Author: Highway Unicorn PM
An Australian woman must face the backlashes of society, nature, men, and her role as a woman. Traveling through historical events, she learns what it means to be a woman in a world controlled by men. Only part one of this novel is posted. Adult subjects such as racism, women suppression, and cruelty to fellow humans. Part one is set in Australia, 1901 through 1908.Rated: Fiction M - English - Western - Chapters: 11 - Words: 31,520 - Reviews: 124 - Favs: 9 - Follows: 16 - Updated: 01-24-13 - Published: 08-25-12 - Status: Complete - id: 3053380
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
By C. N. Gordon
Part 1/ Australia 1900
Chapter I/ A Convict's Kin
A dying man once told me that those who have the blood of the convicted are destined to live a life of adventure.
Granted, the man was piss poor, drunk and probably not in the proper mind set to make philosophical statements as such, but the man was my Pa, and I never took my Pa to be wrong.
It was true, that bit about adventure. A shame if my life was described as something less than that, and naturally it didn't dawn on me until my twilight years that my life was just that – an adventure.
My life is something to be envied by the young and old, by the rich and poor, and the saints and sinners. This life could be described as a piercing scream to the soft whispers that most unfortunately have.
I can proudly say that I left my mark on the world, may it be good or bad. My blood, sweat, and tears combined with the soul of a convict allowed me to truly live life.
I suppose if I were to begin anywhere, it would be at the dry plains of Australia.
The sun's rays kissed my hot, sticky skin as I ran barefoot through the tall batches of dying grass, sharp blades scratching my young frame. I was running, like I always was. My destination was nowhere in particular, I just enjoyed the feeling of my heart thumping like thunder in my chest, edging me on to pump my legs faster and faster and faster-
Until I just couldn't run anymore and fall over, and just smile as I stared up at the clear blue skies. Sometimes, if it was a lucky day and the sun was feeling generous to share, the moon would peak its face during the day.
The moon didn't make an appearance that day.
I took no note to the lack of my heavenly friend as I stretched my limbs out, laboring my breath back to normal as my shirt rode up to reveal my barely tanned tummy. Fluttering my eyes shut, I thought back to the previous day when I chased a bull frog around the pond, slime glistening in the sun and croaks loud enough to alert all the other frogs and lizards and other scaly things.
Pa got pretty mad at me when I came home though, said something about getting snatched up by crocs if I weren't careful enough. I don't really remember anymore, nor did I really care. The frog was my friend for that day and I was sad for losing track of him.
Rolling 'round to lie on my front, I cocked my head to the right and peered through the grass, arching my thin brows as a pair of lanky legs slowly approached me. Dust arose as the legs stopped right before me, making me pinch up my nose and cough. A pair of large hands gripped each side of my torso, nails digging into my rib cage.
In a mere second, I found myself hoisted up and nose to nose with Levi, my uncle. His brown eyes were bloodshot and dull, probably from working out in the fields all day. Licking his cracked dry lips, he sent me one wink before slugging me over his shoulder. My arms came crashing down across his sweaty back and I started to giggle as he twirled around in a series of circles.
As he twirled, shades of brown and yellows from the dying plant life surrounding us swam by, he said, "What're ya doing out here, girl? Chasing frogs again?"
"Nope," I breathed into his ear and smiled when he twitched and rubbed the side of his face against my shoulder.
"Don't do that, you hear?" he said as he stopped the circles. He balanced himself, barely wobbling and began to walk towards our house. A hot breeze drawled past us, forcing the grass to sway back. It looked like an ocean, the waves of grass. I pushed my palm under my chin and stared at the waves, secretly wishing to dive in and engulf myself within its embrace.
I'd probably just get my clothes dirtier, and Pa would definitely have something to say about that. Always saying that I was too rough with my clothes, never thinking 'bout the consequences. Uncle Levi would always come to my defense though, countering Pa with the fact that he used to be a little hellion when he was a lad.
I tried to picture Pa as a boy, young and carefree. To say the least, I couldn't, even with my imagination. He would always stay the perfect image of a man with thick brown locks and broad shoulders. And sometimes he'd have this huge smile when he was really happy, but that was a rare occasion.
Pa didn't like to show his smile. For a long time, I didn't know why, but Uncle Levi said it had to do with my Ma. Said she left him heartbroken and alone to take care of me when I was just a baby, three or four months old I think.
