“Does he think that wild animals walk in the street,
Where the wary marsupial is hopping?
Does he think that the snake and the platypus meet,
And bail up the folk who go shopping?
And boomerangs fly round the scared passer-by
Who has come all this way to observe us.
While the blackfellow launches a spear at his eye?
--No wonder his Lordship is nervous.
From “A Nervous Governor-General” ~ Banjo Patterson
“I hope that’s our dinner I can smell cooking! It’s making my mouth water already.” Angie waited behind Jemimah as she unlocked the front door, “I think this is going to be a beautiful friendship!”
Jemimah smiled and finally got the door open. It was much more pleasant returning to her flat with Angie beside her than coming home alone as she’d expected. And she felt especially glad she’d put all that time into cleaning and rearranging everything - the place looked marvellous in comparison.
“Gee, it’s a pretty dingy little flat,” Angie remarked, glancing around the small L-shaped room. “They don’t spare any expense on the subsidised housing, do they?”
Looking at it through her companion’s eyes, Jemimah saw that the bright floral table cloth and the few special ornaments she’d added to the bookshelf hadn’t made as great a transformation as she’d thought. Without seeing how grubby the flat had been, how could anyone appreciate the difference she’d made? They couldn’t know that the should-be-cream walls were now a lighter shade of grey or that she’d emptied out a few years worth of moths from the cracked light fixture before washing it clean.
“Oh, well - I don’t really need a lot I guess, just somewhere to eat and sleep,” Jemimah replied trying hard not to let her mood sag again, “And it is within walking distance to school and everything else.”
Angie had already moved on to running her eyes along the bookshelf. “You’ve got a lot of books - you’d get on well with Michael and Gabi,” her tone made it sound like that it was something less than a compliment, “have you read all these?”
“Yes, they’re my very favourites that I couldn’t bear to leave behind. Is there a library in town?”
“No, people have been talking about setting one up for years, but it’s never happened yet. You’ve got no TV?”
Jemimah shook her head, “There was meant to be one as part of the flat being fully furnished - but I think the last tenant must have taken it when they left. It doesn’t matter though, I don’t really watch much - and the school will have an internet connection so I can keep up with the news that way.”
She heard Angie’s voice echoing out of the bathroom as she discovered there was no room for a bath in the tiny room, and decided to get dinner on the table before her spirits sunk any lower. “Do you need to phone home to let them know where you are?” she called back to Angie.
“Guess I’d better,” Angie said, reappearing in the living room, “if they’ve actually got a working phone here for you.”
With a resigned laugh Jemimah pointed her in the direction of the telephone and lifted the casserole out of the oven. Its hot and spicy aroma filled the room when she opened the lid, and she was relieved to see it had cooked beautifully. At least there was one thing in her new home she could take a little pride in.
When Angie hung up the phone she asked if there was anything she could do to help. Jemimah directed her to the pantry to fetch the salt and pepper while she served their meal onto brand new plates. They’d been pulled out of her “glory box” along with all the other crockery she’d been collecting for when she was married. Oh, well . . . at least they’re being used.
“Wow, you’ve got enough groceries in here to open a supermarket,” Angie told her, taking a thorough inventory of the packets and tins filling the shelves of the pantry. “Didn’t you think you could buy food out here?”
“No, I thought I’d have to learn to hunt kangaroo with a spear,” Jemimah sighed to herself, putting the plates down onto pristine place mats on the table. She bit down on her lip when Angie burst into surprised laughter right behind her. She hadn’t realised that she’d spoken aloud, or that the other girl had followed her to the table.
“I’m so sorry,” she began, her face beginning to burn with mortification.
“Don’t be - it was very funny,” Angie assured her, taking a seat and eyeing her meal with eager interest. “Just took me by surprise coming from you.”
It had taken Jemimah by surprise too. She didn’t normally have the confidence to say the things that popped into her mind except alone with her own family. Perhaps the way Angie treated her with so little formality had made her drop her guard?
