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Rose Lane Ch11

by Jubbly 

Posted: 02 January 2004
Word Count: 3614
Summary: The other chapters are in my profile, thanks everyone who's reading and commenting.

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This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Chapter Eleven

Ping! Melanie logged on and sure enough her aunt Jean had visited her in the night.

Dear Melanie,
Just a quick letter to say I posted that old diary of yours last Thursday, you should get it within the week, let me know if you don't. Your mother started a diary when she left school, but I think she only wrote it for a couple of weeks. Said it was boring because nothing ever happened to her. Which nothing ever did, even when Laurence Olivier and his mad wife, that silly Vivien Leigh came to Sydney and went to see a movie at the very cinema she was working in, she still managed to miss them. Said she was in the toilets with the runs the whole time they were there, eventually the manager sent her home and told her to be sure and drink lots of water. Mind you there was that time we were all walking along Balmoral beach one night, your mother, me and her friend Max and we came across part of a human skeleton washed up on the shore. But that was just some old drunk who'd drowned, not a murder victim. Reminded me of my poor old Uncle Patrick, not that I ever met him, but I know we would have got on. My jasmines all come out on the trellis next to the back veranda, it smells beautiful but I think I might be allergic to it, I haven't stopped sneezing all day. Oh hope you like that postcard I've enclosed. It's a picture of a painting by an Australian artist called Cody Lansett, she's very famous over here, you can't walk past a gift shop without seeing one of her pictures in the window. Her stuff reminds me a bit of yours. It's such a shame you didn't become a proper artist. You were so good, I've still got that picture you did of my Coco, it's lovely everyone says so. Perhaps you could make a bit of money by doing other people's pets, just a thought, you're so good at dogs. I think you inherited your artistic skill from my father he could have been an artist if Nanna had let him. He used to say, Oh I'd love to just sit and paint and draw all day, but if he tried to, Nanna would shout at him, Get off your backside you lazy good for nothing , if you want something to paint you can start with the back fence. You know what she was like, always so miserable.

Signing off now, love Jean.

Melanie curled up in the red leather armchair by the window in the front room , the post card Jean had sent depicted a family of young children playing on the beach with buckets and spades, the sun was going down and you could almost feel the warm breeze encircling their little browned bodies. Yep, she thought, it is bloody good. She placed it on the mantlepiece, inspiration she hoped. Then she dared herself to open the old diary. The cover was pale, girlie pink with a printed drawing of a Siamese cat on the front. The cat nestled on a cushion, with a beaming human-like smirk across its face. There were little purple and green flowers scattered over the cover, unmistakable in their early seventies psychedelic style. The smell was musty and she was convinced when she inhaled she caught a whiff of Patchouli oil. It reminded Melanie of her old childhood bedroom. She could visualise the desk her father had made out of masonite in the corner under the window, one day she'd spray painted it gold in an attempt at glamour. Like a virtual tour on an estate agents website her mind took her back in time. Squeezed beside the desk was her single narrow bed with its threadbare orange and brown hippyish embroided bedspread strewn with old toys and clothes. A battered teddy bear, one eye a button the other completely missing took pride of place on the pillow. Next a small wooden stool serving as a bedside table, and a wonky bookcase on the far wall, books and magazines, untidily stacked. Her what Katy Dids and Did Nexts filed without thought or reason beside Donna Parker's Summer Camp and sandwiched between The Wizard of Oz, the illustrated version and the complete Narnia chronicles. A big built-in wardrobe next to that and a lumpy inflatable red plastic armchair near the door. What luxury that chair brought into her small world, decadence, Andy Warhol, New York, Hollywood. Now here she was, in the real thing, a beautiful dark red leather armchair, bought by her husband to be his favourite . How ironic.

She opened the diary, so simple now the key was lost , the ribbon gone and she had no more secrets, the old book just sprung open.

August 1971.

Dear Diary,
I feel so happy. Last night we did our final performance of the king and I. It was really good. Everyone clapped and afterwards we had a little party in the foyer. We had chips and jatz biscuits with a creamy dip and lots of Lemonade and Coke and the adults drank beer and wine. Normally I wouldn't be allowed to go but mum and I stayed the night at and Nanna's Auntie Jeans. We caught the bus from Circular Quay and arrived there really late. Auntie Jean picked us up from the bus stop and Nanna had already gone to bed , but she woke up when we came in and said 'It's nearly eleven thirty Patricia , what sort of mother are you? " She was too mad to even hear my good news.

Grown up Melanie shook her head on recalling those faraway memories, Nanna , always so irritable, so chewed up and anxious. As though the cancer that killed her was already present and intent on making itself known to its host.

