Saturday, November 20, 2010

Illumination Part 2

Jurd is escorted, strapped to a hospital gurney within Boggo Road prison en route to the infirmary. The cancer in his testicles spreads with terminal tentacles into his spleen and liver. His skin is yellow, the whites of his eyes now sallow, his breathing shallow and sympathy for his palliative condition felt by no-one. Once a large and forceful man, his frame is wasted, diminished. His hair tainted with silver and his face lined and hardened. He did it. Oh yes, he did it but the hussy deserved it.

There was a time when he loved her. She was the child he never had. The waif and stray he'd taken in. The lover in his arms despite her protestations, he knew that she liked it. He cared for her, he fed her and she darned his socks and made his supper. In actual fact, he'd been her saving grace although that's not how she saw it. She'd been his 'gift' a ward of the State, a foster child, a slave. He'd touched her tiny body where no man had been before. He'd lunged at her, mauled her, tied her to the bed. He made her put his dirty penis in her mouth and call him 'baby'. He'd grunted as he came inside her and called her his 'little girl'. He'd fuck her sideways before whispering, "Shhh . ." . He'd coo, sweat dripping from his brow onto hers, his smoke stenched hand across her mouth. "You must never tell, they'll send you back to places worse than this." She knew it to be true and tolerated his perversion.

How sweet she was, her slim tanned legs, her dancing arms, her flowing hair. He barely noticed the sun dress growing tighter round her waist. He barely noticed that she was ashen in the mornings. He barely noticed her enlarging breasts and the miasma that appeared across her forehead. He barely noticed at all until she told him she was pregnant.

This eventuality he had not anticipated. She was too young. He'd been told he could never sire children of his own. How could she? Unfaithful wench, spoiled child, slurry, slag, whore!

Jurd's rage, guilt, suspicion suspended all rationality as he tried to bludgeon the truth from her. He dragged her from the house by the hair. She kicking, screaming, crying, pleading her innocence but nobody voice remained unheard amid 10 acres of hinterland by Avocado trees, Macadamia and a neat row of Banana Palms with heavily laden fruit. Nobody heard the shed door slam, the shrieks, the yells. Nobody heard the cries as he bound her wrists to iron rings on posts. Nobody heard the thud of his fist connecting to her belly. Nobody heard her sob as blood oozed from between her thighs forming a maroon puddle on the red dirt floor. She denied an affair, there was no-one else, he was mistaken, he was the only man to have violated her body, the only one snuffing the life within. Nobody heard the mattock connect with the side of her head or the sound of her falling to her knees with angelic grace as her world went black and silent.

He's out of it. His body has given up. Morphine courses through his veins deluding him that he feels no pain. Oh he feels pain but is too weak to complain and he's hallucinating. A shadowy figure hovers over his groin wearing a bloodied and torn sundress. Face smashed and congealed with blood. It grins a grimace so threatening that he know the end is near. "I'm sorry" . . his false contriteness seen transparent by his long past victim. She hovers and flickers, screaming revenge in noises only he can hear. His face is grimaced with terror when she spits a metaphysical spit and plunges an icy hand hard around his painfully engorged testicles. He screams, a scream of agony as she had done, before fading into oblivion. Jurd flatlines. It's over.


***


Today, the sun streams as it often does, beams patterning the floor and the corner beckons. Today however, her baby does not move. Without so much as a sideways glance she hears the familiar whisper, closer, louder "You saved me, now save her . ." The shed is empty and the blood drains from her face. The left hand corner is now covered, no sign of blue or bones but the child is here, ever present. It is not yet over.

Afraid that she's imagining things nothing is said to Adam at dinner. They eat, they talk, they make love and sleep but she is troubled. The drone of cicadas is not enough to drown out the pleading voice. It's 3am and she is roused from intermittent sleep and wanders towards the kitchen for a glass of water.

