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Rose Lane Ch15

by Jubbly 

Posted: 20 January 2004
Word Count: 4851

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

Chapter Fifteen

Melanie's head felt heavy . Her sinuses were so blocked that when she awoke for a brief moment she wondered if her face hadn't turned to stone overnight. A human woman bedding down had become a statue by the morning. Her eyes were puffy and wept without provocation. The intense itchiness surrounding them could only be relieved by frenzied scratching which only made them worse. Eighteen short sneezes in succession were not unusual and left her feeling hot, sweaty and exhausted. Her condition had caught her by surprise, like most things with Melanie, she was always out of Tampax when she needed them, never had a nuerofen to hand when she had a headache or a bottle of Gavascon when her insides were racked with indigestion. Mad dashes to emergency chemists in search of disinfectant and plasters were commonplace when the kids were growing up and falling over with increasing regularity.
"Why the fuck can't you just buy a first aid kit and keep it stocked up?" Matthew would bellow.
"Why the fuck can't you!" Mel would bellow back.
In the end Ben bought one from Boots and stored it pride of place in the centre of the bathroom cabinet. Naturally there were no antihistamines in stock, as she was the only one that ever suffered from this crippling summer disease it was down to her to maintain any necessary remedies and of course, as it was for her, she'd forgotten to do it.
Oh God, I feel miserable, she thought to herself. The reflection of a middle aged, unhappy woman stared back at her, like a stranger in her home, almost unrecognisable as the figure who lived in her minds eye whenever she referred to herself, who was this tired, homely, mass of disarray, bedraggled hair and broken spirit, weary, dull and on the brink of giving up. So familiar, of course, she knew, there in the dressing room mirror was Pattie staring back at her. "I told you so." the ghost of her mother seemed to say. "It all goes so quickly , before you know it you'll be in your forties, then it'll all be over before you know it, and for what?"
Her mother's negative outlook to life had certainly cast a long and well travelled shadow.
Before she had time to sink into a spiralling depression the phone rang.
"Hi, Melanie, it's me." the resonant voice lingered down the line.
"Um...Oscar, just called to say hi and see if you were up for doing a gig with me."
"A gig?" She heard herself asking before all the other much more important questions, such as 'what about your girlfriend? ' 'what sort of slapper do you think I am?' and 'why are you such an asshole?'
"Yeah, I'm doing another installation in a few months, it's going to be in a disused tube station in York Way. I'm going to screen a film and some circus performers I know are going to experiment with space and air and fire and I thought you might want to set up a canvas somewhere, you know just capture the moment, it'll be cool, then perhaps tour it round the country, I know a geezer with an old bus, we could pick up from where we left off if you like...what do you say?"
Melanie thought long and hard about the offer for a few seconds then responded.
"Who do you think I am Oscar, bloody Rolf Harris!"
"Oh Melanie don't be like that, I know you heard Tanya's message, it's no big deal, I just love women, can't help myself and I think you and I could be good together....for awhile, let's just enjoy ourselves, you know nothing heavy.....

She didn't even slam the phone down dramatically, it just wasn't worth it. Melanie wondered if she'd always attracted liars, moral scoundrels and freaks or whether she just suffered from some disorder rendering her deaf, dumb and blind to the negative side of men. A bit of both she decided and vowed to buy another self help book to overcome this repetitive cycle of self affliction.


Just as Miranda was saying her farewells to Brian and his new young friend Philip and planting a suction pad of a kiss on Brian's moving mouth, she remembered.
'Oh, nearly forgot, new girl at work, a casual, she's on the make up counter, very you know, very pretty. Trina, Tina, Tara, or some name like that, heard her singing, Carly Simon's 'You're so Vain' in the ladies, not a bad little voice, shall I ask her if she'd like to come to a meeting?"
"Mmm, nothing in Sweethearts for her."
He curled his lip and pressed his leg against Philip's thigh.
"No I know, but the next one, come on Bri,... you promised me Mame, and she might make a rather nice Agnes Gooch."
This time it was his turn to tut, tut.
"All totally above board of course, Brian what must you think of me?"
"I think you're wicked and I know I'm right. "
Miranda, laughed a dirty throaty laugh, "Trust me darling, even you might be tempted, night, night."
Once she'd gone Brian and Philip continued their discussion.