I remember bringing it up during dinner one night, said "Why'd ma leave ya? Didn't she love ya?" Everybody got really quiet and stared at me as if I said something bad, and for a moment, I was terrified. As I slumped down in my chair, Pa's brows started to mash together and his lips twisted into a firm line.
Then Pa starting puffing, nostrils flaring as his fist balled up. He quickly began to blurt out long-winded sentences mixed in with snarls and growls. Said, "The whore left me for some Italian bloke," and some other sharp sounding words that Uncle Levi made me swear to never use till I was older.
I felt horrible afterwards, feeling as if I hurt him just like Ma did. I never meant to make him unhappy, nor did I ever. I love my Pa, a lot, and I hoped he still loved me. Took 'em a while to calm down after that and I never brought up Ma again.
Jumping over a fallen tree log, making sure to avoid the rotten portions of wood, Uncle Levi finally made it back to our house. Our home was nice compared to homes of the tribes. We had a large wooden cabin while they lived out in the dry deserts in sheep wool and kangaroo skins. I liked the tribes, but Pa's friends said to stay away from them since they were dark-colored folk. I didn't understand why our skins made a difference, but those cowboys said otherwise. Didn't stop me from sneaking 'round and visiting some of 'em folk. They were nice and friendly, and I loved 'em. And I'm sure Pa and Uncle Levi loved them too.
Grandpa wasn't so nice though. He never said anything mean like the cowboys did, but he did share cold stares and loud huffs. Maybe Grandpa was just too old to like anybody? I once overheard him say that he may have been a convict and all, but a person's gotta know their place in society. Then Pa called him a cold-hearted bigot, and they fought, and I just crawled into bed with Uncle Levi, Aunt Victoria and their two boys, Jesse and Henry.
At least they didn't fight.
Pa wasn't home when we entered our stuffy cabin, only Jesse and Grandpa. Uncle Levi dropped me to the floor and ushered me towards the sink. Standing behind me, he poured water from the white pitcher into the sink and shoved my hands inside, wiping away any dirt.
"Yer nails getting dirty again, girl," he said as he examined my fingertips. "How come the boys are always cleaner then ya?" I answered his question with a shrug, but I knew the real answer. My cousins never played, I mean really played.
They were boring, to put it simply.
"'Cause she got the adventurous spirit of a convict in her blood!" Grandpa called out proudly, raspy voice shaking my eardrums. I heard Uncle Levi sigh as he ran his wet hands through my dirty brown locks.
"Go entertain Grandpa, yeah?" he asked as he pushed me away from the sink and towards our living chamber. I blinked only once as I stumbled across the room and onto the couch that Grandpa liked to sit on all day, every day.
"Hi, Grandpa," I said, taking my seat and leaning against his wrinkled arm. He smelt like onions, like he always did. He liked to eat them, the onions, said they kept him young, but he still looked old to me.
"Hello." He was long-winded and his eyes drooped as he looked my way. A single grey strand fell from his scalp and landed on my lap. I suppose I must have made a disgusted face 'cause Grandpa seemed unhappy after I brushed it away. He didn't like the thought of being old, he once told me, but who would?
"Wanna tell me a story?" I asked trying to make him happy again. Unlike Pa, he was more easily pleased, especially whenever somebody took an interest in him. I liked his stories, the ones 'bout when he was forced to work at Port Author 'cause he was a bad lad. He always seemed to speak proudly of those days, as if he was glad he got sent there.
He once said that only the real men of England got sent over to Tasmania. Pa said that he was just an idiot who got caught stealing a duck from some fat merchant. Uncle Levi said it was because he lost a fight to a duck and England was just too embarrassed to have him living there anymore. Grandpa reassured me it was because he wooed the heart of a princess and some king got mad at him and banished him.
I think I believed Uncle Levi the most.
"Let's see," he said as he scratched at his hairy chin, "How 'bout when I met your grandmother, eh? Did I tell you that one yet?" He did, but he already told me all his stories that I was old enough to hear.
"Yeah," I answered, "but I can hear it again."
"Good." He smiled, showing off his missing gaps of teeth. "As you know by now, I got sent over to Port Author to pay for my crimes. Well, this is really important that you listen here, Alice, I befriended the warden. And by that, I was able to travel by boat with him whenever he made his trips inland."
"Go on," I said after he took a long pause to catch his breath. He nodded and smiled again.
