Melanie lay down on her bed, and sighed. She could hear the crickets singing lowly, beneath her half - open bedroom window, and feel the moist humid air and the soft cloth of her summer dress against her skin. She lent forward, and rested her chin in her hands. Melanie smiled to herself; the world seemed to be full of wonder, in the pleasant sub-tropical warmth of the Mildura night. Feelings of hope and longing began to surge inside of her, as she wondered what to do about her future. She wondered if her younger sister, Lara, would be thinking of the same thing, now, in her bedroom next door. Melanie and Lara lived in a faded, weather board house, on the outskirts of Mildura. A feeling of sadness had enveloped the girls after their mother had moved out, though their mother continued to visit the girls twice a week, despite her commitment to a new family, who lived further out of the town. Melanie was looking out across the street of white weather board houses and their neatly trimmed gardens, when she heard the door bell ring. She hurried to press her ear against her bedroom door, where she could hear the light footsteps of a woman walking steadily up the hallway. Melanie knew that she would soon be expected to greet the visitor, so she smoothed down the skirt of her yellow cotton dress, and glanced at herself quickly in her bedroom mirror. She thought herself pretty; her necklace sparkled noticeably against her soft, clear skin. She opened her bedroom door slowly and tiptoed quietly down the hallway, to the living room, which was at the front of the house. Her sister was busy making soup, in the kitchen, at the back of the house, which was annexed to the verandah. She heard the solid noise of a saucepan falling to the linoleum floor when Lara dropped it. When she entered the front room, her father introduced her to Miss Anne Moore, a tall, elegant woman, who smiled kindly at Melanie as they shook hands. \"Hello, Melanie. How's school?\" she asked. \"Good,\" replied Melanie, cheerfully, though she resented this woman, because she missed her mother. \"And is there any subject which particularly interests you?\" asked Miss Green. \"I guess Australian History,\" Melanie replied, shortly, and coldly. \"Perhaps you could show Miss Moore some of your work, later on,\" suggested her father, but Melanie's eyes remained lowered. \"The dinner should be ready by now,\" her father reminded her. Anne sat down and Melanie walked down the hallway to the kitchen, where her sister was dreamily stirring soup in a saucepan. \"What is wrong with you?\" snapped Melanie, \"you should have had it poured into the bowls by now.\" \"I don't like her at all,\" said Lara, as she took a pile of bowls down from a cupboard above her, and placed them on the table. Melanie realised then, that she could not explain to her sister that they disliked Miss Moore simply because they missed their mother so much. As she lent her head in her palms and looked out of her half open bedroom window, again, that night, Melanie thought about her future. That evening, as she stared at the stars glimmering vividly in the wide skies over her house, it appeared to her that there was a need for a change in their lives. She stopped her dreaming and lay back on her pillow. The next day of the holidays, for some reason Melanie found herself walking casually down the neighbouring streets to Miss Moore's house. She lived alone in a small, but perfect white weather board house; the front garden was well tended, with shrubs and potted flowers lining the foot of the verandah. Melanie walked up the two front steps, the fly wire screen door squeaked when she opened it and tapped on the door. A few minutes later, she heard Miss Moore's footsteps, and the door opened. Miss Moore was surprised to see her, there, but she warmly welcomed her inside. As she closed the door, she said to Melanie, \"I'm glad you decided to visit me. My son and daughter could do with some company.\" She led Melanie down the red carpeted hallway, to a bedroom which faced out onto the backyard, where Miss Moore's son and daughter looked up at her curiously, when their door was opened. The son had been teasing Katie about the teenage novel she had been reading. Nervously, Melanie nodded at them, and said, \"Hello, my name is Melanie.\" \"This is my son, David, and my daughter, Katie,\" Miss Moore said. \"I hope you will get to know each other better, while I go and put on a cup of tea.\" After their mother had left, Melanie stood and looked at David and Katie, speechless. Then Katie said to her, \"Mum says you only live a couple of streets away.\" Melanie nodded silently. \"Come over here,\" said Katie, as she walked over to the window. Melanie followed her, and looked out of the window. Outside, the rich rays of sunlight filtered through the eucalyptus leaves, and the clothes on the Hills Hoist waved noiselessly in the wind. \"There's a creek not far from here,\" said Katie, \"we swim in it, and even go kayaking, sometimes. What do you do in your spare time, from school, Melanie?\" Melanie felt a distinct sense of contentment as she began to recount her happiest times, \"I like to walk in the warmth of the sun, by the river, and look at the shadows of the trees on the bank, touch my feet in the muddy water.\" \"We should go walking together, or bike riding, down by the creek, one day.\" suggested Katie. \"Yes, I think I'd like that.\" said Melanie. After visiting Miss Moore and her children, Melanie began to realise that the only way that she could erase the sadness she and Lara felt since they had lost their mother, was to replace it with this new family she had discovered. She resolved to discuss her new feelings with Lara, tomorrow, before they left for school. The next morning, at the kitchen table, after their father had left to fetch a book from another room, Melanie decided that she would broach the subject with Lara. \"Lara, I want to speak to you about something. It's about Dad,\" said Melanie. Lara looked up from her book, casually. \"I - I guess I've never really liked Miss Moore, and I don't think you have, either.\" Lara cast her eyes down for a moment, and then looked up at Melanie, her blue eyes twinkling in the early light. \"I think you're right,\" she said. \"But you know,\" said Melanie, \"you've got to admit that it's only because she's not our mother... and Dad does need someone in his life.\" Lara looked at her solemnly. Then she looked away from Melanie, then back at her sister, and down at the table again. It was clear to Melanie's sister that there was truth in her words. \"I met her children yesterday, we got talking, and I realised that we have a lot in common. Basically, we see things the same way, and in actual fact, I feel that we share certain things. Before I left, we talked about getting together, sometime. We've got to try to let Miss Moore in our lives. I know it's difficult, because we miss our mother so much, but we have to try.\" The next afternoon, when Miss Moore came to visit, the girls tried to smile and listen to Miss Moores stories, rather than remain quiet and sullen in her company, as they had done before. Miss Moore noticed the change that had occurred in the two girls; and she responded to it accordingly. As a gesture of affection, at the end of the evening, she volunteered to attend Lara and Melanie's parent - teacher interview nights. After Miss Moore had left, their father took them aside, to speak to them on the verandah, where the mosquitoes buzzed noisily around the kerosene lamp. He said, \"I'm very proud of my girls. I know you've been sad since your mother left, but you have tried to take Anne into your hearts,\" then he hugged them. That evening, Melanie walked to her bedroom, lay on her bed, again, and looked out of the window. She looked up as a shooting star leapt across the broad Mildura skies above her, and she smiled to herself. The future looked rather good to her, now, and she sensed a new beginning was taking shape, somewhere out there on the horizon, amidst Mildura's vast skies.
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