We played several writing games, including on where we all wrote opening paragraphs of a story. Then we passed the papers around, each taking a turn adding the next paragraph to each story. This is one of example. Can you guess who wrote which paragraph?
A cloying scent made her cough, it reminded her of wet Sunday afternoons, when she crawled under the house to be alone. She tried to identify it, but it kept evading her. The house was empty and quiet, and as she walked farther down the hall, her tongue felt coated with dust.
Since settling in the city, Sarah had dreaded returning. Isaac had called a month ago in his posh lawyer voice. “It’s all yours, they liked you more anyway. Bye darling!”
They’d never said that as kids, he must have picked it up while working for the firm. So many memories, sensations and feelings had passed over and through her during the long drive up from the city. The large, overgrown yard, the crowded attic above the garage and the tall, church like windows at the front of the house. Her hands left Bradshaw hand prints in the dust and she felt the saltiness of a tear stinging her eyes.
It was Sunday afternoon now,
“Sarah, don’t do that dear”, her mother dropped a corner of the newspaper to admonish her. Sarah said nothing. She had been trying to reacher the flower vase and its sweet swell. She knew her mother would only tell her not to. That she would break it, remind it her how expensive it was, that it was an heirloom. Endless concerns when all she wished for was the scent of violets.
“Why don’t you go upstairs and write a letter to Aunty June? Thank her for that jumper she sent you” her mother suggested, her voice muffled by the paper in front of her.
The accident, when it had occurred, caught Sarah by surprise. Isaac was in his room. Sarah was sitting on the porch by the church windows, her bare feet being warmed by the decking. The memory was quite sharp, odd given the circumstances. Mr Finch across the road had been mowing and fresh lawn clippings had wafted over. The juniper was in season and its sharper scent mingled with the smell of grass. It hadn’t rained for a week and the sky was brightly blue. Blue like the police officer’s uniform. He was standing, cap in hand at the foot of the steps. He hadn’t said anything and she didn’t remember him pulling up, but Sarah immediately knew everything. She hadn’t loved her parents like she should have.
Sarah looked up.
“Young lady, your ma and pa won’t be driving home tonight. I mean, they won’t be home at all tonight.”
Sarah wasn’t stupid or naïve; she knew what the policeman meant, in his clumsy, awkward way. Yet she still asked-
“You mean, they’re staying somewhere else tonight?”
The policeman looked away, and up, up towards the gables. No longer blue sky reflected in the church windows, and the policeman’s uniform dulled at the change. He was no longer a boy in blue, but bobby’s dad, bobby’s dad on the weekend, bobby’s dad on the weekend with his arm around Bobby telling him to stop the tears. Now Sarah was Bobby and Bobby’s tears were her tears. She leaned against Bobby’s dad on the porch and the rain clouds rolled in.
The memories wrapped around her ears and eyes, but the scent clung even after the memories faded. The juniper, overgrown and starting to force its way between the weatherboards, assaulted her with its very recognition. She would tear them up by their roots before the day was out.
Sarah lined the buckets, gloves, rake, mop and broom neatly along the porch railings. Her friends had teased her at art school. Amidst the wild colours and strange constructions Sarah had layered her colours neatly across the page. “Controlled”, “Firm”, “Dominant” her professors had said. “Repressed” giggled her friends. Sarah shrugged as she pulled at the junipers. She swept the hallway and the kitchen, making piles of rubbish. Next she took a broom to the cobwebs and ran a rag along every window sill and door lintel. It was and time for lunch, so she bent over to open the esky. A car horn sounded in the driveway.
“His father’s son!” cried Sarah. She had not seen Bobby in a decade, yet his boyish blue eyes twinkled, in his boyish blue.
“We didn’t think you’d come back. By hey, they all do. Eventually”
“So, I’m just like the rest, huh?” teased Sarah.
Booby looked down.
“Of course not,” the edges of his face were turning red.
Sarah stepped closer.
“Come and have lunch” said Sarah, hey eyes resting on the badge on his top pocket uncertainly. Bobby’s face, still ruddy, curved into a smile.
“What’s that smell?” he asked, nodding towards the piles of wild juniper.
Sarah’s smile faded, she reached into the esky, popped the top on a light beer and placed the icy can in Bobby’s open hand. Without a word, they drank.
Seconds slid into minutes, hours and years. Sarah could see two worlds. The art school, her chattering, laughing friends and the pace of the city. Now the second world opened before her. The still, slow town, gossipping store clerks and bright blue skies and Bobby. Bobby in uniform. Bobby caught her smile.
“What’s Isaac doing these days?”
“The firm sucked him in.”
“Life in the big city, all glamour and pace”, Bobby’s eyes crinkled a little.
“Have you come back for breath?”
“Maybe” said Sarah, as she caught the smell of Juniper.