Elizabeth Bennett held the
front door opened while her husband, Bob, son, Chris, and the
owner of the Fairlane, Jonathan Mayron, struggled down the
hallway laden down with heavy cardboard boxes.
"Take them down to the
kitchen," said Beth, "Last door on the left."
"I knew it had to be too good
to last," said Jon, struggling around the ocean of crates and
cardboard boxes that lined the narrow corridor.
Almost colliding into the back
of Jon, Chris marvelled at the dissimilarity of the two men ahead
of him. Bob and Jon had met through Bob's first wife, Mandy,
who was now married to Jon. But that was where any similarity
ended. Bob Bennett was short, dumpy, and fiercely blond; Jon
Mayron was nearly two metres tall, agonisingly thin, with curly
red hair. Mandy Mayron had once joked that from a distance Jon
looked like a redheaded lamppost.
Inside the tiny kitchen, there
was only a thin L-shaped walkway formed by the kitchen sink along
the back wall, the gas stove and refrigerator conspicuously side
by side at the end of the room, and the kitchen table along the
front wall, one pace inside the room.
Jon placed the box he was
carrying onto the table, and then pushed the box along a metre or
so. He then stepped out of the kitchen, into the bathroom, to
allow Chris and Bob into the kitchen.
"You can put that onto the
sink," said Beth after a quick look into the box carried by
"What about this one?" asked
Bob, only half pretending to be collapsing under the weight of
the box he was carrying.
"Onto the sink," said Beth
after a quick look into the box. "That should be about all of
the pots and cutlery. Everything else can go onto or under the
kitchen table, at least until I can decide where it all
Beth backed out of the room, to
allow Chris and Bob out of the kitchen. Then returning, Beth
glanced at the cupboards under the sink, and the one small closet
on the wall over the sink, and wondered aloud, "Where the hell
will we put everything?"
Chris and Jon returned carrying
more boxes; a few paces behind them Bob rounded the corner from
the corridor too. Chris placed his box onto the table, then
turned and took Bob's cardboard box from him.
* * *
"One more trip ought to just
about do it," said Bob ten minutes later, as they sat around on
crates in the lounge room. They had cleared a space in the
centre of the room, so they could relax awhile and sip slightly
"I hope so," said Jon. He ran
the beer can across his forehead for a second, then opened the
can and took a long drink of beer.
They lingered over the beer,
the three men drinking straight from the cans, Beth from a glass
she had located in one of the boxes.
Jon finished his beer, and then
asked, "How do you got into the other side of the
"You go around to the side door
and knock," said Beth. "The house has been sub-divided into two
flats. A Greek family lives in the other half."
"That's a bit inconvenient,
isn't it?" asked Jon.
"It's a bloody nuisance," said
Bob. "But at least there's one consolation, they don't speak a
word of English, so we don't have to worry about them trying to
force themselves onto us."
"Not like the bastard out the
back," said Beth.
"What bastard out the back?"
"Oh, there's an old dero living
in the bungalow near the washhouse," explained Beth. "The
bastard's hooked up to our electricity too. The owner says
he'll reimburse us for part of our power bills, but we'll believe
that when we see it."
* * *
"There isn't a lot more to go,"
said Beth. "Why don't you two collect the last of it? Chris can
stay here and help me to start getting things straightened
"Fair enough," said Bob,
following Jon out into the corridor.
"Now let me have a look at
you," said Beth. She held Chris at arm's length as the Fairlane
drove away. "You always were my favourite, you know," she said,
making Chris blush, then feel silly for blushing like a school
girl. "And do you know why?"
"Because we look so much
alike," answered Chris. He had heard the answer many times
"It's like looking in a
mirror," said Beth.
Beth and Chris were around the
same height, perhaps one hundred and seventy-five centimetres;
both had dark brown eyes, shiny black hair; Beth's close-cropped,
Chris' worn to the shoulders, and both were very thin, Beth to
the point of near emaciation.
"Help me to shift these boxes
onto the floor," said Beth indicating four boxes upon the sofa.
