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Shadow of the Day

Guest mizziette

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ADORED that sooooooooooooooooooo much, especially ......

 Ruby, is that you?’ Charlie looked to the door in the hospital room and stared at the grown woman beside her. For a woman who’d lost seven years of her life, the wonder at her maturity was immeasurable.

‘Why are you always staring at me?’ This had happened about two weeks since Charlie’s rescue from Jake and the woman was just about to be discharged.

‘Sorry, I keep thinking you’re still eleven. It’s weird to see my little sister all grown up.’ Charlie turned back to the mirror and examined her new self. The last she remembered, she had been twenty five so seeing her thirty two year old self staring back at her was an experience.

Ruby gulped. She hadn’t had the courage to tell Charlie she knew the truth about her parentage. But she’d have to be told eventually. Just like Ruby had to inform Charlie that both Charlie’s parents were dead, that she wasn’t a police officer anymore, that Chuck, Charlie’s husky when she’d been twenty five, had died in a hit and run five years prior, Ruby would have to tell her this.

‘Charlie, can we talk about something?’ Ruby asked solemnly. Charlie turned and nodded. They took a seat on the hospital bed, side by side. ‘I know…I…two years ago, you told me the truth. I know you’re my mum.’

Charlie gulped in shock. How could she possibly know? ‘You do?’

‘You got hurt in car accident and I saw your C-section scar, and it just went on from there. Things were rocky for a while, but we’re stronger than ever. A real mother and daughter,’ Ruby nodded and took her mother’s hand in hers. There were tears in Charlie’s eyes. That was the extent of what Ruby was willing to reveal. The stuff that happened afterwards with Grant, if Charlie never remembered that again, that would suit them all fine. But of course, four months after her discharge, Charlie had remembered every single detail.

 ‘Our daughter sounds amazing.’

‘Yeah, she does. Nothing like you,’ Brax leaned in cheekily until their noses touched.

Charlie laughed and playfully hit in his arm. ‘Watch it mister. I’m not that musically inept. I had a part in a musical when I was eight. In “Annie”,’

‘Really, what part did you have?’ Brax teased as he rubbed his arm. The girl could hit.

Charlie looked down sheepishly. ‘Well, I played Sandy.’

‘You played the dog?’ Brax laughed and shook his head.

‘I was great at it too,’ Charlie pouted defensively. ‘Just ask Georgie, she’ll tell you.’

 Ruby took the short stroll next door and heard the unmistakable sound of music through the open front door. There was an instant smile on her face when she heard the youthful melody of her sister’s voice against the piano. For a four year old, she could play and sing exceptionally well.

 ‘She sounds amazing.’ Ruby admitted and Brax couldn’t help but notice that her words mirrored Charlie’s to the letter. The Bucktons; they all reflected each other in some way.

‘She gets it from her big sister,’ Brax turned to look at Charlie touching him lightly as she came up from behind him.

‘She’s a little Ruby, that one,’ Brax agreed and smiled at Ruby who of course, didn’t return the gesture.

 I once was lost, but now I’m found,

Was blind…’ Ruby joined her in harmony and a startled Jade stopped playing. Shyly turning to the door, she blushed at having an audience. Ruby smiled. ‘It’s okay, you’re really incredible. Go on.’

Jade looked hesitantly at her sister and bit her lip shyly before placing her fingers back on the keys.

T’was Grace that taught…

My heart to fear,

And Grace, my fears relieved.

As the two sisters sang together, their voices mixed to create a gentle harmonious tune. Ruby slowly walked over as they sang and took a seat next to Jade on the bench. Watching the young girl manoeuvre the keyboard with her swift delicate hand, her voice sweet as an angel, Ruby couldn’t be more in love. Music filled the air and covered the distance between the estranged sisters, enmeshing their voices together until they weren’t a pocket of air between their souls.

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Every morning at precisely eleven am, the postman would arrive in the Patterson’s street on his scooter, momentarily stopping at each house to deliver the day’s mail. That particularly day, VJ Patterson was expecting something very important, one might say it would determine certain aspects of his future.

Sifting through the envelopes, VJ found the one he was looking for; his results. Ever the proud mother, Leah stood beside him with anticipation. ‘Go on, open it.’

Ripping the side of it delicately, VJ took the letters out and unfolded it. He read on silently.

‘Well, what’s it say?’ Being shorter than her son, Leah couldn’t see what was written.

‘Hold on mum, I’m still reading,’ There was concentration on his face. ’96,’

‘You got 96 for your HSC? That’s great,’ Unable to contain herself Leah hugged the boy tightly. The next thing he knew, his mother was busy disappearing to her room. ‘Oh my god, I have to call your grandmother and my uncle and oh, Miles in Thailand, he’ll want to know or do you want to call him? Never mind, I’ll call him. He’s going to be so proud. Oh, I’m so proud…’

VJ shook his head with a smile as he flicked through the rest of the mail. Leah was more excited than he was. Faintly, VJ could hear the unmistakable laugh of his mother as she was talking on the phone in her room. And then, he saw it.

Quietly glancing at Leah’s door, VJ put the rest of the mail down and focused on that one envelope. Out of curiosity, he opened it and came across yet another congratulatory letter addressed to VJ Patterson. VJ had decision to make.

