Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Twenty

I was late.
I was never late and it was starting to add to the stress I was already feeling. I had lost so much weight over the last few months that all of my clothes hung loosely on my body. I was in trouble, but I refused to believe it.
Jasmine urged me to see a doctor, but I knew that the doctor would only confirm what I was dreading to hear. One time she threatened to make an appointment for me, so I said I would do it at lunch time. Of course I didn’t do it. I lied to her when I got home and said that I’d seen the doctor and she had said that I just needed to eat healthy. There was nothing wrong with me, I told Jasmine. But we both knew that was a lie, I could tell by her face.
Instead of going to the doctor, I spent my lunch break sitting on a bench in Hyde Park and watched people passing by. I didn’t even have the energy to read anymore. I couldn’t concentrate on the words so I just let my eyes watch people instead.
The homeless people scared me, particularly the old woman I saw every day. She was dressed in ragged clothing and smelt unwashed, and I often watched her as she walked through the park pushing an old pram full of junk. I couldn’t help but wonder how a person could end up like that and I was terrified that I was looking at my own future.
“Can you lend me the price of a cuppa, dearie?”
I was startled out of my reverie to find the old lady with the pram had stopped right in front of me. “Oh, yes, sure.” My heart welled up as I searched my purse for some coins and I placed them in her wrinkled hand.
“Bless you, my dear. May God bless you in all your troubles.”
She turned and shuffled away.
What did she mean? Could she see that I had already spiralled out of control? I stood and hurried back to work, but I couldn’t escape the smell and thought I was going to choke.

I was late.
I looked at the clock as I hurried back into the bank. Caroline looked up from her desk and glared at me.
“Molly, can you come here please?”
I groaned because I knew I was going to cop it again. It didn’t matter what I did, nothing was ever good enough for her.
I walked over to Caroline’s desk and stood there quietly and waited for her to finish writing in a ledger. She looked up with her cold grey eyes.
“Mr Wilkinson said it was time you learnt how to be a teller. Personally, I don’t think you are ready for it, but I guess the sooner you stuff up the sooner he will see that I am right. Leave the mail and you can spend the rest of the afternoon with Wendy.”
She looked back down at the ledger and began writing again, so I guessed I had been dismissed. I was relieved not to be in trouble, and walked down to the front of the office where Wendy was standing at the teller’s counter. She was counting notes into the drawer and looked up and smiled as I joined her.
“Hey Molly,” she said. “You’ve come to help me have you?”
I nodded and said that Caroline had sent me down to learn how to be a teller.
“Well, the first thing you need to learn is that you begin each day by counting all of the money in your drawer. You have to write down how much of each denomination there is and write it down on the pad. Then as money comes in and out through the day you need a corresponding voucher. So all money in needs, like, a receipt, and then money out needs a voucher, see?”
She wrote out a voucher and waved it in the air before putting it in the tray. I nodded, but it all seemed so confusing that I knew I would never get it right.
Just then a customer came into the bank and walked over to the counter in front of us. Wendy pushed me forward. “It’s your turn,” she said.
“Ummm…, can I help you?” I asked the customer uncertainly.
“Good morning, Wendy,” she said to Wendy before turning to me. “Yes you can young lady. I just want to cash a cheque if I can. Could you make it all twenties, please?” The elderly lady stood at the counter and began writing in her chequebook. I stood there quietly and waited, and then jumped when Wendy suddenly poked me in the ribs.
“Ask how her day has been,” she whispered.
“Oh, ummm, how has your day been?”
“Don’t ask,” she replied. “I have been running around all morning. First they left me waiting for ten minutes at the doctor’s surgery. Then the line in the chemist was longer than your arm. Oh, and I have so many other errands to run. Please be a dear and cash that.”
She ripped the cheque out of the book and handed it to me. I looked at Wendy helplessly, and she told me the first thing I should normally do is check the signature against the card in the drawers at the back of office. But this time it was okay because she knew Mrs Clarke. Then I had to type the account number into the computer and check the balance.
Mrs Clarke looked impatiently at me as I slowly typed the numbers in using one finger.
“Okay,” said Wendy, “You can see there are plenty of funds to cover the cheque, so now you stamp it and take the cash from the drawer.”
I did as I was instructed and began counting the notes into Mrs Clarke’s hand.
“I asked for twentys, dear,” Mrs Clarke reminded me sharply.
“Oh, sorry.” I put the ten dollar notes back in the drawer and counted out the correct ones.
“Thank you very much. Now I am late for the optometrist,” she said as she bustled out the door. I looked at Wendy and she laughed, so I laughed too.
So many customers came in and out for the afternoon that I didn’t have a moment to rest, but Wendy stayed by my side to show me what to do each time. At least it was better than folding letters.
Eventually the bank closed for the day, and Wendy said I now had to count everything and make sure it balanced.
My body was aching from standing all day and all I wanted to do was sit down and rest my feet. It took me ages to count all the bank notes because Wendy said I should count them twice, just to make sure, and as I did that I kept getting a different amount each time. I finally got it right, and then I had to add up all the cheques and vouchers. As I wrote numbers down on the pad, I could hear Mr Wilkinson banging things around in his office and it made me nervous. I kept getting confused and added some numbers when I should have subtracted them. I then wrote the wrong amounts down and had to start all over again because it didn’t balance. I started writing on a fresh page, when I noticed Mr Wilkinson walking towards me. My pen wobbled in my hand and then as I went to add the numbers up I couldn’t tell whether I had written a ‘4’ or a ‘9’.
“How are we going down here? The rest of us have finished.”
“We’re nearly done, Mr Wilkinson. Molly is just adding up the cheques.”
Mr Wilkinson took the notepad from my hand and studied it for a moment.
“Looks like bird droppings. Finish it off, Wendy, so we can go.”
He turned and walked back to his office and I just felt so stupid. I looked at Caroline and she was sitting at her desk with a smirk on her face.

I was late.
I couldn’t get that thought out of my mind as I stood in the bathroom and studied my face in the mirror. I was tired and drawn and thinner than ever. I didn’t know how to stop it. I had been feeling sick again and I couldn’t remember the last time I had eaten breakfast in the morning.
It was Saturday and Jasmine was still in bed.
I needed someone to talk to, but it couldn’t be her. Even though we had been slowly becoming friends, I couldn’t tell her. I knew I couldn’t trust her because she would tell Mum and there was no way I wanted Mum to know what had happened to me. She would be so disappointed and disgusted with me and I couldn’t face that.
I suddenly decided that I had to find Josh and tell him. I had been keeping it a secret for a month now, and I knew that I wouldn’t be able to keep hiding it for much longer. I couldn’t even hide it from myself anymore because as I looked down at my naked body there was definitely a bump beginning to show. I couldn’t bring myself to say the word because I was terrified of what was happening to me. How did I let things get so out of control?
I softly closed the front door of the apartment and walked as quickly as I could to the railway station as I could. I got tired so easily these days and was out of breath, but I kept walking because I knew if I stopped I wouldn’t be able to get myself going again. I didn’t know what I expected from Josh. We had been on a few dates since that first night, but I always felt so pressured that I started avoiding him. I didn’t return his calls and always made sure I had some excuse whenever Jasmine mentioned him.
The train went quickly from Parramatta to Central Station, and I changed trains for the Eastern Suburbs line. The station was quiet because it was so early in the morning and a man was sweeping the platform with a large broom. Homeless people were huddled in the corners, wrapped in blankets or newspapers. I tried not to look at them as I hurried past.
I closed my eyes as the train rushed through the tunnel below the city. I couldn’t bear looking at the reflection of myself in the carriage window, but when I opened my eyes I could see advertising signs flashing past on the tunnel walls. They were taunting me with their promises of a beautiful life that I knew I could never have.
I hopped off the train at Bondi Junction and walked toward Josh’s apartment. It was the one where the party had been, even though I hadn’t realised that it was his place at the time. In the trees overhead, kookaburras were greeting the sunrise and I knew they were really just laughing at me.
I hesitated before knocking on Josh’s door. Maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, but the only other solution for me was just too terrible to contemplate. I was about to turn away when suddenly the door opened and Josh was standing there in a pair of old joggers and a faded tee shirt.
“Molly! What are you doing here?”
I could hardly breathe and tears were falling down my face. I knew this was my last chance. Josh took one look at me and stepped outside to wrap his arms around my shoulders. My legs were shaking and I knew I was close to fainting.
“What is it, Molly? Come inside, sweetpea. You’re skin is so cold.” He pulled me inside the apartment and closed the door, then tilted my face up so that I was looking at him. “What has happened, Molly?”
“Josh…” The words choked in my throat. “Josh, I’m pregnant,” I suddenly blurted out.
“What? How? When?” He dropped his hands and stepped away from me. I couldn’t say any more and I looked at the ground in shame. “But… weren’t you on the pill?” He looked at me with horror as I shook my head. It had never occurred to me because we weren’t meant to do it.
“Oh my god. It’s not mine is it? Oh shit!” He turned away for a moment then looked back at me with anger on his face. “You stupid bitch.”
“Josh, please… I need help.” I reached for his arm but he pulled away violently. I took a step forward and he suddenly lashed out and struck me in the face.
At first there was no pain, only shock, but then sparks exploded behind my eyes and I fell to my knees.
“Oh god, Molly. I’m sorry.” He tried to help me to my feet but this time I pushed him away.
“Leave me alone,” I screamed desperately and ran to the door. “I hate you!”
I slammed the door shut behind me and ran blindly. I had no idea where I was going, I just ran and ran.
A man suddenly appeared in front of me and tried to grab my arm. At first I thought it was Josh, but then I realised it wasn’t and I pushed him away and kept running. I was out of breath and feeling sick and desperate.
I raced down the railway station steps and jumped through the carriage door just as it was closing. The train moved off and I sat in a ball on the seat, hugging my knees and wishing this nightmare would end.
I got off at Central and walked aimlessly along the platform. I had no idea what I was going to do next, until I saw the North Coast Express sitting at platform one. Without even thinking about it, I hurried over to the booking office and bought a one way ticket for the north coast. I knew there would be no returning.
“Do you have any luggage, miss?” asked the man at the counter.
“Sorry? Oh, no… no, I don’t have any.”
He looked at me strangely. “Is everything okay, miss?”
“Yes, yes, I’m fine… thanks.”
He handed over the ticket and I hurried away from the counter. I looked back quickly as I boarded the train and the man had come out of his office and was watching me. I quickly looked down until I was inside the carriage, then found my seat next to the window.
The familiar smell of the railway carriage and the slightly uncomfortable seats reminded me of all those trips to visit Grandma when I was a child. I could almost picture Mum in the seat beside me, but of course it was as empty as my life. I knew then I would never see her again, but it would be better for her to remember me the way I was rather than seeing what I had become.
I closed my eyes as the train began to move slowly away from the station and I soon fell asleep.
I woke some time later with my face pressed against the glass of the window. It was cool against my cheek. I had no idea what time it was, but outside I recognised the green dairy flats of the coastal country so I knew I must have slept for a few hours. I sat up and was surprised to find there was a blanket over me. I looked around the carriage and all the other passengers were either sleeping or reading. I could hear some children talking excitedly in their seats a few rows behind me.
“Excuse me, miss. Can I get you anything?”
I looked up to see the conductor standing there.
“I hope you don’t mind, but I brought you a blanket while you were sleeping. You looked cold.”
I said ‘thank you’ and asked for a glass of water. When he returned I asked him where we were.
“We have not long left Taree,” he said. “Next stop is Kendall in about twenty minutes.”
“Oh,” I said, “I need to get off at Kendall.”
“I can let you know when we get closer, if you like. Do you have any bags that you need me to get for you?”
I told him that all I had was my handbag. He lingered for a moment, but when I didn’t say anything else he walked away. He looked back at me just before going through the door and smiled.
I looked back out the window at the sad eyed dairy cows standing amongst the lush green grass. There was so much about that landscape that made me feel at home. It had been so long since I’d felt that way.
The conductor came back shortly after and told me that we would be stopping at Kendall in a few minutes. I said ‘thank you’ again and he went away as I began to get out of my seat. I kept my eyes down as I walked along the aisle, swaying with the motion of the train. I was sure they were all watching me and commenting on the little bump in my tummy.
The conductor was standing near the door in the vestibule and he opened it as the train slowed to a halt at the tiny platform. I smiled and gave him a hug.
“What is your name?”
“Oh, I’m Matt.”
“Thank you, Matt.” I kissed him on the cheek and stepped across the gap to the platform.
Matt still had his head out the open door as the train moved away and he waved his hand and said something. I couldn’t hear his words over the roar of the diesel engine but I waved back.
A young couple and their children had also gotten off the train and they were being greeted by the children’s grandparents. I watched as they all walked out to the carpark, and then I was left on my own.
I walked over to the payphone at the corner of the station building and dropped some coins in the slot as I dialled the number. I waited while it rang, and then a familiar voice answered.
“Hello?”
“Hi Grandma, it’s Molly.”
“Molly! What a pleasure, dear. What are you up to?”
“Grandma, I need help. I’m at Kendall station. Can Grandpa come and get me?”
“Oh sweetie, is everything okay? Sure, certainly, I’ll get him straight away. Don’t go anywhere, okay?”
“Okay, Grandma. I love you.”
“I love you too, Molly. We’ll be there in a few minutes, okay?”
She hung up and I sat on the bench and waited. I felt like that little girl I used to be all those years ago, but she didn’t have this trembling turmoil in her heart. I was crying again, but this time the tears were just slowly trickling down my cheeks like raindrops on a window.
The stationmaster came out of his office after a little while and asked if everything was okay. I said I was just waiting for my grandparents. He nodded and said ‘okay’, then went back inside. Even though it was now early winter, the sunshine was warm against my face. It was so much nicer on the coast than it was further south.
I opened my eyes when I heard the sound of car tyres on the gravel in the car park, and then suddenly Grandma and Grandpa were standing there. I stood up and threw my arms around Grandma’s neck and began sobbing.
“Shhh, it’s okay, honey. You’re safe now.” She patted my back and I felt Grandpa’s large hand resting gently on my shoulder. “Come on, darling. Let’s get you home and have something to eat. You must be starving.”
I let them guide me to the car and I rested my head against my arm as I watched the coastal landscape through the window. Grandma and Grandpa were silent in the front seat and I closed my eyes and listened to the humming of the car’s tyres on the road. I felt like I was floating and soon the nightmare would stop.
Shortly after the car pulled up in the driveway and Grandpa hopped out to open the garage door. He climbed back in the car and drove slowly into the gloomy space inside. I could just make out the tools hanging on the walls and as I opened the door I was greeted by the familiar smell of grease and oil.
Grandma took my hand and we walked slowly up the footpath to the house. She was much older than I had remembered and not quite as sprightly, but her eyes still sparkled and I could see that she was carefully studying me as we walked.
“Now, you just sit there,” she said as we entered the kitchen, “And I will put on a pot of tea.”
I pulled a chair out from under the table and sat upright with my hands resting in my lap. It was calming and soothing now that I was here, and I knew what I had to do next.
Grandma buzzed around the kitchen, just like she had always done and she soon joined me at the table with a cup of tea and a plate of apple slice.
“Eat up now, love. You’re safe and sound.” She pulled her chair closer. “It has been so long since we’ve seen you. It’s so hard when you all live so far away, but what a lovely surprise to have you here.” She studied my face and I tried to smile. “Drink up your tea, you will feel better. And then you can help me make up the bed in the spare room. I suppose you would like your old room in the granny flat? You used to love sleeping down there when you were little. ‘Grandma,’ you used to say, ‘It’s like having my own secret little house.’ What a sweet little darling you were, and now look at you, a grown woman.”
Grandma’s reminiscences were tugging at my heart, and I could feel tears building up in my eyes. I blinked and wiped them away because I didn’t want her to see, but I could tell by the look on her face that she knew.
“You must come and have a look around the garden later. Grandpa has done such a wonderful job with the flowers and it looks so pretty for this time of the year. Do you remember when you used to look for fairies amongst my flowers? I’m sure you will find them there now.”
I couldn’t stop the tears this time and Grandma moved her chair closer and put her arm around me and kissed the top of my head. “You just have a good cry, darling, and when you’re ready to talk then we can talk. There’s no rush. We have all the time in the world.”
Grandpa walked into the kitchen and Grandma made a motion with her hand for him to leave us alone.
“Grandma, I just didn’t know where else to go,” I said in between sobs. “I have ruined everything.”
“Oh honey, I’m sure it’s not as bad as it seems. You can stay here as long as you want until you’re feeling better.”
I squeezed her hand and said ‘thank you’. “I just needed to get out of the city for a little while. I’m sorry to just turn up like this.”
We sat there quietly for a few moments, and then Grandma felt that I had calmed down a little so she said she just needed to check on the washing and would be right back. I had another sip of tea and tried to nibble a little bit of the slice, but it made me feel sick so I just left it on the plate.
I could hear Grandma and Grandpa talking on the verandah in hushed tones, before Grandpa’s footsteps disappeared down the pathway and I heard the car start. Just then the phone rang in the hall and Grandma’s voice carried faintly back to me as she answered it.
“Yes, she’s here now,” I heard her say. “She’s fine, a little upset but she’s safe now.” There was a pause, and then I heard her say, “Yes, he’s just gone to find him. I think that will help. Okay, I’ll call you later and let you know how she is.”
I heard Grandma put the phone down and she came back into the kitchen. “Now, if you could help me make the bed then you can have a lay down before dinner. A rest will do you good.”
I followed her down to the granny flat and the mid-afternoon light filled the room as Grandma pulled the curtains open. It was a nice and airy room and again it made me feel like a little girl to be back here. Everything looked exactly the same, and I walked over to the bookcase and ran my fingers across the familiar spines of the novels I had treasured so much on my visits here as a child. In the corner I noticed a basket that still held the dolls I used to play with.
“If you can just grab that corner,” said Grandma. “It’s not as easy as it used to be,” she chuckled. I took the other side of the sheet and together we spread it across the bed and neatly tucked in the corners. We did the same with the top sheet and then a blanket and quilt cover. “Now if you need an extra blanket, there’s a few in the cupboard. The nights have been getting pretty chilly lately. There’s some soap and a washer in the ensuite, and I’ll just get you a towel.” She pulled a towel out of the cupboard and laid it on the end of the bed. “Why don’t you have a rest now? I’ll come down and get you before tea time, okay?”
I nodded and hugged her again and she left me in the room alone.
I walked over to the bookshelf and pulled out ‘Gold at Lambing Flat’ and opened it up. Inside the cover I could just make out the faded words, ‘Molly loves Shawn’ written in my untidy, childish handwriting and circled by a shaky love heart. I closed it and put it back on the shelf because I couldn’t bear the emotions it was stirring.
I picked up one of the dolls from the basket and sat on the bed with it on my lap. I knew I had to go before I changed my mind, so I put the doll back in the basket and walked to the door. A glance showed that Grandma must have gone back into the house and I quickly closed the door behind me and hurried down the footpath.
It was easier to be moving, even though I was soon breathless, but I felt like I was saying farewell to all the little familiar things from my childhood along the way. I walked past the swimming pool where I had played in the baby pool, past the picture theatre with its boarded windows and faded posters announcing some long forgotten show. I walked over the bridge across the river and watched the pelicans skimming over the water, searching for scraps from the fishermen’s co-op and the sandbars that were showing at low tide.
As I finally reached the sand dunes, I was feeling faint and unwell and I sat to try and gather my thoughts. It was here that I had drawn my sand pictures and read my books, not far from where Stephen had helped me build sand castles. It also wasn’t far from where Shawn had sat with me while I read to him, and he had later shown me how to play the guitar. I looked at the waves crashing on the beach and thought about Rose and Debbie laughing in the surf. I missed their smiling faces; Debbie’s laugh and Rose’s quieter more thoughtful voice.
I thought about how meeting both of them had changed my life so much until I had discovered that I wasn’t the stupid ugly girl I had always thought I was. All those times we shared our thoughts and ideas and homework, and how Rose fell in love with Jane Austen as much as I did until we were the triplets.
But we weren’t the triplets anymore. Everything had fallen apart because I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life. They had gone away and somehow I had found that I hadn’t learnt anything after all when I let Caroline push me around in the bank.
I looked up as a family walked past. I recognised them as the same ones I had seen on the train earlier that day. The two young children were racing toward the waves and then running away laughing as the water splashed around their ankles. The husband and wife walked along slowly holding hands. I looked back along their footprints that disappeared into the distance and thought about how someone’s travels could bring them to this point.
And it was that point that I was trying to avoid thinking about, until suddenly his face sprung into my mind. I still couldn’t understand it, when everything had seemed so perfect and forever and then he had to go and leave me like that. It was hurting now, and I found it hard to breathe as I remembered the look on that woman’s face. That was meant to be our love, but instead I was left discarded in the corner like an old rag. Then I thought about the child growing inside me and that now familiar icy stab of fear plunged through my heart. I wasn’t ready for this and it was all so wrong; the wrong time, the wrong person, the wrong everything.
I was feeling sick again and I knew it was time. There was nothing else to be done and I stood and made my way to the path that led to the top of the cliff. It was funny in a way, because this was the first time I had ever been to the top of the cliff. First I was too little and was always left behind at Grandma’s by my sisters. Then I couldn’t join the others when I met Debbie and Rose because of my broken leg. But now there was nobody to stop me and I climbed carefully through the rocks to reach the windswept grassland at the top.
The young family was behind me now and I could hear the children calling out as they climbed the path. I stopped as they ran past and I watched the parents smiling after their children. Their heads bent together and they kissed lovingly and didn’t notice me at all.
I watched them walk on, and moved myself toward the edge of the cliff. Clouds drifted in the baby blue sky and I felt like I could reach out and grab them. If I could float away on the clouds then maybe all of my troubles would come to an end.
The late afternoon breeze whipped the hair around my face and the cold chill pressed my thin cotton dress against my belly. I was vaguely aware that I had been crying again as I tasted the salty tears on my lips and looked at the rocks far below. One step is all it would take, and then I would be free from all the turmoil and the loneliness.
My hands had stopped shaking and there was no more fear, just quiet certainty of what I was about to do. Then a pain stabbed through my belly. I closed my eyes and had trouble breathing again. One more step – I tried to gather the will to do it. I could feel a fainting fit coming on and I knew I had to act right away before it was too late. I took one more moment to breathe in deeply, and then I heard a voice calling across the coastal heath.
“Molly,” it called desperately, rising and falling with the wind. “Molly, where are you?”
Just one step I told myself. Just one step.
I opened my eyes as the voice called again.
“Molly! Stop, you don’t have to do this.” It was much closer this time. I turned around slowly and I could see the look of distress on his face.
“I’m sorry, Shawn,” I whispered as I fell into the darkness.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Nineteen

