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Rose Lane Ch 17

by Jubbly 

Posted: 27 January 2004
Word Count: 2729

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

Chapter Seventeen


Tara arrived at the studio during rehearsals for Gypsy while Miranda was halfway through her big number, 'Everything's coming up Roses'. Tara stood in the doorway watching Miranda perform. This was her diva moment, the bring the house down ditty, Miranda was giving it her all, yet most eyes were on the skinny, sable haired mysterious beauty leaning against the door like the female lead in a thriller. Tara came to the society through Miranda, she was adamant she didn't want to sing, or dance or in anyway be in the production , so she sold programmes in the foyer, helped out backstage, and even worked in the wardrobe department. Miranda liked Tara, they often laughed together, shared jokes , sometimes Tara would sit quietly behind her, combing her hair or massaging her shoulders. The mothers thought it odd, a young girl like that, so pretty, never really talking to them - only eyes for Miranda. Some suggested she was her niece or even her long lost secret daughter. Only Mrs Daley raised her eyebrows and whispered to Pattie.
"They're odd those two, if you know what I mean."
"Oh yes," said Pattie, "we had a few in the army."

One day at rehearsal Melanie found herself alone in the dressing room with Tara Medway - Browne.
The elder of the girls wore a vintage calf length dress, it may well have been a nightie in a former pre-war life but was now a splendid day or night garment, seeming both exquisite and burlesque.
Her very presence made Melanie feel clumsy and large and very, very out of fashion.
I'll just get my stuff and sneak out before she sees me, thought little Melanie, but before she could make her getaway Tara took aim and shot.

"Hi, I'm Tara , what's your name?" Tara asked her, as she painstakingly applied her dark mulberry coloured lipstick.
"Umm, Melanie."

"So, Um Melanie, where do you live?"

"En...Engadine." stammered Melanie.
"Where?" she said as though Mel had started speaking in a entirely different language.
"It's out near the royal National park."
"Oh my God!" Tara pulled a face as if she'd just smelt something vile.
" It must take hours to get here, why do you bother?"
Now Tara was working on her eyes, drawing a thick coating of kajall inside her bottom eyelid, she looked so exotic, Cleopatra like.
Melanie was offended on two counts, it was obvious why she bothered, she cared about the society and had done so for a few years now and a long train trip was certainly worth the trouble. And so what if she came from the suburbs, it was her home and in some ways Mel was very contented there.
"I live in Pymble, hate it, too nice"
When she said the word nice she elongated the ssss sound .
Tara flashed her beguiling grin at Melanie and Mel smiled back.
Tara opened up her little black shoulder bag and took out a packet of Dunhill.
Mel shook her head.
"Good for you, I can't give up - been smoking since I was 12, my sister started me, so what's your name?"

"Melanie....um...or ...Mel." Melanie said, with that peculiar Aussie upward inflection that somehow crept into the parlance during the seventies, making everything any teenager said sound like a question.

"So...Mel...do you have to go straight back home now?" she asked as an after thought.

Melanie was meant to go right back home after rehearsal, now that she was allowed to make the journey into town on her own she promised her mother she wouldn't let her down, but there was no real rush, they weren't doing anything special. Pattie had mentioned having a steak fondue for tea and Sid was going to take one of the old black and white television sets apart in the shed then put it back together again, so no- no real hurry to get home, she thought.

"No, not really , I'm not rushing or anything."
"Right, ok, so how old are you anyway?"

"Fifteen, nearly sixteen.... in a few months."
"Brill, so do you want to get a coffee, or go and look at the shops, I need to get a top for my sisters engagement party, want to help me choose?"

"What abut Miranda?"
"What about her?"
"Aren't you supposed to go home with her."

Tara made a noise under her breath like an interrupted cough and pressed her palm against her chest using her other hand to illustrate her point.
" I'm not supposed to do anything, ok? Right, let's go."she said popping all her makeup aids back into her Mary Poppins like shoulder bag.

