Read Gracious Living Online

Authors: Andrea Goldsmith

Tags: #Fiction

Gracious Living (26 page)

BOOK: Gracious Living
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

‘Don’t be such a killjoy, you can see him any time – ’

‘I wouldn’t want to.’

‘That’s beside the point, you could if you wanted.’ He lowered his voice and kissed her cheek again. ‘Come on, Ginnie, it’d be fun. Your father’s a great man who’s doing more than anyone else to put Australia on the map. I’d love to meet him, and my parents would be so impressed if they knew I’d actually met Adrian Dadswell of Eden Park.’ This last was uttered in capital letters. The traffic lights turned amber. ‘And you know I have to keep the folks on side.’ He turned her face around and kissed her on the lips leaving a little wetness. A horn sounded from behind. ‘It’d mean so much, Ginnie. Please.’

‘You didn’t agree to it?’ Vivienne said.

She shrugged, what else could she do?

Fiona Whelan, project manager for Eden Park or Adrian’s personal assistant, Ginnie had never determined which, opened the door to Adrian’s mock Tudor mansion. Ginnie had met her only a few times before, and they had never exchanged more than a few pleasantries. Now she watched the surprise pass over Fiona’s fresh young face, to be quickly replaced by a welcoming smile and an exaggerated ‘What an unexpected pleasure!’ She ushered them into the white marble of the hall and asked them to wait while she went to get Adrian. And moments later there he was, huge and freshly washed, dressed in a white velour robe
with AD inscribed on the pocket in purple and silver. Ginnie noticed he was losing his hair, she must remember to tell her mother.

What a surprise, he said, putting his arm around Ginnie, a very pleasant surprise. And how was she? he asked. Managing the hot weather? Managing her studies? Managing the long day at the university? Managing to survive? she mimicked to herself and removed her body from his grasp. Adrian always treated her like an invalid and she hated it, the problem was he’d never bothered to get to know anything else about her.

She introduced Scott and within minutes Adrian was talking to him as if he were his own son. The two of them stood at the bar, joking and laughing together, drinking Scotch. And soon they were talking about the hotel business. From the hotel business they moved to tourism, and from tourism to Eden Park. And now Fiona spoke up: this was her area. She joined the men at the bar, standing close to Adrian, touching his arm to make a point, reeling off figures faster than a calculator. ‘Isn’t she a whizz?’ Adrian said at one stage, patting her bottom, and she smiled at the compliment and quickened the flow. The talk of money excited Scott, and he encouraged Adrian and Fiona to continue, although, in truth, little encouragement was needed: Eden Park was the centre of their lives, their ultimate joy; Eden Park was, Adrian said, unique.

‘Unique and enormous. Well over three hundred million to build, completed on schedule, no union disputes, no disruptive government regulations, and a marketing plan that will see us making a profit within thirty months. The Japanese are the key,’ he said. ‘We’ve tried to cater to their tastes. We can’t give them tropical weather, but we can supply a choice of golf course, including an indoor range, water sports, gymnasiums, tennis of course. And we can give them service. The hotel service at Eden Park has been modelled on the Japanese system, even down to a massage in your suite before going to sleep. Not that we’ve restricted ourselves to the Japanese, we want the Americans and Australians too. So there’s trout fishing at our own trout farm, Australian wild life, hiking, horse racing, a crocodile reserve, and that’s just for starters.’

He went on to describe the restaurants, the accommodation – permanent apartments as well as two five-star hotels – the shopping mall, and Scott oozed admiration, until finally Adrian suggested they all drive out there so Scott could see for himself how spectacular it was. Without even a glance at Ginnie, Scott accepted the invitation: as long as it wasn’t too much trouble for Adrian and Fiona.

‘Not at all, not at all,’ Adrian said, and disappeared to dress.

It was eight o’clock, still early in the evening Ginnie had hoped to spend alone with Scott, but Scott had better things to do. It would have been more sensible if she’d left him to it and gone home.

‘But you didn’t?’ asked Vivienne.

Unfortunately, no. It was not enough that she could see what Scott was doing, not enough to recognise it had nothing to do with love. ‘There are things you’d prefer not to know,’ Ginnie said to Vivienne, ‘things you deliberately ignore while you endure.’

So Ginnie endured. They went in the Rolls, Adrian driving, Fiona next to him, Ginnie and Scott in the back seat. Ginnie put her hand on Scott’s leg as if nothing had changed and stroked his thigh, but the hand was ignored and eventually fell to the seat when Scott leaned forward to converse with Adrian. Ginnie sat alone in the thick lush leather as the car sped down the highway, as it turned into the small rural town on the edge of the city, as it passed the picnic ground where a few days earlier Lydia had waited for time to pass, as it moved on to Eden Park.

