closed tonight. Maybe new owner soon.' 'Why?' Michiyo shrugged. She was handed her envelope. It had her name in English on it, misspelt. As they walked out together Michiyo said, 'I think Mr Iriye will go back to Japan. Start new restaurant.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 362 She decided to walk home despite the envelope and whatever amount was in it. She hoped she would be mugged. She would just hand over the envelope. It would be good not to know how much was in it. However much it would not be enough. What would she do? She'd have to go and see Lena at Polka Dot first thing. But she had so much uni work to do. All her subjects were getting very difficult. She wasn't sure she could pass Semiotics and Information Matrices. She had no idea what the lecturer was talking about or what her essay on Audrey Hepburn should be saying. She swung into the backpackers where she had installed Lainie. Lainie was playing pool with some boys in the rec room. 'Oh hi! I'm having such a good time. I've already got an Australian accent. Can you hear it?' She nodded. They went to the lounge. She led Lainie as far away from the very loud T V as she could. 'Would you like - ' [Type text] [Type text] 1 363 'You were so wrong about Sydney. I can see why you've stayed. I might stay too. You were so wrong, it's not dangerous. I had a great time. I went to Oxford Street. This guy took me to a club. We danced all night. I just slept in the afternoon and now I'm right. I might come and visit you tomorrow.' 'I'll be at uni. I can't - O K. But would you like to come and have yum cha - it's a really Sydney thing to do. In Chinatown. Have you been there yet?' Lainie now had a reluctant, calculating expression. 'Not if you don't want to but all my friends will be there. And they want to meet you, of course. If you like. I know you're busy.' 'Sunday ... ' Lainie said, 'What time?' 'Yum cha's kind of a late breakfast with Chinese food. They - ' 'Late breakfast sounds good. I'm going out with this guy - the one who took me to the gay club. He's gay so you needn't worry.' She confined the expression of her response to a slow thoughtful nod. [Type text] [Type text] 1 364 So Lainie consented to yum cha on Sunday. And added she might come and visit her tomorrow night. Outside, Lainie looked her up and down thoughtfully then said, 'You've got nice clothes.' 'I earned them,' she replied before she could check herself. 'How?' Lainie said. 'Lainie, I made them. I saved up from my job in a clothing factory and I got the fabric wholesale and I bought a pattern, cut them out and sewed them. How else?' 'Well how would I know?' Lainie snapped back, 'No-one knows what you get up to any more.' As she walked the rest of the way home she brooded on how nasty Lainie had always been. Mum and Dad indulged her, she had never been corrected. Mrs Coleman was having a cup of tea. 'Hullo. How was your day?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 365 'Quite good. Thank you. And yours?' After a while Mrs Coleman said, 'You seem down tonight, everything alright?' 'Well. I've lost my job at the restaurant.' 'How? What did you do?' 'Nothing. I didn't do anything. It's closing.' 'Why? From what you said it was doing very well. I should have gone.' 'I don't know. It was always full and it was expensive enough. I don't know.' 'Oh they're all fly-by-night these days. They open and close before they have to pay their taxes. Who knows what else they're involved in. Don't worry. You're not worried are you? You'll get another job, a girl like you, easily. I'll ask my friends, someone's always looking for someone to do some little thing for them. You can sew.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 366 'No. I'm not worried. It's just ... I'd got used to working there. And the money was useful. Thank you. If you hear of anything. It's just ... I quite liked working there and there was no warning. It was a bit of a shock. Mr Iriye just suddenly announced it was over tonight. And paid us off. Our week's wages. I was ... It was a shock.' 'Oh something's gone on alright. It's not right. Some of the others probably need the job. What about the chef?' She nodded and the tears brimmed in her eyes. Mrs Coleman brought her a cup of tea and made her drink a whisky. As she sipped it she thought that was what she would miss most about Mr Iriye's restaurant. The envelope had considerably more than a week's wages in it. She thought Mrs Coleman was probably right, Mr Iriye was getting out before the Tax Man got him. The large amount was to ensure everyone went quietly on their way. She wondered what the implications might be. Then took comfort from the fact her name had been misspelt. Michiyo was the only one at the restaurant who really knew her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 367 She lay awake for hours brooding over her financial state. She wondered if she was the only one who had not known the restaurant was closing. Why hadn't Michiyo told her? The writing had been on the wall. She would buy another painting, something very modern, at an art gallery, or some more shares. Now she wasn't working she could have dinner with Cal and he could tell her what to do with her shares, she would buy and sell. Despite the diamond brooch she still had enough not to worry for a while. But she would have to watch herself. Perhaps she needn't get the suit. She would have to get new shoes and a handbag to go with the colour she had in mind and where would she wear it? She didn't really need it now she wasn't taking the brooch back. She could let her hair grow out, take on a new look - just-a-student - for a while. She needed a break from all this stress, it was destroying her. Thank god, no more 'special customers'. She could concentrate on her Audrey Hepburn essay and get a really good mark. She would go and see the lecturer tomorrow. She could get really healthy, so healthy she would no longer need make-up. She would glow. She would drink water. This was a real break, it was meant to happen. She might sell everything and go in and walk out with her bracelet. It would go well with her new brooch. She might sell the butterfly, but no, she was attached to it, it was the first thing she had bought, she loved it, it brought her luck. Things would work out. She could go around with Lainie, take her on the Manly ferry, or to Bondi for a drink. [Type text] [Type text] 1 368 Lainie was obviously drugged when she picked her up on Sunday for the yum cha. The taxi driver snarled about being kept waiting so she said, 'Get out Lainie, we don't have to put up with this, plenty of other taxis,' and pushed a note at him. But he began to apologise and explain he thought they weren't coming so she told Lainie it was alright. When they got to the restaurant she made sure he gave her every cent of the change. She had transformed her anxiety into a determined indifference. Let them judge Lainie as they would. It was a stroke of great good fortune that she was eccied, or whatever it was. She smiled at Lainie's bubblings about what a good time she was having, how she loved Sydney and was going to stay, she would get Mum to send her the rest of Gina's money. 'What are you going to get Mum?' she turned on Lainie as they entered the huge dining area. 'What?' 