DISCLAIMER: COPYRIGHT © G.V. NETT 2013. All rights reserved. No part of this story may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in articles or reviews.
ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
FEEDBACK: To gnett[at]bigpond.net.au
By G.V. Nett
Dear Blue Angel,
I don't know where else to turn. I've tried everything else. I read your column every week and I see so clearly the truth in your responses to others. Yet I can find no answers for myself. I lie awake for hours at night trying to find a reason to keep fighting. I am so sick of pretending to be okay, pretending to be happy. I am so afraid to let anyone see the darkness of my soul. I am alone in the shadows while everyone else walks in the light. Is this what it's like to lose your mind? How do I pull myself out? How do I stop myself from spiralling further into the darkness?
The most valuable advice I can give is that you're not alone. You are surrounded by people and organisations that can help. You are also not alone in your pain. Everyone at some point feels the shadows creeping towards them. The key is to reach out to those around you. Doing the opposite of what your emotions are telling you will keep you safe. Isolation will not protect you from the darkness.
The pen was scratchy on the delicate paper, the words slow to form, just as they had been yesterday and would be again tomorrow. Another attempt, another failure. Emma scraped a blotchy line across the page with enough force to tear the paper. She added her latest attempt to the growing pile in a red folder on the corner of her small wooden desk. The blue folder next to it remained empty.
The parrots were raucous in their enthusiasm for the coming day and the sun was disturbingly bright. Emma pulled back the curtains and squinted. The light ocean breeze caressed her face and animated the sun kissed wisps of hair falling around her strong jaw line. It was a typical late spring day in the tropics of Australia, there was no point having a shower - she'd be sticky with sweat before she even reached for the towel. She pulled her hair into a messy bun and splashed water on her face. She cursed her fair skin for revealing every lost hour of sleep and considered putting concealer under her eyes so she didn't have to look as tired as she felt. Her light sprinkling of freckles provided the only colour.
She forced herself to eat breakfast so she could have a painkiller for her headache without her stomach protesting. She was only half way through her first piece of toast when she heard a knock on the door. She ignored the knock, stayed quiet and hoped the trespasser would go away. She looked at the unsightly clock hanging above the hallway, counting the seconds until she could relax.
"Hello! Anyone home? Emma, it's me Seth. Hello."
Oh, god it's Tuesday already. Emma ran into the bedroom to get an oversized shirt to put on over her singlet and pulled a cap over her unwashed hair. She hoped the boxers she was wearing would pass for shorts.
"Coming," she called. The door opened before she got to it.
"Hi honey. Did I get you out of bed?" The tall man enveloped Emma in a hug. "I tried to call to remind you we would be here today but you never pickup."
"Right, must have kept missing you."
"So Emma Mitchell." Seth stepped back to put his arm around a woman standing behind him. "I would like you to meet my first lover - now lesbian - Rinah Selby." Emma stared blankly at the athletic looking woman who was giving her an impish smirk. "You know, Rinah, the woman I've been talking about all these years, we went to high school together in the states," Seth explained.
Emma looked at Rinah's flawless olive skin, sculptured cheekbones and long dark curly hair. She looked nothing like the gawky teenage photos Emma had seen. This woman was effortlessly striking in her khaki shorts and singlet top. Emma did recognise the gravitational pull of her brown eyes.
"Oh. Of course," Emma said, confidently holding out her hand. As she expected, Rinah's handshake was firm and steady.
"I'm so happy to finally meet you," Rinah said in her blended American- Mediterranean accent.
"You're the psychologist Em." Seth tilted his head to the side as if he were going to ask a serious question. "What does it say about me that my best friend in high school and my best friend in college turn out to be lesbians?"
"You're not ready for me to tell you what that means Seth. Nice to meet you Rinah. You're on holidays here?" Emma asked, trying to ignore the fact she was sweaty and still in her pyjamas at eleven o'clock in the morning. Especially when her visitors looked so untarnished by the heat. Even Seth looked cool and collected in his button down collared shirt.
"Working holiday," replied Rinah. "I asked Seth if I could come and visit and Hay here tells me I have to earn my keep by fixing up his house." Rinah started to wander around the large deck. "Hay, you didn't tell me how great this place is or how big and the views. I mean I heard Port Douglas was beautiful but a house on a hill overlooking your own private beach, it's amazing." Rinah dropped her large duffel bag on the floor and pushed past Seth to look around.
"Hay?" Emma frowned at Seth.
"I'll tell you later," Seth whispered. "So I have to go see a client in Port today but I'll be back for dinner. I told Rinah she could use your rental car while she's here to get supplies and things. I hope that's okay?"
"She's staying?" Emma's jaw dropped.
"Yeah. I left the details on your voicemail. Em, I told you all this before you left Sydney. She's great at doing up houses and she wanted a place to stay so it works out great for me and Melanie. You didn't say anything so I assumed it was fine."
Emma stared out at the wave crests gracing the horizon. "Well it's your house Seth, it's not like I gave you any warning I wanted to stay for awhile."
Rinah returned to the hallway from her uninvited tour of the house. "I don't know why you want to sell this place. With the high ceilings, wrap around deck and stain glass windows everywhere. I mean apart from that hideous clock its fantastic," Rinah said, pointing to the clock above her.
"Mel loves that clock. A friend of hers made it."
"Your wife should tell her friend that seashell clocks are not acceptable gifts unless you're five. And why don't you just sell your house in Cairns and come live here?"
"Mel thinks there's no point in having a beach house that looks out over an ocean full of crocodiles and stingers and she wants the money so we can make the move back to Sydney."
"Well your wife is crazy."
"I've got to go pretend I know what I'm talking about."
"Lawyers always fill me with such confidence," Rinah said, punching Seth lightly on the shoulder.
"You right with everything Rin?"
"Yeah, sure, no problem. Which room's mine?"
Emma pointed down the hall. "The spare room is second door to your right but I haven't made it up or anything."
Rinah picked up her bag, "No problem I'll set it up," she said, walking down the hall.
Emma slipped on her shoes to escort Seth to his car. "This better not be a set up Seth."
"Em come on give me some credit this is the first time you've come to me for help. I really want to get this right. I mean normally I would ask you how to deal with a friend who rings in the middle of the night and says they want to spend some time alone in my holiday house. Mel wants the house up for sale and I arranged this with Rin before you told me you were coming."
"Sorry, I don't mean to sound ungrateful. I guess I just wasn't paying attention when you told me."
"I gotta go." Seth kissed Emma on the forehead. "I've missed you Em. See you later."
Emma quickly tried to erase any evidence that she had been caught eating breakfast well past acceptable time limits. She tossed her soggy toast into the bin and tried to clean off some of the junk she had littered over all the surfaces. Trashy magazines and a half done jigsaw puzzle were thrown in a cupboard and three different crossword puzzle books, CD's and an assortment of stones she had collected from the beach were dumped in a pile in her bedroom.
"I'm just going to make a list of the things I need," Rinah called from the back of the house.
"Fine." Emma wondered how obvious it would be if she changed now. She chastised herself for caring. Emma closed the door and paced up and down the generous confines of the main bedroom. She tried to catalogue anything else she had lying around the house that revealed her inner fracas. Emma didn't want to leave her refuge to go and check.
Why can't the outside world just leave me alone?
Emma's escape plans were interrupted by shrill barking and another knock on the door. This time with a witness in the house Emma didn't have the luxury of avoiding contact with yet another interloper. Emma begrudgingly plastered on her best friendly face and opened the door.
"It's Glenda. Remember me? From next door." The elderly woman said pointing to the rooftop peaking through the palm trees as if Emma might misunderstand the concept of next door.
"Of course Glenda." Emma noted the hastily pasted on lipstick that seeped a little into the lines around her thin lips. Glenda was rubbing her withered hand over her walking frame. Emma had no idea how she had manoeuvred the frame up the steps. "What's wrong?"
"There's a woman in your back yard! I sent Felicity around to scare her off. She's just wandering around, a strange woman that I have never seen before," Glenda said, gasping for breath. "Fliss will take care of it."
Emma wondered how a tiny fluffy dog was supposed to take care of anything. "Glenda come in and sit down," Emma guided her to the nearest chair.
"But there..." Glenda clutched at her chest.
"Glenda its okay she's staying here, she's a friend of Seth and Melanie."
"I...Can't seem... To catch my breath." The barking stopped.
"Glenda I want you to look at me. Glenda I need you to take a deep breath for me okay." Emma put her hand on Glenda's arm and demonstrated.
"That's it, deep breath. You're safe, you're not having a heart attack, take a deep breath." Glenda's eyes were unfocussed, she was trapped in her own vicious cycle of escalating doom. "Glenda can you tell me what colours you can see on my shirt."
"I don't know."