Passing the baby-ready nursery she peaks inside at the infant's room, painted white and lemon, a wooden cot against the window. Sheer buttercup patterned curtains are drawn and cast flower shadows on the polished floor. A pretty mobile of dancing butterflies hangs silent and still in the heat of this moonlit night. She smiles at her decorative handiwork and scans the room before her glance settles on the rocking chair in the corner. She screams a silent scream. The scream you scream within a dream, no noise emanates from her parted lips.


"Adam! Adam! . . . for Christ's sakes there's a kid in the nursery."

"What the . . are you crazy . . . Angie? You look like you've seen a . . "
She is white and breathless, incredulous and embarrassed.


"Jesus . . I think I have! There's a girl in the baby's nursery, in the rocking chair smiling . . shimmering!"

Swathed in disbelief, Adam races towards the baby's room. Nothing. Flicks on the light. Nothing. He turns and holds his trembling girl. "Baby, it's just the hormones, your imagination, this old house. Seriously, come back to bed, it's nothing." She says nothing as he embraces her but sees the chair, over his shoulder, in the corner, empty . . . still rocking.

Convinced that these last few weeks of her third trimester were causing delusions and doubts, Angelique slides beneath the sheets and lies awake until the butcher birds begin to call and morning is heralded by yet another sunny day. She knows. It's all about the bones.

Angelique is panicked, the baby hasn't moved in hours and the voice is still reverberating in her head. He's never seen her like this, terrified and flustered, pale and short of breath. An ambulance is called and she's rushed to emergency. Within minutes a foetal monitor confirms the baby's falling, failing, dying. "She told me!" Angelique's sobs and delusions are now out of control, "Adam, that girl, she told me, she knew, she TOLD me, save the baby!" Adam smooths her hair and kisses her forehead tenderly, "It'll be OK, you're in good hands" but he's hiding his own hysteria. A needle pierces the cephalic vein and she barely notices before she sinks into oblivion and her world too, goes black.

Angelique wakes, groggy and confused, her belly tight and sore. Drips connected with both saline and morphine for the pain. Adam sits by her side and slowly comes into focus. "The baby?" she whispers, mouth still dry from the anaesthetic and throat sore from the intimating tube. "She's fine"  he tenderly strokes her face, "She's beautiful and big, and bright. You had a Caesar but you'll be OK and she's just gorgeous." The remnants of anaesthetic still making her swoon, she closes her eyes and sleeps.

Sun streams once more through the slats as Angelique returns to a shed she feels compelled to visit for the last time. Her baby is alive because of battered bones she had uncovered. Her gratefulness overcomes her fear. Tomorrow, bulldozers will level the scene and it's sordid past will be forgotten. There is someone she needs to thank. Try as she might, no icy hand pushes firmly on her back. No whispers surround her. No flickering figure appears in the sunbeams. The girl has gone, left, she is at peace.

Angelique, lays her sleeping princess in the cot. Crickets chirp and the curtain moves ever so slightly in the evening zephyr. She strokes the tiny head covered with velveteen strands and walks towards the door. So amazed with her little miracle she's loathe to leave but is suddenly halted in her tracks as a chill swirls upwards from the floor, enveloping her body.

She glances backwards over her shoulder. Instinct tells her something is wrong, terribly wrong. Moving with speed towards the cot, the child is blue. The baby has stopped breathing. Enveloping the tiny fading body in her arms she turns towards the rocking chair. Resuscitation is useless. As she cradles her own dead child, there sits the apparition, baby suckling at a ghostly breast.


Angelique, her face incredulous, terrified and resigned falls gracefully to her knees and her world turns black.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Illumination

Standing sylph-like and straight as sunlight streams into the darkest corner of the room, she is illuminated by shafts of light. Dust dancing, shimmering and playful particles stream through the slats. She lingers in that moment between terror and acknowledgment. Her teenage face bleached with fear yet resigned to fate. This is the end of a terrible day. The end of a terrible life. Terrible in every sense of the word. She is paying the price for being 'loved' by the wrong man, carrying his unborn child, enduring a wrath so dreadful, so deranged that her bruised body can take no more and feels nothing.

