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Posts Tagged ‘Victoria’

Iceberg roses

In blogopera on May 3, 2011 at 1:57 am

Victoria had never expected to be that neighbour, the one they watched, the one they all talked about. She had not expected it, but she didn’t not enjoy it.

They didn’t talk a lot of course, this wasn’t the set of Neighbours, but curtains twitched and gardens got watered whenever she came home.

She left the car halfway down the driveway, and some afternoons she forgot to check the mail. She left the porch light on all night, and then through the day as well. The kids played in the front, the gate unlatched, and when people walked past their dogs on loeads, she said, ‘It’s rude to stare, but ruder still if you never say Hello.’ She let them pat these strangers’ dogs and she didn’t once say, ‘Now go and wash your hands.’

She still drew the curtains before it got dark, and when she went to bed she double-checked the doors.

On Saturday morning she said to the kids, ‘We’ve got to get rid of the heritage green’ so she painted the front door red, and the letterbox mango yellow. The roof would have to wait and so would the window frames, but she pulled out the Christmas lights, strung them around the verandah and laughed when they didn’t work. ‘Bloody lights,’ she said then said it again til one of the kids said, ‘Mum! You swore.’

She left a pile of things on the curb with a hand-written sign that said, PLEASE TAKE. FREE and she put new things on the pile every night that week. Of all the things – books, microwave, Christmas lights – the only thing that didn’t go was a bag of rusty coathangers. On Thursday after dinner, she ripped out the icerberg roses and added them to the pile. By midnight, they were gone.

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Alice meets Victoria

In Uncategorized on August 3, 2008 at 5:27 pm

When Jack’s arm falls from Victoria’s shoulders to Victoria’s waist, he uses all of his hand – his fingers, his thumb and his palm – to trace the shape of her arm.

Victoria looks as if she listens still to the people around her who speak. Her head is cocked and she nods. But her breaths grow deeper than they were, and her fingers twist and curl.

Alice has not tried very hard to not watch Jack and Victoria.

Alice has been busy of course, putting out plates and serviettes and handing around hors d’oeuvres. She has been taking heated trays from the oven and sliding cold trays in. She has been telling people that the rolls are chicken and the triangles are pork.

She has been agreeing that Rose looks beautiful, that Mick’s a lucky man that yes, it is a gorgeous ring but no, they haven’t set the date.

Alice has been listening to the people who whisper about Jack. About Victoria.

…so that’s her

she doesn’t look that old

she’s very tall
and

bit of a change from Sue.

But Alice can do all of this. And watch Victoria.
Alice wonders how it feels to be at a party a stranger to all but one.

Victoria does not toss the hair from her eyes. She does not lift her chin or bite at her lip.

She does smooth at her skirt – a fitted flowered number that stops above the knee – and she pushes her fingers through her hair then rubs one finger down her cheek. She laughs at the local jokes as if she understands. Victoria holds a glass of wine (red, but less so than her nails) and always answers ‘yes’ when she is offered more. She shakes her head at food.

She lifts the toes of her left foot, then her right, then her left again.

Alice hopes Victoria has strong heels.

And always Jack’s arm moves from Victoria’s waist to her shoulders and back to her waist. From time to time, he leaves a kiss in the space between Victoria’s cheek and Victoria’s ear.

The kiss is not long, but it lingers and even from a distance Alice sees that Veronica swallows and presses her fingers hard against her neck.

Alice counts the people who have arrived. Ninety six. And she knows eighty two.

Airport, Sunday night, seven thirty (pm)

In Uncategorized on July 11, 2008 at 10:55 am

They shared both the cigarette and its figure, passing it one to the other, pinched between finger and thumb by one, scissored by the other.

All of them – the cigarette, the brunette, the blonde – long, straight and increasingly lined.

Each deep drag thinned.

They had, like everyone else in the line, suitcases at their feet. Padlocked zips and ribbons (one gold, one red) wrapped around the handles. They wore, both of them, tight jeans, high boots and jackets that weren’t tasselled or denim, but could have been.

Cars drove up, boots popped, people got out, gave quick and cursory hugs, lifted suitcases in, doors slammed, cars drove off.

Like everyone else in the line, the women glanced at their watches, checked their phones and hunched their shoulders against the cold. They spoke, but not loud enough to be overheard.

Their car, when it arrived, was loud and black, or perhaps deep blue. Its tyres were rimmed with silver and its windscreen wipers were fast. The boot popped. Nobody got out.

The blonde woman, the last to hold the cigarette, looked right, looked left, then twisted to look behind. She looked to the right again. Frowned as she took one last drag.

A short beep from the car.