"I need you to concentrate. What colours are on my shirt?"
"There is some...Red... Some little blue swirls." Glenda's breathing started to elongate. "And there's some deeper red, bigger swirls and there's a stain just there." She pointed to a small mark on Emma's chest. "I can get that out for you."
Emma brought over a glass of water. "Here have some water, just slow sips," she instructed. "Feeling better now?"
"I'm sorry dear my doctor says I have anxiety and panic attacks. I just saw that woman and knew I had to come and warn you. I mean you're all alone here just like me. We have to watch out for each other. My doctor always tells me to do something when I get like this but I can never remember what."
"Is it breathing exercises?"
"Yes but I can never remember. It's very hard you know dear."
"I'm going to get Rinah so you can meet her. So you know its okay." Emma turned around to find Rinah standing in the hallway holding a happy little dog. "There you are. Rinah this is Glenda, she has lived next door since long before Seth bought this place. Rinah knew Seth in high school. I'm just going to get you something Glenda I'll be back in a minute."
"Nice to meet you Glenda. I'm so sorry I gave you a fright."
"It's all right dear I just wanted to be a good neighbour. The news people say Cairns is getting very violent these days. Lots of young ones wondering around. You can't be too careful, even here."
"Well if a thirty-six year old can be mistaken for a young one then I'll take that compliment. I assume this little one belongs to you?" Rinah said, handing over her hairy bundle. "I don't normally like Chihuahuas but she is just the cutest thing."
"She is crossed with a Jack Russell. She's not like normal small dogs. Seth has such beautiful children doesn't he?"
"Yeah I guess," Rinah replied confused at the non sequitur. "If you like the cute and cuddly types."
Emma returned holding a piece of paper with large bold writing. "Can you read this for me Glenda?"
"Breathe in one, two, three, four, five breathe out, one, two, three four, five."
"I want you to put this on your fridge so you can remember okay. Just look at this when you start to feel the tightness in your chest and do it until your breathing returns to normal."
"Thank you dear, I'll try. I have to go now it's almost lunchtime and then I have to take my tablets. My doctor doesn't like it when I miss my tablets."
"Ok Glenda." Emma helped her down the steps. "Bye."
"Bye dear," Glenda said, making a slow retreat across the garden path followed by her loyal companion.
"You were really good with her. I would have called 911," Rinah said.
"For future reference its triple zero here and she just needed distracting." Emma looked at the clock. "I've got a few things to do." She grabbed an apple from the fridge and returned to her room.
From Seth's description of his college friend Rinah expected a sweet maybe slightly naive intellectual type. Other than a glimpse of amiable interaction with Glenda, Rinah had seen nothing but a taciturn version of her new housemate. A woman who constantly looked at the clock and was hiding not so naive negligee and a far more curvaceous body than most intellectual types. Her nervous mannerisms made her seem much younger than her thirty five years yet she had the infiltrating gaze of a wise old crone.
Rinah tentatively knocked on the bedroom door. "Um... Emma, I'm sorry to disturb you but I need to get some supplies to start some jobs. Seth said it would be okay. He left me some directions for the shop in Port Douglas." There was no answer from the closed door. "I mean I drive on the right side of the road and everything, well, your left my wrong."
"Okay... Then I guess I'll see you later then."
Rinah returned from her trip to see a solitary figure standing on a rocky beach. The ocean sparkled with pristine beauty but the shore was harsh and uninviting with its jagged rocks and dull sand. Emma stood perfectly still against the striking background, oblivious to the rest of the world.
Despite the heat Rinah was determined to bring in all her supplies. Seth returned just as she finished carrying in the last pot of paint.
"Perfect timing Hay," she called from the deck. "I know you said it's hot up here but you really should have used a more accurate definition. Like it's sweat dripping down your back hot or its South American jungle hot. You know something like that would've warned me before I agreed to do this little job for you Hay."
"Well hello to you too and I was obviously giving you too much credit for being intelligent enough to figure out Australian tropics equals jungle sweat and desert sun. Sorry but it's too late to back out now. A verbal agreement is binding if you say it in the presence of a lawyer."
"Well honestly I'm not entirely sure that me staying here while I do this is such a good idea. Maybe I should just stay in Port Douglas."
"You don't like it here? I thought you said the house was great." Seth pouted a little.
"It is. It's just I don't think my roommate is particularly thrilled to have me here."
"I didn't get a chance to tell you the other reason I wanted you to stay." Seth dropped his voice to a whisper. "Em is going through something. I'm a little worried about her. I was hoping you could keep an eye on her for me."
"Hay I don't"
Emma made her presence known. "Don't be so patronising Seth. I don't need looking after." She turned towards Rinah. "Seth here is a social junkie so he can't understand that it's perfectly normal when someone wants a little space. I don't mean to make you uncomfortable Rinah I'm just a little tired at the moment. Please don't take offence. You're welcome to stay. So where does the name Hay come from?" Emma asked artfully dodging any further discussion about herself.
"Go on Hay, you tell her your version of your sad little new kid story," Rinah said, walking inside to stand under the fan.
"No mocking Rin, you try moving from Australia to New York with your heavily medicated mother and step dad number two when you're thirteen."
"I only jest to cover my deep pain for your tragic story," Rinah said.
Emma smiled, she liked watching them together. Seth always appeared easy going despite the battles he faced at home but Emma was witnessing him truly unguarded. He trusted Rinah and she obviously hadn't betrayed that trust.
"So I spent the whole plane ride over trying to think of a way not to seem like the geek from Hicksville. My brilliant plan was to have a cool nickname. Seth just seemed like a recipe to get beat up and having Lachlan as a middle name was no help. So I focused on Bailey hoping my mum wasn't going to suggest I change my last name again to be one big happy family."
"Yes because Bailey was the obvious choice for all the cool kids. Could have been the aeroplane food you know. God knows what they put in it to give it that plastic taste."
"Anyway, so I decided Bails was going to be my nick name and it would make all the difference and everything would be okay. So on my first day"
"This gangly kid comes up to me," Rinah interrupted. "He's all legs with a little tucked in polo shirt and a mop of blonde country boy hair and asks for directions to his next class."
"I bravely and proudly introduce myself as Bails and she so graciously emasculates my ego by saying"
"What like hay bales?"
"So from then on, she called me Hay, which was quickly adopted by everyone."
"Well I actually was one of the cool kids so of course they followed me. I can't believe you didn't use the term of endearment when you got back here."
"Well I spent the plane ride home trying to think of a cool name for a nineteen year old returning from New York, with his now detoxing divorced mother, to go to university in Sydney."
"And what did he come up with?" Rinah directed her question to Emma.
"Wow! I'm so happy that one stuck."
"I'm trying to remember why I kept in contact with you all these years."
"You love me," Rinah replied.
"Well I have to love you and leave you, Mel called just before. Bryce is sick she wants me home."
"Is he okay, is it anything serious?" Emma asked.
"Well, if you ask my wife it could be appendicitis. I'd say he's a four year old who probably just ate some plasticine."
"Give him and little Lucy a kiss for me," Emma said.
"I'll be back later in the week. I'll give you a call and don't forget it's Lucy's second birthday party in a few days. Mel and I would love you both to come."
"Sure," Emma said, wishing she had a good reason to avoid being surrounded by good will and cheer.
"I love rug rats as much as the next person Hay. But lots of screaming rug rats in one room throwing up after too much candy is strictly just a breeders occasion. Lucy's adorable but I'll stay and get some work done thanks." Seth didn't appear to be the least bit hurt by Rinah's rejection. "I gotta get this stuff under cover in case it rains. See you soon Hay." She gave his arm a quick squeeze before returning to her work.
"So Em, I'm sorry about before but I'm kinda worried about you. You call me in tears to say you need to get away but you won't tell me what you're running from."
"Seth you know I will tell you when I'm ready. Now go home before I get in trouble with Mel." Seth gave her a kiss on the cheek. He knew there was no point pushing her.
Escaping seemed to be out of the question if Emma wanted to keep up the I'm okay facade. Running away again would surely bring more attention from Seth. The only option left was to make do, pretend to be normal. Emma wasn't sure if she had the energy to keep that up.
"Do you want to go grab some takeaway?" Rinah said, after searching the fridge and pantry for something resembling food.
Emma looked up at the clock again. "I'm not really hungry," she said. "I'm just going to have some toast and go to bed. Help yourself to anything you want."
Rinah opened the door to the bare fridge again. "There isn't much here. I guess toast is my only option too. I'll do some shopping tomorrow." Rinah watched as Emma popped the bread, examined it closely and put it back down again. She did that twice before she decided it was suitable for dinner. She spread the butter and honey precisely, evenly covering each piece from corner to corner. Oblivious to Rinah's observation Emma got out a napkin, poured herself a glass of white wine and sat at the dining room table as if she was sitting down to a lavish three course meal.
