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20/20 Vision

Guest Miranda

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Story Title: 20/20 Vision

Type of story: Oneshot.

Main Characters: Lucas, Matilda, Ric and some made up ones.

BTTB rating: G

Does story include spoilers: No

Is story being proof read: No

Any warnings: None.

Summary: It is many years since Lucas, Matilda and Ric left Summer Bay and they are now well into adulthood. This is a story about how their lives might be then.

I was going to enter this in the fanfic challenge set by QA, so all the things on the list that must be included in the story are in there- you can spot them if you like :lol: Then I realised the challenge was to write about how previous characters’ lives are in 2009, not in the future. But I thought I’d post this anyway, as I couldn’t bear not to. Especially as I have a feeling that Lucas will return…

20/20 Vision

Gretel van Linden sighed as she toiled up the stairs to the new professor’s study. She didn’t want to speak to him. He could never be as helpful as her beloved Professor Rosebury: if only she hadn’t died so suddenly. Gretel knew she was being selfish thinking this but she had so nearly completed her dissertation: without Professor Rosebury’s help, she doubted she could finish it.

She knocked despondently on the blossom pink door, decorated with Lily Rosebury’s handmade calendar for students’ appointments. Lily had even stencilled lilies along the top of the door to personalise it further.

‘Come in,’ said a voice.

The new professor was at the window, half turning away from it at the interruption. He was tall, with dark blond hair which flopped a little over his face, and he brushed it back impatiently.

‘Hello Professor Holden.’

‘Hello- er?‘ he smiled vaguely.


‘I can’t get over this view,’ he effused, gesturing towards it. His window looked out over a grassy court of the University of Western Australia, the green space dotted with groups of students studying, talking, laughing, discussing.

‘Yes. It reminds me a little of home,’ said Gretel, trying to stop a quaver in her voice.

‘Where is home?’

‘South Africa.’

‘Ah, I thought I detected a familiar accent.’

‘I live on the edge of town, where I can see the rains sweep in over the veldt-‘

As she continued, Lucas’ attention wandered to his unread newspaper. A headline and photograph caught his eye:


Property owner Alf Stewart and business partner Robbie Hunter were presented with the 2020 New Inventor’s award. “Strike me roan,” said Mr Stewart, as he picked up the award. “I couldn’t have done it without this young hoon,”.’

Lucas chuckled.

‘Sorry, am I boring you?’

‘Oh! No! Sorry. What was it you wanted to discuss?’

‘My dissertation.’

Gretel explained the situation and then looked up at him expectantly. He seemed extremely young to be a professor- Lily had been in her early seventies, her exceptional mind ensuring that she had not been forced to retire.

‘I think I can help you. I know at least something about early South African literature.’

She was surprised: she had thought Lily was the only specialist.

‘Let’s have a look at my diary.’ He bent over the well thumbed and annotated book.

She glanced round the room. Gone were the vases of flowers and bowls of kiwis and oranges with which Lily practised still life drawing when she had a moment. Gone was the familiar, relaxing smell of incense, gone were the wind chimes with the tinkly fairy bell sounds. In their place was a mass of unpacked boxes of books, and an invasion of congratulations cards.

‘Sorry. I had to put my stuff somewhere, and Lily’s nephews came to take hers away,’ explained Lucas, noticing her expression.

He felt guilty at upsetting her. The job at UWA had come up suddenly, so he jumped at the chance to work at his beloved old institution. He had studied there for five years, then gone on to further study in Johannesburg, where he became a professor in Literature. He still hadn’t got over the fact that he was a professor before he was thirty- only just though! His thirtieth birthday was next week.

Since leaving Summer Bay, his world had broadened and opened up, enriched by meeting so many intelligent, diverse people from so many different backgrounds. He had become immersed in literature and language, and written four more novels. They had not been blockbusters but made him a good living, so he didn’t have to worry about money particularly and could concentrate instead on studying and writing.

He suddenly realised that Gretel was trying to hold back tears.

‘Here.’ He handed her a tissue box. ‘Sorry, it must be a leftover from Lily. I don’t really go in for pink.’

Luckily, Gretel giggled. ‘Perhaps you’d better repaint the walls then.’

‘Looks like it. Now, the only day I’m not around is Friday the twenty seventh. I’m going to- er- anyway- I shan’t be available.’ He was too modest to boast about Friday.

Gretel wondered why he was being mysterious. Perhaps he had a liaison with a secret lover. She giggled a bit more. For some reason, being in Lily’s room had cheered her up, despite Lily’s absence.

‘I’ll see you on Monday. Thanks Professor.’

‘Call me Lucas, please!’

The next few weeks were punctuated with Gretel’s tutorials with Lucas, fitted in between lectures, other tutorials and study periods. They had many engrossing discussions about her dissertation, the subject of which was not of general interest to her study mates. Not that she had many of those: she was more of a loner.

‘Have you read any Doris Lessing?’ asked Lucas at the end of one tutorial. ‘I mean the Children of Violence series- Martha Quest, A Proper Marriage and the rest. They’re particularly appealing to young girls interested in African literature.’

Gretel smiled.

‘I’ve read them.’ I know more than you think, Professor, she thought smugly. ‘And I’m not really a young girl. I’m twenty four.’

Lucas was surprised. She was petite and he’d thought she was about eighteen.

On the twenty seventh there was no tutorial of course, and Gretel made the most of her free time. It was a warm spring day, so she sat outside in the shade reading a magazine instead of a course book: if Lucas was having a day off, so would she.