'She's been very good to you. She didn't get anything from her cousin, just us, we ought to send her something. She's always doing [Type text] [Type text] 1 369 things for other people and she never gets anything for herself.' She waved at Allison, Lauren and Lou. She was taking comfort in the hugeness of the area, the clatter of the trolleys circulating, the hubbub of families out for Sunday brunch and from the size of their party. She had encouraged the idea of assembling twelve saying the more at yum cha the better. She would resolve the problem of her name if it came up. She would say to Lainie, ‘My Australian friends call me Iseult,’ and smile in bland silence at whatever Lainie had to say about that. She could get through this easily, after all nearly everyone here was an ally. Lou lit up when he saw her and glanced at Lainie with interest. She herded Lainie towards a seat on the other side of Adrian and his new boyfriend who was next to Lou. She went and gave Allison a kiss, said hullo to Lauren. Michiyo was there with Todd, the real estate agent. Cal hadn't turned up yet. She kept the seat beside her vacant for him but encouraged Clarissa to sit beside it so they could talk about sixties style. She knew Clarissa would have no idea about what style 'signified'. She introduced Lainie. Allison asked her polite questions about how she was finding Sydney. Lainie began to explain what a good time she was having, clubbing and ... No, she hadn't seen the Opera House yet. She told them about the club she had just got home from when Chirpie turned up, she had to rush into the [Type text] [Type text] 1 370 shower. And Chirpie yelled at the taxi driver because they had kept him waiting and ... She hadn't even had time to put her thickener on properly. 'Who?' Lauren demanded. Lainie stared at her. Lauren's face was alight with a malicious, triumphant smile. 'Who? Who yelled at the taxi driver?' She felt herself go cold. Lauren laughed at her bowed head as she pretended to read the contents of a fortune cookie then waved to the waiter. 'Who's 'Chirpie?' 'Her!' Lainie pointed, laughing, 'Her.' And was delighted by her sister's intent non-expression. 'Why do you call her that?' Lauren asked. 'You must see the Opera House. We could go after we've finished here.' But Allison's attempt was lost. [Type text] [Type text] 1 371 'Oh she was such a joke. Dad used to say, Go on Chirpie, dance for us. And she'd pretend she was on T V, some pop star and dance all over the place. You should have seen her. It was so funny. She was so serious. We laughed and laughed.' Lainie collapsed into helpless laughter. Everyone was looking at her. She was managing a soft, indulgent smile at her sister. There was a fatal gleam in her eye. 'But why did you call her that?' Lauren glanced for Lou's reaction. He was staring at her victim. 'Cause. Cause. She was just like a little bird hopping about the place, singing.' Lainie stopped as if a thought had just occurred to her. Her great amusement suddenly turned to resentment. 'Who did she think she was? Who do you think you are?' 'I don't know, Lainie. I've obviously changed a bit since I've been here. It doesn't seem to have taken long to have changed you too. Mum would be surprised. And of course, Dad.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 372 Lainie's gaze swung around the table. Everyone was staring at her. Now she looked down at her bowl. It was empty. Allison told the waiter, yes, they would have six plates of steamed dim sims. She ordered a beer for Lainie when the drinks waiter came around and just managed to hold off from a whisky for herself. But Michiyo ordered three and one was placed before her. She loved Michiyo. It went straight to her head which cleared. She took a surveillance of the table. Lou was trying to focus on Adrian, who was no doubt being his boring, ideologically defensive self, certainly his new boyfriend was concentrating a bit hard on his chop sticks. Lauren was trying to join in and turned to Allison with a comment. Allison froze her out with a glance and called across to Clarissa. She tried not to gulp the whisky but was already planning on another, just to return the compliment to Michiyo. 'Are you gay?' she heard Lainie say, 'I went to this club with some gay guys. They're great, I don't know why people say those things about them. I've never met one before.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 373 She heard Adrian start on the lecture about how she had, she just didn't know they were gay and noticed his boyfriend get up from the table as Cal slipped in beside her, transparent with guilt. She went to kiss him but averted her face from the small bruise on his neck. As soon as she could she ordered a bottle of whisky and another beer for Lainie. People protested but most acquiesced as the waiter circled, pouring. Lainie explained how she had learned to drink out of the bottle in Australia. She felt warm and drunk. She hoped she wasn't flushed. Then didn't care. She watched her sister heedlessly chatting to anyone who would listen, not eating though a spoon and fork had been brought especially for her and relentlessly swigging at her third beer. Lou was staring at her so she raised her glass and winked. He looked really pleased and smiled back. Cal was making a special effort and it was easy for her to respond with chat to him. After a while she engaged Clarissa in talk about sixties style. Lou moved near to hear what she had to say about her [Type text] [Type text] 1 374 essay. Adrian began to make a fuss about his boyfriend's not coming back from the toilet. 'Perhaps he went outside for a cigarette,' Clarissa suggested. But he didn't smoke. 'Perhaps he found someone else in the toilet,' Lauren said. 'I'll get him,' Lainie declared, 'I've got to go in any case. Where is it? I can talk to gays.' She staggered as she rose. 'I'll come with you.' She was too late, Lainie careered sideways and sprawled across Lauren, knocking some little bowls of food and the tea Lauren was drinking. It spilled onto Lauren's dress. Lauren affected a scream then realised the tea had gone onto her dress. 'Oh look! You've ruined it. It's just new. You'll have to pay for the dry cleaning. Do tea stains come out?' She helped Lainie to the toilet. Told her to stay there. Went back and told the others she'd better get her home - back to the hostel. 'She's not used to alcohol. I'm sorry about your skirt Lauren, I'll pay for the dry cleaning, or whatever. Sorry about this everyone. She was so [Type text] [Type text] 1 375 looking forward to seeing the Opera House with you all. Have you got your car?' She asked Cal whose flat was nearby. Cal said he'd walked but he would get his car. 'Oh never mind, it's a sports car in any case.' Allison was beside her, 'Come on,' Allison said, touching her elbow, 'we've managed this sort of thing before. And well.' Outside, she ordered Lainie to stand up straight or they'd have trouble getting a taxi. They got Lainie past the boy on reception and onto her bed. She slipped her sister's shoes off. 'Leave her. She'll be alright. I'll see if I can get a bowl to leave beside her in case she vomits, or something.' She told the boy her sister was sick, she was allergic to MSG and they'd been to yum cha and got him to get her a bucket. As she made her way back with it she wondered if peanuts, or seafood would have been better in some way than MSG. She turned at the door and took a look at her sister, sprawled on the bed in her tawdry wear. [Type text] [Type text] 1 376 'Don't worry. She'll be alright,' Allison said. 