The next day, Leah opened up the diner with a heavy heart despite the previous day’s excitement at her son’s success. Placing all the chairs on the floor, getting the stoves up and running, preparing the food all consumed a moderate amount of time, especially with the added distraction of Colleen’s uninhibited ranting, yet Leah’s mind was only on one thing. The month and the day,

‘You know what day it is, don’t you? It’s Wednesday,’ As if reading Leah’s mind, Colleen aroused the Grecian from her thoughts. Leah sighed. Yes, of course she knew; it was the sentiment behind the date that occupied her thoughts.

Leah jumped as the door opened. Seeing who it was, she sighed. It was Bianca, her first customer of the day. ‘Good morning, just hold on a second, I’ll just wash my hands and get to you. The usual?’

‘Actually Leah, I thought I’d go for a chai latte instead of my regular.’ Bianca Scott Murphy, in her pleated belted dress looked as put together as ever. ‘A little caffeine once in a while can’t hurt. So what’ve you been up to?’

Leah bustled around the kitchen and the coffee machine, fixing up the order. ‘Not much. I saw Ruby again yesterday.’

‘Yeah, I’ve seen her couple of times too. We just exchanged pleasantries in passing, really. Haven’t talked properly yet. She doesn’t seem as open as she used to be.’

‘I guess it’s the time of year. It’s got to be hard for her.’ Leah set the full cup down and placed the paper lid on top. She opened up the muffin tray and took out a large vanilla muffin, putting it on the counter as well. ‘I don’t have any choc-chip ones today, vanilla alright?’

Bianca nodded and took out her purse to pay. Colleen, who had been putting her nosy ears to good use, decided she needed to have her say. ‘You know, I’ve seen that Ruby prancing around drunk in the wee hours of the morning dressed in next to nothing. And all those unsavoury boys, I don’t care what day it is; she should be ashamed of herself.’

‘She’s had it tough most of her life, it’s just been one disaster after another, I’d be a mess if it was me,’ Bianca defended Ruby.

‘I can believe that,’ Colleen glanced at the blonde woman judgementally. Bianca just found it amusing and brushed it off. And then, a group of young female surfers walked in, with them bringing the promise of another busy diner day.

A card is always a nice thing to give to someone, so when the idea came to Jade that afternoon, she was quick to tell her father of the brilliant idea she’d conjured. Jade knew she’d be seeing her mum later that day so it was perfect timing. ‘Daddy, I’m going to make mummy a card.’

‘That sounds wonderful. I’m sure she’ll love that.’ Brax smiled down at her as he sat eating his grilled cheese sandwich, trying to enjoy his lunch. Between bites, he saw his daughter running off to her room and returning with coloured markers and pale pink paper. She meticulously folded it in half.

‘What’s it say?’ From her position at the head of the dining table to the right of Brax, armed with a mauve marker, she looked up at him anticipating an answer.

‘I don’t know. What would you like to tell her?’ Brax smiled.

Jade contemplated, glancing up at the ceiling as she thought. Then just like magic, it came to her. ‘Ooh, I know, I know,’

‘What?’ Brax put the last piece of his sandwich in his mouth. As he pushed the plate away to the side, Jade pushed the folded pink paper towards her father and gave him the marker.

‘Dear mummy,’ Jade began and Brax started scribing for her. ‘I love you this much.’

Jade lifted her arms as far away from each other as she could, in indication of her love for Charlie. Brax wondered how he was going to put that on a card. ‘Is that all?’

‘Guess what mummy, I have sister,’ Jade exclaimed. ‘And her name Ruby and we play all the time. You should meet her, she so much fun.’ A pause, ‘Daddy, do you miss her?’

Brax shook his head in amusement as he wrote it all down for her. ‘Yes, very much,’

‘This much?’ Jade pulled her arms apart again. Brax nodded. His daughter accepted this. ‘Okay, so write, me and Daddy miss you this much,’

She gestured her arms in the same fashion a third time before continuing. Brax finished the last sentence. ‘Do you want to sign it?’

The pink paper card and the marker were handed back to Jade and she squiggled at the bottom the only word she knew how to write. Her name, Jade, ‘Now I draw a picture!’

And she did. Twenty minutes later, a rainbow of coloured markers were sprawled over the table and the card was finished. Brax looked it over. Four stick figures on the front of the card stood in a row, three big, and one small, three girls and one boy. They stood at the beach, the man holding a red surfboard. Jade pointed and explained. ‘That you, that mummy, that Ruby and that me.’

‘How about we go and give it to her now?’ Brax suggested as he handed the sentimental card back to the young girl who nodded eagerly.

The father and daughter walked through the dry mown grass in the hilly parkland on their way to Charlie’s. As they moved closer, Brax felt the sudden pang in his heart as the reality of the day dawned on him. There was a large oak tree some feet away from them, their destination.

‘In loving memory of

Charlotte Buckton [1979-2013],

For whom we bear an eternal heartache,

Til the moment we meet again,’

The pink card was placed on the grass before the headstone. It had been three years since that headstone had been erected. Brax looked up straight ahead and smiled as he noticed Charlie leaning against the tree in the distance. She smiled back at him.

‘Daddy, what you smiling at?’ Jade asked innocently as her tiny little hand was engulfed into her dad’s large one.

‘Nothing,’ Brax took his eyes off Charlie and glanced down at her. ‘That’s daddy’s little secret,’

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