Sunday, March 20, 2016

The photographer

English is not his first or even his second language. Born in Poland in 1946, he considers himself a miracle baby. His father had spent time in a Warsaw ghetto. After transportation to one of the Nazi concentration camps, 100 people staged a brave escape. He was one of only 2 survivors of the attempt. Not long after, his father met a Russian aviatrix. Nicknamed “Night Witches” this group of daring pilots flew multiple bombing missions every evening without parachutes. Living in various parts of Europe for most of his seventy years, he only recently arrived in Australia.

Listening to him speak as he holds his cooling latte in his wrinkled hand, I watch the foam on his coffee break up. His eyes seem to get stuck in the grain of the wooden table top.

It’s one of those cafes with reclaimed tables with matching faux-industrial chairs under Edison bulb lights hanging in bundles from too long black cables. The cafe used to be a slightly grubby, converted milk bar with mismatched chairs and tables that a designer would call eclectic. Cakes were ugly but tasty piled high with just the right amount of too much frosting. Coffee was spot on -always. Never bitter or weak and always the right drinkable temperature. The new owners are young and enthusiastic and unfortunately the juices now come in mason jars with handles. He is the most authentic thing in the place.

We connected through Facebook after I commented on one of the images of his work that he posted to a local artists’ group. The photo he had taken of himself first thing in the morning.

“I am working on a new collection” EXPOSURE OF HUMAN FACE” the idea is to capture the face as the dominant part of the art surrounded with elements to complement the shot or focus on the face only. To capture the beauty, elegance or venerability of expression and movement.
The first experiment was this self portrait this morning - expressing venerability
Yes I am brave but if you love me you will except this.
I am looking for BRAVE Facebook friends to be willing to be tested and submit to my lens and creative spirit to capture you.”

I responded” I don’t necessarily believe I am brave to make myself vulnerable in front of your lens but offer my services anyway. As an artist, I’m usually the one painting or drawing a model, not being a model myself. “

He’s very free with his compliments and I blush when he talks about my eyes and my smile. His directness is refreshing but also disarming.

“I will have to touch you as I move you into position. My camera will be right up in your face. You must be okay with this.” he explains as his large hands reach out towards my chin and turn it towards my right. I don’t stop him or even draw back. I can tell this is part of the test.

“We will need to meet and discuss this book again. I want you to think about clothing and locations. My neighbour has a wrecker’s yard and we can use that. On the outside life is a breeze and on inside is destruction. That is the concept".

“Okay” I agree with him as no doubt do most people. He has a charm that puts people around him at ease.

“This project will take maybe a year” he states matter-of-factly. “I’m also shooting a book about farmers in Gippsland.”
I didn’t ask any of this but he expounds anyway.

As we walk away from the cafe I start to comprehend that I will be more of a collaborator than a mannequin. At my front door, we smile and hug, his tall frame overwhelming mine. He turns and walks towards his car. I retreat inside.

“Everything good, my love?” Steve calls down from the lounge.

“Yeah, I reckon so”

Friday, March 11, 2016

Tsukiji 3am

“Come on. Time to get up. You said you wanted to go”

I can’t believe he is this chipper after only four hours sleep on a tatami mat.

 “But I’m all warm and snoozy” I half-heartedly protest as I roll over and open my eyes.

 Before leaving Australia, Steve had organised a tour of the Tokyo fish market or Tsukiji (skid-gee) as the locals referred to it. Very precise instructions were carefully written down in kanji, Japanese characters, for us to hand our 2.30am taxi driver by the friendly concierge of our traditional ryokan. We were to meet our guide, Naoto-san, at 3am outside a Lawson store. Lawsons are a chain of 24 hour convenience stores that we’d quickly fell in love with selling everything from hot fried chicken, pantyhose, and frozen portioned vegetables to sake and coffee in a can.

