Under Another Sky 29

Chapter 29

By Tuesday the news that the war was over and that the Argentines had surrendered filled the headlines in all the newspapers. As the Argentine flag was brought down in Puerto Argentino and the Union Jack run up, furious protesters calling for the continuation of the war and the ouster for President Galtieri gathered in Plaza de Mayo. There were about 7.000 of them and pitched battles with the police took place all around the downtown area of Buenos Aires. The riots raged for nearly three hours before the police were finally able to bring the violence under control.

Juli, suffering from her reaction to breaking off her engagement to Gavin, read the news with indifference. One had known from the very beginning that this war could never be won by Argentina. She went about her work, and looked after the house in Martinez for Marion with quiet efficiency. She smiled and sometimes laughed, listened and appeared to be the same as ever but in reality she felt like an empty hole in which a tree or a rose bush which was to have been planted there, had disappeared, and there was now no way to fill the hole.

If she left Argentina would she be allowed to return? But what for and where would she go? If she stayed and the authorities discovered her then they would make her leave, as her tourist visa had expired. She had little heart to go touring Peru and Bolivia on her own despite the fact that she knew she could team up with other young travellers. If she did stay in Buenos Aires, she would have to find a job, and people with whom to share a flat for there were no bed-sitters as such and even one-room apartments were extremely expensive. But Buenos Aires was still alien to her. An attractive, mysterious city, a little frightening because of stories which cropped up now and again, of a flourishing white slave trade and young girls and women disappearing, probably with little foundation, but … To live alone in Buenos Aires and work in an office or to live alone in London and do the same, at least London was familiar. She considered working as an au-pair in Europe, moving from family to family, or to look for a job in Santiago in Chile, but that meant making friends all over again. She decided to talk it over with Isobel who invited her to supper the following evening.

Wendy welcomed her wildly with barks and squeaks of delight. “How she loves you,” Isobel said fondly as the little dog jumped up and down beside Juli. It had turned very cold and Isobel’s flat was cosy and, as always, welcoming. Juli hung up her coat, kissed Isobel and walked over to look at the latter’s collection of stones while she cuddled the little dog.

“I broke off my engagement,” she said turning round. “You were right Isobel. I was in love with love.”

“I was afraid so,” Isobel murmured.

Juli flopped onto one of the arm chairs and gave Isobel a detailed description of all that had happened during the weekend she had spent with Gavin in Santa Rosa. “It was terrible, Isobel. He is addicted, but he really loves me, and there I realised that I didn’t really and truly love him at all, I’m just very fond of him, not that I told him that, I broke it all off because of the drugs.”

“You did the right thing, dear. Gavin will get over it, he must understand your point of view if he can’t give up drugs, and hasn’t even started to try yet … So, what are you going to do now?”

“Obviously I shall remain on until Constanza gets back, but then I just don’t know what to do! I wanted to talk it over with you.”

They talked for a long time, going over the pros and cons of both staying and leaving. Juli was in a very negative mood. “I suppose the best thing is really to go back to London as I had planned,” she sighed. “I can stay with Dad for a bit I suppose until I get a job and a bed-sit. I don’t want to share a flat ever again.”

“You could become member of the Anglo Argentine Association or whatever it’s called in London.”

“Yeah, I suppose so. It’s just that I feel I have no energy or will to do anything, and what I could do I don’t want to do. That sounds a bit jumbled up but you know what I mean.” After a long silence she said, “How’s Tarawera?”

“A-one.”

“Peter?”

“Very happy. He’s really enjoyed his week and such a lot got done. I’m delighted. A friend of his came in just as I was leaving, with her two children. Let’s go and eat something, shall we?”

“OK. A friend?”

“Yes, a tall girl … Ana? Yes, that’s it, Ana. The children were sweet, I was sorry I had to leave.”

“Oh … Ana.” For a moment Juli felt a flash of irritation, how the heck had Ana known … ? Oh, yes, Sandy must have told her. Was she going to start nosing round Peter again? Juli hadn’t liked her much and felt Peter deserved someone better. Oh well … “Did he recognize her?” she wondered.

“I don’t know. I think she had been to see him some time ago in Martinez. But it’s good that old friends take the trouble to visit him.”

“Marion kept them at bay,” Juli reflected. “If they phoned she always said he was out or busy.” She cleared her throat which had begun to ache that morning. “I could go to New Zealand or Australia, couldn’t I?