"I feel sorry for her husband." spat Philip.
"Oh don't worry about old Geoff, he's as happy as Larry, and we all know how happy Larry can get."
Brian lit a cigarette and waved the waitress over to their table.
"Two more cappuccinos luv,"
"No, I'm fine thanks," Philip said.
"Right, well just the one."
"Can't stay too long Brian, I need to get back."
Philip was Brian's latest conquest, a honey skinned young man of about 19. His hair was dark blonde almost matching his flesh tone. He wasn't handsome in the traditional sense , his chin was a bit too pointy and his cheek bones a touch too feminine. Philip was tall at 6'1" and his pale blue eyes pierced right through you . Brian was besotted, they'd already been seeing each other for two whole months, quite a record for Brian. Philip hailed from the Blue Mountains, he still lived up there with his family. But one Sunday afternoon when Philip was visiting the National Art Gallery solo, he met Brian.
Brian was there with his mother , she enjoyed looking at art, said it relaxed her, calmed her down. Philip was alone, sitting on a bench in front of 'The Flood of the Darling' by W.C Piguenit, circa 1890. Philip was dressed in jeans but wearing a shirt and tie, he had an army khaki back pack with him and sat looking very seriously at the picture. When Brian walked by he gave Philip his usual flirty come on. But Philip seemed oblivious, and there's nothing Brian loves more than a challenge. When his mother excused herself to go to the ladies, Brian approached the pensive young man. After a degree of small talk Philip revealed he was taking a secretarial course in the city , the only boy in his class and often enjoyed walking the city streets alone. Brian wrote down his phone number for him and left with his mother. They'd only been back home an hour when the phone rang.
"Hello, do you remember me? We met at the art gallery, um...I've lost my wallet, it had my return ticket to Blackheath inside, um....could you put me up do you think?"

Just what Brian liked to hear, how simple, so easy. Mary made them Spaghetti and they all shared a fine Italian red wine. Even as Mary made up the spare bed in the guest room, she knew she was wasting her time.
Pretty soon Philip was a regular feature at the Trinder home, Mary liked him, such a nice boy. He helped with the lawn, weeded the garden even mended the loose tile on the roof.
"Oh you're a real find luv, I've been nagging Brian for months to get that seen to."
Brian adored Philip and Philip adored being adored. He was the masculine one, he could drive Mary's old banger and change the tyres, paint the kitchen all those chores you needed a man for, he even helped her unblock the sink. He was tall, lean , muscular, an Adonis of a boy, but in the bedroom where it counted he let Brian take the lead.

Philip still lived in Blackheath with his parents and his sister Dymphna and her new husband, Ian. But as his course was in the city it seemed silly to commute every day, so that's what he told his family. A bloke I met in the city, he's putting me up, they even gave him a few extra dollars to cover the non existent rent, they were none the wiser. For at just 19 years old, he didn't want to be bothering his parents with such sordid details as how much he liked being fucked up the backside or run through the various degrees of pleasure one experiences whilst receiving a blow job from another man. He'd leave those revelations for awhile, break the news at a more appropriate time, like when they were dead.

It wasn't long before Philip was roped into the Rose Lane Musical society - his title, assistant director, no matter he'd never before shown any interest in the theatre. But Brian liked him being there, right at his side, clipboard in hand and ashtray at the ready. Philip even managed to charm Maureen, the producer.
" Delightful boy Brian, can he sing?"
"Oh like a lark darling, but only in the shower."
They laughed, Miranda watched, she wasn't sure about her latest usurper, most of them rarely lasted a few weeks but this one looked like a stayer.
"What do you think of that Philip?" asked Helen excitedly.
Helen was new to the society ballet, she went to boarding school in the eastern suburbs and had special leave to attend Miss Sanderson's city school. When they needed another girl for the latest production, Sweethearts, she was suggested. Melanie liked Helen, she was all of 18 months older than Mel and quite sophisticated.
"Boarding school, Wow!" Mel pictured the dormitories and mid night feasts regularly portrayed in those English comics she read, Bunty, June and School friend, Princess Tina.
Helen seemed so exotic to her, she never stopped to think about the reality for this lonely, odd girl who never once mentioned her mother and father and only referred to her school as 'back there.'
"Philip?" said Melanie, "Brian's friend?"
"Yeah, isn't he spunky, I could really go for him."
"Don't be silly Helen, he must be at least 23."
"He's 19, he told me so."
Really, you've spoken to him?"
"Of course, I asked him for a fag."
"No, wow, did he give you one?"
"No, said I was too young and besides it was very bad for me , he's gorgeous."
"But he's Brian's friend isn't he?" For once Melanie felt more mature than her older mate.
"Yeah so, I'm going to ask him if he wants to go to the pictures with me sometime, see if we go together I can sneak into an 18 movie, maybe the Exorcist or Stone or something." Helen rambled on, she was a pretty girl though slightly plump and her light brown hair was a little bit too curly to be fashionable.