To her surprise, she saw him ambling along the path in the distance. People stopped him frequently to talk, but he wasn’t just going for a stroll. He waved at someone, and speeded up his pace. Gretel screwed up her eyes in the bright sunlight, and saw him embracing a woman. She was beautiful, with long sand coloured hair, wearing a flattering pale blue cotton dress. Then a little boy and girl ran up to them. Lucas hugged the girl and lifted the boy up onto his shoulders. Then they all strolled away, laughing and talking.

Gretel felt put out. So Lucas was married, with a family. Of course he was: how silly of her to think otherwise.

‘So how is Ric?’ asked Lucas of Matilda as they walked beside the grass.

‘Oh, fine. He’s coming along today you know.’

‘Is he? I thought he couldn’t get away from his business.’

‘No! He wouldn’t miss his best friend’s welcome ceremony, would he? Beth! Stop that!’

‘Sorry mummy.’ The little girl stopped endlessly cart wheeling and took her mother’s hand. ‘When’s Daddy coming?’

‘Soon darling. He’s got accounts to finish, then he’s coming as soon as he can.’

‘Faster!’ shouted the little boy. ‘Come on Uncle Luc, faster.’

‘No Flynn!’ corrected his mother. ‘Don’t break his neck before the ceremony. I’m so proud of you, Luc. And UWA is too.’

‘G’day.’ A stocky man strolled up to them. ‘Thought I better show my face.’

‘Hello mate!’ Lucas’s face lit up.

Ric held out his hand in a serious way, then relented and gave his friend a hug.

‘You’ve been enjoying your food lately.’ Lucas nodded towards his friend’s slight paunch.

‘Nothing wrong with that. I cook, while Mattie takes care of her caseload.’

‘Yeah, what’s it like being a house husband with a successful lawyer wife?’

‘Oh, I can’t complain,’ chuckled Ric. ‘She’s a hard worker. And I dabble in mechanics for a bit of pocket money.’

Matilda thumped him on the arm. ‘Watch it. Unless you want to sleep on the sofa.’

Lucas felt a pinch of jealousy at their affectionate bickering. However intellectually stimulating his own relationships were, they never lasted long enough to develop the easy companionship of the Dalbys.

At the ceremony, Lucas was the first in line to be welcomed to the University, as a returning ex student. He was overwhelmed with congratulations from old friends and new, but felt young and inexperienced compared to his venerable colleagues.

Afterwards, he met Ric, Matilda and their children at a restaurant for dinner.

‘Strewth mate! Never thought you’d be so successful,’ said Ric, clapping Lucas so hard on the back that he stepped forward.

‘But one thing mate. Who was that hottie in the audience watching you like a hawk?’

‘Don’t say “hottie”. It makes you sound like a twelve year old,’ corrected Matilda. ‘This is what I have to put up with all the time, you see Luc?’

‘That’s why you love me, darling,’ said Ric.

‘What hottie?’ interrupted Lucas.

‘The little dark one on the front row.’

‘I’ve no idea. I don’t know everyone here yet. Anyway, I saw Robbie in the paper with Alf Stewart, did you?‘

The following Monday Lucas’s lecture was about the portrayal of war in Australian literature. When he first started lecturing he had been nervous, fearing the students would be unruly, or even worse fall asleep. But he hadn’t realised how much his story telling abilities influenced his lecturing. He could keep the students interested for almost two hours: more if he included practical activities to break the lecture up.

He was packing up his equipment afterwards when he became aware of someone beside him.

‘Hello Professor.’

It was Gretel.

‘Did your wife enjoy your welcome ceremony? And your kids?’

‘My- er?‘

‘How long have you been married? Has your family moved to Perth as well? It must be a big change-‘

‘Er- what? I’m not married.’

‘Oh, are you separated? Sorry, I didn’t mean to-‘

‘What are you talking about?’

‘That lady I saw you with on Friday. Isn’t she your wife?’

‘No! Mattie’s a very old friend. She was here with her husband and kids. How- when did you-‘

‘I was at the welcome ceremony. Sorry, was it meant to be a secret? Was that why I wasn’t invited?’

‘No- er- why? Did you want to come?’

‘Well obviously I wanted to see you welcomed to the university. I had to sneak in. All your other students were there. I thought I’d get invited, but obviously I wasn’t that important!’

Lucas suddenly felt his temper rising, which was an unfamiliar sensation these days.

‘What the hell are you ranting on about? It’s an open ceremony. You don’t have to be invited so I didn’t invite anyone, they just turned up. I didn’t notice who was there. See you at our next tutorial.’

He strode off, leaving Gretel standing with her mouth open. He felt irritated, but more with himself. How immature to get annoyed with a student like that: just because she had hit a nerve. He had always been so involved in enjoying student life, studying and researching in the academic world that he hadn’t really noticed time passing in the outside world. He had reached thirty without really putting down any roots, as Matilda and Ric had.

At the next tutorial with Gretel, he took the initiative.

‘I’m sorry I snapped at you the other day.’

Her expression was distrustful.

‘It’s just that Matilda was my girlfriend when we were teenagers and I assumed I’d be the one to marry her and settle down, but… it didn’t work out like that. What you said made me wonder if I’ve missed out on something. I’ve got this great academic life- all I ever wanted to achieve- but no-one to share it with. I hadn’t thought about it ‘til you started talking about me being married with kids. It made me think that maybe I should have settled down by now.’

Gretel paused for so long that he thought he’d made a mistake in baring his soul like that.

‘I’m sorry. I didn’t mean-‘ she suddenly blurted. ‘I always put my foot in it, I-‘

She impulsively squeezed his hand. His instinct was to flinch but he changed his mind and put his other hand over hers.

‘Don’t worry,’ she said. ‘Everything always turns out how it’s meant to.'


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