As the weeks passed I fell into a routine. Up early each morning, catch the train to work, then come home after a day of folding letters and go straight to bed. I was numb and hollow and it hurt whenever the train went past Newtown station and I thought of that dreadful day.
At night I would often wake crying from a nightmare, just like when I was a little girl. Although the dreams were different each night, the last thing I always saw before waking was that woman’s face. Most of the time her eyes were closed, or sometimes she was laughing at me, but last night she stared at me and I clearly heard her say, “I hate you.”
I sat up in bed in the dark with her voice echoing around my head. I shivered from the cold and clutched a pillow to my chest. I was still awake two hours later when the alarm went off and I crawled out of bed and got ready for work.
Jasmine had begun coming with me on the train in the morning, even though her office was in North Sydney and she had to change trains at Central each day. But she said that she didn’t mind because it was nice for us to spend some time together.
I had asked her not to tell Mum what had happened with Andrew because I didn’t want her to be worried about me, but I was pretty sure that Jasmine had told her anyway. I suspected they had made a plan for Jasmine to keep a close eye on me and that was why she was being so nice all of the time. Whichever way it really was, I had given up caring.
Every Sunday morning I rang Mum and the conversations were always the same. She always sounded bright and cheery as she talked about all the things that had been happening at home. Sometimes she even mentioned Catherine and Samantha, as if they bothered to think about what I was doing. They were both married now and had moved away from Orange and I hardly saw them anymore. Mum always finished by asking if I was okay and I always said that I was fine.
Then Jasmine began taking me with her when she went places with her friends on the weekends. She never gave me a chance to say I didn’t want to go. I just followed in the background like a shadow.
One weekend we met with her friend for a coffee, but Claire was running late so Jasmine began talking to me instead. “I’m glad we’re getting to spend more time together, Molly.”
“Yeah, me too.” I took a sip of hot coffee.
“You know, I wish I had spent more time with you when we were kids.” I was watching her stirring her coffee and I looked up into those dark green eyes that were always so mysterious. “You were always such a quiet, sweet little thing; always running around the house. I thought when you were born that you were meant to be my playmate, but you were just a little baby, and by the time you were old enough I guess I had gotten sick of waiting. I feel really bad about that when I think back.”
I told her not to worry about it, and looked back down at the sugar bowl.
“Molly, I want us to be friends.” She reached her hand across the table and gently squeezed my arm. “We can be friends, can’t we?”
I nodded. I didn’t know what she wanted me to say.
“I know it’s not easy talking about what happened, but you can talk to me, okay?”
I nodded again.
“I remember when I broke up with my first boyfriend. I was devastated for weeks. But you know, the pain goes away eventually and then you get back out there and eventually meet someone else and life is wonderful again.”
I know she meant well, but she just didn’t understand. I had thought what I’d had with Andrew was going to be forever and it was just so hard to think that I could ever get that close to another person again. But I couldn’t have been that close to him if I didn’t know that he was seeing somebody else. I wished I could explain all of this to Jasmine, and how the same thoughts kept turning over and over in my mind and I would always end up back at that same place. I was so stressed that I couldn’t eat, and I knew that was a problem and I was losing weight and that made me even more stressed. On top of that, I was bored with my repetitive job in the bank, and even though Caroline had eased up a bit she was still being mean to me sometimes.
I looked up at Jasmine again, and her green eyes were so warm that I was just about to open up to her when Claire arrived.
“Hey guys, sorry I’m late. The traffic was awful and then finding a park was just a nightmare.” Claire was about the same age as Jasmine, or maybe a little older and they both worked in the bank together. I had met her briefly once before and she said hello to me as she sat down.
The waitress came over and they ordered coffees, and then the conversation turned to bank talk so I tuned out and looked around the cafe instead. A woman in a green scarf was sitting at a nearby table. She had been looking at her watch every few minutes for the last half hour. I knew how she felt and I hoped things would turn out better for her than they had for me.
“What do you think, Molly? Sounds like fun, doesn’t it?”
I slowly turned my head back and looked at Jasmine.
“Oh, sorry… what?”
“The party on Saturday night; it should be fun. Everyone is going to be there. Claire was just saying it’s going to be fancy dress.”
“Oh, ummm… I’m not sure if I want to go.”
“Of course you do,” said Claire. She lowered her voice and leant toward me as though she was going to tell me a secret, “I’m going as Wendy from Peter Pan. You should be Ariel, with your beautiful red hair.”
I blushed and without thinking reached up and touched my hair. I looked at Jasmine for help, but she was just smiling kindly at me. If only she knew how much I dreaded the thought of going to a party where I didn’t know anyone.
When Saturday evening came I found myself in Claire’s apartment getting ready for the party. I felt like a child when I was with the much more mature Claire and Jasmine. Claire had taken me under her wing and was supervising my costume. She was still stuck on the Ariel idea, but I had refused to wear a bikini top made from shells and so we compromised and Claire was just pinning up the hem on the ball gown she had rented from the costume shop for me. She said I could be Ariel at the ball, and that was just as good.
I felt like a toy doll being dressed up by my big sister’s friend, and when I looked in the mirror all I could see was my thin face with its protruding cheek bones. Claire said I was beautiful and gave me a hug. She was wearing a simple blue night gown and she really did look like Wendy with her light brown hair.
Jasmine came into the room wearing turquoise harem pants with matching top and hair ties. She spun around and asked me how she looked and I said she looked just like Jasmine from Aladdin. She danced out of the room to finish putting her makeup on and I stood there and looked at myself in the mirror again.
Claire came back into the room with a bottle of wine and three glasses. “We have time for a quick starter before we go.” She poured the wine into the glasses and then held one out to me.
“Oh, I don’t drink,” I said.
“Sure you do. One glass of wine isn’t going to hurt you.”
She kept insisting so I took the glass from her hand so she wouldn’t be offended and took a tiny sip. It tasted cool but sour and I didn’t like it all.
“Here’s to a fun night.” She lifted her glass and drank the wine down. “Come on, Molly, drink up, we have to go.”
I looked at the glass uncertainly, but Claire was still standing there expecting me to drink it so I tried to have as much as I could in one gulp just as Jasmine came back into the room.
“Claire! I don’t think that’s such a good idea,” she exclaimed. Jasmine grabbed Claire’s hand and pulled her out of the room for a moment. When they came back, Claire took the half empty glass from my hand.
“Are you ready to go?”
I nodded and set off for the party. I could only walk slowly in Claire’s high heeled sandals, but the party was only a couple of blocks away and we were soon walking up the steps into a red-brick apartment building. My cheeks felt flushed from the walk as Jasmine knocked on the door.
Peter Pan opened it and waved us inside and I stepped through into a world of Disney characters. Cinderella came past with a tray of drinks and said hello to Jasmine and Claire, then offered us each a drink. I hesitated, but Jasmine whispered in my ear and said if I just held it in my hand then people wouldn’t bother me. I didn’t have to drink any if I didn’t want to.
I did as she said and picked up the tall champagne flute and looked at the strawberry floating on top. When nobody was looking I fished the strawberry out and ate it quickly and was surprised at the fizzyness of the drink on my tongue. I took a little sip out of curiosity and, while it wasn’t great, it tasted better than Claire’s wine had. I took another sip and looked around the crowded room.
Jasmine was talking with the Peter Pan that had let us in the door, and Claire was with some guy dressed like a pirate. He had a patch over one eye and a toy parrot on his shoulder. I looked away and saw two paintings on the far wall that caught my eye.
I made my way through the crowd to have a closer look. The painting on the left was of the Sydney Harbour Bridge with the arches not quite meeting in the middle. The second painting showed a row of old buildings and a glimpse of the Bridge lurking in the background.
“They’re originals, you know,” a voice said from behind me.
I turned to find Prince Charming standing there studying the paintings. He turned towards me, “Hi, I’m Josh. Let me guess, judging by the ball gown I would say you must be… Cinderella.”
“No,” I giggled despite my nervousness, “I’m Ariel, can’t you tell by my hair. The little mermaid,” I added when he looked a bit confused.
“Shouldn’t you have a tail, or something?”
“No, I have grown legs. I made a deal with the sea witch.”
“Well I am sure they are nice legs.” He smiled at me and I blushed. I nervously had another sip of champagne.
“Can I get you another drink?”
I looked at my glass and realised I had nearly finished it, so I nodded and said okay.
“Don’t go away, Ariel. I will be right back.”
As I turned back to the paintings, I heard a familiar voice call out, “Hey, babe. I’m glad you came.”
I turned around again to find Jimmy standing there with a big grin on his face. He was wearing a purple vest that was unbuttoned with nothing underneath, and I blushed when I realised I could see his chest. I quickly looked at his face instead as I said, “Hi, Jimmy.”
Just then Josh returned with another glass of champagne for me. “Watch out Aladdin, I saw her first.”
“No you didn’t, Prince Charming. It was I that first had the pleasure of beholding this fair maiden.”
“See, I come bearing gifts of refreshment.” He handed me the glass of champagne and took my hand. “And the fair Ariel has promised me the first two dances.”
“Molly, is this guy bothering you?” Jimmy asked.
“Molly? I thought you said your name was Ariel.”
I had another sip of champagne and giggled. “No, silly. I’m dressed as Ariel, my name is Molly.”
“Oh, well that is still a cute name for a fair maiden. And you will give me the first two dances, won’t you?”
“But I don’t really dance.”
“Well tonight you will dance like you have never danced before.”
Jimmy stood there looking bemused.
“Go easy, Josh. Okay? And you probably shouldn’t drink too much of that,” he said as he pointed to the glass I was raising to my lips. I told him I was okay, even though my cheeks were feeling flushed. I thought it was from embarrassment.
“Shall we dance, m’lady?” Josh took my hand and bowed, then led me toward the middle of the room where several couples were already dancing to the heavy beat coming from the stereo. I quickly swallowed the rest of my glass and put it down on a table.
I suddenly felt self-conscious to be in the middle of the dance floor and I shuffled awkwardly from foot to foot. It wasn’t easy in heels either, but Josh started to twirl me around so that one moment he was in front of me wiggling his hips and the next he was behind with his hands on my hips and urging me to sway with him. I started to get a hang of the rhythm and then a slow song came on. Josh moved in close and held me around the waist. Uncertainly, I put my arms around his neck and rested my cheek against his shoulder. My head felt a little woozy from all the dancing and I leaned against him for support.
After a few more dances I told Josh I needed to sit down and rest for a minute. He went and got me another glass of champagne and as he was coming back I saw Jimmy intercept him.
“Go easy, man. She’s only eighteen, you know.”
“Hey, you know me. I’ll look after her.”
“Yeah, I know you. That’s what I’m worried about.”
“Listen, she’s…” Some people moved between us and I couldn’t hear what Jimmy said over the noise.
Jasmine came over and asked if I was having fun. “I saw you dancing,” she said. “Just let me know when you’ve had enough and we’ll go. We’re going to crash at Claire’s tonight, so I can walk you back if you get tired.
I told her I was fine and then Josh came back.
“So, if it isn’t the lovely Jasmine White,” he said. He handed me another glass of champagne.
“How much have you had to drink, Molly?” Jasmine had a concerned look on her face.
“Only a couple, I think,” I giggled.
She took the glass out of my hand and tipped it into a pot plant.
“No more,” she said sternly. “Josh, I need to have a word with you.”
Jasmine pulled Josh to one side but I couldn’t hear what they were saying, then Josh came back and Jasmine disappeared into the crowd.
“Are you up to dancing again, Molly?”
“Sure, I’d love to.” I stood up and put my hand out and he took it and led me back to the dance floor. I put my arms around his neck and with my eyes closed my body moved in time to the music.
I lost track of how long we had been dancing, but after a while I started to feel unwell. I told Josh I needed to sit down and he suggested that maybe we should go outside for some fresh air.
He led me outside and I felt a little better once I was out of the smoky party. Josh sat beside me on the step and I looked up at the sky.
“You can’t see many stars from here, can you?”
“No, the city lights block most of them out. But you can still make out a few. There’s the Southern Cross and the pointers.” My eyes followed his finger into the sky. “You can always find your way home if you can see the Southern Cross. It’s the thing I miss the most when I’m overseas.”
“Oh, you’ve been overseas? That must have been exciting.”
“Yeah, it’s a lot of fun, but I’ve been heaps of times. You know, you are really beautiful, Molly.”
I blushed in the darkness and he then kissed me gently on the lips. My heart was racing and I felt a little dizzy, but my lips responded to his touch of their own accord. I closed my eyes and all I could picture were those tanned legs pressing against mine at that picnic spot by the river.
I broke away from the kiss and told Josh I should go. He stood up and helped me to my feet.
“Molly, would you like to have dinner with me tomorrow night?” His voice was warm and inviting.
“Oh…, gosh, ummm, I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask Jasmine.”
I was feeling pressured and stressed and sick again and I ran inside to find my sister and told her I wanted to go home.
Soon after, I crawled into Claire’s spare bed and felt the room spinning around me.

A few days later I came home from work to find a letter waiting for me. I recognised Mum’s handwriting on the front, but when I opened it there was a small note from Mum and another envelope tucked inside.
I read Mum’s note first,

‘Dear Molly,
I ran into Mrs Long the other day and she said a letter had arrived at her house addressed to you. There was no return address on the back so I’m not sure who it is from but I thought you would like to have it sooner rather than later so I popped it straight in an envelope and am about to mail it to you. Mrs Long said that Debbie and Rose are going great and they send their love to you.
Stay well Molly and I will see you soon.
Lots of love,
Mum
xxx’

I picked up the other envelope curiously. It was definitely addressed to me, although I didn’t recognise the handwriting. ‘To Miss Molly White’ was written in large letters on the front, and then the Long’s address below it. I looked at the post date on the stamp and it had been originally mailed about three months ago. That meant it must have turned up just after I had moved to Sydney. I went into my bedroom and sat on the mattress, then pulled the letter out of the envelope and unfolded it.

‘Dear Molly,
I hope you are well and I am sorry that it has taken me so many years to write back to you. I hope you haven’t forgotten me. I have been meaning to write to you for ages and since I know you are friends with my cousins I have addressed the letter to them because I didn’t know your address and I hope it gets to you. I suppose you are wondering why I am writing after so long, and it’s all because of that song you helped me to finish. You probably remember that I was never very good at school and I left at the end of Year 10. It took ages to find a job and then I started working as a barman at the Royal Hotel in town here and that led to me getting a regular spot playing my acoustic guitar in the pub on a Sunday afternoon. I always play our song every time and I wanted you to know that the crowd loves it. I always introduce it by saying that it was written for me by the talented Miss Molly White, wherever she is! Anyway, I have been doing that for about a year and I thought I should tell you. But that is not the reason I am writing. You are probably wondering by now! After playing solo for a while, I got to know these guys and we formed a band and went on the road up and down the coast, so lots of people have heard your song. It was a lot of fun but I guess I could see that I wouldn’t be able to do that forever. Molly, I know you are really smart and I always enjoyed every moment we spent together, even when we were little kids. But what I really wanted to tell you is that I was talking to some guy at one of our gigs and he arranged for me to do an audition at the school of music in Canberra and I got accepted! Who could believe that? Anyway, I was able to defer for a year because I felt like I owed it to the guys in the band to finish what we had started first. Dear Molly, I don’t know if we will ever bump into each other again but I wanted to write to you and let you know so that you will remember me as a guy that did something with his life and wasn’t just a guy who spent all his time riding the waves, even though I still do that! Take care, dear Molly.
Your friend
Shawn’

I read the letter three times and sat there with tears streaming down my face. I was starting to realise that I had wasted my life by not joining the twins at university when I had the chance, and now Shawn was going as well. I didn’t even know his return address. Everything had fallen apart and I buried my face in the pillow and cried.
Jasmine knocked quietly on my bedroom door and came and sat on the mattress beside me. She stroked my hair, but didn’t say anything. I rolled over to face her and she gave me a huge hug.

The following weekend, I was sitting in a restaurant looking at Josh across the table as he talked to the waiter. The waiter nodded and as he walked away, Josh looked at me and smiled.
“So here we are. I’m really glad you came.”
I smiled and said I was glad too, even though I was feeling really nervous.
“I just wanted to get to know you better. We didn’t get much chance to talk at the party.”
The waiter came back with our drinks and placed a glass of orange juice in front of me. Josh took a mouthful of beer and smiled at me again.
“You know, you intrigue me Molly. I think there is an amazingly intelligent person under that shy exterior. I hope you let me see some of it.”
I blushed and said I was normally a quiet person.
“How do I get you to talk, Molly?”
I didn’t know what to say. How could I answer a question like that? I was beginning to wish that I hadn’t let Jasmine talk me into coming.
“What do you think about working in the bank?”
I said it was okay, although I got bored sometimes because the work was so repetitive.
“You don’t seem like the sort of person that would enjoy repetitive tasks. I think you’re a thinker. You were probably good at writing essays. Do you like to write?”
I told him that I used to be hopeless at writing essays, but I had a friend that kept pushing me until I would get them right. I said her name was Rose, but then I started to feel sad because I hadn’t heard from either Rose or Debbie.
“You’re not enjoying life in the city, are you? It must be a big step to move away from home when you’re so young. Have you ever thought about writing down how you feel?”
I told him I used to write poetry when I was at school, but I hadn’t written any since I’d started work. I just didn’t seem to feel like it.
“I’d love to hear some of your poems one day. You should start writing again and sort out your feelings that way. What sort of style do you like to write in?”
I was a bit confused by that so I asked him what he meant.
“You know, there are all sorts of verse of different metre and rhyme schemes. Pentameter is pretty common in a lot of famous poetry.”
I said I had never heard of it. I just sort of wrote whatever came out of my head and I didn’t think too hard about it.
“It sounds like you write in free verse. That is pretty cool. You should study poetry and writing. I think that’s something you’d enjoy.”
I told him my two best friends were studying art and maths, but I didn’t know what I wanted to do and that’s how I ended up in the bank. I was about to tell him about Andrew and how he was studying medicine but I stopped myself in time.
“You should look into it. There are lots of courses in creative writing or literary studies and that might just be your thing.”
I was starting to warm to Josh. “I think I would have enjoyed that, but it’s too late now.”
“What do you mean, it’s too late?”
“Well, I didn’t fill in any of the university entrance forms when I finished school, so I wouldn’t be able to go now.”
Josh laughed. “You can still go. Even old people can go to university if they want.”
“Really? I thought if you didn’t do it straight after school you wouldn’t be able to go.”
“No, that’s not how it works at all. You can apply at any time, and if a person’s marks aren’t good enough they can sit a test beforehand and get in that way.”
I started to wonder if that was what I should do. It had to be better than life in the bank. I smiled at Josh and told him that I would think about it.
The waiter arrived with our meals and we both sat back silently as he put the plates down. He picked up a napkin from the table and laid it on my lap.
“Enjoy your meal, madam,” he said and bowed.
We were silent for a few minutes as we began to eat our meals. I nibbled a little bit of lettuce and then put my fork down. I was too nervous to want to eat any more.
I watched Josh eating and then looked across the room at the other diners, when suddenly my heart stopped as I saw Andrew walk into the restaurant with his arm around that woman. Our eyes met at the same instant and I felt like a wooden stake had been driven through my heart.
“Is everything okay?” Josh asked. I looked at his face with my eyes open wide.
“It’s my boyfriend, my ex-boyfriend,” I stammered.
Andrew walked over to our table and said hello. I said hello quietly and looked across at the woman that was still waiting near the door. I couldn’t help but notice the diamond ring shining on her left hand.
“It’s nice to see you, Molly.” He looked Josh up and down.
“You too, Andrew,” I replied stiffly.
“Well, I should go,” he said, “Take care.”
He nodded to Josh and then walked away. I watched as he put his arm around the woman and they left the restaurant.
“That must have been hard,” said Josh. He reached across the table and squeezed my hand. “Don’t worry about him. He must be an asshole to let a wonderful person like you go.”
My head was reeling and I couldn’t think straight.
“Do you want to get out of here? We could go for a walk; it’s not too cold outside.”
I said okay and Josh called the waiter over and paid the bill. He took my arm and guided me outside into the night air.
“Will you take me home, please,” I said.
He was nice about it, even though he must have been disappointed that I had spoiled the evening, and we walked back to his car.
I sat low in the seat and stared out the window as Josh drove through the city traffic, racing between the lights and quickly changing gears. His hand reached over and held mine, and I wrapped my fingers around his and squeezed.
As the car pulled up in front of my apartment building, I nervously asked Josh if he would like to come in for a cup of coffee. I knew Jasmine wouldn’t be home tonight.
“Would you like coffee or a cup of tea?” I asked Josh as I walked through into the kitchen.
He called out and said he preferred coffee, so I put the jug on to boil and went and sat on the lounge next to him. Josh reached for my hand. “You’re trembling,” he said.
“Oh…, am I?”
I closed my eyes and tilted my face towards his. I was terrified, but ever since I had seen Andrew at the restaurant I had made up my mind. Josh’s lips met mine and he moved closer toward me. I could hear the jug boiling in the kitchen. Josh unbuttoned my blouse and pressed his body on top of mine. His other hand began to slide under my skirt and at that moment I knew I hated Andrew, but I hated myself even more.

Autumn of love

Clouds move quickly
Across the sky,
Days grow shorter,
Nights are colder,
Another day goes by,
The world grows older,
Leaves tremble in the breeze,
Holding tight,
Prolonging the end,
Not ready to fall,
Even though branches
Have turned stiff and cold,
No longer caring,
Letting go of the past,
Forgetting memories of spring,
Blossoms and new romance,
Turned to rust, drying, crackling,
As thoughts turn to winter days,
Of being alone, dark nights,
Frost covering the beating heart,
Icy fingers bringing tears,
Frozen words escaping
From cold lips,
You can never go back,
Never go back.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Eighteen

Friday night went slowly and I could hardly sleep for the excitement of knowing that I would be seeing Andrew again in the morning. It had been nearly two months since he and the twins had left town. I kept imagining how it would feel to be in his arms again. I thought about our summer together and how long ago it seemed now. A tear slid slowly across my cheek as I lay in bed and watched the sky grow lighter through the window.
I sat up and tried to read a book but I couldn’t concentrate on the words and when I realised that I had read the same paragraph ten times I decided to get up and have a shower instead. I wasn’t meeting up with Andrew for a few hours so I thought I could make the time pass if I kept myself busy by getting ready.
I wanted to look as pretty as I could for Andrew, but when I hopped out of the shower and looked in the mirror and saw my sunken eyes I just felt ugly. I borrowed some of Jasmine’s lipstick and eye shadow to try and make myself look nicer but that just made my eyes look even more sunken and darker than they already were, so I quickly rubbed it all off.
Steam followed me out of the bathroom as I walked through to my bedroom with a towel wrapped around myself. I stared at the jumble of cloths on the floor trying to decide which dress to wear. There were a few pretty ones, but when I spied the yellow floral summer dress that I had worn to our picnic at the river I knew it was the right one. It would remind Andrew of how happy we had been when we were together that day.
I slipped the dress over my head and looked at my watch. There was still an hour to go. But by the time I walked to the station and waited for a train I knew I wouldn’t be that early. Besides, Andrew might be so excited to see me that he could be early as well.
With my mind made up and feeling a bit happier, I took one last look in the mirror before heading off.
Jasmine was in the kitchen so I told her I was spending the day with Andrew and I didn’t know what time I would be back. She said not to worry because she was going up the coast anyway and wouldn’t be home all weekend.
I said goodbye and closed the front door with a bang and started walking along the street. There were pretty roses blooming in the gardens beside the footpath and I was amazed that I hadn’t noticed them before. I stopped and picked a bud that was just about to bloom and thought I might give it to Andrew as a present to say ‘I love you’.
Because it was Saturday the railway station was quieter and more relaxed than it was during the week. I watched the scenery flashing past the window as the train crossed a swamp. A flock of white ibis rose gracefully in the air and I felt my own spirit soaring on their wings. The voice over the loudspeaker announced there were only three more stops to Newtown.
I picked up my bag and moved toward the door. There were butterflies in my stomach.
Slowly, the train came to a halt and I stepped onto the platform and looked for Andrew. He wasn’t there yet, but it was only quarter to ten. I hurried past a homeless man asleep against a wall and found a bench to sit on and wait. The rose was still in my hand and I breathed in its sweet perfume then put it in my bag to keep it safe.
I looked at my watch again and it was now five past. Another train came in and a few people got off and walked up the steps to the street. I looked across to the island platform in the middle of the tracks and watched a teenage couple sitting on a bench as they waited for the next train. She was wearing a really short skirt and had her legs across his lap as they kissed. I smiled as I thought that would soon be Andrew and me.
Another train came in and I looked at my watch again. It was now half past and I was starting to get worried. Maybe I was at the wrong station, or perhaps I had the wrong time.
I checked my watch against the station clock, but they both said quarter to eleven. I looked up again and this time I suddenly saw Andrew walking down the stairs. I stood up and ran towards him, jumping into his arms with joy. He wrapped his arms around my waist and bent down and kissed me on the forehead. My feet dropped to the ground and he stepped back and held me at arm’s length.
“Molly, have you been unwell?”
It wasn’t the romantic greeting that I had been expecting and I felt tears spring into my eyes.
“Oh honey, I didn’t mean to upset you. It’s great to see you again.”
He hugged me tight this time and I pressed my face against his chest to stop myself from crying. I suddenly didn’t want him to see my face.
“What is it, sweetie?” he asked in a softer voice.
I didn’t trust myself to answer at first, but then I couldn’t help it and the words came out haltingly between sobs as I told him how horrible my new job was and how I hated being in Sydney and how much I had missed him.
He kissed me then, long and slowly on the lips.
“Come on, let’s go and see Sydney together and have fun and forget all about your job.”
I nodded and kissed him again.
We hopped onto the next train and I snuggled close to Andrew. It was much nicer being on a train with someone you love. We held hands and I kept looking at him and smiling.
The train arrived at Circular Quay and we got off. It was the first time I had ever been that close to Sydney Harbour and the Opera House. The sun was dancing on the waves and looked so beautiful that I hugged Andrew again.
Andrew said he wanted to take me to Manly, so we climbed aboard one of the ferries that were waiting at the Quay.
“Inside, or out?”
“Let’s sit outside,” I said, “That sounds more romantic.”
We walked around the deck to the back of the ferry and watched men in fluoro vests casting off the ropes. The ferry whistle blew loudly and it began to slowly move away from the dock. Black smoke belched into the sky as the ferry turned around until Andrew and I were facing the Quay.
As we passed the shadow of the Harbour Bridge, the ferry began rocking gently from side to side and kept bumping me against Andrew’s shoulder. It was too noisy to talk with the wind in my ears and the throb of the ferry engines, but I didn’t mind because I enjoyed just sitting there with Andrew’s arm around me and our fingers entwined.
By the time the wharf at Manly came into view, though, I was starting to feel seasick. I leaned my head against Andrew’s shoulder and closed my eyes for a minute. Andrew gently stroked my hair and I must have fallen asleep because I suddenly woke up as the ferry bumped against the wharf.
We walked up the Esplanade slowly, holding hands and looking in all the shop windows. There were lots of pretty dresses in the shops and I would have liked to try a few on but I didn’t want Andrew to get bored. We went into a surf shop instead, surrounded by brightly coloured clothing and surfboards.
“I wouldn’t mind learning how to surf,” Andrew said as he ran his fingers over a surfboard.
“Oh, I already know how to surf. Well, sort of, anyway.”
“Really? You amaze me sometimes, Molly. You’re still full of surprises.” He squeezed my hand and made me smile.
The next shop was a jewellery store. “Do you want to look in here?” Andrew asked. I wasn’t sure if he was just being nice, but I nodded and we entered and walked slowly around all the glittering gold and silver jewellery. Andrew stopped in front of a display of engagement rings. “Which one do you like?”
“The most expensive one, of course,” I laughed.
“No, I mean it,” he said. I looked at him closely as my heart skipped a beat. Was he serious?
I looked at the rings more carefully and then pointed to one in the shape of a Celtic knot with a small diamond glistening prettily in the middle.
“I’ll have that one please.”
The lady behind the counter asked if we needed help, but Andrew quickly said we were just looking. As we walked out of the jewellery store I gave Andrew’s hand an extra squeeze.
We bought fish and chips for lunch and sat on the wall overlooking the beach while we ate. I only had a little bit of fish but I didn’t feel very hungry. I threw a chip toward the seagulls that were squawking on the sand below us. They all jumped and started fighting over it. I looked at Andrew and saw he was watching me thoughtfully.
“Is everything okay, Molly? Apart from work, I mean.”
“It is now that I’m with you,” I smiled and lifted my face toward his for a kiss. He bent down and kissed me softly on the forehead.
“I think you’ve lost weight. Have you been eating properly?”
“Of course I have. Do you think I’m ugly?”
“You’re not ugly, Molly. You know I don’t think that. I’m just worried about you.”
“Well there’s no need to be.” I hugged him. “We’re together now and I’m happy.” We continued to sit in silence for a while, watching the waves of the Pacific Ocean crashing on the beach. I could see some surfers further out just bobbing around on the waves. They reminded me of Shawn.
“Do you want to head back?” I asked. “We could go to your house for a little while and then I can see where you live.”
“Oh,” he hesitated, “Ummm, yeah, sure. I’m not sure if my flatmate will be there. She doesn’t like me having people over too often.”
“But I’m not people, so she’ll just have to get used to having me around.” I kissed him quickly on the lips. I didn’t know why I wasn’t feeling as happy as I should have been.
It was too cold to sit out in the wind on the return ferry trip, so we sat inside the cabin. I found it too stuffy though, and the rocking of the ferry made me feel seasick. I got up to go to the bathroom and my legs were wobbly against the movement of the waves rolling through Sydney Heads. I only just made it before I was sick into the toilet bowl. I tried to hide what had happened from Andrew when I returned to my seat, but I knew that he knew from the way he was looking at me, even though he didn’t say anything.
We eventually got back on land and then it was only a short train ride back to Newtown. It seemed like forever since we had met there on the station that morning.
Andrew’s terrace house was only a few blocks from the railway station. It was in a narrow dirty street with cars parked nose to tail in the gutter. I wondered how any of them ever managed to squeeze out.
The house itself was also old and narrow and there was a long corridor to the kitchen. It looked quite nice inside though, and the kitchen had been renovated and was more modern. Andrew started to make a pot of tea and then said he was just going to check to see that his flatmate was out. I watched him run up the circular staircase as I sipped my tea. It warmed my insides and made me feel a little bit better.
Andrew came back down and said the coast was clear. He asked if I wanted to go upstairs and see his bedroom, so I put my cup down and followed him up the spiral staircase. The upper part of the house was a single bedroom, like a loft, and the afternoon sun was shining through the open window.
“Where’s your flatmate’s bedroom?” I asked.
“It’s one of the rooms at the front. I like being up here better. It’s nice and airy.”
I walked over to him and took his hand.
“Andrew, I love you, but…” Before I could finish he started kissing me deeply and I forgot all about what I was going to say as he gently guided me to the bed.
I put my hand on his cheek as we kissed and felt that familiar flush of warmth in my belly. Andrew was being more adventurous than he had ever been before and I let him have his way as his hands wandered all over my body. I felt his fingers touch the inside of my thigh and circle slowly as goosebumps shivered up my spine. Then he slipped his hand under the hem of my dress and I held my breath as his hand began to move higher. Suddenly I panicked.
“Andrew, stop!”
He quickly withdrew his hand and sat up.
“Molly, I’m sorry. It’s just that you’re so beautiful. I couldn’t help it.”
I frowned but felt guilty for spoiling everything. I didn’t want it to be like this. I was upset and could hardly get the words out, “Andrew, I love you with all my heart, but I have always wanted to wait until we were married. You knew how I felt about it.”
“I know. I’m sorry, Molly.” He looked upset as well. “We should probably go back downstairs.”
I nodded and blinked the tears away from my eyes.
We sat and talked about nothing for a little while and then Andrew walked me back to the railway station. I kissed him goodbye as a train slid into the platform.
When I sat down I remembered the rose. I pulled the crushed petals out of my bag and cried all the way back to Parramatta.