 Taxis in Tokyo are delightfully clean and well-presented; the drivers clearly take great pride in their vehicles. From the pleasant scent of the interior to the white lace doily over the head rest, they’re a sharp contrast to most other taxis I’ve been in around the world. We handed the taxi driver our destination instructions and he shot us a querying look but as our fluency in Japanese matched his in English, we were unable to elaborate any further. Steve kept pointing at the card. I smiled and nodded which is my default position in these circumstances I increasingly kept finding myself in while in Japan. There was a lot of bowing all round.

Arriving at the correct Lawson store at the appointed time, we stand around in the cold and look at each other.

“Does it look familiar at all?” I ask Steve hopefully.

“Sure..”He replies slowly looking up and down the street searching for any movement. “How about I go in and get us a couple of cans of hot coffee?”

“Great idea”

He returns moments later with four cans.

“Why four?”

“One to drink now and one to keep in your pocket to keep your hands warm” he explains, tucking one into his own and handing me a second for my own jacket.

“S-M-A-R-T” I repeat our little in joke and kiss him on the cheek. His insider knowledge of Tokyo has come in handy each day we’ve been here so far.

Minutes later a slim man dressed in a dark grey puffer jacket, khaki hat and trousers tucked into his gumboots walks efficiently up the street. Naoto-san proves an affable host with great English language skills. Unsurprisingly, he carries a small notebook and an even smaller sharpened pencil adding to the list of English names for different market produce. Having previously worked for one of the five auction houses at the market, he knows his way around.

 “If I need to, I may leave you as the security guards don’t approve of my market tours. Keep walking as normal and I’ll catch up soon. The market is open to the public but the government doesn’t like me giving tours here” Naoto-san explains as we make our way towards the market shrine entrance. Now I understand his incognito attire. If this were a tour of an American market, he'd have a heavily branded jacket, hat and clipboard .

It is dark, rainy and a bit chilly - in other words perfect weather to visit a fish market. Water cascades everywhere, in and out of buckets and tanks, along gutters in the stone work upon which clever merchants have laid wooden squares to raise their wares up out of the constant water flow. And everyone wears gumboots.

 “Glad I wore woollen socks, leather boots AND my leather jacket” I say to Steve as I tuck my scarf in and button up my jacket.

He looks at his red trainers already damp from the puddles and shrugs. “It was high summer when I came here last time”

For the next couple of hours, we deftly follow our guide through the endless stalls, as he points out this type of fish or that type of mollusc while trying to avoid the fast and furious motorised transporters zooming in and out the tiny alleyways. Like market people the world round, the workers here only concerned with commerce. Carrying boxes stacked high they push passed us stationary observers clogging up their pathways.

After leading us up ill-lit stairwells to the rooftop of the car park next door, he presents his beloved fish market spread out below us in its fervid chaotic splendour. Beaming proudly his arms open like a conductor presenting his orchestra to the crowd. “It’s the biggest market of its kind in the world. Open six days a week. The government want to move the market down the river but nobody really wants it to move.”

He perks up “You want sushi breakfast? I’ll take you to the best sushi restaurant”

Nodding vigorously, we both answer yes multiple times as if once wouldn’t suffice.

“I can’t believe this many people get here at 5am to line up for breakfast” I say as I grab Steve’s arm half for warmth and half so we don’t get separated in the melee. Lined up like cattle at one set of doors, the restaurant wrangler keeps us in formation.

“I can’t believe you’re actually queuing for breakfast. There’s no way I’d get you to do this in Melbourne”

“Damn right. Mind you if we were having sake with our breakfast, maybe”

The windows and doors are fogged up so it’s hard to peer in to get an idea of what we are signing up for. This place is known worldwide so I’m happy to surrender to the chef and eat omakase style. Tokyo restaurant menus complete with photographic illustrations are a boon to the foreigner and we’ve become adept at the point and nod system of ordering. This morning though we are happy to just turn up and be fed.

 “Luckily ‘sake’ is sake in Japanese AND English” I lean in and whisper conspiratorially.

It’s our turn and the wrangler herds us into Daiwa Zushi for our 12 piece sushi set menu. More bowing to our chefs is required as we sidle behind our fellow diners and find the two spare stools. There’s nowhere to hang jackets, so we stay rugged up as ceramic cups of hot sake are placed in front of us. Perched in place, I look down the length of bleached wood bar and take a sticky beak at our fellow diners and what they have on the wooden blocks that are their plates.

