My prompt this week on Search Engine Stories is you left me standing in the rain.
Here is my story –
I was born in the country under a River Red Gum. My mother was a painter – landscapes mostly. One day when she was nine months pregnant she stopped under a tree, my tree, to paint the swirling, rolling river full of orange clay – and went into labour.
She gave birth to me, unaided and alone, a wood nymph with mud-stained clothes, wrapping me in the cloth she used to clean her brushes. The oranges, reds and browns she was working with settled in my hair, colouring it with nature’s hues so that I truly resembled a creature of the woodland. She called me Myrtle after the order of the tree –
‘You are my little River Red elf,’ my mother would croon as she painted in the large studio she had at the back of the house where the light fell just right. ‘My little Red Gum beauty.’
My father was a farmer – sheep mostly. Sometimes I would look across the paddocks and see an ocean of white fluff moving like a cloud that had fallen to land. Dad would bring us home a prize fleece which mother would spin into wool to make fancy jumpers for the people in the city.
It got hard when I was around 12. There was drought all over the land. Bad, bad drought that made grown men cry. I know because I saw Dad and Uncle Baz crying over the dead lambs. Over a hundred of them – starved to death because there was no feed for their mothers and their milk dried up. Uncle Baz shot himself one night in the shearing shed. He couldn’t take it anymore.
Dad wasn’t the same after that. He was quiet. He started to sell off all the sheep and the tractors. Mother tried to stop him but he wouldn’t listen. He couldn’t. ‘It’s never going to rain,’ he said. ‘Not now.’
I cried then, trying to catch my tears in the little glass dish mother put out filled with jam when we had company because I thought that tears must be pretty close to what rain looked like. And here I was, 12 years old, and I’d never seen rain.
Now I am 25. My hair is russet. I work in an art gallery where people tell me all day long they would like to paint my hair, to capture the earthy glow of it on canvas.
You told me that when we first met. I was unmoved. It had become such a commonplace remark. But I fell for you anyway.
We were happy for a bit, weren’t we? Walking through dusty city streets saying: ‘What a beautiful day.’
But you wanted to leave. A place in the country, you said. Away from the hustle and bustle. I could not tell you I would never return to the place that turned my Dad into a stranger.
‘I don’t want to go,’ I said. ‘I’m a city girl now.’
You tried to talk me round. It was no use. When you’ve seen what I’ve seen there is no backing down. I shook my head for over a month.
‘So that’s it then,’ you said, releasing me from your grasp. Your fingers didn’t have a single callous. Not like my poor Dad’s.
We were in the park where the lorikeets gathered at twilight. Our favourite place. It began to rain. Drops heavier than tears.
‘I don’t want to leave you like this,’ you said as you handed back my key. ‘Not in the pouring rain.’
‘Just go,’ I said. ‘It’s not as bad as it seems.’
I watched you go, my one true love up till now, as I stood in the rain. The puddles on the road spread like ink. The water gushed and grabbed at my feet. I could see rainbow reflections in car headlights. You had left me standing in the rain but I was unrepentant. For it only ever rains in the city.