Authors: Judith Clarke
JUDITH CLARKE was born in Sydney and educated at the University of New South Wales and the Australian National University in Canberra. She has worked as a teacher and librarian, and in adult education in Victoria and New South Wales.
Judith’s novels include the popular
Friend of My Heart
, which was shortlisted in the 1995 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Awards;
, Honour Book in the 1999 CBCA Book of the Year Awards; and
Wolf on the Fold
, Winner of the 2001 CBCA Book of the Year Award for older readers.
was an Honor book in the 2005 Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards for Excellence in Children’s Literature in the Fiction and Poetry category.
Judith’s books have been published in the United States and Europe to high acclaim.
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Judith Clarke would like to thank the Literature Board of the Australia Council for the New Work Grant that covered the period during which
One Whole and Perfect Day
First published in 2006
Copyright © Judith Clarke
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The
Australian Copyright Act
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or ten per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.
National Library of Australia
Clarke, Judith, 1943– .
One whole and perfect day
ISBN 978 1 74114 856 5.
ISBN 1 74114 856 1.
Cover and text design by Ellie Exarchos
Cover image from The Image Bank/Getty Images (tbc)
Typeset in 10.5 pt Apollo by Midland Typesetters
Printed in Australia by McPherson’s Printing Group
1 3 5 7 9 10 8 6 4 2
Mr Lee’s recollected lines from Shakespeare are from
: Act III, Scene IV, and
: Act I, Scene IV, from
The Tudor Edition of Shakespeare, The Complete Works
, Collins, London and Glasgow, 1951 Mrs Nightingale’s readings from Robert Burns are from
The Complete Poems and Songs of Robert Burns
, Geddes and Grosset, David Hale House, New Lanark, Scotland, 2000 Jessaline’s recipes are taken from T
he Alice B. Toklas Cook Book
, Brilliance Books, London 1983
Teachers’ notes available from
To dear Ted,
for knowing how to laugh J.C.
Also by Judith Clarke
Angels Passing By
The Lost Day
The Heroic Life of Al Capsella
Al Capsella and the Watchdogs
Al Capsella on Holidays
Friend of My Heart
The Boy on the Lake
The Ruin of Kevin O’Reilly
Luna Park at Night
Big Night Out
Wolf on the Fold
My heartfelt thanks to: my dear editors, Erica and Sue, and my long-suffering agent, Margaret Connolly.
To my sister and her family.
To Frances; and Nanny Floyd; Neema and Reis; Geraldine and Salim; Kishore and Rosevita; Arthur and Michèle; Jayant and Sunanda; Sandra James; the librarians of the Mt Waverley Library; the ladies of the Fleet Street Walking Group (especially the ones at the back); to the remarkable Powerhouse Neighbourhood Centre and Fay, Monica, Carol and the redoubtable Sandra.
To Wendy in Jerusalem.
Every day on her way home from school, Lily dawdled in the quiet streets and avenues of her neighbourhood, gazing through the windows of the houses at the families inside. She saw kids watching TV and doing their homework and playing computer games; she saw mums and dads talking and laughing together, chopping vegetables in their kitchens, stirring pots on the stove. Proper families, Lily would think to herself, they’re proper families.
Not like hers. She had no dad for a start; he’d bolted back home to America when Lily had been no larger than a plum pip deep inside her mother. She’d never actually seen her father, and when his phone messages came at Christmas and birthdays, she found she didn’t know what to call him: ‘Dad’ sounded awkward in her mouth, unnatural, like a cold hard pebble rolling behind her teeth. Her brother Lonnie, who’d been almost six when their father had left, experienced no such trouble. ‘Oh, hi, Dad,’ he’d go, so confidently, so naturally. ‘Oh?’, he’d say, and ‘Yeah, Dad!’, and the very ease with which he spoke the word ‘Dad’ always gave his sister a small, sharp pang. Even though, on the ordinary days that made up most of her life, Lily rarely gave a conscious thought to her absent father.
Though parties reminded her. Those perfect parties other families seemed to have.
Lily paused on the footpath to let a homecoming car ease into its driveway through gateposts where a clutch of bright balloons fluttered. Their round bright perfection made the breath catch in her throat. She watched the car door open and a man get out and two little kids come racing across the lawn towards him, yelling, ‘Daddy! Daddy’s home!’
He swept them up, each in turn, and whirled them round in his arms.
For a second, Lily’s stomach clenched in longing, and then grew easy again.
Ah well. She hitched her backpack more comfortably across her shoulders and walked on down the street. You can’t miss what you’ve never had, can you? She certainly didn’t miss Oliver DeZoto, this guy her mum had married twenty-three years ago.
Plenty of kids had single parent families. Lily knew that, just as she knew it wasn’t the absence of a father, or even the smallness of their family (only the three of them – five if you counted Nan and Pop), which marked them out. No, thought Lily irritably, it was the sheer peculiarity of the people in it that made her family not quite right.
First there was Lonnie.
Lonnie. Lily shook her head so hard, so briskly, that tiny little sparks flew from the ends of her dark frizzy curls. The very thought of her hopeless brother made her feel angry, electric, especially on a darkening winter afternoon when there was dinner to get on at home, and tons of homework after.
Forget about Lonnie. She’d think about Mum instead because Mum was okay; a slender woman in her forties with wispy blonde hair pulled back from a delicate face that always seemed to wear an apprehensive expression. The worst you could say about Mum was that she worried about Lonnie too much, and worked too hard. She was a psychologist, she had a doctorate (she was Dr Marigold Samson!) and yet she worked in a daycare centre for the elderly, slaving long long hours for very little pay. Mum could get a better job, Lily was sure of it, yet she persisted in her slavery, bringing home piles of paperwork and sometimes actual people, elderly lame ducks whose carer-children, so Mum said, were quite desperate for a little break.
‘A little break!’ snorted Lily. Mum was the one who needed a break. Mum was such a softie! She was just like Nan.
A tiny smile tweaked at Lily’s lips. Nan! With her small plump figure and soft white hair shaped in a little girl’s style (straight around the ears, thick shiny fringe down to her eyebrows), her lavender scent and floral dresses and long droopy cardigans, Lily’s Nan looked like a granny from a picture book. Except for one thing: she had an imaginary companion like little kids sometimes had, a made-up friend called Sef. Sef accompanied Nan most places, round the house and garden, up and down the hilly streets of Katoomba, and Nan held conversations with her, in public, speaking in a low sweet voice, offering confidences and asking Sef’s opinion on anything to do with family.
When Lily was little this had seemed quite natural. ‘Who’s Sef?’ she’d asked.
‘An old friend, dear.’
‘A girl? Is she a girl, Nan?’
‘Yes, she is.’
‘You can’t tell, from that name, can you? You can’t tell if she’s a boy or girl.’
‘No, you can’t.’
‘And you can’t see her. Is she invil, um, invilable?’
‘Invisible, dear. Yes, Sef’s invisible.’
These days, at sixteen, Lily found her grandmother’s companion unsettling. Could Nan – in the nicest possible way, of course – actually be a little bit mad? Though who wouldn’t be mad if they’d been married to Pop for over fifty years? Pop was short and loud and sturdy, red-faced even when he wasn’t shouting. Pop bristled – he wore his grey hair in the kind of spiky crewcut that reminded you of cops and soldiers and the kind of people who glared at migrants in the street and told them to go back where they came from. Pop had actually been a cop once, though never a soldier because he had flat feet, and Lily thought he was a bit of a racist too, or at least the sort of person who thought a decent Aussie was the best kind of person in the world. Huh!