Under Another Sky 27

Chapter 27

Sitting in the car beside Isobel on the Saturday morning, Juli snuggled down in her seat and watched the sky growing gradually lighter. There had been a north wind for the last two days which always brought warm humidity and the stormy weather earlier in the week lurked in the heavy clouds. In a few days she would have been one whole year in Argentina.

“Hope to goodness it doesn’t rain today, with the Carlies coming,” Isobel said anxiously. “The weather forecast predicts showers but that is an almost sure indication that it will be fine.”

“I’m wondering what Arthur said to subdue Marion as he did,” Juli grinned. “He looked dreadfully stern, I hope this afternoon will end up OK.”

“Well, let’s not worry about it.”

Juli watched the familiar landscape on either side of the highway. Factories in beautifully kept grounds; country clubs; restaurants; nightclubs and pleasure hotels; here and there shanty towns and run-down shopping districts. Soon more and more open spaces with cattle and horses grazing in the fields made their appearance, and then it was all flat farmland and coppices as far as the eye could see.

Tarawera welcomed them looking green and overgrown after the rain. Juli changed, collected her gardening gloves and tools and made for the vegetable garden. After arranging the more important details with regard to the barbeque with Juan, Isobel waited for him to load two empty gas canisters into the car before driving off to the nearby village.

Clearing an area to ready it for transplanting, Juli sang aloud to herself and decided that the slight tension between Isobel and herself was her fault for Isobel was as cheerful and kind as ever, had noticed her ring at once and exclaimed over its beauty. Juli had told her she was planning to leave on the 3rd of July.

“I shall miss you,” Isobel had said. “Tarawera will too.”

“Tarawera will miss me,” Juli mused as she worked. “And I shall miss Tarawera. What will I do in France? We can start a baby soon and that will give me lots to do.”

Her desire for a child had become almost an obsession. She looked at babies in prams, in their mother’s arms, in magazine advertisements about infant clothes and knitting patterns. Any shop which had things for babies in its window was like a magnet. She yearned to have her own child and thought constantly about Rita, wondering what her baby would be like. Gavin would make a very good father she felt sure, he seemed far more religious than she had realized, which was great so long as he didn’t become a fanatic and be the sort of Catholic who refused to plan their families. What if she had eight or ten children? Ah no. That was out of the question! She would have to be firm there, three at the most. She decided to go and see Juan and Celina’s baby later, so very small and brown.

Isobel returned and an hour later the Carlie’s car nosed in at the open gate, and bounced up the drive to the house. Juli collected her digger and hoe, stretched languidly and walked back wondering who had come in the end and what the afternoon held. As she drew closer she saw that Simon had come too but Tony had remained behind.

Marion was in her most gracious mood, Arthur looked, as always, benign, in perfect control of himself and the situation. Peter looked pale and ill. Pamela and Simon were in their own heart shaped world. As the latter knew the whole establishment intimately he took Pamela off at once on a tour of inspection.

Isobel, with Juan and Luisa’s help, had set out a table on the veranda. It was covered with a gay yellow and white check cloth on which plates, painted glasses and picnic cutlery had been piled neatly. The odour of roasting meat made everyone feel hungry. Marion produced Tupperware pots with puddings and Russian salad and Luisa added a bowl of freshly cut lettuce. Fresh bread was cut in thick slices, pots of cream and honey and a pat of homemade butter were added to the rest of the food assembled. Peter served drinks while they waited for the barbeque to be ready and they sat chatting, discussing the war.

“Apparently the British did fire at the survivors of the trawler ‘Narwol’ after they had taken to the lifeboats,” Marion said. “Really, one can’t understand the utter lack of ethics which has caused this whole war, especially on the part of the British. I feel very disillusioned by it. One is brought up to consider that the British … well … ‘play the game’ and so on, but it seems not to be that way at all.”

“This is a very nice place you have, Mrs.Roget,” Arthur interposed warmly. “I find it most attractive.”

“Please, both of you, do call me Isobel. Mrs. Roget is so formal. Yes, I love Tarawera. Sr. Bauer looks after the lavender and the bees, and sees that Juan carries out my orders where the cows and vegetables are concerned. I have plans, or shall we say dreams. But I must be patient. Of course all the work here is done without chemicals or fertilizers. We use composts, aromatic herbs and other methods.”

“Is that what is called biological farming?”

“Yes, I suppose so. There have been some most interesting studies made with relation to the stars and planets which I want to look into. One’s problem is time. Everything takes time and farming takes the most! Let me show you the house while we are waiting.”

