Saturday, December 17, 2011

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

This is the tree I hang now
took quite a while to paint it
from my original Xmas tree photo
But now, it only takes a minute!

Health and happiness, joy and peace to all of us!!

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thursday, November 10, 2011


A collection of heart stories

Brooks is at her finest in this cunning collection of short stories. Her trademark wit and sharp observation is crafted with depth and compassion, as she once again explores the gamut of human experience with fearless clarity and buoyant optimism.

In this series, Linda gives full rein to her passion for the individual narratives of others. With deference and respect, she reveals the foibles and quirks of her varied characters, never losing the essence of the elegance and power of the human spirit.

These stories are vignettes—windows into the lives of others, where equality and dignity is intrinsically woven into each tale. We see our friends, family and acquaintances. We make new friends and ultimately gain insight into our own true selves.

Vignettes is now available on Linda's website for $15.75 incl postage. The first two buyers will receive a set of six hand-painted blank greeting cards.

We are Australian

You know us.

We are your cousin Alice, who tells the story of Nanna’s funeral; of how all the cars followed Uncle George in the wrong direction, while a priest stood by the grave, waiting to conduct the burial.

We are your dad, who you visit on warm summer nights, and he talks about the old days; when he met mum; when he worked in the cane fields.

We are the migrant family next door, who laugh till they cry, telling of how, when they arrived in the fifties, they went to the milk bar for a gelati. The owner just kept saying “Gilleti” and offering them razor blades.

We are the Vietnamese mother who tells you one day how she came to Australia. She quietly talks of three weeks at sea in a small boat, crammed in with twenty others, knees to chest, cold, wet and hungry.

We are anyone who has lived in Australia. Often, our stories will be your stories; but some will be strange, different; some will be funny and others will bring tears.

We are the story tellers who started with memories that turned into stories. We wrote them down, and learned the frustration when the words wouldn’t come; and experienced that magical moment when the words took over, and the story wrote itself. We became authors.

Now here we are. These are our stories; our country’s living history.

John McBride (2010)

Now available on Linda's website for $15.75 incl postage. The first two buyers will receive a set of six hand-painted blank greeting cards.

An Irish Blessing

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Who Stole Christmas?

Bella was very confused. It was nearly Christmas Day and there were no presents under the tree in their house. Both her parents had been acting a little odd.

No matter how hard she tried, Bella couldn’t find any sign of Christmas coming to her house this year. Her friends were all very excited about what they were going to get, but no-one was talking about it at her place.

She tried very hard to be good, knowing how important it was when staying on Santa’s list of ‘nice’ children. But still the space under the Christmas tree was bare.

Had Christmas been cancelled at her house? Or worse still, had someone stolen Christmas?

Bella was about to learn of a different kind of Christmas. One she would never forget.

Linda Brooks: Who Stole Christmas?

Linda Brooks: Who Stole Christmas?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Animal Antics by Rina Robinson

In this engaging book, Rina Robinson fires the imagination with her unique poem and illustrations. A book any child will treasure and enjoy again and again. With its exotic animals and quirky tales this children’s book will delight.

It has rhyme and colour, and the marvellous bonus of opening the door to learning, not only about the alphabet, but about fascinating animals in different places around the world. The glossary at the end makes this lovely book an educational tool that parents and teachers are sure to value and use.

Summer Sorcery by Rina Robinson

Leah is not looking forward to ‘coming of age’. There are many dangers to face in the land where she lives: false wizards and barbaric ceremonies. However, nothing causes Leah more disquiet than the prospect of marriage – to be owned by a husband fills her with dread, but she will have no choice. She must bow to tradition.

Leah's friend, Janah, left her home to be married some months ago. But she has now unexpectedly returned. The girls are re-united under strange circumstances, and face many difficulties together. Their wits are tested at every turn, as they must decide who to trust. Along their journey they meet a cast of fascinating characters.

Will they rely on Menah and Terstyn, two handsome strangers, to help them? When they find menace on the road they have to take a chance. What hand will fate play the two girls next?

The Frog that Hiccupped by Linda Brooks

Fraser is a shy frog. He has just moved with his mum and dad to a new pond. Meeting new people makes him nervous. When he is nervous he hiccups. When he hiccups all sorts of things happen.

How will he make new friends?

Callan the Chameleon by Linda Brooks

Callan the Chameleon lived in a tall lilly pilly tree with pink tipped leaves. The leaves of the lilly pilly tree grow very thick. Callan felt safe in the rustling tree that was home.

The theme of the book is acceptance of our differences. 

The main character, Callan, has tendencies that parallel with Asperger's Syndrome.  The story deals with this in a subtle way and celebrates our unique personality traits and individual talents. 

The story revolves around Callan and his bush animal friends, Emily the Echidna, Kyle the Koala, Katie the Kookaburra, Wesley the Wombat, Freya the Frilled Necked Lizard and other uniquely Australian animals. 