She is bound at the wrists by skin-tight cable ties. Arms outstretched and Christlike, linked to iron hitching bolts. She feels the impact of the blow, the blunt end of a mattock against her temple but not the pain. Blood streams from her battered face forging a fateful path beneath gossamer threads of blue, emerging warm and oozing like acrylic paint, thick and glossy.  Her face angelic and expressionless, she sinks to her knees and her world goes black.


***


The city suited Adam Croft but his wife Angelique had reservations about their baby being born amid the skyscrapers and traffic. She feared for a child so special, raised among the bustle and pollution and violence and longed for the peaceful life. She was country born and bred and craved the lushness of the hinterland, the salt air of the sea. Moving back into a rural lifestyle was for her, a natural conclusion and a sensible decision. Adam's career was 'portable' so that wasn't an issue, although he liked the city life, the noise, the madness, the convenience, he adored her and would indulge this folly, sure that it would never come to fruition.

 Driving north on the Pacific Highway along Queensland's Sunshine Coast, they'd ventured off the beaten path and saw it. High in the hinterland hills of Montville, above the surf, a typical Queenslander home. Raised on piles, neatly hidden by latticework and skirted by a wide cool verandah its newly painted timbers gleamed in the morning light. It's renovated colourbond roof, sage green against an endless blue sky.  As they drove up the straight gravelled driveway, both glanced at each other, recognition and resignation in their eyes as they scanned the "For Sale" sign  -  It was perfect. Neither saw the bedroom curtain gently pulled aside or the figure at the window.

The Queenslander  was nestled among 10 acres of arable land, dotted with Avocado and Macadamia trees and a neat row of Banana palms heavy with unripened fruit. The vista from the front sloping down into the valley and out towards the sea, rolling breakers and white sand far off in the distance. It came complete with a large wooden shed, slightly dilapidated but repairable - perfect for Jim's architectural studio. Other small outhouses formed weatherproof shelter for the tractor and one had already been converted into a three car garage. 

The house was spacious and on a single level. Eleven wooden steps led to the front door adorned with a large lion brass knocker and stained glass panels that streamed coloured light into a wide polished board hallway. Extending past two bedrooms on either side, then a living room, dining room all opened into a spacious and modern open kitchen with new cedar trimmed bi-fold doors opening onto a shady patio. Newly planted, the fragrance of star jasmine announced the onset of summer and Rainbow Lorikeets delved hungrily into each Grevillea blossom, heady and oblivious to company as they devoured sweet nectar.

Everything about the house felt right, from the sheer curtains billowing in the spring breeze to the smell of wood oil, lovingly rubbed into every timber surface and crevice.

Angelique's belly grew and fluttered. Flutters progressed to rolls and kicks, reminding her of the precious gift she carried. She'd miscarried twice before in her first trimester so this baby was to be nurtured, kept safe to term and was indeed a blessing as she approached her 34th week. 

As Adam worked wonders with his floor plans, she wandered around the property, spending quiet moments alone.  Angelique explored the outhouses. Encroaching on the larger shed, she peered through each shrunken slat into the must and dust. It had  little inside other than an old washing copper and a rusted manual plough. This one was sound, appealing and begging for conversion.  Slight gaps between the ship lap allowed the sunlight in. Cobwebs had been brushed away. The rusting FJ Holden hauled out for scrap metal, revealing a rammed earth floor. Its roof suspended by glorious hardwood exposed beams. With a little TLC, flooring, cladding on the wall, a small loft office and a bathroom installed in one back corner, it would be the perfect workspace for Adam.

Something drew her to the shed. It's rural charm perhaps, or the fact that the baby moved comfortingly when she approached. It had become her special place. Somewhere to walk among the shadows and dream about the future. Today is no different to any other day. She unlatches the door and wonders into the comforting space for 'quiet time' and to visualise it's charm once the renovations were complete.  The baby moves and she places a tender hand upon her protruding belly to calm the little mite, secretly enjoying its lively murmers.  She is startled as the door swings hard shut, the latch catching violently yet no breeze is present. She turns on a sixpence and retreats towards the closed door to unhinge the heavy iron latch before she hears it.  A sob? A whisper? A sigh?

