« Hot Stars | Main | The Team Leader »

U3A Writing: Crossing Over

Bert has a choice. Either to move to a house in the suburbs with Elizabeth or stay with his cows.

Monica Duckering tells an intriguing tale.

"What do you mean you've sold the place?" Elizabeth asked cautiously. She was used to her husband's practical joking after twenty-six years, but she didn't find this one particularly amusing.

"Come off it, Bertie," she grinned nervously.

"I mean it, I mean what I said," he replied flippantly. "I've sold this place. I told you months ago I wanted to move to a larger property."

"But this is my home, our home. I helped plan it, build it. I designed the wrought iron work. I chose the colour schemes for the room, I..."

"I know all that but now the girls are off our hands we can get on with our lives."

"I don't want to go. I won't go!" his wife declared boldly.

"It's done. Don't make such a fuss, Lizzie."

She turned away. A vase crashed on the floor, the blue and gold pieces scattered across the polished black slate.

"You did this on purpose," he yelled. "That was a wedding present from mother."

"No, no I didn't. I was putting water in it. It slipped. I'm sorry dear," she said still nervous of his temper - not that he'd ever hit her.

He hadn't changed from the man she married. How she had adored him, worshipped him. How commanding, how forthright his manner. "You won't have to worry about a thing anymore. I'll make all the decisions, darling and I'll make you laugh."

Yes, in the beginning it was OK. In fact it was fine until Christina was born and fifteen months later, Janine. Then she could have done with fewer jokes and more help with the babies, the housework, cooking and shopping.

"Men do men's work. Women do women's work," he had announced glibly. And that was that.

Bertram Barker was a teacher at the local TAFE. The adult education evening classes left him plenty of time to spend hours in his work shed, supervising the house building, culling the trees on the seven acre property which he considered surplus to requirements and fixing things.

Elizabeth spent her time and energy making sure her beautiful daughters would grow into kind, helpful young women. She loved them dearly, taught them to cook, to sew, took them to piano lessons, to tennis practice, to gym classes.

Once the girls had completed their junior school years Elizabeth decided she needed to resume nursing, which was what she had trained for, what she had been doing before her marriage. But Bern ranted and raved. "You're emasculating me," he cried. "I'm the man of the family!"

Eventually his wife managed to convince him the extra wage would help to dress his daughters in decent clothes. He was proud of Chris and Jan. They were clever, talented, attractive teenagers. He'd never had much to do with their upbringing nor with the problems which puberty can cause, but suddenly he realised that they were becoming aware of the opposite sex and he was worried. No doubt remembering what he was like as a youngster. This led him to be an overprotective father. No, they couldn't go on dates. Not alone.

"A party? Where? Who's birthday? Well, mmm all right. Mum will drive you there. I'll come and collect you at 10pm."

"Oh Dad!" they pleaded.

"No arguments, you will be back by 10.30pm. I don't want to know about the other girls. Perhaps their parents don't care as much as we do."

Their mother worked long hours at the hospital. Her daughters became more and more self-reliant, and cleverer at avoiding their father's restrictions. After college Janine became a teacher and left home. Chrissie moved in with her boyfriend. Her father, reluctantly, had to accept the situation.

Mr Barker announced that he and Mrs Barker would hold their new housewarming on September 23rd.
Their country residence, which required some renovating, was surrounded by 25 square miles of bush. It was 45km from town. Bertram became the proud owner of a small herd of miniature cattle. He had never been happier.

Eliza, my best friend, had never felt so lonely. She confided in me - we had known each other for fifteen years - since I had come to live on the adjacent seven acres, in fact, with my husband's family. I'd missed her a lot. We had such fun during those years - went to country and western fairs, once to an exciting Murder Mystery weekend, often to barbecues in their garden or ours. Our kids played together.

"I'll come and see the girls as often as I can," she assured me, "and of course if I have time I'll pop in for a cuppa."

"What about coming for lunch once a week. I'm always here on Wednesdays."

"Thanks, you are a honey. I'll certainly accept your invitation whenever I can."

It was late on Wednesday about two months later that I answered the phone.

"Hello it's Bertie."

"Oh," I exclaimed, the last voice I expected.

"Becky, Lizzie's had an accident." He was in shock and so was I.

"What happened? Where is she? When?"

"She's in Langley Hospital for observation - but she's alright - very shook up of course."

I was getting impatient.

"What happened?" I repeated impatiently.

"The lights were flashing. She stopped before the railway crossing but suddenly another car rammed hers and pushed it forward onto the tracks. The train was coming. She could hear it and panicked. She wrenched her shoulder trying to open the car door, but only just at the critical moment she managed to leap out. She will be fine once she gets over the horror of the situation."

Elizabeth recovered apart from a strained shoulder. I visited her a week later. She was still trembling. She'd been on her way to keep our appointment she told me.

"Rest," I said. "That's the best thing." I didn't stay long. Kissed and hugged her and then left. I rang every few days.

A month passed. I was surprised to see a strange car in the drive as I returned from shopping. There was Ellie, sitting on the veranda steps.

She looked much better. How pleased I was to see her. She looked up.

"Like my new Honda?" she smiled. "The other one was a write-off. Insurance paid. No problem. Now sit down. I want to talk to you."

I sat beside her.

"I have left Bert."

"Wow," I exclaimed, "That's some news."

I waited for her to continue. She took a big breath.
"Got to thinking. I have only got one life. I could have been killed on that crossing. So I am going to do what I want from now on. I can't stand any longer being told what I can or can't do. Where I must live. I can't bear to be questioned about whom I am phoning or writing to, where I am going. Where I have been. Enough is enough.

I need to be near my daughters, near the shops, nearer to you too."

So, Bert has the choice either to move to a house in the suburbs with Elizabeth or stay with his cows.
Yep, knowing Bert, I think he will choose the cows.

I took her by the hand and led her into my kitchen. "Come in and have a cuppa, Elizabeth," I said.


Creative Commons License
This website is licensed under a Creative Commons License.