Simon appeared with Pamela in tow. “Isn’t it true that I painted the outside of the house in March, Isobel?” he demanded.

“Very much so. Simon and two friends of his whitewashed the whole house for me, Pamela.”

“You see,” Simon grinned, pulling Pamela’s hair. “I was telling the truth.”

Isobel showed Marion and Arthur round the house and later they discussed the garden and the merits of certain plants and bushes. At last the barbeque was ready and Juan, smiling shyly, appeared with a large oval dish piled with sizzling meat and sausages.

“The wine,” Isobel exclained. “Simon would you get it? Under the counter, under the window, to the left. Oh! And the corkscrew too.”

Simon hurried into the kitchen and reappeared at once with the wine and corkscrew, delighted to be able to show off his speedy efficiency to Pamela and her parents. Juli glanced at Peter who had hardly spoken since they arrived. He looked tense and drawn. She longed to know what, under the surface, was going on between Arthur, Marion and Peter.

After lunch Luisa came to wash up, Simon and Pamela went to catch the horses and try and ride them without saddles, Juli collected her gloves and digger. “Would you like to lie down for a little while on my bed?” she asked Marion.

“No thank you, dear, but I think Peter should. You’re looking very peaky darling.”

“I’m fine thanks,” Peter said firmly. “What are you going to do Juli?”

“Finish off weeding.”

“I thought we could walk around and I can show you the establishment,” Isobel offered Arthur and Marion.

“That would be very interesting,” Marion said. “Just what interests Peter.” She rose and put her arm through his. “Come on darling, let’s go and see everything.”

Juli walked back to the vegetable garden and set to work. She felt very sorry for Peter, he seemed to have no guts left. Marion dominated him entirely.

Isobel took them to see the cow pens, and from a distance, showed off the cows and Benigno the bull, grazing in a field beyond. Later they inspected the chicken run, the bee hives, the apricot and peach trees in the orchard, the Australian tank and finally the vegetable garden where Juli was labouring. “What a lot you’ve done!” she exclaimed on seeing Juli’s neat work. “Wonderful!”

“I’ll stay and help you,” Peter said.

“Oh, Peter, it’s rather hot for you at this hour, dear,” Marion demurred, but Arthur said cheerfully, “Good, idea. I think we should all help. Many hands make light work so they say. Come on Marion.”

He squatted down laughing and added, “Now then Juli, what is weed and what isn’t?”

“Many inexperienced hands make a big mess I’d say,” Marion remarked sourly as Isobel drew her away to show off the size of the carrots and to talk about the use of aromatic herbs to keep off unwanted pests. Peter joined his father and after a few minutes the two women walked back to the house to carry on discussing ideas for improving the garden.

Ten minutes later Arthur stood up with surprising agility considering his bulk and smiled down at them, “Well, I think I’ve paid for my bread and butter,” he declared. “I’ll leave you two to carry on the good work. Peter has brought clothes and things, unknown to Marion,” he added, and walked away.

“So you are going to stay?” Juli said

“Dad spoke to my psychologist and she insists that I spend two weeks here at least. My mother and father both went to see her. My mother is all against it of course. I think my psychologist decided it was a must after the fuss Mum made.”

“Aren’t you happy about it?”

“But Juli, how can I be happy? My holdall was slipped into the car with the picnic things. Mum doesn’t know anything. She thinks I’m going back with them this evening. At least she’s determined that I am. I feel like a rag doll pulled in different directions, and remember that she nearly became an alcoholic because of me. What if she starts drinking again, now, because Dad insists I have to stay? It’s not that important. If my staying means that they are going to have one great battle, maybe in front of Isobel and Simon and you, well, to hell with it. I’d rather go home. She’s only doing this because she cares for me, at least on the surface. How does she know what’s going on in her subconscious mind? She’s not having therapy.”

“But she doesn’t have the right to dominate you like she does. You’re twenty four. Amnesia doesn’t make you sick. You can work perfectly well here and be a real help. She keeps insisting that you’re sick all the time and she’s making you sick.”

“She’s so happy when she gets her way, it’s really nice at home then. If I defy her now and she turns out to be right and I can’t cope, what happens then?”

“You go home.”

“Ten times worse than before.”

“Peter, you’re suffering from cold feet. What do you really want from the bottom of your heart?”

“I? … I want to stay here and work.”

“Then keep that thought clearly in your mind all the time. Your mother has been brainwashing you for weeks and it’s not fair. If she starts drinking again it’s her problem, not yours. One can’t love to order, and as an intelligent human being you can’t permit yourself to be turned into an invalid. If the psychologist says you should stay then why don’t you do exactly that? She should know better than your Mum.”