In the morning a lonely owl was calling from outside my bedroom window. I had spent another night restlessly thinking about Andrew. I knew I wasn’t sleeping properly, but I couldn’t stop the thoughts that were spinning around in my mind.
I knew I loved Andrew and wanted to be with him forever. But there had been something different about him when we were together yesterday. There were so many questions. There was that thing with the engagement ring in the jewellery store. Maybe he was nervous because he was going to propose and then couldn’t find the right words. And then I had spoiled everything by stopping him when we were in his bedroom. I felt so guilty but I was confused about that as well. We had once talked all afternoon about how we would wait until each other was ready before we did anything like that. But maybe that was exactly what we needed to do. Lots of other people did it, and I guess it was pretty old fashioned these days to wait until you were married.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that I had spoiled everything. Andrew was going to propose to me. I thought about calling him, but what if his flatmate answered the phone? I didn’t even know her name. Why was he so nervous about her? It was very unlike Andrew to let someone push him around and not let him have any friends over. He had never mentioned her before, but maybe she was only new. It was all so confusing.
I hopped out of bed and decided I would ring Mum instead. I knew she would be up already, probably sewing or reading in the lounge room because it was Sunday morning. I dialled the number and could hear the phone connecting and then ringing at the other end.
“Hello?”
“Hi Mum, it’s Molly.”
“Hello, sweetheart. How has your week at work been? I thought I might have heard from you earlier, but I guess you’ve been busy so that’s okay. You know it has been very quiet here since you left. I suppose I’ll get used to it. Oh, you know I saw Rose’s mother in the supermarket a couple of days ago. The twins are loving university, she said, and I told her that you had moved to Sydney. She said she would let the girls know the next time they called, but they don’t call her very often. I guess it is a bit hard finding the time and the money when you are only a uni student.” She talked on and on and it was nice to hear her voice, but it also made me feel like she was a million miles away. “You haven’t said much, is everything okay, sweetheart?”
“Yeah, I just wanted to ring you.”
“You don’t sound very happy. Are you looking after yourself? You have to give yourself time to settle in, you know.”
“Yeah, I know. I’m fine. I spent yesterday with Andrew and we caught a ferry to Manly.”
“Well that sounds lovely. You know your father and I spent some time at Manly when we were first married. Oh my goodness, that seems like a hundred years ago now.” After a while, Mum said we should probably hang up because the phone call would cost me a fortune. I hadn’t even thought of that so I said goodbye and promised to call her next Sunday.
I hung up and stared out the window. The phone suddenly rang again and I jumped, before quickly grabbing the receiver.
“Hey Molly, it’s Andrew. I wanted to talk to you. I feel so bad about yesterday.”
“Oh Andrew, I wanted to ring you too. There’s something I need to tell you.”
“There’s something I need to tell you too,” he said. I felt a little thrill of excitement. Was it the proposal? “Do you think you could come over this afternoon, say after four o’clock? My flatmate will be going out after lunch and I have some study to do first.”
There was that flatmate thing again. He hung up and as I put the phone down my heart was racing. It was all happening so fast, but I knew this afternoon I was going to make love to him.
I had a long soak in the bath and then because Jasmine wasn’t home I sneaked into her bedroom and looked through her underwear drawer to see if I could find anything special to wear. She had lots of lacy things and I chose a pair that I hoped Andrew would like. I also borrowed one of Jasmine’s short skirts. I decided if I was going to do this I needed to do it properly.
I spent an hour brushing my hair, and then I tied it up in my favourite Jane Austen style, just like it was the first time we had met. As I looked at my face in the mirror, I thought about that time at youth group three years ago. I suddenly realised it was nearly our third anniversary. That would make what was going to happen this afternoon even more special.
My heart was beating nervously as I walked down to the railway station. I felt naked with such a short skirt on and kept pulling it down all the time. Luckily, there was hardly anyone at the station and I only had to wait five minutes for a train. The carriage was empty and the train only stopped a couple of times before it reached Newtown.
I ran up the stairs to the road and then walked as quickly as I could to Andrew’s little street. I looked at my watch and realised I was nearly an hour early, but that wouldn’t matter, would it?
He had said he would be studying so I wasn’t surprised when there was no answer when I knocked on the front door. If he was up in his bedroom then he wouldn’t be able to hear the front door.
I tried the handle and it wasn’t locked so I pushed the door open and stepped inside. “Hello?” I called out. My voice echoed in the corridor but there was no answer. I closed the front door softly behind me and walked down the hallway. My sandals tapped loudly on the wooden floor boards and I had a quick peek into the main bedroom to make sure that Andrew’s flatmate wasn’t home. I hoped he wouldn’t be cross with me for being early.
There were two coffee mugs on the bench in the kitchen and some dirty dishes in the sink. I called out again but there was no answer. Then I heard a noise coming from Andrew’s bedroom upstairs. It might be a nice surprise if I suddenly appeared while Andrew was studying. I walked quietly up the stairs and smiled when I saw his shirt on the steps. It was a side of him that I had never seen because he always seemed so neat and tidy. I picked it up and kept walking upstairs. Just before I reached the landing there was another item of clothing on the floor. I bent down and realised it was a woollen cardigan.
As I straightened the open door was in front of me and all I could see was the look on the woman’s face. Her eyes were closed at first, but then she screamed when she saw me standing there.
I turned and ran down the stairs with tears streaming down my face. “Molly!” Andrew’s voice called out behind me. “Molly, wait!” I kept running all the way to the railway station.
I was numb as I sat on the train. I could hardly breathe and I couldn’t get rid of the image of that woman’s face. My cheeks were wet but I just stared out the window and didn’t bother wiping the tears away. It was over and I no longer had a soul mate. I couldn’t believe how much it hurt. Love was meant to be forever. How could he do this to me? I looked at the finger where the ring should have been. I was so stupid! What had I been thinking? She was so much prettier than me and I was just an ugly redhead. How long had this been going on? Only since he got back from the summer holidays? Or maybe he had been seeing her the whole time and I was just some weekend fling.
He had never loved me and it had all just been in my imagination. What was love anyway? But I had felt … something. I was sure I had been in love, but how do you really know how the other person feels? Why was he looking at engagement rings? Oh my god, it was for her!
My breath choked in my throat. I was dizzy. Buildings flashed past the window and began to spin in circles. I laid my head against the glass and closed my eyes. What was that Rose always said to me? Breathe – but it was so hard and I knew I was sinking.
“Hey babe, what’s up?” said a voice as somebody slid onto the seat beside me.
I opened my eyes to find Jimmy sitting there.
“Is everything okay?”
I just stared blankly at him.
“Molly, can you hear me?”
Jimmy’s face was blurred, but then his arm was around me and we were off the train and walking along the street toward my apartment. I tried to pull away but he tightened his grip.
“It’s okay, babe. I’m not going to hurt you. Just relax and take your time. Breathe in the air.”
I nodded and relaxed a little. “What are you doing here?”
“You looked like you needed help, and that’s what I do. I’m always helping pretty damsels in distress. Now, which apartment is yours?”
I told him it was number seventeen, and began fumbling in my bag for the key.
“Is anyone going to be there? I don’t want to leave you alone.”
“I’m okay,” I said unconvincingly, “I just need to lie down.”
I wanted Jimmy to just go away and leave me alone to die. I closed the door behind me and walked slowly up the stairs until I reached the door to the apartment. As soon as I got inside I went to the bathroom and threw up in the toilet bowl. Was this where it was going to end, here on the floor in the bathroom? No! I forced myself to stand up. There had to be some other way but I knew I couldn’t face another day without Andrew in my life. I could hear the phone ringing in the kitchen but I ignored it. The kitchen – what about a knife? But I knew I would never be able to do that. Then I heard the front door open and I walked out of the bathroom to find Jasmine standing there with an overnight bag slung over her shoulder.
“What are you doing in my skirt?” she yelled, but then she saw my tear-stained face. “Oh Molly, what has happened?” She put her arms around me as I cried uncontrollably.
“A – Andrew left me,” I blurted out. “I – I – I found him with her…”
I couldn’t say any more, but it was enough. Jasmine guided me to the lounge and kept her arm around me until I was able to control the crying. “I’m going to call Mum,” she said.
“No, please… don’t. She mustn’t know.”
Jasmine looked concerned but didn’t mention calling Mum again. She made a cup of tea with honey and the sweet liquid warmed my insides. Then she made me lay down on the lounge and she kept talking soothingly as she moved around the apartment and unpacked her clothes. After a little while she came and sat on the floor in front of me.
“Are you feeling any better?”
I nodded.
“I know how it feels,” she said gently. “I’ve been through this before, more times than I can remember actually. I know how much it hurts, but Molly, the hurt doesn’t last forever. I know how hard that is to believe right now, but it’s true. I’m not going to tell you that there are heaps of other guys out there, because I know you don’t want to hear that, but that is true as well.” She stopped and her green eyes looked at my face searchingly. “We can be friends, you know. It’s been so long since I lived at home. It would be nice to do things with my little sister and we can get to know each other better.” Her voice was calming and I closed my eyes to rest. “I’m just going to fix something to eat, would you like anything?”
I tried to answer but I was already drifting off to sleep.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Seventeen

It had been Debbie’s idea for us to have a picnic by the river to celebrate finishing high school. She had led the way down the track from the carpark that took us all the way to the base of the waterfall, with the sound of tumbling water becoming a roar by the time we had reached the picnic area at the bottom.
It was late summer and the sound of cicadas in the air rose and fell as I held Andrew’s hand and looked at the beautiful surroundings. There was a small clearing by the edge of the river, and the water eddied past crazily. A small pebbly beach led into the river and the day was so hot that Debbie and Rose wasted no time in jumping into the water and began splashing around.
“Come on in, you guys,” Debbie yelled from the middle of the river. I hesitated because it looked murky and I couldn’t see the bottom, but once Andrew hopped in I slipped my yellow summer dress over my head and straightened my swimming costume, before taking a deep breath and jumping in after him.
I gasped at how cold the water was, and Andrew reached out as my head broke the surface. I always felt safe and content whenever he held me and I had this sudden urge to kiss him to show my love. I couldn’t quite touch the bottom but Andrew was able to stand and I wrapped my arms and legs around his body for support.
He started tickling me and I squealed and jumped away until he swam after me and started teasing and tickling all over again. Our bodies were slippery from the water and I was able to escape again easily, but his long arms grabbed mine and pulled me back towards him and I was still giggling as our lips met.
After a while I started to get cold from the water so I said I was going to climb out and lay on the picnic blanket in the warm sunshine. Andrew came and lay down beside me with his brown legs softly touching my pale skin. I turned toward him and smiled.
“I could just stay here like this forever,” I said, as the sunlight sparkled magically on the surface of the water. Andrew brushed the wet hair from my forehead and smiled back. He didn’t say anything, but I knew he felt the same way I did.
Debbie and Rose had swum right up to the base of the waterfall and I could hear them screaming as the water rushed them back downstream toward us. I had never felt as happy as I did at that moment.
I didn’t want to think about the future, but I knew that Debbie and Rose would be leaving at the end of the week. They were both heading to Canberra to start university; Rose was going to study fine art and Debbie had set her heart on becoming a maths teacher. The twins had spent all summer trying to talk me into joining them, but I had no idea what I wanted to study and it all seemed to be too hard to think about. I had never been away from home before and I just couldn’t imagine myself doing it.
Andrew was just about to start his second year at university, studying medicine just like his father wanted. He still came home most weekends, so the past year hadn’t really been any different for us than when he was still at boarding school, and the summer had been perfect because he was home for three whole months and we had spent nearly every day together. Andrew was teaching me how to play the guitar and we spent hours singing and playing together. He talked about how he wanted to start a band with some friends at university, and I watched his eager eyes glowing with excitement. But whenever I asked about his studies he always sounded bored and he would change the subject. I wished I could share that side of his life with him, but instead he would start me talking about poetry and ask to hear my latest poems. Sometimes we just spent the whole afternoon in the park, laying on the grass in the shade and I would read to him as he stroked my hair. Then I would put my book down and we would kiss sweetly as my heart beat in time with his. The only future I could see was Andrew and I together. I felt like we were one and I couldn’t imagine us not being together.
But I knew I would have to say goodbye to him soon as well because he would be heading back to Sydney a couple of days after Rose and Debbie left. I could feel myself starting to get sad, so I tried not to think about them all leaving me behind and I melted my body against Andrew’s and kissed him again instead.
All too soon everyone had left town and I moped around the house on my own for days. Mum kept saying that I needed to get out and find a job now that school was finished and the summer was over, and I knew she was right but I just didn’t know how to do it. She suggested I ask in some shops to see if they were looking for someone. I tried it once but I was so embarrassed about asking that I ended up just pretending that I was a customer and bought a dress instead.
Mum told me that I should try a bit harder than that, so the next day I put on a nice skirt and my old school blouse and walked back down the street to try again.
The first place I came to was a small supermarket, and I walked inside and asked at the counter if I could see the manager.
“I’m afraid he’s busy, love,” said the large woman behind the counter. “Could you come back tomorrow?”
“Oh, ummm, I wanted to ask about a job. Is there anyone else I could talk to?” I knew I wouldn’t come back if I didn’t do it while I was there.
“Well, hang on and I’ll see if I can find him.” She sighed heavily and put the magazine she had been reading back in the rack.
I stood there awkwardly as the woman disappeared down one of the aisles. I kept shifting from foot to foot as my legs started to ache and I looked down at the dirty floor tiles. I was so embarrassed to be just standing there without doing anything as shoppers kept walking past me on their way in and out of the store. A couple of times the young woman at the checkout turned and asked if I needed help with anything, but I just said I was fine thanks. I think she thought I was planning to rob the store.
Eventually the other lady came back and said the manager had one spare minute to see me. “It’s accounts day, you know, so Mr Peters is pretty busy this morning,” she said as I followed her down the aisle. There were boxes of pet food and cleaning products leaning against the shelves. A bright red sign announced that the toothpaste was a ‘dollar saver’.
“It’s pay day on top of that,” the woman kept saying, “So he really doesn’t have a minute to spare, you know.” I started to feel guilty for disturbing him when he was so busy, but we reached the back of the supermarket and there was a little office squeezed into the corner amongst some pallets of toilet paper. She pushed the door open and knocked.
“In you go,” she said, “He doesn’t bite.”
I walked through the open door and saw a man sitting at a desk with his back to me. Cigarette smoke was drifting up lazily from an ash tray on the corner of the desk. The smoke made my stomach feel even sicker than it already was and I couldn’t stop myself from coughing.
“Have a seat,” he said in a gruff voice without even turning around. “I’ll be with you in a moment.”
I looked around and saw a chair in the corner of the office so I sat on it with my knees pressed together and my hands in my lap. My heart was racing as I looked around the office and waited for Mr Peters to finish what he was doing. In the other corner of the room was a metal filing cabinet. Its drawers were open and there were papers sticking out of it everywhere. The timber panelled walls were bare except for a chart with names and lines scribbled all over it, and there was a calendar with a picture of a topless woman stretched across a car tyre. I was so embarrassed that I quickly looked down at my fingernails instead.
Eventually, Mr Peters turned around and stared at me from behind his thick glasses. “What do you want?” he suddenly asked. I saw his eyes flicker down at my legs and I squeezed them tighter together.
“Ummm, I was hoping to, ummm, get a job.”
“A job? Do you know how many people want a job here?” I was surprised at the way he responded and just shook my head. “Do you have any experience?”
I shook my head again and said that I didn’t have any experience, but I was hoping to get some.
“No experience,” he repeated. He looked me up and down and then grinned. “You’re a pretty thing, though. Maybe I could find a use for you. Stand up,” he said. I could feel my legs trembling and I just wanted to get out of there, but I did as he asked. He stood up and walked towards me and I thought he was going to reach his hand out and touch me, but he stopped himself and scratched his chin instead. “Why don’t you come back on Monday? I won’t be so busy then and we can see if we can find a position for you. We could do with some new talent around here.”
He turned back toward his desk and I stammered thanks and couldn’t get out of the office fast enough. I ran down the aisle and then had to squeeze past some people to get through the checkout. The large woman at the front counter lifted her head from the magazine. “How did you go, dear?” she called out.
I didn’t answer her and just ran through the front door as tears burst from my eyes. I spent the rest of the day sitting in the park and when I got home that afternoon I told Mum that I hadn’t been able to find a job. She looked at me with that concerned frown she gets sometimes, but she didn’t say anything. I went into my bedroom and lay on my bed to have another cry. There was no way I was ever going back to that supermarket again.
Then Jasmine came to the rescue a few weeks later when she told Mum on the phone one night that she could get me a job in the bank where she worked in Sydney. I didn’t like the sound of working in a bank or living in Sydney, but Mum said it would be good for me to be more independent, so in the end it was just easier to go with the flow than to argue. Besides, Andrew was in Sydney and I would be able to see more of him so it couldn’t all be bad.
Jasmine said she had a spare room in her apartment and I could stay with her until I got settled, so Mum drove me down to Sydney on the weekend before I was meant to start work. We got lost a couple of times in the city traffic, but Mum eventually found the way to the little street where Jasmine lived in the western suburbs.
She met us at the front door and gave Mum a big hug. “Hey Molly,” she said to me as I walked inside. The apartment was only small but there were two bedrooms and Jasmine showed me where to put my bag. I walked inside the room and looked at the single bed mattress on the floor. There was no cupboard, but there was a small dressing table that I could put some things in. I walked over to the window and looked out to see the brick wall of the next building facing me.
“Well this is lovely, isn’t it,” Mum said brightly as she walked into the bedroom. As I turned and looked at her I could feel tears forming in my eyes, but Mum pretended not to notice and started unpacking some of my clothes into the dressing table. I helped her and shortly after it was time for her to drive back home.
We walked slowly out to the car as Mum reminded me that I needed to look after myself in the city. “Be careful that you don’t walk around at night,” she said, “and make sure you eat properly. Don’t go skipping meals or anything, okay? No matter what time of day or night it is, I am only just a phone call away, so if you get into any bother then call please. And don’t forget to iron your clothes the night before, and then you won’t have so much to do in the mornings before work.”
I nodded and hugged her goodbye. As I stood on the kerb and watched Mum drive away, I suddenly felt more lost and lonely than I had ever felt in my life. I saw Mum’s hand wave out the window just as she turned the corner, and then the car disappeared. I kept standing there looking down the street for a while, until I saw some men walking towards me and I hurried back inside the apartment.
Jasmine was sitting on the lounge when I walked inside and she looked up at me. “Okay little sis, some house rules. If you make a mess, you clean it up. It’s my television so I have the say on what we watch, and I don’t want to hear your music. Most important of all, if I have a guy over then I want you to make yourself scarce, okay?”
I nodded in reply and she went back to reading her book, so I walked into my bedroom and sat on the mattress and cried.

Jasmine had shown me where to catch the train, so when Monday morning came I knew all I had to do was get dressed and be at the railway station by seven o’clock.
I could feel the butterflies in my stomach as I slipped into the ugly green dress that was the bank uniform. Jasmine had given me one of her old uniforms and said she didn’t need it any more now that she was a loans officer.
I skipped breakfast and grabbed my bag as I ran out the door. I only had a ten minute walk to the railway station, but I was so worried about being late for work that I took no notice of my surroundings and just hurried down the street.
I reached the station and waited at the top of the escalator for a space in the crowd so that I could step on. Eventually I saw a gap but as I put my foot on the step a man elbowed me in the back.
“Excuse me,” a brusque voice said. As I turned the man pushed past me and hurried down the stairs. A woman in high heels did the same thing and then it seemed everyone was rushing down the escalator faster than it could move.
I finally reached the bottom as a train arrived with a whoosh and the doors opened to let the crowd spill out. I was suddenly pulled along by the tide and found myself inside the carriage just as the doors shut and we were moving off. There was nowhere to sit so I had to stand and hang onto the railing to stop myself from falling over while the train swayed along noisily. I tried to make myself as small as possible so that I didn’t bump into anybody, but the man behind me kept pressing his leg into my hip.
Eventually the train arrived at Central Station and I was soon being pushed along by the crowd again. I recognised the cafe where Mum and I had eaten breakfast with Debbie and Rose all those years ago in the corner of the railway station. I started thinking of them and wondered how they were enjoying university. I hadn’t heard from them since they had left and everything had happened so quickly for me that I didn’t get time to write and tell them where I was going, but I hoped they wouldn’t forget about me.
After going the wrong way a few times, I finally found my way to Oxford Street and then I could see the bank building on the corner with its large green sign. I looked at my watch and started to panic when I realised I was going to be a few minutes late. The pedestrian lights took forever to change to green, but eventually I was across and I took a deep breath as I walked up to the front door of the bank. I remembered how Rose always told me to breathe when I was stressed so I tried to calm myself as the glass doors slid open.
There was a woman behind the green counter sorting coins in a tray, and I walked over to her and asked if I could see the manager.
She looked at my bank uniform and smiled as she said, “You must be the new girl. Hi, I’m Wendy. Just hang on a tick and I’ll get Mr Fitzgerald.”
She disappeared behind a wall and I stood there uncertainly for a few minutes until the door opened.
“Molly White is it? I’m Mr Fitzgerald.” He held the door open and motioned for me to walk through into his office. He closed the door as I sat down and I quickly looked around the room and noticed how neat and professional looking everything was. There were piles of paper on his desk, all neatly arranged and sitting in plastic trays, and a photo of a woman and some happy kids. Mr Fitzgerald sat down and looked at me and I quickly looked down at my light brown shoes against the green carpet.
He was smiling as I looked back up. “So, Molly. Welcome to the bank. You’re sister Jasmine is well thought of so I have high expectations of you.”
I nodded and tried to smile.
“Working in a bank is a very important responsibility to have. We take ourselves seriously as we look after people’s money and their business affairs. You must never talk about bank business in the outside world, but there is a lot of opportunity to progress. If you work hard and do extra study, you could even progress to be a loans officer like your sister. The bank has had quite a few girls that have become loans officers. We are quite proud of the opportunities we have given to girls.” He looked across the desk at me and smiled again benevolently. I nodded as though I understood what he was talking about.
“Now, we have some paperwork to get through, and then I will get someone to take you around and meet the other staff.”
I spent the next half hour sitting at a little table in the corner of his office and filled in so many forms that I thought my hand was going to drop off. When I finished, Mr Fitzgerald told me that Caroline would be my supervisor. If I ever needed anything, I just had to ask Caroline and she would be glad to help me.
As soon as Mr Fitzgerald left, Caroline turned to me and said, “Don’t think you’re going to get an easy time just because your sister works in the bank.”
I shook my head and said quietly that I didn’t expect to. She then showed me to my desk, which was immediately behind the accountant’s office. There was a large green journal on the desk, a small green cashbox, and a huge pile of envelopes that looked like they were about to topple over. Caroline said it was my job to make sure the mail went out twice a day, and each letter had to be recorded in the journal. I also had to make sure there were enough stamps in the cashbox, and if it ever ran out then I would be in big trouble.
We then walked into the accountant’s office, which was actually just a glass-walled enclosure in the middle of the bank. Caroline said the accountant was like the office manager and Mr Wilkinson would have my ass if I ever stuffed up.
Mr Wilkinson stood up as we walked into his office and he shook my hand firmly. I was a little scared of him. “Welcome to the bank, Molly,” he said in a loud voice. “Just do what Caroline tells you and you’ll get along fine.”
I said I would, and then we moved on to a young woman sitting at a typewriter. “This is Leanne,” said Caroline, “She is the typist.”
“Stenographer, Caroline,” Leanne corrected her.
“You have to collect all the letters off her desk, and she doesn’t like it if the pile gets too big.”
Leanne pulled a face at Caroline, and we kept walking as she went back to her work. Wendy was serving customers, so we weren’t introduced, but I said I had already sort of met her when I first came in. Caroline told me I had to pick up all the vouchers from Wendy’s drawer and take them to the proof machine operator at the back of the branch. I should probably do that every half hour or so, or more often if it was really busy. She showed me where the proof machine was against the back wall, and there was a tray where I had to put all the cheques and vouchers.
“Jimmy operates the proof machine, but he is out the back sleeping off a hangover.”
I said, ‘oh’, even though I wasn’t sure what she meant. We went back to my desk and I sat down and looked at the pile of envelopes. Caroline told me to stamp them all and then take the pile down to the post office. She said she would be watching me and if I took too long then I would be in trouble.
I sat down at the desk and began putting stamps on the envelopes. I tried to work as quickly as I could, but every now and then I got tired and would stop for a break. Then I lifted my head and saw Caroline was glaring at me, so I quickly went back to work.
Eventually I was finished and found myself outside and walking towards the post office. The sun was shining through the clouds, but I hardly had time to notice as I walked as quickly as I could down the street. Caroline said I had ten minutes to get there and back or I would cop it, and I nearly panicked when I saw the long queue in the post office. It took forever to get to the front of the line and when I got to the counter I asked the lady what I should do with my pile of envelopes. She impatiently pointed to the mail box near the front door and said I should just put them in there. “Next!” she said loudly before I had even walked away.
I put the envelopes in the chute and then ran all the way back to the bank, but again I had to wait for the pedestrian light to go green and I knew I was going to be late.
“Sixteen minutes!” Caroline said sharply as I walked back into the bank. Mr Wilkinson lifted his head and frowned at me. “What took you so long?”
I started to explain about the long queue and how it was so slow.
“What were you doing in the queue? All you had to do was put the envelopes in the mailbox. You are as stupid as your sister.” I tried to say I was sorry and that I would be quicker next time, but she interrupted me and said I needed to get moving with the vouchers from the teller’s box because they were piling up.
She let me go and I hurried toward the front of the branch and picked up the pile of paper next to Wendy’s elbow. “Don’t worry about her,” she whispered kindly and smiled. “She does that to all the juniors.” I tried to smile back but I was trying hard to stop the tears.
I walked quickly toward the back of the office and saw a guy sitting at the proof machine. He had long curly hair and his tie was undone and hanging loose. He looked up and grinned at me.
“Hey babe, and who might you be?”
“I’m Molly, I’m new,” I said softly.
“You’re new are you? I knew you were new,” he said and laughed. “I’m pleased to meet you, Molly. I’m Jimmy. Just pop those down there in the tray, and don’t worry about old dragon breath. She likes to throw her weight around.”
I smiled quickly and went back to my desk to begin folding more letters into envelopes.
When the day finally finished and I was allowed to go home, I walked outside to find that it was already dark. The air was chilly but I hadn’t brought a cardigan with me, so I just had to walk to the railway station with my arms folded across my chest as I shivered all the way.
“Hey, Molly, wait up,” a voice called out. I turned and saw Jimmy running towards me. “Hey, babe. You heading to Central? Can I walk with you?”
“I guess,” I said uncertainly. But then I thought it might be better to have company than walk in the dark by myself, so I relaxed a little.
“You look cold, babe. Do you want to borrow my jacket?”
I felt a bit awkward about taking it and said that I was fine, but he took his jacket off and put it around my shoulders anyway.
“You get used to the cold after a while,” he said. Where do you live?”
“Parramatta. I’m sharing with my sister.”
“Oh cool! I’m at Parramatta too. I can keep you company on the train.”
We walked along in silence for a little while and I had to walk fast to keep up with him.
“How did you enjoy your first day in the bank?”
“It was okay,” I replied, but the reminder of work brought tears back into my eyes. I was glad it was dark so that he couldn’t see them.
We made it to Central Station and hopped on the first train. Jimmy found us seats and we sat together all the way back to Parramatta. He wanted to walk home with me, but I told him that it wasn’t far and I would be fine on my own. I handed his jacket back and then hurried away.
The apartment was dark when I walked inside so I turned the light on and sat down at the table to wait for Jasmine. When she didn’t come home after a while, I thought I might try and ring Andrew but there was no answer. I put the phone down and then waited a bit longer for Jasmine to come home. I wasn’t sure if I was meant to wait for her before eating, but after a while I just had some toast and then crawled onto my mattress and cried myself to sleep.
The next day I got up half an hour earlier for work and found that the train wasn’t as crowded at that time as it had been the day before. When I arrived at the bank the doors were still locked so I waited outside on the footpath until Mr Wilkinson came and opened the building.
There was already a pile of letters on my desk so I immediately got to work at putting the stamps on them, when Mr Wilkinson called me in to see him. “Sit down,” he said. “I know you are new, but this morning you were waiting outside the branch before it was open. That is against bank policy because it could attract thieves. If you arrive early you should wait across the road so that nobody sees. Okay?” I nodded my head and said I was sorry. I didn’t know and I wouldn’t do it again.
I went back to my desk and Caroline called me over. “In the store room at the back, there is a cabinet on wheels. It’s full of signature cards and you need to bring it down the front each morning so that everyone can get access to it.”
I nodded and said okay and went looking for the cabinet. I saw something on wheels in the corner and thought that must be it and started wheeling it out of the store room. But then I came to the step between the store room and the front part of the branch and I wasn’t sure how I was meant to get the cabinet down. I looked up and saw Caroline glaring at me, so I tried to ease the front wheels over the edge of the step, but as it went over I suddenly realised how heavy the cabinet was and I couldn’t hold it. The whole thing landed on the floor with a loud crash as the drawers flew open and thousands of small cards scattered everywhere.
“What the hell was that?” I heard from Mr Wilkinson’s office.
I wasn’t game to look up as I started picking up the cards.
“You idiot,” yelled Caroline. “What did you think you were doing?”
“Bloody hell, look at that mess!” Mr Wilkinson roared as he saw the cards scattered everywhere. “Jimmy, help her.”
Jimmy came over from his proof machine and started helping me pick up the cards. “She did that deliberately, you know,” he whispered to me. “Nobody ever brings the drawers down that step. That was just Caroline being mean; she knew this would happen. Don’t worry about it, Molly.”
It took me nearly all day to sort all the cards into alphabetical order and put them back into the drawers. Jimmy rode home on the train with me again, and after my terrible day I was glad that I had his company.
“So where are you from, Molly? You don’t seem like a city girl.”
I told him I was from Orange and I was sharing an apartment with my sister. “She helped me get the job,” I said.
“Oh yeah, Jasmine White. I’ve met her a few times at bank functions. You look nothing like her, you know. Do you know anyone else in Sydney?”
“My boyfriend is here. He is studying medicine at Sydney Uni.”
“Oh, cool. So you’ve got a boyfriend? You know, you should come out with us on the weekend sometime. There are some great parties and it’s a good way to meet people.”
I told him that sounded nice, but I thought I would be busy with Andrew on the weekend. I didn’t want to tell him that I’d never been to a party before.
Jasmine was on the lounge when I got back to the apartment. “Hey, little sis. There’s some risotto on the stove if you want some.”
I said thanks and put a little bit on a plate then went and sat on the lounge next to Jasmine.
“How is work going?”
“It’s okay,” I said. I pushed the rice around my plate and ate a couple of grains. I could see she was watching me but I kept my eyes down.
“I hope Caroline has been nice to you.”
“Oh yeah, she’s great.” I didn’t want her to see how close I was to crying so I took my plate back out to the kitchen and tipped my uneaten dinner in the rubbish bin.
“Let me know if she’s being mean, won’t you?” she said as I walked back into the lounge room. I nodded and then asked if she minded if I tried to ring Andrew. She said that was fine and I picked up the phone and dialled his number. It rang and rang for ages until eventually a female voice answered it.
“Hello?”
“Oh, hi, ummm, is Andrew Barnes there please?”
“He’s in the shower, can I take a message?”
“Oh, ummm, do you know how long he will be?”
“No idea. Who is this?”
“Ummm, it’s Molly. Ummm, Molly White.”
“Well I’ll let him know you called.” She hung up and I sat there staring at the phone in my hand.
“Is everything okay?” Jasmine called out from the lounge room.
“Yeah, he wasn’t there.”
I soon settled into the routine of work and every morning I arrived early and waited in the park over the road. As soon as the doors were unlocked I rushed across and started on my pile of envelopes. I did them as quickly as I could and dropped them off at the post office before Caroline could say anything.
Every time I dropped the cheques and vouchers at Jimmy’s proof machine he smiled at me and said something like, “Hey babe, slow down. You’re wearing me inside out.” Sometimes he even made me laugh.
I was allowed a half hour lunch break and I decided that I was going to sit in the park instead of just staying at my desk. I saw Caroline look up at the clock as I walked out the door but she didn’t say anything.
The park was just across the road from the bank building so I didn’t have to go far. I found a bench in the shade and pulled a book out of my bag. I hadn’t felt like reading much since I had been in Sydney, but I opened up at the bookmark and tried to remember where the story was up to. I had started reading Charles Dickens and I smiled to myself when I thought of how much Caroline was like Scrooge.
I read a couple of pages and then stopped to watch the lunch time crowd walking through the park. Some guys were dressed in shorts and tee shirts and were throwing a football around. I started thinking about Andrew and wished I could get in touch with him, when I noticed a payphone on the corner of the park. I put my book and untouched sandwich back in my bag and walked over to the phone and took some coins from my purse.
They rattled loudly as I dropped them into the slot, then I dialled Andrew’s number. Again, it rang and rang and rang, until all of a sudden his voice was on the other end.
“Hello?”
“Andrew, hi… it’s Molly.”
“Molly? Hey sweetie, how are you? What are you doing?”
“I’m in Sydney. I’ve been trying to ring you for weeks.”
“Really? That’s fantastic. Where are you?”
“I’m at Hyde Park right now, but I’m working in a bank on Oxford Street. I’m staying with Jasmine at Parramatta.”
“That’s cool. Well I’m at Newtown, it’s on your way to Parramatta by train.”
“Is it? Oh Andrew, I could get off there on the way home tonight and see you.”
“Sorry sweetie, tonight’s no good. I’ve, ummm, got something on. How about Saturday, and then maybe we can do stuff together all day.”
“Okay,” I said. I really wanted to see him tonight, but I guess if I had to wait for the weekend that would be alright.
We talked for a little bit longer until the coins dropped through the slot and then the phone cut off. I hung up and crossed the road to get back to work. As I walked through the door, Caroline looked up from her desk.
“You’re five minutes late,” she said. “I will have to tell Mr Wilkinson and he’ll take it out of your pay.”
I walked past her and sat at my desk and looked at the pile of letters that had appeared since I’d left for lunch. I didn’t care what Caroline said, I felt happy because I was going to see Andrew on Saturday.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Sixteen

