As Christmas fast approaches, I thought I would take my readers back in time a little. My novel The Wilted Rose tells of several family Christmases throughout the 1960s and 70s, as the Brooker family spend their summer holidays in the Moreton Bay Peninsula. Merry Christmas, and enjoy this free excerpt!
The Wilted Rose (Excerpt)
The house at Redcliffe was home for the Brooker family all the way through the school holidays. At Christmas, Jack helped the children prop one of his painting planks against the window frame, creating a bridge that led down to the ground outside
“Now Santa can come in and bring us our presents!” Grace chirped.
Jack took the kids for a walk along the esplanade to the supermarket, and gave each of them two dollars to buy presents for the family. Grace picked out a leaf-shaped bowl from the shelf; her mother could use it for the nuts she always put out to eat on Christmas day.
As Grace continued her hunt, she spotted Ryan up ahead. Once they had found gifts for each other, the kids reconvened together in the back of the store, conspiring as to what they would buy for their father.
They set out on their mission. Paul decided on a packet of handkerchiefs, and Grace and Ryan on tea mugs.
On Christmas Eve, Jack and the kids checked on the painting plank in the kitchen window, ensuring it was positioned correctly.
“Now Santa won’t hurt himself on his way in,” Ryan stated confidently.
When the children were a little older, their cousins Deborah, Tim and Ruth often joined them on holiday. They spent Christmas Day with their own families, and then by midday on Boxing Day, the house was buzzing with activity.
There were at least five children at the Redcliffe house during any holiday period. Clayton and Jack settled in front of the black and white television set to watch the Boxing Day cricket test between Australia and England. The kids played outside, while the women chatted over cups of tea on the porch
Jack had three weeks off over Christmas, and then returned to work in Brisbane. He travelled back to the holiday house in the evenings. After breakfast the kids ventured outside to play, and heavy on her feet, Sarah shuffled into the bedroom and closed the door. She sat down on the edge of the bed, brushing her hands over her face. Her migraine had set in for the day. She reached over to the bedside table and popped two painkillers out of their packaging, swallowing them with a glass of water. She lay down and closed her eyes, quickly falling back to sleep.
It was low tide as the kids played on the beach in front of the house.
“Let’s build sand cities,” Ryan suggested.
He set to work constructing reinforced bridges, and each child attempted to build their houses more elaborate than the others. Making loud revving noises, Paul pushed his matchbox car around the crumbly structures. Grace picked up another of his cars and chased him, making whirring sounds.
“I’m the police, Paul!” she shouted. “Stop speeding right now!”
Sheavy the corgi puppy was a recent addition to the Brooker Family. He planted himself in a watchful position in front of the sand city, and Grace charged him with protecting the city from intruders. Sheavy barked at a couple walking along nearby, but settled when he sensed they were friendly. He stood up and trotted over to them, and the couple scratched him behind the ears. His whole body waggled to compensate for his stub of a tail. Grace giggled at the sight.
In the middle of the day the kids made their way back up to the house, running noisily through the living room to the kitchen for a drink. Grace paused for a moment by her parents’ bedroom. She approached the closed door, pressing her ear against it.
She often heard, but never saw, her mother crying. Her mother was always quiet in front of them. An unpleasant feeling came over Grace’s heart as she listened. She hated the sound of her mother’s tears. What was making her so upset? Why did she cry all the time?
“Grace, come on!” Paul shouted.
She ran outside with the gang, and within minutes they were off on another adventure along the beachfront.
Their skin was brown from days of adventures in the sun. Their legs were long and lanky, and covered in bruises from climbing trees, jumping off walls and running around the yard. The boys’ hair was only combed for school and church. Grace had finally been allowed to grow her dark brown hair out of the bowl cut her father had given her since she was young. These days it reached down to her shoulders, and her mother braided it for her.
Another Christmas morning at the holiday house delivered the boys brand new dragster bikes. Grace squealed in delight as she sat on her blue bicycle, with ribbons dangling from the handlebars. She was determined to keep up with her older brothers, be it at bike riding, fishing, swimming, football, or billy-cart racing. Whatever it was, she was insistent that she could do it too.
Give a Wilted Rose this Christmas.
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