They were rehearsing twice a week and though Mel was old enough to travel into the city on her own her mother still accompanied her most Saturdays.
"Brian and Philip have invited me out for dinner you know?" Pattie sudenly threw this little gem into a conversation, that up to that point had consisted of mundanities and gossip, such as how disgusting it was that her sister Jean had let the old house go to rack and ruin since her mother passed away.

Poor old Nanna had succumbed to her terrible cancer just ten months earlier, Mel's first death and what a sad and miserable one it was.
Nanna grew sentimental in her old age, she sent Melanie little notes every week, in spindly, faint hand writing. Loops and figures conspiring to make words but in reality missing the point most of the time.
' Hello dear how are you,'
Even a set of hand crocheted baby clothes, with the message, 'Keep these for when you need them I don't suppose I'll be around.' arrived one morning.
The old Nanna had almost disappeared the tiny but severe woman who took Melanie to see Bambi and when his poor wounded mother lay dying in the forest, pronounced at the top of her voice, "They stink in real life, reindeers, filthy creatures with ticks ."
Her letters were sprinkled with references to lovely children in the street and sick birds that she fed each morning. Once, she enclosed a photo of the very young Pattie and Jean and herself walking hand in hand down Pitt Street, they'd been snapped by a street photographer, Pattie looked astonished, Jean looked fed up and Nanna, well , typically cross. No doubt moments after it was taken she whacked him over the head with her umbrella.
Once Nanna came to visit Pattie and family in Engadine by herself, it was Melanie's birthday and Jean was on holiday in Surfers Paradise with a male fried Nanna didn't approve of. Pattie told Nanna she'd send Sid over to pick her up, but Nanna said ,
"No, I'm not going all that way in a car with a man. "
"But Mummy, Sid's not a man, he's my husband, you're perfectly safe."
" I know," she replied," but I've got nothing to talk to him about , never have, we'd bore each other rigid, I'm getting the train."

One Christmas Nanna gave Melanie a music box, when it opened it revealed a ballerina doll, resplendent in pink tutu, twirling and twirling to the tune of 'Always'.
"What's that tune?" asked Pattie.
"It's Always, I loved that, " said Nanna.
And as the melody began, Nanna swayed from foot to foot, singing, "I'll be loving you always, dum, de dum di dum, always."