It was a beautiful day for a picnic. The winter sun was sparkling off the remains of the morning frost and mist was still clinging to the hillsides. The air was fresh and crisp and burnt my lungs with every step I took along the mountain track. I felt like I had been walking for hours, and my feet were hurting. But I hardly noticed the discomfort because I was surrounded by my friends under the most perfect blue sky.
“Not far to go now,” Debbie called from the further up the path. We were heading for a picnic spot at the top of the mountain. Debbie said it was the cone of an extinct volcano and you could see nearly all of the central western plains from the peak.
I looked up to see if the top of the mountain was in view yet but all I could see was a mass of grey snow gums hanging their branches over the path. We had climbed high enough that there were little patches of snow every now and then and a trickle of crystal water ran down the gully beside the walking track.
I lifted my eyes to Andrew’s face and caught him looking down at me, so I smiled back. “Are you okay?” he asked. I nodded but didn’t have enough breath to say anything. “We can rest if you want.” I shook my head. I wanted to get there now and I could rest at the top. He offered me his hand but I said I was okay.
I could hear Debbie and David talking as we walked, although I couldn’t quite make out what they were saying. David had been spending more time with us since the inter-school debate and I quite liked him now that I had gotten to know him better. I looked at the way he and Debbie walked closely beside each other and I smiled to myself. It made me feel happy to think that they were becoming an item, and I knew if that happened I wouldn’t have to keep feeling guilty about taking Andrew away from her. I started thinking about the way Andrew and David had been toward each other when David joined us for the walk. There was something going on there and as I wondered what it was I watched Rose walking along in front of me. I should ask Rose about it when I get a chance. I watched David’s hand brush against Debbie’s fingers and I looked up at Andrew again and he smiled back at me.
Before I knew it we suddenly burst out of the trees and into a grassy clearing where the track wasn’t quite as steep. There was more snow now, piled against the rocks and filling crevices, but my fingers were warm from all the walking. I reached for Andrew’s hand and felt a warm glow as our fingers entwined.
Debbie and David stopped for the rest of us to catch up. “It’s just around that bend and then a little climb to the top.” We kept walking and followed the track where it disappeared amongst some huge granite boulders. The path became narrower then and we had to walk single file for a little way until the path was blocked by a rock wall. There was a railing bolted into the rock face and foot holds had been chiselled out of the granite. It looked so steep and high that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to climb it, but the others had started up so I didn’t have much choice.
“Do you want to go first?” Andrew turned to me.
“No, it’s okay. I’ll follow you.” I looked up to where Debbie was just about to disappear over the top and I felt a little quiver run through my legs. Andrew had already started so I quickly grabbed the railing and pulled myself up. I tried to keep my eyes on the rock in front and not look down, but then I had a quick peek and suddenly froze against the rock wall because I hadn’t realised how high I had climbed. I felt a surge of panic run through my chest. My head was dizzy and I knew I was going to fall, and then I felt Andrew’s hand on mine.
“Stop looking down, Molly. You’re nearly there.” I looked up into his face but it was blurry from tears. He kept coaxing and telling me to breathe deeply and just look at where I was putting my feet. His words penetrated through my panic and I started to move again as I tried not to look down. All of a sudden I realised Andrew was over the top and he was pulling me up behind him.
I crawled over the top on my hands and knees and as I looked across the flatness of the mountain peak I could see the town far below looking like a tiny picture. I felt like I was going to fall all the way back down until Andrew put his arm around me. “You’re not going to fall, Molly. Look there’s heaps of space up here.”
I lifted my eyes. He was right. The top of the peak was the size of a park, fairly flat and covered in coarse grass. Debbie and David were spreading a picnic blanket on the ground and Rose was looking out over the plain with her arms spread wide like she was about to fly. That made my legs feel like jelly all over again, but Andrew helped me to my feet and we walked over to the picnic blanket and sat down.
Debbie had started getting our lunch things out of a picnic bag, and I helped her set out plates while David poured a cold drink for each of us. I still felt warm from the effort of the climb, even though the air was cold because we were so high on top of the mountain.
“Well guys, welcome to the top of the world,” said Debbie. I felt much safer now that I was sitting down and I was able to look around and see how beautiful the view was. To the west, the plains were laid out like a patchwork quilt until it disappeared into the haze. Looking back to the east, from the direction we had come, the rolling hills gradually blended into the darker outline of the Blue Mountains. It looked like the careless smudge from a painter’s brush against the canvas of the sky. I leant back against Andrew’s chest and felt like I was in heaven.

At school the following week, Mr Norris announced that we would start reading ‘King Lear’ in class, eventually leading to us putting on a performance at the end of the school year. Rose had already decided that I should play the part of Cordelia, and she and Debbie would try out for the evil sisters. I told her that I didn’t think they were evil at all, but she said that would just make it more fun because they would really be acting then and, besides, they were the only female roles in the play anyway. As we sat in the library at lunchtime we discussed which role David should play.
“What do you think, Edmund or Edgar?” Rose asked with a mischievous smile.
“Well if David plays Edmund, and Debbie plays Gonerill then they can be lovers,” I giggled.
“Hey, don’t I get a say in this?” said David.
“No, of course you don’t,” Rose laughed. “Maybe you should be the Duke of Albany, and then you will have to do what you are told.” We both laughed as Debbie came back to the table.
“What are you guys laughing about?”
“We were just sorting out which parts we should all try out for. Whether David should be your husband or your lover.”
“Rose! You are so embarrassing,” said Debbie as she sat and put her hand over the top of David’s.
“I can just imagine you girls fighting over the kingdom,” said David. We all laughed as we stood and made our way to the classroom. I wished Andrew still went to our school so that we could all be in the play together, but I knew that was impossible. I sighed as I walked along and Rose looked at me.
“What’s up, Lady Cordelia?” said Rose. “Thinking about your banished nobleman?”
That reminded me that I hadn’t asked her about Andrew and David yet. I looked around to see where Debbie and David were, but they were a long way behind us.
“Rose, why was Andrew banished? I mean, there seems to be something between him and David and I was wondering whether it had anything to do with why Andrew went away to boarding school.”
“I don’t think so, not at the time anyway. I think it goes back further than that, but I don’t really know what it was about. You should ask Andrew.”
“Yeah, or maybe it’s nothing.” But I kept thinking about it all morning and I watched David closely in class to see if I could work out why Andrew didn’t like him.
I sat at my desk and opened my copy of ‘King Lear’ as Mr Norris said we would just go around the room and take turns at reading so that everyone could have a go. I thought about which part David should play, and whether he really was like Edmund and had driven Andrew away. I knew I had to find out what it was all about so that I could fix it and then we would all be friends. Suddenly it was my turn and I looked at the page.
“What shall Cordelia speak? Of love and be silent,” I read out.
By the end of class we had finished reading the first act of the play, and I was convinced that David had tricked Andrew in some way that led to him going away.
The week flew past and by Friday we had read the entire play in class, but I couldn’t wait for school to finish so that I could see Andrew again. He was already at the hall when I arrived and we greeted each other with a kiss. Andrew asked if I would like to come over to his house on Saturday and listen to music. I said I would love to but I would have to check with Mum.
All night I watched Andrew and David. They never spoke to each other and I knew the only reason David was even at youth group was because of Debbie. We were playing volleyball and a net had been set up across the middle of the hall. I said I would just sit and watch because I was wearing a dress and didn’t want to get it dirty. When Andrew came over and sat beside me I told him he should still play and not sit out just because of me.
Two teams were arranged in groups of six, with reserves to swap around after each game. David lined up to serve first and he hit the ball really hard across the net, straight at Andrew. He somehow got his hand to it and the ball speared up into the air. Rose jumped and hit it over the net and David dived onto the floor to try and stop it, but the first point went to Andrew’s team.
The game kept going backwards and forwards like that and I started to get bored with watching. After a while I got up and walked outside to the little landing above the front steps and looked up at the stars. The night was cool and I shivered because I didn’t have a jumper but it was lovely being in the fresh air. All of a sudden I felt Andrew’s arms reach around my waist and he kissed me on the back of my neck.
“Why aren’t you playing?” I asked.
“I wanted a break… and I saw you had left.”
We stood there silently for a few minutes, until I turned and looked up at his face. “Andrew, why don’t you like David?” I asked.
He looked at the stars and I waited for his answer. “There’s no reason, really. We used to be friends, way back in primary school. And then we just started doing different things and I guess we grew apart.”
I watched his face as he spoke. “Why the frown, sweet Molly?”
“Because I think there is more to it than that. It is clear you don’t like each other. I’ve seen how the two of you circle around each other like two lions, and I saw how hard he was hitting the volleyball at you. There’s something else going on.”
“You don’t give up, do you? I think you’ve been around Rose too much.” He paused and when he saw I was still waiting, he added, “It’s just that we’ve always been on opposite teams, whether it was footy, cricket… debating.”
“What happened in the debate?”
“Wow, Molly. You are so quick. I can see why Rose thinks so highly of you at school.”
“But we aren’t talking about me. What happened in the debate?”
“It sounds silly now, but we had a pretty heated disagreement about how to tackle the inter-school debate last year. I’m a year ahead, as you know, but David was the team captain so he had the final say. We lost the debate because of it.”
“Is that all? I think there must be more to it.”
“Well… we got into a fight in the bathroom afterward. He blamed me and I blamed him and punches were thrown. Molly, I’m not proud of it.”
“Maybe you should tell him you are sorry.”
“It’s not as simple as that. Guys don’t just kiss and make up like that.”
“Well I think you should find a way to say you’re sorry.” I turned my face away from him and looked up at the stars in the sky.

Instead of auditioning for parts in ‘King Lear’, Mr Norris decided everyone in the class should vote for who they thought should play each role. We were allowed to accept or reject our nominations and through this democratic process we narrowed it down to the final cast. The rest of the class was assigned various tasks to perform over the following six weeks in preparation for the play.
As predicted by Rose, I was cast as Cordelia, while the twins were to play her evil sisters. I didn’t mind being Cordelia because I knew she was really only in the play at the beginning and the end so I wouldn’t have too many lines to remember. Much to Rose’s disappointment, David took on the role of King Lear instead of Edmund.
We began reading the play in class again, but this time with each actor reading out their part. Anyone that wasn’t in the play was allowed to be the audience as well as helping Mr Norris with comments and directing.
“… let me not be mad, not mad, sweet heaven,” David read.
“No, no, no. You need more emphasis, more passion. The thing Lear is dreading most is to lose control, and insanity is the final act of lost control, so insert more passion,” said Mr Norris.
David started again, “Let me not be mad, not mad… sweet heaven.” He said the first part with such dread and I thought he sounded great. Mr Norris applauded and we moved on.
Day after day we tackled one scene of the play at a time, and at the end of each week we did the entire play in the double period after lunch.
I practiced my lines with Andrew on the weekends, going over them again and again. “Oh, look upon me sir, and hold your hands in benediction o’er me,” I said looking into Andrew’s eyes.
“Pray do not mock me,” he replied, his lips moving closer to mine. “I am a very foolish, fond old man.”
We kissed and I closed my eyes for a moment and enjoyed the feel of his lips, before pulling away.
“It’s not meant to be a love story you know, you naughty boy,” I said. He leant forward and kissed me again.
“But how can I resist those rosy lips when I watch them move.”
“Perhaps we need to sit on opposite sides of the table. Andrew, I need to get this perfect before Friday.”
“Molly, you are perfect already. Stop stressing about it. There is plenty of time until final rehearsal.”
“I wish you could be there,” I said as I placed my hand against his cheek. He leant forward and kissed me again.
“I will be there on the night. Why don’t we have a break and go for a walk.”
I reluctantly put down my book and let him take my hand and lead me outside into the fresh air. I looked up into the sky and watched the dark clouds gathering.
“It looks like it might rain, so we had better not go far.”
“How about we just go down to Cook Park? At least there is shelter there if it does rain.”
I put my arm around his waist and pressed my hip against him as we walked along. He held me close with his arm around my shoulder and every now and then his hand would stroke my hair.
The first drops of cold rain landed on my face and I looked up at the clouds again. Suddenly they burst and in an instant my dress was soaked through. We started running until we reached the shelter of the bandstand in the middle of the park and Andrew put his jacket around my shoulders. I was shivering from being so cold and wet but we were laughing our heads off. Andrew held me close and rubbed my arms to make them warm again and I pressed my blue fingers against his chest.

A few days later I woke with a heavy head and my throat was on fire. I looked at my face in the mirror and saw that my eyes were all puffy and my nose was red. Mum took one look at me and made me go back to bed.
“But Mum, we are working on the play,” I tried to argue, even though I knew I wasn’t up to it.
“A day in bed will do you wonders. And it won’t hurt you to have a break from the play. You have been working so hard lately.” I took the hot glass of honey and lemon she held out and dragged my aching body back to bed and crawled under the covers.
I picked up my book but only got through half a page before my heavy eyes fluttered shut and I drifted off to a dreamless sleep.
I woke later in the afternoon when Mum came into the room to check my temperature.
“What is it?” I croaked because she looked so concerned.
“You have a temperature, a bit of fever, I think. I’ll give you some aspirin and see if that helps.”
I felt too tired to worry and closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep again.
I wasn’t any better when I woke the next morning and Mum said that I wouldn’t be going to school for the rest of the week until I was better. “But, what about the play?”
“I spoke to Mr Norris. He says they will be fine without you for a week. You need to get well again first.”
I still didn’t have enough energy to argue so I just turned my head on the pillow and looked out the window. It was still cold and wet outside and I started to think about kissing Andrew in the rain as I drifted off to sleep again.

In my dream I could hear music playing and I was dancing a slow waltz in Andrew’s arms. He was wearing a suit and I had on a long white gown. I could feel the tiara on top of my head and as we spun around the room I could see the smiling faces of all my friends and family. They were clapping hands in time with the music and everyone could see that I was in love. But as I danced, I realised there was one face that wasn’t smiling. I tried to see who it was but the face had disappeared into the crowd. I felt troubled and when I looked up at Andrew I could tell he wondered why I wasn’t smiling. My head was starting to feel heavy and confused as I kept wondering who the face belonged to. We kept dancing and as we swung around the room I saw the face again, and this time I could clearly see that it was Shawn that looked so unhappy.
I suddenly woke and sat up in bed feeling troubled. Why was Shawn feeling sad when I was so happy? I didn’t know, but I decided I should write him a letter and tell him all about my year so far. I told him about how Debbie and Rose and I had become the best of friends and everyone called us the triplets. I told him about school and the debate and the play we were working on. I wrote about how much I enjoyed going to youth group and the things we did, and I asked what he had been up to. I said I hoped he was happy and that I looked forward to maybe seeing him again next summer holidays.
I put my pen down and re-read the letter. I hadn’t mentioned Andrew and how much I had fallen in love with him, but I wasn’t sure if I should tell Shawn about that.
As I sat there looking thoughtfully at the page, I suddenly heard music falling like rain outside my window. I walked over and looked outside to see Andrew standing on the verandah, leaning against the post and playing his guitar. He was singing something about a lovestruck Romeo and I couldn’t help but smile when I saw him.
He finished the song and then disappeared around the back of the house. I climbed out of bed with a puzzled frown on my face. I had expected him to come over to the window and speak to me, instead of disappearing. I put my dressing gown on and walked down to the kitchen, where I found Andrew sitting at the table and talking with Mum. She was just putting a cup of tea and a slice of cake on the table in front of him as I walked into the room.
Mum looked up and smiled. “You look a little chirpier this morning. How are you feeling?”
“I feel a lot better, thanks,” I replied. “What are you doing here?”
“Andrew came over to ask if you would be allowed to go to his house to listen to music,” Mum smiled at me again. “I said that will be fine, as long as there is somebody else in the house… and you need to be home before it is dark.”
I looked at Andrew and he grinned as he lifted the slice of cake to his mouth. “I guess I should get dressed then,” I said.
I walked back down to my bedroom with my heart in an excited flutter. I had never been to Andrew’s house before but I knew it wasn’t far from the church hall. I decided to wear a long dress and I quickly brushed my hair and tied it back before teasing out a lock to curl down over my right eye.
Mum drove us to Andrew’s house because she said I wasn’t well enough to ride or walk, and we sat in the backseat all the way. I longed to hold his hand, but I didn’t want to do that in case Mum saw us in the mirror. Instead, I put my right hand flat on the seat, and every now and then edged it closer to him until the tips of our fingers were touching. I kept checking in the mirror to see if Mum was looking, but she seemed to be concentrating on the road so sneaked a look at Andrew and smiled.
As Mum dropped us off, Andrew said one of his parents would be able to take me home again. I said goodbye to Mum and as she drove off I turned to Andrew and lost myself in his kiss.
I hadn’t even thought about being nervous until we walked into the house and Andrew introduced me to his parents. “Mum, Dad, this is Molly.”
“Hello Molly. It’s very nice to meet you,” said Mrs Barnes warmly. Even though she was sitting I could see that she was a tall woman and there was a resemblance to Andrew’s features in her face, particularly the shape of her eyes. Her light brown hair was tied back in a bun and she wore a light dress with a floral print.
Mr Barnes looked up from his newspaper and nodded, then went back to reading. He had sandy hair like Andrew, but his face was completely different and as he read his forehead was crossed in a fierce looking frown. I was a little afraid of him and that made me feel tongue-tied.
I said ‘hello’ very quietly and then Mrs Barnes suggested to Andrew that he should offer me some morning tea. I felt like I should curtsey as I left the room so I did a little dip to show my respect.
“She seems like a nice little thing,” I heard from the lounge room as I followed Andrew down the hallway.
“Very quiet,” said the deeper voice of Andrew’s father. “Not at all like that last one. Where does he find them?”
I didn’t hear any more because we were in the kitchen and Andrew was offering me a chair at the table. “What would you like to eat?”
“I’m fine thanks,” I replied. I suddenly realised I was so tense that my stomach felt a little upset.
“Would you like to listen to music instead?”
I nodded and Andrew led the way to the family room. I was astonished to see that one wall of the room was completely lined with books from floor to ceiling. I walked over and ran my fingers along the backs of the books. “Oh, to just sit here and read all of these,” I said.
“Well maybe you can one day. What would you like to listen to first, something old?”
“I guess.” I walked over to where Andrew was kneeling on the floor. There was a low cabinet underneath the window that was lined with more records than I had ever seen in my life.
“We have a bit of everything here,” Andrew said. “Some of the records are my father’s, but most of them belong to my older brother. There’s old rock ‘n’ roll records from the fifties, folk music, Bob Dylan, the Beatles, Neil Young, the Eagles, Dire Straits… you name it and you will find it here. There’s even country music and some classical stuff.”
“You never told me that you had an older brother,” I said.
“Oh, yeah. Well he has, like, been gone since I was ten. He is much older than me and he’s in the airforce and stationed overseas. I haven’t seen him in years,” Andrew said absently as he selected a record from the cabinet. “Let’s listen to some Bob Dylan.”
He pulled the record out of its sleeve and placed it on the turntable. I snuggled next to him on the lounge and the music began with a blast of harmonica. As the music played, Andrew explained to me about the background of the songs and the musicians and how they all fitted together. I watched his mouth and expressive eyes as he talked with such passion and I found myself being more and more lost in the songs in a way that I had never felt before.
The music wove itself around us like silk threads and we were drawn closer and closer to each other. I closed my eyes and leaned into Andrew’s chest as the record player sang something about a sweet virgin angel. We kissed again and I felt Andrew’s hand resting on my knee. I shifted my hips to get more comfortable and that accidentally made his hand move higher up my thigh. We stayed in that position, locked together for what felt like an eternity, until eventually the music stopped and Andrew hopped up to change the record.
We spent the whole morning like that, listening to music while cuddling on the lounge, and then Mrs Barnes called out to say that it was time for lunch. Andrew turned the music off and we joined his parents in the kitchen.
“So, Andrew tells me that you write poetry,” said Mrs Barnes.
“Oh, ummm, gosh…” I stammered. “Not really, ummm, it’s just for myself.”
“He also says you are in a play. ‘King Lear’, wasn’t it dear?”
“Yes, that’s right. It’s just a school play. I’m Cordelia.”
“That sounds lovely. Is that what you want to do when you grow up, acting I mean?”
“Ummm…, oh gosh, ummm, I have never even thought about what I want to do after school.”
“You should have a plan,” said Mr Barnes as he looked at me. “Andrew wants to be a doctor.”
I looked at Andrew because I had never heard him mention it before and saw the look of embarrassment on his face. “If I get the marks, Dad. Or I could be a musician.”
“A musician?” his father scoffed, “That’s fine for relaxation at night, but hardly a career.”
Andrew’s cheeks flushed a little at this retort but he didn’t respond.
“Well I’m glad Andrew has a friend over. It’s not so easy keeping in touch with friends now that he is at boarding school. Whatever happened to that group of friends you used to have at youth group? I really liked those girls, what were their names? Deborah and Rosemary weren’t they?”
“They still go to youth group,” Andrew said. “Molly is part of that group too, you know.”
“Oh, really? Well I am so glad,” said his mother.
I was relieved when lunch was over and Andrew suggested we go for a walk to the park.
“Your parents seem nice,” I said as I watched his face.
“Yeah, I guess,” he shrugged. “They don’t know me very well though.”
We walked in silence, lost in our own thoughts. I couldn’t get past the feeling that Andrew’s parents didn’t like me, but I kept it to myself.

