The Morton Bay Fig tree sat among a large grove in Albert Park, roots rising out of the ground like prehistoric creatures. The juvenile roots hung from above like clutching seaweed looking for somewhere to anchor.
Angelica believed that shadows danced in this grove among the huge rising roots and inside the hollowed trunks. Not real fairies, she was always quick to say, but the hollowed out trees looked as though they could be home to the special beings who touch people’s souls.
The university was across the road and students’ laughter drifted across from the quad.
Angelica ran her hand through her long brown hair that curled away from her wide forehead and she leaned back against a rising corrugated root and closed her eyes.
The sound of the bunched leaves brushing against each other washed over her.
She had just graduated with an anthropology degree, had no job and, as if the world conspired to bring everything to a head at once, her partner of five years had walked out on her. She was without a future in every sense.
Every storm settles.
The voice sounded as if the speaker sat beside her. Mystified, she looked around.
An aged man with an unkempt long beard and weathered skin sat on the dusty ground inside the Morton Bay Fig tree surrounded by its woody, tawny trunk. She stared at him. His wild grey hair sprouted out of his head and his blue eyes were unforgettably clear. She had never seen eyes like them. It was impossible not to stare. His smile revealed discoloured teeth and if it was not for those eyes she would have recoiled from him. Instead, she felt as if he was reeling her in to him, closing an invisible cocoon around them both.
He sat on his folded legs and if he held his knobbly hands in a prayer he could have been mistaken for a mystic. Instead, he enclosed one fist with his other hand and held his head slightly at a deferential angle, making her feel calm. With a fluid movement, which belied his apparent age, he unfolded his tanned, thin legs and stood, barefoot, with khaki baggy knee-length trousers.
Now his head was almost level with hers and she could see that if he stepped out of his wooden cave he would be a similar height to her.
“I’ve seen you here every day and it seems to me you are very troubled.”
She thoughtfully examined him, wondering if she should trust him. She decided she should. She had nothing to lose.
“My world is falling apart,” she simply admitted.
He stepped out of what appeared to be his home and sat beside her. She expected the smell of unwashed clothes and body to assault her. Instead, he smelt of sweet pine.
A hesitant smile touched her lips.
Sometimes it takes a storm to guide us to our destination.
Writing order: Leif Rennes (NZ), Linda Alley (Aus), Jasmine Groves (Aus), Hemali Ajmera (India), Suraya Dewing (NZ), Greg Rochlin (Aus), Donna McTavish (NZ), Iliena Bosu (India), Rosemary Wakelin (Aus), Anthony Smits (Samos Island)