A Sunday


A Sunday Essay, Research Paper

The leaving was easier than she thought.

All those nights practising it in her head. Just wanted to look at the gardens,

so pretty in the spring. Just wanted to see the gardens. Except in the end

nobody asked. She simply put on the good blue dress, combed her hair and walked

down the corridors, taking care over those polished tiles, and pushed out

through the heavy double doors.

Outside. Out through the garden. Trying not to run but wanting to. Outside. Out

through the gates and here she is walking along the footpath looking at the

daffodils. Just like anybody else.

She breathes in the air. Sniffs it. Sucks it up and rolls it around in her mouth.

So different out here. Different even than in the garden. Sitting on those seats.

Sometimes she takes off her shoes. Rolls down her rights so that she can feel

good rough ground under her feet. She digs her toes in, and rubs her soles into

the earth. They say, look at that Jessy getting herself all dirty, Jessy you

naughty girl you’ll get a chill. Time to go inside, girls.

?Funny that. Being called girl. Naughty naughty girls wetting themselves and

pinching. Quiet good girls slumped in the seats in the garden with their mouths

open. Waiting for it. Drinking in death.

Her voice shakes when she asks for two sections. She wants it far too much.

Practised that too in her head over and over in the nights. Listening to them in

the corridors. If Mary *censored*s herself again tonight she can sleep in it.

Listening to the cries and the calling, I have to get home. I have to, the

children want their dinner. She sits in the bus away from the window. Afraid to

look out. Cars and people on the footpath. People watching. For her. Tom says

it’s a nice place, Mum. Warm and clean and friendly and plenty to do. Except

that everything to do there ends up with dying and there are better places to do

that and better people to do it with.

She grips the sides of the seat with her hands and they are hot and sweating.

Jack said I don’t want to leave you, Jess. Jess? And she took his head in her

hands and cradled him against her body. Rocked and rocked him, tender and gentle

for the last time and whispered to him and held him strong and tight while he

needed it and then let her tears wash down over her face and down over his. She

kissed his mouth and it was still warm and it tasted of salt.

She manages the steps and the post office is there down the road. She has her

book ready in her bag but how much?; she has to think, too, about the withdrawal

slip. All thats done for her now. Tom said it’d be easier. Tom doesn’t know

sometimes easier is harder. In the end she stands still and quiet and breathes

in deeply. Makes herself think to write the name and the numbers. She has to

stop and hold her hand to stop the shaking and rub in some warmth. Her hands are

always a surprise. She can never believe they belong to her. Greyish with the

brown patches and the thin fragile fingers; skin haphazardly stretched on bone.

Jack loved her hands, traced over supple smooth flesh with his fingers. In the

end its only bones that are left. In the end your bones get cold and they ache.

The young man behind the counter has Jack’s blue eyes that she smiles into and

he takes her book and slides it back to her with money. He says have a nice day

and she echoes it back at him, a nice day, have a nice day. Her heart is


Out in the streets she panics a little. All these people and talking and music

and the cars slowly nosing. There is a red-capped boy swooping in and out of the

crowd on his skate-board. It is how Jean Legget broke her hip and she steps

quickly back and a woman drives an elbow into her shoulder. Sorry, sorry,

Frightened now. There is a man playing a guitar and singing loudly. She closes

her eyes. Back. Still get back for lunch. Not even missed. Tomato soup and

scrambled eggs and little triangles of dry toast. Tuesday. Eat up girls. Lovely

lunch. Easy to go back, (just in the garden, lovely day). Except she promised.

She opened her eyes. Think. Think hard. stay still and slow and think. She

looked every day at the timetables. Tuesday. Eleven-fifteen departure. She folds

her arms around her body and squeezes. Stop. Stop the shaking. Jack strokes her

arms and her thighs and back and breasts. Breathes into her ear and her mouth.

Warm and sweet. So sweet. (I can’t do it Jack.)

Walk slowly. Move your body carefully out of the way of the people cars

skateboards bikes. Plenty of time. Eleven-fifteen departure. She asks the woman

with the red puffed up hair for the ticked. I-am-visiting-my-son. She practised

that too and her voice comes out with hardly a quiver and she smiles her triumph

over the counter. The woman smiles back. She doesn’t understand she is dealing

with an escaped convict.

She has the ticket and the change in her hand. Almost there. Almost. The steps

are higher and more difficult than she remembers. Hold on tight to the handrail.

Push down with your hands and one foot at a time? The driver comes down and he

winks at her and takes her arm. Alright love? Yes. Alright. Love.

And suddenly it is the adventure she knew it would be. Sitting high up on the

bus beside the window. Nobody will look for me here. I’m doing it. I’m doing it.

Going home like she promised. She beams at the bird beside her. Black-black hair

and tiny silver rings in her ears and in her nose. I-am-visiting-my-son. The

girl squints back at her with remarkably green eyes. Yeah?

It is hot in the bus. Hotter the further they go. Pictures fly past her; houses,

motorway, farm houses tucked up away in the trees, cars, hills and trees. She

takes her handkerchief from her bag and wipes her face. Missed. Past lunch.

Search parties and helicopters and dogs. She dabs at her cheeks with the


The gypsy-girl looks at her. Alright are ya? A big hot? She twiddles with

something above their heads. Air conditioning. Better, eh? She smiles. A

glorious benevolent smile. -Michelle. Its me name. Michelle.