The day of the play suddenly came around and Mr Norris said we would be having another full dress rehearsal in the school auditorium during the afternoon for the students, and the actual performance would be that night for adults.
Mum had finished sewing my dress and I took it to school in a bag so that it would stay clean and not get crushed. It was a long gown made of velvet with a high waist and false pearls sown into the seams so that I would look like a princess. The bodice was cut low and square like in Elizabethan times and the sleeves were tight and slender.
The day performance went well and everything went past so quickly. As I joined Rose and Debbie in the change rooms that evening I got swept up in their excitement because this time it was the real thing, and I hardly had time to feel nervous because the twins kept me busy while I was moving and getting dressed. But then I had to sit still in a chair while Rose put on my makeup and that meant I couldn’t move around and I could feel the tension rising as my hands started to tremble. Rose kept reminding me to breathe and Debbie didn’t stop talking and making little jokes the whole time to try and distract me.
I kept thinking about Andrew and hoping that his bus wouldn’t be late and he would arrive at the auditorium in time.
“Molly, when has Andrew’s bus ever been late?” said Rose.
I knew she was right, but I kept looking at the clock and every time somebody came through the dressing room door I expected it to be him. Debbie told me he wouldn’t be allowed in the dressing room anyway and I would be able to see him in the audience.
We left the change rooms and walked together to the backstage area, where we met up with all the guys that were in the play. David came over to say hello and gave Debbie a hug. “You look great as an evil sister,” he grinned.
She did a mock curtsey and said, “At your service, my lord.”
I stood between Rose and David as Mr Norris gave us some last minute instructions. He said we were to relax and not get overawed by all the parents in the audience. Then the music started and Kent, Gloucester and Edmund walked onto the stage and began speaking. It took only a moment before a trumpet sound announced the arrival of Lear and I saw David squeeze Debbie’s hand before leading the rest of us onto the stage as part of his entourage.
I moved to my place on the stage where I was a little on the side and slightly forward so that I could address the audience. Debbie began professing her love for Lear and I waited for her to finish her first part and then I knew mine was straight after. I was rehearsing the line over and over in my head until it was time, but I kept glancing toward the crowd to see if I could find Andrew.
Suddenly Debbie stopped and it was my turn, “What, shall Cordelia speak? Love, and be silent.” My voice echoed hollowly in my ears, but I knew I would be okay now I had the first line out. I took another glance at the audience but still there was no sign of Andrew. Maybe he has gone backstage.
Eventually I was banished from the kingdom because I wouldn’t profess my love for the king, and I hurried off the stage to see if I could find Andrew. But he wasn’t in the backstage area and I asked one of the prop boys if they had seen him. He shook his head and I nearly cried in despair. I rushed around to the side where I could see part of the audience from behind the curtain but he definitely wasn’t sitting in that section.
Rose and Debbie came off stage and Rose took one look at my face and asked what was wrong. I told her that I couldn’t find Andrew. She took my hands and spoke sternly, “Molly, Andrew will be in the audience somewhere. You need to stop this and focus on the play. Cordelia is meant to be serene next time she is on.”
I nodded because I knew she was right, but sometimes it was so hard to control my feelings. Rose made me stand between her and Debbie by the side of the curtain so that we could watch the play. Every time I turned my head to look toward the audience I felt Rose’s elbow poke me in the side so I had to give up looking until she went back on stage, then I was free to start searching again. But still I couldn’t find him no matter how hard I looked.
Eventually it was my time to go back on stage, but I was ready and I strode on majestically to give Cordelia all the dignity she deserved. It was a short part, and then I was back off and the next time I was meant to be dying.
I waited patiently for my next part as I stood beside David. “Are you ready?” he asked. I nodded and he moved to pick me up. I put my arm around his neck as he carried me onto the stage.
“Howl, howl, howl! O, you are men of stones.” David began wonderfully. I was glad he and Debbie had gotten together. He laid me on the ground, leaning against his lap as he kneeled. “This feather stirs – she lives!”
The play began to resolve itself as Kent revealed his true self and a messenger arrived to say that Edmund had been killed. David bent down and kissed my lips softly. “Do you see this? Look on her! Look, her lips! Look there, look there!” and then he died and fell gently over my body.
We lay together on the stage for a moment while Edgar, Kent and Albany finished their lines. His body felt warm against mine and I could hear him breathing, and then the curtain fell and we were all standing and hugging each other.
Mr Norris ran on stage and told us all to line up so that we could take our bows. I held David’s warm hand on one side and Rose’s on the other. Debbie was beside David, and then the curtain started to lift and the audience was standing and applauding loudly. I looked down and there was Andrew in the centre front row clapping the loudest of all.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Fifteen

“Molly! You are positively glowing,” Rose said when I met her at school on Monday morning. “You have to tell me all about it.”
“Oh gosh, Rose, I don’t know what to say.” I was embarrassed and pulled a book out of my schoolbag as I tried to pretend that nothing had changed, but she was right and it was hard to hide my happiness.
“Everyone is talking about you and Andrew. He is a prize catch you know.” I started blushing to think that people were actually talking about me.
“It just sort of happened, you know. Actually I was cross with him for ignoring me when I got to the hall. And I guess I was a bit cranky that we were bush walking when I wanted to sing again. Then all of a sudden, you know, things changed.”
“That is so romantic. It’s just like Elizabeth and Mr Darcy.”
I laughed. “Maybe we have been reading too much Jane Austen, don’t you think?”
“Oh, no way. That just makes it better. Hey, here’s Debbie.” Rose waved to attract Debbie’s attention, and I wished I could crawl into my schoolbag and hide because I knew Debbie would make an even bigger fuss than Rose was.
“Hey guys. How is the lovebird this morning?” My face went even redder. I couldn’t believe she called me a lovebird.
“Hi Debbie.” I was still trying to act like nothing had happened as she joined us at the library table.
“Molly, do you realise what you have done?”
“What do you mean?” I was a bit confused.
“Most of the girls at school have had a crush on Andrew at some stage through high school. He was, like, always the smartest and best looking guy in class, until he went away to boarding school last year… and broke everyone’s hearts. And then you come along and in a few weeks you sweep him off his feet.”
“I don’t think I did any of the sweeping,” I replied. All I could think of was how my heart skipped a beat the first time we met, and then all of that singing together, and everything.
“Oh come on. I saw the way you looked at him with those big eyes, and your pretty blushing face and cute curls. How could any guy refuse that?”
I couldn’t believe she was saying all this. It was almost like she was jealous. “I really have no idea what you’re talking about Debbie,” I said as I looked at Rose for support.
“Can’t you see how happy she is?” Rose said to Debbie. “It’s over between you two and it has been for ages.”
“What do you mean?” I said, looking from one to the other.
“Can I tell her?”
“I don’t care,” replied Debbie. She looked down at her hands and I watched her absently fiddling with her fingers. I felt like I had done something wrong to upset Debbie and I just wanted to make her feel better because her and Rose were my best friends.
Rose was about to speak when the school bell rang.
“I’ll tell you later,” she said. “We have to get to class.”
We all stood up and started walking out of the library together, but Debbie hurried on ahead.
“Debbie, wait!” I called out.
She stopped and looked at me. “Don’t worry, Molly. I don’t hate you,” she said, then turned and walked away.
I looked at Rose, “What’s going on?” I was getting upset to think I had hurt Debbie, and I didn’t even know what I had done.
“Molly, Debbie used to go out with Andrew. I should have told you before. They broke up at the end of last year when he knew he was going away to boarding school. That was just before we met you on the train,” Rose whispered as we walked along the corridor. “The holiday at the beach was to cheer her up, and I thought she had pretty much gotten over him, but apparently not.”
I said I felt awful. “Rose, I didn’t know. I never planned for anything to happen.”
“I know you didn’t. But the funny thing is that we both thought it was David you were talking about, you know when you said you had a crush on someone.”
We had arrived at the classroom and had to leave our conversation there as we took our seats. I didn’t get a chance to ask Rose any more questions because Mr Norris followed us into the classroom. My head was in a whirl as I sat at my desk. Only half an hour ago I was floating on a cloud, but now I had landed on the ground with a thump. I was so confused and didn’t know what I should do, but the one thing that was clear was that I had hurt Debbie’s feelings without even realising it. I needed to fix things and make her happy again. Thoughts kept whirling around and around in my head until I realised that Mr Norris had been speaking.
“… so you now have twenty minutes to write notes and then we will began debating. I will randomly pick two people at a time to compete against each other, and at the end I will announce the three that will be chosen for the debating team. The clock starts now.”
I looked up at the clock as the second hand swept past the twelve. Everyone else in the classroom had their heads down and they were busy writing, but I had no idea what I was meant to be writing about. I had completely missed the topic and that added to my despair about Debbie. I looked across at Rose and tried to see what she was writing, but I couldn’t read her words from the angle I was at. I had so enjoyed being made to feel like I was one of the triplets and I didn’t want anything to get in the way of our friendship. My eyes drifted to the window and I watched the birds outside flying high among the streaks of cloud. They circled around each other and seemed to be just hanging from the cloud threads like a mobile in a nursery.
“Okay class, time is up. Put your pens down.”
I looked back at the clock. I couldn’t believe it had already been twenty minutes.
“Our first pair to compete this morning,” said Mr Norris looking around the room, “Will be David Windsor and Molly White. Before we start, just to remind you of the rules, you get four minutes each to make your case. You will be judged on how well you present, as well as the strength of your argument. So if I can have the two of you out the front, and David, you can go first.”
I suddenly felt sick because I knew I had nothing to say. I was starting to panic and must have gone pale as I stood up because Rose leaned over and whispered, “Are you okay?”
I nodded, but I was far from feeling okay. I could feel myself growing faint as I sat in the seat at the front of the classroom and faced the class. Rose was looking at me encouragingly but I looked down at the blank piece of paper in my hands.
“Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Chair,” David began confidently. I tried to force myself to concentrate on what he was saying and maybe I could bluff my way through this.
“My topic today is to discuss whether Elizabeth Bennet from the novel ‘Pride and Prejudice’ is a feminist. Ladies and gentlemen, you will see from the argument I present that Elizabeth Bennet was merely a woman of her time and simply a fictitious character in a novel, and far from being a feminist.”
I was listening now, and I had to admit that David spoke really well. He sounded polished and confident and I could see why he was on the debating team last year. I knew first spot was probably already his, but I could also see the holes in his argument as my mind began to whirr into action.
All of a sudden David was finished and Mr Norris called on me to take the floor. I felt like I was back in my bad dream as I rose from my seat and stood in front of the class. I looked down at the piece of paper in my hand, and was surprised to see that it was still blank. I cleared my throat.
“Time has started, Molly,” Mr Norris reminded me unnecessarily.
“Ummm, ladies and gentlemen, Mr Chair,” I said in a voice that sounded like the soft squeak from a baby’s toy. I looked at Rose and she was signaling with her hand that I needed to speak up.
“Ummm, you have all heard the argument, ummm, put forward by, ummm, David. But I am here to tell you he is mistaken and that I consider Elizabeth Bennet to have been a feminist for her time.” I paused and looked around the room at all of the faces watching me. I suddenly realised that they were all my friends and nobody wanted to see me fail. I took a deep breath.
“But to understand that,” I began again more confidently, “We need to define what a feminist is. A feminist believes there should be equality between the sexes. Elizabeth is not afraid to speak her mind, and she rejects the repressive standards of her time just as she rejected the proposal of Mr Collins. But she also isn’t perfect, and it is these flaws in her character that make her real, vibrant and true. Elizabeth is quick to judge, too ready to dismiss Charlotte, and she is often disapproving. But at the end of the novel, ladies and gentlemen, she accepts Mr Darcy on equal terms because of love, and not because of the pressures of society. That is why she can be considered a feminist.” I finished and looked at Rose. She was grinning and started to clap, and then everyone else was clapping as well.
“Thank you, Molly.” Mr Norris stood and started introducing the next pair. Before I sat down I asked if I could go to the bathroom and then raced out the door. I locked myself in the cubicle and threw up.
I lost track of time as I sat in the bathroom, but Rose eventually came to look for me. She found me sitting on the ground in the corner with my arms wrapped around my knees and my tear-stained face resting on my forearm.
Rose came and sat beside me and put her arm around my shoulder. I leaned my head against hers and cried a little more. After a while Rose said we should be getting back to the classroom because Mr Norris was about to announce the winners of the debate.
She helped me to my feet and I splashed some water in my face to wash away the tears. I felt self-conscious as I walked back into the classroom because I knew everyone must be looking at me, but I kept my eyes down so that I didn’t have to see them.
As I slipped into my seat, Mr Norris rose from his desk and walked to the front of the room. I didn’t look up though and just kept staring at my fingers.
“Okay, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you all for your presentations. I found them most entertaining and you all gave me a lot to think about. I also have your assignments to hand back at the end of class. Some of these were exceptional and I have been really impressed with the quality of work. So without further ado, I want to announce the debating team for the inter-school tournament.” He paused and looked around the room, but my eyes were still down. “First, the team captain for this year, as last year, is David Windsor.” There was some polite applause for David, but I think everyone knew he was going to get it anyway so there was no excitement. “Our vice-captain, with an outstandingly polished presentation, as usual, will be Rose Long.”
The applause was a bit more enthusiastic this time and I leaned across and squeezed Rose’s arm and whispered, “Well done”.
“The position for our third team member was hotly contested amongst you all, but I have chosen the winner for her clear thinking and ability to construct an argument quickly. On top of receiving an ‘A’ for both her essay and a wonderful poem, ladies and gentlemen, our third team member is — Molly White.”
Just then the whole classroom erupted as everyone clapped loudly and Rose threw her arms around me. It was so surreal and not at all how my dream turned out.

The corridor was crowded and noisy but I tried to catch up with Debbie after class. I desperately needed to talk to her and let her know that I was sorry. I was upset that something had gotten in the way of our friendship when it meant so much to me. I was also confused about my feelings for Andrew because I thought about him all the time and I knew I couldn’t wait for Friday night to see him again. But I also knew that I couldn’t see him again if it was going to upset Debbie. I really needed to catch up with her.
“Debbie,” I called out. “Debbie, wait.”
She couldn’t hear me over the noise and kept on walking. I felt like I was pushing through quicksand as every step I sank deeper and deeper into the swamp of teenagers moving slowly between classrooms.
“Debbie,” I called out again despairingly.
“Hey Molly,” a voice called from behind me. I stopped and turned to find David waving his hand to get my attention. “Molly, I’ve been trying to catch up with you.”
He grabbed my arm and I turned to face him.
“Sorry,” he said as he quickly let go. “Mr Norris wants us to meet with him at lunchtime to talk about how we are going to prepare for the inter-school debate.”
I looked again to see where Debbie was but she had disappeared into the swamp without a trace. “Okay, let’s go.” I gave up and followed David back down the corridor to the classroom.
Every day that week my lunchtime was spent in the classroom with Rose, David and Mr Norris as we practiced our strategy for the debate. Mr Norris had a plan that I would speak first because that could be a prepared speech and I would be able to practice it for a few minutes beforehand. He sounded confident but the thought of standing in front of strangers and giving a speech made my stomach feel sick. I didn’t want to tell the others how I felt, so I just pretended that everything would be okay.
Mr Norris then said that Rose’s and David’s speeches would have to be made up on the night in response to the other team’s speakers. He said that was why he had picked me, because he knew I could construct an argument quickly and I would be able to pass notes to David and Rose. We started practicing by tackling all sorts of topics until finally it was the end of the week.

When Friday night came, Mum knocked on my door and asked if I wanted a lift to youth group. I told her that I wasn’t feeling well and was going to give it a miss this week. She looked concerned and put her hand across my forehead, but didn’t say anything else as she left the room.
I rolled onto my stomach with my feet in the air and went back to reading ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and tried to lose myself in the world of Marianne and Elinor Dashwood until it was so late in the night that I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.
In the morning I woke to find Mum was opening my curtains and letting the bright sunlight into my room. I sat up and blinked at the sudden brightness and wondered what the time was. It wasn’t normal for Mum to wake me up because I was usually up before everyone else in the house.
“Molly, you have to get dressed,” she said excitedly, “There is a boy here to see you.” Suddenly I was all in a fluster as I tried to hurry out of my pyjamas and into a dress. I saw myself in the mirror and my hair was a complete mess, but Mum told me to just tie it up and not keep the boy waiting.
She said she had shown him through to the dining room, and I took a deep breath before I stepped through the doorway to find Andrew waiting for me.
He stood up as I entered the room and moved towards me, and before I could stop him he threw his arms around me in a hug. I felt so at home in his arms that it took some effort to make myself break free and step away from him.
“Andrew, we need to talk,” I said. He looked concerned as I asked if he would like to walk outside. I wanted to be in the fresh air so that I had time to think, and I also didn’t want anyone overhearing our conversation.
He walked beside me silently as our footsteps took us down the cobbled laneway. I was wondering how to start. How could I tell him that we wouldn’t be able see each other again? The sky was clear and blue and I could hear the cockatoos screeching overhead where they were feeding on the new shoots of the trees. The smell of freshly mown grass in the air made me think of spring, even though I knew it was late autumn and the red and golden leaves were gently falling around us like snow, or confetti.
We stopped at the gate that led into the orchard and I tried to calm my thoughts.
“Molly, I missed you at youth group last night,” Andrew said as he reached for my hand. I thought of pulling it away, but I couldn’t bring myself to. I could feel that the tears weren’t far away and I turned my head so that he wouldn’t seem them and I looked at the heavily laden apple trees instead.
“Andrew, I’m sorry. I can’t see you again,” I blurted out.
He pulled me closer and I wasn’t strong enough to resist.
“Why Molly? What is the matter?”
“I didn’t know that you and Debbie were going out. She is my best friend. I can’t do this to her.”
I knew I wasn’t putting my case very well, but I was too confused to think any clearer.
“But Molly, that is over. It’s finished. Debbie knows that and she and I are just friends now. We’re good.”
“No, you don’t understand. We are like sisters and it is hurting her to see us together. I would never have let it happen if I had known about the two of you.”
“Just tell me that you’re not in love with me and I will leave you alone, forever.” I could hear the hurt in his voice and I was crying now. He held me and I cried into his shoulder, until I got the courage to push him away.
“No,” I said. “I’m sorry.”
I turned and ran back down the laneway and left him standing there on his own.

It was late the same afternoon and I was lying on my bed reading a book when there was a gentle knock on the door. I ignored it and kept reading, but there was another knock and then I heard Rose’s voice, “Molly, can I come in?”
I sat up as Rose opened the door and both she and Debbie walked into my bedroom. Debbie took one look at my tear-stained face and came and sat on the bed beside me.
“We missed you at youth group last night,” she said softly.
“I wasn’t feeling very well.”
“Your Mum told us that. We wanted to see if you were okay.”
“I’m fine,” I replied. “I just needed some time on my own.”
“Molly, I’m sorry I have been mean to you all week. It’s just — I just wasn’t expecting to see Andrew with anyone and it was a shock. I’m sorry. I’m okay with it… really I am, and I’m glad that it’s you. Please forgive me?” She put her hand on my shoulder but I wasn’t sure what I should do. Rose sat down on the bed on my other side.
“I think we need a sister hug,” she said as she reached her arms around both Debbie and me. Debbie did the same until I felt like I was being smothered by the twins. I didn’t tell them what I had said to Andrew that morning.
“Are we okay?” said Debbie. I nodded and she smiled. “Rose told me all about you being picked for the debating team. That is so exciting.”
I didn’t even want to think about the debate, and because I didn’t know what else to say I asked if they wanted to go for a walk through the apple orchard.
We climbed the fence and set off through the trees with the twins walking on either side of me as the golden autumn sunlight shone through the leaves. I was glad that Debbie was talking to me again, but I still wasn’t sure what I should do about Andrew.

Several weeks later it was the day of the inter-school debate. After so many weeks of practicing with Rose and David I had become a little bit more comfortable with the idea of being part of a debating team. But when Mr Norris started to give us some last minute instructions at lunchtime I suddenly realised that it was really happening and standing in front of people would not be like doing it with just Rose and David. My stomach started to churn and I had to excuse myself and visit the bathroom.
I saw David and Rose look at each other as I left the room and I knew they were thinking I was going to chicken out. But I looked at my pale face in the bathroom mirror and tried to tell myself that it was going to be okay. The scared face that was looking back at me didn’t seem to believe it though so I splashed some water onto it.
I walked back into the classroom and Rose smiled. She asked if everything was okay as I sat down and I nodded. I think she was learning to understand when I was having a panic attack much better than I could.
“So one last thing,” said Mr Norris. “We will meet at the hall at Central High School at seven, so please don’t be late.”
My stomach suddenly lurched and I was nearly sick right there in the classroom. My palms were sweaty and my face felt cold and clammy. Central High! I hadn’t even thought about where the debate was going to be, but surely it wasn’t going to be there? The words sat like a muddy puddle in my head. I hadn’t been back there since the night of my accident. I could feel my hands trembling and all those nightmares from my time at that school suddenly came flooding back and I knew I was still that ugly redhead that nobody liked.
I realised that Mr Norris had left the room and it was time for my next class, but I couldn’t even think clearly enough to remember what subject it was or which room I was meant to be in.
“Come on, Molly. We’ve got history now,” said Rose.
I stood up mechanically and followed her out of the classroom. As we walked along the corridor, Rose asked if it would be okay for her to come home with me for the afternoon and we could get ready together. I nodded and said I supposed that would be okay and we arranged to meet at the front gate after school.
When we got home I just wanted to lie down but Rose suggested we go for a walk through the orchard instead. I told her I wasn’t feeling very well, but she said the fresh air would help me feel better.
“I just love walking through your orchard at this time of year,” Rose said brightly.
“Yeah, I guess.” I didn’t feel talkative.
“All of the red apples hiding behind the green leaves look so pretty, don’t you think?”
I nodded and looked at the trees without really seeing them. I couldn’t stop thinking about the kids from my old high school and I was worried about what Rose would think when she found out they all hated me.
We kept walking until we came to an old shed. There was an empty tankstand beside it that I used to sit on when Stephen had gone away. We climbed onto it and sat with our legs crossed and Rose turned to face toward me.
“Molly,” she said, “You are going to go great tonight. You are ready for this and you have nothing to worry about.”
I nodded, although I didn’t really believe her. I wanted to tell her about the nasty girls at my old school, but I couldn’t trust my voice because I knew I was close to crying.
“Here is what’s going to happen,” she said. “When they call you to speak, you will take a deep breath and walk boldly up to the microphone. Take another deep breath and use that moment to look for your Mum in the audience. Then you are going to launch into your speech and you will be great.”
I looked at her and started crying. In between sobs I tried to tell her about my old life.
“Shhh, don’t worry about those kids. You will have me and Debbie and David and all the kids from our school so they won’t be game to try anything.”
We hugged until I could control my crying and then walked back to the house for dinner. But I couldn’t stomach dinner so I just pushed the food around my plate until it was time to get ready.
I had to wear my full winter uniform and I pulled the blue pleated skirt and white blouse out of my cupboard. Rose helped me with the school tie because I had never worn one before, then I put my light blue blazer on over the top. Rose brushed my hair and tied it back in a ponytail and I had to admit it made me look like I was really smart.
I visited the bathroom again before we left home and then Rose and I hopped into the back of the car. Rose and Mum chatted all the way to the school but I just sat quietly and looked out the window. Rose held my hand and I was worried that she would feel how much I was trembling.
Mum parked the car and as we walked toward the hall I thought about the night of the audition, but Rose didn’t leave my side for a second. Mum gave me a hug and a kiss as we got to the steps.
“Good luck Molly. You are going to be great.” I felt like crying again but I was trying to be brave.
Mum left us to find a seat and I walked up the steps with Rose to try and find Mr Norris.
“Oh my god, it’s her!” I heard a familiar voice say.
I turned and saw Virginia and Allison standing there. “I wondered what happened to that loser,” Virginia sneered and turned away.
Rose grabbed my hand and pulled me away. “Come on, Mr Norris is just over there.”
We walked over to him and my head was spinning. There was no way I could pull this off, but it was too late to back out now. Mr Norris was giving us some late instructions about what to expect but I couldn’t follow a word of what he was saying. Suddenly a bell tinkled and Mr Norris said that it was the ten minute warning bell. We needed to get to our seats on the stage, but I asked if I could quickly go to the bathroom first.
“Okay, but be quick,” Mr Norris said. “Rose, you go with her.”
“Oh, it’s okay. I’ll be fine.” I walked quickly to the bathroom as my mind filled with images of all those terrifying times I had spent in those change rooms. I locked the cubicle door and then threw up into the toilet bowl. My stomach heaved and I felt weak and drained but I knew I had to get back because I didn’t want to let anyone down.
I opened the cubicle door and walked over to the sink to splash water on my face.
“I can’t believe you have the nerve to come back here, you freak.”
I turned around and Virginia was standing behind me. My tongue froze and I thought she was going to punch me again.
“Is everything all right here?” Rose said loudly. Thank goodness, she had come to rescue me.
“Oh, so you still can’t fight your own battles?”
“We have to go Molly. You can deliver the knockout punch in the debate.”
She pulled me away and I followed her blindly to the podium.
The bell tinkled again and Mr Norris walked up to the lectern. “Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, welcome to our fortieth annual inter-school debating night. We have teams competing from our Year 7 students through to the Year 10s. Each speaker has four minutes to present their case and points will be awarded for both argument and presentation skills. The overall winner will be announced by the judges at the end of the evening. First of all, I call on our Year 7 students. Ladies and gentlemen, please make them welcome.” The audience began clapping as the students took their seats at the debating table.
I sat there and stared blindly at the blur of faces in the audience but David snapped his fingers to get my attention.
“All right guys, we have our topic. We need to write Molly’s speech and work out a strategy for our arguments. Our topic is, ‘Students should be held legally responsible for bullying at school’. We are for the affirmative. So Molly, do you have any ideas how we should begin?”
I stared at him blankly, but Rose leapt in. “Why don’t we focus on the negative effects of bullying and what happens if it isn’t stopped?”
“Okay, sounds like a good start,” said David as he wrote down a few notes.
“Molly, what do you think of that?”
I looked at Rose, and suddenly some thoughts started to take shape in my head. “I don’t know, ummm, maybe we should start with where bullying comes from. Then that could lead to the negative effects. But we need something about the legal side of it as well. What does it mean to be held legally responsible for something?”
We started discussing the issues and David was busily scribbling down notes as Rose and I threw ideas around. The Year 7 kids finished and the next grade was well into their debate when Andrew handed the notes to me.
“Time to write it all up,” he said.
I picked up the pen and closed my eyes as the words that were jumbled in my head began to take shape. I quickly started writing and didn’t even hear the Year 9 debaters get called to the podium. I finished and looked down at my speech. Andrew said we had ten minutes to spare, so I spent that time going over what I had written so that I could try and remember it when I had to stand up.
The bell rang again and when I looked up Mr Norris was at the podium introducing us. He said the pointscore was even so far, so everything depended on how the Year 10 debate went.
I stood up with Rose and David and we walked over to the speaker’s podium. I was first speaker and it was time to go. Rose smiled and mouthed, ‘do it.’ I took a deep breath, just like she said, and walked over to the lectern. My hand was shaking so much that I didn’t know what to do with it. I knew my voice was going to come out in a shaky whisper. I took another deep breath, and looked around the hall to see if I could find Mum. The seconds ticked by and I could feel the panic rising inside my stomach, when suddenly I saw Andrew sitting in the second row and smiling at me with his blue eyes.
I looked quickly down at my speech and then launched into it, “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Chair, by the time we have finished tonight you will be convinced that those responsible for bullying should be held accountable.” My voice sounded strange over the loudspeakers but I was surprised at how strong it came out. I looked down at my speech a couple of times but my four minutes had flown by and I was suddenly finished. Rose was grinning as I walked back to my seat and sat down.
The next speaker was Allison and as I sat there listening to her begin her speech I could still feel my legs trembling. But then I realised that she didn’t sound that good and her arguments were weak. I picked up my notepad and started scribbling down ideas and handed them to Rose and David. Allison’s main argument was that bullying was only a minor issue and was best handled by school authorities. But I knew we needed to keep emphasising that school authorities had not been handling bullying very well and stronger actions were needed.
Allison sat down and then it was Rose’s turn. I was amazed at how brilliantly she spoke with just my notes and her own imagination. Her voice rose and fell as she emphasised each point and I thought that if I was the judge then we would win hands down.
Virginia was up next and she gave me a long dirty stare as she walked to the lectern. She started off well and I had to admit that she did a really good job with her speech. She was almost as animated as Rose and I thought the odds might have swung back into her favour. I knew then we had to win and I closed my eyes as I listened to her and tried to think of the argument that would win it for us. Suddenly I got it, and I quickly scribbled some notes down for David. He read it and nodded then grinned at me.
Suddenly it was David’s turn and he stood up and walked confidently over to the lectern. “Ladies and gentlemen, Mr Chair, we have heard strong arguments from both sides, but I will show that the negative have not been able to show that current approaches to bullying work. Our argument is that stronger disincentives are required to work alongside those current approaches, so that when bullying is at an extreme then the culprits can be made to face the consequences of their actions.” He kept talking and I watched the judges’ faces to see if they were leaning our way, but they were all expressionless.
David sat down and then it was another guy from the other team that I didn’t know. He was nowhere near as polished as David and I was pretty sure we had won it, but I was feeling nervous as Mr Norris walked back to the lectern with the results in his hand.
“Ladies and gentlemen, after much deliberation the judges have come to a decision. The winner of the Year 10 debate is… the affirmative team, and that means that the overall winner of this year’s inter-school is Kinross College.”
Rose grabbed me in a big hug because we had won and the audience stood and applauded loudly. David leant over and shook my hand warmly and I looked over toward Mr Norris and he grinned.
Before I knew it we were off the stage and I was looking for Mum, when suddenly Andrew was standing right in front of me. I didn’t hesitate and threw my arms around his neck and we kissed.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Fourteen

My feet were frozen to the ground, and when I opened my mouth to scream nothing came out. I looked around the classroom in a panic and everyone started laughing at me. I could see their faces were all contorted and they pointed toward where I was standing as their jeers filled the air. I looked to Rose for help, but she turned her face away.
“She’ll never make it,” I heard her say.
“What a pretender,” Debbie answered her with a sneer. “She’s such a loser.”
I could feel my heart racing at a million miles an hour and my hands were shaking. I looked down at them and realised that I was holding a piece of paper. I tried to read what was written on it but the words were blurry. Then they started to take shape and I could see more clearly. There were just three words, written in large capital letters. ‘FRECKLES ARE UGLY!’ The words leapt out at me from the page and I looked up horrified, straight into Andrew’s blue eyes. ‘Thank goodness,’ I thought, ‘Andrew will help me.’ I reached my hand out toward him, but he turned toward Debbie.
“You’re right,” he said loudly, “Freckles are ugly!”
“She’s the one I told you about,” Debbie replied.
My hand dropped to my side as the tears burst into my eyes. “She’s not ugly.” I turned to find David standing right beside me. He had one arm raised as he leant against the wall and his body was turned toward mine. “She’s hideous,” he snarled the words at me. “Hideous, hideous, hideous,” he started chanting as I turned and ran for the door, but Mr Norris appeared in the doorway and he stared at me with his beady black eyes.
“Who said you could be on the debating team?” I tried to reply, but again nothing came out when my mouth opened. “You are too stupid, Molly White. Go back to your seat.”
He was suddenly standing in front of the class reading from a book and I found myself at the open window. Mr Norris stopped reading and everyone in the classroom stood silently as they watched me climb onto the window sill, and then I was flying through the air. I looked down and saw Rose walking with Andrew and holding his hand. She looked so pretty with her curls dangling past her cheeks, and I watched as she looked up at Andrew and smiled, then they leaned towards each other and kissed, and I felt myself falling, falling, falling… until I woke up with a start.