On the very last night of the show, producer Maureen held a small get together for the whole company. The programme sellers, the box office staff, everyone who'd donated time, or money, even the companies that bought advertising space in the programme, they were all invited. Melanie and her mother stayed for half an hour, they stood in the corner sipping their drinks.
"Do you want to keep in touch with any of those kids?"
Melanie shrugged her shoulders, maybe.
"That Vera gave me her phone number, so you can call that Angela and say good-bye, in case you don't see them again."
Melanie had been so involved in getting the show on that it didn't occur to her it might all be over as quickly as it started. No more commuting from the suburbs to town, no more rehearsals and late night snacks bought from take-aways on the way home. Just back to normal then, Saturday morning ballet class and Wednesday afternoon jazz dancing, excitement all over.

Just then Brian Trinder sashayed over, glass of red wine in one hand, ever-present cigarette in the other.

"Thanks so much for all your effort my dear, you were absolutely heavenly, you lit up the stage with your presence."

Melanie felt herself blushing, suddenly her shoes required enormous concentration so she stared at them blankly, mesmerised by her own footwear. The eminent Brian turned to her mother.

"She will be involved in our next production won't she?"
"Oh,oh...." stuttered Pattie, "I suppose so, when is it?"
"Well we may do a Christmas special but I'm not sure about that yet, so much work, so little time. But looks like Carousel might be a runner for May."

"Carousel? What like the merry go round.?"

"Exactly Mrs Baker, exactly, only with lovely songs. "
"Are there any kiddies in that then?" asked Pattie.
"Melanie could be in the ballet, Mrs Baker, I'll check with Miss Sanderson, see if she's old enough."
"I'll be 13!" announced Melanie.
"Thirteen, my my how grown up, a little teenager, do you know what you're letting yourself in for luv?"
Melanie wasn't clear if he was addressing her or her mother.
Her mother answered anyway.
"Oh she's a good girl Mr Trinder, very young for her age, you know, she hasn't matured yet."
Brian winked at Melanie who by this stage was turning scarlet.
"No rush, eh luv, no rush."

And off he went to join his chums, Miranda, Ronnie, all of them, he was soon surrounded.

The phone rang,
"Hi, mum it's me Ben."
"Hello darling, how's it going?"
They chatted away about the weather and the brilliant go karting track dad had taken them to and how ill Kim had been this past week.
"Really, what's the matter with her?"
"Dad thought it was food poisoning, but we all ate the same thing."
"Has she seen a doctor?"
"Nah, she said she'd pull through"
Oh well can't be that bad, thought Melanie. Typical of Kim, obviously trying to get Mark's attention by feigning some sort of dreaded disease.
"Alfie wants to talk to you."
Her younger son prattled away, they were eating delicious BBQs most evenings, Kim and Matthew were meant to be visiting a casino tonight, but Kim didn't feel up to it, blah blah.
Surprise surprise , daddy wanted to ask her something. Put him on she said.
"Mel, everything alright?"
How awkward her husband's voiced sounded. This man whom she shared children with, whom she'd loved so much, this man who knew every intimate detail of her body and had transported her to ecstasy and back again, now sounded as sensual as the plumber calling up with a quote for her boiler.

"We're thinking of staying an extra week would that be a problem, thing is Kim's dad's got some cowboy builders working on the chateau and Kim wants to keep an eye on them. Kim says it's absolutely divine, 11th century, apparently De Gaulle slept there, very interesting for the boys."
Oh yes, she thought, if it ain't got satellite TV and a Playstation they'll be bored shitless.
"Yeah, sure , what's a week."
"Great, and how are you, taking it easy?"
"Not especially," said Melanie, "I'm off out tonight, going to a contemporary art installation in a cemetery in East London."

"You're joking, who with?"
"Oh just some friends of mine, a crowd of us - you wouldn't know them , they're much younger than you and I."
He sounded bemused, "Well have a good time and I'll keep in touch."
"How's Kim, I hear she's poorly, not up the duff is she?"

"What, don't be bloody ridiculous, Christ! Kim's fine, on the mend."

Well well, methinks the lady doth protest and all that crap.
They said their good-byes and Melanie felt quite excited at the prospect of going out, now she'd said she was going to do it, she damn well was.

When she'd finished dressing she checked her reflection in the mirror, all done. Black linen Capri pants and a tight red t-shirt top with the Playboy bunny logo emblazed in black. She threw on a little denim jacket for the sake of modesty, it was old and not quite as fashionable as the ones most women wore these days, but it did the trick.
Instead of her usual slip on trainers she opted for a pair of black low heeled sandals.
Don't know why I'm making any effort, it's not like a date.
But in some ways it was a date, a date with her old self. Single, free spirited, happy go lucky Melanie. A woman she hadn't been in touch with for quite a few years now, what the hell, she sipped her chilled white wine. Let's go.

