Book by: Miranda J Taylor
Genre: Historical Fiction
A New World
The bodies continued to wash ashore for days after the shipwreck, but none of them was Finley. Two months after he went missing, one of his workers came to the hospital to speak with Kit. The small man stood before her bowing his head and holding his hat in front of him.“We’ve made a headstone for him,” he said.
“Then you’ve wasted your time, it won’t be needed.”
“I do beg your pardon ma’am, but it’s been weeks and there’s been no sign of him. Me and the other men wish to put him to rest.”
“I’ll not attend another funeral until it is my own.”
Tom approached and gestured to the man to leave. He lightly gripped Kit’s arms and stared into her eyes. “Kit, it’s been too long. He’s lost and not coming back. The sooner you accept that, the sooner you can let go of the grief within you and get on with your life. Clara has been grieving too, but you’ve been so caught up with telling her he’s not gone that she comes to me to talk to. She’s very confused. She needs you, Kit.”
“Clara has been coming here?”
Tom glanced at the clock. “Why don’t you collect her early from school and the two of you pick some flowers, go to the beach, and say a proper goodbye. Laura and I did the same a week ago and it helped me to let go.”
Kit’s eyes filled with tears. “I suppose you’re right.”
“Good. Laura will cover you for the rest of the day. I’ll see you tomorrow morning.”
After walking back from school, Clara and Kit went into the bushland on the edge of the station and picked large sprays of golden wattle. They wandered down to the beach, sat on the sand and looked out to sea.
“Mama, are you going to die too?”
“No. Well, not for a long while. What makes you ask such a thing?” She put her arm around Clara’s shoulders.
“Because you’ve stopped eating and you don’t talk to me anymore, and you’re always looking out at the water like you want to be there with Finley.”
“I’m just really sad, that’s all.”
“I’m sad too. Finley was my friend.” Clara kicked the sand with her boot.
“I know, Clara. It’s just that everyone we love seems to leave us.”
Clara sat up straight and looked at Kit. “Well, I’m not going to leave you, Mama.”
“One day you will too. You’ll meet a handsome man and go away to have a family of your own.”
“You can come with me, Mama.”
Kit put her head in her hands. She sobbed. Her whole body shook and her breaths came in short jagged gasps.
Clara put her arms around her and pressed her cheek into her arm. “There’s something I’ve not told you, Mama.”
Kit bent her knees and wiped her eyes with her skirts. “What’s that, darling?”
“I don’t want to be a nurse.”
“Well, that’s all right, but I thought you might want to because you’ve always been interested in what I do at the hospital.”
“I’m very interested. That’s why I’ve decided I don’t want to be a nurse. I want to be a doctor.”
“Oh, Clara, that’s wonderful news.”
Clara looked out to sea. “It was Finley who told me to reach for the stars.”
Kit stood and brushed the sand from her skirts. She held her flowers in front of her. “It’s time to say goodbye.”
Clara rose beside her mother and together they walked to the water’s edge.
Kit swept back her arm to throw the flowers but stopped.
Clara followed her gaze to the far end of the beach. “What is that?”
“I don’t know, but I’m going to find out.”
As they drew nearer, a small group of people came into clear sight. They were all natives but for the man walking in the middle. He walked with a heavy limp and pushed a long stick into the sand before him. He wore a possum skin shawl and a tattered pair of a white man’s breeches. His feet were bare and his face obscured by a heavy beard and wild, matted hair.
The man leading the mob waved to Kit and Clara.
“It’s Barungerin!” Kit said.
“Hello, Miss Kit. It been a long time, but I is back. I hope you been keeping away from them snakes, little Clara.”
“Isn't it dangerous for you to be here?” Kit asked.
“Nah, no one recognise me. You know us black fellas, we all look the same.” He laughed then raised his arms out to his sides as though preparing to take a bow. “I here to give you something. I bring you a gift from the sea.”
He stood aside to reveal the man with the limp.
Kit gasped. “Oh, my goodness. It can’t be.”
“It can, and it is.” Barungerin laughed.
“Finley!” Clara ran to him.
He dropped his stick and scooped her up.