" Besides Miranda is going to a little party tonight, Brian's mum's away so he and Philip are having people over." she said as she checked her reflection for the final time. "Aren't you invited?" asked Melanie, still stunned she was actually talking to this fascinating creature.
"Sure, but how dull would that be, Oh wasn't so and so wonderful in blah, blah, did you see such and such in la la- talk about being bored to death."
Melanie felt grown up and different with this girl, Tara was not like the others she'd met at the society and certainly not like anyone at school or at Miss Sanderson's ballet classes. There was something exciting about her, something unique. When she was with Tara she had the feeling her life had really begun, she was there , entering this new adult world that she'd only ever had sneak glimpses of before. Peering around the bedroom door when her mother had girlfriends over. Eavesdropping as they sipped martinis and laughed, lying in bed late at night- muted music and chattering voices, the soundtrack to her parents entertaining. The tinny mono record player encased in a wooden box broadcasting Chubby Checker, Andy Williams and Pattie's beloved Latino Pepe Jamarillo. The only evidence of a soiree to be found the following morning; dozens of tiny indentations in the lino, where the ladies high heels had made there mark while searching for more French onion dip and yet another 'Pattie created cocktail.' And of course that incident involving Brian and Ronnie on the third floor of the rehearsal studios all those years ago.

"That's the one," Tara whispered once they got to the tiny boutique. "The lurex pink and black halter neck , that is so stunning, now you go and ask the sales girl if they've got any wrap around skirts in a size 16. Go on, " she urged.
"For my mother, go on."
The sales girl took Melanie's request as a slur and replied, "No, we only go up to a size 14 and we never sell any of those. " she sneered emphasising the word 'any'.

"Right," said Tara, at her side now, "Let's go, I'm starving, see you." She called to the sales girl and they were out of the shop, once outside , Tara grabbed Melanie by the arm and they ran as fast as they could through the arcade.
"Where are we going,what's the rush?"
"Quick, "said Tara, dragging Mel into the nearest ladies toilet and locking the cubicle behind them, she pulled up her 1930's dress to reveal a T- shirt and out tumbled not only the lurex pink and black halter neck top but two wrap around skirts, a blue waist coat and a white shoulder bag, just like Tara's black one.
"My God, you nicked all that?"
Melanie was dumbfounded, how could so much illicit bounty be successfully concealed under such a scanty slinky dress? Tara was truly magical.
"Yep," said Tara, beaming, "The shoulder bag's for you, like it?"
Tara sat back on the toilet seat and lit a cigarette, "I get such a buzz when I nick stuff, even when I get caught it's so thrilling and I always get away with it."
"They don't call the police?"
"No never, I just always get off, once I said I wasn't feeling well and I sort of slipped into some sort of trance and didn't know that my hand had reached over to the counter and grabbed a load of lipsticks and eyeliners and nail polish and just put them in my bag, I had no idea I was actually stealing anything."
"And they believed you?"
"Oh yeah, I'm a fantastic actress when I want to be, I should be in one of your musical society shows, I'd be brilliant, I can get anyone to believe anything I want, you should try it sometime, it feels amazing, orgasmic."
Mel looked confused.
"You know, " said Tara, "Orgasmic as in having an orgasm, you know, when you're having sex?"
Melanie was so embarrassed she nearly died, ever since the Michael Beeney incident Melanie had put all those thoughts to the back of her mind. At 15 going on sixteen she was very naive. She still got crushes on movie stars like Robert Redford and pop stars like Marc Bolan and she dreamt of them kissing her, holding her, pressing their bodies against her but that's as far as it went. She knew some of the other girls at school got up to things they shouldn't. One or two even got pregnant and had to leave but never Melanie, with Pattie for a mother, that just wasn't an option.
"You've never had an orgasm have you? asked Tara, looking concerned. This time Melanie took a cigarette when it was offered to her and shook her head.
"They're fantastic, so amazing, it makes your body feel all warm and soft and the blood rushes to your head and you feel like you're on a speeding train and you just can't get off it until you've come and then you do and you feel so relaxed and sleepy, you really should give it a try sometime."
"Melanie nodded "Yeah well I probably will one day."
"Are you a virgin?" probed Tara
Melanie nodded, mortified.
"Oh how sweet, don't be ashamed that's really nice, I can't even remember back that far, I'm not a slut or anything I just really like sex, and you don't need to have a boyfriend Melanie, you can do it yourself you know, masturbation, heard of it?"
Melanie nodded, she'd heard all about the boys at school , hiding in the bushes, what they did under their blankets at night, the whole thing disgusted her.
"You should try it Mel, you can do it anywhere anytime, even on that long train journey home to Engadine."
Melanie was truly horrified now.
"I'll teach you how to do it someday, I've got loads of books on the subject."
Melanie coughed and put her cigarette out on the floor.
"Have you got a boyfriend?" Melanie asked her.