Glad that Angie seemed so comfortable with her, Jemimah said the grace for the meal before starting to explain the multitude of food in the pantry. “My mother and sister felt a bit sorry for me leaving home and starting from scratch on my own - so they organised a special kitchen tea as a send off for me. When Keren was married last year she had all the usual bridal showers and received almost everything they needed - and she thought I shouldn’t miss out on getting a hand setting up my first home just because no-one had married me.”
“It’s true though, isn’t it? If you get married - not only do you get the man, you get everything else, too! You should see all the things Gabi was given when she and Ashley got engaged, and the wedding itself is still to come. Yum - this is delicious, Jemimah,” Angie interrupted herself to take another mouthful of her meal. “And because I’m the chief bridesmaid I’m meant to be arranging all the bridal showers, kitchen teas and the rest of it - as well as getting the bridesmaid's dresses organised and everything else. It’s her that’s getting married, but I’m having to do all this work.”
Jemimah nodded, not exactly sure of what to say. It had been the same for her when Keren married; but she’d felt privileged to be able to share in her sister’s joy - not annoyed by it. Luckily, Angie wasn’t even waiting on her reply.
“And to add insult to injury, as soon as the topic of the wedding comes up everyone looks at me as though I’m some backward child and in the most condescending way says they’ll all have to find some one for me next. Arrgh!” She groaned in frustration, “It’s bad enough being single without everyone having to point it out all the time. It’s not like I’m some lesser person because I haven’t got a boyfriend or a husband.”
“Of course not, it’s just God’s timing for you,” Jemimah said, although she knew exactly how Angie felt. “I think that sometimes a girl shows she has a lot more maturity because she chooses to wait, rather than just jumping into a relationship with the wrong person.”
“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But no, it’s like if you’re married - or even seriously with someone - you’re treated as an adult, while if you’re single everyone treats you like you’re just a child.” She stabbed a piece of meat with her fork, “You know the way the married women roll their eyes and say “Oh, you won’t understand until you’re married!”
Despite trying not to get drawn into complaining about her singleness, Angie’s words struck such a true cord that Jemimah laughed. “Oh, yes - it’s just like that, isn’t it?”
“Or even worse,” Angie continued, truly on a roll, “they have to keep telling you how much hard work it is being married or having kids - and that you don’t appreciate the advantages to being single. I think it would have to be easier to appreciate these supposed advantages if there wasn’t a perpetual question mark hanging over your head, as though you were just waiting around for someone to marry you.”
Jemimah swirled her fork slowly around her plate. She did feel as though she was just waiting around for someone to marry her; that she was just marking time until God answered her prayers. And meeting the perfect man in Michael Turnbull made the thought of remaining single seem even less palatable. Not that there was any chance of someone like him wanting to marry her.
Angie laughed suddenly, misinterpreting Jemimah’s silence. “Hah! Here I am just assuming you haven’t got a boyfriend or anything back home - you haven’t have you?”
“No,” Jemimah shook her head, wishing that Angie hadn’t been quite so quick to take for granted that she wouldn’t have a boyfriend. “But by the time I’d been asked that a dozen or so times this afternoon I was very tempted to invent one. I managed to evade the question a couple of times - then after that I thought it would just be easier to be honest. But it seemed that as soon as I said ‘no’ a calculating glint would come into the all women’s eyes. Though I’m probably just oversensitive and imagined it all.”
“Oh, no - you wouldn’t have imagined it. Any older woman would be sizing you up to see if she could offload one of her sons, and the younger women are worrying you might get your eye on their blokes.”
Jemimah felt the heat rising up face. She’d assumed so much in thinking Michael was single . . . perhaps there was a woman here in town, or even in Sydney who would not be pleased if they knew the way she felt about him. But how could she find out without asking?
“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Angie said just a little more gently. “Have you ever had a serious boyfriend?”