“So everything” Steve says more as a statement than a question.


“Including uni?”

“Wouldn’t miss it” I confirm.

I had eaten sea urchin roe in Melbourne but it wasn’t till I came to Tokyo with Steve that I got even close to how good it could taste. Its golden yellow flesh creamy in the mouth with a briny yet earthy flavour. We had just witnessed the uni auctions here at the fish market and learnt about the vagaries of the weather and catch. This was going to be the freshest seafood I had ever tasted without having to catch it myself.

The rhythm of the sushi meal played out in front of us like a well-composed symphony. Starting with the lighter fish such as aji and hirame moving through to richer pieces like the uni and the otoro (fatty tuna), the sushi chefs pride themselves their timing.

“You know, sushi is 95% behind the scenes preparation by the underpaid apprentices and these chefs out front get all the glory” I proclaim as I eagerly await the first offering that is placed in front of me.

Opened and exposed as it is on the rice mound, I gingerly touch the raw prawn. It flinches. I retract my hand.

“Well it is fresh” I remark shaking my head slightly.

 Aji, hirame, ebi, maguro, tako, toro, o-toro and uni. The names have cadence all to themselves. Practised hand movements mesmerise me as I watch the rice being pressed into the perfect sized mounds, a smear of wasabi underneath the thinly sliced flesh and then two are brought together like the gentle of handling a baby chick.

“You’ve got to watch ‘Jiro Dreams of Sushi’. Their dedication to their career is incredible. Fourteen hour days, apprenticed for ten years learning to wash rice, cook rice, stir rice, toast nori, clean and prepare fish and that’s before they’re even allowed to assemble the sushi.” he implores. “It’s called shokunin. It means repeating the same skills over and over til you become the master artisan.”

“And women aren’t any good as sushi chefs. Hands are too warm and too small” he baits the rabid feminist in me. “Plus they menstruate you know”

“You can’t annoy me today. I’m in my happy place” I say grinning from ear to ear.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Aurora - finished draft

It was an item on his bucket list. She was just a passenger along for the ride. He was travelling to the States for work and wanted to extend the trip to take advantage of the great Aurora season.

  “But it’s the best time of the month. And the best time of the year. We’d be in one of the best spots on earth to see it.” he debated his points vehemently. “It’d be a shame not go. We’ll go to Vancouver first for a few days to acclimatise, then on to Whitehorse in the Yukon. And, I promise,  we’ll go to Hawaii afterwards for a week. Let’s call it ‘The Fire and Ice Tour’?”

She nodded and even smiled at his enthusiasm. He was a completely different person when he was like this. This child-like enthusiasm was one of the first things she had liked when she met him.
 She’d been out with a girlfriend for dinner when her friend’s boyfriend turned up at the bar. They chatted briefly when he announced that he was off to a buck’s night at a strip club.
“Why don’t you ladies join me?” the boyfriend proposed with a cheeky grin.
“Go on, I’ve never been and I’ve always wondered what they’re really like” she convinced her friend, the wines and cocktails no doubt massaging their decision.

So minutes later they were in a taxi on their way to a strip club. Feeling quite excited by their libertine actions, the girls smiled broadly as they escorted the boyfriend in.  And that’s where they met -at a buck’s party in a strip club. When people asked how they met, they’d tag-team through the anecdote smiling as each took their turn. She never quite knew if people were somehow commenting on their obviously divergent lifestyles or just naturally curious.

Things were light and fun to begin with. They knew they had their differences. She had kids and lived in the suburbs. He lived in the city and didn’t want any kids of his own. He’d lived alone for eight years. She’d dated for the last five. They had a great time together going out with friends for dinner, drinks and parties. She long ago learnt not to bother planning a future too firmly as things never worked out that way. The only thing he planned ahead was holidays. She loved getting away though always looked forward to returning home. He put off returning to reality as long as he could.