'We'll go for a walk and come back to see how she's going. I'd much rather look at Elizabeth Bay on a Sunday than the Opera House.' She told Allison, no, she'd done enough. 'Please let me get you a cab so you can find the others, they're probably still at the restaurant. I prefer to deal with this myself - now that I can. Thank you. I'll ring you and let you know ... ' She allowed herself to burst into tears. After she'd got rid of Allison she went straight to the police station. She asked if she could speak to Robbie. Robbie wasn't in. Could someone else help? She said she was a friend of Robbie's and ... Was Hamid in? Soon she was in an interview room with Hamid and a very young looking policewoman. She told them she was very worried about her sister. She'd just had to take her back to her hostel - she seemed to be drugged. 'She's only young and we come from this really quiet village in the countryside in England and Mum asked me to keep an eye on her. I [Type text] [Type text] 1 377 don't know what's going on but she's only been here a few days and she's already going off the rails.' The young policewoman asked severely what she expected them to do about it. Hamid glared at his colleague and asked, 'Where is your sister staying? Do you know what drug she took?' Then he turned to the young policewoman and said, 'This is a community member. We know her, she's a friend of Robbie's. She lives down in Elizabeth Bay. She wants us to keep an eye on her sister.' 'I'm afraid she's going off the rails. She's not used to this. She's not ready. I can't spend every minute with her. I had to go and drink with her in this awful place this morning just to try and talk to her. I've rung Mum. Mum thinks she should come home - she's got a ticket - but she won't listen to me.' Hamid glanced at his young colleague and turned back to her, 'I think we can fix this. We've handled - we often have to handle runaways. I think we can manage this.' He glanced dismissively at his colleague and then turned back to her. 'We can wait for Robbie to come back, if you like, she's working over at Central. Or do you think you can [Type text] [Type text] 1 378 handle it?' He directed this at his colleague who squirmed, then nodded. 'Thank you Hamid. You've no idea how worried I've been. Thank you ... ' It was Petrea. She spelled out Lainie's name for them. As Hamid escorted her out, she said, 'Do you think you can wait till tomorrow? She's pretty out of it now. I've got a friend who's a doctor coming round to have a look at her this afternoon, that's when he can get away from the hospital.' 'It's probably GHB,' Hamid said. 'they just let them sleep it off. Not much more they can do.' 'It's not addictive, is it?' Mrs Coleman was out. She was pleased to throw herself on her bed. She slept. Got up. Made a cup of tea, took it to her room and stared out at her view. She felt a rush of possession. She turned her [Type text] [Type text] 1 379 attention to the picture book on sixties style. Yes, its Introduction could be her essay. She would reference it just once. Lainie glanced up when she entered and glared at her sister. She assessed her sister's state - good, the drug had left her flat. She introduced herself to Hamid and Petrea. They nodded and returned their attention to inspecting Lainie's things. 'What's in here?' Petrea demanded. 'It's just me make-up bag.' 'Open it.' 'Is there a problem? Is my sister in any difficulty?' she asked. Hamid said he'd like to talk to her outside. He told her they were going to get her on a plane tomorrow. Back with Lainie he announced, 'We have surveillance tape of your sister ingesting a prohibited substance.' He turned on Lainie, 'I'd like [Type text] [Type text] 1 380 to warn you that anything you say will be taken down and may be used against you in a court of law.' Petrea got out a notebook. 'What?' 'May I have a moment with my sister?' When the police had left she told Lainie that Hamid had said the best thing was for her to leave Australia and never return. They had very strict laws on drugs here and she was going to be charged with using a prohibited substance. Unless she was out of the country in twenty- four hours. She could get eight years. Lainie gaped at her. She told Hamid and Petrea she was taking her sister to the travel agent now. She would come and show them the ticket in half an hour. She made Lainie come to the police station with her. Lainie sulked and then wept during dinner. [Type text] [Type text] 1 381 'Those guys must have known. I paid them ... It can't ... I'll never trust gays again. They set me up. They knew. They must have known there were cameras there. They must have done it because they really hate chicks. I only got one.' 'I tried to tell you, Lainie. It's not like England.' 'Oh I tried to tell you Lainie ... What do you know? With your snotty friends who think they're so good. I bet you've never even been to a club.' Lainie tore out of the restaurant. She thought about following her back to the hostel but found herself finishing her meal and walking home. She felt quiet. Tomorrow she would go round and make sure Lainie left. 'What will I tell Dad?' Lainie sniffled. 'I was having a good time till ... those gays.' At the departure gate she said to Lainie, 'Just tell them that you got sick. There was something in the air you were allergic to and the doctor said you'd get asthma if you didn't leave. A lot of people get asthma here. It's the wattle.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 382 'What are you going to say?' 'Nothing, Lainie. You know I wouldn't want to upset them.' Lainie examined her sister then said, 'You think you're really smart, don't you? Well Lyntie got married. And his mother doesn't speak to me mum any more because of you.' Then she was gone. [Type text] [Type text] 1 383 [Type text] [Type text] 1 384 [Type text] [Type text] 1 385 xiii 'Shower tea? Of course. When do you want to have it? I didn't know people had them any more. Will you need any help?' Lauren was engaged to Graeme and she had told Allison she expected a shower tea - all the old gang and some of the new, fifteen. Allison had left home to live in Alexandria and was reluctant to ask her mother for the favour so she had asked her if there was any possibility of having it at Mrs Coleman's, there was so much room. 'It might be kind of fun, sort of. You know, it's so ... anachronistic. You could document it, or use it, it's so anachronistic, or something.' She was taken by the idea; if she did hold the shower tea for Lauren, it would seal something. Since stopping work she had gradually been inviting a few friends around. Mrs Coleman obviously liked meeting them but took pains not to linger. She was enjoying her opportunities to be more social. At first she had found the evenings empty but over several months had learned to fill them, to use them. She spent many of them in the university library and at the State Library. She was doing an evening [Type text] [Type text] 1 386 college course in Australian art. For the first time in Australia, she found herself going out - to the theatre, concerts of all sorts, lots of films. She had a joined a 'cell' dedicated to making short films and documentaries. If Mrs Coleman announced she wasn't going out on a certain night, she would often dedicate it to watching television with her. She told Mrs Coleman, yes, she would like help with the shower tea and that Allison was also involved. Mrs Coleman consulted her friends and a menu was decided on. Gin and tonic would be offered to signal the end of the afternoon. But they stayed and drank more and more of the gin. 