“Don’t you ever go near the water again,” Clara said, trying to sound angry.
“Why, not even to take you swimming?”
“Well, maybe just for that.”
He lowered Clara to the sand and turned his attention to Kit.
“I saw you swallowed by the water. I thought I’d never see you again,” Kit said.
“It just goes to show that even you can be wrong, once in a while.”
She threw out her arms and he stepped towards her and pulled her into an embrace.
“I’ve been such a fool,” she said. “I didn’t realise how much I loved you until you were gone.”
He whispered into her ear.” I’ve loved you from the moment I first saw you.”
Barungerin gave a little cough. He reached out his arm and drew a small, pretty woman to his side.“My mob found him far down the beach. He was nearly in the spirit world but my new woman brought him back.”
Kit approached her, removed a gold cross necklace from around her neck, and lifted it over the woman’s head. “I don’t have much to give you when you have given me so very much, but take this, and may God guard your precious life.”
The woman smiled.
Kit stood back next to Finley and Clara.
“You a family now,” Barungerin said. “You go make lots of children and have your own mob.” He walked away and the rest of the mob followed.
“Let’s go home,” Kit said. She placed her arm around Finley.
Clara spotted a young man in the distance wander down to the water and she ran after him.
“Who’s that?” Finley asked.
“That is the Boatswain’s son from The Sea Empress. Clara’s taken quite a liking to him.”
“Aren’t I the favourite man in her life anymore?”
Kit stopped and placed a hand on his chest. “When we’re married you’ll be her new papa. Will that be good enough?”
“Are you proposing to me?" He kissed her gently. “That’s not conventional.”
“Since when have I ever cared for conventions?”
“To hell with conventions, it’s a new world.” He threw his stick onto the stand, drew her close to his side and walked along the golden sand and back to the cottage.
Once inside, Kit drew the curtains and pulled Finley onto her bed.
© Copyright 2023 Miranda J Taylor. All rights reserved.
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I've been haunting this workshop since 2008, and I've reviewed many, many stories, but when I stumbled onto The Quarantine Station a while back, I did something I've never done before. I didn't stop to review the individual chapters. For one reason: I didn't want to take time away from my reading time. So I read it straight through.
I've never had any schooling in creative writing. Self taught through trial and error, and the reviewers who gave their precious time and energy in helping my stories read better. So why do I think your story is so special? What makes a good story is like asking what makes someone beautiful. I can't rightly put my finger on either of those questions. But I know a good story when I read it, and I know beauty when I see it. This is a beautiful, well-written story, Miranda J Taylor.
I suppose I could say Kit, Tom, Clara, Finley, and the bushmen are all strong characters and well crafted. And they are. I could say you paint the picture of their surroundings in such a way that I feel part of the story, And you do, but it's far more than all that.
What grabbed me and wouldn't let go is your voice. In my home study over the years, I learned some of the basics when it comes to grammar and sentence structure, but not much is ever said about creating an engaging voice. Perhaps it's too subjective for discussion. Perhaps it's like debating comedy, as to what makes a story or a joke funny. When this is done, often you run the risk of killing the humor by trying to be objective about the content.
Another thought. Free-flowing writing is another grand mystery and not often or easily discussed. It's something that just happens, like love. It's comes from within. It's like opening a door to the unconscious, intuitive mind and allowing your conscious, cognitive mind to communicate in a free-flowing manner. Like we used to say in the '60s. "let your mind flow, baby."
Okay, that was a bad joke.
I'm glad to see you're posting more chapters.
All my best,
Thank you so much for your review. I am honoured that you chose to read through the whole story. Wow! Your review has been the most inspirational I have ever received. I wasn't sure whether I was going to post any new writing on the site, but you've inspired me to keep going, and I will post some new writing very soon. Thank you for taking the time to read my story and for giving me such a special review. You hit at the heart of many questions that are asked about good story writing and your last reference to free-flowing has been the best answer I have read.
I liked how we really got to know your characters from the outset. You have a knack for that.
I also like how you don't use excessive words. You just use exactly what you need to get your story across and that really held my attention.
Nice, unexpected ending as well.
Nathan B. Childs