The sound is indiscernible but strange. There's no-one there but it is clearly audible yet unintelligible.

"Anyone there?"

She barely utters before silently chastising herself for feeling fear. 

"Save her, find me! . . " 

She spins to ascertain its source.



"Save her, find me . . !" 

Now sure that it's not her hormones or imagination at play, she surveys the shed. It's clear beyond some old paint tins and streaming light forming a latticework of light. For a moment she swears she sees something. A shady form, an apparition, pixelated and shimmering. A pleading hand extends before a wayward cloud obscures the sun and the beams retreat. The vision disappears. Angelique sprints to the closing door and escapes before it slams hard shut behind her.


She knows not why but she compelled to return to the shed. She visits every day. Sometimes she hears things, sometimes she sees things but says nothing of her visions to her husband. The baby stirs whenever they enter. She stands full centre and pivots 360 degrees before she feels an icy hand upon her back,  pushing her towards the far left corner. She swivels and the hand desists but the urge to explore the usurps her fear as she teeters on the brink of curiosity and terror. Her cleavage sweats, her hands shake, her heart palpitates out of control but she is driven. Someone . . something . . . wants her to explore.  Between the right angle of the rear shed wall are two hitching posts. Tall and solid, each bearing a single well-battened rusted iron ring. The earth is rammed, hard, firmer than the rest of floor and from it protrudes the tiniest piece of rotting blue fabric.

The baby is writhing ballistic, turning and kicking and brings her to her knees. She practices her Le Mars and breathes fast and strong before she begins to tug at the tiny piece of blue. The hard earth is unforgiving as she scrapes with hand and nail and releases sods, pulling at the fabric which reluctantly gives way and forfeits treasure. It protrudes carelessly from a large wooden box buried just four inches below the surface. Against the wall rests a mattock and with renewed vigor and tremulous hands she takes the mighty tool and smashes it hard against the weak timbers. Hands now bleeding and painted with red earth she tears at the planks and exposes what was not meant to be exposed, what should have remained undiscovered. The body of a woman, no, a child. Ravaged by two decades of neglect now bone and dried flesh, swathed only in the remnants of a bloodied blue dress.

Posted for 10th Daughter of Memory "Shafts of Grace in the Corner of A Room"


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pearl, Harbour: Cherry Blossom

*Continued from Pearl, Harbour: Pearl in the Water

He is overcome, overwrought, overtired as she wraps him up with her arms. No words are spoken, it's enough to breathe, to blend, to converge. He's fragile and exhausted and she feels new strength coursing through her veins. She will be his rock, his saviour.

Ill-prepared, she tears a strip of fabric from her skirt and fashions a dressing for his bleeding thigh. For now the makeshift tourniquet will stem the flow, but his wound's slashed deep from contact with concertina razor wire. The prospect of proper medical attention swept away with the dawn chorus, and they know to dare not even try.

Fuchsia sunrise breaks blackened silhouette of gum trees and the laugh of Kookaburras shatters the quiet, mocking the lover's plight. Exposed, she surveys the scene. Brown paddocks stretch before them, dotted with grazing sheep. No habitat in sight. A small dirt road snakes lazily over the ridge. Where it leads she doesn't know, but there is the distant familiar scream of steel on steel as freight train draws to a noisy halt. They need to move.

She's had no contact with her family, but in a world torn by madness, they are now her only refuge. She resolves to bite the bullet and take her lover home. The journey isn't long, but will be arduous with the need to retain low profile. She helps him to his feet. There is worry that his garb will betray his escape, but there's nothing to yet do. They make haste south. Always south.

The station is quiet in this backwater town as they slink between the carriages, careful not to be discovered. The balance of Cowra inmates have wandered north, making way for the lovers to escape. They scramble aboard the guards van, empty, dusty but sheltered and ignored and wait until the train gathers momentum and pulls away from this hellish place. They are on their way.