"Then at least we won't have our bums numbed by sitting on
"Shouldn't we start getting
everything sorted out?" asked Chris doubtfully.
Beth lifted a cardboard box
onto the floor and said, "There's plenty of time for that
afterwards. Bob and Jon can unpack everything when they return
... It's been ages since we've been able to sit down together and
Chris hurried to help. When
the sofa was clear, Beth sat down, and patted the cushion beside
her for Chris to sit also.
"We haven't seen much of each
other the last couple of years," she said in an admonishing
"Well, it was so far to travel
out to Glen Hartwell, when I only had the dole to live on," said
"Well, all of that is going to
change now," said Beth, hugging Chris to her. "You'll be able
to pop in to see us all the time now." She hesitated for a
moment, then added; "I suppose some good has to come out of
"I suppose so," said Chris
Beth removed the sticking tape
from the top of one of the boxes near the sofa. She took a
quick look inside the box and grimaced, then said, "Half of this
junk should have been tossed out years ago. It's only when you
move house that you realise just how much garbage you collect
during your life time."
Chris sat watching Beth poke
around in the box for a while, then asked, "How have the girls
taken to the idea of moving house?"
"Collie is all for it," said
Beth. "She only has half as far to travel to school
"And there's a Uni close
"A technical institute,"
corrected Beth. "But, of course, we'll be sending Collie
to MelbourneUniversity or at the very least, R.M.I.T."
"And Rosie too," suggested
"Rosie?" asked Beth, surprised.
"Oh, that's right, you don't know, do you?"
"Know what?" asked
"Rosie isn't going on to
university. She's decided to leave school at the end of next
year, after she gets her HigherSchool Certificate, or whatever it's called these
"But I thought both of the
girls were going on to Uni?" said Chris.
"So did we," said Beth,
sighing, "but Rosie has made up her mind to leave school after
next year, and no amount of arguing has been able to budge
"Maybe if I were to talk to
her?" offered Chris. "Tell her about my three years on the dole
because of not having education?"
"Thanks, but no thanks. I
appreciate the offer, but you'd only be wasting your time.
Rosie has made up her mind, and there's no budging her ... maybe
it's just as well with Bob out of work, and me only working
part-time. We can't really afford to send both girls on to Uni,
and let's face it; Collie has always been the brains trust in
this family. Rosie has never failed -- apart from the one year
in primary school, where that bloody bitch victimised her for
being left-handed -- but she has never had an A-grading in her
life. Whereas Collie usually picks up four or five A's at each
"So you're not worried about
Rosie leaving school?"
"Well, we're not exactly
jumping for joy," said Beth. "Particularly since there's no
guarantee she'll get a job. We don't mind her leaving school to
work, but we sure as hell don't want her to leave school just to
go on the dole."
* * *
A Few Hours Later
"It isn't just that they don't
talk to her anymore," said Bob Bennett, in the middle bedrooms
lowering his voice enough to be out of hearing range of Beth in
the kitchen. "But more the way they talk down to her
Starting to assemble one of the
beds, Bob said, "Beth has always been such a proud person to
begin with. At times she's been a little too fond of keeping up
with the Joneses." He laughed then added, "Hell, nowadays we
can't even keep up Joneses' doorman, with me still out of work
after nearly a year ... that was the only reason I ever consented
to her working even two days a week. Heaven help us if the CES
ever finds out!"
Chris picked up one of the
bed's conical legs and began to screw it into the base of the
bed, which was on its side.
"Yes, it's really hit Beth,
coming on top of having to move out of Glen Hartwell, where she's
lived all her life, for a cheaper rent district.
"And, of course, she has always
liked to take a leading role in anything she's involved in.
She's always managed to be the chairlady or other dignitary in
any club that she's in ... It has come as a great blow to her to
be so unceremoniously demoted. I remember her telling me, in
tears, about them taking away her position as treasurer at one
club, under the pretence she already had too much else on her
plate. But all the time they were dropping sly, sneaking hints
that perhaps she might not be able to resist dipping into the
kitty to help out her own situation at home."