'I'm so sorry,' one of the last guests recollected herself at the door, 'I couldn't leave. I know I overstayed my welcome but I just couldn't leave, it was so beautiful.' And so it had been. Mrs Coleman's flat had impressed everyone, Lauren especially. 'How much would this be worth?' she had inquired while Mrs Coleman was supervising Mrs Desouza in the kitchen. 'Graeme's parents want to invest in somewhere we can live.' 'Forget it Lauren, they couldn't afford it,' Allison informed her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 387 'My parents - ' 'They still couldn't afford it.' After she'd come over to see in just what circumstances My Shower Tea was to be celebrated, Lauren's eyes had been opened to the charms of inner city living. 'Casuarinas' itself had impressed her but when Mrs Desouza appeared with the tea things she was convinced. Afterwards, they had taken her for a walk and Lauren had gazed about in deep calculation. Mrs Coleman wore her blue patterned silk suit for the occasion and presided from afar, joining them in the gins and tonic after she had sent Mrs Desouza home. She had decided on a simple pale blue linen frock, unassuming, fresh, almost innocent, she had explained to herself. She made it herself on the sewing machine Mrs Coleman had allowed her to install in a corner of the study. She pinned the butterfly brooch to the blue linen. Several of the girls couldn't help saying, 'Is that real?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 388 Lauren, dressed in silk herself, and professionally styled, gloated over the success of the occasion. She brought flowers around the next day and asked her to be a bridesmaid. Mrs Coleman smiled and nodded. She hid her distress by exclaiming, 'Oh no! Really? But ... You have so many good, old friends.' 'I want you. I have to have Allison. Will you tell her to grow her hair out? And I'm having Letitia and Merrie. Graeme's niece is going to be flower girl. I don't think I'll have a page.' 'Well thank god for that.' Mrs Coleman said. 'But I might. If I decide on two flower girls.' Shortly after, Mrs Coleman excused herself. They met up in the morning room when Lauren had gone. Mrs Coleman raised her brows. 'I so do not want to be a bridesmaid. I didn't know what to say.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 389 'What can you say?' 'Well exactly. Oh, grrrr. What's involved?' 'I believe it's negotiated these days. Somewhat. But I imagine you'll be paying for your own gown.' 'I'll make it.' 'If you can. I'd say she's the type who's already picked out what you're going to wear. Something in sack cloth and ashes, if I'm any judge of character.' She laughed. Then asked, 'Why me? I'm not ... one of her set. Not really. I don't come from the North Shore, for a start.' 'Looking around yesterday, I'd say she needed you.' 'What for?' 'Don't underestimate yourself, my dear.' Mrs Coleman stroked her cheek as she passed out of the room. 'I've got to get ready.' She fled to her room and called Allison. [Type text] [Type text] 1 390 'I know already,' Allison said, 'she consulted me.' 'What did she say? Why didn't you tell her ... ?' 'What? What could I say? I didn't even know for sure that you wouldn't want to be - ' 'God, Allison! As if ... I thought I was to blame for dashing her hopes about Lou, or something.' 'Oh that's all forgotten, ma sœur. I was informed that boy Comms students all turn out to be queer in any case. And that Graeme is planning to have his own practice in two years time.' 'Oh good. Where?' 'Blaxland. She won't be living there, of course. Then from Blaxland to Macquarie Street. They have it all worked out. I didn't tell her Lou's switching to Law, she might have broken off the engagement.' Lauren showed them the fabric and asked her if she would make the bridesmaids' dresses, as a wedding present. [Type text] [Type text] 1 391 'I don't have the time, Lauren. You obviously have no idea of the work involved.' 'The other girls could help you. Merrie's mother's got a machine, I think.' She ended up making her own and Allison's. Allison paid for the material. The reception was at a reception place and formulaic. She found herself the object of Lou's attention. He managed to sit next to her and they danced. Macalister danced with her too and wanted to dance again but Lou was hovering. She hesitated. She liked Macalister and he looked beautiful in his rented dinner suit and done hair. However, he was about eighteen. Macalister glared at Lou and retreated. The M C rounded the 'single ladies' up so that the bride could toss her bouquet. Before she turned her back, Lauren made sure everyone knew Allison was the intended recipient. 'Tell me this isn't happening,' Allison said. She stood stock still as the bouquet whizzed at her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 392 'Grab it, Allison!' her mother yelled. But Letitia dived and held it aloft. 'I'm going,' Allison said. Her mother rushed up to her and said, 'Why didn't you grab it? It was just there.' 'Drive me to the station, I'm getting a headache.' 'But you're staying ... The bride hasn't even changed yet.' 'I'll get Mac to then.' 'No. I'll drive you. I thought you'd got over them.' Allison turned to her. 'Want to come? Mac will drive us. We can go somewhere sordid and get drunk. Someone's bound to want to pick us up in this harlotry.' Allison swept her hand dismissively over her bridesmaid's gown. [Type text] [Type text] 1 393 Mrs Blackmore stared aghast at her daughter who moved off to find her brother. 'I don't know what's happened to Allison. Ever since that trip to Noumea she's ... ' Mac told her he'd taken Allison home where she'd got changed and then to the station. She was very much regretting not leaving with her friend. The bride would not go. Even when the reception room staff started asking people to get out of their way so they could clean up,, Lauren danced and frolicked on in her bridal gown. She'd announced that she was going to dance with every man there. After her father had had a word with her, she demanded her bridesmaids come and help her change into her going-away outfit. 'Where's Alli?' 'She got a headache and had to go and get a tablet.' Lauren prolonged the changing for an unconscionable time. [Type text] [Type text] 1 394 Only when her father stood at the door and yelled, 'There'll be no- one here to wish you good-bye if you don't come now, right now!' did she consent to go forth. She made extended conversation with everyone gathered in the circle to wish her well. She contemplated the refinement of Lauren’s sadism, wondered if Graeme was panic stricken with doubt. Finally the couple left. There was a single ironic cheer. She just wanted to be at home. So she accepted Lou's offer of a lift. She was all but silent in the car. Going over the Bridge he placed his hand over hers. Parked outside Mrs Coleman's he turned the engine off and began to chat, about the wedding, about uni. He was sure she'd do better in her next assignment for Semiotics and Information Matrices, she just had to remember they didn't want to know anything about history, that didn't matter, it was about, you know signs and receptors, marketing basically. [Type text] [Type text] 1 395 ‘Oh history,’ she laughed, ‘that’d be the last thing I ...’ When she began gathering her things to go he said, 'You're not still going out with that Korean guy, are you? You broke up. didn't you?' 'Cal?' He nodded. 'We're just friends, we were only ever ... friends. He's got to go back to Japan.' He smiled and when she turned to thank him, kissed her. Though she was surprised, she played it out to some extent before wiggling away from him. Mrs Coleman had left a note for her on the hall stand, it asked her to ring Isobel Tierney as soon as she could. 'Are you sitting down, dear? I'm afraid I have some bad news.' Therese was dead. Lady Tierney had noticed the mail had not been picked up for a few days and the people in the shop said Therese [Type text] [Type text] 1 396 hadn't been down for a few ... the police and the ambulance came. They had to knock ... break the lock to get in. 'They said she had been dead … only a matter of days. I don't think there was any pain, dear.' They went together to the funeral. In the chapel Kath turned around to glare at her. There were sandwiches and a cup of tea in the funeral parlour afterwards. Kath bore down on her. 'Well you must be very pleased with yourself.' Lady Tierney drew back then reached out a hand to lay on her companion's arm. ‘Funny seeing you here, Isobel!' A woman bowled up to stand beside Kath. [Type text] [Type text] 1 397 'Mort says I should challenge. And I'm thinking of it, I can tell you. Don't think you're going to get away with this. There's laws here, no matter where you come from, Miss.' 'Yes,' the friend added, 'Kath deserved more. Better. Something. Taking advantage of a sick woman.' 'Undue influence, it's called,' Kath added in response to their silence. 'Mort says ... ' She felt Lady Tierney's hand exert some pressure. She turned away from Kath. Kath reached out and grabbed at her. She swung around to face her. 'Don't you walk away while I'm talking to you. I'll see you in court. You don't deserve it, what did you do? You were just a boarder. I was her friend for years - decades!' Lady Tierney's grip firmed. Before she shepherded her away, she said to Kath, 'You're upset, we all are. Control yourself, please. Come, we'll go now.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 398 She wept in the taxi. Lady Tierney tut tutted and said, 'Come now. There, there.' And pressed a handkerchief into her hand. Lady Tierney accompanied her into Mrs Coleman's. She asked Mrs Desouza to make them a cup of tea. While it was coming she got herself and Lady Tierney whiskies. When Mrs Desouza had placed the tea tray on the table and gone she said, 'I was the best friend I could be.' 'Of course you were. No-one could have endured ... put up with that for long. That woman was ... appalling. What behaviour! Don't think about it.' 'I don't think I was a bad influence. Influence?' 'Of course not. I don’t think it means … She was just ... irrational. Mrs Sullivan was not the type who was easily influenced, unfortunately. She was of sound mind, despite ... I'm prepared to get up in court and say so.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 399 'Court?' 'I'm sure it was just an empty threat. Wills make people so greedy, you see it over and over again. Over nothing. A little flat. I'm sure she's comfortable.' Lady Tierney saw the idea dawning on her. 'Didn't you know?' 'Know what?' Lady Tierney took some time replying. 'I could only infer that Mrs Sullivan ... left you something. And that woman, her so-called friend, resents that.' The idea flooded through her. Her face burned. She thrust the whisky away. 'I don't think so,' she said at last to Lady Tierney. At the door, Lady Tierney said, 'I have a very good lawyer, I'm sure you won't need her services but ... She takes more than a professional interest in my affairs and ... You were very important to Mrs Sullivan, you know. If need be you must fight this, for her sake. But I'm sure there'll be no need.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 400 Two weeks later she was summoned to Therese' solicitor's. Therese had left her the flat and the lapis necklace, everything else was to go to Therese's charity. She mentioned Kath's behaviour. The solicitor waved the worry away. Several months later she was back in his office to take possession of the deed, the keys and the necklace. 'Will you sell it?' he asked. She didn't know. 'Didn't look as though it meant much to her, ' he told his wife that night. She let herself into 'Longleat' and the flat. It was empty and despite the warm day, cold. It still reeked of cigarette smoke. She went into her old room. She opened the window. A warm breeze blew in. She went through the flat throwing open the windows. Then she went upstairs and knocked on Lady Tierney's door. Lady Tierney eventually asked her what she intended doing. [Type text] [Type text] 1 401 She looked puzzled. 'Will you be thinking about selling?' She really hadn't made up her mind so she looked blank. 'I know ... Of course you haven't had time to think about it but ... There will be associated expenses - Margaret Coleman would be so sorry to lose you, now. It could be a nice source of ... I'm sure Mrs Sullivan wanted you to be secure.' 'Yes,' she said. 'We don't encourage renting but in the circumstances ... Have you got someone who advises you, financially?' She nodded. Cal had told her to sell Therese's flat and buy shares. Michiyo's Todd said he'd look at it if she liked. Therese's flat was redecorated and rented. [Type text] [Type text] 1 402 'Good for tax,' Todd said, 'negative gearing. You can't lose in any case.' Mrs Coleman told Lady Tierney she wore Therese's necklace even when it didn't go with the outfit, 'and you know how particular she is about her accessories.' 'It was a terrible shock. And that horrible woman at the funeral.' She did not bother informing her parents and Lainie of her good fortune. [Type text] [Type text] 1 403 xiv Mrs Richardson greeted her at the door, 'Hello, you must be Iseult.' She smiled. She was dressed in her pale blue linen but had bought pink sandals and bag for this occasion. At the bottom of her throat lay a perfect length of very fine gold holding a heavy small gold clam shell cross she had bought in Noumea, over a year ago now. She had decided not to wear pantyhose. It would be hot but that was not the reason - she wanted to appear a little casual. As she followed her, Mrs Richardson said, 'Lou's in the kitchen, he's fussing over something, a salad. It had to be ready but not too soon, if you understand. Something about the dill wilting. As he's chopped it to a powder, I can't quite see ... but you know what men are like in the kitchen.' At this Mrs Richardson turned to look at her response. It showed that she didn't. She decided that she had brought the right wine. [Type text] [Type text] 1 404 They passed into a living area. A man who was obviously Lou's father was reading the Sunday paper. He glanced up and after looking at his wife, rose. There was also a beautiful, slim, elderly woman with very well coiffured hair, an elegant dress and shoes. Her eyes glittered with malice. 'This is Lou's friend, Iseult ... I don't know your surname.' She looked from Lou's father to the elderly woman as she considered this. She almost decided on 'Minefield' but smiling, said, 'Court'. 