Ethereal Land by Linda Brooks

Seth is five years old. He lives with his Grandpapa, Chard in a place called Ethereal Land.

Chard is a Credente and tells Seth they will one day live in another place; a place called ‘The Real World’.

One day Seth pulled at his Grandpapa's sleeve and asked, “Grandpapa, what is ‘Real’?”

“Real is for always,” replied Chard. “If something isn’t for always, why then it’s just not Real.”

Then Chard placed a strong work-worn hand over Seth’s heart as if to place something important there.

Seth tilted his head and looked up at his Grandpapa with confused eyes. Would he ever understand?

What is ‘Real’?

Who Stole Christmas?

Bella was very confused. It was nearly Christmas Day and there were no presents under the tree in their house. Both her parents had been acting a little odd.
No matter how hard she tried, Bella couldn’t find any sign of Christmas coming to her house this year. Her friends were all very excited about what they were going to get, but no-one was talking about it at her place.
She tried very hard to be good, knowing how important it was when staying on Santa’s list of ‘nice’ children. But still the space under the Christmas tree was bare.
Had Christmas been cancelled at her house? Or worse still, had someone stolen Christmas?
Bella was about to learn of a different kind of Christmas. One she would never forget.

Sunday, July 24, 2011


A collection of heart stories

Friday, July 8, 2011

Sunday School Blues

Sunday School Blues

My young life was blighted.
Our hairdresser must have previously worked for the military. Every day was a bad hair day. I wasn’t permitted long hair like most of the other girls. Mum’s excuse was that I possessed too many ‘cow licks’ and this affliction deemed I would spend my life with bad hair days and a short haircut.
I think the real reason was high maintenance manoeuvres necessary for looking after long hair on a pre-schooler were beyond her talents and patience.
Our hairdresser, while not actually using a bowl, managed to give me a bowl haircut every visit—a crooked one at that. After seeing Pollyanna, I was green with envy. I dreamed about long hair and wide hats with ribbons down the back. I wasn’t allowed a hat either.
I coped with the shame—most of the time.
While wandering with my brother in our neighbourhood, I didn’t think much about it. The kids in our street were predominately boys and my efforts to get them to play with my dolls called down scorn, even though I accommodated them by playing with their stupid cars in the dirt.
I was often referred to as ‘that cute little tomboy’ with those who said it never aware of my secret longings for lace gloves, ribbons, socks with bobbles, long hair and darling little purses.
I managed with the embarrassment until The Lord’s Day came around. They say religion changes everything.
And Sunday School was the place where I stuck out like a sore thumb. After copious begging, tears and promising to be good for the rest of my life, Mum relented and bought a purse.
There would be no compromise on the matter of hair, but it was still a victory. I was soon the proud owner of a purse I’d fallen in love with at first sight.
It was adorable. I sashayed into Sunday school swinging that purse as if I was a model with a thousand dollar designer handbag. I made a great show at offering time, when the basket went down the rows for us to donate our freewill gift to the less fortunate.
I accepted with demure grace all compliments that came my way. Oh the joy!
Pride cometh before a fall. And fall I did.
On the way to the car after the service Mum looked at me as if something was odd. This wasn’t unusual. I adopted my usual nervous chatter aimed at covering any defect that might be glaringly obvious to others, but I didn’t have a clue about.
“Where’s your purse, Linda?” asked Mum.
My heart sunk to my feet. It was gone. My stomach churned. I hopped from one foot to the other. Tears of despair flowed down my face.
At my obvious distress, Mum withheld the lecture that usually accompanied my misdemeanours. We searched the Sunday School building, the road, the church, the gutters and asked the teachers and other children.
I was in agony. Mum, who was renowned for never giving up, finally had to pat my grief stricken face and tell me we couldn’t do any more and had to go home. She would contact the church lost property office through the week.
I prayed. Knowing God was more inclined to listen to the penitent, I began with a list of my faults. This alone made for a long supplication.
I then expressed the things I was grateful for, my cat, a warm bed, food, Mummy and Daddy, oh yes, and even my brother although he tormented the life out of me.
I then promised God I would be good for the rest of my life, hoping this impressed Him more than it impressed my mother, who regarded me with dubious looks whenever I made this devout claim to her. I couldn’t really blame her scepticism, as this dramatic outburst was usually made before a particularly undesirable punishment was in the offing.
All to no avail. I grieved openly and without restraint, throwing myself on my bed. This was something new for me, and Mum was confused by this outpouring of emotion. After much contrition on my part and dire warning on hers, she bought another purse.
It was far less ostentatious. I bravely hid my disappointment. I would not throw a tantrum. My one and only attempt at tantrum-throwing brought such a swift and undesirable reaction from my father I’d vowed never to repeat the performance.
I grovelled with gratitude, promising I’d never let it out of my sight. It was only for church; surely I could keep track of it for a few hours a week. But no. The same scenario was repeated the following week. Mum’s patience began to wear thin.
“How the blazes can you lose something in such a short time?”
I was as puzzled as she. The harder I tried to remember, the more anxious I became. The more anxious I became, the less I remembered. Disastrously the pattern continued until I was a nervous wreck and Mum had had enough.
“You don’t deserve a blooming purse if you can’t keep track of it,” she said, upon arriving ‘at the end of her tether’. I hung my head. I deserved no less.
This left the problem of where to carry the offering. I was inclined to forgo the offering basket, but this opinion was not shared by my mother.
I was exhorted to think of the less fortunate. I was not inclined to do so. In my opinion I was The Less Fortunate.
Besides, God had not been forthcoming with helping me find my purses—find my memory, or find any possible thieves who were preying on me (one of my more imaginative scenarios).
My ever practical mother came up with an ideal solution.
Ideal for her.
She tied my offering coins in one of Dad’s handkerchiefs and safety-pinned it to the front of my dress for the world to see. Whether she thought humiliation would stimulate my brain, or was simply solving a problem still mystifies me.
So there I was; social leper, with a dodgy haircut, no ribbons or bobbled socks, adorned with Dad’s handkerchief and an ugly safety pin.
No matter how strange fashion trends become, this look will never be adopted by any group—Grunge, Goth or otherwise.
Even at four I knew this.
If you haven’t already discovered this fact, one of the hardest things to do in a hurry is untie the knot in a handkerchief while the offering basket is approaching ever nearer.
Of course the usual nervous memory lapse didn’t help, so my last minute panic was seen and snickered at by all.
After this happened a few times I went from humiliation to anger. While walking to the car listening to Mum and Dad bask in the spiritual afterglow of a particularly stirring sermon, I kicked pebbles with the zeal that was missing from my Christian experience.
“Stop that, Linda. You’ll ruin your shoes,” said Mum.
“I suppose you’ll make me wear Dad’s slippers then!”
“Don’t give your mother cheek,” said Dad. But I caught the glimmer of a curve on his lip. I slowed down and walked a few meters behind them, dragging my feet.
“Keep that up and we’ll have a talk at home,” said Mum.
“I’m not wearing Dad’s stinking handkerchief again!” I blustered defiantly.
“Oh yes you will!” hissed Mum.
“I wish I was a kangaroo with a pouch!”