“Or you could get a job in an oil company in Beirut.”

“In Beirut?”

“I’ve always loved the name, it conjures up flying carpets and fantastic wealth.”

“Bombs and war more likely. I could go to Canada.”

“Vancouver and Vancouver Island have always attracted me.”

“Why?”

“Not quite so cold, perhaps.”

“Mmmm.”

When at last Juli stood up to leave Isobel asked sadly, “Have I helped?”

“Yes I think so.”

“Are you coming out this weekend?”

“May I?”

But Juli did not go to Tarawera that weekend, instead she went to bed with a streaming cold and temperature. Marion returned, looking thin but cheerful. Dereck was much better and quite out of danger. Lena had rented a very nice ground floor flat with a bit of garden and had moved in with Florencia, the new nanny, Marta and the children. Marion had nothing but praise for Lena’s bravery, calmness and optimism. Gavin had gone to live in Los Alamos.

“How are the children?” Juli had asked.

“Lovely, and Florencia seems to have turned out very well indeed, luckily.”

“So much for my importance. I don’t suppose they even remember me any more,” Juli had thought, and her depression had settled a little deeper.

Pamela was very upset over Juli’s broken engagement. “Are you sure you made a mistake Juli?” she queried.

“Yes, quite sure.”

“But you were so happy, you loved him so much!”

“Not him. Just an idea.”

“What do you mean, an idea?”

“Well, it was all by letters and ‘phone calls. When I was actually with him I realized that I’m very fond of him but I’m not in love with him.”

“Did you sleep with him?”

“Look Pama. I’m feeling rotten. I want to go to sleep now.”

Disappointed, Pamela stood up. “Do you want anything? Tea with lemon or something like that,” she enquired in a mollifying tone.

“Yes but not now. Later would be great, OK?”

Juli dozed and dreamed weird dreams of being lost and unable to find her way home, of wearing shoes of different colours, of keeping humming-birds in a cage and discovering that they were really wasps.

On Sunday evening Arthur decreed that she remain home on Monday. “No good getting a relapse,” he said. “We’ll see how you are tomorrow evening. I can manage dear, don’t you worry.”

“Señor Chusca is coming at ten, he rang just as I was leaving on Friday.”

“Chusca?”

“From Pelori Hermanos.”

“Ah. So he ‘phoned did he? Good. Anyway you just keep warm and dry here and I expect by Tuesday you’ll be feeling well again.” Juli acquiesced gratefully for she was still feeling weak and full of cold. The weather had been freezing and she was glad she would not have to go out. “Did anyone tell you?” Arthur added. “María’s brother ‘phoned today. He was repatriated on the Canberra.”

“Really?” It was the first time in days Juli felt a flash of happiness. “How wonderful! Is there any way of letting the family know?”

“We’ll tell María when she gets in and she can go right back home to tell them.”

As if sensing that there might be news, María returned to work earlier than usual on Sunday evening. The Carlies were all at supper in the kitchen when she arrived so that she received the news about her brother in a chorus of voices Weeping and laughing she hugged them all in turn and they were as happy as if it had been Peter himself. Once she had eaten a quick slice of pie she left once more for home two hours away with the good news making her black eyes dance and her soft brown skin glow. It seemed a miracle to her that her brother had come through the whole war unhurt and the poor niño Dino had lost a foot.

The whole of Argentina was suffering from the confusion and uncertainty of the aftermath of the ‘war’. President Leopoldo Galtieri had resigned as President of the Nation and Commander-in-Chief of the army. Major General Alfredo Saint Jean had been named interim President until the military junta agreed on who should follow Galtieri in his post. Major General Cristiano Nicolaides had become the new Commander-in-Chief of the army.

And so the government of Leopoldo Galtieri, which had started out with such optimism and with the promises of a strong Western Argentina, an Argentina on its way to a stable democracy, an Argentina which would assert itself world-wide, had come to an abrupt end. The Junta itself was locked in an internal power struggle. The politicians were making their voices heard. Raul Alfonsín, a Radical, was insisting that the time had come to recover reason, a grip on reality, and morality.

Tom appeared. He had grown a beard which was the colour of pepper and salt, it was neatly clipped and made him look quite different. To the chorus of “How’s Dino?” He smiled broadly and held up both thumbs.

“Have you eaten?” Marion asked as they made room for him and told him about María’s brother.