'Mutti, this is Lou friend, Iseult Court. Iseult this is Lou's grandmother, Mrs Schapiro.' 'I am not deaf!' Mrs Schapiro snapped. Her lips were trembling as she spent her malicious gaze on this girl. 'How do you do.' She smiled and turned, having absorbed the spectacle, to Lou's father. 'I'm David.' He was Lou in twenty-five years. The curls had receded and frothed white, there was a complacent paunch. Lou appeared and went across to her and gave her a kiss. [Type text] [Type text] 1 405 Out of the corner of her eye she noticed Mutti in a paroxysm. She heard the woman hiss. Lou spirited her out of the room. She had known it was to be a fairly bizarre occasion. She had gathered there were to be no other young guests, that she was being invited to meet the parents, for their inspection and approval. As their approval was of no particular concern to her, she felt no qualms, though she did want to win them. She had already dismissed Mutti. s Months ago, when she had realised Lou was getting very serious, Allison had briefed her extensively. He was quite a successful architect. Mutti had the real money. Everyone said he had married her for the house. Most of its land was still intact, though they had sold off a bit at some stage. Mrs Richardson's ancestors had planted heavily because it was on such a high piece of land and exposed to winds and storms. Oh, and he took her name. It was said there was almost a divorce when he had tried to alter the house. [Type text] [Type text] 1 406 Lou took her wine, unwrapped it, looked pleased, said he would put it in the fridge to cool a bit more for lunch. She asked where she should leave her bag. 'I will show you around after lunch,' Mrs Richardson said after settling the bag. She made pleasant, easy conversation, trying to include Mutti who answered resentfully when she must. She wanted to laugh. But at lunch she was a little alarmed to see Mutti rush to sit next to Lou and glare triumphantly at her upon securing that place. The parents seemed to ignore this but Lou indulged it with a smiling, complacent shrug at her. She began to find the inconsequential level of conversation difficult to maintain. She complimented Lou on the salad again and inquired about the garden. She could glimpse it, dissolving into the haze. She wondered how long it would be before she would be offered a whisky, maybe to wander the grounds with between courses. 'And where are the parents then?' Mutti demanded. [Type text] [Type text] 1 407 As the question did not seem to be addressed to her, she did not answer, then she realised Mr and Mrs Richardson and Lou were looking at her in expectation of a reply. 'Oh I'm sorry, I didn't realise you were talking to me,' she said to Mutti and continued eating. 'You see?' Mutti informed the Richardsons. She looked at Mr Richardson in appeal - how did one handle this mad woman? 'Mutti wants to know where your parents are,' was his response. This was intolerable. 'Where?' she said, venting her anger and appearing mystified by the question. 'They're in England, Mutti,' Mrs Richardson answered for her. 'Why has she left them?' 'She's out here, studying,' Lou supplied. 'Why isn't she studying at home, in her country?' The Richardsons looked at her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 408 Surely she wasn't being required to respond to this mad woman's impertinences? She saw that she was. 'What a lovely vase,' she said to Mrs Richardson. 'Yes, it belongs to the house.' 'You see?' She felt the blood drain from her face. She was enraged. She speared the largest of the pink and dill powdered prawns, looked at it, laid her fork aside and took a sip of her wine. She was about to say how good she thought her wine was when she determined that she need not speak at all. So she did not. She rather enjoyed the silence. She rather enjoyed the wine. She took her fork up and put it down again. She wondered what she would do next. She might ask for a whisky, or get her bag and go. Then she thought she might get her bag and call Cal to see what he was doing. He might like to zip up here and save her. She would just sit in silence and wait for him. A peacock screamed. [Type text] [Type text] 1 409 'Oh,' she said, 'you have peacocks. How big is your flock? Are they Blues or Greens?' 'There are three, at the moment. A dog got in and killed one.' 'Foxes harry them where I come from, dogs too, of course. And the hounds.' 'And where is that, Iseult?' it was Mr Richardson, being gently but firmly insistent. 'I would so like to see them, I miss them - just outside of Coventry, my parents have a farm. They don't keep them themselves but every now and again - quite often in spring and summer, actually - one wanders in from the neighbouring estate. My father always says they're looking for my mother. She's a vet and Lord Loughlowland calls her in to inspect his birds every now and again. Oh, there one is. Are they all Indian Blues? Do you have Spaldings in Australia? They are my favourites.' Lou asked what Spaldings were. After she had explained, there was another silence broken by Mutti saying, 'She is looking for a roof over her head.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 410 'Are you talking to me?' Mutti ignored her, looked triumphantly at her son and daughter-in- law and then clutched at Lou, drawing his head down to caress his curls and kiss them. 'You won't leave your Mutti, will you?' She held his head and gazed in adoration. Mutti then cast another triumphant look in her direction. Lou bridled and shifted in his seat, cast his guest a coy look. The father smiled indulgently at his mother and son. Mrs Richardson gathered some plates. 'I hope you like pork,' she announced as she left with the plates. The settings might be hugely different but the tensions were only too familiar. She took comfort from this, drawing a deep breath.. There was a bustle getting the second course in and served. She longed to tell Lauren of her fortunate escape. Did Allison know? Why hadn't she told her about this? [Type text] [Type text] 1 411 'We're having a rosé with it,' Lou said. 'What else?' she said and was not sarcastic. He smiled warmly at her in appreciation. She was polite about her uni subjects over the pork. Asked about Mr Richardson's current project, Mrs Richardson about the house. 'She is studying to be a what?' Mutti said. 'Communications, like I was,' Lou responded. 'Ah.' 'Mutti did Medicine. But she didn't practice.' 'I can hardly say what a pity. It's such a demanding profession,' she addressed the latter at Mutti, as if she were deaf. Mutti looked puzzled as to a response. She smiled at her. [Type text] [Type text] 1 412 Mutti’s puzzlement wavered back towards hatred. ‘We’re very proud of Mutti, she’s a very – ‘ She interrupted Mr Richardson by rising. Everyone looked alarmed. ‘I must see those peacocks!’ ‘What about dessert?’ Lou said, ‘Mutti made a sachertorte, especially.’ ‘For my darling.’ Mutti clutched at him again. ‘You mustn't eat too much or you'll get pimples.' Mutti stroked his thigh. She looked at Mutti's hand, moving below the table. Lou sprang up. 'O K,' he said, 'they're always hovering about waiting to be fed.' 'Don't throw it all over the lawn, you'll bring the rats.' Outside, Lou said, 'Mutti's not used to visitors.