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Under the Radar

To accept, to understand, to celebrate

I wish someone had told me earlier that my son had Asperger’s Syndrome.

I wish someone had told me he was locked into a world he didn’t choose; a world I didn’t cause.

I wish someone had told me I didn’t need to rescue him, or force him out of his narrow prison.

I wish someone had told me that all I had to do was join him in his world, sit there with him while he found the courage and acceptance to find his own way into the world that judged him odd; different.

I wish someone had told me how easy it would be to celebrate him when I understood.

I am told

It is July 2005 and I am told. My brain swims and floats in a thick, fluid ocean. My body stays still. I am numb for days. I sit in front of the television. Or does it sit in front of me? I am blank. It doesn’t make sense. Nothing makes sense. Everything makes sense. I have answers. I have questions. I am between heaven and hell. And I am alone.
My son has Asperger’s Syndrome Disorder. We have been living and struggling with this for fourteen years, without knowing and knowing it only too well. High school is a disaster. We are a disaster. And we are in it together.
The specialist who delivered the diagnosis does not hand me a manual or one of those pamphlets that clutter the doctor’s surgeries because there isn’t one for Asperger’s.

The roller coaster begins

The roller coaster begins. It is the first day in December 1990. He is born. Not wide-eyed with knowing concern like his older brother but all bunched up and squinting, yowling and yawning. His mouth always seeking. His head turning to find me. Curving his body into mine and murmuring soft kitten noises. His fine blonde hair sticks straight up compounding his look of surprise at entering this new world. He is here at last. He is mine. He is Bronson.
I am in for the ride of my life. The universe has repaid my patient waiting with another son. Another chance. A learning. I will teach as I have never taught before. I will learn as I have never learned before. I am thirty-six years old. The same age my mother was when she had me. I had made this the cut off point for having another child. I turned thirty-six in the hospital one week before he was born. There is a sense of timing in this that has been lacking in my life so far. He was meant to be; to be here, to be mine.
My beloved uncle who had shared my birthday died a few days after our birthday, a few days before Bronson’s birth. A life ending and a life beginning.
I don’t remember the birth because I had an emergency Caesarean section. Later on I will enjoy telling Bronson that I slept through his birth because I must have known there would be no sleep for me after his arrival. And although the early days are not gentle they are softly misted with the joy of a child arrived to fill my heart, and my days.
When Bronson is only a few hours old he grasps the finger of his big brother and doesn’t let go. Luke is fourteen years old and leans his rangy body over the clear Perspex crib that stands next to the huge shiny double-glass window of the Sydney Adventist Hospital. I feel at home here. It is my Alma Mater; the place I did my training to become a registered nurse just over a decade ago.
The blistering sun bathes them both in a golden summer glow. They are framed there in that huge square window that overlooks the gum trees, and I watch them reverently repeating to myself, ‘my two sons, my two sons’ thinking then that I will remember this day forever.
Bronson keeps his tight grip on his brother’s finger and Luke stands stock still in wonder, holding the hand of the newest human being he has ever seen with the kind of commitment that says “I am here for you”.
Adam, my husband and the father of the newborn, (who missed the whole experience “due to his wife’s propensity for the dramatic” and need for emergency surgery), sits slumped from exhaustion in a chair, telling all who will listen that he is ‘never going through that again.’
My mother, who is looking as if she desperately wishes I hadn’t gone through it at all, sits glued by my side. She has been afraid for me and won’t leave me even to meet her newest grandson. I learned later that they thought I might not make it. I had lost so much blood.
I was blissfully unaware of this. My sweet Auntie, the sister of my late father, is here too, tightly clutching a bunch of delicately pale, pink miniature roses; my favourites.
I lay in the midst of all this familial fuss and wonder, the mother of the newborn. My blonde hair is short and raffish. I have the usual look of post-operative pallor and haze. I have a Madonna’s smile under dark bleary eyes.
I am full to the brim with optimism and hope and, as the universe seems so often to intend, I am oblivious to the journey ahead. My husband’s mother is here too, and as usual is blessedly normal about everything. She announces the baby has Uncle Slim’s chin and somebody else’s eyebrows.
Luke is astonished and mutters under his breath, ‘Frigging baby doesn’t have a chin!’