It was still quite light when Melanie arrived at the cemetery gates. There were already several people there, mostly a fair bit younger that her, all very fashionably dressed in a thrown together, I'm so young I can wear anything sort of way. She spotted Elise at once. She sat resting on her haunches near a grave with a fading photograph of a black veiled Greek woman nailed to the headstone. Elise was engrossed in a book of French poetry and smoking a Marlboro light.
Mel made her way over to her.
"Hi, I'm here."
Elise smiled and put her book into her backpack.
"Great? Cigarette?"
"No, just gave up." she fibbed, "Right, let's go in."

They all formed a respectful queue and followed the path down deep into the graveyard. Mel tried not to look at the graves as they passed but she couldn't help it.

Here lies Martha Percy, wife to John, died 1841.
Also Mary Percy - infant 1827
George Percy - infant 1829
Charlotte Percy - infant 1831
David Percy - aged 13, 1840
John Percy husband and father of the above , 1872.

Blimey what rotten luck, what a hell of a life, or on the other hand quite lucky, he outlived the lot. So how did he spend his last widowed thirty years? Didn't remarry or if he did, she outlived him and made no provision to be buried anywhere near him. Did he imagine, some 150 years later, strangers would stand by his graveside, gawping and pondering his life? This is not a place to bring children, what was my mother thinking of? Letting me dance on graves, no wonder I'm so fucked up.

"Ssh, this is it." whispered Elise.
It was darker than it should be for this time of day, the trees in the graveyard having stolen the sun light. Mel was aware of being watched, she slowly looked skyward , her eyes meeting a statue on a plinth. It was an old man, a saint perhaps, he wore a long off white robe and seemed to be perusing the stone pages of a great tome. Suddenly very subtly the man moved, the crowd gasped and the sonorous chords of a cello strummed, adding to the eerie atmosphere.

They walked on, gravel grinding underfoot.
Then there was something else, the unmistakable euphony of small children laughing, footsteps running, skipping, playing amongst the dead. The shrill and splendid voice of a soprano filled the air and as they walked on they came face to face with another statue. This time a young woman, dressed in floaty chiffon robes, a lost sylph, darting about every so often, then quickly reclaiming her perfect pose.
Melanie noticed a light flickering amidst the trees, a screen had been rigged up somehow between the branches and a black and white film projected images of a man apparently sleeping, or is he dead, he doesn't move but the curtains at the window of his room occasionally waft to and fro, oh look, his chest is gently rising, yes he's alive. The film ran on a loop over and over while the man dreamed on, then lay quite still, so still, until his chest stopped moving, nothing happened at all and just when you thought it was all over for him and he'd gone peacefully to meet his maker , he'd shudder back to life and breathe deeply once more.

Melanie felt a rush of different emotions, fear, terror , excitement, a desperate urge to laugh out loud. For the first time in weeks she felt happy, she wasn't thinking about Matthew and Kim and the boys and the fact she was a failure both in love and life, she was just Mel, at an installation in a graveyard in Stoke Newington and damn it, if she wasn't going to have one of Elise's Marlboro Lights to prove it.

Afterwards as she stood clutching her polystyrene cup of red wine at the simple soiree held in the old crypt, Melanie felt young again, on the threshold of life. Oscar , the man she recognised as the slumbering star of the home made film stood near her. He was about her age, maybe younger, hard to tell as he leant against the old stone wall, gripping a can of beer and smoking a roll up. He was nodding his head as he conversed with an older man, dressed from head to toe in leather, his outfit screamed, I was once famous in the sixties.
"How do you know him?" she asked Elise.
"Oscar? Through his website mainly. I'd heard about it, he was doing all this amazing stuff on line. So I started emailing him and we hit it off so when he needed people to help out on the installation I didn't hesitate. I've only ever met up with him personally a couple of times, usually at Survivor. It's a club in East London, really cool, you should come down one night."
Oh God, suddenly Melanie felt about 100, she was as much in touch with this new modern world as any one of the dozens of rotted corpses on either side of her, all of them perished well before the twentieth century. Oscar strolled over and kissed Elise on both cheeks.

"Hey Oscar, wicked, really, just loved it." pronounced Elise.
Oscar nodded and fidgeted with his scrappy beard.
"Cheers, yeah it came together, thanks for all your work."
His pale blue eyes settled on Melanie, Elise noticed.

"Oh, how remiss of me, Oscar this is Mrs Chase.....or do we call you Melanie?" Elise shrugged and lifted her palms skyward, in a rather melodramatic gesture for such a simple query.

"Melanie, please I am in the process of a divorce." she added clumsily, aware this was the very first time she'd uttered the inevitable out loud.
Oscar nodded again, slower this time, if that was possible for anyone other than a trained mime artist.
Elise lit another cigarette, juggling her bag, book , bottle of beer and still managing to look cool.
"Melanie used to be my Art teacher, she's OK."