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 413 She turned towards him and said, 'Do you think I could have a whisky?' 'Don't you want to see the peacocks?' One was stalking across the lawn towards them. She considered whether she should say, 'Oh it's only another Indian Blue.' 'Mum will want to show you the place.' 'Only if I have a whisky in my paw.' 'I don't know if we've got any.' 'Oh god. Really? Cognac will do' She added brightly. And then couldn't help laughing. He hesitated then laughed too and hugged her. 'This is great. You're just being yourself.' She led him back inside. [Type text] [Type text] 1 414 'The cake is delicious,' she told Mutti. She lost her rage somewhat during the tour of the grounds and also managed to let Mrs Richardson understand she must leave as soon as the tour was over, which it must be soon. Mutti was ensconced, pleased, watching the somewhat hurried farewell but sat up in alarm as her rival swept over and crouched in front of her, laying a hand over hers. Mutti snatched it away but it was taken back, firmly and gently. She was oblivious of all but the terrified angry face before her. 'You know, ' she said to it, 'I am sorry you're so unhappy but you probably don't have to be. And you don't have to try to make other people unhappy too, it makes you so ugly.' With which she rose and left. Mrs Richardson caught up with her son and his intended on the drive. 'You go and help your father clear up, I'll drive Iseult to the station.' Lou, astonished, stopped and Mrs Richardson took the keys from him and got into the car. [Type text] [Type text] 1 415 She turned to have a good look at the place as the car rolled down the drive. Lou was still standing there. He raised his hand, so she turned back to gaze at the gate. 'That was wonderful,' Mrs Richardson breathed, 'she's such a dragon. She resents me too. Because it's my house. And because I'm not Jewish.' She kicked off her sandals. At the station Mrs Richardson said again, 'That was wonderful. I'm so sorry if Mutti was a bit difficult. She can be. And I don't think it was ... I think it was one of her difficult days, she gets arthritis, badly. And the pain ... You must come again, soon, I didn't get a chance to show you over the house properly.' 'It was lovely,' she said from the pavement, 'the grounds. Thank you for the lift.' Cal got out the whisky he kept for her. She drank it in three drafts. 'Yum' she said, 'I can't stand Australians.' And she held out the glass. As she slowly sipped the second, bigger one, she thought she might ring Lauren. No, she would ring Allison. She had to tell someone. On [Type text] [Type text] 1 416 her third, she could see why she shouldn't say anything, instead she would stay the night with Cal. He was very pleased, as she had not stayed with him since she had moved into 'Casuarinas', though he thought this had as much to do with his dalliances as her not wanting to explain her overnight absences to Mrs Coleman. 'Cal like Australian girlfriend best,' he murmured to her in bed in the morning. She was planning. She would send Mrs Richardson a bunch of very simple flowers. And the briefest of thank you notes. And that would be that. Mrs Coleman looked at her when she came in. 'Good morning,' she said. And went on to her room. She went in to see Mrs Coleman in the sunroom as she was leaving. 'I'm on my way out again. I'm going into town first to send Mrs Richardson some flowers. She insisted I spend the night. Do you think I should send her a nightie? She lent me one of hers.' Mrs Coleman didn't think that was necessary. [Type text] [Type text] 1 417 'I'll make the bunch up with some other things,' the girl said. 'But that is exactly what I don't want you to do.' 'But it's going to cost you the same, it's the minimum charge.' 'I want you to send just this - ' she indicated the bunch of pink boronia, 'and the note. Nothing else.' The girl looked resentfully at her. 'Very well. Ma'am,' she added. Lou rang. She said she was on the bus so they arranged to meet for coffee. He told her not to worry about Mutti. 'She's a Child of a Survivor.' 'Oh,' she said, 'I could see there was something.' He went on to explain the psychopathology of Children of Survivors. 'Mutti's got it all,' he said, 'there's this really good book.' She told him she had too much other reading at the moment but maybe when she had the time. [Type text] [Type text] 1 418 'How lovely,' Mrs Richardson breathed without any greeting straight into the phone. 'Lou must have told you I don't like those awful plastic arrangements they send these days. They lop the flowers. I suppose it saves them space.' She allowed a puzzled silence. 'Hullo?' ''Oh, Mrs Richardson! I had such a lovely time. Thank you.' 'Good. Thank you for the flowers. We want you to come again. Soon.' 'That would be - Perhaps after Easter, I have so much uni work at the moment.' Mrs Richardson was taken aback. 'Could you spare and hour or so if I came into town? I want to talk to you. About something.' 'Certainly. Where?' Mrs Richardson dithered so she said, 'What about the Royal International? You know near the Quay.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 419 'Oh yes! Good idea. I think we took Mutti there for supper after a concert once. Oh.' Mrs Richardson stopped as if she had made a mistake. 'Is everything alright?' 'Yes. Let's say ... ' She said she couldn't make it then so they settled on another time. She arrived early so she could have a whisky. A man smiled at her. She bowed slightly in reply. He sent over another whisky which she was about to reject when he arrived at her table. 'Oh accept it, no strings attached.' He spoke with an American accent. At that moment Mrs Richardson appeared. [Type text] [Type text] 1 420 'Over here, Mrs Richardson.' 'So sorry I'm late, those trains ... ' 'This is Mr Wales, a friend of my father's. Mrs Richardson ... Mr Wales was just going.' The American said 'how do you do'. 'Mr Wales is in Sydney - as you see - my father asked him to look me up.' 'Oh. How are you finding us? First visit?' 'No. I was here before. But it was a long time ago. Well,' he turned to her, 'I'll tell your dad I saw you. He really misses you. Good-bye,' he said to Mrs Richardson. Mrs Richardson sat down. ‘Now if you think of anything more, we didn’t really have enough … Don’t hesitate, please.' And Mr Wales was going. [Type text] [Type text] 1 421 ‘Thank you, I won’t forget,' she called. 'Wasn't that nice?' Mrs Richardson said after they'd watched him leave. 'Oh look, he didn't have time ... ' 'He bought that for me,' she said, taking a sip of the whisky. 'I'm sorry I was late, I ... ' 'It worked out well. I got him to meet me here. First. We had time for a pleasant chat.' 'What is his business?' 'Cheese. He imports and exports. We make a cheddar that they like in the States. He's very impressed with Australian cheeses.' 'They've certainly come a long way since I was a girl.' Mrs Richardson's account of the development of the Australian cheese industry was interrupted by the waiter. She promised herself the rest of the whisky when this interview, or whatever it was, was over. [Type text] [Type text] 1 422 Mrs Richardson all but proposed. 