Author: whisperhello PM
A girl, a boy and the journey that's finally going to give them all the answers...Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama/Romance - Chapters: 4 - Words: 7,112 - Reviews: 5 - Updated: 12-26-08 - Published: 01-12-08 - id: 2462139
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
A/N: Because I'm such a spaz, I didn't even realise that I'd put the wrong version of Chapter 2 up. It's fixed now so you should probably go back and read the re-done version. I've been so out of it for the past couple of months with my final High School exams and all and I hope you forgive me for the lack of updates. I can't make you any promises, but I will try not to be so terrible at getting round to it.
For Maggie (a little late, I know, but here nonetheless):
I skipped out of the boarding wing, calling a hasty farewell to Angelica over my shoulder. Mrs Meyer at the downstairs office gives me a thinly veiled look of despair as I cheerily slam the student exit shut after scribbling my name into the sign-out book with a flourish. The spring air is crisp and clean, the faint scent of the ocean wafting towards me. I haul myself onto the wall of the car park and hum while I wait.
Several other cars pull out of the lot during my time on the warm bricks. Megan disappears with a grim looking woman and a swanky black car with tinted windows carries Lucas off to the Derwent mansion. Tara Grayson speeds out of school on the back of a shiny red motorbike. And then it is my turn.
A dark green car comes purring up the driveway, narrowly missing the Principal's prized hedges by about a centimetre. It's John driving, of course, and he parks the car haphazardly as the couple rush out to greet me. John and Martha are in their early thirties- far too young to have a teenaged child- so we get looks from the parents of the younger students who don't know my whole sob story yet. John's wavy brown hair looks as dishevelled as ever and Martha's still in her work clothes so her red hair is still pulled back in a severe bun. She's had to ditch the suit jacket since it's so warm though.
'Hey kiddo!' John laughs as I crash tackle him. After embracing me until I almost can't breathe, he releases me to see to my bag. Martha brushes my hair back from my face and surveys me. Her eyes are gentle.
'How have you been?' she asks, her mouth automatically curving into a reassuring smile. I answer honestly.
'Okay,' I tell her, 'not obsessing nearly as much as Leila Trajevska is about her ex-boyfriend.' I smile but Martha's concerned face tells me she can see through my failed attempts at humour.
She smooths back my hair which is already half out of the neat ponytail I began with and just as her mouth opens, John calls from the driver's seat of the car.
'Oi! You guys can finish playing hair dresser in the car. We've got peak hour traffic to beat!' And chuckling at his own joke, John starts the engine. Martha smiles and takes my hand. Together, we sprint towards the car.
The house smells like mangos when I first walk in. It's only October so they must have one of the first picked of the season. John loves mangos. He gets it from his grandmother if I remember correctly. When she used to live in South-East Asia as a missionary and the locals taught her how to climb the trees to get them. John says he can't remember a summer when they didn't have mangos for dessert on Saturdays.
John tells me lots of his family's stories. Or at least, the ones from his childhood. I never get any embarrassing ones about Lucas to share with Angelica back at school but I do get some about his father in high school and how John used to worship him since they were born ten years apart. ('I was just an accident,' John laughs, 'they never actually meant to have me.' There is no trace of hostility in his voice at all.)
I have stories about brothers. Of small children back in the seventies who played War in cardboard box forts and whom I now know as adults. Of cringe worthy high school years and realising dreams about getting into the academy. But none of them are my own.
One of my earliest memories of this place is sitting on John's shoulders, picking out an album from his massive collection. The one I chose was dark blue one covered in stars. There was one track, towards the end of the disc that I insisted John play on repeat as I was drowsing on the sofa. It's the first song I ever remember hearing.
Fly me to the moon
Let me play among the stars
I remember lying my head on Martha's lap and hearing John say, 'you know, my grandfather loved Sinatra too. This was his favourite song.'
It's funny how I can know so many things about John's history, yet none about my own.
John hands me my bag to dump in their guest room on the very top level of their split storey house. It's called a guest room but ever since I got into East Bay and earned home stay rights, I've spent so many weekends here that John and Martha call it mine.
I unpack my things, and head back downstairs to where John's already absorbed in the five o'clock news and Martha has her casework spread on the table in front of her.
Today she's working on a case about a neglected child whose mother went two weeks without feeding her because she was on vacation in Gosford with her new crack head boyfriend and 'forgot'. I'm not supposed to read the files but when Martha gets up and stretches to make a cup of tea, I will sometimes slip into the kitchen and flick through them. I do this for two reasons. It gives me a sadistic sort of pleasure to know I'm not alone in the abandonment department. And also because Martha is kind of my hero.