Under the radar

When I came out of the dark tunnel of grieving over the diagnosis I reached a place of personal acceptance about Bronson and about Asperger’s. However, the biggest shock was still right there waiting for me. When I offered my hard won new information and enlightenment to others, those who had so readily called attention to his behaviour before, I was greeted with what I can only call disinterested disbelief.
There I was, emerging from the dark jungle after struggling for years with the wildlife in the shadows of my son’s world and all I got was this! It was enough to make me run back into the jungle and offer myself up to the first man-eating beast I could find. I had expected to be greeted with a light bulb moment or a brief earnest enquiry. At the very least a little more respect than if I had just bought a second hand pair of knickers off eBay. Not happening.
I must have told the wrong people. I must have travelled to another dimension where some of the people I knew and my son’s teachers had all been replicated without their emotions. I waited for a Hollywood moment and for the universe to right itself.
Why didn’t we hear much about Asperger’s Syndrome Disorder before now? Is it a new label for poor parenting? Is it an excuse or an explanation? Whether Asperger’s is on the increase due to environmental factors or other causes the experts don’t know, but it does seem that society must face the fact that there are many children who are suffering from this disorder. And this is exactly what these children are doing. They are suffering. They live next door, up the street or maybe even at your house.
Hans Asperger, the Viennese paediatrician credited with first describing the group of behaviours evident in Asperger’s sufferers was published over 50 years ago. His groundbreaking work did not gain wider recognition until the 1990’s. In his initial research he described children with awkward social interaction, one sided conversation, lack of empathy, intense absorption in chosen interests and clumsy movements.
It has helped me to look at Asperger’s as being like an ice cream shop. If you were looking at diabetes, the group of symptoms would look the same for each person. But with Asperger’s there is a selection, or profile, as if the person has been given a range of symptoms chosen from a large spectrum—that is, all the flavours of the ice cream shop.
So while the diabetic choice will always look the same, for instance, classic Neapolitan, the Asperger’s profile will be a random selection from many of the “ice cream” choices. The diabetic profile will be instantly recognizable but the Asperger’s “selection” will be much harder to pick due to the variety between sufferers. It would look more like rum and raisin, plus macadamia and mango with a little coconut ice, topped off with fudge. Another child might have chocolate mud and almond crunch. Both children will have the same diagnosis but a different selection of “ice cream”.
Each sufferer manifests a different “collection” of behaviours from the Autism spectrum. This makes diagnosis harder. It isn’t unusual to find medical practitioners who are not familiar with the profile. While the average GP will have little trouble diagnosing diabetes, they may struggle with the Asperger’s spectrum. The good news is that even if there is no formal diagnosis, many of the strategies work well with children who have “Asperger’s tendencies”.
Even though Asperger’s is not life threatening, obtaining a specialist diagnosis is invaluable. Accepting the diagnosis is a boon not only to the sufferer but to the whole family and the community at large. Some children will manifest a smaller number of behaviours than others and diagnosis is often made on the overall “weight” of symptoms that are evident.
With early intervention it is possible for some of the behaviours to lessen and actually disappear so that in adulthood it may be difficult to even perceive the original basis for the diagnosis. This spells hope.
These children have always existed. We have thought them odd and although they do not present as the classic stereotype of having a “mental illness”, we have sensed that they are different. I was somewhat loathe to use the word suffering at first but my own experience with my son and mixing with other parents has made me feel that this is indeed exactly what these children are doing—suffering.
The old perception that these kids are parenting nightmares must be displaced by the reality that we have a group of unique human beings who are in a world that is not of their own choosing or their parent’s. We cannot go on ignoring and writing these kids off.
A diagnosis of Asperger’s does not excuse, but it does explain, and we need all the explanation we can get. Sometimes when I am dealing with Bronson I liken his responses to that of someone who has spent a lifetime on another planet with other realities. He seems to be attempting to apply the rules of existence to another time and place.
In some ways he seemed an advanced form of life because he had very specific and detailed rules from this other place. Indeed he perceived no strangeness in himself but was pedantically and condescendingly aggravated with me for not knowing how the world really worked. In his eyes I was failing miserably. My attempts to make him conform pushed him to screaming point.