'We all so much liked you. And admired you. I know - you must know yourself, of course, how keen Lou is. My husband I are very keen not to see him disappointed. And I had ... Mutti was rather difficult and it rather spoiled things.' She took a sip of her whisky. Mrs Richardson was staring at it so she said, 'Would you like one?' Mrs Richardson would, rather. After she too had taken a sip, Mrs Richardson continued, 'As you saw, we could give you a good home. There's plenty of room.' The prospect sickened her. 'I have a home, Mrs Richardson. Several. Mrs Coleman is very fond of me and there's the farm which I still miss.' 'Of course. You would. You could visit. With Lou. We would love to meet your parents.' 'They can't leave ... I am rather settled here. It's been nearly three years now and the lifestyle suits me. And the climate. I never liked the cold. The farm gets so muddy.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 423 Mrs Richardson looked pleased. 'And you'll be finished your degree this year and Lou got credit for some subjects for his Law degree. He seems settled on a career in Media Law, so nothing was wasted, really.' 'I might do honours,' she reminded. 'Oh yes.' Mrs Richardson didn't know how to go on. She smiled as if she was puzzled and slightly curious about the older woman's apparent difficulty. 'Well. It was just ... Lou is a bit worried, he seems to think the visit didn't go ... You seemed a bit distant, he thought, after.' She said nothing. 'I realise of course that Mutti upset you. She didn't mean to. She's the Child of a Survivor. And such a brilliant woman, once you get to know her.' Mrs Richardson looked at her in appeal. 'So Lou said. He recommended a book.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 424 The tone was lost on Mrs Richardson. 'Yes. You should read it, it's all there.' She continued to regard this woman. She could feel her anger mounting. 'Your parents could ... Your mother might like to see the peacocks. It's a pity I gave up my ponies. The neighbours complained they brought flies. They complain about everything.' This was quite interesting. 'Once she got to know you, Mutti ... It would make such a lovely home for you. You’d be secure.' ‘Secure? If Mrs Coleman felt she needed the space but that's unlikely ... If anything happened to Mrs Coleman, my parents have provided a home here for me in Australia, in case. And it gives me a little extra income at the moment, I've rented it out.' 'Oh. But surely you get lonely?' [Type text] [Type text] 1 425 She shrugged and took a sip of her whisky. She thought she should have worn something darker for this, as now she felt like shifting the tone towards something sad. Therese's necklace was hopelessly wrong, she should stop wearing it. Maybe she should sell it. Or give it away. To whom? 'We would make you feel very wanted, very secure, at home.' 'But ... Your mother-in-law ... ' 'Don't worry about her.' 'It's all very well for you to say that, Mrs Richardson but I have no intention of throwing myself into a situation where I am - where my presence is cross-examined and not appreciated.' 'I knew it! I knew Mutti upset you. She can be so horrible. But you handled her brilliantly. You could help me handle her. You would be such an asset.' She clasped her glass very lightly. 'I would need assurance of that, of my being welcomed. Into Lou's family.' 'Of course! I assure you.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 426 'Isn't it usual in any case for the family to give an earnest of their regard? Lou has ... given me nothing.' 'Oh. I see.' Though Mrs Richardson was perplexed. 'The ring! A ring. He ... ' She could not exactly say 'perhaps he wasn't sure' now, could she? 'He can be a bit slow off the mark.' 'No, not a ring. Yet. I have so ... I am so fortunate, I have so much. What am I being offered? Of course if my father were here. If only Mr Wales had stayed ... He would help me, I'm sure. But I know they would say you need to be sure, how do you know this family means what they say? Not Lou, I'm sure of him but ... what am I getting myself into?' Mrs Richardson astonished her by saying, 'What would you need? To feel sure.' 'Need? Do you know ...?' And she named her jeweller. 'They know me as Miss Woodburn. It's something my father arranged.' Mrs Richardson nodded. 'They know my taste.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 427 Mrs Richardson finished her whisky, very unsettled. 'Miss Woodburn,' she said. On the way home she determined Mutti would pay, whatever it cost, eventually in any case. She hurried to talk to Rohan and Mr Clinton straight away. 'I think someone will come in in a few days and mention my name. They will be looking for something suitable.' Rohan was gaping. Mr Clinton considered this, then said, 'May we offer you our felicitations?' 'No. Not yet. I want you to be very careful and very discreet. My name is Iseult. Don't make too much fuss, just show them the bracelet and say I have admired it. The ring will come later. Perhaps. If things work out. Is there anything suitable? I'll come in and we could go through a selection - three or four - that I could choose from, at the time. You know my style, no fuss in anything. Let me see it again to make sure.' [Type text] [Type text] 1 428 'Her' diamond bracelet was brought. She tried it on and took it off, pointed to the slightly duller stone near the clasp. 'Charge them the full price but remember I'm overlooking this at the moment. I might want it replaced later on, or some restitution. We know one another too well to play around.' Rohan gaped on. Mr Clinton nodded, very serious. Their name is Richardson. 'You'll probably recognise her,' she said to Mr Clinton, 'but remember, these are very conservative people so discretion, please. Oh look,' she said to Rohan with a bright smile so that he almost jumped, 'I'm wearing the beach necklace. I just felt like it.' She laughed a little. Mr Clinton accompanied her outside. 'You can trust me. I'll watch Rohan. I'll handle it. Trust me, I'll be so discreet, Miss Woodburn.' 'Oh call me Iseult, after all this time. I know I can trust you.' And she leant across and brushed his cheek very lightly with her own. And was gone. Mr Clinton went back into the shop with tears in his eyes. After composing himself he began lecturing Rohan. [Type text] [Type text] 1 429 She went straight back to the Royal. He was waiting. He ordered her a whisky before saying anything. He was very polite, very interested. For a moment she wondered if the Richardsons had sent him to spy then his card flashed into her mind and she dismissed this idea. In any case, she didn't care. She told him she was Australian but from Melbourne, studying here because it had the best course in Media. Her name was Sandra Dangerfield. He said he was in banking but knew people in the media in New York, where he was based. She agreed to go on to dinner with him. Then back to his hotel room. As he watched her dressing he asked if they could have lunch tomorrow. She said she had uni. [Type text] [Type text] 1 430 What about the day after? She chose a very fashionable restaurant. 'I'm not sure you'll get a reservation,' she said. 'do you want me to make it?' He was taken aback then said no, he'd manage, he knew a few people. She decided she'd go if she could get the right dress; maybe a yellow of some sort, something light, for lunch. And she wanted to wear her diamond circle brooch. She might get some striking accessories - probably mauve, maybe a hat. She got them, of course. FIN [Type text] [Type text] 1 431
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