Day 1. Nasty taste in throat. It’s nothing. French kiss boyfriend like before – after all whatever it is he’s already had it. In fact, he gave it to me.
Day 2. Singing-in-car voice a little off today. Boyfriend is left to carry ‘Brown Sugar’ all by self.
Day 3: Romantic snuggles interrupted by sudden jerking motions, no not those ones. I need to cough. Is that a piece of lung coming up?
Day 4: Feel like shit. Don’t care if I die now. Want to stay in bed for the rest of my short existence. Look like shit too. Nevertheless help boyfriend with furniture removal. Regret it.
Day 5: Work colleagues back away holding up crucifixes. Am chased home by pitchfork wielding mob. Don’t care. Back to bed.
Day 6: Boyfriend away for weekend. Am glad! I need sleep, tissues, tea with honey in it, and the whole bed to self. And sympathetic texts, which I do not get, as boyfriend doesn’t understand the fine art of whingeing.
Day 7: Feel pressing need to clean house. Things must be looking up! Glance at body in shower mirror, realise bed not greatest fitness regime, despite what some say. Go for walk in sunshine. May even write something – suitably dark, obviously, considering that my last week has been spent practically at death’s door (note that, boyfriend – it may be a common cold to you but to me it’s more like Wolf Creek with snot).
Anyway here’s the story.
Sometimes life is more like a triangle than a circle.
For instance, a triangle has three points. Clara stares at the map and draws a line between them.
“Four hours drive,” she says, spilling a little of her beer on the national park in her excitement. “Sydney, Candelo, Canberra. We could do it.”
Francis stares at her. She feels his intensity and swallows a little too fast, choking.
“If we go we’ve got to really go,” he says accusingly, putting a heavy hand on the map. “No coming back to Sydney for jaunts. No visiting your…sister…in Canberra. Just us.”
“I guess Amber and Ken can always come down,” she offers, avoiding his eyes. “There’s plenty of room in the house behind the café. “
“They could come down,” he agrees, “but not too often. We need to get away from things, Clara, not bring them with us.”
She knows the things he refers to, wriggles self-consciously, and leans across to kiss his bearded lips. His own lips are still. She can’t get around him that easily. He has not yet forgiven her, but quarantine should help repair the damage.
A triangle demonstrates convergence. Like fate, two lines converge on a point. Of course, there are three points – as we already said – and three lines, so there is some flexibility, in triangles as there is in life. But not much.
Candelo is expecting them. The thirty residents of the town have been discussing the move for weeks. Bob at the garage says he met the man when he came down to look at the property, months ago.
“There’s something funny about him,” he says, as the blokes lean against the derelict verandah, scrutinising the Sold sign. “Looks like one of our sort, but isn’t.”
“Our sort?” says Paul, his scraggly white dreadlocks tickling hoary cheeks. “What do you mean?”
“Not your sort, mate,” says Bob equably, shooting Paul a glance of good humoured contempt. “I mean, he comes in for petrol, starts talking utes and fucking fertiliser like he grew up round the corner – and the next minute he’s going on about the fucking universe telling him he’s got to move out of the big smoke or die trying.”
“More my sort then,” Paul sticks in, wondering if the dude plays an instrument, because they could really do with another band member. Margie who owns the gallery sings alright, but her guitar is hopeless. “What about her then?”
Bob draws a shape in the air, and even aged Paul grins lewdly.
“She only got out to go to the toot,” he says, “but she’s got nice tits. Pity about the arse though. Shouldn’t wear them shorts.”
In a triangle, like a circle, what comes around goes around. Not with the smooth elegance of a curve, it’s true – more like a trailer being dragged inexpertly around sharp corners. But still, follow the lines and you arrive back at the same point.
There are high words in the café after hours, and sometimes during, to the embarrassment of diners. Clara makes pumpkin soup, which the locals pronounce to be shit, but passers-through consume politely. She hangs local art (Margie lends it to her) and attempts to organise musical evenings. Paul sings cracked folk songs and Francis plays bass, and gets stoned. Clara cleans up alone.
“I’m going back,” she announces one night, staring with dislike at the borrowed art, which depicts the surrounding countryside and local flora. “I miss our friends. These people, they’re full of shit anyway. Paul pretends he’s a hippy but really he’s just an old pervert. Margie thinks she’s better than me just because she did a fucking art degree in Melbourne in 1901. Those other guys just keep staring at my arse every time I walk down the street. I’ve had it.”
“Well you could fucking cover it up then,” says Francis, downing another whisky. “God knows I wish you would, and so do they probably.”
“Fuck you!” Clara has some vague idea of leaving right there and then – but she’s stoned too and before she reaches the door she decides to collapse on one of the saggy couches in the café instead, and cry. Francis is beside her in a second. He likes it when she’s weak. He wishes he could keep her on a leash sometimes, like a dog. She is a dog. A fucking bitch. He offers her a drink and she takes it, leaning against him hopelessly.
“You’re not leaving,” he says, holding her wrist, hard. “This is it, we said. The last time. We’re here for good.”
Clara jumps up, befuddled but suddenly furious.
“I’m going back to Darren,” she announces weeping. “I talked to him on the phone yesterday, and -“
“You fucking what!”
Frightened, she stumbles for the door. He sticks out his boot and she falls headlong on the rustic wooden floor, scrabbling to get up again. He slams his foot into her head, and she is still.
By 2pm the next afternoon, there is a cordon around the café. The inhabitant of Candelo stand around the striped tape and talk in low voices, as the police carry out the bodies.
“Why’s the street closed off?” asks a tourist, looking for coffee. There is none to be had.
“Murder suicide, apparently,” explains Margie, wondering if in time she could make a bid for the café herself. It’s bound to be cheaper now, she thinks.
“That’s awful!” exclaims the tourist, still annoyed by the lack of coffee and the slow traffic through the town. Couldn’t they have waited till after the weekend, she thinks?
“Oh, they were from Sydney,” says Margie dismissively, settling her blonde plaits over her Mexican poncho. “They had issues, you know?”
The tourist, who is from Sydney herself, nods wisely. You can’t escape issues, she thinks – they travel with you, wherever you go. She gets back into her car and continues on to Canberra, where she is visiting her aunt.
And Francis and Clara, they return to Sydney, side by side, in the back of a long black car. It was fated.