The uni trimester ended while leaves still clung to the trees. Betsie found herself missing the crunching sound of the fallen leaves as she travelled home, the audible sound of autumn weather that usually meant it was holiday time.
Elaine greeted her daughter at the door. A candle burned on the fireplace, it resembled a small amount of warmth yet to come.
Arthur had gone to collect wood, Elaine told Betsie. “He’s losing it. I’m over him. I know we had you late and all, and it is harder I guess when you have a child at a late age but it’s not you that worries me. You are fine!”
Elaine plonked her rear down on the floral armchair, it rocked a little then came back to centre – she didn’t flinch when the hot tea soaked her leg.
It reminded Betsie of a time when she watched her mother push material underneath the foot of the sewing needle. The chain roared while Elaine’s fingers pressed the material. Then she watched as her mother’s finger slipped underneath the foot, punctured by the sharp end of the needle which went all the way through her finger. Elaine didn’t flinch, she finished running that edge, then licked her finger between her thin lips before changing the edge around. Betsie had stared at her mother in wonder.
“I don’t not love Arthur but I don’t like him.” Elaine sipped her tea and it spilled over her chin on to her knitted woollen cardigan.
The candle flickered against the wall above the fire.
“Jane told me, you know young Jane, the teacher next door? She told me that she saw Arthur at the car out front and you know what he said to her? He said ‘I thought I saw a blonde girl walking towards me and I’m blind enough that I couldn’t see her until she was on top of me.’ Then he got in his car and drove off! I’ve told him not to drive. But you know.”
“Mum, cars have always been Arthur’s passion.”
Elaine’s eyes flickered.
Arthur appeared at the arched entry to the lounge room. “You’re near the sex candle. Cost me a lot of sex, that candle!”
“Arthur! Your daughter has come home.”
Arthur giggled. “Whoops! How are you dear?”
“Come out back and I’ll show you the beast.”
“New car dad?”
“Old car-new engine!”
Arthur and Betsie left Elaine and the candle flickering in the lounge room.
In the shed they examined a beautiful old Willy’s Jeep with a motor cradled in the bonnet, still chained up on the hoist.
“Now darling,” he turned to his daughter. “I know what you’re thinking. Another car! This old cob can’t deserve another car, can he? But with your mum and all, it’s been hard. Her dementia is getting worse and, well, I need some space.”
Arthur’s eyes flickered.
“I do love your mum. It’s just that, sometimes I don’t like her.”