Before they left Australia, she organised a joint counselling session. It was at her insistence. He couldn’t see any problem. She didn’t want things to go on like this. Stepping out of the dark cool counsellor’s office, she took his hand in hers and they both hid in the shade of the building while waiting for the pedestrian lights to change.
“So..” she coolly said ”should we go grab something to eat?”
“I’m not really hungry. Had a late lunch” he replied curtly as though his quota of words had been used up during the previous hour. He didn’t look at her but stared straight ahead wishing the lights to change by the sheer force of his will.

Lower back aching from sitting, she shifted her weight on her feet and looked down at the concrete footpath and noticed the speckles of rock shimmering in the afternoon sun, radiating heat up at them.
“We should organise the snow gear when we get back anyway” he reminded himself as much as her.
She knew when they got back to his apartment the chance to discuss how this first session had gone would be lost. She really liked their counsellor, Troy, with his purple checked shirt matching his purple socks.

“I think he’s gay, you know” she threw him a nibble hoping he’d comment and she could lead him on to further conversation. He didn’t bite. She carried on anyway. She was usually the one to lead things.
“Well I thought for a getting-to-know-you, housekeeping kind of session that went okay” she half asked as she let go of his hand and turned her body to face him, breaking his stare.
“Yeah I guess so” he admitted and leaned in for a peck of a kiss to seal the point. “We could get some take away noodles from the place downstairs if you like”
She clasped his hand again as they crossed the road towards his bright yellow Korean sports car. She didn’t love the car. He did. He’d had a plain black station wagon when they first starting going out. She had liked its anonymity.
“Short, tubby, balding man in a loud sports car. No clichés there.. At least, you can always find it in the car park” she reluctantly reminded herself as they approached.

It was only recently that things had started to turn sour. It was the little things. It usually is. He wanted to go out and some nights she wanted to stay in. She worked weekends. On Friday nights, he’d start drinking the moment he arrived home from work even when they had a big night out planned. His glass would never empty and he’d put on dance music so loud that the neighbours started to complain.
“It’s my Friday night” he said.”I can do what I like. I like a drink before I go out”
“to go out for more drinks “ she would say under her breath.

 Usually she gave in and went out, dressed in a new favourite party dress, low cut at the front just how he liked it. It was only when they were at the club that he became sullen. His chin inches from a drink; he’d look over the glass watching her. She loved the chance to meet new people or catch up with old friends. Middle suburban mum during the week, this was her chance to transform.
She smiled. People bought her drinks and admired her outfits. She preened and spun for her admirers, laughing all the while. He leaned against the bar in the corner and scowled. Occasionally he tried the same act but he came off more inebriated bumblebee than social butterfly. That was when his sulking would really kick in. How come she got the attention and he didn’t. He tried flirting with other women. Many times, people would ask her what he was on. Once his dance moves were enthusiastic and earnest. Now she just felt pity.

Watching the frozen world of Whitehorse go pass her fogged up taxi window, she sees a paddleboat stuck in the frozen Klondike River. Klondike was a name she’d heard of but without context, it had meant nothing. Stuck in winter ice, the historical wooden boat hadn’t gone anywhere in a long time and wasn’t going anywhere soon. Minus 21 degrees was going to be colder than she was used to or in fact had ever felt before. He had measured them up and organised the snow gear complete with boots to be there waiting for them.

Trying on the snow gear at the hotel on arrival, she couldn’t believe how ridiculous she felt in it. She never fitted into standard clothes easily. She was short and what was politely termed curvaceous. The jacket sleeves reached down passed her knees and the legs were bunched up over her boots so she found it difficult to walk. Of course, out there, there wouldn’t really be anything to walk to.
 “How come it’s so long in the arms and legs? Are you sure this is mine?” she felt hobbled at how little she could move in the padded jacket and pants.
His gear fit fine of course. She felt like an overgrown child learning to walk again.
“There’s no way I’m going out like this” she said

Plentiful supplies of booze and food were purchased from town to see them through their five days at the cabin. Dropped off by a large SUV, it would return almost a week later to pick them up. Far from any neighbours, they had their phones in case of emergencies. Deep wide tyre tracks were all that was left as the truck disappeared through the black, spiky forest. Expanses of endless white fields merged with the snow covered mountain ranges in the far distance. Soft pinks and lilacs filled the sky as the sun set on their first evening in the log cabin.