"The bitches!" said
Bob took a long look around the
room, then said, "Give me a hand to get it all into place
"Well, we've been about as fair
as possible," said Bob, looking around at their handiwork. "But
at least half of their furniture won't fit into the room.
They'll just have to share the wardrobe and fight over the
dressing table. But in the end we might have to resort to
separate rooms, although it'll be a nuisance not having a lounge
"And then you'll have the
lounge furniture to store somewhere," pointed out
"Oh, Christ, I forgot about
that," said Bob. He looked around at the crates and suitcases
that covered the floor throughout the room, "Just kick them under
the beds for now, to clear a path, then if we can get back to
known civilisation we can start in the lounge room. "Unless
you'd prefer a beer first?"
"Well," said Chris
ruminatively, "I guess I could force one down
"You don't have to have it if
you don't want it," joked Bob. "I don't want you to feel you
have to drink it on my accounts just because there are a few
tinnies that have been sitting around in the fridge for the last
couple of days, without anyone wanting to drink
"No, no," insisted Chris. "I
don't want to seem antisocial so I'll force myself to help you to
get rid of them."
"Weak bastard," said Bob,
cuffing Chris affectionately on the ear.
* * *
A House-Warming Party
Bob sat upon the two-person
sofa. Bob and Beth's two daughters, Colleen and Rosemary, Jon
and Mandy Mayron, Pauline and Kevin Smith, and their daughters,
Jamie and Joanne, and Chris Smith all sat on high-back wooden
chairs around the room. Two other chairs stood vacant, ready
for the latecomers.
"Norma," Bob said, indicating
his place upon the sofa.
"That's all right Bob, I'll sit
against the wall beside Jack," said Norma.
As Jack and Norma squeezed
through the small spaces between the sofa and the various chairs,
Beth said, "Normally we have a small, glass-topped coffee table
in here. But it's madness as it is in here, with all of these
chairs, in this tiny excuse for a lounge room."
Without thinking, Norma said,
"Oh, well, when Bob gets a job again, you'll be able to move to a
house with a larger lounge room."
Beth looked as though she had
been slapped across the face. She turned to look toward Bob,
rather than let Norma see how angry she was. Norma gritted her
teeth and shrugged toward Jack, conceding that she had put her
foot in her mouth.
After a few seconds, Beth
calmed down enough to look toward Norma and say, "Of course, if
Bob just can't find work, I suppose I can always increase my own
work load. The people down at the employment agency are forever
after me to work five days a week, instead of the two days that
I'm working now."
"I'm sure it won't come to
that," said Bob, hoping to diffuse the situation before the two
women came to blows.
"But if it does," insisted
Beth, "surely you wouldn't object to me working
"Well ... as a last resort,"
Triumphant, Beth turned to
stare toward Norma and asked, "What about you, Norma? When are
you going to throw off the shackles of male domination and get
yourself a job?"
"There are no plans in that
direction at the moment," stated Norma. Although it was only a
half-truth as far as she was concerned.
"No?" asked Beth, raising a
questioning eyebrow. "You've got her well under your thumb,
haven't you, Jack?"
"Of course, there's no need for
us," said Norma, coming to Jack's aid. "Our situation isn't as
bad as yours yet, with Jack still getting the dole, and Chris
Beth stood stock-still staring
toward Norma, and Jack and Bob sat up straight on the edge of
their seats, ready to pull the two women apart, if need be.
Instead Beth said, "What a bad hostess I am, I should have asked
what Jack and Norma would like to drink?"
"Just a beer for me," said
"A sweet sherry, please," said
"I'll be right back," said
Beth, heading toward the kitchen.
"I'll give you a hand," said
"That's all right dear," said
Beth. "I'm not a total nong, I do know how to open a beer
"You probably use your teeth,"
"I insist, honey," said Bob.
He followed Beth through into the kitchen.
Bob closed the kitchen door
behind him; however, the people in the lounge room could still
hear the sound, at least, of the argument raging in the
"Poor Bob," said Mandy, taking
everyone by surprise.
"He seems to be holding up his
end of the argument all right," said Jon.
