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					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.




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'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.




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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.




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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?'




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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?'


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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.




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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


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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


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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.'




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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


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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.'




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                       .            .           .



'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?'


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'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.




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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.'


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'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.




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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


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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.


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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.




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                        .            .              .



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


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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.


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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


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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.




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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.'


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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 .... '


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'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.




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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.




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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




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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.




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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.




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                                   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.


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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.'




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'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


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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.


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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.




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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


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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.


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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
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'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.


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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
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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?'




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'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.




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                                                                      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.


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'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.




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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


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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 ... '




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'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.


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                                                                      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
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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
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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?'


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                                                                       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.




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'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




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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.'




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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.'




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'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.'




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'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


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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




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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




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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


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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


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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.




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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.




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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


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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


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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.




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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.




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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.




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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.


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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.




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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.




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                                  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


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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.




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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?


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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




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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


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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.'




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'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


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                                                                      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.


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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


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                                                                      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.




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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?'


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'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.'


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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.




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'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?'




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'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.


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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


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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?'


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'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


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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


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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.




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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 ...'




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'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.'


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'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




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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.


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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.


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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?'




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'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




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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.'


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'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.


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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.'


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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.




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'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!'


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'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.'




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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


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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.'




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'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?'


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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


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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.




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'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.




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'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.'




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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.




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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.




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                                   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.




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'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




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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,


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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,


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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.




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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


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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.




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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


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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




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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


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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




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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.




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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.




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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


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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


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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




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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.




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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.'




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'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




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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


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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?'




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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.'




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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


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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




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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




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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.




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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.


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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.'




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'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.




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'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


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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


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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.




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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.


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'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.'


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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.




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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


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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


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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


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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.




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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.




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                                    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.


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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.




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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.




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'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.


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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


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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


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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.




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'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.'




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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.




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'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.




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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


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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,


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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.


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'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.'


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'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.




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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.




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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


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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




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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.


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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?'


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'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.'




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'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.'



...




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'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.'



...




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'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.'



...




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'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.


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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?'




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Her mother's tones ameliorated the disgust she felt for her sister's

accent.




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                                    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.


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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.'




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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.




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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.




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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.




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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?


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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?'


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'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.




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'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


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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


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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.


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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.




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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.


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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?'




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'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.




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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.




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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 -


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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.'




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'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?'




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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.




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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.


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'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.'




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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.'




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'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.




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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.'


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'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


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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?'




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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.




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                                   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


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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.




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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.'


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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.


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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.




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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.




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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


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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,




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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


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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


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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.




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'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.


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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.'


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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


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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.




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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


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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.




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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.




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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?


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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?




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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.




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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.


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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.'




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'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




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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.


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'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?'


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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


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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
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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.'




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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


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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
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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.'


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'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.


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'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
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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


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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.'




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'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




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                                                                      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.


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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


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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?'




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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.'


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'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.




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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.




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                                  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.




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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.'


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'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


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                                                                    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.'


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'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
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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.




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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


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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.'




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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


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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.




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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.


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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.




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'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.'




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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.'




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'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.


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'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?




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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.'


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'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.




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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


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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.


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                                  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.




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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.


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'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.




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'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.




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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.




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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


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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.




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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


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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.


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'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.


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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.




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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.




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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.




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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?'




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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.




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                                      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.




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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?


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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


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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.




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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.




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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


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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.'




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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.'


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'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




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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.'


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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 - '


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'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


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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?'


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'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.




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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.'


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'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?'




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'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.'


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'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


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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.'


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'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.


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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 - '




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'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




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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


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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.'


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'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.




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'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.




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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.




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                                     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.




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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.




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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?'




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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.




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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.




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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


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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.


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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.


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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.




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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.




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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.




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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.




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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.




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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




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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.'


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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.




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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.


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'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.


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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.




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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.




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                                    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.'




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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.'




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'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


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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


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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.




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'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.'




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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.


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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


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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


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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.




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'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.'


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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 - '




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'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.


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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?'




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'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.'




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'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.




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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.


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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




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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


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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.


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'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.'




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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.'




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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




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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




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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.




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'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




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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




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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




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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




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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.


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'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.'




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'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.




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                                  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


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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.


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'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?'




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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.'




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'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.


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'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.




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'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.




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'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.




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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.




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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.




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‘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


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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.




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'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.'


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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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Description: seventy thousand word novella about a backpacker who strikes out for a new life and identity.