Retreating inside, he poured liberal amounts of wine whilst she put out a platter of cheese, meats and bread to nibble on, their wet snow gear draped across the simple wooden chairs in their tiny cabin.  No stereo system to fill the silence, they resorted to cable TV as their soundtrack for the evening. Food Network shows on repeat would amuse at first, only to grate in the coming days. Outside the darkness rolled in, blanketing the sparse forest surrounding their quaint little cabin.

Naturally the best viewing hours for the Aurora Borealis would be in the middle of the night. She said that she’d turn in and he promised to wake her if there was anything to see. Solar flares had been active these last few days so things looked promising. The wine bottle clanked in the sink as he reached for a second one. Lights were turned off and he methodically donned his snow gear before stepping out into the black moon-less night. He sat in his chair and hunkered down to wait and watch.

She tossed and turned on the too firm bed. She stretched out to use its full width. Her mind tossed and turned also as she thought back over the last few days. Busy with the machinations of travel and organising her parents to stay with her children, they’d not fought or discussed their counselling session the previous week. She didn’t know if this was a promising sign or not. Unable to easily drift into slumber land thanks to her active mind, she put on her snow boots by the door and threw a thick warm blanket around her. One step into the dry crunchy snow and despite her layers she feels too exposed.

 “Anything yet?” she asks, knowing the answer would be negative. He shakes his head as he looks up at her. She sits on the edge of his chair, his arms not moving to make any more room for her. He fills his glass with more wine but offers her none. It’s that kind of quiet that is deafening in its heavy solid silence.

“I don’t blame them. I wouldn’t be out there either” she thinks when she realises she can’t hear the sounds of any wildlife. She stays only a few minutes and turns to go inside the sanctuary of the lighted warm cabin when she can bear the frigidity no longer. “Too cold. Too quiet. Too still.” she thinks.

Peeling off her layers and climbing back into bed, she thinks “at least there shouldn’t be any tantrums tonight”. Those nights they would return to his place after too many drinks at a club and he would start in. All she would want to do is sleep and all he would do is rage at her for her lack of attention. It seemed he would rather wait until things had gone too far before he said anything. She never knew when a night was going to turn on its head. She never saw any warning signs. At least with her children, she’d learnt to recognise the tells..

She only realises that she was asleep when he shouts from the open door  “Come quickly!” Groggy, she puts on her thick puffy jacket, grabs a scarf and beanie and threads her feet into the boots just inside the door. Switching the light off to enhance the view, she walks away from the veranda to maximise the view of the sky. Turning this way and that, she’s not sure exactly what she’s looking for. She’s seen photos of the Northern lights and knows they’re large wispy green waves of light. Do they move? Do they only last momentarily like lightning? There are some stories she’d read about eerie noises accompanying the lights. She can’t see anything. She can’t hear anything.

At last, he has put down his glass and takes her shoulders in his hands. He turns her slightly and points low towards the horizon. “There” he says quietly. Leaning against him, he rests his cold chin on her bed-warmed hair and without speaking they watch the ribbons of pale green light dance languidly in the sky. In the morning he will excitedly show her his photos of the evening and all she can think is – “sometimes the picture looks better than the reality.”

Wednesday, March 9, 2016



This is a story about the house that I used to live in. I have mixed feelings about this house. It was not a great time in my life although the house itself was a very unique house that attracted me. It was built in 1910 which was the same year my maternal grandfather was born. The estate would have originally owned all the land on the hill back when Eltham was most definitely a country destination and not the edge of suburbia that it eventually became. The house had associations with many notable people across various artistic fields. This was interesting but it wasn’t what connected me to the property.

It was a rough diamond in need of gentle polishing when we found it. One evening before we moved in a friend and I drove slowly through the driveway, pausing at the residence to show him our new place. It was unique in that it could be accessed from the north and the south roads. This referenced its past as a larger estate, well known in the area.