His fierce intelligent eyes told the story of it all. How had he managed to be saddled with such an inferior human being? One who didn’t have the smallest grasp on “how things were”? He had found himself in a strange and parallel universe and was struggling to make sense of this world. He spent a great deal of time trying to inflict his realities and assessments onto others, because in his mind he came from a position of being the one who knew how things worked and had the frustrating task of trying to make others understand.
Knowing the diagnosis and explaining things to him at an age when he has some pliability is crucial to his development in the world. Just to hear him say, ‘I don’t get that do I?’ means that he has made huge strides; he is opening to the possibility of “other” rather than “one”. The younger the child is when we work out their unique perspective and difficulties the more chance we have of helping them to understand and adapt. Adapting is the hardest thing they will ever have to do.
Most people look at the family with an Asperger’s child and are appalled at the adapting the parent is doing to keep the family on an even keel. This need for adaptation kills me. Drawing the line between requiring Bronson to compromise and me doing the compromising often leaves me with the feeling that organizing world peace would be a piece of cake.
Where are these kids? They are up the street and nearby. Statistics show that perhaps 1 in 100 children suffer from this. That means in your average high school there are a dozen kids, or more.
You see them acting out in supermarkets, throwing tantrums at playgroups when they are facing parting with some weird object of their affection. They line things up in rows, they place importance on trivia. They talk incessantly about Pokémon cards, memorizing great chunks of information and can parrot the details ad nauseum, but cannot hold any other conversation. They cling to visual contact with a parent, what they can’t see doesn’t exist. If they can’t see you, you are gone forever. After a hard day of playing they can’t sleep—not because they are achy or ill, but because they are bored.
They are all different in their uniqueness, but they have one thing in common, they are uncomfortable much of the time outside their comfort zone. They are bullied and shunned. They suffer abuse and rejection from their classmates, casual observers in public places and even abuse from their parents.
Finding out about Asperger’s can only help—not just the parent and the child but the rest of us who walk away saying ‘Thank God I don’t have that child’; ‘I would do things very differently to that mother.’ Or the classic, ‘No child of mine would do that to me.’
This is a community disorder in a far greater sense than diabetes or fractured limbs. We cannot stand alone. We can only find our way out of the maze together. And we can’t negotiate the maze until we understand at least a little about the walls that surround them and constrain their world.
When we can change the community perception of Asperger’s, we will find freedom for our children in a world where understanding and compassion replaces prejudice and intolerance. Then we will not only learn to tolerate, but respect and enjoy them for their unique contribution to the world, for they do have much to offer us.
The attitude of Luke Jackson, a thirteen year old AS sufferer, in his book “Freaks, Geeks and Asperger’s Syndrome”, proposes the most positive attitude that we need to foster and embrace when her refers to his Asperger’s as a “gift”. (L. Jackson 2002)
I found that people are more comfortable with the idea that it is a parenting problem. They didn’t realise that I had thoroughly and completely blamed myself for every word and deed for the last fourteen years. Then maybe they did. After all I listened with pathetic longing to every word of blame they offered me in my search for answers. ‘This wouldn’t happen if you were more consistent/firm/demanding’, ‘He doesn’t do that when he is with me’, ‘We never heard of that when we were kids and we turned out alright.’
But don’t we all remember the ones for whom it didn’t turn out alright, the Kevin’s who didn’t fit in. Who stressed, and acted out. Who were afraid. The ones we just lost touch with because they weren’t a part of our normal little group. These individuals didn’t start to exist with the advent and use of a label. They were always there; bullied and silent, awkward and shunned. Under the radar.
We need understanding of Asperger’s. The truth will set us free.
Recently I walked past a quilting class in one of the craft shops that I frequent. In the midst of the glorious clutter of fabric bolts and fat quarters with sprigs of lavender flowers, moss green ferns, delicate hand painted roses and the rainbow of subtle hues and vibrant homespun sat five women with threads, patches and patterns.
One woman was standing nervously and I heard her say to the others, ‘I have class III cancer, I have six months to live and I want to make a quilt about my life to leave for my children.’
This announcement was met with lively chatter from the others in the class showing their level of comfort with her news. The gentle little woman fragrant with the scent of lilies sat down, sighed and got on with the living she had left to do.
No-one had denied her the truth, she had been told calmly and factually by her doctor and her new friends accepted without question the limits on her mortality.
Ultimately, it was all about attitude and acceptance.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Linda Brooks: Scarlett doesn't live here anymore (an excerpt)