Jemimah looked up hesitantly. This girl was unreservedly offering friendship - if only she had the confidence to accept it by sharing herself as well. “No. Not even an un-serious one,” she admitted, “What about you, Angie?”
“Oh, I’ve gone out with a few different guys, but nothing very serious.” She gave a sudden crack of laughter, “Well, not that Dad knows about anyway.” Seeing Jemimah’s eyes widen she added, “It was years ago, and not that serious anyway.”
“Was he a Christian?”
“Yes, of course.” Angie sounded almost indignant, then leant back in her chair frowning. “W-e-e-l-l, probably not up to Dad’s standards. That’s the whole problem - can you imagine bringing anyone home when you know they’ll get the third degree from Dad and Michael? You know what they’re like!”
She rolled her eyes, then added, “You haven’t met Dad yet, but I’m sure you can imagine it - he’s just like Michael, only worse.”
Jemimah nodded, but inwardly thought that if Pastor Turnbull was anything like his son she was sure to be impressed. Even her own father didn’t seem to be as tuned into spiritual matters as Michael did.
“So, have there been any guys that you’ve liked?” Angie asked her, scraping up the last of her gravy, “Any crushes?”
Not until I met your brother yesterday, Jemimah felt the heat prickling her skin again. She had never been any good at dissembling, but this was one thing she was never going to tell anyone - not even her new best friend.
“How about seconds?” she offered instead, standing up and taking Angie’s plate to refill it.
“Maybe we could go to some Christian camps or conferences together, it would have to be a lot easier meeting guys away from here,” Angie said, the dreamy look in her eyes making Jemimah worry about what kind of plans she might be concocting.
While it was nice to find another single Christian girl who obviously understood the aching desire to find a godly man, she was beginning to wonder if Angie viewed the issue in a completely different way.
“I don’t mind the idea of going to a conference with you,” she answered carefully, “but I don’t feel at all comfortable with the idea of spending time with men whom I don’t know.”
“How on earth are you ever going meet anyone then?”
Jemimah shrugged the question off, but then decided to try explaining. “Maybe I’m idealistic, but I’m not looking for a boyfriend - I’m waiting for a husband. I wouldn’t want to start a relationship with someone unless I already knew him well enough to be pretty sure he’d make a godly husband.”
“I can tell you that’s not going to happen out here - and I should know! There isn’t a single Christian man within hours who has anything going for him.”
“Oh, really?” Jemimah gave her a cheeky smile, her confidence growing as she realised that Angie was treating her as an equal. “I thought you got along pretty well with Jack Hart?”
“Even if he were the last man on earth . . . ” Angie saw that she was teasing and stopped glaring at her, her mouth relaxing into a grin. “Though, now that you mention him - don’t you think it’s a bit of a coincidence that the first person in town who invited you home for lunch happens to have three single sons? And I notice that one of them in particular couldn’t take their eyes off you last night.”
Jemimah looked at Angie in dismay. Surely Jack Hart couldn’t be interested in her? He had never crossed her mind in that kind of way for even a moment. Suddenly understanding dawned on her and she laughed.
“Oh, you mean Jamie! Yes, I noticed that too - he was very attentive to me all yesterday afternoon. He is a real sweetie - just a shame he’s several years too young for either of us.”
She paused, wondering if there was any way amongst this light hearted banter to discreetly find out more about Michael. She wanted to stop thinking about him, but that was hard enough even without being continually reminded of him by his sister’s likeness.
“So are the Hart boys the only eligible bachelors around here?”
“Pretty much,” Angie answered, placing her cutlery down on her empty plate. “There’s a couple of farmer’s sons out on properties further northwest; they only come into church once a month or so and in between times their families get together and listen to the sermons on tape. But they’re even older than Jack and no more interesting either. Unless spending the rest of your life bogged down in the black mud of a cotton farm appeals, it’s pretty desolate in the marriage stakes, I’m sorry to say. ”
Letting out her breath slowly, Jemimah began to gather the dinner plates. Since Angie didn’t even mention Michael as a possibility it was a pretty safe assumption that he already had a girlfriend. She remembered now that Angie had said there weren’t any other girls their age in the church, so it made sense that his girlfriend must be back in Sydney. No wonder Michael was so keen to rush back to the city . . .