"I can see that," said Oscar, "So are you still teaching?"

"Oh yeah," Melanie felt nervous, she hadn't done the small talk thing for years now. "It's the holidays and...well...I had an accident." she lifted up her plastered wrist to display.

"Rollerblading," sneered Elise, with as much disdain as she could muster.
Melanie put an end to the topic before it began.
"Please, don't ask."

"Thanks for coming," said Oscar, reaching out to shake her other hand. " A few of us are going for a drink, do you fancy it?"

Without even running it by her sub conscious, Melanie declined.
"No, sorry can't, have to be up early, you know, things."
God could she sound anymore like her 12 year old self if she tried. The fact was, she did want to go out for a drink with him, all of them but she didn't think she could face it. The questions, the small talk, what were her plans, where did she live, why didn't she just go back to Australia, what the hell was she doing over here in the first place? No, nightmare! This would all keep until she was feeling stronger. Besides, Elise said she was tired so the two women said their farewells and set off down the High St.

"I'll hop on a bus in Green Lanes, takes me almost to the door."

"Do you live with your family?" asked Mel.

"Just my mum and my brother, my dad walked out years ago."
"Oh, I see."
They walked on quietly, just the click clack of Melanie's sandals and now and then click, clack, cluck, thud...when the interval between wearing comfy walking shoes and stylish heels was just too big a gap to maintain without injury.

"Damn! Bloody shoes!"

"What about you? Have you got loads of family back home in Australia?"

Melanie shook her head, she was so used to this question, her response was always at the ready.

"Nope, just an aunt, I'm an only child, I mean I was, when I was a kid."
"Really, no brothers and sisters, sounds brilliant, bet you got up to all sorts and you were spoilt rotten."

"Oh no, we were dirt poor, and I was the dullest little girl, absolutely nothing going on at all."

"I don't believe that, you were probably just quiet."

"Yeah, I was, my mother always used to say that I hid my light under a bushel."

Elise pulled a sceptical face. "What does that mean?"

"Oh rubbish really, like everything she said."

Elise honed in.

"You didn't get on with your mother did you?"

"Oh yeah, she was alright, a bit suffocating that's all, we spent a lot of time together, I used to dance um, I went to ballet school and she was....um...quite involved."

"Really? Oh God, how totally naff."

They'd were at the bus stop now, and as usual there wasn't a bus in sight.
Elise continued, "I've got a cousin whose into ballet big time. She's really good, goes to the Royal ballet school, she's a bit of a freak though and way too thin, I mean she makes me look like a suma wrestler."

"I didn't take it too seriously, it was more my mothers idea, just because I used to prance about the kitchen twirling my petticoats and shrieking, I want to be a ballerina, she took that as a sign that was supremely talented and the next Pavlova, not that she knew anything about it. I used to dance with an amateur dramatic company, we did musicals."

Elise's lip curled and her eyes narrowed.
"Am Dram, oh please, that is just so....French and Saunders."
The bus pulled up, followed by another two and Elise jumped on.
"Bye, see you around."
And she was gone.

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 13:18 on 02 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie,
This one was really good. Just the right amount of digression and not introducing too many faces from the past but in fact using the ones already introduced. I’m really getting into all the threads: Is Kim preggers? Will Mel see Oscar again? Will she have a fling with him? Will she re-find her creative self and do her own expo which will make hubbo realise he made a big mistake and come crawling back with his dick between his legs. Or alternatively is Kim dying of cancer? Or maybe Melanie will unlock her lesbian self and have a fling with Elsie? And what about that body that they found in Brian’s back garden and where did the Chinese baby come from?
Have I covered all the important points?

"I've got a cousin whose into ballet big time. Shouldn’t it be who’s = who is ?

I definitely think this modern day narrative should come in earlier and the Rose Lane bit significantly reduced (sorry!)or spaced out more.
Waiting for the next one…


Oh or what about if it's the two boys who are trying to poison Kim? Maybe they're a bit old for that...
Just a thought - if Kim really IS pregnant, it might be better not to say it in the telephone conversation and stick with the attention seeking line.

Jubbly at 18:41 on 02 January 2004  Report this post
Wow Elspeth, spot on mostly. The kim/pregnancy issue comes up later so I won't spoil the surprise. Nice idea about the boys trying to poison her though. Yes as soon as I can sort out the broken wrist problem, Mel definitely gets off with Oscar. Thanks again for all your help, I'm eagerly awaiting Tim Darwin's comments as I rely on you two, but if he's busy I'll put Ch12 up in a couple of days, there are 30 completed chapters. Phew.

love Julie

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