“Yes, thank you,” he replied hastily as he settled between Pamela and Tony. Both Viviana and Tom went to the greatest lengths to be the least trouble possible. They were never in for meals and seldom used the sitting-room. “We’re hoping that the doctors will let Dino come home this week. I mean to Santa Fé. I am going to buy him some crutches tomorrow. He was hopping about today between the beds.”

“What very good news Tom,” Marion said warmly. “I am so glad for you all.”

“Thank you, any news of Dereck?”

“No, but no news is good news.”

“Well, I think I will turn in.”

Tom stood up and nodded smilingly. Juli, wrapped in her woolly dressing gown with a box of tissues at hand, noticed that his eyes were clearer and his whole manner more alert, which meant that he was still ‘dry’. She hoped he would stay that way, it would make such a difference for the whole family.

“Now then,” Arthur said pushing back his chair. “Tony washes up. Pamela dries. Juli, back to bed. Marion dear, off to the sitting room. I’m going to make coffee.”

Juli went back to bed thankfully. Tomorrow she’d feel better and would decide finally what she was going to do. What she really wanted was to remain in bed for weeks and weeks and to sleep until everything had sorted itself out alone. She sighed. Life just went on and on and there was nothing one could do. The days just kept on slipping by and the 3rd of July was drawing inexorably nearer. In fact it was less than two weeks away.

The following morning she got up late and ate breakfast alone in the kitchen. María had not yet returned and everyone else was out. The house was very quiet. It was cold and the rain which had been belabouring Buenos Aires on and off during most of the week, pattered against the window panes. Juli threw a log onto the fire in the sitting room and settled down on the sofa to write to her father. Poor thing, he still thought she was engaged to Gavin and would soon be getting married. When she had recovered from her cold she’d go and see Rita, darling Rita, how lovely for her to be ‘expecting’. She ran her hand over her stomach sadly, she had so wanted to have a baby.

The front door opened and closed quietly and Peter walked into the room. “Hello,” he greeted her. “All alone?”

“Peter !” Juli leaped to her feet and stood gazing at him in astonishment.

“Are you alone?” he repeated. “My mother?”

“Everyone’s out. You’re soaked! What’s the matter? Are you all right?”

“Very much so.” He took off his anorak and his shoes and left them in the hall. “Not working today?”

“No, I’m nursing a cold.”

“How is everybody? Dino? Dereck?”

“Dino may be let out of hospital this week. Dereck is better.”

Peter turned to ring the bell for María. “María isn’t here,” Juli said, raising her hand. “Her brother has been repatriated on the Canberra, she went to tell her family.”

“Is that so? How fantastic!” Peter exclamed as he leaned down to warm his hands at the fire. Juli studied him curiously, he seemed different but she could not pin-point what it was. “I’ll make myself a coffee then. Want one?”

“OK.”

“Milk and two sugar?”

“Yes please.” Juli flopped back onto the sofa completely mystified. When Peter returned with two steaming mugs of coffee he said, “Gavin?”

“We’ve broken up.”

“Isobel told me,” Peter looked down at her with a deeply concerned expression. “What happened.”

“I …” she took the cup he proffered her and shrugged slightly. “I realized, like, I wasn’t really in love with him. I like him heaps but, well, not enough to marry him.”

“I’m sorry about that.”

Juli made a little grimace and they sat in silence . At last she said, “Why did you come this morning?”

Peter took a sip of coffee and stared into the fire. The silence lengthened causing a slight tension, at last he said, “I’ve got my memory back.” Juli gasped, gazing at him dumbstruck. “All through the week snippets have been coming back, all ragged round the edges at first. It’s been a rather painful experience. I’m glad I was alone and had plenty on physical work to do.”

“Do you remember everything? From before and after the accident?”

“Oh, yes. All the rows with my mother. My talks with you – I remember so well when I went to fetch you at Ezeiza. All my friends, that group that used to take drugs in Tigre, my escape, my life in Brazil and Uruguay. I must get in touch with Knut by the way – and then these dreadful months here. It’s all fallen into place. I’m back.”

“How do you feel?”

“Confused. I’ve come to work this all through with my psychologist. I find I just can’t handle it alone. There are moments I feel like exploding, and others when I feel like curling up and crying like a baby. What worries me most is my relationship with Mum. It’s always been so unhealthy.”

