Authors: Tracey Hoffmann
Table of Contents
2011, Hoffmann Family Trust
All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording, scanning, or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews or articles, without the prior permission of the publisher.
This work is fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, organizations, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, NIV®
Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™
Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ISBN 978-0-9871824-3-2 (ebk) kdp Edition 1
Published by Dawn Esmond Publishing, Australia
To the beautiful women who shared their stories
All Glory to Christ Jesus – forever and ever, Amen
Mia Dawson needed answers. Her fingers clenched the steering wheel and the muscles in her shoulders yearned for the hands of a masseuse. Clear blue skies brought no respite to the risk of bushfires. Gum trees lined both sides of the road, indifferent to the hot, dry, windy summer’s day.
Mia drove, as if on autopilot. The car’s air conditioner churned out icy cold air causing wisps of soft amber hair to escape her hastily secured braid.
A small frown creased her forehead as an echo from the past struggled to surface in her mind. It was like a movie playing inside her head. Someone had switched it on and she had no control of the stop button.
She could hear her mothers voice as clearly as if she were sitting beside her in the car.
“Mia, where are you?” Mia watched as her mother turned towards her father. “Mia’s hiding again. I’m going to have to go without her.”
Mia peeked out from under the curtain and felt the lurking fear turn her stomach.
Her father stood and stretched. “She’s like her daddy and doesn’t want to go to church,” he stated with a shrug.
“If you came with me, she’d want to come,” Margaret Dawson pointed out.
Red splotches spread across her father’s face. “Drop it, Margaret,” he sneered.
Mia watched her mother’s shoulders slump as she walked to the door. “Make sure you tell Mia I love her.”
Mia closed her eyes tight, sucked in her bottom lip and tried to become invisible.
The kangaroo came from nowhere. Mia jerked the steering wheel to the left. Her foot slammed on the brake and the car skidded. Her breath released as she watched the animal bound into the bush. She’d narrowly escaped collision.
Stopping the car she shuddered. That was too close. She rested her head on the steering wheel and closed her eyes.
She was sure she could smell the mustiness of the curtain in the car. Her head came up and she took a steadying breath. Her eyes scanned the road and she recognized familiar landmarks. She tried to banish the feeling that something bad was about to happen. She needed to get a grip on herself. This was a different place and time.
Mia started the car, desperate to reach her destination.
Ten minutes later she drove into her uncle’s driveway and turned off the engine.
High-pitched screeching drew her eyes upward. Cockatoos perched in the tree watching her. Mia’s mouth curved slightly as they raised their crests in excitement.
As she got out of the car, three birds swooped down to perch on feed trays.
Mia waited with them.
Her uncle came, carrying two bags of seed. Each step was calculated and careful. His left leg scraped the ground as if drawn along by a piece of string.
Noticing her, he smiled. “Hey, Princess. You’re in time for the circus. Wanna help?”
She kissed his weathered cheek and reached for a bag. They poured seed into the trays and stepped back.
The feeding frenzy began. Mia counted twenty birds on the feed trays. Two remained in the tree like sentries keeping watch. Mia pointed to a Cockatoo screaming his annoyance.
Another bird attempted to push him aside. “Look at that character. He certainly knows how to make his presence known,” she observed.
“It’s a good thing to know what you want,” Robert stated. “What do you think about this heat? It must be at least twenty-eight degrees.”
“I love it. The heat invites you outside. The thought of sitting on your verandah sipping your tangy lemonade makes my mouth water.”
“Ah. You drove all the way out here for a glass of my lemonade.” He chuckled and extended his arm to her. “You’re in luck. I squeezed some lemons this morning.”
Her eyes took in the smile lines creasing his face and her mouth lifted in response.
Robert placed two glasses of lemonade on the verandah table, flexed his leg and stood leaning on the back of his chair.
Taking a cooling sip, Mia looked at him over her glass. “I need to talk to you about my parents.”
Robert frowned. “Has something happened? Is Maggie okay?”
“Mum’s okay. Nothings happened. It’s hard to explain. I guess everything seems to be closing in on me. I need some answers.”
Robert shifted the weight off his leg, moved around the chair and eased his body carefully down. “What’s this all about?”