"No. I meant ... Well, don't
get me wrong," said Mandy, reaching over to take Jon's right hand
in her left. "But there are times when I feel guilty, knowing
that if I hadn't divorced Bob, he wouldn't have got lumped with
"It's not exactly your fault,"
said Norma, looking toward Mandy. Norma had always felt that
Mandy looked a little out of place amongst their crowd. Mandy
looked as though she belonged in the centrefold of
Penthouse or Playboy. She was a platinum
bottle-blonde, with huge breasts, huge hips, and a microscopic
waist. Her only bad features were her eyes, which were a too
little close together; also she had a slight squint. "Still
they could get around that, I suppose," thought Norma. "After
all, who ever buys Penthouse or Playboy to gaze
into the models' eyes?"
The people in the lounge room
eavesdropped for nearly ten minutes, trying to catch a stray word
or two of the argument. Then, as the Bennetts stopped yelling
at each other, the others quickly began to talk about that came
"What do you think of the
football result?" asked Kevin, referring to the tied VFL
premiership, which had been replayed. Although nearly two
months ago, it would continue to be argued about for years to
"The whole thing was a put on,"
"Yeah," agreed Mandy, "they
only did it because it's an election year."
Kevin and Jack stared toward
Mandy, but it was Jon who asked, "What the hell has that got to
do with the football?"
"Do you want to drink this?"
asked Beth, holding Jack's glass of beer over his head. "Or do
you want a beer shampoo?"
"Sorry," said Jack taking the
glass from Beth, "I didn't see you return."
"Yes, I noticed where you were
staring," said Beth. To Norma she said, "Perhaps you had better
get Jack to change places with Bob, so he won't have such a clear
line of vision."
"Nonsense," said Mandy. "Jack
was just smiling at me. It's a long time since we've seen each
"Yes, I saw how he was smiling
at you, like a starving man who finds himself at a banquet, and
those knockers of yours are certainly what I would call man-size,
bite-size. Not that Norma has anything to be ashamed of in that
department," said Beth. She handed Norma the second glass of
beer. "She's easily got at least a six-course meal on each side
of her chest."
"Oh, no," thought Bob, as he
slumped down onto the sofa, "don't tell me she's starting again
* * *
The four men and three women
sat in the lounge room, sipping their drinks (lemonade in the
case of Jamie and Joanne), and engaging in small talk for nearly
half an hour, while Beth and Norma put the finishing touches upon
"I hope nobody minds eating
outside amongst nature?" asked Beth. "But you've got more
chance of making out in the back of a Mini Minor, than you have
of fitting nine people into our kitchen."
They buzzed their acceptance
and moved toward the back door.
"Norma will show you out the
back," said Beth. Grabbing Mandy by one arm, Beth asked, "Would
you mind helping to carry out a few plates of food?"
"No," said Mandy almost in a
Beth looked back toward the
lounge room. She caught a glance of Bob and Jon talking
They stepped outside through a
small roofed over access way, There were two other doorways in
the access area: one leading into the main body of the second
family's half of the house, the other leading to a small room at
the back of the house.
As Mandy and Beth carried
plates of food out through the access way, they saw a small blond
head peeping out from behind a floral curtain which covered the
back window of the back room.
"That's the neighbours' little
girl," explained Beth as they placed the dishes onto the table.
"She's a shy little thing, she won't come out of there while
we're out here ... The only problem is that she can't get from
there directly into their side of the house. That's their
bathroom, it was added on after the house was divided into two,
so she has to step outside into the access area, then scurry in
through their back door. Or else run all the way around to the
While they watched, the little
blond head disappeared behind the floral curtain.
"The poor little thing," said
Joanne. "She could be trapped in there all night."
"Maybe we should all go back
into the house for a few seconds, to let her make a run for it,"
suggested Jamie, to the obvious pleasure of Joanne and Mandy, who
stood up, until being waved back to their seats by
"Don't be such bloody wimps!"
said Beth. "That would only be pandering to her fears. By
staying out here, we're helping to bring her out of her shell."
