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.But I’m fed up with enduring.I’m not a machine to make babies.’ She took a deep breath.‘So I made certain I couldn’t anymore.’‘But I wanted a family with you.I wanted our child.’‘Mike, I’m so sorry.I didn’t realise until this happened what I’d feel.What I’d need to do.’‘No.Nor me,’ I said.Between the demands of children and home and work, the rift in our marriage slowly scarred over.I began to observe the women in couples we knew, couples I’d believed happy, and saw their situations with wiser eyes.After losing Betty I knew even the most extreme sorrows could eventually heal, or at least be sealed away enough from everyday life to make it worth living.Sometimes I’d look at Susie and Terry playing and think, they’re enough.Who knows what sort of complications another baby would have brought us? But it’s an irrational thing, wanting a child.The yearning had quietly grown in me, until this shock, but now it was fading away.As a result, perhaps, the marriage no longer held my entire focus.The idea of further study surprisingly took root in my mind and after working through our finances I decided to take the leap.I applied to enrol in a postgraduate course at the university.Marion was supportive.Perhaps she felt she owed it to me.It was almost unheard-of then for someone as old as me – thirty-six – to return to study.Some of the staff were horrified and said I’d never stand the pace of new ideas.Others pointed out my years of experience as a bonus.I was asked to sit an entrance examination and after that there were no more arguments.I can say, without self-flattery, they were delighted to have me.A few years passed in contentment.It was a joy to withdraw from the world, to ignore politics and gossip and history, to simply explore and assemble a small part of a vast and beautiful puzzle.After my doctorate was awarded I worked at a research institute for several years, then returned to the university in a junior teaching position.Fiercely focused on my work, I still played my part in Marion’s household, but in some primitive way I no longer thought of it as mine: I was, after all, just the stepfather.Chapter 27The plump agent visits and loves the house, so I go to see my solicitor about the contract.I climb a steep flight of stairs off Sydney Road, then sit in the waiting room as trams rattle past outside.He shakes my hand and we go into his office and sit down.He reads through the contract then looks up.‘Pretty straightforward, no nasty surprises.So you’re moving on.Where to?’‘Not sure.I’ve been looking at other places near the uni but nothing much interests me so far.’‘You could always rent for a while.Keep your options open.’‘Yes.Starting to think that might be best, too.’‘You realise one condition is you have to leave in sixty days if the buyer wants?’‘Sixty? Jesus.I’ll have to get busy with packing.But it won’t go that fast, will it?’‘In that street?’ He laughs.‘I’d buy it myself tomorrow if I could.Look, we can change the clause, make it a longer settlement.’‘No.I want to get moving.Itchy feet.’And he’s spot on.The house sells in two weeks and I’ve got sixty days to pack and get out.I courier off the good furniture and books to the children and organise a second-hand dealer to take the rest when I move.I pack the paintings, sending the Arthur Boyd to Alan and Marion’s collection to the kids for them to argue about.I pack my own paintings too and find myself sitting on the floor, gazing at the one Liam gave me years ago, the one he called Mike in Timor.My eyes follow the lines of white buildings, sweeping green hills, the suggestion of peaceful eyes.Poor old Bullock, I think with a sigh.I marvel again at Liam’s perception and talent.I might be Professor Whalen around the uni, but everywhere else I’m simply Liam Whalen’s brother and proud of it.He eventually moved back to Broome with Jenny and was living there, still hale at seventy-one.It turned out Jenny had Aboriginal relatives and they’d helped him understand his own heritage.It had illuminated his art.I pick up another of his paintings, a flurry of pink and orange flowers with glimpses of turquoise sea between the leaves, and think, That’d be a nice gift for Lena’s birthday.I put it to one side and tape the packing carton shut.Oh, God, still so much to do.I make a cup of tea and ponder what’s next.I rinse the cup then go upstairs and stand for a moment outside the smallest bedroom, Marion’s office.It was where I found her, over four years ago now [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]