"Where was I? Oh, yes, inland. During this one trip, he takes me out for some drinks, and that's when I meet her. God almighty, your grandmother was the most beautiful woman on all of Australia, I swear it. She was serving drinks and she asked me what I wanted, and being the sly lad I was, Alice, I said 'You.'"
"I remember mom telling me this story once, dad, and she said you were a babbling idiot. So don't go painting yourself out to be some sly devil to Alice!" Uncle Levi cut in as he entered the chamber with Jesse following close after. The two took a seat on the floor and began to play with some sticks.
"Don't listen to him," Grandpa said harshly as he puffed out his chest and growled in frustration. "I was really something, you hear? I had women lining up to go an ole round with me–"
"Dad!" Uncle Levi cut him off in a snarl. "Need I remind you she's only eight?"
"'Bout time she learn about the purpose of what God placed between our thighs!" my Grandpa snapped back, coughing quickly afterwards. "If she don't learn now, then some guy gonna swoop in and trick her into doing something stupid."
"I think it's up to Seth to decide when his daughter learns about those sorts of things, don't ya think?"
"No," my Grandpa answered as he wrapped his light arm around my shoulders, pulling me in for a hug. "God knows that you boys were taught by your mother since I was still in that camp, and the woman, rest her soul, did not know everything there was to it. Seth would just teach her all the wrong things, and mess up like he did with everything else in his life."
A loud thump echoed throughout the room, causing all of us to turn our heads towards the front door. Pa stood in the door way leaning upon his hoe, dirtied hands gripping the wooden handle tightly. His lips were curled down and his brows furred.
A long breath escaped his lips as he glared at my Grandpa. "My daughter will learn what she needs to learn in due time, William." My Pa never called his father Pa anymore, always went by his first name. I felt my Grandpa stiff up and his arm slowly fell from around my shoulders.
"Alice," Pa said as he shut the front door, "Come here, I need to talk to you 'bout something." I followed his order and quickly went after him down the hallway. We entered his bedroom and I watched as he pulled his cowboy hat off, tossing it on the bed.
"Sit." He placed his hands on his hips and stared at me with tired eyes. I sat down on the corner of his bed, crossing my legs and smiling up at him.
His chest rose high once and he seemed to have some trouble saying what he had to say. His rough hand eventually found its way through his hair and he started to pace back and forth.
"What is it?" I asked, voice growing with curiosity. I never seen him like this, so nervous and scared. His eyes said it all, really. Something was wrong, but what?
"I," he mouthed slowly as his eyes fell upon me, "I, have to go –no, wait." He shook his head and finally took a seat next to me. His hands hesitantly clutched mine and he rubbed his ashy fingers against my palm, making little circles.
To be honest, I was scared of what was going on. He never acted this way with me, so tender and nervous. His bottom lip trembled and I felt myself growing weak inside and my eyes growing damp. I was so scared.
"Honey," he said quietly, "You know I love you, right?"
"Y-yes, Pa, I know that," I answered, quickly adding "And I love you too." His shoulders fell as he quickly smiled. His right hand released mine and ran up to the side of my head, nails grazing my hair.
"And you know that whatever I do in life, it's for you, right?"
Licking his lips, Pa slowly pulled me in for a tight hug. "I have to leave for South Africa tomorrow."
"Huh –" I began, but he was quick to cut me off.
"This man approached me today in the fields. Offered me a good paying position in the war, honey, and I couldn't deny it, I just couldn't. I love you, please understand that I do." His words oozed past his lips, sharp daggers piercing my eardrums. I tried to pull away from his embrace, but he wouldn't allow it.
"Please, don't cry, I can't –just don't. I love you, I love you Alice, but daddy needs to do this, for us. I love you." I felt my chest trembling and the salty tears streamed down and dampened his shirt.
Even if I was young at the time, I understood what he was saying. Pa was leaving for war; war meant death, and death meant no more Pa.
"This is going to make a name out of us Andersons," he said quickly, voice growing weak as he too began to tear up. "We won't have to be known as the family with the convicted blood. We'll be heroes, you'll see. I'll make our blood good and pure and then we can be happy again."
"But Pa," I cried out, hands balling up his shirt. I couldn't continue my sentence; I had no idea what to say to make him stay.
"You'll see Alice." He cooed. "Soon the world will see us as something more than a convict's kin, and our blood will be cleansed for my efforts."
My father left the next day in the early morning with the shirt on his back and the blood of a convict in his veins.
All work by C. N. Gordon (FictionPress id. 860227) is copyrighted under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.