Teresa had eight, big bags lined up. They were full of her rich-clothes from the years with Arthur. Two by two, she took the bags down the stairs, past her own bookshop, to the Op Shop a few doors away. When the shop assistant started unpacking them and saw the expensive brand names, she looked at Teresa enquiringly.
“Are you sure that you want to give us all these beautiful clothes, dear?” she said kindly. “They’ve hardly been worn.” At that moment, the shop manager came in from the back of the shop. She knew Teresa as the bookshop owner. Also, she was in the Country Women’s Association with Teresa’s mother.
“Hello, Teresa,” said the shop manager. “I see you are having a big clean-up. A clean-up is as good as a holiday, they say.” Teresa smiled at her misquoting the saying but thought that a clean-up was as good as a change, and both were as good as a holiday. The shop manager looked at the other woman in a way that told her to be quiet.
“That’s the daughter of the Hemingways,” said the shop manager to the other lady when they were both in the back room. “She left Waldmeer years ago to marry a much older, rich tycoon. It didn’t work out and now she’s back in Waldmeer with her daughters.”
“Oh, is that who she is?” said the other woman.
“I heard she is now engaged to Bryan, the youngest child of Clarice,” said the shop manager. “They are the farm next to the Hemingways. Teresa would have known him when he was a child.”
“She’s gone from gold digger to cougar,” said the other woman.
“Amelia!” the shop manager scolded her but, also, smiled in good-natured amusement.
“Oh, don’t you worry,” said Amelia mischievously. “Who wants money when you can have fun?”
The shop manager slapped her wrist playfully and said, “Well, keep away from my sons. And half your luck, if you find someone else.” With that, she returned to the store to help Teresa with her bags.
Teresa’s eldest daughter, Josephine, and Ide’s eldest son, Christopher, were both fourteen and in the same year level at Waldmeer State Secondary School. The two mothers, usually, sat together whenever they were at school meetings and functions. Their friendship was cemented by their joint connection to Amira but it had its own particular flavour. When the three women were together or when Amira was with either of them separately, conversations took the path that Amira designated. Amira didn’t mind the topic but she did mind the direction of any conversation. If either of the women had a problem and wanted to discuss it, Amira was more than happy to let them express their feelings. However, she would not allow conversations to deteriorate into complaining, blaming, gossip or laughing at other people’s expense. When it came to the general public, Amira would quickly exit destructive or pointless conversations. However, if her trusted ones were the conversationalists, she would correct them, in no uncertain terms, before exiting.
Ide and Teresa were both very aware of this and would, sometimes, laugh to each other that they just needed to have a good ol’ bitch. “Don’t go to Amira if you want to bitch,” they would say to each other. “You’ll get a lecture.” They only ever trusted each other with Amira-jokes because they knew each other’s loyalty to her was unquestioned. Away from Amira and within the safety of their friendship, Ide and Teresa would, sometimes, take the opportunity to bitch, laugh, and complain about life as much as they wanted. Not only would it not be repeated but, most of the time, it was not even taken seriously. Teresa’s favourite topic of complaint was Arthur. Ide oscillated between the hospital matron and Farkas, although, she loved the latter and not the former.
Lately, whenever Ide, Teresa, and their children were together, Christopher had been taking his baby brother off Ide’s lap and would carry him over to Josephine and present her with the baby. Josephine was, always, thrilled and they would play with the baby for as long as the circumstances would allow. Christopher was not an average type of fourteen-year-old boy, although, he was well liked by his peers. He was a creative soul and a searching thinker. He was more interested in people than any of the things his male peers were interested in. While his peers treated girls as some sort of annoying but captivating entity to, somehow, be organised into submission, Christopher saw them as people; interesting, intelligent, and of value to his being.
“Have you noticed how close Christopher and Josephine are becoming?” Ide said to Teresa.
“Yes, I have,” said Teresa. Both women watched the two young friends playing with the baby. “Love never fails to save the world,” added Teresa.
“It keeps getting reborn,” said Ide.
“Love or the world?” asked Teresa.
“I was going to ring you,” said Teresa as Amira walked into the bookshop. “I have the most wonderful news.”
“Yes, I know,” said Amira smiling. “You’re engaged. You already told me.”
Teresa rolled her eyes. “No, seriously, I have big news for you about your manuscript. Someone from Hope Publishing U.S. rang this morning and is interested in it.”
“Really?” said Amira in surprise. Last year, once her house in Eraldus was sold, Amira started to write newsletters for her clients in the city. She didn’t have the girls to attend to, as she did now, and the number of clients she was seeing in Waldmeer was relatively few. Waldmeer was, after all, a small, coastal village. Healers were hardly the first port of call for most of its residents. As she had time on her hands, Amira either spent it in her garden or at the computer writing the letters. They became longer and more frequent. By the end of the year, she had enough of them to edit together into a book. She printed them out, bound them, and sent them to all of her city clients as a present. Mostly unbeknown to her, they were passed around and, sometimes, reproduced. On the last page of the manuscript, along with her details, she had Teresa’s details as author agent. Teresa wasn’t an agent but she was willing and she was a bookshop owner. Amira told Teresa, at the time, “We will both be in this together. It will be the blind leading the blind or else, more fortuitously, companion-adventurers.”
“One of your city clients gave the manuscript to her brother who was visiting from the U.S. last Christmas,” said Teresa. “He loved it and, apparently, gave it to his friend who works at Hope Publishing. They are one of the biggest self-help publishers in the U.S. They said that you will need to travel to Los Angeles to meet with them and, if all goes well, sign a book contract. They want you to live there much of the year so that you can promote the book and future ones.” Teresa stared wide-eyed at Amira. “This is every author’s dream,” continued Teresa. “If they publish you, you will end up on the New York Times Best Seller list.” Amira was silent.
“Here is their number,” continued Teresa. “Ring them today!” As Amira turned for the door, still having said nothing, Teresa added, “One more thing. His last words to me were, ‘We need a new guru. Several of our bestselling ones have died recently. I think your author may fit the bill for us. She’s strange enough to be interesting, sincere enough to be believed, and lives in an exotic enough location to fascinate our U.S. readership. She’s sellable and our job is selling. We believe we have a match.’” Still trying to get some response from Amira, Teresa said, “This is an offer you can’t refuse.”
“No, I suppose not,” said Amira finally.
Once Amira had closed the shop door, Teresa thought, They got the “strange” bit right.
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