Ifs and buts.

You all know that I’m writing the 750th great Australian novel. So I haven’t been posting too often. I just thought I’d cut and paste a little bit for you. You don’t need to know who all the people are and where they fit in the story. Just take it as it is.

As I walked back to Ben and Molly’s I felt an unbearable emptiness. Maybe Annie will ring Molly while I am walking and tell her what had happened and that she forgives me for everything. But that’s not likely. I’ve seen that look on someone’s face before. And the weather is miserable. It drizzled most of the morning then the sun shone – it was shining when I sat and listened to Annie tell me what she thought of me. It was still shining when I made her that cup of tea and took out that plate of Vera’s scones. As I walked down the path the red squirrels kept hiding on the opposite side of the pines and it started to rain – heavily.

Annie hadn’t wept, there was no heart wrenching sobbing. There was just bitter anger followed by cold indifference. I’ve seen that before. Once. What on earth had I been trying to prove? If I’d stayed home on Mangany Station – if I hadn’t sold the place I’d have been happy as a pig in mud. Well not quite. That was one of the reasons Jeanie had been so upset when we lost the baby. If we’d had a boy to take over the station …! But you can’t live a life on ifs. If I’d never met Annie she’d have still been the Annie she was before. She’d have continued her life, disappointed at not having children, bitter and angry at every German in the world who had murdered her grandfather. What had I done? Nothing good that’s for certain. Maybe even made it worse.

Annie was right. I was wrong. I’d made a mistake. I had relaxed my grip and allowed Annie to walk out into that bloody golf course and trip over a rock and break her heart. A silly stupid mistake on my part. There was this fellow back home I remember. We’d been mustering cattle for an old bloke who had a cattle station a bit closer in toward Quilpie. There was a lot of scrub and trees and he was over on the right as we headed the mob back to the yards. He turned to me and waved his hat, just to say Hi! And his horse walked under a low branch and he got knocked off onto the ground. Broke his back and last time I saw him about three years ago he was in the nursing home sitting in a chair in an old red dressing gown. And miserable as hell. One tiny little mistake. He’d relaxed his grip.

Molly was working nights and I was just in time to catch her as she drove out. She smiled that beautiful smile and told me what was for dinner and “Don’t forget to pick up the boys. I’ll see you in the morning,” and that was that. I switched my brain on to ‘automatic’ and just got things done. The rain had stopped and I walked back down the pathway and through the back of the school and picked up the boys. When I got back Hannah was there with little Will. She stayed and played with the boys until Ben got home about six.

I put on a brave face but I felt so empty inside. Molly had asked me the other day, “Are you in love with Annie?” And No I was not. Not in that way. But she certainly had become important in my life. But that cold resigned look on her face!

A couple of years, maybe only one year, before I met Jeanie I had been going out with Allison, a teacher from the Quilpie High School. I think they call it a College now, but that’s beside the point. She was one of the Science teachers and a lot of people thought we were going to get married. I know I did. But one night at a B&S ball I had a couple or three beers too many and took one of the other teachers around the back of the hall and we had a slight passionate embrace. I should explain B&S. It stands for Bachelors’ and Spinsters’ Ball. It is just an excuse for the girls to put on their best dresses and for all the young Jackaroos and Ringers from all the cattle stations to drink as much as they can as quickly as they can.

The next morning I went around to see Ally because I’d missed taking her home the night before. When I knocked on the door of the house that she shared with two of the nurses from the hospital she came to the door and looked at me with that same, cold, empty look that Annie had given me. I’d given her a gardenia corsage the night before and she handed it back to me. All she said was, “Thanks for the gardenia. It’s second-hand but you might need it for your next victim.” And she turned back into the house and closed the door. Sometimes you know when it is useless to argue.

11 thoughts on “Ifs and buts.

  1. Usually they give the entree first but I suspect this is towards the end. It is certainly a very enticing ‘bite’.
    A side issue. Many years ago my best friend did exactly what the old man did. She was riding a horse and went under a clothes line and fell off and broke her back. She died about 3 months later. Mary and I had the same birthday and I was devastated. I was 9.
    But your story sounds very interesting. Looking forward to reading it.


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