A boy. A boat. A storm. One day that will tear a family apart.
Odyssey Books - Unloched
A boy. A boat. A storml One day that will tear a family apart.
Two sisters are reunited, but for how long? Can their fragile relationship survive once the secrets of the past are finally unlocked?
A mother’s dying wish sends twin sisters Lauren and Trina back to the place of their childhood vacations, on the Gippsland Lakes, to restore and sell a dilapidated houseboat. Although the twins were almost inseparable throughout childhood, a wild storm and the events that followed drove the girls apart in their teenage years. Now, ten years later, Lauren and Trina are forced to face each other and themselves as they discover the role their mother played in their estrangement. As the houseboat is gradually stripped bare, so are the lives of these women as the truth emerges.
A story of secrets and betrayal, Unloched takes the reader on an emotional journey through the landscape of the family. Commended in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards for an unpublished manuscript, this is Candice Lemon-Scott’s debut novel.
Lauren stood by the bed. She noticed that her mother’s skin, once brown and wrinkled from hours spent in her garden, had paled and shrivelled. Her arms and legs were stick-like, jutting out from the edges of her thinning flannel nightgown. Her round stomach sat heavily over her hips. Lauren bent down to kiss her mother’s dry cheek. Gisella’s lips puckered the air. Her smell was stale, not like the fresh air aroma she once carried. The scent of dirt and fresh green grass was gone, replaced with one that Lauren couldn’t quite grasp. It was a worn-out type of smell, of waiting too long. Like someone at the airport, between flights.
‘Still cold outside?’ her mother asked.
‘It was foggy this morning. I think it’ll be a nice afternoon though. You should get out for some fresh air. Do the nurses do that?’
‘Take you out?’
‘For what?’‘A walk, Mother. Do the nurses take you out for a walk each day?’
‘Can’t afford to get sick.’
‘Take you out for a walk.’
‘Can’t afford to get sick.’
‘Okay Mum, have it your way.’
‘What do you mean by that?’
‘Nothing, I just thought a walk would be nice for you. You used to love the outdoors.’
Lauren didn’t respond, instead busying herself with straightening up the room. Not that there was much to straighten. A pillow plumped. A spare blanket folded. A newspaper closed. Lauren allowed herself to momentarily wonder how much of her mother’s vagueness was from the drugs she was given, and how much was a deliberate attempt at avoidance. Suddenly she needed to pee.
‘Okay to use your bathroom Mum?’
‘It’s not mine.’
Lauren took her response as a yes. She moved to the ensuite, , locking the wide door, though there was no need to. Her mother could no longer even get out of bed without assistance. She leant her hand on the cold silver bar beside the toilet. Everything within the white-washed bathroom was a reminder of her mother’s ineptitude at doing anything for herself any more. She blew her nose, peed, and washed her hands. Her pale skin, and wrinkles that had just begun to form on her brow in the last few months, stood out against the glaring fluorescent light. I should start wearing makeup, she thought.
‘It stinks of antiseptic in there. I should bring in some aromatherapy oils to burn. They’re very calming.’
‘Make me sneeze, that’s what they’d do.’
Lauren sat in the bucket chair beside her mother. She felt too low next to the raised bed, but standing was no good either. She flipped through the newspaper she’d just closed.
‘God, it’s like reading a tabloid these days. Where’s the real news?’
‘Too depressing. No one wants to hear it.’
She put the newspaper back on the side table and felt a cold hand descend on her warm one. Lauren stared at her mother’s hand on top of her own. The paper-thin skin that covered her veins looked like it might break with the slightest movement. So Lauren held still, her back bent over the chair uncomfortably, while her mother spoke in a raspy, thin voice.
‘There’s something I want you to do for me, Lauren.’
‘What Mother?’ Lauren said.
‘The houseboat. I want you to sell it for me.’
Lauren fought the urge to pull away from her mother and storm out, leaving her to fend for herself. Paper-thin hands. She reminded herself that her mother had always done what she thought was best. Words she said to herself almost every day. Lauren remained held by her mother’s weak hands.
‘No need for it anymore.’
‘Yes, but why now?’
‘Good a time as any.’
‘But it’s been years. Decades.’
Lauren heard her mother’s breathing quicken as she tried to sit up. She leaned over, her sour breath close.
‘Decade. Not decades. Don’t be so melodramatic. It needs to be sold. That’s all.’
Her mother’s hand felt heavier on hers now. Lauren looked uncomfortable as she leaned sideways across the bed. She knew her mother couldn’t be stressed in any way.
‘I’ll put in an ad tomorrow,’ Lauren said.
Lauren felt her mother’s hand begin to tremble.
‘I need you to fix it up first. Clean it up. Make it nice. So you’d want to buy it yourself. Like it used to be. You remember how it used to be, don’t you?’
‘Of course I remember. How could I forget?’
Her mother ignored the implication. They didn’t talk about the past.
‘Then you’ll go? Tomorrow?’
This time Lauren did pull away. But gently. Paper-thin hands. She sat in the chair opposite and stared out the window, stained with dirty raindrops. She crossed her arms, trying to block out the memories, not wanting to remember. She hadn’t thought of her sister for months. She had managed to block her out almost entirely now, so she didn’t see Trina in the mirror anymore. And it had taken a long time. At first she remembered only their similarities. The same ski-jump nose, the same dimple in their chins, the same wispy ash-blonde hair. But then she managed to focus on their differences. The mole on Trina’s left ear. Long nails compared to her bitten ones. The front tooth that had been chipped the time Trina crashed into another child at a party. And then, finally, she didn’t think about her at all. In the mirror was only Lauren.
She turned back to her mother.
‘It’s time to get rid of what’s passed. I need you to help me.’
Lauren answered by lifting herself from the chair.
‘Look at that nightgown. It’s had it. I’ll be in tomorrow. I’ll bring you a new one. Size 10? We’ll talk more then. Okay?’
Lauren kissed her mother on the forehead before she could reply.