Emma was almost finished her pretend meal before Rinah sat done to join her. Minus the napkin and impeccably adorned toast. Rinah heard a cell phone, the dreary default ringtone was definitely not hers. But Emma was making no move to answer it. Slowly Emma got up and walked over to the kitchen bench and picked up her phone. Rinah couldn't help but over hear snippets of conversation as Emma stalked up and down the deck with her wine in hand.
"I know the work is piling up but I told you I don't know if I can do it anymore... I don't want to come home yet Ang, I'm not ready...Yes I remember you have the guest lecture in Cairns but I don't want to go...No, I don't want you to come here...I don't need fixing and I don't need to talk...I'll see you when I get back to Sydney...I'm not sure yet...Ang no...I have to go, my dinner is getting cold...Bye...Yes night." Emma retreated to her bedroom without a word.
Rinah tried not to take it personally. She sat down in front of the television and tried to ignore the fact that despite her housemates rudeness she was intrigued by Emma's pain filled eyes.
Emma revelled in a few seconds of bliss after she woke up before she remembered her life had irrevocably changed. Fully conscious of her current reality Emma resumed her morning routine. She tried a different pen on the expensive handmade parchment paper. The rough edges and uneven surface were a suitable fit for the weight of the content.
Emma's hand hovered over the page, her forehead creased with the strain of evoking inspiration from her artistically barren intellect. Her scholastic skills weren't enough, she needed to connect emotionally. She had to find a way to express the intangible magic of finding a way past someone's defences and get to their core without stripping them naked in the process. It was an art to provide a safety net and take away the fear of not having one at the same time. She looked down to see a large dark blot forming, the ink bled into the thirsty paper. Emma could hear banging outside, Rinah was obviously up. Emma hoped closing the door to the veranda might block out some of the noise.
"Oh my god! It's gone. It can't be gone. Oh god what have you done?" Emma paced around the deck. "Oh god it was right there, what have you done?"
"I need some context for this freak out," Rinah said, putting down her hammer.
"I need to see them."
"Hey Emma, just tell me what you're looking for. I will help okay."
"The daises," she said it so softly Rinah had to strain to hear. "The little pot of daises. They were right outside my window. They can't be gone. They have to stay just outside my window. I have to see them. To see what I've done."
"I moved everything off the deck so I could start on the railing. I put all the pots around the back."
Emma ran to the back of the house. She picked up a tiny blue pot and held it away from herself like it would make her dirty. She took the plant inside then came back and put it just outside the door.
"They should be out of your way here," Emma said, trying to hide the unshed tears welling in her eyes.
"I'm really sorry I didn't mean to upset"
"Hello. Emma. It's me Glenda, from next door. Emma can I come in? It's just me Glenda."
"Coming Glenda," Emma said wiping her dry cheeks.
"Oh dear I'm sorry to disturb you but I just needed to talk to someone." Felicity bustled past the door and ran straight to Rinah.
"It's fine Glenda come in," Emma said, as if nothing had just happened.
"I just had such a bad night dear."
"Do you want a cup of tea or coffee Glenda?"
"Oh no. Don't go to any trouble, just some water would be lovely."
"Have a seat."
"Not too cold dear. Just room temperature and just fill it half way, my hands are a little shaky." Glenda sat down and Felicity came back to sit on her lap.
"I went to see my doctor the other day and he says I have paranoia something as well as the anxiety and now he wants to put me on some other tablets. That can't be good can it? I was up all night thinking about my support worker, she thinks I just have depression. I think I have to go ask my pharmacist, he would know but he's always very busy. He only has a couple of minutes to talk. Maybe I should go back to my old doctor, she was nice but she gave me a referral for a psychiatrist and I don't need that so I didn't go back. What do you think dear?"
Emma put down the water and some biscuits. Glenda broke a biscuit in half and fed one piece to Felicity. "Sounds like you're dealing with a lot Glenda."
"I think I'll go see my pharmacist. He will know. It's just that I can't get there. I can't drive when I get like this and you were so nice to me yesterday. My daughter is coming for a visit tomorrow and she wants me to move so I just want to make sure I'm all right by the time she gets here."
"Glenda you know the medication may not work that quickly."
"I take all my medications properly. You can tell my daughter that. I'm very good at it now. I hardly ever forget and when I do I usually forget I have already taken them and then take more but that won't hurt me. I don't want to put you out but I really need to go to the chemist."
"It's okay Glenda. I'll take you. Just give me about ten minutes to have a shower and I'll drive the car around to the front of your house."
"Oh, you are so nice. I just knew you were the right person even though we've only just met. Now if I were paranoid I wouldn't let you drive me anywhere would I?" Glenda didn't wait for an answer. "You go have your shower dear. I'll show myself out."
"You okay?" Rinah asked. "Do you want me to take her?"
"No it's okay. I need to pick up a few things anyway. She doesn't sound like she's actually getting the right kind of help. I wouldn't mind talking to her about that if she'll let me."
"I'm sorry about the daises."
"It's fine. I over reacted. I should be apologising I need to get going." Emma smiled again as if everything was fine.
Rinah had no idea what caused the abrupt meltdown and she wished she didn't want to know. She reminded herself she hadn't travelled half way around the world to get involved in more drama.
Emma was gone all day and returned exhausted without any groceries. As soon as she entered the house she announced she was going for a walk on the beach. Rinah took the opportunity to stock up the house and prepare a real dinner.
"You didn't have to go to all this trouble," Emma said, sitting down at the set dinner table.
"Well I couldn't bear to see you eat toast again." There was no response from Emma. Rinah left the table to put on some music.
"This music okay?"
"It's fine. This is really good," Emma said, shovelling in mouthfuls of food.
"It's just a stir fry, takes two seconds. You were gone for ages today is Glenda all right?"
"She's fine. She just wanted to go see her old doctor so we had to wait for her appointment and then we couldn't get out because a guy parked us in."
"Don't you hate that? Some people think they're the only person on the planet with needs."
"No it was understandable. His daughter had been bitten by bees. She was only a little baby and he was pretty distraught."
"So I suppose you helped calm him down."
"I just talked to him for a little bit. Poor guy thought he was going to have to do a tracheotomy or something."
"Yeah, cause that always works the same as it does on television."
"He was still in shock."
Rinah watched as Emma kept changing the fork from her right hand to her left. She sat with a straight back and every few bites she took a sip of wine and wiped her mouth. Her nose and cheeks were slightly pink from the sun. Rinah mentally admonished herself for noticing.
"We kind of have to make a go of this," Rinah said.
"Go of what?"
"Well Seth will be coming back to visit and he thinks we're all going to be the best of friends and I hate seeing that puppy dog look when things don't turn out the way he wants."
"You know he uses that as manipulation."
"I know. But it's very effective. So I'm guessing you're not the small talk type, more like the deep and meaningful tell me all your secrets kind of conversationalist."
"Right then straight to it. My biggest darkest secret is and I will deny this if asked. I love Reba."
"You know the television show with Reba McIntyre, the county singer."
"Never heard of it."
"Oh come on. It's on here. I've seen it. You know it. Reba's got the little girl from Voyager." Emma shook her head. "You do know Voyager right?"
"Jeri Ryan in a cat suit. I know Star Trek Voyager."
"Seven and Belana fanfic. That was the best wasn't it? But anyway back to Reba. Well I love it and I don't know why. So is that the kind of revelation that can get the ball rolling?"
"Strangers tell me secrets every day. Actually I kind of like 'what if' questions."
"Like what if your house was on fire, what would you save?"
"More like if your soul was on fire what would you save?"
"Oh good question. I like it. Do you want the deliberate considered response or the Freudian first thing you think of answer."
"That's up to you."
"Okay my... Artistic side, my creativity. Oh wait my imagination. That's it. I like the question assuming I have a soul and assuming I don't want to just completely wipe the slate clean and try my luck, then I want to save my imagination."
"You're an artist?"
"I paint a little, do a bit of photography, graphic design, whatever I feel like at the time."
"Is that what you do back in the states for a living?"
"Not officially as an income. I haven't tried to pay the bills with my art. I used to be a marketing exec but the corporate world kind of crushed my sense of morality and then promptly spat me out because I wanted to pitch too far outside the box. It payed the bills though and then some. Paydays were sufficient propaganda blinkers for a while."
"So what do you do now?"
"Well obviously, I got myself conned into a job for Hay but after this, I don't know I haven't decided on my next career yet. Hence the travelling around. I was thinking maybe interior design or journalism, no, I decided journalism would be my career after that or radio announcer. Maybe I'll do a segment on what if questions. Can I change my answer?" Rinah didn't wait for a reply. "I want to save my inner muse. That's it, the rest can go."