Wedged close together against the wooden carriage wall, they relax. The rhythm of the steel against the tracks in harmony with the rhythm of their breathing. They sit quiet and contemplative as the wide brown land speeds by, a blur between the wooden slats. Blue skies reign glorious above, but they remain oblivious.  He sleeps, blood soaking through the makeshift dressing and tiny drops of sweat beading on forehead. He is feverish and needs a doctor. The train slows as they approach the Victorian border and is halted by a small posse of militia. She urges him up and they slip silently below the carriage, sheltered by its cold metal wheels until the danger's passed. Again, she hauls him onto the boards, as he was once hauled from sea onto lugger, his weight is heavy and his body weak, but they are now just hours from home.

The train slows once again, amid the cherry belt at Seymour, his fever is worsening. He can't go on. Her decision to depart is hastened, too noisy and wantonly enthusiastic. Puckapunyal recruits board for Melbourne, the safe haven of their carriage now threatened by the invasion of adrenaline-starved young men - only recently boys - eager to enter into battle. The pair make silent and hasty retreat away from the bustle of the station.

They slip towards the Cherry Range. As the density of pink blossom increases, blown randomly by the breeze, it's beautiful. Confetti without ceremony, snow without cold, she can't help marvel at this natural wonder and he suddenly realizes what his father meant.

Secluded, unnoticed and invisible, two shadows lie exhausted beneath cherry tree. Showered in its blossom, she unwraps his wound. Angry and exposed, she masks a silent gasp at the severity of the gash now crimson and glistening. Another tear from her dress replaces his congealed dressing. He strokes her face with palm and thumb, dirty this time, but she doesn't mind. She's the love of his life.

She kisses his lips, longing and intense. He's looking wan and pale but energetic in her arms, feeling her warmth and softness against his skin. Painful heat rises from his wound, but is tolerable with her by his side. She slides a gentle hand under his shirt and strokes his chest with her thumb. It's been so long since, that his lust outranks his pain and he slips her underneath, fingers and tongues exploring. There is a desperation in her lovemaking, borne of absence and fear that this may be the last. She lies supine, arms raised above her head, his hands in hers as he explores her breasts with his mouth and penetrates her with gentleness and ease. Soon they are tangled, engaged, in an intercourse threatened by loss. With the crescendo of their bodies, her heart rises to her throat as the sensation in her loins escapes order into chaos and she begins to cry.

***

He leans alone beneath a flowering cherry tree, waiting for her to return with medicine from Seymour. She didn't want to leave him but his wound and ethnicity made it necessary. Mind spinning, infection and blood loss preventing any clarity beneath the red and pink hues of a false Autumn.

Her own appearance garnered attention within the town, and it is sheer fate that a soldier once stationed at Cowra recognises her in the streets. A world too small in a war too large. Torn garments, smudges of dirt, soot and blood, all conspicuous spotlights in a typical Australian town on a typical Australian day. Silent alarms raise and constables gather. In her worry she fails to notice the hasty posse surreptitiously trailing her steps.

It's not until she reaches the orchard that she knows she's being followed. Panic overpowers her and she starts to run, consideration for deception or leading them away never materialising. She runs through the trees in search of her cherry blossom, ignorant of the concept but familiar with its emotion.

He pulls himself up, groggily, at the sound of footsteps pursued by footsteps and struggles to a standing position, ready to flee. He wants to sleep. The crack and its echo frightens her, but not as much as the sight of Kintaro forced back to the ground. She drops the medicine and kicks off her shoes, doing anything to pick up speed before there's nothing left to run to. The firm grasp of a soldier restrains her.

Kintaro's vision is blurred, but he can see her struggling against her captor's grip, hear her crying. Another shape approaches, rifle leveled at his head. Kintaro reaches, arm and hand outstretched toward Elise. Fear or hatred misinterprets the gesture and bayonet impales heart. An arm drops, limp. Another shot frees the bayonet stuck fast within ribcage and an exit wound blossoms onto the trunk of a cherry tree as its own blossoms attempt to bury one of their own.