She soon stopped when she noticed people were listening to her, but just for a brief moment Melanie saw a new Nanna, the ghost of the girl who'd once danced to Always, not Nanna but Pearl Hargrave, her head resting on her World War One soldier's shoulder, her hero Bernie Rutledge. A long pleated gown flounced about her ankles. A girl who was quite simply lost in the romance of the music and the all the possibilities the future might hold for them. But she didn't stay for long, almost immediately Nanna stopped humming, cleared her throat and said.
"Are you sure you don't want to go Melanie, you should while your here, make a change from having to use that filthy outside toilet you've got at home, dreadful in this day and age, don't know why your father doesn't do something about it."
She certainly had a point there.
The nicest thing about staying at Nanna's was the indoor toilet, not so much the fact that it was indoors but that it flushed. The North Shore had sewerage, a luxury and a necessity. How little, Melanie yearned for the modern world in Engadine, of course some of the newer homes were well equipped but not hers. She had to trudge some ten yards from the back door to the dilapidated dunny, the hell hole she dubbed it. And if you were of a delicate spirit such as Melanie, an excursion to the lavatory was the stuff nightmares are made of, Aracnaphobia is the only word that describes the trip. The journey to the outside toilet was terrifying enough on it's own but when you got there the real fear began.
Melanie would sometimes imagine herself on screen accompanied by a suitable soundtrack, the high pitched ululation's from Hitchcock's Psycho, perhaps. With a tremulous hand on the door, the torch giving safe access - the light bulb already shining thanks to Sid's electrical ingenuity so the dreaded creatures had plenty of forewarning giving them time to prepare their attack. She gently open the door, eyes darting on lookout. Up, down, left, right, we're in - watch out! Look behind you, careful, up , down, left, right, coast is clear - lift the seat up! Oh God, oh no, this is it. Easy does it, no noise, if they are here do not do anything that might stir them from their slumber. Safe, this time I'm safe, now turn around, you can do it. More often than not, you'd complete your spot check successfully, only to spy one of the little buggers just as you were leaving, it'd be spread eagle, just inches from the door handle, you knew it wasn't there before, so where was it, hiding, that means watching you, the pervert, waiting for you, you had to make a dash for it, get out, get back inside, go! go! Then endure the weekly humiliation of having the Dunnyman coming to empty the tin lavatory receptacle, what sort of hell of job was that? No one would ever plan such a career for themselves. Something had gone very wrong in the great world of Karma for the Dunnymen. And as if too embarrassed lest a former school friend spy them in their place of work, the unfortunate bloke would sprint across the yard, back through to front with the evil, stinking bin wedged between shoulder and neck.
Plop, plop, squelch, they were too quick. Nothing ever prepared Melanie for the sight of those sad and reeking turds left behind on the grass, after there awesome bid for freedom .

Sid and Melanie met Nanna at the station. A frail little bird of a lady . She rocked from foot to foot on the platform, confused and hot. Her pink birds nest hat perched high on her head, secured by a large pearl hat pin. She wore a floral dress, with a white cardigan draped over her shoulders and when she bent over to pick up her bag, you could see her nylon stocking tops trying to meet up with her long old lady bloomers. Her tiny feet were swollen and misshapen, the bulging bunions visible through her threadbare white leather slip on shoes. She pressed a lace hankie to her face, to mop up the perspiration and peered through her thick lensed glasses, our figures just a blur to her these days. On the way back, she rabbited on about the journey, a bus to the station, and all the stairs, how that escalator at Wynyard is so long these days, then another train to Sutherland, then a long wait at the station and a further small country train to Engadine and blah, blah, blah until Melanie and Sid discovered selective deafness, thank the Lord.
Sid had offered to come and get her at nearby Sutherland, but no that wouldn't do, if they had a station at Engadine then she was going to get the train all the way there.Melanie nearly told her there was also a bus from the station that stopped directly opposite their house so if she truly wanted to show pioneer spirit she could wait for that, but bit her tongue for fear that she might try and return by such a martyrs route and Melanie would be left feeling guilty.
It was a solemn affair, they all managed to keep in tune for 'Happy Birthday' and make small talk as they nibbled at slices of home made sponge sandwich, courtesy of Pattie, an exercise that should not be repeated. Nanna kept shaking her head, over and over, finally she said.
"What a long way to come for a bit of cake."

"What do you mean dinner?" Melanie was incredulous.
"What do you think I mean? Sitting in a restaurant and eating food of course, he suggested The Spaghetti Factory at the Rocks, supposed to be nice if you like that sort of thing, though pasta is terribly fattening, that's why Jean's the size of a house all that spaghetti bolognaise she cooks up every night, not enough fruit and salad that's her problem, not to mention all that red wine she pours down her throat, ergh gives me a headache just thinking about it."

"Mum, since when have you and Brian Trinder been friends?"
Pattie chewed on her PK gum and rolled her eyes.
"We've always got on, you know to say hello to and that, but the other day I was in the milkbar downstairs , you know the one with that nice Italian guy behind the counter, well I was just getting a few cans of Tab for you because Miss Lorraine said you girls would all be much better off drinking Tab instead of that awful sugary fattening coca cola when Brian came in to get a packet of cigarettes, and a take away coffee . "
Pattie carefully took the used gum out of her mouth, wrapped it in a tissue and popped it in a brown paper bag inside her hand bag.