“She’s all worried about Dereck just now. She came back on Saturday morning.”

“Oh, so she’s back? I tell you I’m all at sixes and sevens. When Dad told me to take clothes and things I felt so awful because we did it secretly. I hated pretending and all that, but it was the only way. I had begun to feel like a fly in a spider’s web half the time here. I’m really happy at Tarawera.”

“How is Señora Bauer?”

“Convalescing. Sr. Bauer has been out twice, he’ a very interesting man, kind too. I’m going to look after the lavender and keep watch on the bees for him. In fact I’m going to study bee-keeping. One of the things I want to do while I’m here is to buy some books on the subject. I suppose Dad still has my savings stashed away somewhere.”

An easy companionable silence enveloped them once more. At last Peter said, “So the war is over, and we have a new President.”

“Poor Argentina.”

“We need to get rid of the military. To think the country used to be one of the richest in the world! I suppose it’s about the poorest now.”

“Perhaps now, because the war is over, things will change.”

“Change? I doubt it. And for what? A bunch of Peronistas will be worse than the military if we have elections, and they are the strong party.”

“Are they all so bad?”

“Perhaps not, but enough are.”

“Peter, let’s ‘phone your father and tell him. This is really a momentous date!” Juli exclaimed jumping up and going to the telephone, her finger poised ready to dial the office number.

“OK, let’s.” Peter agreed, joining her. A moment later Arthur’s voice spilled from the receiver.

“Arthur? This is Juli. I’ve got a surprise for you. Hang on.” She handed the receiver to Peter as Arthur replied, “It must be a very nice one from the sound of your voice.”

Peter took a deep breath and said, “Hello Dad, it’s me, Peter – I arrived about an hour ago – fine thanks … Dad? – I’ve got my memory back! – Uh huh, all of it. – Yeah, all through the week in bits – Well, more or less. I’ve come to talk to my psychologist as I’m finding it all a bit hard to handle – No, only Juli. I suppose she’s gone shopping – Thanks Dad – Listen, don’t worry about me, I’m fine, just a bit mixed up at moments, I need to sort myself out that’s all – OK. See you later – Yes, I’m staying today and tomorrow. I feel I shall need at least two sessions if not more – No, I’m going to ring her up now – OK, ‘Bye, thanks very much – ‘Bye.”

He sank down in the arm chair he had been sitting in and sighed, looking pleased. “I get on really well with Dad now,” he mused. “It was a good idea to ‘phone him, he was beside himself. He tried not to let it show but I think he wanted to cry, his voice was all wobbly for a moment.”

“It’s funny isn’t it how one always thinks of one’s parents as ‘grown up’, a sort of species apart which never cries or shows its feelings much, certainly not as we do! Unless of course they’re furious with one! I love your Dad, it’s so nice to be working for him.”

“Constanza?”

“She’s due back on the 30th. She’s sent us two postcards already.”

“And you? What are you planning to do?”

“I’m going back to England on the 3rd,” Juli found herself saying. “Once I’m there I’m going to get the best job I can. I’ve got two languages now, and I’m going to save up like mad and then I’m going to visit Canada. If I like it I might stay there.”

“Canada? I thought you loved it here so much.”

“I do … but my papers aren’t in order. Maybe one day I’ll have saved up so much I shall be able to buy a chacra here like Isobel, and grow organic vegetables for a living.”

“I’m glad you’ve got everything so clear,” Peter said dryly. “I wish I had.”

“Can’t you stay at Tarawera?”

“For the moment I plan to. I’m kind of leaving the future in the hands of Destiny.”

“You sound like Isobel.”

“She’s about the only person I know who is at peace with her Destiny. She accepts it quite cheerfully, the good and the bad. It’s interesting.”

“So I’m going back to England on the 3rd,” Juli thought and felt only relief at the fact that she had finally decided.

“So you’re going on the 3rd,” Peter echoed her thoughts. “Well, I shall drive you to Ezeiza. I met you, I shall see you off.”

“One year I’ve been here, … exactly. So much has happened, hasn’t it?”

“For Argentina it’s been pretty catastrophic. For the Carlies a time of growing. For Dereck and Lena it hasn’t ended so well.”

“It’s been awful for Gavin too.”

“And for you, I’d say.”

“Well, yes a bit. Tishy’s fine any way. What I came for, to look after Tishy, can only be called a complete success. At least I’m going home with that achieved.”