“Hey love - dinner smells great!” a loud voice boomed through Jemimah’s open window as her neighbour turned the key in the front door next to hers, “Whatcha making?”
“Nothin’ yet! It’ll be next door’s dinner you’re smelling,” a woman answered.
“Fair dinkum! I thought there was finally something worth comin’ home to! You think you’d at least have a meal for me after I’ve been out working all day!”
“Working up a thirst for the pub! You could try coming home on time if you want your tea!”
The door slammed shut, and Angie broke out laughing at the raised voices coming through the wall as the argument continued.
“I’d forgotten the Pritchards lived next door! Goodness - you can hear every word! I suppose this is the down side of living in town - we certainly never hear our neighbours.”
Jemimah took their plates over to the sink. “What’s it like living out on a farm?” she asked, bringing a fruitcake back to the table.
“Good and bad. It is certainly nice living out there, but it’s a three quarter hour drive from town. You don’t get much of a chance to spend time with anyone - it doesn’t seem worth driving an hour and a half just to pop in on someone for a coffee. With all the travelling to and from work, sometimes it feels like all I do is work and sleep; there’s not a whole lot to do at home at night. It’s funny, because when we lived in town I couldn’t wait to go out there to spend the holidays with Nan and Pop.”
“Oh, I didn’t realise you’d lived in town - I assumed you’d always been on the farm.”
“No - I grew up just a few streets away from here and we lived there until I was nearly twelve. There were a couple of girls my age in town then, and we used to hang around together after school and go to each other’s houses. It was great - but I couldn’t really keep up with my friends once we moved out to Nan’s and I only saw them at school.”
“Why did your family move?”
“My mum was in a car accident - so Michael, Gabi and I went to Nan and Pop’s while Dad stayed near the hospital in Sydney. A few weeks after Mum died, Pop had a stroke, and since Nan was on her own and Dad had to take over the work on the farm - we all ended up staying there permanently. ” Angie sliced off a piece of fruit cake and lifted it onto her plate as she spoke, completely unaware of the effect her words had on Jemimah.
Since meeting the Turnbulls, nothing had given Jemimah the least indication that their mother had passed away - she’d assumed that Mrs Turnbull had simply stayed home from church to look after her husband. She felt a sudden dread as she recalled the questions she’d asked them about Rowan Hart’s death the night before, never dreaming they’d been affected by an even closer loss. Had Michael’s sober comments about accepting the will of God in Rowan’s death reflected much more than she’d been aware of?
“You’re having some too, aren’t you Jemimah?” Angie’s question jolted her from her thoughts, and she nodded, mechanically holding out her plate for the slice Angie had cut for her.
It was pointless to feel guilty for not knowing about people’s pasts, yet blundering in ignorance was one of the things that Jemimah hated most about meeting new people. She had to say something in response to what Angie had told her - but without understanding more, how could she know what to say without making it worse?
“That must have been a terrible time. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for you.”
Angie nodded, taking a bite of cake, “Yes - it was pretty terrible. Mum had been on her way back from visiting her aunty in Tamworth, when a semi-trailer ran straight into her car. She was flown by helicopter to a hospital in Sydney, and we didn’t even know if she’d be alive when we got there.”
“Did you - did you get to see her?”
“Before she died?” Angie finished for her, “Yes, we did. Dad picked us all up from school as soon as he heard, and we drove straight there.” She shook her head slowly, remembering, “We only stopped once, but it was the longest trip of my life. It was good that we got there when we did though, Mum was still conscious and able to talk to us when we arrived, but later that night she went into a coma and never woke up again.”
Angie paused, pulling a face at Jemimah. “Don’t look at me like that - it was such a long time ago now - you don’t have to feel sorry for me or anything.”