"Well we got chatting and I was telling him about Nanna, you know passing away and he said his mother wasn't well and we got talking about death and mothers and then he invited me for dinner, what's so unusual?"
And so Pattie and Brian began a very unlikely friendship, they only socialised a few times, dinner, drinks at the Century bar in George St, even a night out at Les Girls, which culminated in Pattie getting a cab back to Jeans way past midnight, causing Jean to lament for many years to come, "Don't know what you're thinking of at your age, gallivanting around the Cross with a load of queers, what about Melanie what's she going to think?"

But the relationship didn't last that long, Pattie grew chummy with one of the senior male chorus members, Richard Pugh, another lonely bachelor whose mother had passed away.
"He's not very sincere is Brian, a bit of a show off really, look at that Philip."
"What do you mean?" asked the clueless Pattie.
Richard narrowed his brow and made a camp gesture of checking over his shoulder to see if anyone was listening, pointless, considering they were the only two people in the room.

"He's so good looking - bit of a trophy really."
Pattie nodded in agreement. "What do you mean?" she still asked.

"Well if Philip was a fat old poof with receding hair and just under 5'9'' do you think Brian would still go for him, mmm?" he raised his eyebrows . "Do you? Really?"
"No " said Pattie, "I don't suppose he would." Pattie was embarrassed, on two counts, she felt she was being disloyal to Brian and she suddenly realised Richard had just accurately described himself.
"Besides, " continued Richard or rather Judas. "I've heard on the grapevine the lovely Philip has a very serious girlfriend back home."
Pattie was now truly surprised, her hand flew to her mouth.
"A girlfriend, but how can he?"
Richard tapped the side of his nose with his forefinger, "Apparently there's more to our Philip than meets the eye."
"Does Brian know?" she asked.
"Oh yes, " said the treacherous Richard, "Who do you think told me."

On the other side of town, in Cahills cafeteria, a very different conversation was occurring.
Miranda Allerton was having a girlie tete a' tete with her new work colleague, Tara Medway - Browne.
"Have you thought of a formal career as a model Tara?" Miranda asked her young companion as they drank their coffee , her eyes focusing on the slice of cheesecake, Tara was about to wolf down. Naturally Miranda didn't indulge in any pastries. She'd been on a diet for as long as anyone could remember 'not for me,' 'just the teeniest piece,' 'no salad dressing,' these were her mantras, just like Pattie, though it didn't seem to make any difference, Miranda loved food and she loved cooking so unlike the petite Pattie, Miranda stayed a size 16.

In those early lean years, back in London when Miranda mixed with the wrong crowd and was known to everyone as Maggie, she was a lanky strip of nothing.
"You need to get a bit of weight on you girl," complained one suitor who dined with her regularly. "I like a woman I can grab hold of," and as her means of survival relied heavily on what men liked - she tried to put on that extra meat but to no avail, not until she married and settled down, then her body seemed to relax and say "Ahh! I can stop trying now, watch me grow!"

Tara on the other hand was divine, a size 8 - 10, perfectly proportioned breasts, just the right height to command authority and still appear feminine and the loveliest of faces, a raven haired angel. What Miranda didn't know was that Tara had developed a very handy eating disorder, just about everything that went into her tummy, came right back up again when she was alone in the loo, no one the wiser.

"Yeah," replied the pleasing Tara, throwing her head back in a classic model pose. "I did a two week beauty course at June Dally Watkins last year."
"Really?" Miranda remarked.

