Authors: Dianne Blacklock
Dianne Blacklock has two Ns in her name, which, by the way, is the correct spelling. She is a black belt in the ancient art of Pilates, enjoys water crackers, astro-physics, and, when left alone too long, licking spoons.
Dianne lives in the vast enchanted swampland south of Sydney, with her two remaining sons (the other two having finally been drawn to the outside world), a psychopathic kelpie, a gang of disobedient kitchen appliances and a strange, recurring itch on her left knee.
She has found over time that it is agreeable to her to write books about other people of a similar nature to herself, so that's what she does. She presses on some little buttons on a large white machine that the Macintosh clan made for her. Nine months later, a book comes out.
Also by Dianne Blacklock
Wife for Hire
First published 2007 in Macmillan by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Limited
1 Market Street, Sydney
Copyright Â© Dianne Blacklock 2007
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.
National Library of Australia
ISBN 978 1 4050 3792 1.
1. Female friendship â Fiction â I.Title.
Typeset in 12.5/14pt Bembo by Post Pre-press Group
Printed in Australia by McPherson's Printing Group
Papers used by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd are natural, recyclable products made from wood grown in sustainable forests. The manufacturing processes conform to the environmental regulations of the country of origin.
These electronic editions published in 2008 by Pan Macmillan Australia Pty Ltd
1 Market Street, Sydney 2000
The moral right of the author has been asserted.
All rights reserved. This publication (or any part of it) may not be reproduced or transmitted, copied, stored, distributed or otherwise made available by any person or entity (including Google, Amazon or similar organisations), in any form (electronic, digital, optical, mechanical) or by any means (photocopying, recording, scanning or otherwise) without prior written permission from the publisher.
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To my family
Zachary, Patrick, Dane,
Joel and Jeska
This book would not be here, and I do not say that lightly, without the overwhelming support of a few wonderful people who have helped me through a very difficult time. Their love, loyalty and unrelenting encouragement propelled me to the finish line. And so, before I break into a chorus of âWind Beneath My Wings', thank you all from the bottom of my heart:
My brother, Bob Blacklock, sister-in-law, Carolyn,
and their children, Kane, Tahnee, Olivia and Hayley
Desley Hennessey, Robyn Johnson and Lynda Bowden
and the always luscious Lesley McNiven.
And that is not to mention Cate Paterson, brilliant publisher, mentor and friend. If she had doubts she certainly kept them to herself. Her unwavering belief in me inspired me to keep going, and she has given me incredible support on so many levels to get this book published. I can't thank her enough for not giving up on me.
On that note, I am grateful to the entire Pan Macmillan family for standing by me; it has been quite a show of faith. Specifically, thanks to my editor, Kylie Mason, and to my publicist, Jane Novak, who I am confident will once again handle things with her customary grace and good humour.
Very special thanks must go to my remarkable copy-editor, Julia Stiles, whose consummate skill and expertise shaped the book into what it is today. She is sublime, and I am deeply indebted to her.
Finally, heartfelt thanks to my beautiful family: my son, Joel Naoum, and his partner and my friend, the lovely Jeska Allan, for their insightful feedback and valuable input at the draft stage. Even from half a world away, their loving care and concern have been palpable. And thanks to my boys in this hemisphere, Dane, Pat and Zac, for their constant love, support and affection, and for the enormous joy they bring to my life. And thanks for the bio, Daney!
âWhat you say, Mummy?'
Helen looked down at Noah, whose big round eyes were gazing guilelessly back up at her.
âButter,' she lied. âWe have no butter, and no milk either. We'll have to go up the shops later.'
âWe haffa go uppa shops later!'
âMmm.' She peered into the empty carton one last time in the vague hope that even a little milk might materialise through sheer force of will. But no, there was no milk for her first coffee of the day, yet again. Why was she the only one to think ahead? To realise that when you used the last of the milk, a new carton did not magically appear in the fridge? Nor was the empty carton refilled if you put it back in the fridge. Why was she the only grown-up in the house?
Damn David and his damned vagueness. It drove her mad sometimes. How long had she been working nights? David knew she rarely got home before midnight. She wasn't expected to check the milk then, was she? Couldn't he just make sure there was some milk in the fridge so she could have coffee in the morning? No, that would require a little thing called empathy, and David didn't appear to possess much of that particular trait, except when it came to the starving masses in Africa, the plight of the East Timorese or victims of a tsunami, but then, he didn't have to do without coffee first thing to help them out.
