By Charlotte Wood
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It sounded like an early midlife crisis to me, a middle-class cliché, but at this stage Liz was phoning me in tears every night with news of Anthony’s latest New Age transgression. ‘He’s killing me. I don’t understand him anymore. He’s acting all superior to everyone, angry and touchy-feely at the same time. ’ I heard deep raspy breaths; she was drawing heavily on a cigarette and even over the phone she sounded old and needy. I pictured the almost-empty bottle of white wine close by. ’ she went on.
And for a few years we were still sort of numb, and kept to ourselves while Dad grieved alone and left us to our own devices. Then, as a widowed parent herself— after his death five years later—she’d always been amiably haphazard and not the least bit maternal. I think that’s why we didn’t overly resent her when we were younger: she wasn’t vying for our love. Sally and I had each other and it suited us that she was affectionately distant, not in competition with our mother over anything, and allowed our sad reverence for her to remain undisturbed.
I watched him go, just as grimly. The sea breeze had finally arrived, sweeping through the peppermint trees, and snappy little waves began breaking on the shore. I followed him but I wasn’t going to stop him. Surely this tantrum would soon play itself out. Indeed, the bag must have become heavy because he had to haul it the last few metres across the sand and onto the jetty. Brushing aside skylarking wet children, curious onlookers, he dragged it the length of the jetty until he came to a pontoon just above the deep water.
Brothers and Sisters by Charlotte Wood