Sixteen-year-old Audrey is pregnant and scared to death. What she chooses to do next will change her life forever.
‘You signed it?’
‘This morning.’ My old man takes off his weathered bush hat and mops beads of sweat from his brow. ‘What’s done is done.’
‘Why would you do this?’
He takes a seat at the beaten hardwood table that has stood in this kitchen for two generations. ‘You’re upset.’
‘I’m furious! You said you’d never sell. You promised Grandpa on his deathbed!’
‘Things change.’ Dad’s voice is gruff. ‘Times change. I’m tired. Forty acres is too much. Look around you, the house is falling apart, nothing works. It costs money to run this place.’
The peeling plaster and musty odour tell me there’s damp in the walls.
‘What about the money I sent you?’ I drag my hand over the stubble on my face. ‘You forced me to go to work in that urban jungle, so this wouldn’t happen. I wanted to stay here, but I did what you asked because I knew what the property meant to you and Grandpa.’
‘I’m sorry it’s come to this.’ Dad rubs his soil-stained fingers over the dinted surface of the table.
‘Those property developers will make a fortune. They’ll build a bloody shopping centre over on Creek Road and some of those beastly townhouses. The landscape will be ruined. They’ll be no going back once it’s done.’ Sweat soaks my navy Van Heusen shirt. ‘I need some air.’
The tattered screen door squeaks on its hinges and clatters against the door frame behind me as I step onto the verandah. The pulse of the cicadas thrum all around me. The camouflaged music makers remind me of the long hours I’d spent as a kid working the land with Grandpa. Feeding cattle, fixing broken fences, helping him repair the ute, then coming back to the house at the end of a long day, hands blistered, skin burnt, muscles aching—it was real work.
One steamy summer night, I got to have an ice cream sundae for dinner, it had all my favourite flavours, mint, chocolate and strawberry. Grandpa loaded it high with squirty cream and covered it with sprinkles. He’d been too exhausted to cook.
A bright green feather is lodged between two rotting boards on the deck. It belongs to a flamboyant lorikeet. Grandpa used to sit here and watch them feed on the nectar of the Bottlebrush. I pick up the feather and walk into the yard, over to where we buried Bluey, my faithful Blue Heeler. I crouch down at the wooden stake that marks his resting place and thread the feather between my fingers before sticking it into the ground. Bluey loved chasing the rainbow coloured birds. He caught a couple in his time too.
I stand and frown at my black patent shoes. We didn’t work this hard to lose it all now. I carve my hand through my city boy hair. Grandpa must be turning in his grave.
There must be some way to save the property.
© Michelle Upton