Helen stepped on the pedal and the lid of the bin sprang open, but she hesitated, the milk carton poised above it. She let the lid drop, then stepped on the pedal again and like the beak of a baby bird waiting to be fed it sprang open once more. If she wasn't getting her morning coffee, the landfill of the world could suffer one lousy milk carton. She stared down into the bin, sighing as she slipped her foot off the pedal and allowed it to close. Sometimes a conscience was a pain in the proverbial.
She turned on the kitchen tap, careful to tuck the lip of the carton under the spout first. Mustn't waste water either.
Apparently there was a drought, despite the fact that it had rained all week and there was a pile of dirty washing almost as tall as Helen waiting for her in the laundry. She would have to work out what they needed for the next day or two and put a load through the dryer. David frowned when she used the dryer. Helen didn't like to use it either, but sometimes when it had rained for five days solid, with one and a half jobs between them and a small child, drastic measures were required. And if that meant using a little extra coal-burning energy, then so be it. Besides, if she did the load early enough, cleaned out the filter, and put the clothes away in the drawers before David got home, he need never know.
âPhone ringing, Mummy,' Noah announced. Noah had been a quiet child, with a limited repertoire of essential words and phrases that had served him well through his toddler years. But when he'd hit preschool this year he'd discovered conversational skills he hadn't known he possessed. Now he revelled in providing a detailed running commentary of each and every moment of their day, with a special emphasis on the bleeding obvious.
Helen picked up the receiver.
âGood morning, Mrs Chapman!'
Damn. The accent sounded Indian, the tone insistently cheerful.
âWe are not selling anything â'
Of course you are. Why couldn't she just hang up? What did she care if this man thousands of miles away in a call centre in New Delhi thought she was rude? She could hang up and it would make no difference at all. He would simply move on to his next random call, and she could get on with the important task of sorting laundry. Life would go on in a perfectly reasonable manner for all concerned. But Helen could never bring herself to do it; she felt some overwhelming obligation to allow this person his due portion of her time. What that constituted was a little difficult to determine, and Helen frequently found herself trapped inside a never-ending phone call, like Alice after she fell into Wonderland, only not as much fun.
âHow old is your current mobile phone?'
Ha, she didn't own one. A way out.
âOh, but I don't have a mobile phone.'
Wrong answer, she realised too late, as the man launched into his spiel about how he was going to give her a mobile phone. That's right, a gift all the way from India. She'd actually be happy with just a little milk right at the moment.
âSum'n atta door, Mummy,' Noah announced urgently.
âI'm sorry, I have to go, there's someone at the door,' Helen said, promptly hanging up. He'd had his quota, she'd been fair, wasting an appropriate amount of time for the both of them.
Noah stood in the doorway to the hall, arms outstretched, clenching and unclenching his hands. His pyjamas were getting too small for him, as evidenced by the soft little strip of belly gaping through where the top didn't meet the bottoms. She hadn't cleaned him up after breakfast yet, so his face was smudged and his hands were sticky, still clenching and unclenching, waiting for her to pick him up. But how could she resist? Helen scooped him up to perch on her hip as she heard the knock again, a little more insistent this time.
âComing!' Noah parroted.
She noticed David's coffee cup on the arm of the sofa as she passed through the front sitting room, inciting at least three reactions: first, the arm of the sofa was not a coffee table; second, he hadn't put his cup back in the kitchen; and third, and most annoying, he had got a cup of coffee this morning with scant regard for the fact that his wife would have to go without. It wouldn't have even crossed his mind. Was it a man thing or just a David thing?
Helen arrived at the front door and paused, smoothing her hair back. As if that was going to make a difference. She glanced down at her daggy tracksuit. She hadn't slept in it, though it looked as though she had. It was the first thing she pulled on every morning so that she was not actually in her pyjamas for the rest of the day. It was a fairly transparent ruse.
She took a deep breath and opened the door. Two uniformed police officers were standing in front of her: one man, one
woman. Their faces were grim, unsmiling. The woman moved first. She reached for her hat with her right hand, removed it from her head, and tucked it into the crook of her left arm.