As the other four females stared toward her, Beth added, "Besides
it'll be dark in less than half an hour."
"Half an hour?" echoed
"Don't worry," said Beth.
"Bob has taken care of everything," pointing toward a great lemon
tree which stood near the side fence, near the back-of the house.
An electric cord ran from the kitchen window to a 250-watt
floodlight, which was suspended three metres above the ground,
nailed to the side of the lemon tree.
"Talking about Bob," said
Kevin, looking around the faces of the people at the kitchen
table, which had been set up in the back yard, "I wonder what's
"Oh, he and Jon will be along
in a moment," said Beth, then to Mandy; "Don't worry, love, they
haven't got a woman hidden away in there. There isn't anywhere
to hide her."
"I didn't think...." began
Mandy, uncertain whether or not to take it as a joke. Receiving
a reassuring nod from Norma, Mandy decided to concentrate her
attention onto the plates of salad, cold meat, and bread, which
lined the table.
"I hope everyone likes garlic
bread," said Beth, then giggled and said, "If not, then all the
more for me."
"You could do with a few extra
pounds," said Norma, "you always look as though you don't know
where your next meal is coming from..." She stopped in mid
sentences suddenly realising how close to the truth her words
* * *
Inside the lounge room, Jon
slipped a fifty-dollar note from his wallet, and handed the note
"It's only until I get back on
my feet again," assured Bob.
"That's all right," said Jon,
writing the money off.
"You know I'll pay you back as
soon as I can," said Bob, belabouring the point. "But there's
the wife and two girls." Jon was nodding his head as Bob spoke.
"Those bastards down at the dole office don't give a bugger.
And there's no work around anywhere at the moment, none. But as
soon as I do get a job, I'll pay you back. You'll get your
money, even if you have to wait a little while for
"Just pay me back whenever you
can, there's no rush."
"I knew I could count on you.
Anyway, let's not keep the others waiting," said Bob. "I'll
just get a couple of bottles from the fridge and we'll be
* * *
"Perhaps I'd better go and see
what's keeping them?" suggested Jack, standing up.
"No, no, sit down and get stuck
into your food," said Beth. "You're a growing boy. They're
probably just getting us something to drink."
"Then they must have walked
home to Glen Hartwell to get it," said Mandy, drawing giggles
from Jamie and Joanne, and a glare from Beth.
Jon and Bob walked across to
the table, carrying two bottles of beer, and a bottle of
"Mandy was afraid you had a
woman in there," Beth said to Jon, drawing a glare from
From behind the two men, a
beautiful Greek woman in her late twenties strode from the left
hand half of the house, and knocked on the door to the bathroom,
calling out in Greek.
"And there she is," said Beth
"That's the woman from next
door," Bob explained. "Not bad either, I would mind going a few
rounds with her."
"Careful mate, she might hear
your," warned Kevin.
"No worries," said Bob at the
top of his voice, "she doesn't understand a word of
"You might be surprised, mate,"
said the Greek woman, leading the little girl from the bathroom,
as the others laughed at Bob's embarrassment.
* * *
"How are things going with you
and Jack?" asked Pauline Smith. She was leaning with her back
against the sink in the kitchen. Norma had propped herself in
the right angle between the sink and the service
"Oh, not too bad," said Norma.
"Jack hasn't been able to find any work, but Chris' money helps
"Yeah, you're lucky," said
Pauline. "Kevin's been two years without the sniff of a job,
and it's only a matter of time before the bastards throw him off
the dole. They seem to be on a bit of a spree at the moment.
There's been your Chris, Bob Bennett and at least half-a-dozen
other people we know.
"And we can't expect any rent
money from the girls for a few years yet. Joanne insists she
isn't going on to Uni., but even if we can't change her mind
about it, she'll still be at school for at least another two
years. There's no way we'd allow her to leave school with less
than HigherSchool Certificate to her name. Jamie will be doing
HSC next year, but she's got enough sense to go onto university
afterwards, so she'll be at school for at least another four
"Just be thankful your two
girls have some sense," said Beth, walking across to the
refrigerator. She took a can of Ouzo and coke from the
refrigerator and said, "Both of our girls are talking about
quitting school next year."