“I feel so guilty. I want her to be happy.”

“Her happiness should not depend on you, Peter. She’s got a super husband, a lovely home, Tony and Pamela, money, maids … for goodness sake, try and look at her situation objectively. What she’s asking is wrong. What she’s doing is wrong, Peter.”

Peter sighed. “Yeah, I suppose so. I just can’t bear the thought of the row when Dad says I’m going to stay. The tension at home these last few days has been awful.”

“Yes, I know.”

“It’s an all out battle between my parents all this. What if they break up because of me? I just want to go to bed and sleep all the time until the nightmare is over.”

“Did you tell your psychologist that?”

“Yes, I told her.”

“Well, I suppose you’ve come to your Rubicon. You simply have to face your mother this evening and stand firm. Don’t waver. Don’t try to argue or to explain. Once this battle is won then you might even get your memory back. Who knows? Didn’t you say you keep from getting well on purpose, or something like that? Some sort of evasion programme or something?”

Peter gave a wry smile. “What a mess it all is. But you’re right. Maybe I’m afraid of what is going to happen while I am alone here.”

At five thirty they picked up their things and went to have tea, which was served in the kitchen. Isobel lit the paraffin lamps and Marion looked round in amazement. “Don’t you have electricity here?” she asked in astonishment.

“No. Just lamps and bottled gas.”

“With the fridge and everything I hadn’t realized.”

“They say they are going to electrify this part of the district soon, but between saying and doing …” Isobel shrugged. “If we do manage to get electricity then it will be very nice. Marion have another scone, do.”

At six thirty Marion rose and said “It’s been such a pleasant day Isobel. We have all enjoyed it so much, but we really must be going now Arthur.”

“Right,” Arthur stood up, squared his shoulders and said firmly,” Now that you’ve seen how nice it all is here, Marion, you’ll agree with me that Peter will be absolutely A.1. here.”

Marion stared at him. “What do you mean?” she demanded.

“That Peter is going to stay and work here.”

“Peter is not … I made myself perfectly clear to the …”

“Marion, the Licenciada Peralta is a professional and knows her job. She told me that she feels it is of the greatest importance that Peter should start becoming independent. I think we should give her the benefit of doubt.”

“Isobel …”

Isobel had already discussed the matter privately by telephone in Buenos Aires with Arthur. She said gravely, “I know how you feel Marion, but I’m sure it can only do Peter good to work here for a couple of weeks. I really do need someone so urgently and I feel Peter is just right for the job. Juan is a good boy but needs guidance. Sr. Bauer is unable to come because of his wife, as you know.”

“Peter hasn’t brought any clothes,” Marion snapped triumphantly.

“Yes he has.” Arthur said.

Marion went ashen. She gripped the back of a chair and glared wildly at the three pairs of eyes regarding her. Juli and Pamela were quietly unlaying the table, Simon had gone outside discreetly. She felt the inexorable weight of Arthur, Isobel and Peter’s wills overcoming hers and she wanted to scream, to grab Peter and force him into the car, to smash her fists into Arthur’s face, and tear at Isobel’s with her nails. The silence stretched out tautly, but no one said anything. It was no use. When Arthur made up his mind he was like a concrete wall … she’d get at him in some way, but now was not the moment …

Drawing a deep breath she said calmly, “Well, it seems to have been all arranged behind my back then. There’s nothing more I can say.”

Picking up her coat and handbag she stalked out of the room and Peter let out his breath in a long sigh. Arthur shook hands with Isobel, kissed Juli, hugged Peter and pushed Pamela gently in front of him out onto the veranda. Three minutes later the car rolled away down the drive and disappeared into the darkening evening.

“We made it!” Peter suddenly gasped. “I’m going to be sick.”

Turning he rushed out and vomited behind a bush. Juli started after him but Isobel detained her. “Leave him alone, don’t become another Marion. He’s OK,” she commanded mildly.

Peter came back looking sheepish. “Sorry about that,” he said. “I’m a real funk. My mother could have bitten all of us, she was so mad.”

“I expect this has been worrying you all day,” Isobel said. “But it’s over now. You have two weeks in which both you and your mother have time to grow and sort things out. The good thing is that I really do need you so that you haven’t broken away just to gain your independence, but because you have a job of work to do.”

“Yes,” Peter said soberly. “I think that is what helped me at the last moment.”