"I've never met someone so comfortable with freedom. Most people have trouble finding just one career. You're obviously planning on living a long life," Emma said.
"Not necessarily long just a miscellaneous life. I don't want to be known for being the best in something, you know self actualising, reaching your full potential. Being queen of your domain and all that. I kind of like the idea of being acceptable at a lot of different things, being queen of the mix it up domain. Hey that would make a good question. What do you want on your epitaph? Mine would be, she liked to mix it up."
Emma laughed for the first time since Rinah arrived. "It's catchy and thought provoking much better than beloved and rest in peace blah blah blah."
"Well who'd have thought it would take a tombstone to bring out your beautiful smile." Emma started packing up and rinsing the dinner plates. "Did I say something wrong? I tend to talk a lot. So statistically speaking I'm going to put my foot in my mouth on a regular basis, with a point five variation in the intervals between gaffs."
"Its fine, I just want to go check my emails and have a shower."
"What did I do to make the walls come back up?" Rinah placed her hand over Emma's.
"I just have things to do." Emma snatched her hand back. "Thanks again for dinner it was really good. Leave the rest of the dishes. I'll wash up in the morning. Goodnight Rinah."
Rinah assumed Emma was used to successfully keeping everyone at bay with her pretence of openness but in Rinah's opinion Emma was only open for input. Output was behind a steel trap door, completely impenetrable.
You put on a facade for everyone. It's helped you survive, but now you have to take the mask off long enough to at least look in the mirror. See the darkness, don't be afraid of it. The darkness dwells in all of us. But in all of us there is also light. Unless you are willing to look it will remain hidden to you.
For the sake of appearances Emma decided she should leave her room and have breakfast before midday. She changed out of her ratty t-shirt and braved the outside world.
"Morning," Rinah called from the deck.
Rinah watched Emma go through her normal toast routine. "Sorry but it's going to be a noisy work day today," Rinah said. "I was thinking tonight I might go get some DVD's to watch."
" Sure." Emma brought her breakfast outside. "I looked up Reba last night and I don't get it."
"I know me neither." Rinah pulled off her ipod headphones and continued to measure and mark the lengths of wood. "If you're going for a walk today you should really put on sunscreen. There's some in my room if you need it."
"Sure," Emma said, returning to the kitchen to let Rinah get on with her work.
Emma hated the thought of relaxing while someone else was working. She busied herself with washing and cleaning. Every time the sawing stopped Emma could hear Rinah singing. She was apparently oblivious to the volume or pitch. Emma poured herself a large glass of juice. Noticing the beads of sweat dripping down Rinah's back she poured another glass, added some ice and took it out.
"By the way its groupies not boobies," Emma said, handing over the glass.
"What?" Rinah pressed pause and gulped down her drink.
"Pussy Cat Dolls song, when I grow up. I know boobies goes but it's actually groupies."
"That's not as much fun."
"And its clouds above not power bug."
"You must have something better to do than lyrics check."
"I'm just leaving to go find a present for Lilly. I have no idea what to get a two year old."
"Exactly," Rinah went back to work.
Emma didn't want to go. She didn't want to have to go around town with her fake smile. Her temporary home was now loud and busy but somehow it felt comfortable. She would never admit to being lonely. Solitude was her haven but Rinah didn't seem so much of an invasion today.
As soon as Emma got home Rinah grabbed the car keys saying she needed to go grab a few things. She returned with DVD's, popcorn, lemonade and smarties. She quickly set it all out in front of the television. Rinah smiled when Emma brought over napkins to go with her movie food.
"So I know I look the type who would get the subtitled movie or the art house or something deep that nobody really understands. But I like my entertainment light and unpretentious, most of the time anyway. So this is another thing I will deny if asked. I will never admit to seeing it but we have Bring It On."
"The cheerleader movie? You have to be kidding."
"Who doesn't love a good cheerleader movie?" Emma raised her eyebrows. "Don't look at me like I'm a dirty old lesbian. My first all girl encounter was with a cheerleader. The movie just reminds me of good times. Come on let me introduce you to American pop culture at its best." Emma didn't look convinced. "Well if you really want to be snobby about it I have Honey." Rinah proudly held up another case. Emma shrugged her shoulders. "It's got Jessica Alba. It doesn't need any further explanation."
"I've seen it."
"Then I have Smallville season one." Rinah looked at Emma eagerly taking out the first disc.
"As in Superman? Rinah seriously your choices make for a really interesting personality test."
"Okay, maybe you don't have to watch Smallville. It's just they do these beautiful set decorations and the lighting is just superb."
"Is that going to be one of your careers?"
"Actually I used to help my uncle out as set decorator for extra money while I was at college. It was just small time stuff, low budget cable TV but I loved the process. Maybe you're on to something. I should add that to the list. There's no rule that says you can't do something twice. Right?"
"I don't think you would stick to rules even if you had them."
Rinah didn't read out the final DVD she just placed it at the bottom of the pile. "So Bring It On it is." She put the disc into the player before Emma could object. "I challenge you to not get swept up in the frivolity."
Rinah watched Emma instead of the movie. She noticed the sly smiles and the way she tried to hide it. "So?" Rinah asked as the credits rolled.
"I think dirty old lesbian still stands."
"Then you did enjoy it?"
"I'm not going to incriminate myself." Emma popped a smartie in her mouth and then wiped her hands with a napkin.
"I like your idiosyncrasies. Don't be afraid to show more around me."
"I feel like I've just been given a compliment and an insult." Emma looked at her companion. "Well I like that you're unpredictable. You have no patterns."
"Is that a good thing?"
"Yes." Emma looked away shyly and pulled at the hem of her shirt. "I need to go to bed."
"But we haven't had dinner yet."
"I've had enough. Goodnight." Emma rushed into her room.
Rinah didn't want the connection broken yet but she couldn't bring herself to knock on the closed door. She didn't want to invade Emma's territory any more than she already had. Rinah could hear soft music coming from the bedroom. That at least was an improvement on the suffocating silence.
It's okay to show your fear. Once you accept that we are all a little afraid of the shadows you can stop being so hard on yourself and take your place amongst the rest of us mere mortals. Strength and empowerment come out of acknowledging and embracing your vulnerabilities.
Emma went back to bed but it was impossible to sleep with Rinah banging and clattering on the deck. There was nothing to occupy her ticking brain or to distract her from the activity outside so she reluctantly dragged herself out of bed.
"Weren't you giving me a lecture on sunscreen yesterday," Emma said, bringing her coffee out onto the deck. "You're shoulders are getting really burnt."
"Fertility of soil and salubrity of climate."
"It's from this Lincoln book I'm reading. I'm not entirely sure what it means but it reminds me of this place. So beautiful, so green and bountiful and to enjoy it you have to put up with being constantly hot and sweaty."
Emma retrieved the sunscreen from the kitchen table. For a moment she thought about offering to spread it on Rinah's shoulders and neck. Her body was craving human touch but her mind repelled from the idea. She handed over the tube hoping Rinah didn't notice her hesitation.
"Speaking of salubrity of climate. I'm going to put on the aircon. Get it cooled down for Seth, you know how precious he is."
"I'll do it." Emma made another excuse to exit Rinah's personal space.
Seth arrived for lunch right on time. He was immediately put to work helping Emma with the salad while Rinah set the table.
"So I got a call from Angelica this morning."
"She called you? My Angelica?" Emma asked.
"The one and only. She's coming up for some seminar thing and wants to catch up with me. I think she wants to make sure you're okay."
"Well I didn't know what to say. I mean what is the protocol here? Have you two broken up again? Do you want me to see her?" Seth continued on without waiting for an answer. "I mean that woman really freaks me out. She's just like Judge Harris, she has this really intense look, like she knows what you're thinking. I stumble every time she's presiding. Anyway I kind of fobbed her off, said I have to check what I had on and get back to her and"
"Seth take a breath, if you want too, you can but you don't have to."
"But I don't know what to say about Rin being here. I mean I know the rules for a married guy, no going on holidays with another woman but co habituating lesbians. I don't know. Are you allowed?"
"Can I weigh in here or do I continue to pretend I can't hear you?" Rinah asked taking her seat at the head of the table.
"Please, weigh in, why not?" Emma replied.
"Hay, women can differentiate between relationships that are friendship and sexual and besides I'm just here as the hired help not for a clandestine affair."
Emma swiped up the napkins and meticulously refolded them into small fans.
"But what do I say? I mean are you two broken up?" Seth asked.
Rinah served herself some salad pretending she had no interest in the answer.
"We're not broken up. You can say whatever you like Seth and she can't read your mind."
"But she's some hot shot psychologist to the stars. Except for her column of course which you are brilliant at by the way. I don't know how you can stand giving her all the credit."