Jemimah blinked, and made a conscious effort to smile back. She felt entirely ill-equipped to speak to Angie about the loss of her mother - but she wouldn’t be much of a friend if she wasn’t prepared at least to listen.
“Are you sure you don’t mind talking about it?”
“It’s fine - in some ways it still hardly seems real. With Pop dying straight afterwards, and us living with Nan instead of going back home, it was like one life had ended and a very different one started instead.” Angie frowned, squashing the crumbs of her cake with the back of her fork. “It’s always made me angry that a truck driver who fell asleep at the wheel could force such a change on all of us - but it happened, and I have to accept it even though I don’t like it. There’s no point me moping about it all my life, even if everyone else thinks I should.”
“I guess something like that affects everyone differently.” Jemimah sensed the defensiveness behind Angie’s words.
“You’re right. Gabi acts as though it only happened yesterday, and Michael still doesn’t talk about it. I don’t know that he ever really accepted it. But he went off to Uni in Sydney almost straight afterwards, so how would I know?” She stretched and stood up from the table, “Do you mind if I put the kettle on? A cup of coffee would go nicely with a little more of that rich fruit cake.”
“Please do, I’m sorry I didn’t even think to offer a hot drink,” Jemimah followed her into the kitchen.
“I wonder if Nan’s right about him,” Angie filled the kettle and continued on as though she had never interrupted herself. “Michael’s always saying how he is never going to marry so he can devote himself to God’s service, but I heard Nan telling Dad once she thought he had just never got over losing Mum and wasn’t prepared to take the risk of getting close to anyone else.” She shrugged and turned back to Jemimah. “I don’t know - maybe he’s just enjoying his freedom.”
Embarrassed by what she’d just heard, Jemimah turned away and reached down a cup for Angie. Her face flushed with guilt - she’d wanted to learn more about Michael from Angie . . . but never intended to elicit such intimate confidences about him.
Angie was investigating the set of canisters lined up neatly along the bar, totally unaware of Jemimah’s discomfort. “What are you having, Jemimah? Tea, coffee?”
Still distracted, Jemimah automatically declined, but relented when Angie challenged her about the social awkwardness of not drinking tea or coffee along almost identical lines to Michael’s on the previous night.
“Well . . . I have to admit that although I’ve never liked tea before, your brother made me one last night that was really nice. Do you know how he made it?”
“Oh, he’s a miff!” Angie answered with a disparaging shake of the head. “Totally low class - can’t take him anywhere.”
“Milk In First. It makes it so weak it hardly even tastes like tea . . . and then he really overdoses on the sugar.” She shuddered, then added in a resigned voice, “But if that’s how you like it, I can certainly make it that way for you. I’ve had years of practice doing it for the rest of the family.”
While Angie made the drinks, Jemimah selected a packet of chocolate biscuits from the largesse in her pantry and the girls settled down on the old lounge.
“I’ve been so busy telling you my whole family history that I still don’t know anything about you,” Angie told Jemimah, slipping off her shoes and curling her legs under her, “but it’s so rare to talk to someone who doesn’t already know everything about me that I got carried away. I want to know how someone like you came to take your first job all the way out here?”
It was good to know that Michael obviously hadn’t mentioned any of her conversation with him, but Jemimah hoped Angie wouldn’t probe too far.
She still wasn’t sure enough of her emotions to risk going into detail about her situation.
“To be totally honest, moving this far away from home wasn’t something I had planned - but when I graduated and prayed for work, this was the job God provided.”
“I wish something different like that would happen to me - I think I’m going to be stuck in this rut all my life!”
“What do you mean?” Jemimah asked, keen to take the attention off herself.
“I always wanted to go to Uni and do law, but when I finished school the Grimshaws needed someone else to work with Gabi in the office. I decided to defer uni for a year, save some money and get some experience doing legal work - but I just ended up staying and starting law by correspondence. I continually regret that I didn’t leave and go to uni when I had the chance!”