“Tishy? What was the matter with Tishy?”

Realizing that Peter had no idea of how Tishy had seemed when she, Juli, had arrived at Los Alamos, Juli related to Peter the whole story of Tishy’s ‘awakening’. He was stunned, unable to believe that Lena had taken so little interest in Tishy that her short-sightedness had gone completely undetected. “Some parents,” he declared, shaking his head, “need to have their brains rattled. Which reminds me, I must ‘phone my shrink before it gets too late.”

Peter ‘phoned his psychologist and booked a session for late that evening. He had just hung up when the sound of Marion’s key rattled in the door. She came in carrying various shopping bags and Peter and Juli hurried to help her. She stared at Peter with concern. “Peter darling,” she gasped. “Are you all right? Why have you come?”

“Let me help you,” Peter took the heavy bags and carried them to the kitchen, Marion followed him as Juli closed the door. “I’ve got my memory back,” he said, squaring his shoulders.

“Peter, I can’t believe it. When!”

“All during the week.”

“Oh my God, and I was in Santa Rosa.”

“Which was where you were most needed, Mum. I’m fine, but I’ve decided to see my psychologist and go over everything with her.”

“She’s a stupid woman. I don’t like her.”

“Well, I do. Come into the sitting room and tell me all about Dereck. How come he had a stroke? He’s very young to get a stroke isn’t he?”

“He’d been suffering from high blood pressure and had not been taking his pills. But he’s much better now, His face is almost normal, his leg is what needs therapy, his arm is much better too.”

“Hey, that’s fantastic, he was lucky. Let’s celebrate with a drink.”

María arrived and all the explanations were gone through again. She wept with joy, hugging Peter and kissing him fervently on the cheek. “Ah, things are better now,” she said. “The war is over, my brother is well, the niño Dino is better and the Señor Dereck also. And now you, you have recovered your memory. I am so happy for you!”

She turned to Marion and said, “I am so glad for you too Señora, this has been such a long worrying time for you.”

Marion looked into her glowing black eyes, so full of love and for the first time really saw her as a person, even a friend, and not merely as a servant. She had remained working for them faithfully all through the war, loyal and loving to the last.

That evening they ate a celebration dinner, the best wine flowed, the best silver and china used. Pamela insisted that they should wear their party frocks, to which Marion and Juli agreed a little unwillingly, and she decorated the table with her prettiest paper flowers.

“All that remains is for me to have dirty finger-nails and to be sent to the kitchen to eat dinner, for old time’s sake,” Peter murmured at one moment to Juli and they both laughed. He had been to see his psychologist and he looked relaxed and happy.

The next day Juli went back to work, still full of cold but definitely better. Gavin phoned her from Santa Rosa. “I’m flying to B.A, this afternoon with Terencio Solá,” he informed her diffidently. “Could we meet this evening? I can pick you up at the office.”

“Oh, Gavin…I …”

“Just as close friends, nothing more,” he specified hastily. “I’ve so much I want to tell you.”

“OK. At six, then,” Juli conceded and gave him the address. She hung up and stared out of the window for several minutes remembering; her dreams, her love, her plans. With a sigh she returned to her typewriter.

Isobel ‘phoned. “Juli dear, how are you?”

“Better thank you. Do you know about Peter?”

“Yes. Isn’t it marvellous?”

“Even Marion seemed pleased. I think her worry over Dereck has sort of cured her of her obsession over Peter.”

“And Dereck is better I understand.”

“Yes, much.”

“What a relief for the family. By the way, is Arthur there?

“Why yes. Just a moment please.” Juli advised Arthur over the intercom and passed the call through to his office. Now what, she wondered was going on there? For a few heady moments she imagined that her two favourite persons in Argentina had fallen in love, but then with a brusque effort she banished such thoughts. Arthur would never be unfaithful to Marion, and Isobel would never even try to tempt him, she told herself with somewhat childish certainty!

Gavin was waiting for her in the lobby. He kissed her chastely on the cheek and asked, smiling philosophically. “How are you?”

“OK thanks.” She felt flustered and a little nervous.

“I’m at the Plaza Hotel, I thought we could go there. It’s comfy and handy.”