"The column?" Rinah asked.
"Em ghost writes an advice column for Angelica."
"Seth that's not exactly supposed to be public knowledge, hence the term ghost writer."
"Rin isn't the public. Besides you should get some accolades in the privacy of your own home, well my home in this case."
"You do the responses for a column, like an agony aunt thing?"
"Yeah," Emma replied.
"Why ghost write?"
"Angelica got the job but she doesn't have the time. The magazine just wants her name they don't care who's answering the questions. I needed a job and that's the end of the story. Rinah's doing a great job on the deck don't you think Seth?"
"Excellent change of subject Em," Seth commented. "You might want to work on the subtly though. But you're right. Rin you have out done yourself. Its way better than I expected, Mel will be so pleased."
"Thanks, I think. And you? Are you pleased?"
"Well once you're finished it goes up for sale and we move to Sydney." Seth picked out a chunk of avocado from the salad.
"Hay, you don't want to move?"
"It's a great job offer." Seth slathered butter on his bread roll.
"But?" Emma asked.
"But we need some wine and some food before you give me the third degree." He put a huge pile of salad and chicken on his plate and passed it around. "It's just that I really wasn't expecting it." There was silence as they all started to eat.
"So I introduced Emma to Bring It On yesterday. I'm not sure she really picked up on all the subtlety," Rinah said.
"Rin what is it with you and that movie? She's actually really intelligent Em I promise. She just likes to hide it."
"No actually, I'm just shallow and frivolous. I just happen to have a semi photographic memory so occasionally I appear to verge on genius."
"Oh yeah, has she started quoting Abraham Lincoln to you yet?"
"A little." They all took a long sip of wine.
"If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher," Rinah announced.
"You know if you're going to memorise lines shouldn't you spout them in some sort of context," Seth remarked.
"The context is, if you don't want to move to Sydney why are you making out like you don't have a choice?" Seth put more food in his mouth. "You seem very happy here Seth."
"I am. But taking the job will be good for my career and there will be more opportunities for the kids in Sydney."
"And Mel wants to twirl around in her stilettos in a more appreciative setting right?"
"Rin she's my wife, retract the claws."
"I'm not trying to be nasty. She just loves all the social climbing stuff. I didn't say there was anything wrong with that."
"That social climbing stuff is necessary for my job. You're supposed to show your face at the right events."
"I think Rinah is just trying to ask if you're making this decision for the right reasons," Emma quietly added.
"I'm making it for my family is that good enough for you both?"
"I thought you moved to Cairns because Mel wanted to be close to her family and now that you have made a home here, you're going to do what she says again. I'm all for noble sacrifices and unselfish motives but you deserve to be happy too you know Hay."
"And what exactly is happiness Rin?"
"Ask Emma she's the psychologist."
Emma took a moment to consider her answer. "How much you like the life you live I guess."
"Then fine, I like the life I'm living. Happy now?" He poured himself another glass of wine.
"It's about what you perceive as the good life," Rinah said. "I once heard a guy define happiness as ... The reassuring sound of the other guy's fax machine kicking in," Rinah said draining her glass of wine.
"I can relate to that. Well what does Lincoln have to say about it?" Seth asked.
"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be," Rinah easily recited.
"You know there is also the theory that if we are too happy we will fail to see the misery in the world," Emma said. "Too much happiness makes us too egocentric."
"Well I don't think you have to worry about that sweetie," Seth said, patting Emma's hand.
"What's that supposed to mean?"
"Well you are neither happy nor egotistical."
"Says the man who's in a marriage of convenience," Rinah defended. "Emma's not the one making protestations about her happiness."
"Hey come on we're just talking here," Seth said.
The door creaked open. Felicity barrelled in and jumped onto the vacant seat looking eagerly at her dining companions. "Its Glenda from next-door. Hello." Glenda peeked her head inside the door. "I don't mean to disturb you. I saw Seth driving up. Hello Seth dear."
Seth got up to give Glenda a quick kiss on the cheek. "Hi Glenda."
"How are you Glenda?" Emma asked.
"I've taken my medication and I remembered to breathe." Glenda picked up a piece of chicken from Seth's plate and handed it to Felicity. In a whisper to Emma she added. "I just wanted to ask if I'm dressed okay. Some of my friends tell me I don't dress appropriately. I only answered the door once without my pants but they complain so much now I'm not sure. I'm going to pick up my daughter so I just wanted to check."
Emma looked over the blue dress, blue shoes and large white handbag. "You look just fine Glenda, very presentable, are you okay to drive?"
"Oh yes no shaking today. I only have to make one turn off to the airport, it's easy. I won't keep you, I just wanted to check."
"Have a lovely time with your daughter," Emma said.
"I will dear. Come on Felicity." Felicity looked around the table to check if anyone was going to give her a parting gift before jumping down and racing out the door.
Rinah got up to close the front door. "Well Glenda certainly puts things in perspective." She walked up behind Seth and gave him a kiss on the head. "I love you Seth Hay Bale. I only annoy the crap out of people I really care about." Rinah patted the side of his cheek with a slightly greasy hand.
"We all have our dysfunctional cross to bear, isn't that right Em?" Seth replied.
"Sure it is."
"Come on we haven't watched 'Honey' yet that will cheer you all up."
The trio spent the afternoon drinking wine and competing with each other to give running commentary on the chorography and Jessica's outfits.
Emma waved Seth goodbye after a short nap and his second cup of coffee. With a building headache Emma was in no mood to be polite. "Do you have to be so confrontational with Seth he's pretty sensitive you know?"
"I know. That's exactly why I think Melanie's not right for him. She uses that sensitivity to push him around."
"He can look after himself."
"I just want him to face up to some home truths."
"You can't shove the truth down people's throats. They're only going to see it when they're ready. You don't have to strip someone naked to get a point across."
"Give me some credit. I know you're hurting over something and I want to push you about it but I haven't."
"What I may or may not be going through is none of your business."
"Well it needs to be somebody's business you can't go around helping everyone else but yourself."
"I don't help people," she whispered.
"Sure you do, the bee baby guy, Glenda, Seth, and that's just what I've seen. I know you like to stay contained and ordered but it's okay to get a little messy, I can handle it."
"Messy leads to vulnerable. I don't know you well enough to share with you something you can use against me."
"Oh god, if's that been your experience with people then I'm sorry. Gentleness should be rewarded. If there is something you want to talk about I'm here." Rinah reached out and placed her hand on Emma's arm and let if fall to give her hand a squeeze.
"I don't need kindness Not after what I've done Or failed to do." Emma pulled her hand away. "I know why I'm hiding out in Seth's house but why are you?"
"You've already asked and I've already answered." Rinah moved to the other side of the counter.
"Working holiday. Isn't that something you do in your twenties with a backpack?"
"I don't know you very well but I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt and assume you're normally a really nice person and I'm just not seeing you at your best. But you don't want to bait me." There was a flash of anger in Rinah's eyes. "I don't need to justify my life to you. It's my turn to walk away. I'm going to watch some TV in my room. I'll see you in the morning."
Emma knew she was stepping over the line with Rinah. It was one more thing to feel guilty about. After an hour of pacing back and forth in her room Emma couldn't ignore her grumbling stomach anymore.
"I see you had the same idea," Rinah said, grabbing a piece of chicken from the fridge.
"Listen" "I" they both began at once.
"You go first," Rinah offered.
"I just wanted to say I'm sorry for before. You're right I'm not exactly at my best but that's no reason to take it out on you."
"Apology accepted. I'm just used to diving straight into things with people you know. But with you I feel like I'm walking on egg shells and I'm pretty sure you don't really like people tiptoeing around you. So I really don't know what to do."
"No, me neither." Emma didn't know what else to say. Rinah was right on all counts.
"Well as long as we're both confused." Emma smiled a little. Rinah gave her an awkward hug before going to bed.
There is always beauty in sadness and light peaking through the dark. You just have to be looking for it. Accept where you are, accept who you are, decide to take control. There is beauty to be found in difficulties and challenge. Find the beauty and let it shine.
"I don't know what that means."
"Me neither." She shifted her laptop off the coffee table. "I hope you don't mind but I took some photos while you were at the beach on your daily walk. Do you want to see?"
"I guess." Emma scrolled through the black and white photos. "Wow, I'm not sure about the subject but the pictures are Beautiful."
"They are right? I haven't really done much to them, just adjusted the tone. I'd really like to come with you next time and gets some close ups."
"I don't know, can't you find something else to photograph?"
"Beauty can't be ignored. Hang on." Rinah came back out with her camera and sunscreen just as it began to rain. "Hang on again." This time Rinah came out with two large blank canvases and paint.
"Oh No. There's no way I can stay still long enough for you to paint me."
