We’ve been scattered by the wind to all the corners, we four.
Time has made us half-strangers, and we all feel it, looking at each other, seeing where the new lines have formed, the touches of grey, the softening around edges. We can’t help but take in the differences, so unlike mere photographs. So real.
Jenny is the first to arrive; the first to be anything. She sets her heart’s compass by it. She always looks young and crisp, decked out in a bright suit, in shiny heels, a silver brooch, her faultless golden hair. She falls into my arms with enthusiasm, wrapping her arms around my neck, stepping back, saying, “Just look at you.” Jenny: the baby.
“Look at you.”
“People used to say we look alike. Can you believe that?” She doesn’t mean to cut me with it – she only doesn’t think. She doesn’t take it in: that time’s been so much harder on me, whilst stepping so lightly over her, leaving barely a trace.
“I’m glad you could come.”
And she rolls her eyes. Not come? As if! We’re here for Dad’s book. We’re here because he called, and of course we’re going to come running.
“Gerald and Tans won’t be here for an hour. Coffee or something?”
Sitting down, she takes a moment to check her make-up, she checks her phone as well, and I know she’s eyeing up some guy standing over by the bookshop. Be careful what you wish for little sis, it doesn’t turn out like the fairytales.
“Hot in LA?” I ask her.
“Oh, you know it is. Scorching. So, when’s the big day?”
“Is he excited?”
“You know Dad. He’s excited on the inside. But he’s waited his whole life for this.”
Dad, at last, following his childhood dream. Finally a writer. It’s his book launch on Tuesday, and of course we have to be there, dressed up to the nines, with Mum in her blue suit, in her ribboned hat, red with pride, probably crying.
I’m proud of him too. I am.
A plane lands. We watch through the whole-wall window. Another. Then the next one, which is Gerald’s. He’s flown in from Canada where’s he’s teaching school, where he’s hiding in a small town, licking his wounds. I can see from a glance that he still thinks about her. All the years that have bypassed Jenny are piled high on him instead.
“Mandy. Jenny.” He embraces us in turn.
You look…. I don’t know what I should say.
“I mean his health?”
“I think okay.” His heart. His liver. There are doctors telling us it’s only a matter of time. A year: maybe. Two years would be pushing our luck. Why do we all stay away so much?
“We have to talk about that, properly.” Gerald, falling quickly into that role: man of the family, at least for our generation.
I counter: “It’s too early, surely?”
“Doctors, they estimate too high. They’re human, they want to hope for the best. We need to talk to Mum.”
“Gerald, this week: it’s about the book. He wants things that way.”
“Okay. But soon. We can’t leave it too long.”
And Tans, coming off the next flight. Flying in from Sydney. She tries to be Jenny, but she doesn’t have the sparkle, there’s something too serious about her. Her curly hair is tamed by shiny red clips, her suit is a deep black, enlivened by a red silk blouse.
“Court date on the way over?” Gerald teases.
She doesn’t get it: “I’ve cleared my schedule for Mum and Dad.”
Gerald says, “Well, you look great.”
She does, but she notices – she can’t help noticing – that Jenny is here, and Jenny is outshining her. Again. And still they fall into each other’s arms, holding on that little bit longer, a tear on Tans’ cheek.
We’re all saying how it’s been too long, how we shouldn’t wait again before we do this. We need to catch up more, we need to stay in touch. These are empty words, lighter than feathers. I can see them float up through the air, already dying. Time has scattered us too far apart, physically, emotionally, and there’s no gathering it back, not for all the world’s wishful thinking.
Gerald says “All right then, let’s do this. I’ll find us a cab.”
Rosalie Kempthorne has no idea what it takes to write a good Writer Profile, and all her previous attempts have so far come to nothing. She has much better luck writing stories. You can read more of her short stories on 365 Tomorrows, ABC Tales, or on her website: www.RosalieKempthorne.name.