Every morning before class over the past week I had sat in the library with Rose and we read together. I had come to see how intelligent she was and I was drawn more and more to her gentle nature, but she forced me to think hard all the time, much harder than I had ever had to think before. Rose made me articulate the things I was feeling so that she could understand, and she was always asking questions about why I thought something as I struggled to explain it to her. She reminded me of Elizabeth from ‘Pride and Prejudice’, while I thought I was more like her sister Jane because she was the quiet one who kept her thoughts to herself.
Most mornings we sat quietly in the library and devoured the words written on each page of our novels and we often turned the pages in unison. At the end of each chapter we would put our heads close together and talk in whispers as we shared our thoughts about what we had just read. Sometimes we just looked through picture books of the history of Jane Austen’s time and talked about what it would have been like to have lived in those olden days.
“Don’t you think it would have been boring?” Rose said one day. “All they seem to do is sit around all day and wait for a husband to come along.”
“But I think that is just what Jane Austen is trying to say,” I replied. “Elizabeth’s younger sisters are the ones chasing after the guys and they are the silliest ones with shallow characters. But Elizabeth is smart. She reads books and she doesn’t just chase after every guy that looks her way.”
Our discussions like that usually went on and on until we were interrupted by the school bell.
But the morning after my dream was different. Every time I looked up I saw that Rose was looking at me strangely. I started to worry about what she was thinking of me and I looked back down at my book and tried to read. I felt disturbed that morning and I didn’t know why. I just couldn’t put my finger on what was bothering me but I had a hollow feeling in my stomach. All of my happiness and confidence seemed to have disappeared with the dream last night and I began to wonder if everything had just been a big illusion. Nobody really thought I was pretty, or smart, or fun to be around, and they were just paying attention to me because I was the new girl in school. I couldn’t understand why I felt so sad, but then I would start to think about the debate that was coming up, and the essay, and all the other school assignments, and as my stomach would twist into a knot I felt like I was going to be sick.
“Molly, is everything okay?”
“Huh? What?” I suddenly realised I had been staring out the window instead of reading.
“Are you okay? You seem, I don’t know, upset or something. Have I done something wrong?”
“Oh… no, no, of course not.” I tried to smile, but I could see she didn’t fall for it.
“What is bothering you?” Rose reached across the table and squeezed my hand.
I suddenly burst into tears for no reason and couldn’t speak. She stood up and came around to my side of the table and put her arm around my shoulders.
“Shhh… it’s okay.” Rose stayed there until I calmed down a little, then when I was okay I squeezed her arm and said ‘thanks’.
She sat in the chair beside me and held both my hands. “What is it, Molly?”
I suddenly blurted out everything that had happened in my dream and told her all about the things that were bothering me, like not being smart enough and nobody liking me, and the debate, and all these boys, and everything just came spilling out.
Rose gently put her hand against my cheek. “You remind me so much of Elizabeth, Molly. You’re smart just like her and you shouldn’t be worried about all these things.”
“But… I thought you were Elizabeth. I’m more like Jane, the quiet one.”
“Oh Molly, that’s not what you’re like at all,” she said. “Maybe we are both Elizabeths,” she laughed.
“So ladies, is this where you’ve been hiding?” said a voice from behind us.
We had been so busy talking that I hadn’t even noticed David come into the library. Suddenly I felt myself blushing for no reason.
“Are you stalking us, David?” said Rose.
“Not at all, I just came in to return a book, when I saw you two fair maidens in conference.” He turned to me and bowed, “How are you, Molly?”
“I’m fine thanks.” I could see Rose looking at us both and my face flushed even redder. “We should probably go, Rose. It’s nearly time for class,” I quickly said as I stood up.
“Perhaps I should escort you two,” said David. I knew he was trying to be gallant but I suddenly burst into tears again.
“Just leave her alone, okay?” said Rose. She took my hand and led me out of the library.

Rose stayed close to me all week, and every time she thought I looked like I was getting emotional she would steer me toward something happier. By the end of the week it had passed and I was starting to feel much better and looking forward to going to youth group again. Rose came home from school with me Friday afternoon so that we could get dressed together and she told Debbie we would meet her at youth group. Debbie was happy with that arrangement because she said she wanted to do some shopping after school anyway.
When we got home, Rose and I sat on my bed and I ran a brush through her straight, shoulder length hair. It was so soft and smooth to touch and a shiny golden-brown, not like the thick tangled auburn curls of my hair. I borrowed Catherine’s curling iron to make Rose’s hair curly and we chatted about school and other things as I worked on her hair.
Then it was my turn and that took much longer because Rose had to pull the brush through the knots that always form in my hair. She tied it all up on top in a loose bun and then teased a ringlet out to fall down over my forehead. She said it looked cute.
When Mum dropped us off at youth group, Rose and I walked boldly up to the hall looking like we had both stepped straight out of a Jane Austen novel. We were a little early and only a few other kids had arrived.
Andrew stood up as we walked into the hall and came over to say hello.
“Hi guys, I’m glad you’re here. Debbie is in the kitchen preparing supper. Rose, she said to send you in when you get here.” Rose said there wasn’t room in the kitchen for three people so she left me in the hall with Andrew and I stood there awkwardly wondering what I should say.
“So how are you enjoying your new school?”
“Oh, it’s fine thanks.”
“That’s cool. Debbie tells me you’re really good at English.”
“It’s my favourite subject, but I wouldn’t say I’m good at it.”
“English is one of my favourite subjects as well, that and music.”
I was curious because I hadn’t seen him around school and I was pretty sure he didn’t go to my old school. “What year are you in?” I asked. “I haven’t seen you around school.”
“I’m in Year Eleven, a year above you and the twins. But I don’t go to school here. I’m at boarding school in the city during the week and I catch the bus home for the weekend every Friday. It just gets me here in time for youth group.”
“Oh wow, that is so amazing. Don’t you get sick of the travelling?”
“It’s not too bad. I usually spend the time reading or writing.”
“So you write? What sort of things do you write?”
“Mostly short stories, fantasy or sci-fi. Sometimes I write poetry, but I’m not very good at it.”
“I would love to read some of it one day.”
“Well maybe you can.” He smiled at me as I looked up into his blue eyes.
Just then Rose called out from the kitchen, “Molly, can you give us a hand here?”
I turned back to Andrew, “I guess I should go.”
“Hurry back.”
I walked over to the kitchen where Debbie and Rose had put out some trays of snacks. “Here, take this and put it on the table over there,” said Debbie.
I put the tray on the table then looked around for Andrew, but he must have gone outside so I went back to the kitchen.
Shortly after, all the other kids arrived and we sat on the floor together in a circle like we had done the last time I was here. Everyone held hands as Andrew bowed his head to say a prayer. I felt a little self-conscious because I wasn’t used to saying prayers, but I bowed my head and listened to his words.
“Dear Lord,” he said, “We give thanks for the friendships we have found here, for bringing everyone through the week safely, and for looking after those in need. In particular, Lord, we say thanks for helping our special friend through her trying week. We know you will continue to guide her footsteps as you do for all of us.”
Was he talking about me? I lifted my head quickly and looked at Rose, but her head was bowed and her lips were whispering a silent prayer. I looked at Andrew but his head was down as well and his eyes were closed. But how would he know that I’d had a bad week? Maybe it was just a coincidence and he meant someone else. I wondered if I should find a way to ask Rose about it later.
When the prayer was over everyone stood and went over to the table where the snacks were laid out. I stood with Rose and Debbie and just listened to the chatter around me. Debbie was the centre of attention as usual as she told us all about her shopping adventures that afternoon. Debbie was always able to find a funny story about every situation.
Then I noticed that Andrew had drifted away from the group and was leaning against another table and strumming his guitar. I excused myself and walked over to him.
“That’s a pretty song you’re playing, what is it?”
“It’s a Bob Dylan song. They’re old but I love Dylan’s songs. That one is called ‘Blowing in the Wind’.”
“Oh, hang on. I think I know that. We did it at school once when I was little.”
“Really? Let’s see if you can remember it.” He started playing and I tried hard to remember how the words went but it was too long ago.
“I can’t remember it,” I said.
“No worries. I have the music here.” Andrew pulled a sheet of paper from his guitar case and all those words from my childhood came flooding back. He started playing again and I joined in. Andrew began singing the chorus with me and by the time we finished everyone had gathered around us and were clapping. I was concentrating so hard on singing that I hadn’t even noticed them join us.
“Sing some more,” Debbie called out. Andrew pulled some more sheets of paper from his guitar case and I looked through them for familiar songs. He said they were all old folk songs from the sixties and seventies.
“Oh, I know this one,” I said. “Mum and Dad used to listen to it.” I held up a page and we sang that song and then another and another until it was time for everyone to go home.
I helped Rose and Debbie clean up with a couple of the other girls and then I grabbed my bag and followed Rose out the door. Andrew was sitting on the railing of the steps and he hopped off as I walked outside.
“So I’ll see you next week?” he said.
I said that I hoped I would be able to make it.
“Cool,” he said. “Bring your guitar and I’ll teach you how to play some songs.”
“That would be great, I’d love that,” I replied. After such a horrible week I suddenly felt like I was floating. I stood there looking up at him, wondering what to say next.
“Hurry up, Molly. You’re Mum’s here,” Debbie called out.
“I guess I had better go.”
“I’ll be waiting for you next week. Bye Molly.” I ran down the stairs to join Debbie and Rose in the car. As Mum drove off, I looked back through the window to see Andrew give me a wave.

I woke early Saturday morning and lay in bed listening to the birds chirping happily outside. I felt happy as well after last night at youth group, and kept replaying in my head all of the songs we had sung. I started thinking about Andrew then, and the way his blue eyes seemed to look straight into my heart. The way his voice wrapped around mine while we sang together made me feel a warm glow all over my body.
I suddenly had an idea that I should do a song for my creative piece. The more I thought about it, the more the desire to write something grew stronger and stronger. I wondered if I could ask Andrew to help me with the music.
As I lay in bed, I looked across at the door to Stephen’s bedroom. I began to wonder what he would think of Andrew. Would they like each other? I tried to remember Stephen’s voice, but all I could hear in my head was Andrew’s singing.
Even though I felt happy inside, a tear started to appear in the corner of my eye. It slowly ran down my nose and landed on my pillow. Another tear started immediately after it, but I didn’t want to be sad this morning so I hopped out of bed and got dressed.
The house was quiet because everyone was still asleep, so I went outside to walk around in the early morning sunlight, until I found myself standing in front of the shed. I hesitated, then put my hand against the door and pushed it open. My bike was in the corner covered in dust. I walked over to it and touched the handlebars. It was so dusty it was disgusting, but I found an old rag and began to wipe it clean.
I could see lots of marks on the paintwork from the accident, but Mum had said the man from the bike shop had fixed all the bent and broken bits.
I wheeled it outside into the sunlight and climbed onto the seat. I then leaned forward and rested my hands on the handlebars, and after a moment started pedaling slowly to make my way down the laneway. I turned left onto the road toward town and let myself roll faster and faster down the hill past the golf course.
There was a little creek at the bottom of the hill and I slowed down to listen to the happy music of the frogs croaking. Then I had to climb up the hill toward my old high school. My heart was beating hard because I had become so unfit since the accident, but I was also worried that I might be seen by some kids from my old school. The leg I had broken was aching as well, but I kept pedaling fast until I was past the school and then just kept on going through town.
After a while I realised that I wasn’t far from the crematorium and I turned my bike toward the gate at the entrance. I hadn’t been to visit since my accident and I felt guilty as I laid my bike on the ground and walked into the walled enclosure that I knew so well.
There was only a plaque on the wall, but I knew he was there. I sat on the edge of the pond and looked up into the branches of the tree above me. It had grown so much and I could still remember when it was only as high as the wall. It made me feel small to see how tall the tree had grown over the years.
I closed my eyes and let my thoughts drift as I tried to find some words to name the feeling I had. It was such a confusing mixture of happy and sad. As I sat there, some words started to form in my mind. I played them over and over as they began to take shape. After a while I had the whole song written in my head and I knew I had to get home and write it down before I forgot the words.
I flew home on my bike as fast as I could and raced into my bedroom to grab my writing journal. I held a pen above the page and closed my eyes as I tried to remember how it went, then started writing.
When I was finished, I looked at the words scattered on the page and read it again and again. I didn’t know if the song was any good or if I should use it for my English assignment and I knew I would have to show it to Rose to get her opinion. But most of all, I couldn’t wait until Friday to share it with Andrew. I hoped he would understand that there was a song in my heart. I read the words again,

‘Of all the words,
In all the books,
Stacked from ceiling to floor,
He searches every tattered page
For words that have true feeling.

The excitement of a new chapter,
Of mystery and anticipation,
A hint of romance,
Cautiously turning pages,
Eager to devour the words
That brought my thoughts.

He reads the words
That tumbled from my fingers,
Nervously letting his eyes wander
Over my heart’s story;
A leap of faith to my reader.

He reads my words
Like he breathes the air,
Inhaling each letter
Deeply into his lungs;
Holding his breath
For my next sentence.’

I rushed to meet Rose in the library as soon as I got to school on Monday morning. I had been bursting to show her my song all weekend, but when I walked through the library door and saw her sitting at our usual table I suddenly felt self-conscious.
Rose looked up and smiled as I slipped into my seat across the table from her. “Hey Molly, what do you want to read this morning?”
I reached into my bag and pulled out my writing journal. Rose looked curious as I opened the journal at the page that had my song on it and I pushed it across the table to her. I hadn’t been game to speak because I was worried that I would chicken out and not show it to her at all.
I held my breath as I watched Rose’s face while her eyes scanned my words. She had a little frown in the middle of her forehead, and the longer she took the more worried I started to become that she didn’t like it. This was why I never showed my writing to anyone.
Eventually she looked up and grinned. “Molly, I love it. It’s so beautiful.”
“It’s for my creative piece,” I said. “I thought it could be a song.”
“It reads beautifully as a poem. You shouldn’t turn it into a song,” Rose replied. “But it would make a great song as well,” she added quickly when she saw the look on my face.
“I thought Andrew might help me with the music.”
“You should ask him. I’m sure he would. Have you written your rationale yet?”
“What do you mean?” A little icy stab of fear darted through my heart.
“The rationale. You have to write an explanation of what the poem means.”
“Oh my gosh, I didn’t realise that. I thought it was just the essay and the creative piece.”
“No, the essay is a different thing. Have you started it yet, by the way? We are meant to have a draft in by Friday, remember?”
“I haven’t forgotten.” Actually, I had forgotten because I had spent the whole weekend thinking about Andrew and whether he would like my song.
“Do you need help to get started on your assignments?”
I shrugged because I wasn’t game to say yes and admit that I had no idea what to say.
“Okay,” said Rose. “Let’s start with the poem. What does it mean?”
I hadn’t thought about what it meant. It was just an idea and something that I felt rather than trying to be a statement about anything. I looked at the words and tried to think of something to say because I knew that Rose wouldn’t let up until she was satisfied with my answer.
“Ummm…,” I began, “It’s, ummm, like there’s two sets of people.” I was surprised to find an idea had floated into my mind and I tried to push it into shape. Rose smiled encouragingly. “It’s like there’s two sets of lovers, talking to each other with the same words.” I tested the idea to see what Rose thought, and she started nodding thoughtfully. “In each case, one of the lovers is a writer and the other is a reader. So the first time you read the poem is like someone is reading a Jane Austen book, so they are the lover of her words and she is the writer who has poured her soul into the novel. When you read the poem again, the writer is someone that draws inspiration from reading lots of Jane Austen books and is trying to express how she feels to the person she loves who is reading the poem.”
I stopped and looked at Rose. “Sorry, that doesn’t make much sense, does it?” I finished lamely.
“But Molly, it makes perfect sense. You have to write all that down now. I love it and you amaze me so much.” Rose paused for a moment, “The second writer is clearly you, so… who is the person you love that you’re writing to?”
‘Oh my gosh,’ I thought to myself. ‘I hadn’t thought of that. There’s no way I will ever be able to show this poem to Andrew if that is what it means.’
“I guess it’s just fiction,” I said as I blushed.
Rose reached across the table and squeezed my hand. She didn’t say anything, but she didn’t need to because her eyes said it all and I knew that she knew my secret.

The week passed by in a blur as every spare moment was spent on my essay. Rose kept dragging me up to the library and forced me to keep writing and rewriting. I had never put so much effort into any piece of schoolwork before, but Rose was relentless. She kept arguing with me about every single thing I wrote.
“What do you mean by that?” she would say. “Why is this important? How do these ideas fit together?” Rose just went on and on and I had to write so much that I thought my hand was going to drop off.
Debbie wasn’t much better because she kept at me to go over my maths homework with her every afternoon in our free period. Equations still made my eyes glaze over and all of those numbers were fuzzy in my brain. Writing just happened for me and words would flow from my pen so that the only thing I had to do was rearrange them sometimes until they made sense. But maths was never like that and I had to concentrate really hard to make any sense of it. By the next day I would forget everything and have to start all over again.
Where Rose encouraged me to argue and defend my ideas, Debbie was kind and patient as she went over the mathematical concepts again and again until I finally thought I understood them. I don’t know how she managed to stop herself from exploding in frustration.
Thursday night the twins invited me to have a sleepover at their house so that we could all finish our assignments together and study for Friday’s maths test. Normally I would have just let both those things happen and get whatever marks came my way. It was much easier to read a book and forget that I had homework than to get myself stressed about how much work I had to do. But both Debbie and Rose insisted that it would be fun if we all studied together.
We walked together to their house after school, taking our time and chatting all the way. Debbie did the most talking as usual, but as Rose and I had become much closer friends we both joined in more and more. I walked in between the twins and Rose said it was like we had become the triplets.
They lived in a big Federation-style house that was about five blocks away from the school. As we got closer I realised that it wasn’t far from the hospital, and I began to tell the girls all about Jenny and the other nurses. Debbie said I should go and visit one day and she would come with me.
Before I knew it we arrived at their front gate and Debbie pushed it open. A hedge covered the fence and it looked like the entrance to a fantasy world. Debbie closed the gate behind us and then bounded up the front steps to the verandah. She opened the front door and threw her schoolbag on the floor in the hallway.
“Mum, we’re home,” she yelled.
“I’m in the kitchen,” a voice came from the other end of the house. It sounded soft and gentle, just like Rose’s voice.
I followed the twins down the hallway and stepped through into a large open area where there was a long sofa in front of the television and stereo. The room looked a bit messy and there were magazines scattered everywhere amongst the pillows on the sofa, but it looked lived in and cozy and I thought it was just the sort of place where you could curl up on the sofa and spend the day reading a book.
“Mum, this is Molly,” said Rose. I turned toward the kitchen to say hello to Mrs Long.
“Hello Molly. I’ve heard so much about you. It’s nice to finally meet you.” She was standing in front of the kitchen window and the afternoon light made a golden halo around her head. I was astonished because she looked exactly like an older version of the twins.
“Hello Mrs Long.” I tried to sound confident and use my best manners, but as usual my nervousness made my voice all shaky.
“Why don’t you girls make yourselves comfortable? The boys won’t be home until after six, so dinner will be a bit late tonight.”
I hadn’t even thought about there being other people here, but I should have realised because I knew Debbie and Rose had three older brothers. That didn’t help my nervousness either, but Rose grabbed my hand.
“Come on, Molly. Let’s finish our essays first.”
She dragged me down the hallway and through a door into her bedroom. It was like entering a fairy kingdom. The walls were covered with paintings and drawings of fairies and goblins. There were castles and all sorts of mystical creatures and Rose’s bed was covered in dolls that were dressed like princesses and fairies.
“Wow, this is so amazing!” I stood in the middle of this wonderful fairy world. “Did you do all of these, Rose? I never knew you could paint. Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Yes, they’re mine. I like to paint pictures just like you paint with words.”
My mind suddenly went back all those years ago to my childhood and I wondered what Stephanie would think of all these wonderful fairies. I hadn’t thought about her in ages but I could still remember all the times we had talked about running off to a fairy world.
“I used to have a friend that loved fairies. We always imagined what a fairy kingdom would be like, and now I know.”
Rose laughed. “Well we have a lot of work to do before we play.” She jumped onto the bed. “Come on, get your essay out.”
I climbed onto Rose’s bed amongst all the fairy dolls and over the next hour or so we worked on our essays until Rose was finally satisfied and let me stop.
“I think you will get an ‘A’ for that, and your poem.”
“That would be a miracle,” I laughed. “I’ve never gotten a mark that high before.”
I hopped off the bed and started looking closely at Rose’s drawings, when Debbie came into the room.
“Have you guys finished? We should do some maths before dinner.” She flopped on the other bed in the room and started opening her textbook. “Come on, Molly. I’m not letting you get out of this.”
Rose stayed on her bed, but all three of us worked through our maths together.
“So, if you know what ‘x’ is, then you can find ‘y’, right?” I said. Debbie nodded. “But how do you know what ‘x’ is?” Debbie tried to explain that the question usually told you what ‘x’ was, but sometimes it didn’t and then you would just have to simplify the equation. I thought it would be much simpler not to do it at all, but we kept working as my brain got more and more fuddled until Mrs Long called us for dinner.
I was glad to close my book and follow the twins down the hallway to the dining room, but as I walked through the door I was overwhelmed to see all these grown men sitting at the table and talking loudly to each other.
“Everyone, this is Molly,” said Mrs Long. “Let’s make her feel welcome and don’t be too noisy tonight. Molly, this is Glenn, Scott, and Tim, and John is Debbie’s and Rose’s dad.”
They all said hello at once and I said hello back shyly but they soon forgot about me and the conversion started up again as soon as I sat on a chair between Debbie and Rose.
“You should have seen Choc at training today,” said one of the brothers. “The coach had us running laps, but every time we went behind the clubhouse, Choc would hide and skip a lap. The guys were all laughing so much.”
“Hey, I found some new fishing lures today. I thought I might try them out on the weekend,” Tim interrupted him.
“Did you remember to get prices for those new tyres?” Mr Long had a loud voice but his face was open and friendly.
“Yeah, I did. I think we can get a good deal at Jacko’s.”
“What about the battery for the truck?”
“Pass the potatoes, please.”
“Does anyone else want the sauce?”
It was so noisy that my head was spinning with all these conversations going on at once. Debbie joined in just like the others, but Rose tended to sit there more quietly like me. It felt nice though, and reminded me of dinners used to be like at home when my sisters were talking at once, before they all moved away.
After dinner, Mrs Long made up a mattress for me on the floor in between the twin’s beds. I helped her lay the sheets and blankets on the mattress, and when she finished she stood up and said, “I always wondered what having another daughter would have been like, and now I know.” She handed me a pillow and smiled as I said thank you. I wasn’t nervous anymore because everyone had made me feel like I was part of the family.
We cleaned our teeth and then sat on our beds and talked.
“Why don’t we play truth or dare?” said Debbie. “I’ll start and we’ll go around in a circle. So Rose, what is the most daring thing you’ve done in public?”
“Ummm, I think that would have to be the debate last year. Standing up in front of all those people.”
“Well that’s a bit boring,” said Debbie. “Okay, your turn. Ask Molly something.”
“Okay. Molly, what is your worst fear?”
“Oh gosh, I have so many,” I laughed. “Let’s see, I’m afraid of heights, I hate spiders and creepy crawlies. Ummm… is that enough?”
“That will do for now,” said Debbie. “Now you have to ask me a question.” She sat with her legs crossed on the bed and looked at me expectantly.
“Alright, let me think. Ummm, have you ever lied to your parents?”
“Yes,” said Debbie as she grinned.
“Well, come on,” said Rose, “More information.”
“Okay. Do you remember when we were little and someone ate all the jelly before Christmas? Well that was me.”
“That was you?” said Rose. “Everyone blamed Tim for that!”
“My question now. Molly, have you ever peed in a swimming pool?”
“Aww Debbie, that is disgusting,” said Rose. “Ask her a proper question.” We all giggled and the questions went round and round the bedroom. It was getting late and I was starting to get sleepy when we decided it was time to turn the light out.
“One more question,” said Debbie. “Molly, have you ever had a crush on anyone?”
My face went bright red and I didn’t know what to say.
“Come on, you have to answer. We’re not allowed secrets here.” Both girls were looking at me.
“Yes,” I replied softly.
“You have to tell us more than that!”
“No she doesn’t,” Rose jumped in. “She answered your question. You should have been more specific.”
She hopped out of bed and turned out the light and we all said goodnight to each other. I closed my eyes and as I drifted off to sleep I kept thinking about Debbie’s question. The last thing I remembered was an image of Andrew’s face floating in my mind.

