Alice stares through her unwashed windows pressing her warm mug lightly against her cheek. The rain is pounding to get in and she winces at the cracked window that has been taped with Gaffer and black card. A derisive laugh escapes her. Eleven months. She could get that fixed.
Howling wind is pushing the trees. The thunder rolls and the skinny trunks of the river gums thunk together. Her cat Pixie purrs on her lap like a tractor, unaffected by the storm.
She watches the boughs dance and sway. Eleven months, the same memory on replay but she is sure the words change each time she recalls them.
An ominous crack. Alice stands to look further out into the forest. Which tree? Which limb? Pixie is not impressed at the disturbance and scuttles off to find a better resting place.
“I couldn’t wait to leave this place.”
Alice knew it wasn’t the happiest home but how can a mother know whether to stay or leave when there are children involved. A loud bang on the roof that makes Alice start. A heavy branch tumbles from the gutter and falls past the window.
She exhales. There is nothing she could do then and there is nothing she can do now.
“You were absent and I had no one to tell. You left me to fend for myself.”
Alice searches for the truth in this. She wasn’t absent. Yes, she had a career that she passionately pursued, but she was there, ready to listen.
The huge messmate closest to her house groans. Surely that tree is no risk with its wide girth and U shaped branches. But water is pooling around the base and the angle isn’t how Alice remembered it.
Eleven months. Alice hasn’t seen her since. Eleven months and Alice has been alone in this house.
“Too late,” she said. “You left him too late.”
But when is the right time, Alice wonders. And now there is no one. What was the point?
That tree is definitely swaying. Are they the roots Alice can see? The thunder is more potent and flashes of white light illuminate the sky with increasing regularity. Alice’s eyes are fixed on that tree now. The rain continues to pound horizontally against her thin windows.
“I won’t make the same mistakes you did.”
Still a knife to Alice’s heart as she remembers tyres ripping up her gravel driveway, rocks flying at her window. Eleven months. How much longer will she be punished?
Her mug needs a refill but she can’t take her eyes off that tree. Her own hands claw at her chest as she sees cracks in the trunk which is now leaning. A monster’s tentacles breaking through the earth and there, right before her eyes, that strong, reliable giant comes crashing to the earth with a deafening bellow.
Then everything is muted and Alice wonders why she never noticed the cracks before.