It was night time and there were no lights on in the house. I already knew the previous tenants had vacated as the house was empty when we inspected and bought it a few weeks earlier. The large unconventional shape was almost foreboding on the dark evening. My friend and I stayed inside the car as it seemed the right thing to do.

I’m not sure how to describe what happened next.  Whilst I knew my friend couldn’t see him, I ‘saw’ an older man stoop to look into the front passenger side window to see who was in the car. His right hand was resting on the car’s roof. He was wearing a mid-brown woollen jumper with taupe slacks. Once he was satisfied that it was only me, he straightened up, turned and walked back towards the house. I wasn’t afraid and I actually wasn’t even surprised. We then continued our drive and I dropped my friend home without any fuss.

Later when we were all moved and settled in, there were times I would sense her in the house. Making some baked goods in the kitchen, she would watch over my shoulder – just to keep an eye on me. “Just watching, darlink. Just watching.” she would say in her strong Russian accent. Nina was short with her long hair pulled back in a bun. Always smartly attired, she enjoyed the company of me and my daughters. She was never able to have children but loved having them around. In fact, both of them loved the life and energy we brought to the house.

There was a spot in the living room where Clem would sit, drink his whiskey whilst reading. He loved his books. He had founded the literary journal Meanjin Quarterly which promoted Australian writing. Nina was the head of Russian studies at Melbourne University. Both scholars, when money got tight they would sell off parcels of land to help make ends meet. The house was basic when we inherited it with some beautiful work done by the architect Desbrowe Annear. When required, rooms were  extended in quite an ad hoc manner. Its rambling lay-out was endearing to me but infuriated my designer husband.

Nina became ill and with her strength ebbing day by day, she soon never left her bed. Clem would sit near her bedside reading as Nina dozed. She was grateful for the exciting lives full of love and laughter that she and Clem had shared. Sadly too soon, she passed away. Clem couldn’t cope with the great weight of sadness he felt at this enormous loss. He drank more and more whiskey from his favourite crystal low ball to help blur reality but upon waking each morning, the house was still cold and empty without her. Not long after, Clem moved out and died a few months later. His colour had been gradually draining out of him without his Nina around.

Our family moving in with all the noise and light that two young girls bring with them stirred Clem and Nina. The house that they had poured more than fifty years of their lives into was to be a home once more and they needed to know it was in good hands. I was unhappy not to have stayed there longer but you can never know what strange turns life is going to take. I’m grateful to have known Clem and Nina Christesen.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

cheese glorious cheese

Is cheese life beyond death?

Cheese represents decomposition in edible form. Milk, which represents the sustenance of life for calves, is the main raw material for cheese. Bacteria which already exist within the natural environment of a farm at least, if not in a modern scrubbed home then interact with this sitting milk. Time plus milk plus bacteria will add up to a delicious product.

Does eating cheese take us closer to death and life beyond death?

What cheese would I like to be reincarnated as? Currently I really like the fresh, lemony goats cheese rounds about 120g in weight, white and off white in colour and though classified as a semi-soft cheese, at times it can be almost runny. It’s perfect for me when it still has about one third chalky centre. Over ripe it can have quite a strong ammonia character.

Either that or Appenzeller which is a semi hard from north eastern Switzerland. It exhibits a lovely ‘stinky socks’ aroma, is straw yellow in colour and has tiny holes within its hard rind. The big pay-out is the washed rind. Different  producers use cider, wine or a herbal brine never disclosing their many years old secret recipe. Whilst I love a big chunk hacked off the block, it also makes a fabulous grilled cheese on toast.

The above linked article refers to a project whereby human bacteria was deliberately used in the creation of cheese. I was disappointed that no one apparently consumed the end product. Would I? Absolutely I would. I’d definitely eat cheese made from my own bacteria. I wonder if I’d want to know about the person who donated the bacteria or if I prefer the anonymity.