***

It's nearly a week before the mystery of her identity is solved, forlorn and laconic with little reason to live. Her father arrives at Puckapunyal to take her home to Geelong, where her family enjoy the fruits of her father's reputation and industrial interests. He's happy to see his once wayward daughter, but doesn't show it. He can tell from her eyes that she's been through much, a thousand-yard stare the result of a final battle that happened mere inches away.

He takes his time with her, letting her settle herself in, even providing interference with an over-anxious mother and curious sibling unable to contain themselves. Paternal concern does not go unnoticed and Elise appreciates the kindness. Of all in her family, only her father could possibly understand the life that she had lived. She fears the others might not even accept it as a reality.

When she is fit to travel, father and daughter embark on a quest for answers, though father secretly knows such a journey is futile. The fate of Kintaro's body is never discovered. His family never found. The only evidence of his existence, a fisherman in Broome who thinks he might remember her lover. But they all look the same to him.

***

She's buried just north of Sydney after the turn of century. Her husband, children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren nearly all present. None have heard the story of Kintaro and she never wrote it down for any of them to discover. She loved her family, yet nothing ever came close to what she felt for Kintaro. Her one and only soul-mate. A man who exited her life as quickly and randomly as he'd entered.

At her memorial, a grandchild notices something identical in every photo of Nan. In her wedding photos, in her vacation photos, in her random photos of nothing important at all.

A necklace. Cheaply strung. With three stolen pearls.

FIN.

The Complete Pearl, Harbour

Friday, November 5, 2010

Pearl, Harbour: Safe Harbour

*Continued from Pearl, Harbour: Far Enough

She's tired. Tending house is hard and her contact with the outside rare, but it provides opportunity to listen to the radio. "Loose lips sink ships," she hears ad nauseum as the war wages.

Weeks of sitting across a humble dinner table, watching him talk and smile placed firm focus on his mouth. His lips full, belying Caucasian genes. A slight nose dividing his face into perfect symmetry. His words wash over her, listened to but unheard.

While he speaks she fantasises about his hands upon her body, his tongue gliding across her belly and back, his breath warm and sweet upon her skin. As she listens, the urge to lean into and kiss his mouth is overwhelming but as yet, she has resisted.

"You're not listening," he quips, jolting her back into reality.

"I am. Sorry. Just... thinking."

He rambles on about his garden, the sun, his life in the water, how wonderfully she cooks with the simplest of ingredients. For him, the talk is mindless and pours onto the brushed hardwood table without thought. He's actually just watching her watching him. Cleavage slightly visible in the scoop of her pale blue sun dress, bra-less and baring nipple. Sunkissed face and shoulders. A tiny crop of freckles across the bridge of her nose. He drowns in her eyes, hazel or green - he can't really decide - and intense. There's something deep behind them, an awareness, some sort of knowing, and he wants to unlock their secret. He wants to surprise her with a kiss but fears his inexperience in the ways of love.

Yes, love.

***

White sheets billow on the line and she sees him across the field, hoeing and watering, the stream of spray rising and falling like minute pearls in the sunshine. Her heart races. She feels that urge between her legs, nipples firming and breath shortening. This is not how it was with Ned.

Her mind retreats to a memory she would rather forget. Infatuation with country lad fueled her need to leave the confines of city and parents more concerned with appearance than adventure. She fooled herself into believing she loved Ned. He was tall, handsome, country-hardened and rugged and in need of a wife, but at 18, what did either know of love? Ned's rough hands knew nothing of her need for gentle touch

An epiphany that Elise never actually 'made love' makes her visibly wince. Never experienced the soulful bliss, heart-wrenching emotion, euphoria of sex with a true lover, waxed so lyrically in romance. Ned was abusive and demanding, abandoning foreplay before entering her, dry and resistant, grunting heavily, thrusting rapidly and offering no shared satisfaction - she had only been fucked and it had hurt the first few times. Her heart had never skipped, or ached at separation. Tears welled out of sadness, never joy. Of fear, never safety. Kintaro offers both and she wants him more than either realises.

***

Kintaro glances beneath his brim towards the window as she beckons him, her hair falling across her shoulders. He wipes earth-tainted hands on the back of his grubby trousers and walks towards her.

