pulled off the winding country road onto a long gravel driveway and slowed
his car to an idle. A weathered, wooden sign at the turn read KARDINYARR. He looked to return address on the letter laid flat on the passenger seat of
his car. Youthful handwriting on lavender stationery, dappled with fairies,
smudged with tears, scrunched into a ball, and flattened again, told him
that this was the place. Kardinyarr was where he hoped against hope to find
her. Though she had written the letter several years earlier, Ryan had only
stumbled upon it that week and it was all he had to go on.
gunned the engine, his tyres skipping and jumping over the uneven dirt track.
He slowed again as a family of grey kangaroos bounced at the same pace along the
other side of the neat wire fence, before leaping onto the road, hopping in
front of his car, and bounding up the rise to his left and disappearing over the
other side of the hill.
that’s not something you see everyday,” he said.
ignored the “Private Road” sign at the first gate and drove up the hill. At the
fork in the drive he pulled left, coming to stop under a sprawling Banksia tree
in the front yard of a rambling brick home.
of a keynote speech he had given at a recent economic summit in London, an
addendum to a University level economics textbook he was in the final stages of
editing, came to a sharp halt as he switched off the car engine. His mind
otherwise engaged, he had barely heard a word of the familiar oration on the
two-hour drive from Melbourne, but the deep well of silence that now filled the
car was deafening.
was Kardinyarr House; the last home his little brother had known. Backlit by
the light of the setting sun, proudly situated atop its windy hill, it was just
as Will had described it all those years before. A black corrugated roof and
matching shutters framed the clinker brick. A neat veranda laced with black
wrought iron trim hugged the house rendering a pretty finish to the sturdy
recent hasty research told him it had been left vacant in the years since Will’s
passing; the foreign owners of the property keeping the acreage as an investment
rather than an operating farm. As such, Ryan had expected scattered leaves,
debris on the veranda, and obvious decay. However, the place seemed neat and
tidy. Maintained. Welcoming.
There is no place like it,
emailed the family when he had first arrived at Kardinyarr. The colour, the
light. The fresh air gets under your skin.
opened the car door and took in a deep breath of clean country air. Will had
been right. There was nothing quite like the mix of scents bombarding him –
sweet pollens, swirling dust, and hazy country heat that seemed to have a scent
all of its own. The acrid smell of car fumes that he left behind in Melbourne
faded to a memory.
Will,” Ryan said aloud. “It’s charming here. I get it. But so charming as to
shoulder out all other options in your life?” Ryan shook his head.
Kardinyarr had meant to have been a brief stop on Will’s winter backpacking trek
around the country. But from the chain of information Ryan had uncovered in the
last few days, he believed that if his brother had not been killed, he may never
have left at all. All because of the girl in the crumpled lavender letter.
grabbed the offending document, folded it carefully, and placed it in the top
pocket of his shirt. He hopped out of the car, instinct causing him to lock
it. A wry smile tugged at his mouth. He hadn’t seen another living soul for
five kilometres bar the kangaroos and a half dozen cattle standing under the
shade of a wide branched gum. You can take the boy out of the city...
pleasant breeze tickling at his hair dropped suddenly, and he heard a noise
coming from the other branch of the gravel drive. Classical music. It had the
sharp scratchy timbre of a record, and in the now still air, it carried past him
and beyond, echoing in the gullies either side of the hilltop. He swished a
buzzing fly from his face and looked to the broken wooden gate that had long
since been swallowed by lily pillies, climbing vines, and a lush Japanese maple.
other side of that gate he hoped to find the woman who had written that long
ago, tear-smudged letter. Perhaps she could tell him why his infuriating little
brother had been offered the world, and refused it.
* * *
bounced up and down in time with the music.
loved days like these; a little cloud cover to take the edge off the summer
heat, but not enough to stop the differentiation of light and shadow playing
across the Kardinyarr hills. Once she had hung the washing, and finished
dinner, she had a slot in her evening for a too hot bubble bath. The very
thought had her happy as a kookaburra!
record player was turned up loud enough to create a hanging-out-the-washing
soundtrack. She hummed along with the orchestra and sang aloud in makeshift
Italian to the magpies lined up on her roof gutters, tragic operatic hand
movements and breast thumping included. Okay, so she was no Pavarotti, but what
did the magpies know?
it seemed, as soon they skedaddled, flying off in muddled formation to land in a
gum tree further along the hill. “Come on guys,” she shouted. “You’ll usually
put up with a great deal when you know there is honeyed bread in it for you!”
song finished, another began, and Laura went back to her chore. She grabbed a
heavy white cotton sheet and lobbed it over the clothesline thinking she would
teach them a lesson. “No honey on your bread today. So there!
Ryan pushed his
hands deep into his jeans pockets as he walked up the gravel drive.
have never felt so alive,
Will had once emailed their sister Sam. You guys have to come out
here. You have to come and see what I mean. Only then will you understand why
I plan to stay.
they hadn’t come. They had all been too busy. His sister Jen, as first violin
of the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. Sam, with her young family, and her
self-funded quilting magazine with its monthly worldwide readership in hundreds
of thousands. And his parents, wildlife documentary filmmakers, who spent all
their time in faraway jungles.
a fortnight of that email having been sent, Will had been buried back in their
home town of Melbourne. It had been a drizzly winter’s day with a hundred
people watching over him, or so Ryan had later been told.
the broken wooden gate and atop the short rise, a small transformed worker’s
cottage came into view. Multi-coloured flowers bordered the full-length
portico, trying desperately to cling to life in the dry conditions. A water
tank sat rust-free against the near wall. The fence was neat and the grass was
short but in need of rain. And through the white sheets flapping on the
old-fashioned circular clothesline, Ryan caught sight of an ambiguous female
form. Laura Somervale.
would she be like, the woman for whom Will had given up an Oxford scholarship?
Would she be quiet and bookish? Would she be artistic and soulful? Or would
she simply be a girl. A country girl who had caught the eye of a lonely, mixed
up, directionless city boy? Would life have worn her down, or would there still
be a glimmer of the girl with the fairy stationery? What sort of woman could
make a Gasper turn his back on the brass ring?
kind of woman,
Ryan thought sardonically, for here she was doing it again. She had drawn him
out of his perfectly civilised world of five-star hotels, and nightly political
debate over cocktails, and into her world of dirt, and heat, and flies, with a
page of tear smudged words written many years before.
circular clothesline turned and Ryan glimpsed a flash of sun-kissed auburn
emailed to Sam. And sweet. She makes me laugh. She makes me feel
ten-feet-tall. This is her home, and as such, it feels like my home too.
wry smile crossed Ryan’s mouth. Will must have known exactly the response his
realist big brother would have given to such poetic musings, which is why he had
never let Ryan in on the exact nature of his feelings about the girl he’d met at
Kardinyarr. Will had saved the deep and meaningful outpourings for their
Ryan didn’t need. Answers. Information. Reason. Those things he could tie
off in a neat contained system once he closed the page on the question still
buzzing in the back of his mind after all this time. Why here, Will? Why?
From "A FATHER IN THE MAKING" by Ally Blake
Mills and Boon Tender Romance January 2006
Copyright: © 2005 Ally Blake
® and ™ are trademarks of the publisher. The
edition published by arrangement with Harlequin Books S.A. For more romance
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