I’m not a very spiritual person but can’t help but flirt with the greater concepts of life and death and reincarnation. I usually dance around my fluid ideas regarding these when asked. Cheese is a very concrete incarnation of these big ideas.
Well that’s my excuse for my high consumption.

Monday, March 7, 2016

more short fiction

Wearing her regulation green and white checked school dress, the girl turned the corner and spilled into her driveway, its red brick paving radiating heat from the late summer sun that had been beating down on it all day. She ignored the car in her way and let her feet tumble down the last few metres beside the brick wall which boarded their excuse for a garden. The withered gum leaves which had fallen out between the boulders, snapped crisply beneath her roman sandals.

With the endless energy children seemed to have, she bounded up the steps two at a time to the front verandah but stopped dead when she got to the front door. It was open -that wasn’t normal. The dark wooden door was ajar. She didn’t really take in the incongruent detail of it. It didn’t look right but she wasn’t sure why.

Stepping inside, she turned her head right and saw her mother sitting in the lounge room. ‘That’s not right’ she thought.’ Mum’s always in the kitchen or downstairs in the laundry when I get home’

 The lounge room was only used when her parents had their Saturday night dinner parties. The low afternoon sun was streaming in though the dusty net curtains, hazy golden light filtered through the dirt on the windows. The carpet was yellow shag pile and the wide arm-chairs were of worn burgundy velvet. She was still small enough to curl up completely on their seat.

 The formal dining setting which was always by the front window didn’t quite seem right. Its blue-black stained colour, leather seats and chunky details gave it a vaguely medieval appearance. The whole effect was of something strong and enduring. The dining suite always lived in its own corner of the lounge room, brought out from the window only when they had guests. It was heavy, and required multiple people to manouevre it.

Now it wasn’t in its usual position; curtains pushed in the wrong direction, the table at an angle to the window, like someone had wedged it aside to get access to the window. Two chairs were lying on the floor. The whole effect was messy and she didn’t like it.

Across the far side of the room perched on the edge of the couch, her mother had her head in her hands. Her elder brother was standing still beside their mother.

Her brother glanced up at her and gave her a look she hadn’t seen before. It was a very serious look. Don’t come in here.It said. She did anyway, asking innocently What’s wrong?

As her mother looked up the girl realized she was crying. Her eyes were red and strands of hair were plastered to her face. It was incomprehensible to the young girl. Mothers didn’t cry.  Girls cried but mothers didn’t cry.  Instinctively, she took a few steps backwards, her sandals tapping the hallway linoleum as they left the carpet. Running to her bedroom, she slammed the door behind her and leapt onto the bed. In her sanctuary every thing would be okay. The confusion could stay there in the lounge room they hardly used.

It didn’t work. A hollow core masonite door provided little protection from the outside world. Her brother came to the door and knocked. That in itself wasn’t normal she noted. Brothers weren’t polite. Brothers didn’t knock.

For once, she was silent, knowing now wasn’t the time to cite her almost-teenager privacy concerns.  He sat gingerly on the edge of her bed and she moved over to make more room. In very serious, hushed tones he started to explain that their house had been broken into. The details washed over her as she started to comprehend what he was saying.
Someone she didn’t know, possibly some ones she didn’t know had been in their house.
Had they been in her room?
Had they touched her things?
Had they taken anything?

She rummaged through her treasures, frantically searching to see if anything was missing. ‘It all appears here’ she sighed as realized her room was untouched.
“Mind you, who could tell if anyone had been in this pig-sty’ he good naturedly jibed as he left.

Normally after school she hassled her mother for a snack but there was no way she was going into the lounge. She grabbed a granny smith apple from the fruit bowl even though she didn’t really like their tart taste, poured herself a glass of orange juice and returned to her room. Putting a cassette into the stereo system she’d received for her tenth birthday, she plugged in the headphones and turned the music up.

Cuddled up onto her bed, pillows behind her and her black and white almost-threadbare teddy fallen onto the floor, she stared at the posters that lined her walls. Munching on her apple and bopping along to the saccharine English pop music blaring into her ears, she would stay here until someone came to get her. Until mum called her for dinner time. Until normal programming resumed.