Linda Brooks: Scarlett doesn't live here anymore (an excerpt)

Scarlett doesn't live here anymore (an excerpt)

Evelyn Aston threw her suitcase onto the scales at the check in desk at Perth airport. She was catching the 6.00 am Qantas flight to Sydney. She wrapped a scarf around her neck, securing it under the heavy weight of her hair at the nape. With her long skirt and drab blouse she must look like a member of a cult. Maybe she’d overdone it. Her attempts to fade into the background might actually make her conspicuous. But she didn’t have much choice, she’d dyed her hair back to its original mousy brown making her less of ‘Eva’ the socialite and closer to her younger self. Back when she was safe. Before wealth and corporate success. Before James.

She felt a pang of apprehension. Not long now. Soon she’d be on the plane back to the Eastern States. Home free; away from James. Even now, she expected a heavy hand on her shoulder. Willing herself to relax she drew in a measured breath.

The attendant waved her through to the waiting area. She could see the 747 through the huge glass windows. Instinctively she sat in the farthest corner of the waiting area so that she could observe, without being seen. She opened a magazine as a shield. Nervously tucking the scarf tighter, she realised there was so little of ‘Eva’ in her appearance. She would hardly be recognized. But there was always a chance she might run into one of their business associates. They travelled at all hours of the day and night. She couldn’t bear to fail now.

Evelyn couldn’t remember when she had been able to move freely through the world. That world before James. Constantly looking over her shoulder was so deeply ingrained it was second nature.

They were ushered onto the plane. Only when she sank into her seat did she allow herself to relax. She was safe. For the time being. Not long now. She would melt into the throng in Sydney, then she could choose a small town when she arrived. God knows how. She couldn’t return to Tasmania. That much was sure.

‘Half a plan is better than no plan,’ she muttered, sinking into her seat.

‘Did you say something?’ asked the businessman beside her.

‘Oh dear, I was thinking aloud. I hate it when I do that,’ she answered.

‘Only true geniuses talk to themselves, you know.’

‘And there was me, thinking it was the other way around.’

‘Things are never the other way around.’

‘Are you related to Dr Suess, by any chance?’ she asked, annoyed that she had broken her rule not to converse with anyone. But this man’s eyes were more amused than provoking, and it wasn’t a good idea to be too paranoid.

‘I wish,’ he said, laughing.

The stewards had begun the usual emergency spiel. The man opened a newspaper, deftly folding it. Clever trick that, she’d have to try it sometime. Eve closed her eyes, willing meditation to take her to another place, so she would get through the take-off. Once she was in the air, she was okay. It was just the irrationality of the sheer weight of metal thrusting upwards that terrified her. When in the air she pretended she was on a bus. Not that she had been on a bus in the last fifteen years. Ironically she had spent most of her travel time on planes. And the fear hadn’t dimmed in all that time.

The glide down the runway was taking forever. Was the damn plane going to drive all the way to Sydney? Picture my happy place, she thought. What is that mantra I learned?

‘Oh crap!’ she said as she gripped the armrest with iron fingers.

‘Ouch!’ muttered the man beside her. ‘When did you win your last arm-wrestling competition?’

Oh dear! So that was why the armrest seemed softer than usual.

‘I’m so sorry,’ she muttered, abashed.

After the plane lifted off, monotony settled in. This was the time Eve had set aside for ‘making plans’, but her worrying just took her in frustrating circles. Every thought path had her arriving back at the ‘where’ she would live. Her meticulous planning over the last months had sorted her separate finances and monetary independence. James would look for her, perhaps even taking time out from his mistress. However, the letter she left should keep him away from sniffing after her money.

Would it be hard to become ordinary old Evelyn Aston. She’d already decided to go back to a secretarial job. That had put her through Uni. The work shouldn’t be too hard. But the change, how would she cope with that? Mentally tallying up the pros and cons of her lifestyle, Eve realised there would be very little she missed. Certainly not the jet-setting. And most definitely, not the parties.

Three hours later she gave up trying to solve the problem of her new location. Sydney would bring some clue. She was glad she was in the window seat. It suited her to appear to be lost in the horizon. She’d chosen it to avoid conversation with her fellow passengers. It didn’t seem necessary, because after their initial few words, the man beside her had become engrossed in a crossword. It seemed incongruous for a man in a suit to be scribbling a crossword, instead of poring over the obligatory corporate laptop.

The wine was relaxing her limbs. The second glass proved even more effective. But that damn scarf was sticking out at a crazy angle, impeding the path of the wine glass to her lips.

‘You could take it off.’

Eve jumped in alarm.

‘I meant the scarf.’

Eve looked at the man. seeing no flirting overtone in his face, even though it was a little blurry, she decided he was harmless. She liked harmless men. This one had unruly chestnut hair. Not a control freak then. In her experience control freaks did not have unruly hair that curled over their collars. She leaned in a little closer so that his face came back into focus. It was so annoying when people did that – got fuzzy on you.