"Both of them!" asked Pauline.
"I thought Colleen was going on to Uni.?"
"So did we, up until a few
weeks ago. Bob still doesn't know yet, and I'm not going to
tell him. He can find out in February when she doesn't go back
to school." She opened the can of Ouzo and cokes then asked,
Norma shook her
Pauline said, "No thanks, I'm
"Again?" asked Beth. "You
always seem to do the driving these days."
"Yes, I'm starting to think Kev
must have a two-headed coin. Next time I'm calling heads, and
we'll see what he says."
* * *
Bob and Jack stood together
near the apple tree, toward the end of the backyard, trying their
best not to be seen by anyone.
"I really hate to hit you like
this," said Bob, "but I'm desperate, even a twenty would
Jack counted through the six $2
notes and five $1 coins in his wallets, and said, "All I've got
"That'll do," said Bob, "if
it's all you've got."
Jack handed over the seventeen
dollars, and wondered how he would survive until his next dole
cheque arrived in the mail. "I guess I'll have to walk when I
go after work," he thought.
"I'll pay you back as soon as I
can," said Bob.
"I know," said Jack, realising
he would never see the money again.
Bob pocketed the money, and the
two men walked along the side fence toward the back
* * *
"Me? Oh, I don't intend going
back to school next year at all," said Colleen Bennett to Chris,
as they stood together in the kitchen, helping themselves to
potato chips from plastic bowls upon the counter near the kitchen
"But I thought I heard your dad say you were going on to
Uni.?" said Chris.
"Oh, I was," agreed Colleen,
"but I don't want to be a burden on dad, now that he's out of
work and off the dole. Besides, if I can't get a job with HSC,
I'm not like to get one with a degree."
"Oh, I don't know," said Alex
"And your mum and dad don't
mind?" asked Chris.
"It's none of their concern
really," said Colleen sulkily. "Mum knows, dad doesn't. But
it's my life after all. It's not really any of dad's
"What isn't any of my
business?" asked Bob, walking through into the lounge
"Nothing, dad," said Colleen
"It can't have been nothing,"
insisted Bob, "or you wouldn't have bothered to say it was none
of my business."
"Don't 'Oh, Dad' me," warned
Bob. "What is none of my business?"
Colleen stood and turned to
walk toward the back door. Bob ran after her and grabbed
Colleen by the arms. Turning her toward him, he said, "Don't
run away from me! I'm still waiting for an answer!"
"Oh, for God's sake, dad!" said
Colleen. "I'm leaving school next year, all right!"
"No, it is not bloody all
"Look calm down, dad," said
Alex Bennett. He walked over to Colleen and Bob.
"Don't tell me to bloody calm
bloody down!" said Bob.
Colleen wrested loose from her
father's grip and walked toward the back door, where she almost
collided with Jon and Kevin who were coming inside. Turning,
she walked quickly down the corridor to the lounge
Bob followed Colleen through to
the dining area.
Realising things were about to
turn nasty; Pauline and Mandy stood up together and headed off
toward the kitchen.
Colleen sat on the sofa and
resolutely looked toward the wall. However, her father refused
to be snubbed and grabbed her by one shoulder. Colleen
shrieked, as he ruthlessly turned her around to face
"You're going to Uni. next year
and that's final!" declared Bob.
"It is not final!" shrieked
She struggled against Bob's
grip for a few seconds, before breaking free. Then ran out into
the hallway and down toward the back door, where she met a train
of people -- Pauline, Mandy, Beth, Rosemary, Norma and Jack --
coming into the kitchen.
Hearing her father's footsteps
behind her, Colleen followed the other people into the
"Oomph!" said Norma as they all
squeezed into the small room, just thankful at least that the
kitchen table was out in the back yard. "Now I know how a
tinned sardine feels."
"I suppose you've known about
this all along?" Bob accused Beth.
Turned to face Beth, Colleen
said, "I told him that I'm leaving school next year."