It was close to nine o’clock when they arrived and although the sun had set, the night sky was bright and visibility good. Adrian parked the car and the four of them walked towards the buildings. ‘Aren’t we fortunate,’ Scott said, ‘that there’s a full moon.’

‘Not quite full,’ Ginnie said and immediately regretted it.

Scott glared at her and quickened his pace.

Ginnie watched them, Scott, Adrian and Fiona, walking briskly ahead. She saw them stop and then separate, Scott heading towards one of the hotels, while Adrian and Fiona went to the site office, presumably to collect some keys. Scott went on alone and Ginnie followed, followed automatically, mind manacled to
the present. Only endure she told herself, make it through the next couple of hours. Think later, not now. Concentrate on getting through.

The ground was rough, clearly there was more paving to be done, and walking was hazardous. Let him go ahead, let him forget her, she didn’t need him. But
he
needed her, why else was she stumbling over mounds of sun-dried clay, legs and sticks flying in the rubble as she tried to walk more quickly. Bloody legs, she thought as she hobbled along, and bloody Scott. She stopped, stared at the sky, and wished she were anywhere but here.

It was some time before Scott realised she was not following. He turned, beckoned for her to hurry, but she would not. She had been humiliated enough, she would not exacerbate it by having to walk a hundred metres or so, walk as she did, watched by the person whose love she wanted but did not have. So she stood her ground. He waited a moment longer still beckoning, and then after an exasperated shrug, turned and ran back to her.

What do you think you’re doing?’

And while it would have been easy to tell him what an impoverished lump of a person he was, easy to ask him to walk more slowly now that he had what he wanted, she could not: easy enough to speak but impossible to draw attention to her own pain.

‘Go on ahead, Scott,’ she said, ‘don’t let me interrupt your plans.’

He caught the sarcasm in her voice, seized on it, accused her of groundless suspicion. ‘I’ll tell you what’s wrong with you Ginnie Dadswell, and it’s not just these,’ he said, pointing to her sticks. ‘What’s wrong with you is you don’t know how to have fun, don’t know how to let yourself go.’

But she did and he knew it. He left her, and she walked off to smoother ground. Concentrate on the physical things, she told herself, block him out, must block him out until it was safe to think, until the hour in the back seat of the car was over, until he was gone. She wandered around for half an hour or so, every now and then catching a glimpse of the others, hearing their voices, their laughter. She saw them return to the site office, watched them through the window as they studied some plans, saw them lock
up and made sure she arrived back at the car at the same time as they did.

‘Ginnie’s always been a loner,’ Adrian said, with a pat to his daughter’s head, ‘even as a child.’

They drove back to town, the other three chatting all the way. It was only when they were within a couple of kilometres of Adrian’s house that Scott took any notice of Ginnie and put his arm around her.

‘Are you entirely without shame?’ she said.

He shrugged and moved away. ‘Have it your own way.’

Adrian asked them in for port and coffee but Scott declined: it was late and he realised how busy Adrian and Fiona must be.

‘Well then, we look forward to seeing you Saturday, Scott, it’ll be a day to remember, and Fiona will expect to hear from you next week about that other business.’ Adrian shook Scott’s hand, patted Ginnie, and together with Fiona entered the house.

‘So you got your invitation and more as well?’ Ginnie said once they were in the car.

‘And what’s wrong with that!’

He revved the engine and scattered gravel as he thrust the car into the street. He put on a tape of loud thumping music which Ginnie hated and tapped out the rhythm on the steering wheel. She sat quietly, head averted, scanning the side of the road. As soon as she saw a public telephone she asked him to stop.

‘He resisted at first,’ Ginnie said to Vivienne, ‘and then he must have realised that the best way of avoiding a scene was to be rid of me. He even gave me the money to telephone for a taxi.’ Ginnie shook her head. ‘Unbelievable, isn’t it?’

Vivienne nodded and tightened her arm around Ginnie’s shoulders.

‘Anyway, before I could phone, a taxi passed and I hailed it.’ Ginnie dug in her pocket and pulled out thirty cents. ‘Not much for a gal’s love.’

The sobs began again, and words shearing the tears: how she loved him, would have done anything for him, had helped him with his work, had put aside her own to help him, had never made demands, had been sexually compliant, had made him laugh.
What else, she asked, could she have done?