The following day they were only able to work outside during the morning, for by lunchtime the storm clouds, which had been piling up slowly, exploded in violent claps of thunder and vivid flashes of lightning, followed by a fierce downpour of rain which settled into a steady drizzle. Isobel lit a lamp attached to a small canister of bottled gas. It gave a good light and they were able to work at the kitchen table comfortably.

Juli sorted out articles, booklets, notes and pamphlets which Isobel had been stuffing into a drawer for further study for months. Isobel, fearing the storm, had shown Peter all she wanted done in the orchard and in general, apart from asking him to see to one or two things that needed fixing. Now, while he worked on a lamp, she went over their morning’s activities and plans making notes in order to help him remember.

“Findhorn?” Juli said, holding a pamphlet over the ‘throwaway’ pile.

“That’s a place in Scotland where they work closely with the elementals,” Isobel replied. “Don’t throw it away, I want to go and visit the place if I ever go to Britain.”

“Elementals?”

“Yes, the people there say they’re in touch with the … shall we say ‘little people’. Spiritual entities, plant beings. These beings tell them what to do to make the plants grow better.”

“Isobel, you don’t believe that do you?”

“I don’t know. The results at Findhorn are astonishing apparently, and quite inexplicable from a scientific point of view. I mean some plants and trees that grow there simply shouldn’t for they are tropical for instance. And any way, why not? Fairy stories are absolutely full of fairies and dwarfs and gnomes and so on. I understand that there are Norwegians and Scottish and Irish people who still seem to have the capacity to ‘see’ them. They see them, respect them and make no song and dance about it.”

“But fairy stories aren’t true. That’s why they’re called fairy stories. They’re stories for children.”

“Juli, the ‘fairy stories’ collected by the Grimm brothers were stories which had been told for many many generations but never written down. They were told when people had no books and could not read or write but they were told to adults, not to children. I really believe that in the days they were told, everybody could see these elemental beings which are connected with the elements; earth, water, air and fire and also with the plants, as I said. An adult would listen to these stories because he knew these beings existed, just as an adult today would listen to a story about a dog because he knows it exists and his fantasy will accept that a dog can communicate with him in some way and tell him secrets about the doggy world or how to behave in certain circumstances.”

“I read about that somewhere,” Peter mused. “Gnomes, undines …

“Sylphs …”

“Les Sylphides?” Juli exclaimed.

“That’s right, and salamanders.”

“I thought those were stoves.” Juli protested.

“That’s where the stoves got their name from.”

Juli shook her head. “So these people in Findhorn say fairies and gnomes really exist, do they?”

“Yes.”

“I find it super hard to believe!”

“There’s more in the world than meets the eye,” Peter said tritely, making a face at Juli. “Didn’t you see all the salamanders leaping around in my mother’s fiery wrath?”

Juli burst out laughing and they returned to their different occupations. Isobel and Juli left at six just after Juan had returned with his family, despite the rain.

“He’s really very responsible,” Isobel said with satisfaction as Peter was seeing them off in the car. “Any way I popped in to see Karl yesterday morning and he said he’d come by tomorrow to explain about the bees and the lavender, Peter.”

“Yes, you told me. Don’t worry Isobel, I’m fine just fine,” Peter grinned. “I may not be able to remember anything from before March but I do remember where my bed is here and where the instant coffee is kept! Off you both go and give my love to Mother and Dad Juli, and tell them that I’m very, very well, OK?”

“OK sir.”

Marion asked anxious questions when Juli arrived back but Juli was able to convince her that Peter was well, that Juan was back and that Sr. Bauer would be around the next day and she seemed calmer.

“How’s Dino?”

“Much better. Out of intensive care. He has no more fever and the pain is less. If this continues he’ll be out fairly soon. Viviana is so relieved. They take it in turns to look after him; Tom is sleeping just now.”

Pamela was delighted with her visit to Tarawera. “Wasn’t it lovely there?” she said. “I wonder if France is nicer.”

Juli glanced at her sideways. “I expect there are parts which are and parts which aren’t,” she said firmly.

“D’you know France?”

“A bit.”

“Do you like Simon?”

“Yes, very much.”

“He kissed me, in the orchard.”

“Did he now? And the sky didn’t fall down and give you away!”

Pamela stuck her tongue out at Juli by way of an answer.

On Monday the headlines in the Buenos Aires Herald blazed. “Attack on Puerto Argentina expected.” During the past five days no more that ‘skirmishes’ had been announced and everyone was waiting for the big battle. The Gurkhas had landed. There were between seven and eight thousand British troops on the Islands. No one really doubted the outcome.