At the hotel they went to the lounge and Juli looked round at the high decorated ceiling, beautiful curtains, carpeted floors, the columns and aspidistras. It was an old hotel, graceful, proud of its history, grand. Button boys and waiters moved discreetly. The patrons were a strange mixture of very elegant and well dressed, to flashy to downright crumpled. Gavin ordered drinks and something to eat and gave Juli the latest information on Dereck.

“The doctors say he’ll be well enough to leave the hospital and start rehabilitation in about a week’s time,” he added.

“So what are your plans?” Juli asked a little shyly.

“I have decided to remain in Argentina and run Los Alamos for Dad. Toffy’s a bit young, so I guess it’s up to me.” Gavin replied, and she felt her heart flip as the images of Tishy, Marina, Mariposa and Dobbie flitted through her mind. “Rowena arrived two days ago, so she’s helping Lena, and I am flying to France tomorrow morning to collect all my things to bring back here. It’s not what I had chosen to dedicate my life to, which was wine, but destiny seems to have intervened and decreed otherwise. Who knows? Maybe it’s for the best. And you Juli, what are your plans now? It would be fantastic if you would agree to come back to Los Alamos and go on looking after the kids, I know Lena would be delighted. Florencia is OK but the kids talk about you so much.

“Still?”

“Very much so.”

“I couldn’t Gavin,” Juli sighed. “Not only because of us, you and I, I mean, but because I feel that my time spent at Los Alamos was like, complete. Tishy’s fine, Florencia has taken over, and I never intended to be a nanny all my life. I‘m going back to England and shall decide there exactly where to look for a really interesting job.”

Gavin nodded and they remained silent for a little while. At last he said, “Are you wondering about my … er … addiction?”

“Yes, I was, am. Can you get help in Santa Rosa or here in B.A, do you think?”

“I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. It’s going to be very tough, but where there’s a will there’s a way they say. I can and will stay off the heavy stuff, though.”

They continued chatting over dinner in the restaurant for another couple of hours. Juli told Gavin about Peter and later about Dino and María’s brother. They talked about Hernán for a long time and then Gavin accompanied Juli home in a taxi. “Might you possibly change your mind?” he asked her wistfully. “We get on so well, and I do love you so much.”

Juli shook her head, the lump in her throat making it almost impossible to speak. “I can’t explain,” she said at last. “It’s just … like, the chemistry isn’t there.”

When they got to the Carlie’s Gavin decided that he did not want to see them. “Just say I sent you home in the taxi if they ask,” he said. “Good night dear heart, and thank you for this evening.” He kissed her tenderly and she scrambled out of the taxi before her courage failed her and she found herself telling him that she did want to marry him after all. “Hey I nearly forgot,” he exclaimed. “This is for you.” He handed her a thick envelope.

“What .. oh Gavin …”

“It’s not a letter, only photographs.”

“Of … the children?” Juli inspected the envelope with a thudding heart.

“Mm hmm. Pleased?”

“Delighted, thank you!”

“ ‘Bye then. If I write will you answer me?”

“Sure. ‘Bye Gavin, take care.”

He nodded and made a little face at her. They were both near to tears. Once through the wrought –iron gate she waved and walked to the porch. The car drove away and the depression she had been fighting since she had broken off their engagement closed about her like a thick fog. “He’s gone,” she thought. “It’s really and truly all over.” Inside the house she called good night to Arthur and Marion who were reading in the sitting room and ran upstairs with tears streaming down her cheeks, aching over her abandoned dreams and her own destiny which weighed so heavily in her heart.

She went to visit Rita and Quique who were overjoyed to hear about Peter. “Is he at home?” Quique asked.

“No, he went back today to Tarawera.” She longed to ask about Ana but something made it impossible for her to do so. She simply did not want to hear it confirmed that Ana was interested in Peter once again. Handing Rita a present for her baby she said, “I don’t think I should be an official godmother. I shall be living so far away, and who knows when I shall ever come back? But what is certain is that I shall consider myself an unofficial one, always, and will expect heaps of photos.”

“But Juli …” Rita looked stricken.

“No.” Juli was adamant. “Your child should have both his or her godparents nearby. My godmother lived in South Africa. I hardly knew her.”

They began to discuss names and layettes and prams. Quique half listened fondly, composing the music mentally for a song for his first child. He felt a deep veneration for Rita and for the miracle of life in general. His brother had survived the war, Pablo had come back a changed man, quiet grim and tired of the whole subject of the Malvinas. Many of his companions had lost their lives heroically, and where were they now? What had been the point of it all? Yet here in Rita’s womb a new little being was busily in the process of preparing itself for life on earth.