John may have found me on that train to Wollongong but it's Martha who really made the effort to keep me from disappearing from their lives. Who gave me a constant to hang onto in all the chaos of my untraditional upbringing. She's a social worker so it was her who saw me through foster care and into East Bay. Sometimes, when she decides it's not too distressing, she lets me curl up beside her on the sofa while she reads. I pretend to be asleep but we both know I am secretly absorbing the case files over her shoulder. They're all children's cases since she works in that department and I realise over and over again how lucky I am to have people like John and Martha in my life.
When I was younger, I wanted to be Martha when I grew up. I wanted to do a socio-legal studies degree at Sydney Uni and meet a sweet policeman to marry in my second year and then go on to save the world, one child at a time. But delusions like that fade over time and real life catches up to you. You learn that not all cases can have story book endings; that sweet guys are few and far between. I know all this. But I still want to grow up to be someone who changes people's lives like John and Martha did with mine.
The barbeque is on a Saturday afternoon and we arrive early to help Mrs. Derwent to set up. Martha and I slaved away all morning to make pasta salad. I have the grater scars to prove it. I'm arranging paper plates and plastic forks and napkins when I hear Lucas behind me.
'Hey,' he says.
'Hey,' I reply. I sense this becoming a trend.
I don't know why we are so awkward around each other now. As kids, back in the days when I didn't get to see much of John and Martha, we'd be pushed together for to play since we were the only ones around the same age. I'd always been the quiet kid while Lucas was the 'life of the party' who pulled me into games of tag and red rover with the older ones. But lately, he's become withdrawn and I would almost stretch that to include sullen but his trademark smile is flashed too often to doting aunts and uncles that I can't really say that's the case.
'So worked on that pedal work any?' he asks with a smirk. I quirk an eyebrow.
'Written anything that's not crap lately?' I say bitingly and Lucas chuckles. He takes the paper plates from my hands and dumps the whole lot on a couch.
'Come on,' he smiles, beckoning, 'I'll show you what it's really supposed to sound like.'
Warily, I set down my plastic forks and napkins as well and follow him.
I can't possibly remember how many times I've been to the Derwent household, there are far too many. I can, however, count on my fingers the number of times I'd been anywhere other than the backyard or kitchen, and pretty much all of those were toilet trips anyway.
Lucas leads me into an upper room of the house. Or, you could call it mansion I guess, if you were being picky about it. I was half afraid that this was going to end in me locked in a closet somewhere, tearing my fists up by banging on the door to be let out. But I'm just paranoid like that.
Instead, I find myself in a large open room. Several windows give the room a light airy feel yet I felt intimidated by the space. The floor tiles are glisteningly white and I suspect, from the thickness of the doorway, the walls are sound proofed. In the middle of the room stands a beautiful piano. A baby grand, I assumed, with it's white and black keys shining invitingly.
Along the walls, several other instruments also featured. An acoustic guitar, a drum kit, a electric and bass, a trombone. On a table, an array of violins, ordered from quarter size to full, lay neatly and enticingly on top. In a corner, seemingly untouched, was a cello case.
My eyes must have been the size of saucers.
Lucas moved past all of these to the piano where he expertly began to play. Seating myself carefully next to him, making absolutely certain that we're not touching at all, I rest my hands on the keys gently. I watch his right hand move swiftly up and down the notes and recognise a pattern. It's the same song as I'd played but smoother, more practiced. I smile and copy, my right hand an octave above his, and suddenly the melody splits into two battling lines. My jaunty notes against his graceful ones, each trying to out do the other. I embellish a little, adding a fifth here, a chord there. I can see Lucas smiling at the keys, too intent on playing to glance at me.
The song slows to an end, a part I've not yet heard and so my fingers trail off to leave Lucas to play a haunting cadence. It's lovely but it makes me think of loneliness, something my life is already much too full of.
The music comes to a sudden stop and I look up to see Lucas, stricken. My eyes follow his to the open door where I see Mr Derwent, imposing even in his polo shirt and khakis. I feel like an intruder, looking on as an unspoken message passes between father and son and Mr Derwent breaks the stare to nod at me with a stiff smile.
'Martha wants you in the kitchen I think Vanessa,' he says, a trace of warmth making its way into his voice, although his eyes have not left those of his son.
'Er, okay then,' I awkwardly drag myself off the chair and towards the door. Mr Derwent swivels and leads me out without a sound. He doesn't turn to look at his son again. But I do.
I have never, ever seen Lucas Derwent look as desolate as he did at that very moment.