The homestead is empty, its owners away. He ventures into the large kitchen and scans the room. Windows wide open to welcome the summer breeze. An open Arga stove spreads warmth and kangaroo stew simmers gently. The aroma permeates the air and reminds him of his hunger, but the food will wait. He removes his shoes before ascending the staircase.

She waits by the window in one of the bedrooms. Beautiful and serene, she smiles behind her amazing hazel eyes.

"Come here," she whispers, pouring water into a porcelain bowl. She takes his hands and soaps them, her fingers entwined in his and lets the slippery medium reduce the friction of her caress. The motion of her hands firm and gentle, massaging between his fingers, around his wrists. She takes a softened towel and pats him dry, kissing the tops and palms with velvet lips. Her intent now clear.

She wipes his soil-stained face, first across brow and then his lovely eyes. He stands, clean, sweet-smelling. She nuzzles her cheek against his and moves her lips across his mouth into ardent kiss. She leads, stroking her tongue gently against his, taking his top lip between hers and deepening her embrace. He holds her face in his hands as she undoes button and zipper and dungarees fall to the floor. Flannel shirt removed, gliding slowly from his back, leaving him naked and beautiful as a kiss continues.

He slips sundress from her shoulders and slides sweet smelling fingers along her neck, down to her hips, as they move backwards towards the freshly made bed. She pushes him gently back and straddles his thighs, kissing him gently on the neck, the chest, the belly. She runs nose and tongue across his hips. He strokes her hair - glorious and fragrant - as she nuzzles his groin, soft and tender.

Kintaro bites his bottom lip as he enters gently, afraid he might come too soon and spoil her moment. Her heart fit to burst as a wave of heat emanates from soul to skin. This time she will not cry. She breathes, deep. There is pleasure beyond pleasure as she moves in rhythm and song. He can't stop looking at her. She's beyond beautiful, smooth and soft and lovely. And no longer a separate shadow.

He thumbs her nipples, firm and erect, goose bumps rising amid tiny blonde hairs on her arms and belly. He grabs her waist and watches as she closes her eyes, tilts her head back, elongated so stunning a neck. A gasp is seen and felt as his companion enters bliss. Her arms behind her grasping his inner thighs, not merely a burst of lust, but a surge and stream of emotion, of wanting, of necessity. Tears water in his eyes as they finally consummate what each has felt for weeks. She collapses languidly on his chest, replete, smiling and serene. He wants to stay inside her, now and forever and she lets the moment linger as he brushes her hair from her face. She also wants to stay. In this moment, their beginning, no gold band necessary to bind them. Together, complete, their embrace held through the night.

***

The sound of wheels on gravel springs them to their feet. No longer ashamed of their nudity, they smile at each other before the dramatic realisation that being caught is not an option. He hurriedly draws on his dungarees and with hat and flannel shirt tucked underneath his arm, bolts like a rabbit down the stairs and through the kitchen door. She straightens messed sheets and worries not about the heady, salt fragrance of sex. Elise dresses quickly and pours the dirty washwater down the sink. The towel, she tucks behind the dresser - she can dispose of it later - and glides effortlessly down the stairs to answer the door.

As she unlatches the brass bolt, all the bliss that had entered her just moments before evaporates. She feels as if she's going to faint, her pulse racing. Brass buttons, blue suit, round topped and visored cap... it's the police.

"You're harbouring a Jap. Where is he?"

***

*Continued in Pearl, Harbour: Pearl in the Water

The Complete Pearl, Harbour

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pearl, Harbour: Rising Suns

He breaches the briny aqua and exhales. He can barely see the sunshine glistening on the water. They haul him upward over the deck - this rubbery monster with a brass mask - and stand him upright, the weight of gravity and leaden boots preventing him from doing so alone. They release the brass dome and his almond eyes squint in the light as the rubber suit that hides his muscled yet diminutive form is divested. The rope net full of pearl oysters falls carelessly on the sodden timbers. Standing still, almost naked in the light, beads of salty water trickle down the indentation in his spine, collecting in a small pool within the cleavage of his buttocks. His once-gloved hands now prunish, he's been so long underwater. His loose cotton shorts translucent, divulging well muscled curves. He is a pearler, the eldest son of a youngest son, an Australian-born half-Jap whose family have pearled here for over 20 years. But all is not calm in his watery garden of Eden. Far across the Pacific, under the same blue sky, cries of Tora! Tora! Tora! reign as distant cousins harvest quite a different Pearl.

