A Legacy of Norfolk Island
Several weeks later, Kit woke in the early light of dawn to a noise in the kitchen. She looked over to the girls, sleeping soundly in their new beds. She threw back the covers and grabbed her gown,
slipping it on as she padded out to the kitchen.
Jimmy stood hunched over a wash basin, a cup of water grasped in his shaking hand.
Kit was about to announce her presence when he broke into a fit of coughing. She strode across the floor and stood next to him, craning her neck to see his face.
“Are you all right?”
“I’m fine. Go back to bed.” He tipped the water into the basin.
“You’re not all right. I heard you coughing.”
“Don’t fuss, woman.” His curled hand went to his mouth and his shoulders raised as he failed to stifle another cough. His body shook and the air wheezed audibly in his chest when he inhaled between
attacks. He quickly lowered his hand and wiped it down the side of his nightshirt.
“Let me get you another cup of water.” Kit took a cup from the bench and filled it from the pitcher.
Jimmy turned to face her and accepted the cup with a small nod.
A bright red smear on his nightshirt caught Kit’s eye.
“There’s blood on your nightshirt! What’s wrong? Please, tell me.”
He placed the cup on the bench and hesitated before meeting her eyes.
“The town doc said I probably picked it up at Norfolk.”
Kit pulled out a kitchen chair and sat heavily.
He sat next to her and grasped her hands.
“A year. Maybe longer if I go up north to the warmth.” He gently pressed her head to his shoulder as her tears ran.
“This is why you were trying to get me to leave.”
He held her, stroking her hair until she sniffed and sat back in her chair.
She wiped her palms across her cheeks. “When I thought I’d lost you, I stayed strong for Clara, but now …”
“Listen to me, Kit.” He placed a hand on her cheek and she grasped it. “I want you to take Clara and Lizzy and go back to the station as soon as you can. I don’t want any of you getting sick too.”
“No, I won’t leave you. I love you.”
“And I love you too, but we have to do what is best for you and the girls. You know that as well as I.”
“What will you do?”
“I’ll sell the cottage and go up north. When I’m settled, I’ll send you every penny I can spare.”
Her eyes widened and she shifted forwards a little.
“I could send the girls to the station – Finley would look after them – then I could go with you and look after you until-”
He kissed her forehead. You’re not thinking straight, my love. Now, that’s not like you. When I’m gone, you’ll be all the girls have in this world. Who will look after them if you get sick too?”
She put her head in her hands.
“There must be another way.”
“There’s not. It’s the only thing left to do.”
She shook her head.
“I won’t accept it. It’s not right.”
Jimmy stood and took her into his arms.
“I don’t want to leave you either. You and the children were all that kept me going in that place.” He brushed his lips over her neck. “I dreamed of laying with you and feeling your fingers
caressing my back, of inhaling the scent of your skin as it moistened under my touch, and savouring the sound of your breath drawing in suddenly as I please you.”
Kit lifted her head from his shoulder. She studied the blue-green ocean colour of his eyes and the small scar across his chin from cracking a whip to impress her when they first met. Her
fingers traced the shape of his soft full lips as they moved towards hers. Her arms wrapped tightly around his neck as his hands undid the fastenings on the back of her dress.
Their separate sleeping arrangements, Kit’s jealousy of Mrs Hennessy and the effects of the opium and the alcohol on Jimmy’s desires, meant they had not made love during their time together at the
“The girls,” Kit whispered on a shallow breath.
He took her hand. “Behind the paperbark tree.” He led her out to the yard. The crest of the morning sun rose higher above the horizon, bathing the yard in a soft yellow-pink hue.
They gave themselves to each other as though reaching the highest point of pleasure would sweep aside all their worries.
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