Aside from being a person, June Dally Watkins was also an exclusive modelling agency and etiquette school run by the great June herself, once a glamorous and elegant model who adorned many covers of the Woman's weekly in her day.
Now more often than not, she was a languid ,swan like creature enveloped in pink chiffon, reclining in an armchair on the catwalk stage of her school, holding forth with her views and opinions.
"Now girls remember it's perfectly acceptable to go out for a delicious three course lunch including the odd glass of wine. But, girls, a word of advice if I may, your evening meal on such a day should be very plain, I for example, would simply have one hard boiled egg, an apple and possibly a glass of fruit juice, that is all and of course an early night."
"I learned how to cross the road like a lady." teased Tara.
"Please do enlighten me."
Tara leapt to her feet, delighting at the opportunity to show off. "First of all, you approach the lights with anticipation, as you see the light turn from green to red and you know you will have to wait before crossing, you slow down and pace yourself, step one, step two, step three step four, and wait. "
Tara took up her pose, weight on her left leg and slowly, purposefully dragged her right leg in toward her left, being very careful to keep her right ankle off the ground at all times, finally coming to a halt, her knees pressed gently together. "If you are holding baggage of any type, make sure your shoulders are relaxed and the load is evenly balanced, like so, then when the light turns back to green you are ready to cross."

Miranda was clearly impressed.

"You could travel the world with your looks my dear girl, Paris, London the Far east, you only live once you know?"
Tara plonked herself back down in her chair, "Yeah maybe, but my boyfriend doesn't really like the idea of me going away."
"Really," said Miranda, lighting a cigarette, "Dump him."
Tara giggled, "No way, sex is too good."

Miranda blushed, oh she liked this girl, perhaps she reminded her of herself, though if she did it was certainly Miranda's memory playing wicked tricks on her, Maggie Clark had never looked as good as Tara Medway- Browne.

Miranda missed the swinging sixties in London, she and her husband emigrated to Oz in 1962 but before her marriage , in the years after the war, she experimented, as they say.

Sometimes her wealthy suitors liked to entertain more than one lady and after the first time and the initial embarrassment Miranda found she rather enjoyed the experiences.
Women were softer than men, more sensual, more patient and they made you laugh, never took it too seriously, always remarked on your clothing or shoes or hair, they noticed the small things and thank the lord for that, because most of the men Miranda had slept with in those days were clueless when it came to foreplay.

"Can you sing dear?' Miranda asked her protégé.

"No not really, I can hold a tune, sort of. "
"No matter did you know I'm a member of a very well known musical society?"
"Really," said Tara, too bored to care.
"Why don't you come along, we're always on the lookout for new members."
"Nah not my thing."
"Well come to the next production, I'm playing the lead as usual, I'll get you a ticket no problem, we'll got out for a drink with the gang, you'll love it."

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 14:34 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie,
I'm still with you. I've been thinking about Rose Lane and why it's been rejected and I don't know if this has been suggested to you before but I was wondering if you'd ever considered splitting this novel in two. It seems to me that the Rose Lane experience (and I'm guessing,the one you really want to write about) is the stronger of the two - it could stand alone. The modern day Mel, much as I love her becomes a crutch and I feel I can't get into her story enough because of all the flashbacks. This is just an idea and feel free to tell me to bugger off - it's probably my diminished brain capacity, unable to follow two story lines at the same time but I'd be interested in hearing what other people and especially you, think!!
I don't know how it will end but the suspense and build up of the murder would be enough to stimulate your readers' imaginations and you could breathe a bit more in the Rose Lane parts so that the whole would seem less dense (dense isn't really the right word but I can't find another at the mo.)
Otherwise, I think it is really well written and will certainly keep following.
Happy New Chinese Year (it's the year of the monkey)

Jubbly at 15:29 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Elspeth, interesting thoughts. I do enjoy writing the flashback scenes more,probably because it's like entering a time machine, though the murder is all fiction. To be honest, I think it has been rejected because it just isn't good enough. The whole thing I mean. Just reading an article that says, rejection is a stepping stone to where you want to go. Maybe, however I've stepped on enough stones to build a bloody road. Happy Year of the monkey and it's my birthday tomorrow so I intend to forget about everything and get drunk.



Account Closed at 15:37 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
I read in a screenwriting book that your first attempt at a screenplay is inevitably semi-autobigraphical but that you have to go through with it to clear out your creative pipes! Anyway, you know, if you have any success with Karaoke Queen, Rose Lane will suddenly appear much more interesting to the publishing world. Look at Paolo Cohelo.
Have a good un tomorrow (mine was last week and I get to cook for 7 tonight as a present!!)

Jubbly at 15:41 on 24 January 2004  Report this post
My thoughts exactly, the old second novel in the top drawer syndrome. Have a great night, lucky me can't cook, unless it's fish fingers.

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