At fifteen Elizabeth felt as tired as an old woman. All she wanted was to escape.
Regardless of how often she told her father this, he appeared unable or unwilling to change anything.
As the eldest daughter it fell upon her to rise from her bed at four am and join her father herding the cows into the shed. Her boots kicked up dust in the shadowed morning light and a lightening sky heralded the rising sun which had not yet appeared above the horizon. The absence of light was of no concern. She had trudged the path for many years.
In the shed her father threw the switch and light flooded the cowshed. The cows’ hooves beat on the hard earth and their heavy breathing broke through the stillness. A flickering fantail darted ahead of her, its wing fanning the cows before darting away.
A cow’s swishing tail caught her across the face. She flung it away. The cow jumped when the tail hit her full udder.
Feeling a quick stab of remorse, Elizabeth patted the cow and mumbled, ‘Sorry Myrtle.’
The cow leaned into Elizabeth and she gave her another quick rub before running ahead. She picked up two clattering metal buckets and half-filled them with boiling water. The rising steam left misty dewdrops on her hands as she carried them from the machine room to the bails. After topping the buckets up with cold water she set them down near the bails for washing the cow’s teats.
Her father turned on the machines and she began putting the cups on the cows.
‘I’ve got someone coming in to help you out,’ her father shouted.
‘Good,’ she muttered.
Her father blinked back tears. Elizabeth’s life was not what he had imagined when he proudly held her as a baby.
The sun washed the countryside in bright light as she hosed down the concrete race.
‘You better get going,’ he told her.
As she ran to the house nestled in the valley her gumboots thumped into the hard ground. There was just enough time to feed the chickens, get breakfast for her brother and herself, wash and run to the gate to catch the lumbering school bus.
Don appeared at the cowshed during the weekend. His worldly air enslaved Elizabeth’s heart. As she desperately tried to tidy her wild red curls her fingers caught in the knots. A smile caught the corners of his mouth and found its way into his clear blue eyes.
During a break she found out where his sophistication came from – Auckland, New Zealand’s biggest city.
They were sitting on overturned buckets drinking tea.
‘Auckland’s the place to be. Night clubs, fun and money….’ He drawled.‘It’s also the place of peace. My friends and I have a house…..we serve our guru….we allow only the chosen to come.’
He held up two fingers, a secret sign.
A week later she was traveling to Don’s nirvana….
Suraya Dewing (NZ)
Order of writers
Bruce Howat, Lrennes, PriyasS, Suraya Dewing, Raymond Stone, Emily Palk, Iliena Bosu, Debbie, Kalli Deschamps, AzadehN