The plane dropped a thousand feet and Eve’s head hit the stranger’s chest. As she pulled back, the scarf became stuck on the pink ribbon badge on his suit, and stayed there. Eve sat straight in her seat and aimed for composure. She missed. The man smiled as he looked at the scarf, now hanging on his chest.

‘Humph.’ She tried to focus her gaze and think of something clever to say.

‘You’re fuzzy,’ she mumbled.

‘You’re messy,’ he replied. ‘But in a good way,’ he added quickly.

‘I’m never messy. It’s not allowed. James says it’s unprofessional. Anything less than perfection is not shuitable.’ She waggled her finger. Oh rats, I’m slurring, she thought. The man didn’t seem to mind. Perhaps he didn’t aspire to perfection.

‘Your hair looks wonderful,’ he said. James must be crazy, he thought.

‘D’you think so?’ Leaning in conspiratorially, Eve whispered, ‘I’m never going to be perfect again.’

‘Glad to hear it. I could happily join as founding member for that club.’

‘You’re welcome. I’ll make you CEO.’

‘I accept.’

‘You haven’t heard the job description.’

‘Oh, I think ‘imperfect’ covers it nicely. I’m sure I can manage that lofty standard.’

‘I feel funny.’

‘You might be a little tipsy. You don’t normally drink do you?’

‘Never...I’m not myself, you know.’

‘Really, who are you?’

‘Well, I am myself, obviously. But I’m not the self I was when I got on this thing.’ Eve waved the wine glass perilously.

‘May I?’ asked the man, taking the glass.

‘You don’t have to worry. It’s plastic. It’s not itself either.’

‘So this club...’ The man was perplexed. ‘...It’s the We’re Imperfect Somebody Else club.’


‘Hmmm. Then it’s the WISE Club.’

‘Ooh, you are...’

Eve didn’t finish. The Captain’s calm voice came clearly over the intercom.
‘Ladies and gentlemen, I have to advise you that Sydney airport is closed due to torrential rain and storms. Flooding has cut transport to the airport. This means that we have been redirected to Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne. Qantas wishes to apologise for any inconvenience, but he safety of our passengers is uppermost. When you arrive in Melbourne you will be given assistance with transport and accommodation if necessary. We would like to reassure you every attempt will be made to ensure your comfort. We anticipate that the stay-over in Melbourne will be no longer than 24 hours. We expect to land in Melbourne at 1030 hours. Thank you for your patience.’

Eve shivered. She would have to adjust her thoughts. Thoughts that were muddled by the wine. Castigating herself for drinking at all, she placed the half filled wine glass on the drop down table. It was swiftly removed by a hostess who informed her that tables and seat belts must be secured during turbulence. Even was chagrined, and fast becoming stone cold sober.

What a bloody nuisance. She knew Sydney like the back of her hand. She’d studied at Uni there. Sitting upright, she pulled her scattered thoughts together. It wasn’t as if she had anyone waiting. It wasn’t as if she had a plan. And James wouldn’t look for her in Melbourne. She would have time to organise things. It didn’t really matter where she did it.

The man made a quick phone call. His words were precise and succinct. Eve wondered who he was phoning. Probably his wife, she thought as she saw the wedding ring on his finger. Must have been married a while. His call was more like a report.
Half an hour later they landed. The man efficiently plucked her carry on bag from the overhead storage when she struggled with it. Deftly, he steered both of their cases downstairs to the check in area. Sensing her embarrassment he passed her case over with a gentle, ‘Are you okay?’

Eve nodded. ‘Thank you. For everything’. With a casual tilt of his head, he was lost in the crowd.

In spite of the promise of organisation, the airport was chaotic. Backpackers, obviously used to unpredictable lives, didn’t bother to queue, but curled up on sofas. Parents were calming children. Airport staff were dealing with customers. Come complained loudly and others sighed with resignation. There were two queues, one for the airport hotel, and one for a hotel in the city. The queue for the airport hotel was horrendously long and Eve headed straight for the city hotel queue. She was relieved to find that the bus to the hotel would be outside the front doors in under half an hour, leaving just enough time to have a croissant and cappuccino. And to feel human again.

The Qantas lounge was crowded, but the service was fast. Eve found a corner table and sat down.

‘Do you mind if we join you,’ asked a tall woman. A barrel of a man stood beside her, looking slightly lost.

‘Not at all,’ said Eve.

‘I’m Brenda,’ said the woman, ‘and this is John. This change of plans has rattled him a little.’

‘I’m okay, dear,’ said the man.

‘Join the club,’ responded Eve, ‘I didn’t sleep last night and then I was silly enough to have a glass of wine just before the turbulence, which I am now seriously regretting.’

John smiled. ‘I’m glad I’m not the only one then. Feeling like a fish out of water.’