"Don't blame me. It's not my
fault if the little twit wants to throw her future away," said
Beth, "I've done everything I could to talk her out of
"Don't blame her, dad," said
Colleen. "I'm only thinking of you.
"Thinking of me? You mean to
tell me your whole life revolves around knifing me in the
"Oh, for God's sake, dad. I
mean, I know you can't afford to send me on to Uni. So what's
the point in making a big deal about it?"
"We'll manage somehow!"
"Don't interrogate me!" shouted
Bob. "I'm not the one who has to answer the
"And I don't have to answer any
of yours!" responded Colleen.
"Don't speak to your father
like that!" said Beth.
"Look, don't you think you
should settle this after we all go home?" asked Pauline,
receiving the shush signal from her husband, Kevin.
"No! We'll settle it right
here and now," said Bob. To Colleen he said, "I don't care how
much it costs, you're going to University next year, and that's
"You can't order me to go to
school!" shouted Colleen. "I'm seventeen, so by law I can leave
school with or without your permission!"
"Not while you're living at
home, you can't," said Beth.
"There's no law saying I have
to stay at home," said Colleen. "After the age of sixteen, I
can leave home without your consent!"
"So now you're going to tear my
heart out, by running away from home to live in some squalid
slum, eking out a paltry living on the dole for the next
forty-three years, until you can move to the old age pension,"
"Oh, mum, don't be so bloody
histrionic ... like always," said Colleen, pleading with her
mother to be reasonable for once.
"Don't smart talk your mother
like that!" shouted Bob. "You're not too old to go over my
Colleen flushed red in
embarrassment, too angry to speak, however, Norma came to her
aid, saying, "Look don't you think you're going a bit far, Bob?
After all, she's old enough to leave home and leave school, so it
is really only Colleen's business what she does."
"Shut up! You keep out of
this!" shouted Beth. "It's certainly none of your business.
You're probably the one who talked her into leaving school in the
"What?" said Colleen and Norma
at the same time.
"That's right!" said Beth.
"The same way you talked Chris into leaving school too soon, so
he'd ruin his life. Just because he's my son, not
"I think we'd better be going,"
"You're not wrong," agreed
Kevin, following Pauline out into the back yard to call to Joanne
"I didn't talk Chris into
leaving school," insisted Norma. "I wouldn't do something like
that, I love Chris, in spite of the fact that he's your
"It wasn't enough for you to
steal Jack away from me!" shouted Beth. "Then you had to
destroy my son's future!"
"I didn't steal Jack away from
"The hell you
"I left you before ever meeting
Norma," said Jack. "The only reason I ever left you is because
you're bloody crazy."
"So now he calls me crazy!
You really have polluted his mind against me," said Beth. "And
now you want to drive Colleen out of school, to ruin her future
"That had nothing to do with
me!" insisted Norma.
"Yes, mum!" agreed Colleen.
"She didn't know anything about it."
"Do you really expect me to
believe that?" demanded Beth, focusing her attention onto
Colleen, then Norma. "You've probably been seeing her behind my
back, the way you sneaked behind my back to get custody of
"We got custody of Chris,"
shouted Jack, "because you were too bloody crazy to be able to
look after yourself, let alone Chris as well!"
"Look it's my life, mum, why
can't you let me live it?" demanded Colleen.
"Yes, mum, you didn't kick up
this kind of a stink when I told you that I'm not going on to
Uni.," said Rosemary Bennett.
"Of course not," said Beth.
"What does it matter if you're not going on? You're too bloody
dumb to be able to pass at university level anyway! But Colleen
has got enough brains to get a degree with honours!"
For a moment Rosemary sat
silently staring at her mother, then standing, she ran sobbing
into the lounge room.
* * *
"I ... I didn't know there was
anyone here," said Rosemary, between sobs, seeing Chris and Jon
sitting on the sofa, watching television.
As she turned to run out of the
room, Chris ran across to put his arms around Rosemary, saying,
"That's all right, we couldn't help overhearing."
"She's a bitch!" said Rosemary.
She buried her face against Chris'