"Relax. I don't do portraits. This is for both of us."
"You want me to paint?"
"Yep," Rinah continued to set out her collection of brushes.
"I don't know how to paint."
"No prior experience required."
Rinah was grateful for the downpour. The moment Emma picked up the paint brush her face softened. She seemed so open and unguarded.
"I don't have a clue what I'm doing." Emma said taking a different colour and sweeping it across the canvas.
"Just have fun with it," Rinah said, as she added to her intricate pattern of loops and vine leaves.
"I know you can do it. I can feel the smile you're trying to hide."
"That's me, a shinning beacon of fun, it's just hidden under the surface."
"Don't make me re-enact the corny romance movie scene where the cute and peppy one playfully flicks paint on the sad brooding one."
Emma put down her brush. "You think we're starring in a romance movie?"
"We could be if I did this." Rinah pulled Emma into a deep lingering kiss. Rinah had been expecting to be pushed away but instead Emma's lips responded and her arms collapsed around Rinah's neck. When their lips parted Rinah's head finally caught up with her actions. She couldn't believe what she had just done. Despite her many vows and promises to herself she had just dived straight into more drama...Again. "Okay now I'm really confused."
"Well as long as we're both confused," Emma said, stepping back a little. "If there was a soundtrack to your life what would be playing in the background now."
Despite the left field question Rinah was grateful. "Soundtrack, well right now maybe something from Nina Simone. Oh no wait edgier, um Death Cab for Cutie, Transatlanticism."
"You can't do that."
"Ask the question and not answer it yourself. So what's your background music?" Emma fiddled with her brushes. "Come on no over thinking."
"Frou Frou, Let Go."
"See that wasn't so hard was it." Rinah pulled her into another kiss. "When you let your guard down your eyes shine. I see you."
"You don't want anything do you?"
"Well I wouldn't say that." She kissed the side of Emma's neck.
"No I mean you don't want my help with anything. I go to a Doctor and I hear about the husband with bi polar. I go to the post office and a stranger tells me about finding his adoptive mother after sixty years. I meet people who have no idea who I am or what I do for a living and they unload on me. Or I say I'm a psychologist and they say don't analyse me and then they go ahead and tell me everything."
"Everyone has a story. I just don't feel the need to " Rinah was interrupted by a phone ringing. "Hold that thought. "Hey sweetie " Rinah said, as she answered her cell. "Oh I miss you too It's great here except for the heat Its in the bathroom cupboard under the sink I sent you some photo's of the beach and Hay's house Okay I will Love you too. Bye sweetie."
When Rinah come back out Emma was gone and her bedroom door was closed. Rinah knocked lightly on the door but there was no answer, she clearly wasn't invited. The rain had stopped. Rinah decided she should go back to work.
There are pitfalls everywhere. The choices we make determine if we fall in.
Emma tapped her pen on the desk. She threw the unfinished letter on the pile and snuck out through the back door.
Rinah tried to distract herself with loud music. Over the pounding beat she thought she heard a knock on the door.
"Coming Glenda." Rinah opened the door. "Oh. You're not Glenda."
A tall thin woman put out her perfectly manicured hand. "Angelica Bluestone."
Rinah brushed her hand on her leg trying to get some of the sawdust off. "Rinah, you're Angelica as in Emma's Angelica?"
"Well at least she has mentioned me."
"She's down at the beach." Angelica glanced inside the door and saw the laptop with the photos of Emma. Rinah followed her line of sight. "I was just playing around with those. I dabble in photography." Angelica spied the artwork and paint scattered around the room.
Rinah could see what Seth meant about the piecing intensity of Angelica's blue eyes. She had a severe bob and a thick fringe tinged with grey. She was older than Rinah had expected and it looked like she got out of bed perfectly composed.
"Well. I'll go down to her. Nice to meet you Rinah."
"Yeah. Sure, you too."
Angelica walked back down the steps and took off her suit jacket to reveal sculpted arms. She took off her high heels and placed them in the car and walked down to the beach. It looked all wrong for her to be barefoot and hoping on the hot stones, it didn't match. Rinah picked up her camera to spy through the lens. She was a photographer so she rationalised it was okay. She was relieved to see the reunion only garnered a quick peck on the cheek but then she saw the intimacy of the hug. Their bodies completely joined. Rinah closed her eyes but snapped the moment. Looking down at her photo she relegated it to the trash instantly. It wasn't a moment worth preserving. Rinah forced herself to go back inside. She didn't need to see anymore to know she had set herself up for pain again. She heard the voices coming up the pathway.
"I don't want to stay with you Ang," Emma said.
"Then just dinner." Emma didn't answer. "Come on. Please honey, I've missed you."
"All right just dinner but I need to go change."
"No need. We'll just get some fish and chips and sit on Four Mile Beach."
"Then I'll just get some money."
"Don't be silly sweetheart. Let's go."
Rinah heard two car doors shut and the wheels on the gravel. She felt disproportionately angry that she didn't even warrant a good bye. She was angry at Emma for being such an intriguing enigma and she was angry at Seth for putting the two of them together. Rinah picked up the canvas and painted over it with black.
When Emma returned it was still early. Rinah hated that she noticed how long Emma had been gone and couldn't help turning the sound down on the television to hear their goodbye.
"All I'm saying is you won't get over this by hiding away up here."
"I don't deal with things the same way as you Ang."
"That's the point, you're not dealing. This stuff happens, it's part of the process. You have to learn to not be so sensitive."
"It's who I am."
"I don't want to fight Em. I just want you to come home."
"I will when I'm ready"
"You sure you won't come back to the hotel with me. It's the Sheraton, right on the water."
"Well Melanie invited me to the birthday party tomorrow so I have another lecture and then I 'm going to drop in before my plane leaves. Just think about what I've said okay. I love you."
Rinah noted she didn't hear the words I love you from Emma but that didn't mean Emma wasn't whispering it in Angelica's ear. Rinah turned the volume back up on the television.
"I brought you back some extra chips," Emma said, as she walked in the door. "They are a bit cold now. Sorry. Do you want me to heat them up?"
"No thanks. I have already eaten."
"Okay we can have them tomorrow. Trust me I know how to resuscitate day old chips. So what are we watching?" Emma plonked herself down on the couch.
"Smallville DVD commentary."
"Right, research for your next career. Oh, wow is that the Clark character? He would make a beautiful woman, he's so pretty."
Rinah couldn't help but smile. She had made the same comment many times.
"Actually I think I'm going to get an early night. I have a lot of work to make up for after today."
"Right... Rinah... I had a really good time today. Before we got interrupted. It's been a while. So thank you."
"Sure. Goodnight." Now Rinah was really confused. She hated women who ran hot and cold but this didn't feel like a game.
You need to find a way to release the pain. Its hard work but it's worth it. Let go of the things that are holding you back, embrace the things that give you joy. Take charge and take control.
Emma checked herself in the mirror and then checked the time. Rinah wasn't out of bed yet even though she said she was going to start early. Emma scribbled another note. Gone to birthday party. Be back this afternoon. Emma didn't know how to sign off so she left it blank.
As soon as the car left Rinah tuned out the rest of the world with earphones again. She wasn't sure how much time passed before she was interrupted.
"Oh God!" Rinah yelled. Dropping her hammer and spinning around to see who had snuck up behind her and tapped her on the shoulder.
"Sorry. I knocked and called out but you obviously couldn't hear me," Angelica said.
"Um Emma isn't here. She's at Seth's for a birthday party."
"I came to talk to you."
A conversation with Emma's girlfriend was not on her list of things to do for the day but what choice did she have. "So...Talk."
"Can we sit down?"
Rinah led the way to the couch. She thought about asking if Angelica wanted something to drink but decided against it. She didn't think this was going to be an amiable chat over a cup of coffee. Rinah had read enough pop psychology to know silence was a dangerous weapon so she bit down on the urge to defend herself for whatever infraction had brought Angelica to her door.
"She talked about you a lot last night," Angelica began. "Your art, your careers, your honesty."
"Angelica why are you here?"
"Has she told you why she's here yet?"
"I think she's nearly ready to trust you. I'm here because I have to set her free. I've crossed so many lines with her. I was her lecturer, then her supervisor and still I couldn't help but fall in love." Rinah nodded understanding. "She is so unique and disarmingly intuitive. I wanted a little of her kindness to rub off on me. She has wanted to leave before but I keep chasing after her and she knows I need her so she returns."
"Why are you telling me all this?"
"I'm not going to chase her anymore. Before I leave this afternoon I'm going to tell her she's free to go if she wants to."
"And if she doesn't want to?"
"Then I'm not strong enough to tell her I'm no good for her. Just because you have insight doesn't mean you have to act on it."
"I'll remember that little nugget next time I'm on the counselling couch."