“I have questions, concerns—”
“About your parents?” he interrupted.
“Why don’t you ask them?”
“I want to talk to you, hear what you know,” she stated simply.
Robert leaned back in his chair. “It’s not my place to answer your questions. I’m sure Maggie would tell you anything you want to know.”
“It’s not that simple and you know it. I can’t ask Mum why she stays with him. I can’t tell her I hate him.” Mia sat forward, clenching her hands.
Robert narrowed his eyes and shifted in his seat. “Don’t say that, Mia. He’s your father,” he replied firmly.
Mia jerked to her feet and walked to the railing. As she looked out over the valley, she breathed deeply and tried to calm herself. She would not let emotion influence her words. Her eyes stared, transfixed on the gum trees lining the property. As a child the sound of Kookaburras singing and the scent of eucalyptus had made her heart sing. This home and the love it represented was a refuge to her.
Gracefully turning she declared, “I’m having nightmares. The same one every night.”
Robert pulled himself up and joined her at the railing. His eyes moved over her face and he nodded for her to continue.
“It’s cold, dark, starless. The air feels heavy, oppressive. I’m running through the bush with something chasing me. Stumbling, I fall and hands reach out to grab me. Terrified, I scream and—and that’s when I wake up.” Mia shivered.
Robert folded her in his arms. His calloused hand rubbed up and down her back, gently offering comfort.
Looking up at his generous face, Mia gave a weak smile.
Robert created space between them. “You think your nightmares are connected to your parents?”
“I don’t know. But I have to start somewhere. Will you help me?” she pleaded.
Stroking his chin he stepped back and leaned heavily on the railing. “When you were little you had bad dreams. Your Auntie Jen would sit with you until you went back to sleep. I asked Maggie if you had them at home and she said sometimes, but not often.”
“I remember having bad dreams, but not what they were about. I wonder if they’re connected?” Her voice was full of tension.
“Probably not, that’s a long time ago. What about work? The preschool must bring its challenges. The noise alone would drive me over the edge.”
“Work’s good. I love my job. It’s not that!” she said, her voice rising impatiently.
“Okay, what else?” Not fazed by her tone, he continued. “How long have you been living back home with your parents?”
“Three months. I love spending time with Mum, but Dad and I sort of tolerate each other.”
“I know Maggie loves having you there,” Robert confirmed.
Mia absently ran her finger along the railing. Dust particles lifted and glided silently through the air. Her eyes beseeched him. “Will you help me?”
“I’d like to. But talking about your parents feels like gossiping to me. It doesn’t feel right. I’m sorry.”
“Not right? It’s not gossiping. I’m their daughter, for goodness sake.”
Robert dusted at his shirt and moved away from her.
The sound of the Cockatoos leaving interrupted their silence. They looked up to watch them spiral across the valley.
“You forget, Mia, your father’s married to my sister. I owe him respect as her husband. I know he’s hurt you, but honey, you need to forgive him.”
Straightening her shoulders, she walked back to the table and picked up her drink. “They have no wedding photos. Was Mum pregnant with me before they got married?”
“Mia, please. I will not discuss this with you. You’re not a child anymore. Ask your mother.”
Slumping back in her seat, she looked at her hands. The burning in her eyes begged respite. If she left here upset with him it would create a distance between them.
“I can’t understand your loyalty to him. I know you say it’s to Mum, but it’s not. I feel like you’re choosing him over me.” She saw concern on his face but turned away.
“Mia, don’t do this.” The sorrow in his voice drew her gaze to his and she grimaced at what she saw. His face had paled and there was moisture resting on the laughter lines she loved so much.
Moving towards him, she cupped his face with her hand and reached up to kiss him.
“I’m sorry. It’s all right—don’t worry about me.” She moistened her lips and dredged up a smile.
Swiping at his eyes, Robert grabbed her hand. “You look like you’re about to drop. Why don’t you go upstairs and lie down. I can cook us a meal and then we can watch a movie together or play cards.”
“Maybe another time. I think I’ll get going.” They looked at each other.
“What are you going to do?” he asked quietly.
“Talk to Mum. What other option is there?”