"I'm going round with a guy called Dave, he's alright, he's got a car and he loves ...you know.....cunnilingus."
Melanie looked confused.
"You know..... eating me out."
"Really? You've done that?"
"Yeah, it's fun, Dave says he could do it for hours, I'm like , ergh, how can you do that, that's disgusting, but he says he loves me and that's part of me and if he could - he'd eat me all up."
"Um...Tara, how old are you?"
Tara shot her a look that suggested she was offended.
"Who cares?"
"I don't care, I mean I'm only asking"
Tara shrugged, 19, 20 , 18, 29, " she laughed "Any age you want me to be, Miranda likes me to be 17 says I remind her of herself when she was younger, ergh, " she put two fingers to her mouth and made a gagging gesture.

"Are you and Miranda.....Melanie scarcely knew how to finish the sentence?" asked Melanie.
"What, oh come on ." Tara threw back her head and roared.
"Ergh, you don't really think I'd go for her do you? Eh, is that what you and all your fussy little ballerina friends think ? That me and Miranda are on together?"
Mel blushed.
"No way" Tara shook her head, still reeling from the prospect, "Oh she'd like it if we were the old lezzo."
"But she's married."
"So, she likes it both ways, she told me, not a bad idea double your chances of getting fucked, loads of people are bi these days Melanie, it's a seventies thing, the sixties were all about the pill and getting laid and now we're into gender experimenting, mind you Anais Nin was doing it way back in the twenties."
"Was she?" Melanie asked, desperate to give the impression she was no stranger to Anais Nin .

"Sometimes I do Miranda's hair and give her a foot rub and if I'm in a good mood I massage her shoulders but that's it and she knows that's all she's getting. "
They heard the door open and voices on the other side.
"Come on," whispered Tara, "let's get that coffee."

Melanie's computer announced the arrival of a virtual flower presentation.
Hello, Jean has sent you some virtual flowers, to view them click on this link.
Cheesy music wafted through the small but adequate speakers, but no flowers appeared, just a dog with droopy ears and big brown mellow eyes and a lolloping tongued barely able to fit inside it's mouth. After the delights of this virtual gift, an email appeared.

Dear Melanie,
Sat 2.30pm just got back from a place called Waterfall Springs Sanctuary . A man who is passionate about saving endangered wallabies has this beautiful place out at Kulnura. Will tell you more about it another time. My news, had some skin cancers frozen off face arm and hand what a relief to find a good dermatologist as mine died a couple of years back and have neglected my skin since. Now have 4 Eva Cassidy CDs she is just great, wish she was still alive. Believe she is top of the charts in UK according to the ABC. They showed her in a brief bit singing apparently it is about the only one of its kind. I did remember your father on 29th and was going to light a candle but got bogged down that day what with seeing the skin doc and other chores but will try to light one tomorrow Sun 1st of spring here. It will be 30 yrs since Nanna died on 23 Nov. Hard to believe. Also my vw will be 30 this Oct. well after those bits don't think I have any more for now. Look forward to your next communication. Love always, Jean
Jedda's got terrible diarrhoea , I never stop cleaning up, it really is very depressing, poor old thing, know how she feels.

Melanie sat in the garden enjoying the late summer heat along with a glass of white wine. But for the absence of an Antipodean wild life soundtrack she could be back home, instead of reading the paper she flicked through her old diary, at least she knew what she was reading would be the truth.

October, 1974.