“But you’re only young, there’s no reason that you couldn’t still go if that’s what you wanted to do.”
“I know - but I suppose I’m too comfortable for my own good. I make a very good wage and the Grimshaws are paying all the costs for my course. If I went to Uni full-time I’d have to live on nothing for two or three years, and then I’d be unlikely to start in a job that paid any more than I’m getting now.” She shrugged her shoulders in resignation, “And now with Gabi getting married, and Michael working in Sydney - I’d feel like I was deserting Dad and Nan for no good reason. I’ve only got another four years part-time study to go . . . ” The way she said it made it sound more like twenty years, and Jemimah couldn’t help smiling.
“Is it really that bad being stuck out here?”
“Yes, it is!” Angie said, and then laughed. “No, you’ll run back home to Newcastle if I say that. Anyway, it will be a whole lot better now that I’ve got someone to do things with.”
She began to talk about her ideas of things they could do together, and Jemimah found herself caught up in all kinds of fascinating plans that were probably more entertaining to talk about than actually put into practice. Neither of the girls even glanced at the clock before they were interrupted by the telephone.
“Oh no!” Angie glared at her watch, “It’s a quarter to eleven! And that will be Dad - I’m in trouble now! I’d better answer it!”
“Why don’t you stay the night and go straight to work in the morning?”
“Thanks - that would be great.” She walked over and picked up the phone. “Hello Dad . . . No, I’m still here . . . I’m sorry, I wasn’t watching the time . . .I know, I didn’t realise it was so late. . .but you did know where I was . . . Jemimah’s asked me to stay the night, she’s a bit homesick . . Darn! I forgot about having Gabi’s car . . .yeah, I know - I’ll come home now . . .”
Angie hung up the phone and turned back to Jemimah, her face creased in annoyance. “I wish I was you right now, Jemimah, independent and in my own flat. It doesn’t matter that I’m twenty-two and supposedly an adult, I’m still in trouble off my Dad for staying out too late!”
“It is pretty late. What kind of father would he be if he didn’t check that you were okay? We should have watched the time and let them know you were running late.”
“I know - but I’ve got to go now anyway. Because I’ve got Gabi’s car, she’s got no way of getting into work in the morning. This is the problem with my family,” Angie tossed her hair back from her face, “because Gabi already had a car which she took into work and back everyday and Dad’s got the farm ute and Nan’s got our old car, it was decided that it wouldn’t make any sense for me to run another car as well. I know that it’s logical, but why is it always me that misses out? Michael has his own car, and so does Gabi - but I can never do anything I want without having to arrange it all with everyone else and get their permission!”
She stomped over to the chair and picked up her handbag and fished out her keys, “It would have been nice for once to be able to stay up as late as I liked without Dad or Michael having a go at me about it! And I wouldn’t have had to leave home early for work - I could have strolled over to the office just before nine!”
“Oh well, we’ll plan ahead next time. Are you still wanting to stay over Friday night?”
“Yes, thanks - unless I’m grounded!” she huffed, walking to the door, “Thanks for tea and -” she stopped as the phone began to ring again. The girls exchanged curious glance, and Jemimah picked up the phone.
“Jemimah - it’s Michael Turnbull, is Angie still there?”
“Only just, I’ll get her for you,” she managed to reply, dismayed to be as unnerved by his voice over the phone, as she had been by his presence on her doorstep the night before.
“No - that’s okay. Dad just told me that Angie wanted to stay over, but had to come home because she’s got Gabrielle’s car. I’m heading back to Sydney in the morning, and I could bring Gabi into town on my way through so Angie needn’t come home tonight. The only thing is, I’ve got to leave home reasonably early since I have a few places to call in at on my way to Sydney. Would you mind Gabi staying at your place until the office opened?”
“That would be fine, and Angie will be pleased she doesn’t have to start out for home this late. What time will do you think you’ll be here in the morning?”