Juli was just about to leave the office the following evening to go to her Spanish lesson when Marion ‘phoned. “Juli, is Arthur there?” Her voice was breathless and filled with panic.

“No Marion, what’s the matter?”

“Dereck. Dereck has had a stroke. He’s in the hospital in Santa Rosa. Lena has just ‘phoned me. She’s desperate … three tiny children … he’s paralyzed all down his right side.”

“What are you going to do?”

“I want to fly to Santa Rosa tomorrow. It’s too late now. But Juli, Lena says he keeps asking for you!”

“For me?”

“Yes. Lena says the doctors feel you should go. It might help to quiet him.”

Arthur came into the office and Juli, her heart hammering, handed him the receiver. In the end it was decided that Juli and Marion should fly to Santa Rosa the following morning. An air-taxi was booked and Juli would return on it if possible, once she had seen Dereck. Gavin and Rowena were informed by telegram. Juli missed her Spanish lesson and went straight home with Arthur.

Anxious thoughts raced back and forth in Juli’s mind. A stroke! What could have caused it? Paralyzed! He was young, only a little over fifty. Dereck, all that virility and energy locked up now in a half functioning body. Would he recover? Who would run Los Alamos? Gavin? Would Dereck die? Why did he want to see her? Could Gavin’s letter saying they were engaged have had anything to do with it?

At the Carlie’s all was bustle as Marion struggled to make the necessary arrangements in case she had to remain in Santa Rosa to help Lena. Juli and Arthur calmed her, assuring her that between them they would be able to cope, just to write out a few lists which she felt might be useful. Joanie Trale rang to offer to have Pamela. Pamela, horrified, begged to be allowed to stay at home and promised her father she would only see Simon if he came to the house when Juli or Arthur were there.

Viviana assured them that she and Tom could manage perfectly even if Marion was away for a while. The telephone rang again and Juli went to answer it.

“Mr. and Mrs. Carlie’s home. Juli Lane speaking, can I help you?” she said in a very professional manner.

“Hey, Juli. This is Sandy. D’you remember me? We went to Ana’s party with Peter.”

“Sure. How are you?”

“Great thanks. What are you doing in Martinez sounding like a secretary there?”

“But I am, actually. I came to B.A. a month ago and I’m working for Peter’s father. You know about Peter, don’t you?”

“His accident and all that?”

“Yes.”

“I went to see him once with Ana but he didn’t remember us at all. I never went back I’m afraid, Peter’s mother said it upset him and perhaps … you know, she gave me to understand that it would be better if I didn’t go when I ‘phoned so, well, I didn’t. How is he?”

“Much better. He’s started working for a friend of mine who has a ‘chacra’.”

“Really? Am I glad to hear that! He was in such a bad way when I saw him.”

They talked on for a little and Juli gave him rough instructions should he want to go to Tarawera.

Early the following morning Arthur drove them to Don Torcuato, the same local airport from which Juli and Pamela had left with Terencio Solá. Every nerve in Juli’s body resisted the idea of going to Santa Rosa so strongly she had to will herself to follow Marion onto the air-taxi. Her soul cried out against having to see Dereck so ill and so affected. Arthur waved them good bye and drove to the city to have breakfast and read the paper.

… Argentine jets had sunk the British frigate H.M.S. Plymouth and damaged three landing craft. President Reagan and his wife were in London. Mrs. Thatcher said her government had made it clear, publicly, that if Argentina said it was prepared to withdraw its troops from the Falklands, Britain would enable them to do so safely, with dignity and despatch.
… President Galtieri insisted that Argentina was ready to continue with the war for as many months or years as was necessary.
… The Pope was due to arrive the following day. Would that have much effect on the events in the South? He had just been to England, he had seen Reagan in Rome, now he was coming to Argentina. Was he cooking up something with all these meetings?
… Sir Anthony Parsons, the British Ambassador to the United States had done a great deal towards winning the war before anything had happened at all, Arthur felt sure. A word here, a piece of information there, all very suave and perfectly mannered, also perfectly timed and placed. Where diplomacy was concerned few could match the British, perhaps the Pope …

Arthur imagined the busy behind-the scenes diplomacy needed for dovetailing all the details. As far as diplomacy was concerned he feared that the Argentines had not the slightest training whatsoever, and the military even less so.

As the little air-taxi sank down over Santa Rosa Juli’s heart ached as she watched the familiar town rising to meet them, and later, standing waiting for them, George Clarence’s familiar figure.
………………………………………….

1 thought on “Under Another Sky 27

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s