Extrait n° 1, suite (p. 74 à 76). Troisième Journée.
As she was scattering pink talcum powder on
the brown bottom of her adopted child, after changing diapers, still in
doubt whether the mixed smells of real baby shit and artificial roses
was a curse or a blessing, she said, very softly, in her velvety wrap-around
voice, to Fred, her husband: Fred, have you ever loved someone?
I love you, said Fred. You got the question wrong, I dont
want you to tell me you love me, or we are going to have an R.D. Laing
style argument! I meant: somebody else in the past... the kind of love
you could never suppress, however hard you tried? Fred was puzzled.
It sounded to him like a Mills and Boon romance or the Brontes revisited.
When she was in that mood, he would sometimes jokingly call her Catherine
Linton Senior. Not a simple-minded guy, but he sometimes hated complications
to the point of rejecting complexities. He preferred to take it on the
comic side, exaggerating his favourite blue collar mannerisms, learnt
from his grandfather who had been a foundry worker at Port Kembla in the
twenties. Dyou mean, Carol, you loved someone this way? Its
your bloody right. Me, I dont think I ever did, I am sort of reasonable,
you should know, old girl, youre always mocking me for it!
|And a good, sincere
man. Intelligent and cultured. And he loved her dearly, in his slow, unassuming
fashion. She could rely on him.
The baby girl, back on her back, clean and dry, was pedalling with her little legs (was she going to be short-legged? I hope not), babbling and chuckling with her beautiful wide smile. They had got her from Kalgoorlie, the daughter of a child prostitute at the other end of the continent, thanks to Freds friendship with a Western Australian botanist and advocate of Aboriginal land rights, with whom he had worked for years to adapt some wild flowers to make them bug-resistant in the milder weather of New South Wales. After patting La under the chin and kissing Carol in the neck, Fred left the bright, sunny room, painted pale grey, white and pink, where the smiling babys black face was virtually the only dark spot: I have to call the Waterboard again; they were supposed to come first thing this morning to see whats wrong with the water supply. No sign of life. They dont give a damn if we go out of business. If they havent fixed it by midday, Ill take the matter to Councillor Bell. Shes a Liberal old bitch, but she loves plants, she wont let us down. Not on our account, but she cares for her frangipani!
Life was so surprising, she thought briefly, ... and my reflexions are so banal. But, who would believe that I would become a mother and a housewife at this point? Just because I bought three potted hydrangeas on a Saturday morning and Fred, who set his eyes on me, delivered them himself at my flat in Lane Cove, with the pretext I taught his daughter at school. After all, she did not miss teaching so much. Although she would for sure, without the baby. Once she had overcome her initial shyness, she had felt so close to the children. Freds daughter from his first marriage, Sarah, had been one of her best students. Now that she was at Uni and had her own life, sharing an old semi in Petersham with others, they did not see much of her. She had not reacted very well to her fathers marriage with her geography teacher. A bit jealous, probably, of one or the other, or both? Although she did not live with her mother any more, it seemed she had belatedly sided with her.
Only recently, after the babys arrival,
she had begun to visit Fred and Carol more often. She had literally fallen
in love with little La (whose real name was Ella: Sarah was the one who
had shortened it). Maybe she was relieved that Fred and Carol had not
procreated a child of their own, or perhaps, on the contrary, she was
glad to have a sister at long last? Sarah was so secretive you could not
ask her such personal questions. And its none of my business, anyway.