The next evening the sun had left an orange glow in the sky as I climbed out of the car with my guitar. I said goodbye to Mum and she drove off to leave me standing in front of the church hall. I felt great now that my big week was finally over. I had handed my English assignments in on time and the maths test wasn’t as bad as I had expected, and after all that tension I now felt a tingle of excitement that I was going to be seeing Andrew again. I still hadn’t decided whether to show him my poem or not, but I had it in my bag just in case.
I walked up the steps to the hall and said hello to the kids that were sitting outside. They moved their legs so I could get past and I walked inside to find Debbie and Rose. They were standing around with a group of other kids and talking, and I put my guitar down and walked over to them.
“Hey guys, what’s up?”
“Hi Molly, we were just discussing what to do tonight. It’s a choice between singing like we did last week, doing some readings, or going for a torch light walk along the creek to spot possums. What do you think? We’re going to have a vote when everyone gets here.”
I had been looking forward to singing again, so I said that’s what I’d be voting for, but it turned out that everyone else wanted to go for the walk.
Andrew gathered all the kids together in a group and gave instructions. “Okay guys, we only have enough torches for there to be one shared between two people. We are going to walk from here across the primary school oval and then follow the path along the creek. We will stop when we reach the bridge and make sure everyone is there, and then head back the same way. Are there any questions?”
I stood at the back and listened to Andrew leading the group. I was a little bit disappointed that he hadn’t come over to say hello, but I guess he had been too busy organising the walk since I had arrived.
Everyone began getting themselves into pairs and Andrew was handing out torches. Debbie came over and told me that we would walk as a group of four with Rose and Andrew because there weren’t enough torches to go around. I told her I didn’t know if I would be very good on the walk because I was wearing ballet flats and had a long dress on, but she told me not to be silly and that it would be fun.
“Rightyo,” Andrew called out, “Let’s go and make sure you don’t run or get too far ahead. We’ll meet at the bridge.”
We went last so that Andrew could make sure nobody got left behind or lost and I followed Andrew and Rose down the steps. Debbie walked beside me as we headed across the primary school oval and I had to keep hurrying every now and then to keep up. Rose was carrying the torch and its light beam danced all over the ground as we walked across the dark oval. We had to climb through a fence when we reached the other side and Andrew lifted the barbed wire with his hands and pushed his foot down on the netting to make a gap for us to squeeze through. I was the last over and I had to gather the skirt of my dress in my hands so that I could climb over without it catching on the wire. I nearly tripped, but Andrew grabbed my arm to steady me.
“I’m fine thanks,” I said sharply as I stood up. Andrew quickly let go of my arm and we started walking again.
As we made our way into the park, there was only room for us all to walk in single file and I let myself drop to the back. I could still see the beam of the torch, but Rose was getting so far ahead that I kept stumbling over sticks and rocks on the ground. My feet were starting to hurt and I wished I could go back, but I didn’t have any choice now we had come this far. I also wished I had worn something more practical. If only I’d known we would be walking instead of singing.
Even Debbie was silent as we made our way through the darkness of the park and I could hear the peaceful burbling of the creek and the croaking frogs. I loved hearing frogs because they always sounded so happy to be singing together. Every now and then there was the sound of snapping twigs and something would scurry away from the path. I was trying not to be scared or think about what would happen if I walked into a cobweb, when the path slowly started to get wider and we came across a grassy patch where there were no trees. I guessed this must have been the picnic area that I had seen from the car sometimes. Rose was getting way ahead of me now but it was easier to see where I was going because the moon was lighting the way and Andrew dropped back and started walking beside me.
“How are you going?”
“Fine,” I said. I was still miffed that he hadn’t said hello to me at the hall.
“Did you have a good week?”
“It was okay.” I just didn’t feel like talking and we walked along in silence.
“My week was busy. I have lots of school assignments at the moment and exams are coming up soon.”
I thought about how hectic my week had been, but I didn’t say anything.
“I can’t wait for mid-term break. It will be good to have a spell from studying for a week.”
“Yeah, I guess.” I don’t know why I didn’t feel talkative. I had spent all week wanting to see Andrew again, but now that we were here it had all been spoilt because he didn’t say hello.
“I probably won’t make it home for the next couple of weekends. I’ve got too much work on, but after that I need to be home to help Dad with the yard.”
“That’s nice.” I felt terrible that I was being so nasty, but I couldn’t help myself.
“I guess we should try and catch up with the others before we get left behind.”
“You can go on ahead. I can see where I’m going.”
“Oh no, I didn’t mean that, it’s just…” He broke off and we walked along in silence. We had nearly caught up to Rose and Debbie anyway, but I could see we were heading back into trees and the path was getting narrow again.
“Careful guys,” called Rose, “There’s a ledge here that you need to climb down.”
I followed Andrew down as Rose shone a light on the rock so that I could see where to put my feet. I took a step forward and suddenly my foot slipped out from under me and I felt myself falling and then Andrew was there holding me steady in his strong arms.
“Are you okay?” he asked as he lowered me to the ground.
“Yes, thank you… oh, thank you so much.” I suddenly burst into tears because of the fright, but luckily nobody could see them in the darkness.
“Why don’t you two go ahead,” said Andrew. “We might wait here at the rock until everyone comes back. Debbie, you can be in charge.”
Debbie and Rose disappeared around the bend and left Andrew and I alone. He was still holding my hand.
“Would you like to sit down?”
“Is it clean?” I asked.
“Here, I’ll wipe it for you.” He picked up a dead branch and swept the rock clean with the leaves. “It’s so clean you could eat off it,” he said.
I sat down and tucked my dress between my legs so that it wouldn’t get dirty.
Andrew sat beside me, and although I couldn’t see him very well in the darkness I could see from his outline that he was looking up toward the moon.
“I’m sorry I was rude to you,” I blurted out.
“What do you mean?”
“I haven’t been very talkative.”
“Oh, that’s okay. I don’t mind. I saw you brought your guitar tonight. I’m sorry we won’t get a chance to play together, but we try to do different things all the time and some of the guys wanted to go walking tonight and I didn’t have much choice.”
“I know it’s not your fault.” We fell silent and sat there for a few minutes.
“Molly, I’ve been thinking about you all week,” said Andrew. I could see his face was turned towards mine.
“Really?” My mind was swirling and I felt a hot tingling sensation all over my body.
“Yeah, I was just hoping to see you again, because…” He stopped and I guessed he was searching for the right words.
I turned my face towards his and was just about to say something, when suddenly he leaned closer and pressed his lips against mine. It seemed so right and natural as I kissed him back and felt like I was floating higher and higher until we were both sailing above the moon. Everything else in the universe ceased to exist at that moment except the two of us locked together in our lover’s embrace.
I lost all track of time and felt like we had been kissing for a million years, when I started to hear the voices of kids coming down the track. Debbie and Rose were in the lead as they burst into the clearing.
“Hey guys, everything okay?” Debbie called out.
“Yep, perfect,” Andrew replied.
We stood back and waited for all the kids to pass and I was sure that Rose and Debbie would hear how loud my heart was beating. Andrew then helped me climb up the rock and we followed the group back toward the church hall. Rose was walking just in front with the torch and I followed her with Andrew by my side, still holding my hand. I leant my head against his shoulder and he bent down and kissed my hair in the darkness.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Thirteen

I was dreading the end of school holidays and as the last week of the break drew nearer I began to feel sick each morning. My stomach was churning so much that I couldn’t eat breakfast and I had to spend a long time in the bathroom.
Mum talked about taking me to see a doctor, but then she decided that a change of school would be good for me. A few days later she told me she had enrolled me in the same high school that Debbie and Rose went to. Once I found that we would be sharing a lot of the same classes I stopped being sick in the morning.
By the time the first day of school came around I was actually excited and looking forward to starting school again. Debbie and Rose met me at the school gate and we walked towards the red brick building together. Debbie seemed to know everybody and she introduced me to all of her friends as we walked along. I didn’t feel like the outsider anymore and nobody laughed at my red hair or freckles. I even found myself smiling and laughing with the other girls.
In the half hour before the bell rang for the first class of the year, Debbie entertained everyone with stories about her holiday at the beach. Some of the stories were so funny that I wondered if we had even been at the same beach together.
As usual, Debbie didn’t stop talking as I followed her down the corridor to the classroom. We sat next to each other for the first lesson and the teacher assigned everyone their lockers and a list of textbooks that we would need for each subject. We were then given ten minutes to find our lockers, take the keys from the lock, and get back to the classroom.
“Come on, Molly, our lockers are just around the corner so we can be quick,” said Debbie. I followed her around the corner to find a group of kids from one of the other classes were already standing at the lockers.
I looked at the piece of paper I had been given with my name on it and saw that I had been assigned locker sixteen. That will be easy to remember, I thought, because that is how old I will be on my next birthday. I walked over to locker sixteen to get my key, but there was a guy standing in the way.
I took a deep breath and said, “Excuse me. I need to get to my locker.” I waited for the nasty remark that would follow as the guy turned around, but instead he bowed and stepped to one side.
“Pardon me, mademoiselle.” His smile was infectious and I couldn’t help but smile back. Then Debbie was right beside me.
“Hurry up, Molly. We need to get back.”
I suddenly felt flustered as I rushed to get my locker key with this guy watching me.
“Hi Deb,” said the guy. “Who’s your cute friend?”
“Hey David, this is Molly. She’s new here, so be nice. Molly this is David.”
David reached out his hand, and I held mine out uncertainly. He took my fingertips gently and raised my hand to kiss the back of it softly.
“Enchanted, mon cheri.” My head was spinning and I felt like I was watching a movie scene from above rather than in my own body.
“Leave her alone, David. She’s already spoken for.” Debbie then grabbed my elbow and hurried me back to the classroom. I turned and looked back over my shoulder before we went around the corner. David was still looking at me and he smiled and waved. I waved too before Debbie jerked me into the classroom.
The morning went quickly and before I knew it we were back in the playground for our recess break. I was trying to find a way to ask Debbie about David but she beat me to it.
“You don’t want to get swept away by David,” she said. “He tries that act on all the girls.”
“Is that why you said I was ‘taken’?”
“Of course, I’m just looking out for you, Molly. Don’t give away your heart too easily.”
She squeezed my arm and smiled, “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, of course.” I gave her a little smile back but I couldn’t get the picture of David’s face out of my mind, or the way he kissed my hand.
The next lesson was English and I found myself sitting next to Rose this time because Debbie was in a different class. I had found it hard to get to know Rose, and I wasn’t even sure if she liked me or not because we never talked that much. I kept worrying about it and I wondered if maybe Rose was really shy like me and was just overshadowed by Debbie. I decided to make more of an effort to get Rose to like me, but I wasn’t sure what I should do. Maybe if I tried to be more like Debbie then that would work.
“Isn’t it great being back at school?” I said, trying to sound bright, just like Debbie.
“It’s okay, I guess.”
“Well I’m excited.” Rose looked at me funny and was about to say something when the teacher walked into the classroom.
“Good morning class. I’m sorry that I’m late. For those that don’t know me, my name is Mr Norris.”
I groaned. Why did he have to follow me here when I was trying to start all over again?
“I think I see some familiar faces, so hello to you, and welcome everyone to Year 10 English.”
I looked around the room and all the kids were sitting up straight and paying attention to him. It was completely different from my old high school.
“We have a full program of study this year, but there will be three main strands. First of all, we will be studying the novels of Jane Austen.”
I sat up and suddenly started paying attention. Once again Mr Norris seemed to know exactly what I was interested in.
“There will be a major essay and a creative piece due at the end of Term One. Then we will take what we have learned from Jane Austen into the world of debate. Ultimately, I will be selecting a team to take on our colleagues at that other high school across town.”
He paused and looked around the class, and then his eyes fell on me. I quickly looked down at my desk because I knew there was no way I was ever going to get involved in a debating team, particularly if it meant coming up against those kids from my old school when I had only just escaped from them.
“For the rest of the year after that,” Mr Norris continued, “We will be studying King Lear and then putting on a performance for the Christmas concert.”
He stood and looked at the class with his black beady eyes, but I thought they looked kinder and more eager than I remembered them.
After school, I walked out to the front gate with Debbie and we talked about our first day at school. I told her how excited I was that we were studying Jane Austen, but she was more interested in having been able to catch up with all her friends.
I met Mum at the school gate. “How was your first day of school?” she asked.
“Fantastic!” I replied, and jumped in the car.
All the way home I told her about what we were doing in English for the year, but I didn’t tell her about that boy near my locker.
When I got home that night I finished reading ‘Pride and Prejudice’. My head was so full of Elizabeth and Darcy that I rushed to the library as soon as I got to school the next morning and borrowed a different Jane Austen novel. I was so eager to start reading that I sat at a table in the library and read the first chapter rather than meeting my new friends outside. I loved the way the words were so soft and gentle, and while I enjoyed the romance, I sensed there was some other message in there that I needed to figure out.
The copy of the book I borrowed from the library had illustrations in it and I fell in love immediately with the elegant dresses the characters wore. I thought if I tied a ribbon around the middle of my long white Juliet dress then it would look just like the real thing from a Jane Austen novel. I decided that I would try that with my dress on the weekend and I would have a go at doing my hair in that style as well. I studied the pictures closely and tried to work out how they got their hair tied up on top of the head like that. I could do that with a couple of ribbons as well, and with my naturally curly hair it should be easy to leave a couple of curls dangling down either side of my face. Mum should be able to help because she had lots of ribbons in her sewing room. I just needed to remember to ask her when I got home.
The bell rang and I quickly packed the book in my bag and hurried out of the library. I had five minutes to get some things from my locker before I had to get to my next class so I ran down the stairs as fast as I could.
When I got to my locker I found David was standing in front of it again with his own locker door open. He had the locker next to mine, but he was talking to a friend instead of getting his books out.
“Hi David, can I please get to my locker,” I said quietly.
David turned around and grinned at me, then stepped aside.
“Why if it isn’t mademoiselle,” he said, “What’s the rush, belle petite rousse?”
“I have to get to class,” I blushed.
“So do I. Why don’t you let me walk with you? I can show you the way.”
“It’s okay, I know where to go.” I closed my locker door and started walking away down the corridor, but then David appeared right beside me.
“So what brings you to our fair school?”
“Oh, ummm… we just moved here.” I didn’t really know why I lied, but I also didn’t want to tell him I had been at the other high school before in case he knew some of the kids from there.
“I have to go now,” I said as I reached the door to my classroom.
David put his arm across the door and blocked my way. “I’ll see you later, l’amour de la vie.” He brushed a stray strand of hair from my face and stepped to one side with a bow. I rushed past and sat in my seat feeling flustered.
“Where have you been all morning?” asked Debbie.
“Oh, gosh, ummm… I went to the library to get some books.”
“So that’s why your face is all red?”
“Oh, is it? Ummm… I was just running.” I opened my textbook and pretended to be looking closely at the words, but I was aware that Debbie was still looking at me curiously when the teacher walked into the room.
“Okay ladies and gentleman. Algebra…”
I opened my notebook and wrote down a little verse that had popped into my head,

“In that moment between breaths,
No more clouds, but light
Shining brightly, clear beauty.”

I looked at my words for a moment then closed my notebook and quickly opened my maths book. Then I noticed Debbie look away. ‘Oh my gosh,’ I thought to myself, ‘Did she see what I had written?’ I went red from embarrassment but tried to concentrate on what my maths teacher was saying.
“To solve an equation, you must find the common factors and cancel them…”
I needed to pay attention more, because I really had no idea what he meant. Debbie leant towards me and said, “Don’t worry, Molly. I can help you later.”
I looked at her and smiled. She really was my best friend.
After class, Debbie followed me outside and pounced on me straight away.
“What were you really doing before class?”
“I told you, I was in the library.”
“So how come I saw you walking with David?”
“Oh, ummm… he followed me from my locker. I was trying to get rid of him.”
“That’s not what it looked like to me,” she said. She looked thoughtful for a moment then added, “Say, why don’t you join us on Friday night? Rose and I go to youth group for our church. It’s a lot of fun and hardly religious at all. We play music and do lots of stuff… like reading poetry.”
“Oh, I’d love to Deb. That sounds like fun.” I was glad she had changed the subject.

When Friday night came, I put on my Jane Austen dress and tied my hair in a way I imagined that Elizabeth had worn. Mum then dropped me off at the hall where the youth group was held and kissed me goodbye as I hopped out of the car.
“Have fun, Molly. I will pick you up at eight,” she called behind me. I waved my hand without turning around as I walked toward the old brick building that stood next to the chapel of the church. When I saw a group of kids sitting around the front steps of the hall I suddenly felt really nervous and started to wish I hadn’t dressed so differently from everyone else. I didn’t know any of them and they just stared at me as I walked toward the group.
“Hi, I was looking for Debbie Long,” I said, trying to sound brave and confident but hearing the shaky softness of my own voice and wishing I was stronger.
“She’s inside.” One of the kids pointed inside the doorway, so I said ‘thanks’ and walked between them to go inside.
The hall was a rectangle with wooden floorboards and a stage at one end. There was a picture of the queen on one wall and the other wall was covered in posters that some of the kids must have made. There was a group of about a dozen teenagers sitting around in a circle and holding hands. Their heads were bowed and one of them was saying a prayer. I stood there awkwardly and waited for them to finish.
Debbie noticed me when she lifted her head and came bounding over to take my hand.
“Come and meet the gang,” she said brightly. I followed her nervously, feeling out of place and wishing I had never come. “This is Molly everyone, she’s coming to join us. She sings and writes poetry.” I felt myself blushing from embarrassment. I should have expected something like that from Debbie but I thought she might be gentler for my first time.
“Molly, I want you to meet everyone. You know Rose, of course, and this is Bruce, and Anne…”
Debbie went around the group and introduced me to everyone. Each one of them stood up and said ‘hello’ until there was only one guy left sitting on the ground. I hadn’t noticed him at first because I was so nervous, but now I saw that he had short sandy hair and looked a little shy. “… and this is Andrew. Andrew, this is the Molly I have been telling you about.”
Andrew stood up and I realised he was much taller than I had thought. He made me feel even shorter than usual as he reached out his hand. As our fingers met, I half expected him to kiss my hand like David had done, but instead he shook it gently but firmly. His skin was cool against my hot fingers, and I looked up into the most dazzling blue eyes I had ever seen. They were so hypnotic that I found myself staring into them for longer than I should have. Suddenly Andrew smiled and my heart started racing. “I’m really pleased to meet you, Molly. Debbie has told me so much about you, and I’m sure you’re going to enjoy being part of our group.” I gave a little smile back, but I was too flustered to say anything. His voice was as gentle and smooth as his hand, and I realised that he wasn’t shy at all, just… I searched for the right word, confident? Controlled? Or something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. He let go of my hand and I stood there awkwardly, realising everyone had been watching us.
Debbie suddenly put her arm around me. “Come and sit, we were just about to do some singing.”
I sat on the floor between Debbie and Rose, and the rest of the group spread around us in a circle. Andrew was sitting directly opposite me and he picked up a guitar and started strumming for a few moments. Then he lifted his head and looked straight at me as he sang. All the others joined in after the first verse, but I didn’t know the song so I just sat there with my eyes hypnotised by Andrew’s gaze.
When the song finished, Andrew held the guitar up. “Who else knows how to play the guitar?”
“Molly can,” Debbie leapt in straight away.
I felt so embarrassed that my face was burning as I tried to explain how I didn’t really know how to play properly, but Andrew stood up and brought the guitar over to me.
“Whatever you do, it will be beautiful,” he said.
I sat with my legs crossed and placed the guitar on my lap. I tried to remember how Shawn’s song went and I tentatively strummed a chord. It sounded okay, so I strummed a few more times and tried to find the rhythm. I was too embarrassed to look up, so I kept my head down and looked at the guitar and tried to pretend that I knew what I was doing. Then the words came to me and I opened my mouth to sing, “Can you imagine anything…”
My voice sounded hollow and thin in my ears and my fingers stumbled a few times, but I managed to get through the song and then looked up. Everyone in the group was staring at me. Some had their mouths open and I wished the ground would open up and swallow me. I could feel the tears coming and I was suddenly upset because I hadn’t been sad in ages and now Debbie had embarrassed me in front of all her friends. I was about to put the guitar down and run out of the hall, when Andrew leant over to take it from my hands.
“That was so beautiful,” he said kindly. Suddenly everyone started clapping and talking all at once and I couldn’t believe that they had actually enjoyed what they’d heard. I thought they were just being nice, but they made it believable and I started to smile as the tears went away.

At school the following week we began reading parts from Jane Austen’s novels. Mr Norris let the group move all the chairs and tables to one side and we sat on the floor in the centre of the room. We each had to read a page and then pass the book to someone else at random to read until everyone had taken a turn.
It was nice hearing the stories being read out loud, but each time the reader got to the end of the page I could feel the tension in the bottom of my stomach as I waited to be the next person picked. The book passed around the room and then it was David’s turn.
He took the book and started reading confidently. It was the ball scene in ‘Pride and Prejudice’ and Darcy was approaching Elizabeth to ask for a dance. David kept pausing for emphasis, just as though he was acting out the part rather than just reading it, and whenever Darcy spoke to Elizabeth, David would look straight at me. When he reached the bottom of the page, David reached over and handed me the book.
“It’s your turn,” he said.
I opened to the page where he had left the bookmark. I took a deep breath as I looked at the words on the page. Elizabeth and Darcy were still dancing, but Elizabeth had rebutted all of his approaches so far and was saying something about Wickham. I tried to speak but it came out in a whisper. I paused and took another deep breath.
“It’s okay, Molly,” said Mr Norris, “Just take your time.”
I looked up and he was smiling at me kindly. I turned my eyes back down to the book and started reading again, trying to sound confident but I could hear my voice wavering and I knew I wasn’t doing justice to Elizabeth’s remarks.
Eventually I got to the end of the page and looked for Rose and handed her the book. She smiled and squeezed my hand as she took it from me and then started reading.
Once everyone in the class had finished their turn, Mr Norris stood up and asked us what we thought was going on here. David was the first one to put his hand up. “Yes, David?” said Mr Norris.
“I think they both like each other, but neither is willing to admit it yet. Darcy knows he likes her, but she has developed a prejudice against him for some reason and so she is pretending to herself that she doesn’t like him. I think they will get together in the end.” He didn’t take his eyes of me the whole time he spoke.
“Thank you, David. That is pretty insightful, although we should watch out for spoilers. Does anyone else have a view?” He looked around the group, but nobody spoke up. “Molly White, how about you? What do you think is going on here?”
I had to take another deep breath and stop my heart from racing. Why did Mr Norris have to single me out? “Ummm…,” I began hesitantly. I had an idea in my mind but it was hard to form it into words with everyone looking at me. “Ahhhh…, I think, ummm, that Jane Austen is trying to make a statement about, ummm, relationships between men and women.” I started to warm up and feel more confident as the idea solidified in my mind. “I think she is trying to breakdown stereotypes that a woman has to say ‘yes’, just because a man asks her.” I looked up at David and smiled.
“That is an excellent analysis, Molly,” said Mr Norris. “You have struck right at the heart of the theme we will be exploring throughout the term. Now, does anyone else have anything to add?”
Rose leaned over and squeezed my hand again. “Molly, you were wonderful!” she whispered. I smiled at her and felt a flood of warmth in my chest.
“Thanks, Rose,” I whispered back.
“Okay, well I don’t think we have time for any more today. Make sure you have finished ‘Pride and Prejudice’ by the end of the week because next week we are starting ‘Sense and Sensibility’. Now we had better put the chairs and tables back and you can have an early lunch.”
I stood and started to pick up some chairs. “Here, let me carry that for you,” said David as he tried to take the chairs from my hands.
“Thanks, but I can carry them.”
“I know you can, but I just wanted to help.” I let him take one of the chairs off my pile, and while that made it easier to carry, I didn’t want to admit that to him.

The bell rang for the end of the school day and I packed my bag and started walking out to the gate to meet Mum.
She had gotten my bike repaired weeks ago, but I still wasn’t game to ride it again yet. I had ridden it once a couple of weeks ago, but it felt strange and I was worried about falling off and hurting my leg all over again. I rode really slowly, much slower than I used to, and I nearly panicked whenever a car came towards me. Before I went too far I turned around and rode straight back home and put my bike in the shed. I didn’t tell Mum that I was scared of riding my bike, I just asked her if she could pick me up from school each day so that I could spend more time with my friends.
When I was nearly at the gate, Rose came running up behind me and called out my name. I stopped and waited for her, and then she breathlessly asked if it would be okay if she came home with me for the afternoon so that we could study. I was a bit shocked because I hadn’t expected her to want to spend time with me, but I asked Mum if she would be able to drive Rose home later.
Once that was settled we climbed into the car and Rose and I got comfortable in the backseat.
“That was so cool what you did in English today.”
“Oh, ummm… I just didn’t know what else to say.”
“Well, I think you have plenty to say. Are you going to try out for the debating team?” I looked up and saw Mum’s eyes watching me in the rear vision mirror.
“Are you kidding? There’s no way I would ever get picked for the debating team.” Actually, there was no way I would ever want to be anywhere near a debating team. I looked back at the mirror but Mum was looking away.
“You should do it, you would be good at it I think. You know I was on the team last year… with David.” I noticed Mum was looking at me in the mirror again and I blushed.
“So what do you want to study when we get home,” I quickly tried to change the subject.
“Well I was hoping you could help me with English, and I was wondering if you wanted me to help you with maths.”
I said I thought that sounded like a good idea and when we got home we had some afternoon tea and then locked ourselves away in my bedroom.
“What a cool bedroom,” said Rose. “You’ve got so many books in here, I can’t believe it.” I looked proudly at the collection of books spilling out of my bookcase.
“Well… I’ve always liked reading.”
“So what’s through that door there?” She pointed to the door leading to Stephen’s bedroom. My eyes followed her finger and I suddenly thought about all the dreams I’d had about that room over the years. Sometimes I went in there and just sat on the bed and looked out the window. Most of his things were still in their place and I think Mum snuck in every now and then and dusted. But it was my little escape world where I went sometimes when I felt sad or lost or lonely because I could feel his spirit in there more than anywhere else.
“Oh, it’s just a room full of junk,” I said casually. “Do you want to do English or maths first?”
Rose looked at me closely and I hoped she couldn’t see the sadness that had crept into my heart. “English,” she said. “I want you to tell me how you know so much about Jane Austen, because when we met on the train you hadn’t even heard about her.”
We spent an hour talking about how I had been going to the library and reading everything I could find on Jane Austen. There were so many books in there it could take the rest of my life, I told her. She asked if that was why I had changed my hair style and I nodded, feeling a little embarrassed.
“I like it,” she said, “Can you show me how to do it? Then we can be the Jane Austen twins.”
Instead of doing any maths we spent the next hour doing each other’s hair and talking about books. Rose said she had always liked reading more than doing anything else, but she said she hadn’t read as many exciting books as I had, and she always had to go and do the things that Debbie wanted to do and that interrupted her reading time. As I listened I felt my heart go out to her and began to realise why she was always the quiet one.
Eventually it was time for Mum to take her home and Rose gave me a big hug as she climbed out of the car.
“Thank you, Molly. See you at school tomorrow.”
I waved goodbye and hopped into the front seat beside Mum. She put the indicator on and looked over her shoulder as she pulled out into the traffic. We drove up the road in silence for a few minutes, and then Mum turned her head and looked at me.
“So… who is David?”
I looked out the side window so that she couldn’t see my face.
“Oh, he’s just a boy in my class.” When I eventually turned around Mum was looking at the road ahead, but I could see a smile on her lips.

Molly’s Dreams – Chapter Twelve

There was a bright light overhead hurting my eyes so much that I kept them tightly closed. I didn’t know where I was but I could feel something hard and cold against my side. Thoughts tried to move around in my head and kept getting lost in the fog.
“Molly?” a voice called out of the mist. “Molly, can you hear me?”
“Is she still with us?” another voice said.
“She’s still here, but the pulse is faint,” the first voice replied.
I didn’t know who they were, but when I tried to speak and tell them I was there no sound came out, even though I could feel my lips move. Suddenly I felt someone take my arm and press something sharp into it.
There were so many voices echoing in my head and they all seemed to be in a hurry. But I knew there was no need to rush now because the fog was starting to lift and I could see that it was night time and there were bright lights flashing and they looked so pretty.
“That leg is pretty bad. Is she hurt anywhere else?”
“It looks like she’s taken a knock on the head as well. There might be some internal bleeding, but it’s hard to tell until we get her to the hospital.”
But I didn’t want to go to the hospital. I just wanted to go home so that Mum wouldn’t be worried about me, and I knew there was something I wanted to tell her, but I just couldn’t get my thoughts to stand still long enough to be able remember what it was.
Suddenly Stephen’s face appeared in front of me, kind and smiling just like he always was. He waved his hand above his head and just as quickly as he had appeared he started to fade into the darkness. I tried to call out for him to come back but my tongue was too thick in my mouth and it wouldn’t move.
I heard a voice say, “One, two…” and then I felt myself being lifted. That’s when I felt the pain searing in my leg. I tried to remember why it hurt so much but no other thoughts could get past that intense pain.
Then I felt myself being lifted again, but it was gentler this time and I thought I must be floating in the air with my leg on fire until I landed and there was a loud thump like the door of a van being shut.
I was aware that someone was sitting close beside me and a soft hand was on my shoulder. “Don’t worry, sweetie. We’ll get you to the hospital soon.”
But I didn’t want to go to the hospital! I needed to get home and see Mum. My eyes began to fill with tears and my leg was really hurting as I felt myself swaying back and forth. From far off I could hear the sound of a siren, but it was starting to fade and I was drifting toward a dark cloud. I tried to open my eyes again but my eyelids still wouldn’t move.
I just wanted them to take me home.