“Seven thirty - if that’s okay with you, although I’m sure you won’t be having an early night if Angie stays over.” The low rumble of his chuckle sent shivers of awareness through Jemimah. How could his voice sound even more attractive over the phone?
“Oh, that’s no problem - I’m always up well before then.” She was surprised at how normal her voice sounded since her heart was thumping even harder as a daring idea crossed her mind.
She had no idea when she’d see Michael again, and the only impression of her he’d be leaving with was how upset and childish she’d been on Sunday. Suddenly it mattered incredibly that he thought better of her than that . . . if only she could see him one more time, when she was relaxed and on familiar territory.
Jemimah took a deep breath and without giving herself even a moment to lose her nerve, launched in; “Why don’t you both come at seven and have breakfast with us? I’ll make omelettes for us all, if you’d like that.”
“That’s very tempting, I don’t know the last time I had anything more exciting than cereal for breakfast,” he answered without hesitation, “Gabi’s already in bed so I can’t check with her, but I’m sure that will be okay. How about I bring fresh eggs from our chooks for the omelettes? Oh, and will you let Angie know that I’ll get Gabi to bring a change of clothes for her too?”
What have I done? What have I done? I can’t believe I’ve asked him over! Horror filled Jemimah’s mind and she swallowed hard.
“Sure. That sounds great.”
“We’ll see you around seven then. And watch out for Angie first thing in the morning - she’s pretty dangerous with only a few hours sleep!” Michael laughed again, ‘You’ve been warned. Goodnight.”
“Goodnight.” Jemimah slowly replaced the receiver, appalled at what she’d arranged. Why was it that when she talked to Michael her heart began to race, and her thoughts sped faster than her sense of reason? Now she’d just created another opportunity to embarrass herself in front of him.
She took a deep breath and turned back around to Angie, forcing herself to look cheerful. “You got your wish, Angie - you don’t have to go home after all - Michael’s going to bring Gabi round for breakfast on his way through to Sydney. And they’ll bring a change of clothes for you too.”
Angie pouted and slumped back down onto the sofa, “Unbelievable! See what I mean, Jemimah! Dad and Michael think they can just run my life!”
“What?” Jemimah burst into surprised laughter, the tension in her chest finding a release at Angie’s unreasonable reaction, “I thought you’d be happy about staying - it’s what you wanted, isn’t it?”
“That’s not the point! I only get to stay over because Michael decided that I could. Dad says I have to come home, and then Michael arranges for me to stay! What about me? I’m sick to death of having every detail of my life organised by them!”
“Oh, Angie - they’re only acting in your best interests. Michael organised me twice yesterday - sending Mr Hart out when I was lost, and then arranging with you to get me home last night - and I’m certainly not offended. I appreciated his help.”
“That’s okay for someone like you!” she shot back, then added guiltily, “You know what I mean - you’re here on your own anyway - you don’t have to prove that you’re independent. I’d just like a chance to do what I want without being answerable to Dad or Michael - I may be the youngest, but I’m not a child anymore. Don’t look at me like that, Jemimah!” Angie complained, and then laughed too, “I know you think I’m being unfair - but it’s been a long five weeks while Michael’s been home on holidays - and we get on each other’s nerves, that’s all.”
Jemimah handed her the packet of chocolate biscuits, “Since you are staying now - let’s make the best of it. I’ll make us another cuppa, and you can sit up just as late as you like and I promise I won’t tell your Dad or Michael!”
Angie took the biscuit packet with a grin, and after Jemimah returned with their mugs they fell back into relaxed conversation. Their contrasting personalties seemed to mesh well, both girls finding an easy affinity with the other.
It was nearly one when Angie was ready to call it a night and despite the extra sleep she’d had that morning, Jemimah could barely keep her eyes open as she got ready for bed. She never could handle late nights - and knew she’d need a nap to catch up tomorrow. At least being this tired meant even her nervous qualms over Michael coming for breakfast couldn’t keep her awake.
© R. L. Brown 2006