On her last weekend Juli went out to Tarawera with Isobel. Peter greeted her warmly. With a great effort Juli nodded and smiled and made herself answer his questions about the family. She was beginning to feel a little like a robot.

“Dino’s getting out of hospital on Monday,” she said. “He has to stay in BA for a couple of weeks still though, for a last check-up. Tom has gone back to Santa Fé already but Viviana and Dino will be remaining with your parents until they can travel back as well.”

“Poor old Mum. She seems to have the house forever full.”

“Well, I’ll be leaving soon. I think I’ll go and do some weeding,” Juli declared, forcing herself to sound bright, and went to get her gardening gloves.

“I didn’t mean it that way, you silly thing,” Peter remonstrated, as she stalked past him sticking her tongue out at him as she did so.

It was a cold day with plenty of clouds. Juli weeded half-heartedly, often stopping to look over at the spinning wheel of the wind-mill, the orchard and the cows grazing quietly in the distance beyond the lavender. It was all so peaceful and splendid. In a way she was sorry she had come, it made her departure just that much more difficult. After a while she went to visit Celina and her new baby and gave her goodbye presents for the three children. She had brought Pamela’s camera and took two rolls of films somewhat haphazardly, of everything and anything.

At lunch she said, “You should have heard Tony last night. He was going on and on about how the bombs, dropped by the Argentine ‘planes when they tried to stop the British from landing, never exploded … that the French had cheated and sent dud ones … that if they had exploded it would all have been a different story … that it was ridiculous to say that the Argentines could never have won the war for, if the bombs had exploded, the Royal Navy would have been forced to retire from the bay.”

“Yes, I read about that in the Herald,” Isobel nodded.

“What do you think, Isobel?”

“That it was, for some reason, not meant to be.”

“We’re going to have a new President I hear. Major-General Reynaldo Bignone,” Peter remarked.

“Yet another. At least he’s said to be a middle-of-the-roader.”

“He’s promised a civilian government before March 1984,” Juli offered.

“One can promise anything in this country. No one takes you seriously if you’re in politics.” Peter grinned scornfully.

“Did you see Alexander Haig has resigned?” Juli persisted.

“Haig? Resigned?” Peter looked surprised.

“He says that the US foreign policy is no longer clear.”

“Has it ever been?” Isobel shrugged. “What does upset me though, talking of something quite different, are the frightful floods in the north of Argentina in the province of Formosa. Puerto Pilcomayo on the River Paraguay is under water, it has been completely evacuated. A whole town! The river is normally four metres deep there and it’s seven point fifteen now and still rising.”

“Poor Argentina. If it’s not one thing it’s another.”

“Most of the cotton grown in this country comes from Formosa so that’ll be millions of dollars lost.”

“I don’t envy any civilian government, should elections ever be permitted.” Peter said grimly.

“The worst of it is that they probably will be, just so the military government can have an excuse to step in and ‘save’ the country again. I mean they’ll hand over to a civilian government when the economic situation becomes untenable,” Isobel sighed. Depressed they talked of lavender and bees, jam-making and cream cheese.

The weekend came to a close and Juli humped her hold-all into Isobel’s car. She patted the dogs who had come over to see them off and glanced at Peter. “Are you really going to take me to the airport on Saturday?” she asked him.

“Yes siree. It’s all arranged. I shall go early. Your plane leaves at five you said, didn’t you? I shall be home for lunch, could you tell Mum?”

“Anything else?”

“No, that’s all.”

“’Bye then.”

“Chau, till Saturday.” He blew her a kiss.

As Isobel drove the car down the drive Juli stared round the darkening landscape trying to press it into her heart. “The awful thing is how one forgets,” she lamented. “I tried to picture everything last night and there were so many things I couldn’t place correctly. I re-checked everything this morning but will I remember?”

Isobel smiled comfortingly. “Just invent what you don’t remember,” she suggested. “That way you’ll keep the essence alive. Do you really love it so here?”

“Yes, I really do.”

When Juli got back into the car after shutting the gate Isobel said, “See those fields there on the left, beyond the big ombú tree?”

“Mmm.”

“They’re for sale. I phoned Arthur and told him and he’s looking into buying them. It’s a very good buy if he does.”
…………………………………………………….

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