"When she opens up to you don't let her down and don't let her push you away."
"God I feel like I'm being set up with your girlfriend, like you're giving me permission or something. I know I'm not the expert in the room but this sounds crazy to me."
"You can interpret this conversation anyway you want. Your perception is not necessarily my reality."
"I left my double speak for dummies at home Angelica."
Angelica pulled out an envelope from her bag. "When she opens up you need to get her to read this." She handed over the envelope addressed to Blue Angel. "I have said what I came to say." She tucked her hair behind her ears and headed for the door. Angelica turned back. "Get her to see the good things that came out of it." She closed the door behind her.
Rinah had run out of things to occupy her. The house was immaculately clean and all her tools where neatly stacked on the deck. The envelope in her pocket felt like it was burning a hole through her shirt. She desperately wanted to know what Angelica had entrusted her with but Rinah couldn't bring herself to breach Emma's clearly marked privacy. Rinah heard a car coming up the driveway. She jumped on the couch and turned on the television as if she had been relaxing all afternoon.
"Hello," Emma said, joining Rinah on the couch.
"How was the party?" Rinah mentally kicked herself for not coming up with something better.
"Like you said full of screaming rug rats and breeders."
"So um Is everything okay?"
"No not really."
"You want to talk about it?" Rinah still couldn't think of anything better to say.
"You know in the movies when all the emotional angst builds to breaking point. They close in on a beautiful woman with flawless skin and she has the one solitary tear that falls slowly down her face. The tear explains every emotion and the love interest gently wipes it away and they all move on." Rinah nodded, moving closer. "I want that moment. I want one single tear and then I can move on." Emma put her head in her hands and started to quietly cry.
"Let it out," Rinah stroked her back.
Between quiet sobs Emma tried to explain. "No one will know it wasn't her. They all think Angelica wrote it. She has to live with people thinking she drove her to it. No wonder she doesn't want to be with me. God I don't want to be with me." Emma got up to leave but Rinah grabbed her hand and pulled her back down
"I didn't get to see the first half of the movie." Rinah gently wiped away the tears. "So you're going to have to fill me in."
"Ang thinks I should be over this by now. That I have to accept that this happens and I can't always prevent it. She's right. But it's not right for me. I can't make it right."
"What Emma? What can't you make right?"
"A woman killed herself because I couldn't help her. She wrote in to Blue Angel for help. I responded and five months later they found her at the bottom of a twelve storey building with my response in her hand and two white daises."
Rinah pulled her into a hug. "Oh Emma, I'm so sorry that happened."
"She Dano She left behind a two month old little girl." Emma locked eyes with Rinah. "I keep trying to write the response. Find the words that would have kept her alive." Emma broke down and collapsed into Rinah arms. Rinah had no idea what to say. It was a long time before Emma spoke again. "I wish I loved Angelica the way she loves me."
"Does she normally want the best for you?"
"I guess," Emma answered.
"She gave me this." Rinah handed over the envelope. "She said it was important you read this." Emma's hands shook a little when she saw the name.
"Do you want me to read it?" Emma nodded. "Dear Blue Angel. I'm writing this letter to thank you. My daughter Dano "
"Oh god no I can't do this." Emma ran into her room. This time Rinah followed.
"I think you have to."
"Who are you to tell me what I have to do."
"I'm the person who's here. I've been here and I'm not going anywhere." Rinah picked up the letter again as she sat down on the bed beside Emma. "My daughter Dano carried around your letter everywhere. It was the only thing that kept her going. I truly believe you gave us those extra months. Which means we now have my grandchild. She is the light of my life. Thank you." Rinah folded the letter and placed it in Emma's hand. "Your words kept her alive long enough to have her daughter. Your words saved a life."
Emma broke down in tears again. Rinah lay on the bed with her and let her cry.
Rinah woke up to the sound of paper being ripped. For once it was an innocent next morning, same clothes situation. Rinah had fallen asleep with Emma in her arms.
"What are you doing?" Rinah asked rolling over on her side.
"Trying to pretend I can make the guilt go away."
"Guilt is irrelevant," Rinah deadpanned.
"Guilt is irrelevant. You know Seven of Nine from Voyager."
"I know. I just wanted to see you do it again." Emma actually smiled. "Breakfast?"
"Sure." Rinah was getting used to the one eighty mood swings. Rinah put on the toast while Emma started on some scrambled eggs. "Emma I need to know what I'm looking for so I know when to pop the toast. Or is it just the act of watching that gets it the way you want. You know like a Schrödinger's cat kind of thing."
"Just however it comes out."
"But every morning you watch, you pop it, you watch some more, you pop again. There's a whole ritual yet the toast comes out different every morning."
"I do not."
"Yeah. You really do. Every morning."
"I didn't know I was being watched."
"I told you I see you. I see all your little idiosyncrasies."
"Oh that's a nice way to say crazy. I'll remember that."
Rinah put her hands around Emma's waist and whispered "There's so much beauty in having a neurotic nature. We are all equal parts perfection and defects."
"Some of us haven't quite got equal parts."
"You said you want the tear in the movie. Well I see you more like the star, the one wearing bright red and everyone else is in drab grey. You stand out in the crowd. Now go check on your toast while I finish this." Rinah took the bowl from Emma.
It was a quiet breakfast. The comfortable contemplation of each other was interrupted by a knock on the door.
"Hello I'm Jenny, Glenda's daughter. I just wanted to say thank you for your help. I hope she hasn't been too much trouble. The last renters really looked after her and she has just gotten used to coming over here."
"It's no problem," Emma said.
"She and Felicity are welcome anytime," Rinah added.
"Thanks but now with the house being sold. I can't keep relying on someone else to take care of her. I'm going to move her in with me."
"Is she okay with that?" Emma asked.
"Actually she doesn't know yet. She thinks she's coming for a holiday. I know it sounds bad, forcing her out of her home. But she's just too stubborn for her own good."
"You have to do what you think is best," Emma said.
"Thanks for everything. I'll let you go."
Rinah's cell phone rang again. Emma couldn't hear her and she denied herself the indignity of going closer to listen. There was obviously someone else in Rinah's life. It was to be expected, she was an amazing woman. But Emma refused to analyse it any further. She was feeling lighter than she had in weeks. The burdens and complications of the outside world didn't exist inside this house. She was relieved to have a distraction from Rinah's call when Seth showed up with three bottles of wine.
"You left the party and you looked upset. I wanted to check on you."
Rinah came back out. "She's not fine."
"Of course she's not," Seth said, getting out three wine glasses.
"Seth it's not even lunch time we can't start drinking," Emma said.
"I have no problem drinking alone." Seth opened the first bottle and began to pour.
"What the hell. Hit me," Rinah said. "Hit her too, she needs it."
"Sure, I need a headache. So what's the occasion Seth." Emma handed over her glass to be filled.
"My meeting got cancelled and my wife wants me out of her hair."
"Hay we're honoured to be your third choice."
Seth took a long swig. "So are you going to tell me what's wrong yet, why you're here?" He directed his question to Emma.
"Are you going to tell us what's wrong with you?" Rinah interjected.
"Drink up friends and the elephants in the room won't seem so big," Seth said. Everyone drained their first glass. Seth quickly refilled them. "So how about some what if questions to get this conversation going."
Emma obliged, happy to lighten the mood. "What if in 300 years time an archaeologist is digging up your home. What would they conclude about you?"
"Um Hard working family man."
"Come on you can do better than that," Rinah admonished.
"A highly respected man of the law. Your turn."
"A highly respected Artisan," Rinah said, looking at Emma.
"I don't have a home right now." Emma topped her glass again. "What if you could read someone's mind, anyone in the world. Who would you choose?"
"You answer first," Rinah ordered.
"Nelson Mandela," Emma complied.
"Too generic. Judge Harris," Seth said.
"The guy who wrote the Dexter books," Rinah said, feeling a little light headed. She got up to get a bowl of nuts.
"My turn to ask," Seth said. "What if you cheat on your wife? Does she get everything she wants from then on?"
"Seth really?" Rinah asked. Seth nodded morosely.
"But you're the most loyal person I know," Emma added.
"Loyal right up to the point my assistant threw herself at me."
"And you told Mel?" Emma asked.
"I told my wife, the mother of my children that I betrayed her in the worst way."
"That's why you're moving to Sydney?" Rinah asked.
"I have to don't I?"
"No." both women said at once.
"You made a mistake Hay. You don't have to pay for that for the rest of your life," Rinah said.
"Then how do I fix it?"
Everyone looked to Emma. "God I don't know. My track record with relationships is ship wreck after ship wreck."
"I just never thought I would be that guy."
"Sometimes you can't help who you are attracted to." Rinah offered in consolation.
"That doesn't make infidelity okay," Emma responded.