"Why am I up?" Kintaro asks, wondering why his dive time was cut nearly in half.

"You're gonna wanna listen to this, Kint."

As he lands upon the white sands, old men caress their beards and listen intently to a broken newscast announcing the atrocity committed. Kintaro is Australian, speaks only English, but he looks like them - the perpetrators of a heinous crime - and he will be persecuted for it. He knows it's just a matter of time and makes the decision to leave. He needs to disappear. Thanks are exchanged. These friendships will be fleeting, but for now they are steadfast, loyal.

He packs a few belongings, a couple of photographs, three pearls for insurance and stows away on a steamer bound for Fremantle. Where he's ultimately going he does not know, but it will be as far from the northwest coast as he can manage. Away to hide, stay safe, resist internment. He heads southeast to enter a life of anonymity, to become a shadow until the furor of a Rising Sun blows over.

***

She's not even sure what she's screaming, only knows why she's screaming. Her only defense against a slap that she earned for, what? Burning dinner? Failing to remove a stain from his work shirt? It does not matter to him that she tried. Elise grew up privileged, the fourth child and second daughter of a British Army Major who decided to pack up and enlarge his brood in the Antipodes after the end of the Great War. She was not accustomed to domestic duty, but she tried, for him. It should have mattered to Ned, but as with many things under this country's too-hot sun, it did not.

"I gotta get to work." Ned says it with spite, as if he'd prefer to stay to add another bruise or crack to her fragile state.

"You do that."

He's not gone ten minutes when her will resurfaces, again buoyant amid waves of emotion. She doesn't take much. Clothes, some loose cash, letters from her mother filled mostly with lamentation of Elise's departure, all shoved into a suitcase once bearing books for school. Ned will return and she can only imagine his anger, fostering a determination to find and drown what's left of her. She needs to disappear. Prayers are spoken. Her God left her long ago, but for now it is reassuring, calming.

She sits at the bus stop. The lines of dusty tears visible on her cheeks. Astride the ancient leather valise tied with string, its locks long broken like her heart. Why she followed that mug into the bush she'll never know. She wears her last remaining city dress, v-neck at front revealing just a hint of porcelain breast beneath a sunburned decolletage. Its skirt pinched in tight around a waist that two hands could nearly enfold. Billowing in the spring breeze, just enough for the pink rosebud print to ruffle and reveal a shapely golden thigh and make the road train driver stop. Scorned and violent lover behind, she heads south ashamed of her brazen chase for love, to enter a life of anonymity, to become a shadow until the furor of failed dream blows over.

***

In the hot and dusty cabin of a prime mover, four trailers weaving mechanically through twist and turn, traveling long from west to east, two shadows converge. The homeless and heartbroken, guests of a generous stranger. The trip is long and the truck driver short on words. He's used to picking up waifs and strays and delivering them interstate. They're good company and break the monotony of a 2,000 mile drive.

"So both your fathers fought in the Great War, eh?"

Nods and smiles from each and they take turns telling the stories of their patriarchs. Each notes the subtle wink of fate as the same battle garners mention from both mouths. At the Siege of Tsingtao her father fought with the South Wales Borderers. His father with the Japanese 18th Division.

"Maybe they knew each other. Wouldn't that be somethin'?"

A homeless romanticism borne of too many trips across the country elicits reflexive grin across the faces of all three. Kintaro unaware that it was a burgeoning friendship with several British soldiers that convinced his father to move to an English-speaking country. England denied entry. Australia asked for Japanese pearlers.

***

*Continued in Pearl, Harbour: Far Enough

The Complete Pearl, Harbour

Created for 10th Daughter of Memory