“Weak latte (no sugar). Hot chocolate,” yelled the Waldmeer barista.
Merlyn grabbed her coffee and headed for the door. They put sugar in my coffee, she thought as she sipped it. Hang on,that’s not sweet coffee. It’s hot chocolate. The orders have been muddled.Oh, well, it tastes delicious. She thenturned her thoughts to the recipient of her latte who would be missing their own order of hot chocolate. Looking around for a likely suspect, she easily spotted a woman, about her age, staring at her drink. Merlyn wondered what her reaction would be. The woman seemed to be weighing up the benefits of caffeine versus sugar and, like Merlyn, decided to go with the flow. Merlyn then realised that the mixed-drink-recipient was Esther, the psychologist.
It was Monday morning. As Ben walked through the glass doors of the State Ballet building, he came across one of the older professionals of the company, a friend of many years.
“Morning, Ben,” said the man. “How’s Store Creek going?”
“Morning,” said Ben. “Fine. I suppose.”
Truth be told, two weekends had passed since Ben had seen Merlyn. More, he hadn’t even spoken to her. Nor had he messaged. Every day, if not many times a day, he checked his messages to see if she had messaged him. She hadn’t.
Seeing the look on Ben’s face, his friend said tentatively, “Look, buddy, I thought you were back together but if things aren’t going quite to plan, I have a suggestion.” He waited to see Ben’s reaction. As there was no obvious displeasure from Ben about a suggestion, he continued, “The missus and I have had our ups and downs over the years. I think most people think that we have been very fortunate with our marriage and we have been but, the thing is, everyone has their problems. God knows, we’ve had many.”
After six months of living in Store Creek with the cold weather, it was good to finally arrive at spring’s doorstep. Merlyn wondered if that was why Ben had decided to visit today. He said it was a rental inspection. But that was just a joke. At least, Merlyn hoped it was a joke. Although it was two years since their separation, they had been married for three years. Nothing needed inspecting.
My grandfather, Michael John Pope, was a pioneer farmer in outback New South Wales, Australia. He built his small, four-room home, Little Oakey, from the creek-stones of the area. Behind the house was a wattle and daub (clay) kitchen and cellar. In that little home, with his wife Mary Jane, he raised five children in, what would be considered by today’s standards, primitive isolation. One of his daughters, my aunt, describes Little Oakey,
Our home was situated on Little Oakey Creek; a very pretty spot surrounded by lovely oak trees and mountains. There were paddocks, a creek running by the orchard, haystacks, a vegetable garden, wells dug in both gardens, wildflowers growing all around the flats, and a spring where we all swam. I always loved our home and dreamed about it many times and had happy times when going to school. Ann Pope
When I was fourteen, a missionary visited my school and gave a little talk. Although I can’t remember what she said, I do remember being impressed with her as a person. I couldn’t put it into words but there was something special about her. It might have been the calm look in her eyes even though, from what she said, her life was far from calm. Certainly, I recognised a very unselfish attitude and she seemed happy without trying to convince anyone that she was.
Although there were nicer shops a suburb or two closer to the city, Merlyn made a point of shopping at the Pittown ones. It seemed to her disloyal not to use them. Besides, she found the people interesting. Not infrequently, someone walked past her and turned their head to give her a second look. They looked like they thought they knew her, but then decided that they didn’t. Sometimes, they looked at her quizzically as if they were thinking that she didn’t belong in Pittown.
Although the Pittown cafe owner had misjudged Merlyn’s friend to be her husband, she actually did have a husband. An estranged husband, anyway. The estrangement was how she came to be living in Pittown. Merlyn and Benjamin had only been married for three years. It wasn’t long but, as it turned out, long enough. They had known each other for two years previous to getting married. Merlyn wasn’t a big fan of getting married but Benjamin had fallen in love with her and very much wanted the marriage to work. For her part, Merlyn both loved and was in love with Benjamin in return. However, unlike Benjamin, she knew that he was ill-prepared for the reality of a committed relationship. She also knew that love is the most powerful force in the universe, so she gave Benjamin and the marriage her best shot and put her faith in his love to get him through.
Before her eyes opened, Merlyn sensed the soft, red glow behind the makeshift curtain which hung unevenly over the window. The unit was relatively modern and clean, and had heating and cooling that worked. Pittown, as a suburb, was ordinary but she could afford the rent on her own. Remakably ordinary, thought Merlyn as she walked a couple of doors to the only decent cafe.