The blonde woman pressed the butt against the pole she had not leaned against, twisted her hand to look at the ashed end of the cigarette, then, using her thumb, she pushed the butt into the pocket of her jeans.

She pulled at the handle of her suitcase and wheeled it to the car.

The laundrette (2006)

In Jack, Victoria on April 27, 2007 at 3:10 pm

When Victoria rings – already she knows the number by heart – Jack is at the laundromat.

He calls it the laundrette.

Jack’s voice softens the ette, and Victoria pictures him. His shoulder is holding the phone up to his ear and he is lifting wet denim out of the washing machine. His shirt is tight, button undone, the curve of his neck is exposed. He has not shaved today and tomorrow he will need to wash his hair.

Victoria holds her phone tightly in her hand. She closes her eyes and she imagines that he leans in and leaves a kiss on her cheek, before his lips brush hers. Because – in her mind – he has not shaved, his cheek scrapes – but gently – across hers. And then he holds his fingers at the back of her neck.

His fingers are feather-strokes.

Victoria thinks of telling him all of this and more, but she does not. Instead, she opens her eyes, she sniffs, she clears her throat. She licks her lips and she scratches her head.

They talk.

‘I couldn’t stop thinking of you last night,’ he says.

‘I know.’ She giggles, stops herself, laughs.

She had gone to bed with her phone on the bedside table. She had turned off the lamp and watched for the glow of the telephone as his messages arrived. The sound of the phone was turned down, because it was too harsh in the night, made the house seem lonelier than it really was.

She had sent her final text at twelve. I’m going to sleep. Goodnight.

She had stopped texting, and he had too, but she had not stopped thinking of him, of the place where he was. A house with the lights turned down, the music up. She pictured him drinking beer, although with her, he had only ever drunk wine. She imagines that at parties, he spends his time leaning against the kitchen bench watching the flow and the ebb, that if she were there, they would leave early, and they would take the long way home.

She does not tell him any of this.

Victoria can hear the steady thrum of the machines at the laundromat. Laun-drette. Zips click against the dryer’s steel tube. She sees, in her mind, waist-high tables in the middle of the room. Square and sparse, laminated brown, they promise ordered piles of washing. Clean and dry. She wonders what Jack folds and what he irons. Are there things he doesn’t iron, but hangs all the same? Jeans or pants or shirts. Does he put his clothes on a chair at night or leave them strewn across the floor? And then she wonders: what does he do with his shoes.

They talk some more and the dryers drone.

Victoria thinks of the warmth of the laundry when the dryer has been on. She thinks of the laundry windows in the house where she lived as a child. They dripped with winter condensation and the panes were painted white. She used her fingertip to write boys’ names at night. I love Stephen, I love Charles, I love Pip. And then she flattened her finger out to wipe their names away. Before anyone else could see.

She puts the phone in her other hand, wipes her palm down her jeans.

She writes Jack on the pad she keeps by the fridge. The pen is black, the pad yellow. She draws a flower near the J, and then a star. Another flower, another star. And then she thinks I’m nearly forty years old.

Jack is telling her of his bike ride home as the sun came up, of seeing the car door just in time. She gasps, then laughs where she should, but she is thinking he stayed out all night. She has forgotten that it is something people do.

He tells her more of the story, then laughs. At the place where nobody got hurt.

His laugh makes her close her eyes again. She runs her fingers through her hair, her hand down the back, then the side, of her neck. She opens her eyes to listen.

He is working tonight, but not tomorrow, so perhaps they could catch up.

She says I can’t get a babysitter, not now and he says yes, I know, as if he really does, and there is a small moment before she says do you want to come here.

It is a question, not an invitation, but he says yes.

The beat of her heart has slowed.

She hears the kids outside, in the yard. There are loud shouts between them. Screams. Silence. Laughs.

Jack says I could cook. His is an invitation, with a tiny question mark.

There are other people at the laundromat. She can hear their voices, but not their words. They laugh strangers’ laughs.

Victoria thinks of Sunday nights. She thinks of washing dishes and wiping the table down. Of readers to be read and homework which should already be done. She thinks of ironing shirts and handkerchiefs.

Five of each.

Every week.

Jack says can you hold on a minute, I have to get some more coins.

Victoria thinks while she waits, if I have to wash his clothes, what load will I put them in? Whites? Colours, kids? Colours, hers? Sheets and towels? No, no, no and no. But would his be a load of their own?

Are you there? Jack asks. Sorry about that. I never bring enough coins. He laughs although there is no joke.

His voice is deep and his laugh is smooth.

Victoria closes her eyes. She reaches for the feel of his hand on her neck, and for the memory of feather strokes.