"No I didn't say that," Rinah defended herself.
"But you obviously don't believe in committed monogamous relationships." Emma could feel the outside world intruding into her sanctuary.
"What have I done to give you that impression?"
"Your phone calls."
"Phone calls? What? Jesse, you mean my phone calls from Jesse? She's nineteen and like my sister. You should know better than to jump to conclusions."
"Can we get back to my problems." Seth pleaded ignoring the tension between the two women.
"You have to earn her trust again but with your back bone intact," Rinah said.
"Just be open and honest with her," Emma added.
"That's a good one coming from you," Seth snorted.
Rinah was torn between defending Emma and agreeing with Seth. "I think we've all had too much to drink." Rinah tried to take the bottle of wine away but Emma was too quick, she grabbed it and poured another glass for her and Seth.
"I thought you said I needed this," Emma said.
"I was wrong. Come on do you really think it's a good idea for you right now."
"Don't try to rescue her Rin," Seth said, still gulping down his wine. "You can't keep spending your life doing that." Rinah stayed silent. "God I wish there was a pill I could take to make me a better husband."
"Ang thinks I should go on anti depressants," Emma said quietly.
"That's ridiculous," Rinah shouted. "If you want to pull yourself out of this you will. You don't need pills."
"You say that like it's a choice."
"Spoken like someone who has never experienced pain," Emma replied. The silent standoff was broken by Seth's ringing phone.
"Its Mel." He walked out to the deck to take the call. He returned sober and pale. "Its Bryce, he's in Hospital. I have to get back to Cairns."
"You can't drive Seth," Emma said.
"It was just a few glasses. I'll be fine."
"None of us are okay to drive," Rinah added.
"Well I have to get there now Rin."
"Let's hope Jane isn't a day time drinker." Rinah grabbed Seth's car keys and ran over to their neighbours.
"It's gunna be okay Seth." Emma gave him a hug.
"It hasn't been for a really long time." He tightened his hold.
"Let's go." Rinah called from outside. With Jane at the wheel they all piled into Seth's car including Felicity who sat on Glenda's lap.
There was nothing Emma could do but watch as Seth and Melanie spiralled through the gamut of emotions from panic to relief as their son had emergency surgery for a burst appendix. Emma and Rinah took turns sitting outside with Felicity and Glenda and sitting beside the worried parents.
"He's going to be okay." Seth told the assembled group.
Rinah was the first one to envelop him in a hug. "Whatever I said before," she whispered. "God I don't even remember what I said. But seeing you today, you need to do whatever it takes to keep your family together."
Emma pulled Seth aside. "Seth honey, she loves you, you love her, don't let guilt get in the way."
"And you honey. What are you letting get in the way?"
"Nothing, not anymore. I'm going back to Sydney. I'll call you, fill you in on everything once Bryce is home." Emma kissed Seth and left. "You ready to go?" She asked Rinah who nodded in reply. Glenda did all the talking on the way home. Regaling her companions with Jane's appendix operation as a child.
Emma kept quiet until they walked in the door. "I've been thinking about the second career thing. I was doing anthropology but Angelica convinced me to swap. Maybe it's time to switch back."
"I decided while we were at the hospital I'm going to be an editorial cartoonist."
Emma looked up at the clock. Without a word Rinah got out the step ladder and took down the clock. "I think it's time to stop waiting for the right time." Rinah led Emma to the bedroom. This was not going to be an innocent next morning situation.
It takes courage to bare your heart and soul. By writing to me you have already taken the first step. Reaching out for help shows you can fight this. The strength that has gotten you this far will get you through the next challenge. Challenge yourself to look beyond the pain.
Emma didn't need a photographic memory to remember every word of her original response to Dano. She just had one more sentence to add.
The challenge is to make sure you are not looking the other way when beautiful and wonderous things happen.
Rinah came up behind her and rubbed Emma's shoulders. "It's done," Emma said, handing Rinah the red folder. "I need to burn these."
"We'll do it together. And I think when we have done that we should plant the daises."
Emma nodded. "I'm going back to Sydney. I think I need to do it today before I lose my nerve." Emma fiddled with the pens. "Will you come with me?"
"It's not the right time for us," Rinah whispered.
Emma didn't argue.
Emma placed her bags in the car and returned to the doorway where Rinah was standing. "You're really going to let me go."
"This way we have this beautiful memory to hold onto and you didn't even have to hear my story."
"But what if I want to hear it?"
"Trust me this is better. It's the perfect ending." Rinah gave Emma a gentle kiss and walked back into the house.
Six months later
Emma frantically tapped at her laptop, she still had a week to complete her anthropology essay but she had three other assignments to complete and high grades to maintain. Hearing a knock on the door she was tempted to ignore it and keep working but she was determined to be at least a little more connected to the world around her.
"Felicity died," Rinah said, as Emma opened the door. "You know Glenda from next door. Her dog Felicity. I've been keeping in email contact with Jane so I would know how Glenda was doing."
"Is Glenda okay?" Emma said, trying to hide her surprise and delight that Rinah was at her door.
"Yes and no. But my point is she puts everything in perspective. I'm going to come in and I'm going to tell my story. But you have to promise when I'm done you are just going to say okay and then kiss me. There will be no trying to help me or make it all better. Got it?"
"Got it," Emma said, eagerly stepping aside to let Rinah in.
"Plus I've got the 'Remains of the Day' DVD. It's the one you didn't get to see in Cairns. Because it's so long and boring the only sensible thing to do while you're watching it is make out," Rinah said, as she entered Emma's small apartment.
Rinah sat down and got straight to the point. "When I was in college I fell in love with this fiery Italian girl. But Stace was still in the closet with her family. I was all about liberation and rights so I convinced her to come out." Rinah took at deep breath. "She did and her family stopped speaking to her. For six months we pretended it didn't matter. We pretended that she could have a life with me and she didn't need her family."
"You don't have to tell me everything now," Emma offered.
"No I need to get this out. One night we were coming home from a party. I was driving, perfectly sober and we get in a car accident. This totally random no-one's fault type of accident. I walk away with a broken wrist and Stace is in traction and on life support." Emma placed her hand over Rinah's. "So it turned out she did need her family, she needed round the clock care. I wasn't allowed to see her. Her family didn't want me anywhere near her. Two years later she died of an infection." Rinah's voice quavered but her eyes were dry. "Jesse who's living in my apartment while I'm away is her little sister. I've been helping her out, making sure she gets an education. Takes care of herself...Has a life. Her dad's dead so the reins have been loosened a little since Stace. They still hate me. But Jesse is just like her sister, so strong willed and determined. They don't want Jesse to walk out of their life and strangely I'm the only one she will listen to about never losing sight of how important family is."
Emma enveloped Rinah in a hug. "I'm so sorry that happened to you."
"So I do know pain and I know exactly what it's like to have to pull yourself out. So now that's out. Felicity's passing reminded me to not take time for granted. So I figure now is as good a time as any to have the perfect beginning."
"Okay," Emma said, drawing Rinah into a kiss.
Find more lesbian fiction at my blog
For lovers of words and women.
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Talana Xian meets her soul mate at the exact moment she needs her the most and wants her the least. After daring to step outside the shadow of expectation to captain the space faring ship the Equuleus, the captain is determined to prove her all female crew can fight the inequity of her universe. She thinks she has everything she's ever wanted until her carefully constructed world is shattered by betrayal. Her only source of strength comes from a Delphinus stranger named Mia. Strikingly beautiful but tormented, this stranger claims they share a unique telepathic link. Talana is haunted by the intangible bond that threatens to expose her well guarded fears and vulnerabilities. As she struggles to pay the price of revenge Talana learns there is nowhere to hide from Mia.
Take a sneak peek
You have your eyes closed to your own silence. If you knew where your soul was would you rip it out?
The whispered question reverberated in the deepest recess of her mind.
"I don't want to be here. Please. I smell burning. Fire! I need to do something. So dark..."
Every nerve ending in her body demanded a response she was powerless to produce. As the darkness receded she saw blurred shapes pass her limited field of vision and heard the clipped and commanding tones of orders being issued.
Your mind is seduced by its capacity to block everything out. Why challenge fear when it wants so badly to be your loyal companion, to sit with you in the garden?
The voice was louder now, much closer to the surface of her awareness.
"Do something. You can't just leave me here."
Embrace your tortured soul or I will condemn it to the abyss.
The resonance of the solitary voice skipped along her skin before plunging down her spine, electrifying her whole body.
Images and sensations flooding back, spiralling out of control. The smell of burning flesh, the feel of smoke searing her lungs, the heat of the flames and the heart-wrenching terror at the sight of her lover lying unconscious just out of reach.
"No, no, no... Jade, honey, please be okay... Stay with me...Jade!"
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