-Its a pretty name, Michelle. -Yeah? She smiles again.

-The girls takes a chocolate bar out of her bag and slowly chews,

what does he do then?

-He? Her heart is thumping, (who?, what does he do?) -Sorry?

-Your son that you’re visiting. What does he do?

-Hasn’t practise this. Think. Thinks.

-In a bank. He works in a bank. -Yeah?

Grins. Proud of me Jack. Can still do it. Think on the spot. Forget how to in

there. Jenny Oliver with her faded blue doll eyes and pale pouched face.

Standing still like she’s suddenly remembered something and there is a thin

stream of urine slowly slowly running down her legs making a skant dark yellow

puddle on the floor. You watch the puddle on the floor and her face crumple and

you are almost crying her shame with her. Except there are no tears. When you’re

old you can’t even pee or cry properly. And nobody touches you except to wipe

something.Closes her eyes. Her son in a bank.

Because of the neighbours telling about her.

The burn and then the fall. It could’ve happened to anybody, leaving the stove

on like that. But the pain, the searing ice-cold biting grip of it. Dazed for

that week or two after but feeling a bit better and that branch needed taking

off. Blocking the kitchen window. She always likes to see out and it was easy

hopping up on the step ladder and it wasn’t too high except she leaned too far.

Falling and the branches clawing savagely against her body. She heard the faint

snap that was her arm. Falling in and out of the gold red silver pinpoints of

light, I’m dead now, aren’t I? One of the kids next door saw her. Lucky,

could’ve been there all night, could’ve died out there. Marvellous for her age,

but.Lucky? Vomiting; choking on it and sour all over her. Smelling it in the

ambulance. Hating it and herself. She’d never hated her body up till then.

She saw how Tom looked at the black eye and the bruises and the red weeping sore

on her hand and the plaster. Mum please. Mum please. His eyes are Jack’s. She

can never say no to them.

I can’t keep a proper eye on you now we’re in Wellington and with Kate away

until next year. Mum please, its best. We only want what’s best for you, Mum.

She wants to gather him up into her arms and make it better except now its her

who’s little and vulnerable and weak. Now she’s the child except he’s too busy.

What’s best for me. What’s best for me is dead or back how things were. Me and

Jack and Tom and Katy. On the orchard. Up Central. Jack said it, what about an

orchard up Central? and the words were a mystery and a magic. Down at the river

with the stones hot and the water like green glassy ice. At night. Your hands.

Jack, soaping my back in the bath. You hands strong and brown and firm and

moving down my young shoulders, my young hips, my young firm belly. Your hands,

Jack and your body with mine, spooned against mine late in the hot dark. My hand

cupped on your hip and Tom and Katy breathing soft and strong from the next

rooms. That. That or dead.If you think so dear. If you think so.

But they are there and she holds onto Michelle’s arm getting down the steps. The

heat hits her. Dry and searing. The utterly blue blue sky and that sun of her

face. She feels it through her dress in the remembered way and breathes in the

heat and catches it in her throat. An orchard up Central.

She is hungry, suddenly, for the first time in months and she buys a pie and a

cream bun and takes them to the park. She eats them out of the brown paper bag

and the gravy is hot and salty against her lips and runs over her chin. She

slowly licks the cream with her tongue. Glorious. Glorious day with the sun on

her shoulders and arms and head. She chews slowly and watches the tulips

gleaming and silky in the light. Jack’d say it’s a scorcher.

She takes a scarf from her bag and wraps it around her head. It is almost

finished. Now the last part.

She finds the taxi stand beside the memorial and she directs the driver. She

will tell him the house. Visiting-my-son. On the orchard. Lovely day. And

soaring over the familiar road. Nearly. Nearly home. Around the curves and past

the pines and the school and the store and the pub and here is the last corner.

She watches for it and cries out for him to stop. No, not down the drive. She

likes to walk. Somebody is expecting me. Somebody is waiting for me.

She waits until the car turns and then she begins to walk down the gravel road.

She doesn’t look at the house. It is not the same any more and nobody is there.

This is her home, this is the place that she loves. Here, where each season is

sharp and so defined it is a drama, a celebrated event. The poplars turning. The

napkins frozen stiff and white on the line and the sun frozen way up behind grey

glass. The delicacy of cherry blossom then the golden days. The dry searing heat.

She follows the gravel road and then she is down onto the track. She has to push

at the lupins and the wild thorny rosehip bushes to get through. She will have

to tell him to cut it all back again.

But here now is her river. The dark jade of it. The glistening silver skim of

the surface. The soft thick trees edging it. She walks over to it and cups water

in her hands and pours it over her face and sits on the stones close to it and

watches and listens. She can’t hear them yet but they will come. She lies back

on the warm hard stones and digs against them with her feet and her hands. The

sun is beating, beating and she holds her face up to it.

She closes her eyes for just a moment and rests her cheek against the warm

stones and then she hears the voices. It is Katy, Tommy, calling, crying out,

laughing and she opens her eyes to watch. Their smooth little brown bodies

glisten in the water. Katy throws back her head and her long wet hair streams

around her shoulders. They glide along the river on the tyre which is like a

black sleek seal. Jack comes then and places he hand on her cheek. He draws her

head against him cradling it against his body. He rocks, rocks her; he is so

gentle, so so tender but his hands are strong and he holds her tightly while she

needs it and he whispers, whispers against her ear and his mouth tastes like


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