PROLOGUE: JOOLOONGA STATION 1973
A snowy-haired lady reclined on a couch near the double-doors to a spacious veranda. Ivy geraniums, spilling from bronze urns between stone pillars splashed the Romanesque scene with both vivid and pastel colours. A heady scent of wisteria wafted into the room. She looked out onto the landscaped gardens and absorbed their beauty and peace.
Emily, propped on bright cushions, had the frailty of the sick or aging: tomorrow she would be celebrating her eightieth. Her only son, Phillip, had arranged a huge celebration. She recalled his conversation about the party down to every last word. She particularly remembered the despondent, hollow sadness that seeped into her veins without warning.
‘Phillip, why have I withstood eighty years only to see my one grandchild, our Steven, suffer and struggle so enormously to stay alive? There seems no justice or logic to any of it.’
‘Mother,’ Phillip sighed. ‘We’ve had this conversation before. Steve has bounced back with a wonderful zest for life, work and love. I’m certain he’s fully cured this time.’
‘Yes,’ she agreed and smiled. ‘I’m being silly, of course. I have this uncertain feeling, all the chemicals the doctors pumped in might have affected him. He’s been married a few years, now. I’d dearly love to have a great-grandchild before I die.’
‘Mother, you’re incorrigible!’ Phillip laughed. He looked at her slant-eyed. ‘You’re completely preoccupied with finding an heir to your beloved Jooloonga,’ he teased.
‘Steven and Nancy are a wonderful couple and, of course, I would like an heir. I’m not denying that for a moment.’
‘We’re lucky to have Steven at all. If the operations had failed . . .’
‘Yes, Phillip, very fortunate indeed. I also feel blessed to have Steven.’
‘Have a little rest now, while you can.’ Phillip bent over and kissed his elderly mother on the forehead. ‘Tomorrow will be a big day. Don’t worry about the future of Jooloonga. I can assure you, there will be heirs.’
‘You are sure, Phillip! How can that be?’ Emily quizzed, her eyes round with expectation. Something from the past was clutching at her subconscious, something to do with children. It was the tone of Phillip’s voice that stirred her. ‘Phillip, you’re not going to tell me you have other children tucked away, are you?’ Emily whined, a twinkle in her eyes.
‘No, Mother, of course not!’
He left the room suddenly. She decided to forget the whole silly conversation. But now, on reflection . . . Oh, God! No! How could she have been so stupid? Phillip used his plane like most did cars.
A sibling had saved Steven’s life with a perfect match. She had overheard the doctor’s conversation at the private clinic, in the south. Phillip told her she hadn’t heard correctly, insisting they must have been referring to another patient. There would only be one woman in the whole world Phillip couldn’t tell her about.
Why! her mind screamed.
At once she knew why, as her memory drifted back . . . sliding through the oceans of the past.
More excerpts Coloured Sands:
Chapter 1 – Emily, 8 makes her way to the next settler’s home.
Bottlebrush and scraggy sheoaks flourished along the sheer sloping banks of the waterway. Emily never once lifted her head to look around. A void and hauntingly wistful expression showing neither hate, fear nor remorse gave her countenance a vacant, eerie look. She stumbled on the uneven ground, which rose unexpectedly toward her concentrated stare. One bare foot insensibly followed another over the earth, sharp with stones or bindi-eye. Every couple of hours she stumbled into the water to drink ravenously with parched lips.
Chapter 11- Emily’s first week after marriage on Jooloonga Station – her inner struggle with the dark race. The mischievous servants are trying on her clothes, not knowing she has returned early from being shown around the huge property.
‘How does I look in this one, Daisy?’ Jody put her hand on one hip and pulled a face at the mirror. ‘That fancy young missus don’t like us much – rather have that bitchy old Elsa any day – least she don’t give us such funny looks.’ She threw her head back and laughed. ‘She sure would chuck a wobbly if she could see us now, eh? That young snooty missus.’
Jody turned. Emily was standing at the door ashen faced, her eyes protruding like fireballs. She stepped forward, the horsewhip in hand.
‘Take my clothes off immediately!’ she hissed between her teeth, hardly able to speak from the fury that engulfed her mind.
Am I going crazy? Emily asked herself as images of the black servant in her mother’s blue dress at the racetrack when she was ten years old flashed repeatedly into her mind. Every moment that passed, the turbulence embroiled like rolling thunder before the strike of lightning. She put her head back and screamed a blood-curdling outcry that shook the house.
‘Take my mother’s clothes off!’ she yelled, over and over.
Both girls quickly pulled their dresses over their heads and stood naked, their skinny bodies quivering with fright. Intuition told them the young missus was out of her mind.
Chapter 16 – Emily and her only son Phillip employ a half-caste governess for Phillip’s child (after the death of his English bride). The teacher feigns Greek blood, keen to have the job (for personal reasons) knowing Emily will not tolerate the aboriginal race. Phillip wants her to leave; there is a confrontation.
‘We cannot take the chance. Didn’t you listen to one damn word?’
‘Yes, I listened to all your damned words,’ Colleen snapped, ‘and I feel sorry for your mother. But Aborigines died too, you know. There are two sides to your tale of woe.’
His lip curled in annoyance. ‘I could have expected as much. . .’
‘Now wait a minute Phillip! Christ! You’re so quick to judge. What I’m trying to say is, your mother might not want to be handled with kid gloves. She may have come to terms with the whole thing long ago. But, if she hasn’t, I don’t think it would be all her fault. You and your father are so busy wrapping her in cotton wool and smothering her with your sickly concern, she hasn’t had a chance.’
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