Discovering they were all waiting for the city hotel bus gave them something to chat about, and when it was time to go they travelled together.

At the hotel, Eve climbed straight into the king size bed and slept dreamlessly, waking several hours later – disorientated and ravenous. Realising she’d agreed to meet Brenda and John downstairs in the restaurant, Eve checked the time. She had ten minutes. After a quick shower she threw on the same clothes, minus the scarf, and ran for the lift.

She was surprised when she arrived to see her seatmate talking to Brenda and John.

‘This is Allan,’ said Brenda, ‘we’ve asked him to join us. Allan, this is Eve.’

‘We’ve met,’ said Eve. She accepted his outstretched hand. He shook her hand gently with warm hands. ‘We were seated next to each other on the plane.’

‘Oh, how convenient. We’re practically all old friends then. A crisis will do that though, don’t you find. One dispenses with the formalities.’

‘Bren, you’ve never been on speaking terms with any “formalities”,’ said John, the glimmer of a teasing smile on his face.

After the meal, John spied a chess board set up in the corner. ‘Do you play?’ he asked Allan.

‘Love to, but I have to warn you, I’m a mean player.’

‘Oh, you’re on, mate!’ John laughed.

Brenda watched John walk to the table. She sighed. ‘It’s so good to see him relaxed.’

‘I take it that doesn’t happen often?’

‘No. John has Post Traumatic Stress. I thought visiting his sister and her family in WA would cheer him up, but I think it only added to things.’

‘I’m sorry.’

‘It’s slow progress. Anyway, call me Bren, all my friends do. Where are you from?’

‘Perth, but I’m relocating. Not sure where yet.’

‘You’ll work it out. You look like a capable young woman to me.’

This calm acceptance, more than any well meaning interrogation, had the effect of letting Eve open up to this lovely woman. Pouring out the angst of the past few years, leaving out the worst details, had the astonishing effect of clearing Eve’s head. It had been a long time since she had trusted someone enough to confide anything, and the relief was enormous.

‘You don’t think your ex, James was it, will file a missing person’s report?’

‘No,’ said Eve. ‘we’ve all but been living apart for 18 months. He’s been staying at the guest house. I left a note and divorce papers. He won’t do anything “official”, but that won’t stop him trying to find me. He’ll go from begging to threats, hoping to get me back. It’s worked in the past. But not this time.’

‘Good girl. That’s the spirit. Surely he’ll give up in time.’

‘Oh he will. I’m the third one he’s tried this with.’

‘What! He’s had three wives!’

‘No,’ Eve laughed bitterly. ‘I’m his second wife, but he’s had plenty of live in girlfriends. Seems to think of himself as some sort of Svengali. He’ll find another younger, prettier face to groom. Another obsession. I’ll be safe then.’

‘You’re sure about that?’

‘Well, as long as he can replace me, and my money. Of course that could take some time.’

Allan watched the two women. John was a thoughtful player. Slow, would be a better description. So, her name was Eve. For the first time she was relaxed and smiling. He noticed that she had declined wine at dinner. Seeing her chat to Bren, she seemed serene. If had was a betting man, he’d lay odds on the fact that Eve was going through some kind of crisis. He noticed her twisting her engagement ring. That was some rock. Whoever Eve Aston was, she was seriously rich. Or her fiancé was. Looking down at his own ring finger, he wondered why he was still wearing a wedding ring. Caroline had died two years ago of breast cancer. And now the pink ribbon he’d had for five years was on the scarf of another woman. It felt wrong. He’d bought that badge when they’d first found out. Three months to live. Caroline’s iron will had eked that time into a year. A year of happiness, and hell.

Eve awoke rejuvenated and starving. Again. It’s seems the appetite that had left months ago had returned with a vengeance. Who cares, she thought. It was James who was proud of her being a size 6. She looked once again at the address that Bren had given her, along with her business card. It was a solution. A plan. And now a place – Weather. Funny name. She’d been enchanted by the story of how it had reputedly been called Fair Weather when it was a tiny coastal town where logs spewed down the river from the hills where they had been felled. When the surveyors had come through part of the original sign was missing and Fair Weather had gone done in the annals of topography, and history, as Weather.

Damn, thought Allan. There she was. He had hoped to catch an early flight. He was strangely drawn to this frail woman. His gut twisted. She reminded him of Caroline. He’d been shocked when he first saw her. Thin as a rail and wearing a scarf. It had reminded him of cancer. Chagrined, he remembered that he’d recoiled from her. The sight of her had brought back the past with wrenching clarity. It seems you couldn’t outrun grief. It didn’t gradually rise like a fog, but zoomed like a roller coaster, catching you unawares. Kicking you in the guts.

He hesitated, then she looked up at him. She smiled. Oh what the hell, he’d be gone soon. He’d never see her again. What was the harm in sharing breakfast? Wow. That was one hell of a breakfast on her plate, and she was devouring it as if she hadn’t eaten for days. She wouldn’t stay skinny at that rate. And that would be a good thing.