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Authors: Tess Evans

The Memory Tree

BOOK: The Memory Tree
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Praise for
Book of Lost Threads

‘. . . charming, full of tenderness and compassion and gentle humour . . .’
Adelaide Advertiser

‘There is genuine care, concern and love between the four main characters and when each of their problems comes to a head they all band together in support . . . a strong and intricate plot . . .’
Good Reading

‘In this highly engaging and compassionate novel, [Tess Evans] successfully realises her evident ambition to salute the bravery of the small souls of this world.’
The Age

‘There are many layers to this engaging debut—all expertly woven together. One to pass on to your friends.’
Who Weekly

‘Tess Evans has written a charming novel, bringing together, in a small country town, four disparate characters . . . their combined strength, their reliance upon each other, their warm friendship and their thoughtfulness had given them the wisdom to weave those lost threads back into the tapestry of their lives.’
Ballarat Courier

‘All their stories are told with skilful flashbacks, and a warm understanding of hopes, dreams and kindness. Make friends with these special people.’
Woman’s Day

‘Evans wants to show the best of humanity . . .
Book of Lost Threads
deserves to be enjoyed by many readers.’
Sydney Morning Herald

‘. . . wonderfully written, creating a complexity and sense of place that makes this journey toward redemption an enjoyable one.’
Bookseller &Publisher

‘. . . storytelling at its most adept.’
Canberra Times

‘Told with tenderness and humour it’s a book to make you laugh and cry.’
Pittwater Life



First published in 2012

Copyright © Tess Evans 2012

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian
Copyright Act 1968
(the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, London

83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax:     (61 2) 9906 2218
Email:  [email protected]

Cataloguing-in-Publication details are available
from the National Library of Australia

ISBN 978 1 74237 789 6

Internal design by Brittany Britten
Set in 11.5/15 pt Adobe Caslon by Midland Typesetters, Australia
Printed and bound in Australia by Griffin Press

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To a much loved lady,
my mother, Alice Websdale

O chestnut-tree, great-rooted blossomer, Are you the leaf, the blossom or the bole?O body swayed to music, O brightening glance, How can we know the dancer from the dance?
—W.B. Yeats, ‘Among School Children’
Book I
Book II
Book III


the magnolia.

And around the twilit garden, there are lanterns in the trees—Chinese lanterns, glowing a secret, Oriental orange, and perfume from the trellis-climbing jasmine—white and yellow stars that fill the dusky corners of the garden, heady with scent and promise. And interlaced with the music, the disembodied cicada song, proclaiming the heat-to-come; and the thick summer air, like fog, like will-o’-the-wisp, enveloping the figures on the lawn, drawing beads of sweat on foreheads and breasts, staining cotton shirts and silk dresses, as the dancers sway and drink and sing and sway and drink and sing until, with a soft exhalation, they fall gracefully, one by one, onto the lawn and the scattered wicker chairs.

And all the while Sealie sees herself from afar, part of the crowd but a distant spectator. How beautiful they all are. How beautiful is she, in her flowing yellow silk with her storm-cloud hair and lustrous grey eyes.

Sealie sees it all again from the front window of the old house. Sees it all and remembers how even then, that night, she had sensed herself watching and knows now that this was that moment, frozen in time, spanning the years between young, hopeful,
full of hope
Sealie and the unhappy woman she’d become. She wants to close her eyes, to leave, but the phantom figures continue their dance and she’s compelled to stay and finally to weep, not in sorrow, not in remorse, but in anger and frustration.

I regard her, my poor Aunt Sealie, as she remembers her youthful self and weeps. To be honest, I have more to weep about than she does, but I do pity her. How could I not?

As the last spirit slips away, Sealie absently strokes the silk of a phantom yellow dress, then stands, straightens her shoulders and goes to the kitchen to prepare my father’s medication. He’s on Zoloft at the moment. She warms some milk and adds a jam biscuit to the saucer—child food for a grown man, but he likes his bedtime milk. It helps him sleep.

‘Here’s your milk, Zav,’ she says, and watches him take the pill. My poor dad; melancholy, gaunt, once-handsome Zav, sitting up in bed, in his striped jammies, watching another episode of
Law and Order
. My poor aunt, her narrow hips beginning to spread in her easy-fit jeans, hovering, hands twisting, is ensuring that he won’t hide the pill under his tongue. He can only do that for so long until it dissolves, so she always waits a finely calibrated number of minutes. It’s a game they play. He knows why she’s waiting, so he swallows, opens his mouth, lifts his tongue and turns back to the television.

She pauses at the door. ‘Zav?’

‘Mmm?’ He doesn’t want to talk. The show’s at a crucial point.

‘Today, do you remember what . . .’ He’s engrossed in the flickering screen. ‘Today . . .’ She doesn’t complete her sentence. She didn’t really intend to.

What she was going to say, of course, was that it’s his wedding anniversary. She stops herself in time. She always does. The problem is that this day, so painful to him now, was the highlight of her life.

Despite their exotic names, Selina and Xavier Rodriguez, as fourth-generation Australians, inevitably became known as Sealie and Zav. They were born into a well-off, even rich family, who had migrated from Peru seeking gold in the rush of the 1850s, but found their El Dorado in the growing of fine wool. Their father’s given name was Heraldo, but this was quickly shortened to the less pretentious Hal. He was an only child, inheriting a significant fortune from his father who had diversified into textiles and printing. Their mother, Paulina, a fragile beauty, had been in the corps de ballet when Hal swept her off her tiny, accomplished and oh-so-painful feet, to life in a leafy Melbourne suburb. There, with the help of a housekeeper, she made a charming home for Hal and their two pretty children.

BOOK: The Memory Tree
3.81Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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