‘We have to leave! Now!’

I can barely hear Dad’s voice above the roar and hiss of the fire front as it surges towards our property, but I don’t think Mum would hear him anyway. While we kids enact our Plan – gathering our Precious Things into our school bags, putting the cats in their carry baskets – she sits on the porch in her nightdress, staring.

I’ve seen her like this before, like a statue. At Nanna Wendy’s funeral. When Dad was finished shaking hands with people we didn’t even know, and saying things like ‘thank you for coming’, he asked us where Mum was. We found her, still in her spot at the front of the church, just staring. I watched how Dad sat down beside her and cupped her hands in his. How he said things softly and wiped away her tears as they fell. I didn’t know why she was so sad when it was Dad’s Mum who’d died.

The air’s getting thick now. I put Twinkle’s carry basket down and promise I’ll be back.

Last summer, Grandpa told us a story. It wasn’t his usual tale of bravery – tackling brown snakes or rescuing a stray calf from the wire fence. And though we sat at his feet, and heard his gravelly voice, he wasn’t really there.

‘She did her best, your Mum. Good as any child could.’ He rubbed his hands together, but the air wasn’t cold.

‘What do you mean?’ I asked.

‘The fire was too fast, too wild…your Grandma had no chance.’ He cleared his throat. ‘Your Mum took it very hard.’

I step up to the porch and sit beside Mum. It’s getting so hot that sweat and tears are just a wetness running down my face and onto my shirt collar. I hold her shaking hands like I saw Dad do, and use my sleeve to dry her cheeks.

Through our car’s back windscreen, our house is now just a small dot in the enormous bush. I clutch my school bag and wonder about summer and the things we carry with us.

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    Carrie OLeary
    Carrie OLeary(@carrie-oleary)
    2 months ago

    What a sad story, Penni, but also very bittersweet. An awful situation, but the family are so supportive of one another. Nicely done.

    2 months ago

    so many questions Penni
    its a story that needs more.

    Reply to  Julian
    2 months ago

    Penni, I must disagree with Julian. I think your story says just enough and leaves just enough to the reader’s imagination. I love stories that ask us to think, imagine, read again and perhaps again. Your story does just that. I wouldn’t change a thing.

    Welcome to Voice Club!

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    2 months ago

    A warm welcome to the voice club, Penni.

    Your story is heartbreaking. I hope your protagonist is doing well after their house was burned. And I hope they will realize that the house is just a material thing. What is more important is a family that stays and holding together after a fall.

    Greene M Wills
    Greene M Wills(@greene-m-wills)
    2 months ago

    A family united through a far away grief that never ends for the protagonist’s mother. I enjoyed very much your powerful story, Penni.

    Susan Giles
    Susan Giles(@susan-giles)
    2 months ago

    I so enjoyed your story. Such a close family to have to live with tragedies. How they handle this last one is up to us, the reader. Mum carries too much with her, the antagonist also carries family history. Hopefully, she will be the strong one and survive.

    Margarida Brei
    Margarida Brei(@margarida-brei)
    2 months ago

    Your story is deep in sorrow and tragedy, but thankfully the family are very supportive of one another.
    There is so much heaviness in wondering about “ the things we carry with us.”

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