Dear Diary,
I finally got talking to Tara Medway - Browne today, she's really nice not up her self at all. I think she's about 19!!!!! Wow, and she wants to be my friend. We went for coffee and everything. She's got a boyfriend and they have sex all the time. She gave me some perfume, one of those neat little cologne spray bottles you keep in the fridge to cool you down and she gave me one of her fags and the most fantastic shoulder bag, I have to hide it from Mum, because it looks expensive and I don't want her to know how Tara got it. She flogged it, really!!! From a shop at Centrepoint, incredible.!!!
I know I swore I'd never smoke again after the last time when I threw up for a week but that was ages ago and this time I really enjoyed it and didn't feel sick or anything. Though I did get a bit dizzy. Tara smokes Dunhill all the time, she says she's a chain smoker, she is so cool.

Melanie closed the ancient book and pulled the sheets around her, so she was responsible for Melanie's on off affair with cigarettes as well, just what else was this girl accountable for?

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Comments by other Members

Account Closed at 21:44 on 27 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie,
I like the way the last chapter leads into this one although I would have thought she’d remember Tara as she seemed to have a strong influence on Mel.
The elder of the girls= confused me a bit – couldn’t you just say her name?

with that peculiar Aussie upward inflection that somehow crept into the parlance during the seventies, making everything any teenager said sound like a question. = This seems to come from nowhere. I know exactly what you mean but it breaks up the dialogue, maybe just put a question mark after the name.

Let's go, I'm starving, see you." She called to the sales girl = Punctuation?

She flogged it,= is this an Australianism for steal? I’d say nicked it, flog for me is sell.

Poor Jean and her wilting entourage!!

Flowing nicely
Bonne nuit

JohnK at 23:32 on 27 January 2004  Report this post
Julie -
May I put my comments here, while I catch up as quickly as I can? Here goes.

I see chapter five as describing backgrounds and experiences, setting the scenes, building the main character, painting in the details of a strong, romantic person whose defence mechanism is to deny the existence of unpleasant happenings, and to minimise their impact. She is capable and determined, fairly cynical and with a sense of humour that is priceless.

In chapter six the stage mother is finely portrayed, and I loved the 'bit of business' Melanie invents with the flowers. Just the kind of incident that leaves a deep impression on those involved. (I've acted in rep, and the personalities you describe were present in Melbourne and Canberra, for sure.)
The whole chapter is a delight to read. I liked the cynical quote from Dali, followed by a passing reference to sitting and reading a book on Dali. I'm guessing this is real life rounding out a fictional moment. What an inspired line is the one one about the thrills in a life are 'not really worth the wait'!

By the way, in the same chapter, 'She tried to be more their friend than authority figure,' could be 'more of a friend than an authority figure.' What do you think?

That's a really great, poignant line: "It doesn't matter now."

I can see what Tim is getting at, and Elspeth. They both seem to me to worry over the welter of detail in all directions, and yet, like me, they love the detail. I just hope you haven't culled it at all. What could help, perhaps, is reverting to the here and now regularly. What I mean is to tie each incident with the main theme. For example, 'That incident in her life definitely coloured Melanie's take on ---, and made her ---.' Or, 'Looking back on that, Melanie realised that this --- was not so earth-shattering after all. She decided ---'.

That's what I would do. It would remind a casual reader what the main theme is, and how this relates to it. On the other hand, if that doesn't work, I'd leave it all in, because it is very, very good.

I can see this crit growing inordinately long, so I'll send it now, before I continue reading and keeping notes as I go along. Hope it helps.


JohnK at 23:33 on 27 January 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie -
Still catching up!

In chapters 7 and 8, I appreciated 'to break away from each other , like a ripped perforated paper edge' very much. You have a sure touch - a turn of phrase that makes a perfect simile. I can see the reaction to the interruption clearly, and I probably will whenever I see paper being torn along a dotted line.

Another great feature of your epic is the classic situations you examine and reveal so neatly - such as the madness of overcleanliness and the extremities of a mother and son relationship. Melanie has the benefit of wide experience, and the letters and emails from Aunt Jean are excellent. Support and friendship from afar.

Again I think it best to send my appreciation in short comments, so here's my second one, along with my thanks for letting us all read it. I'm still reading...

All the best, JohnK.

Jubbly at 07:02 on 28 January 2004  Report this post
Thanks so much JohnK, it really does help me to get feedback and I'm thrilled you're reading it secretly. The real Aunt Jean is lurking and reading too all the way from NSW.

Kind thoughts


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