“Molly?” I heard a lady’s voice calling my name and my eyes flickered open to see a woman dressed in white.
“Oh, so you’re back with us now, dear. You gave everyone a scare.” She smiled at me and I tried to smile back but my lips felt like they were going to crack.
“You should probably have a sip of water. The anaesthetic always makes you a bit dehydrated.”
She held a glass of water to my lips and I tried to sit up to drink but that made me feel too dizzy.
“You won’t be able to sit up for a bit, dear. I’ll let you rest for a while and maybe we can prop you up a bit later on. The doctor will be back to see you in the morning.”
She disappeared behind the curtain and I could hear her footsteps walking away. I looked around but all I could see were white walls and a little stainless steel dresser beside the bed I was on. High up on the wall was a window, but from the angle I was at I couldn’t see out it at all. I couldn’t tell if it was night or day.
When I tried to roll over on my side I found I was wrapped up tightly in blankets as though I was in a cocoon and I couldn’t move my body. But my arms were free and I reached up to touch my face to find there was a bandage around my head. It didn’t hurt, but I still felt like I was floating on a cloud, even though I could see I was lying in a bed. I started to feel queasy again so I closed my eyes and drifted off to sleep.

I later woke to hear someone crying out loud, but when I opened my eyes there was only an old lady sitting up in the bed next to mine and busily knitting.
“Is everything okay, deary?” she asked kindly.
I sniffed and realised that I had been the one crying.
“You have been asleep ever since I came in this morning,” she said as the needles moved quickly in her hands. I lay there with my eyes open and as I watched the movements of her fingers she reminded me of Grandma.
“The doctor came to see you a little while ago, but you were still asleep.”
She put down her knitting and reached above her head for a little button that was dangling down. “I should call the nurse. She said to let her know if you woke up.”
She pressed the button but there was no sound. The old lady went back to her knitting and I lay there wondering if I should tell her that the button didn’t work. But she kept chattering away and I felt too tired to say anything.
I didn’t feel queasy anymore but I had a headache and could feel a dull ache coming from my right leg. I looked down at my arm and saw a tube sticking out of it and it looked like there was blood. I could feel myself starting to cry again as I looked at the blood, when a nurse suddenly walked into the room.
“Ah… Good morning, Molly. You look much better this morning. There’s some colour in your cheeks. How are you feeling, dear?”
I had to choke back a sob as I tried to answer her. “Good,” I said very quietly.
“Well that is excellent,” she said brightly. “My name is Jenny. The doctor will be here shortly so you don’t need to worry about anything.”
She picked up a clipboard that was hanging on the end of the bed and made a note on it with her pen. “I just need to take your temperature — it won’t hurt,” she added quickly when she saw that I was choking back another sob.
Jenny placed a thermometer in my ear and held it there until it beeped, then she made another note on the clipboard. As she put it back on the end of the bed, a man dressed in a long white robe came into the room.
“Ah, so our star patient is awake, is she?”
I clutched the blanket and looked at Jenny for help.
“Hello, young lady. My name is Dr. Smith. I want you to relax because you’re going to be fine, but I wonder if you can tell me how much you remember about what happened?”
I thought hard, but it was all such a blur that I just shook my head at him.
“Okay, that’s fine. It will come back to you later. You’ve taken a bump to the head with a little bit of concussion. You might have headaches for a day or two, but you need to tell the nurses if they get any worse, okay?. Now I just want to look at your leg, if I could.”
I looked at Jenny again and she smiled as if to say it was okay. The doctor lifted up the blanket and looked concerned. “Ah, yes, yes. I think that will heal nicely.” I tried to lift my head and see what he was looking at but it hurt too much.
“Molly, you broke your leg, pretty badly in fact. We had to operate on it and I put a plate in there to help keep the bones in place while they heal. There’s no plaster but that bandage will need to stay on for a while. You won’t be able to walk on it for at least six weeks and then I’ll need another look at it.”
I listened quietly to what he was saying and tried to process it all. I kept thinking ‘six weeks, six weeks, six weeks,’ and then it dawned on me that six weeks would take me to the middle of the school holidays, which would mean that I would miss the play. All of a sudden that night came back to me; all the terror and excitement and the way Joel had looked at me, and … that kiss. Then I remembered the bike ride home and the car coming around the corner. This time I couldn’t hold back the sobs and I really started crying uncontrollably.
The doctor looked concerned and spoke quietly to Jenny. “I think you should make sure her parents visit soon, she is a little unsettled, which is to be expected of course.”
Jenny nodded and they both left the room. I turned my face against the pillow and let the tears make a little puddle on my pillow case. In the background I could hear the old lady’s needles going click, click, click.

It was later that day when Mum came to visit me. I was allowed to sit up in bed then and she sat with me all the way into the evening, right up until the nurses came and said that visiting hours were over.
I slept restlessly all through the night because I couldn’t get myself comfortable. I had never liked sleeping on my back and now that was the only position that I could lay in. I tried turning my head to the side but that only made my neck sore and it made me feel dizzy again.
Every time I started to fall asleep, one of the nurses would come into the room to do something and wake me up again. Then I would lay there in the darkness and stare at the dull light coming through the window. I wished I could see the stars from where I was laying. But I just felt a great lump sitting in my stomach and I ached to be home in my own bed. I found myself crying again and again throughout the night, but I tried to be quiet because I didn’t want to wake the old lady with the knitting needles.
The next day Mum brought some knitting with her and she spent most of the time talking with the old lady in the next bed, but it was nice to just have her there. She brought me a book to read and I took it out of the paper bag and looked at the title. ‘For the Term of His Natural Life,’ it read. The cover had a picture of a sad looking man wearing convict chains and there were arrows on his clothes.
I started reading while Mum sat and talked with Mrs Gould while they both knitted. I didn’t pay any attention to their conversation as I began to read about a man having a fight with his father and running away. I thought it was a pretty boring book, but I kept reading because I had nothing else to do in my hospital bed.
I thought the man was stupid when he was arrested because he wouldn’t tell them who he really was. He gave his name as Rufus Dawes and was sentenced to transportation for a crime he didn’t do and I made a little noise of frustration that he wouldn’t speak up. I looked up from my reading for a moment and saw both Mum and Mrs Gould had stopped talking and were looking at me.
I blushed and went back to reading as I heard Mum start saying something to Mrs Gould about how much I loved reading. I stopped listening because I didn’t want to get even more embarrassed and I wished Mum wouldn’t talk about me like that when I was right in front of her.
As the week went on and I got further into the book, I started to feel just like a convict trapped aboard a ship on the way to Australia. As I sat in my hospital bed I started to imagine that I was a convict and the tube in my arm was the chain that tied me to my bunk so I couldn’t escape.
Jenny came and chatted with me every day as she changed the dressing on my leg. She told me all about her little girl and how she was in kindergarten and just starting to learn how to read and how well she was doing. Jenny said her daughter’s name was Taylor and she and I would be great friends because we both liked reading so much. I didn’t want to tell Jenny how bad I was at school, so I just let her keep talking.
Late in the week I was given a pardon from my sentence and set free from the prison bed when the physiotherapist came to teach me how to walk using crutches.
My head was suddenly dizzy the first time I swung my legs off the bed, and then I nearly fainted from the pain in my leg as all the blood rushed down towards my foot. That first time I was only able to stand for a minute or so before I had to hop back into bed.
Eventually I made it to the corridor and back and then gradually went further and further until one day I made it all the way to the front door of the hospital. What I really wanted to do was look out the window so that I could see the clouds and stars and be completely free from my prison bed.
Then Dr. Smith came back to see me at the end of the week and said I could go home in the morning.
Mum brought a change of clothes for me to wear home and all the nurses came out and hugged me goodbye as I hopped down the corridor on my crutches. Jenny was waiting at the front door and she gave me a big hug and a kiss and dropped a few tears in my hair. That set me off crying as well, but this time they were happy tears as everyone at the hospital had made me feel so special.
I hopped through the hospital door to the outside world and blinked at the bright blue sky shining above me.

It was late in the afternoon and I was standing on one leg on the railway platform. My broken leg was aching as I leant on the crutches. It had been a week since I had left the hospital but I still wasn’t used to getting around on only one leg.
I was waiting on my own for Mum to come back from the booking office with the tickets so I watched people as they move about on the platform. Some of them looked like they had been rushing and were worried they were going to miss the train. I wasn’t worried though, because Mum had said we got here in plenty of time.
Suddenly there was a bustle of noise from one end of the platform and I turned to see two girls being farewelled by some guys that I guessed were their older brothers. I watched as the two girls went around the group of guys and hugged each one. They looked to be about my age, or maybe a little older and I watched them with interest because I didn’t know the girls from my school.
One of them was wearing a short floral summer dress and had white sneakers on her feet. Her long brown hair was tied back in a simple pony tail. The other girl was wearing pink shorts and a white top and sandals. She too had long brown hair, but hers was hanging loosely over her shoulders. What really caught my attention about these two girls, though, was that their faces were identical.
The brothers left and the two girls started walking toward where I was standing. I quickly looked away so that they wouldn’t see that I had been watching them, but one of the girls smiled and said ‘hi’ as she walked past me. I looked up and saw the happy eyes of the one with the ponytail.
“Hi,” I said back shyly. Just then Mum came out of the booking office with the tickets as the headlight of the train appeared further down the track. I started to feel excited as the train pulled into the platform because now it felt like I was really going on holidays.
There was crazy activity and noise everywhere as the stationmaster blew his whistle. The porter opened one of the carriage doors and I hobbled across the platform on my crutches.
“Careful with that step, miss,” he said kindly.
I hesitated, wondering how to step across the gap between the platform and the carriage.
“Put your crutches across first and then swing yourself over,” came a girl’s voice from behind me.
I turned to see who had spoken and saw it was the girl with the ponytail.
“Oh, thanks,” I said. I was a bit nervous about making the leap with everybody watching me, but I didn’t want these two girls to know that, so I took a deep breath and swung across exactly as she had said.
I turned to say thank you again, but the girl was talking to her sister.
“Come on, Molly, let’s find our seats,” said Mum as she walked down the aisle. I shuffled along behind her until Mum pointed out our seats about halfway down the carriage. As I was squeezing into my seat against the window the porter appeared again right beside me.
“I can look after your crutches, if you like, miss,” he said. “If you need them just call. It will give you more room,” he added quickly.
“Oh, thank you,” I replied. “That is so nice of you.”
He dipped his head and, clutching my crutches to his chest, he scurried away with a smile on his face.
I took my book out of my bag and then put the bag at my feet. I was still reading ‘For the Term of His Natural Life’ and had been wandering through the Australian bush with Rufus Dawes for a week. When I sat up again, I was surprised to see the girl with the ponytail looking over the back of the seat in front of me.
“Hi again,” she said. “I’m Debbie.” Her smile was so sparkly that I couldn’t help but smile back at her.
“Hi, I’m Molly,” I said in my softest shy voice.
“Hi Molly,” she said brightly. “What book are you reading?”
I showed Debbie the cover and started to explain to her what the book was all about.
“It’s about this guy that was sent to Australia as a convict, but…”
“Oh that sounds cool. What happened to your leg?”
“I had an accident on my bike,” I said.
“Ooohh, that must have hurt.” She suddenly turned around. “Hey Rose, come and meet Molly.”
Another face that was the mirror image of Debbie’s appeared over the back of the seat. I wouldn’t have been able to tell them apart if it wasn’t for the different hairstyles and clothes.
“Hiya,” she said. She wasn’t as bouncy or happy as her sister.
“Where are you going?” asked Debbie.
I told her that Mum and I were going to the beach to visit Grandma and Grandpa. It turned out that they were heading to the same beach for a holiday with their cousins.
“That’s so cool,” said Debbie. “Maybe we can hang out on the beach together.”
I smiled and said that sounded like fun.
“What school do you go to?”
I hesitated, because I didn’t want my new friends to know about my school and how everyone thought I was a loser.
Just then the train pulled away from the station with a jerk and Debbie’s face disappeared for a moment. But she was back as quickly as she went and giggling because she had nearly fallen off her seat.
“Is everything okay here, miss?” The porter had suddenly appeared in the aisle beside Mum’s seat. I looked across and nodded. “Can I get you anything?” I shook my head and looked back to see Debbie grinning at me as the porter disappeared.
“I think he likes you,” she said with a giggle.
“Really?” I turned to look at him but he was gone.
“Yes, really! Haven’t you had guys chasing after you before?”
I blushed and shook my head.
“I don’t believe that. You’re so pretty and sweet. I’m sure all the guys at school are after you.”
My face was burning hot as I blushed even more and I was feeling uncomfortable that she had mentioned school again. But Debbie didn’t seem to notice and she kept talking to me for ages as the train rushed across the green landscape of scattered farms.
Every now and then she would bring Rose into the conversation and her face would suddenly appear over the back of the seat. But she never stayed for long and would soon disappear again. I think she was reading a book and I longed to be able to read mine as well, but I didn’t want to lose my new friend either.
Debbie kept talking until it started to get dark and the porter came back.
“I thought you might like a blanket, miss.”
I looked at him and blushed because of what Debbie had said. “Thank you.”
He bounced away down the aisle with a smile on his face again.
I settled back in my seat and turned my face toward the window to watch the evening settle softly across the countryside. After a while I could see my own reflection in the window as it started to get darker outside. My reflection looked sleepy but happy.
When I opened my eyes again I could see glimpses of lonely farmhouse lights in the distance and bridges and level crossings rushing past. The world outside was dark and cold. Every time I began to doze off again I was woken by a jolt as the train pulled up to the fairy lights of a foggy station. I wrapped myself deeper in the blanket, leaned my head against the cold glass of the window and tried to fall asleep again.
Eventually the sprawl of the city lay stretched out before me like a dark shadow on the ground as we descended from the Blue Mountains. The sky began to lighten as the train raced toward the coastal plain. I followed the path of a truck as it chased the train for a few moments before it came to an intersection while the train raced on. Then there were miles and miles of small backyards behind the houses alongside the railway line. One was full of junk, the next one neat and tidy. Some of the yards had washing on the line, and a voiceless dog barked at the train. Then the train slowed as it passed the old Mortuary Station and I had to sit up because Mum said we were nearly there.
The porter appeared again with my crutches as soon as the train moved slowly alongside the platform of Central Station. I thanked him again as I hopped down the aisle and climbed from the train carriage. I turned and he was standing at the door waving.
“Bye miss,” he called out.
There was an hour before we had to catch the train for the north coast, so Mum decided we should head to the café at the railway station for breakfast. Debbie and Rose were standing with their bags so Mum asked if they would like to join us. Debbie gave Mum a huge smile and said they would love to. She didn’t stop talking all the way through breakfast.
It turned out that Debbie and Rose were in the same year at school as me, but they went to Kinross College which was a private school on the other side of town to where I lived. The twins were nearly a year older than me and they had three grownup brothers.
By the time we finished breakfast, we had already made plans that the girls and their cousins would take me with them to the beach every day.
We still had a little time after breakfast before the train left, so Mum let me browse through the newsagent and buy a new book to read at the beach. I couldn’t decide which book I wanted, but Rose came and stood beside me and pointed to a book called ‘Pride and Prejudice’.
“You’ll love it, Molly. It’s so romantic.”

I felt like I was lying in heaven when I woke in the morning. The pillows on my bed were as soft as clouds and I was snug under the fluffy doona. Sunlight was bursting through the window and it threw pretty patterns across the mat on the floor. I couldn’t remember having ever felt so happy and full of life as I looked out the window at the cloudless blue sky.
I bounded out of bed and grabbed my crutches and hopped up to the house to join Mum and Grandma in the kitchen for breakfast.
“Good morning,” I said brightly and gave them both a hug.
“Well, you are chirpy this morning. It’s so good to see a smile on your face,” said Grandma.
I couldn’t help but smile at her even more brightly. I really didn’t know why I felt so happy, but I finished breakfast and hopped out onto the verandah to wait for Debbie and Rose.
I had just started reading when an old car pulled up at the front of the house and beeped its horn. Then I saw Debbie’s head sticking out the window.
“Come on, Molly. The beach is waiting.”
I quickly said goodbye to Mum and Grandma and made my way down the driveway to the car. In all the excitement I had forgotten to be nervous, but all of my shyness suddenly came flooding back when I realised there was more than just Debbie and Rose in the car.
Debbie jumped out so that I could sit in the middle of her and Rose and she took my crutches to put them in the boot. There were three guys sitting across the bench seat in the front.
“Guys, this is Molly,” said Debbie. As they all turned their heads to look at me, I sat there astonished to recognise the sandy hair and the lopsided grin of the guy in the middle.
“Blue!” he said, just as astonished as I was. “Blue, is that really you?”
All of the others sat there and stared at us with their mouths open. Not even Debbie could think of anything to say.
“Hi Shawn,” I said as coolly as I could, but inside I was bubbling with nerves and excitement.
“You two know each other?” Debbie screamed.
“Yes,” said Shawn, “Ages ago. I thought I would never see you again, Blue.”
The rest of the way to the beach was spent explaining how we had met when I was eight years old. Debbie was excited, but Rose seemed to show more interest in me than she had before. The other two guys in the car were Shawn’s brothers. The one driving was Neil and he was the oldest in the family. Shawn was the middle brother and Michael was a year older than me and the same age as the twins.
We stopped at the beach and climbed out of the car. It was the same beach that I had played on ever since I was a child, and I felt like I knew every curve of the sand dunes as they led around to that rocky headland that stood broodingly at the northern end of the beach. From where I was standing I could clearly see the pathway that climbed to the top of the headland.
“Come on guys, let’s get in the water,” Debbie squealed as she raced across the beach. She dropped her towel on the sand and then leapt toward the waves. Rose was close behind her and both girls screamed when the water crashed into their waists.
Neil and Michael were busy taking the surf boards off the roof of the car, and Shawn got my crutches out of the boot and walked slowly across the sand beside me. Neither of us spoke. I kept thinking about the little boy that I played with in the sand dunes and how he made me run all the time, but how I so wanted to do what he asked to make him happy.
We reached the spot where Debbie and Rose had dropped their towels and I laid mine carefully on the sand and sat down. Shawn flopped to the ground carelessly beside me and sat with his arm around one knee.
“Do you want to swim, Molly?”
“Oh, I don’t really like being in the waves. I like just sitting here.”
We fell silent again and I looked across the bay at the boats in the distance.
“Do you still read lots of books?”
I smiled and said, “Of course I do”. I pulled ‘Pride and Prejudice’ out of my bag and showed it to him.
“Do you want to read it together, like we used to do?” he asked.
I told him he might find this book a bit boring, but he kept insisting so I opened it up and started reading the first chapter to him. He lay back on the sand with his arms behind his head and listened to me reading. Every now and then I would glance across at him laying there with his eyes closed and smile.
I was nearly finished the chapter when Neil and Michael came up to us carrying the surfboards.
“Why aren’t you guys in the water?” Neil asked.
Shawn sat up. “We were just waiting for the surfboards,” he said.
“Well you could have helped, you know.”
Neil dropped two surfboards on the sand and with one tucked under his arm he walked down the beach toward the waves.
“So how about it, Blue?” said Shawn, “Do you want to go in. I can show you how to float on a surfboard.”
He looked so eager for me to say ‘yes’ that I couldn’t help myself, even though I was still terrified of the waves and was worried about my broken leg. I slipped my sun dress over my head and then felt self conscious to be sitting there in just my swim suit. I stood up awkwardly with my crutches and wondered how I was going to do this.
Shawn picked up both boards and I followed him anxiously down to the edge of the water.
“So what you need to do, Molly, is to lie on the board on your tummy and paddle with your arms. Just float like that and you’ll be fine.” He walked into the water up to his knees and then dived forward onto the board and started paddling to show me what to do. “Just go in between the waves,” he yelled back over his shoulder.
I could still hear Debbie and Rose squealing amongst the surf further out in the water, but I stood there uncertainly wondering what to do with my crutches and how to leap on the board all in one motion. My dilemma must have suddenly dawned on Shawn because he turned and came back to shore.
“Hang on, Molly. Let’s do it another way.” He took my crutches and put them back above where the waves were washing against the sand then he held the board at the edge of the water where there was a little foam left from the last wave. “Okay, lay yourself on the board on your stomach.”
I got to my knees and crawled onto the board, then took a deep breath and closed my eyes as I felt Shawn pushing the surfboard out into the water. I could feel the board rocking under my tummy and after a few moments I opened my eyes when I realised I hadn’t tumbled into the water.
I looked across and Shawn was right beside me grinning. “Now paddle straight into the next wave and you should go right over the top.” He had climbed on his board and I followed him as he started paddling like mad until I felt the water swell up underneath my board. My heart was racing and I was sure this time I would be thrown off. I didn’t want to even think about how I was going to swim with my broken leg if I ended up in the waves. But somehow I made it over the top with a splash of spray and then plummeted into the still water on the other side.
Before I knew it, we were way out in the deep water and when I turned the shoreline seemed to be so far away that I started to panic. The water looked so deep and if I fell off then I knew I would sink into the waves because I wouldn’t be able to swim with my broken leg and I knew I shouldn’t have come out here into the water, but then all of a sudden Shawn was right there beside me again. He reached out and took my hand. “It’s okay, Molly. Just keep paddling and you’ll be fine.”
His voice was calming and I relaxed a little bit. As long as he stayed close to me I was going to be okay, I told myself.
I heard a loud yell and looked up to see Neil standing on his board and crouching into the curl of a wave. He looked so poetic that I wished I could do that, even though I knew I would never be able to balance, let alone stand with my leg the way it was. Michael went past as well with a look of total concentration on his face.
I turned to Shawn. “You can surf too if you want, you don’t have to stay with me.”
“It’s okay, I don’t mind being here. I like it.”
I looked at him and smiled and he smiled back with that lopsided grin I remembered so well. We stayed out there like that for ages, just riding on the swell of the waves and paddling into the bigger ones so that we didn’t get washed back onto the beach. Once I got comfortable and relaxed a bit we started talking. There was so much I wanted to know about Shawn and what he had been doing all these years. He told me all about how he spent most of his spare time out surfing whenever he could.
“What about your school work?” I asked. He looked away and gazed out to sea.
“I don’t like school much,” he said. “I’d much rather surf and play my guitar than go to school.”
“Oh wow, you play guitar? I started learning to play a couple of years ago but it hurt my fingers too much.”
“Really? You should try again, it just takes practice.” He was beaming now and seemed excited to be talking about his guitar. “I could teach you,” he added. “I’ve got my guitar in the car. I always carry it with me everywhere I go.”
I tried to tell him that I wouldn’t be very good at it, but he wouldn’t listen.
“Why don’t we swim back to the beach and I’ll play you a song?” He started paddling and I had no choice but to follow him. I was glad to be getting out of the water anyway.
As my surfboard slid up onto the sand I crawled to my knees and was just about to try and stand up on one leg when Shawn suddenly picked me up in his arms.
“Oh gosh,” was all I could say as I felt myself being lifted. I didn’t know what I should do so I threw one arm over his shoulder and tried to hang on, but he was strong and I felt safe in his arms. I guess it helped that I was only a small girl. I looked up at Shawn’s face and he looked down and smiled at me and held me tighter as I felt the smooth skin of his shoulder against my cheek.
He laid me gently on my towel and then ran off to get his guitar from the car. I slipped my sun dress back on and put my shady straw hat on my head to keep the sun off my face. I was putting some more sunscreen on my arms when he came bounding over the sand dunes with a guitar case and flopped down beside me. He opened the guitar case and pulled the instrument out and strummed the strings.
“Let me sing you a song,” he said, then looked thoughtful for a moment. He started running his fingers over the silver strings and the most beautiful melody filled the air. Every note seemed like a drop of liquid crystal that just floated from his fingertips. He licked his lips and opened his mouth to start singing with a voice that sounded husky and soulful.

“Can you imagine anything?
As long as it could make your heart sing,
Go round forever like a golden ring,
Leave behind all this aching,
If you could be anything?

Can you imagine life on the moon?
Or sailing the world to a beautiful tune,
Find a tropic island, be marooned,
Or maybe hide in a cocoon,
As long as you don’t come home too soon.”

He stopped singing and hummed along with the guitar for a little while and then stopped. “That’s all I’ve written so far, I’m not sure what to say next,” he said with an embarrassed grin.
“Shawn, that was beautiful. I loved it.” I couldn’t believe he had written it himself and I suddenly found myself telling him all about how I had started writing poetry. I told him that I never showed it to anybody because it was just my way of capturing all those random thoughts that float around in my head. But I was so impressed that he had written his own song that as we talked I started to get an idea that I could help him finish it.
“Why don’t you have a go at the guitar,” he said and handed the instrument to me.
I placed it across my lap and tried to remember how to put my fingers on the strings. As I strummed the guitar made a terrible noise, and I was about to hand it back in embarrassment but Shawn wouldn’t let me.
“Take your time, Molly. Give yourself a chance.” He showed me how to make a chord and then when I strummed again it came out sounding like music. Shawn spent ages showing me how to make different chords and I knew there was no way I would ever remember them all, but I really started to enjoy being able to make this instrument produce such pretty sounds, even if I didn’t know what I was doing.
I kept practicing until the others came out of the surf for a break, and then Shawn took the guitar back and started singing. We all sat around in a group then and sang songs together, and while Debbie was the loudest, of course, she was soon encouraging me to sing out as well. My voice was more of a whisper compared with hers but I soon found that I was enjoying myself as much as I had when I sang on my own as a little girl.
For the next two weeks I spent every day at the beach with my new friends and we repeated the same thing over and over again every day as I read a chapter of my book to Shawn, before going out on the surfboards for a while, each time going a little further and further out. Then we would come back to the beach and sit around in a group and sing and play the guitar until it was time to go home.
Shawn always sat beside me and helped me in and out of the water. Every time I looked at him I felt butterflies in my stomach and I found myself laying awake in bed at night thinking about what we had been doing during the day and the way he smiled at me. As my cheek pressed against the pillow, I remembered how smooth his skin was.
But eventually it was the last day of my holiday and everyone was a bit quiet and sad at the beach that day. Debbie and Rose were staying for another week, while I had to catch the train home early in the morning. We sat around and sang songs as usual, but they were somehow softer and slower than normal. Someone decided to go for a walk to the headland, but I couldn’t go up the steep path because of my broken leg so Shawn stayed on the beach with me while the others went.
I was glad of the chance to have a last quiet moment together and when everyone had disappeared down the beach I pulled a piece of paper out of my bag. I had been working on some lyrics so that Shawn could finish his song and I started to sing to him.

“Can you imagine being back at school?
Would you still break all the rules?
Or would you just be acting the fool?
Maybe you’d be way too cool,
If you were ever back at school.

Could you imagine starting again?
Maybe this time we’d still be friends,
You’d be smiling, I’d have my zen,
There would still be moments when…
If we could start all over again.”

He sat there stunned and then pulled out his guitar and we sang the whole song together. The music from his guitar was so beautiful and our voices blended so well together that I felt like we were angels singing in heaven. Shawn closed his eyes when he sang and he looked so serious and cute, but then he opened them and saw that I was looking at him. He stopped playing and put his guitar down and leant forward and hugged me.
“I’m going to miss you so much, Molly.”
“I will write to you every day, Shawn.” I had hoped for something more, but the hug was nice and we held each other for ages until the others came back and it was time to go.