‘Nothing,’ Vivienne said quickly. ‘It sounds like you’ve done quite enough. Have you ever considered the problem might be his, not yours? – that he’s a bastard? As simple as that. After all, he’s been more than a little exploitative – his exams last year, Adrian tonight – ’

‘Yes, yes, but you don’t know him. He can be so kind and gentle.’

‘Of course he can, if he were a bastard all the time you wouldn’t give him what he wanted. Seems a small price to pay. Believe me, Ginnie, I know. All of us have had bastards in our lives, some women never seem to find any other sort. It doesn’t matter if you’re fat or thin, tall or short, black or white, disabled or not, there’s a bastard for each of us and often more than one. It’s one of the dangers of love, of relationships.’

Ginnie looked at Vivienne, the ageless face, the fine olive skin, the dark eyes: this was a beautiful woman, beautiful and intelligent. What would she know about bastards, about rejection? Vivienne laughed. ‘Being in love is such an unreasonable state – at that first hypnotic wave, reason deserts you. I guarantee there’d be a lot less rejection if we allowed reason a little of love’s tenacity.’

‘I bet Kate’s never been rejected.’

‘You’re probably right, but neither does Kate become involved with her lovers. Kate conducts her affairs from a distance and as soon as her current lover becomes a nuisance she simply moves on.’

‘And you? Have you been rejected?’

‘Of course.’

‘The person would have to be mad.’

‘No, that wasn’t the case.’

‘Anyone I know?’

Vivienne stood up and smiled at Ginnie. ‘You might have your father’s appearance, but you have your mother’s curiosity.’ She walked to the kitchen. ‘I expect you haven’t eaten. Are you hungry?’

Enormously and painfully, she said, even her misery paled in comparison. ‘Do you think that makes me fickle?’ Vivienne shook her head. ‘Shallow then?’ Not at all. ‘Well,’ Ginnie said, ‘how about a pizza?’

They both laughed, collected their things and went out in search of a twenty-four-hour pizza parlour.

On the day before the opening of Eden Park, Ginnie was walking alone in the Botanic Gardens. There was the usual daytime crowd: mothers with babies, lovers on long lunches, truants on skateboards. Ginnie was sequestered as always by her sticks – people stared and gave her wide berth – and while this usually annoyed her, today she wanted to be left alone, wanted nothing to impede the tranquillity she usually found at the gardens. For she was in such turmoil.

And it was a messy fight: recriminations jostled with confusion, bitterness mingled with sadness – a terrible struggle, at the end of which she might be wiser but she’d still be a loser. And did she regret any of it? Not much. The dénouement certainly, but not the relationship itself, not those piercing nervous months when Scott might have fulfilled his own agenda, but so, too, had she, and with something far more lasting than passing a few exams. What Scott had done was provide her with the setting for normality in a way that Kate, Vivienne, even her mother had failed to do, failed and yet shouldn’t have, for none of them treated her as a cripple. The difference concerned her body, the site of all her problems. Kate, Vivienne, and her mother did not relate directly to her body, whereas Scott had, and he had liked it enough to return. He did not have to make love with her, she would have helped him as a friend,
had
helped him as a friend for months before they made love. And after the first time she had told him she did not expect it to happen again. But it had, many many times. When he touched her body he seemed to respond to something familiar in it, its normality not its differences.

All this she had kept to herself – it was tainted, illegitimate stuff. She knew she was more than her body, more than the disability, as did Kate and Vivienne and her mother who loved her so well, and yet what she had responded to with Scott was entirely directed by the body, by the disability. He had touched her body
as if it were not disabled
, and his reward was to be raised above more
sincere people. She hated herself for her weakness, for falling into the same traps as everyone else, for, if appearance were less important, if people were more willing to look beyond the surfaces, Ginnie’s own life would be so much easier. She knew all this, knew it over and over again, but nonetheless, with Scott it had been the body that mattered, with Scott she had evaluated the importance of their relationship, the very success of it, as if she were only her body.

BOOK: Gracious Living
9.21Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

The Killing Doll by Ruth Rendell
FourfortheShow by Cristal Ryder
Death of Kings by Philip Gooden
Parzival by Katherine Paterson
Ella (Twisted Tales) by Kimber Sharpe
4 Arch Enemy of Murder by Vanessa Gray Bartal
Northwest Corner by John Burnham Schwartz
Cleanup by Norah McClintock
Money for Nothing by Wodehouse, P G