Under Another Sky 8

Chapter 8

The next morning Juli hastened up to the main street in Martinez to finish her shopping, at the last minute she also bought a fine gilt chain for Lena. She wondered if she was buying it as a salve for her conscience of because she really wanted to give Lena a present, but the question was too difficult to answer.

Dereck arrived at twelve thirty having already picked Pamela up. Juli helped the child finish her packing and write a quick letter to her mother before they both tucked in to the large sandwiches María had prepared for their snack lunch. Juli gave María a warm hug and whispered, “Suerte María, good luck, everything will be all right, you’ll see.”

María nodded, wiping away a tear with a corner of her apron. “Gracias Señorita Juli,” she smiled lopsidedly.

The buildings at the Don Torcuato airport were flat and low, there were several hangars and a diminutive administration building. Terencio Solá was already there when they arrived, chatting to a mechanic. He was a slim, virile man of about forty, whose flashing eyes betrayed a love of adventure and a need for open spaces as well as a dash of danger in his life. He welcomed Dereck, slapping him in the back and hugging him. Dereck introduced Juli and Pamela who received friendly kisses.

“Your friend?” Dereck asked, looking round.

“Couldn’t travel today,” Terencio replied “Some problem at home.”

The weather had changed during the night and the breeze sweeping across the wide flat expanse of the airfield was sharp and cold. Pamela shivered, nodding towards a fragile looking little craft standing nearby, trembling in the wind. “Is that the ‘plane?” she whispered to Juli.

“Is that your new ‘plane?” Dereck asked almost at the same moment.

Terencio nodded proudly. “It’s a Piper Cherokee,” he said. “They are excellent little ‘planes, very cheap to run, easy to fly and marvellously manoeuvrable. Does one hundred and fifty knots, you know?”

“That’s pretty good,” Dereck approved and Juli wondered how fast that was in ordinary language.

“Come on over and have a look at her.”

Dereck picked up the girls’ suitcases and they all walked over to the ‘plane. Pamela clambered into it eagerly to see what it was like inside. With a pang, Juli stood by the men, trying to follow the conversation, loath to join Pamela and miss one moment of being near Dereck. Pamela reappeared at her side, almost bouncing with excitement.

“It’s tiny,” she whispered. “It’s a good thing Mummy doesn’t know I’m flying in this, she’d have a fit!”

After a while Terencio walked over to the offices and returned with a more purposeful stride. “Well,” he said. “We’ll be off. Chau Dereck, old man. Don’t worry about the girls we should arrive at around sixteen-twenty five.”

Juli looked at her watch, it was five to two.

“O.K.you two, hop in and don’t forget to fasten your seat belts,” Derck said briskly. “’Bye ‘Bye Pamela, be a good girl and enjoy yourself. Juli, here’s a letter for Lena and a list of instructions for Don Elizondo. I don’t know when I’ll be back, Tuesday or Wednesday.”

Checking that their luggage had already been stowed away safely, he kissed them both briefly and watched them settle themselves in their seats. He punched Terencio on the shoulder lightly, waved and began to walk away from the plane. No sooner was Terencio at the controls and the door safely shut than the little aeroplane began to move forward. A few minutes later with a roar and a shiver they were racing down the runway, and rising sharply over the airport. Dereck, standing waving, dwindled to a small dot.

Terencio turned the ‘plane south west and they began to fly smoothly into the afternoon sunshine above the drifting clouds. Looking out of the window Juli could see the shadow of the ’plane moving over the brilliant white clouds, growing larger when the surfaces rose nearer to the ‘plane, and diminishing when they were at a distance. It gave her an odd feeling, for she considered herself part of that shadow and its continual changes of size confused her sense of reality. After a while the clouds began to break up and she could see the flat ochre coloured land below them, divided by ruler straight roads, enormous fields, many ploughed already for sowing, and tiny brown dots, which were the cattle grazing, spread out over the soft-green pastures.

“Argentina,” she thought and felt a rush of emotion. Already she loved this strange wild land and felt that she was becoming more and more connected with it. The unhappy buzzing of a little fly against the glass of the window reminded her of the fly on the Boeing she had arrived on in June. “I wonder if that fly is still alive,” she thought. “Maybe, by some strange chance, this is a relation.” She smiled at the idea and Pamela, glancing at her, grinned animatedly back.

It was interesting to watch the gradual change of the landscape and also of the colours. The land grew perceptibly drier and the colours became lighter as the sandy earth of the Pampas took the place of the rich black loam of the Province of Buenos Aires. Then came the caldén woods, miles and miles of them with winding tracks and straight earth roads crisscrossing them. There were also open fields with an occasional worker’s cottage or the homestead of an estancia with the houses, outbuildings and sheds beside them.

Terencio began to bring the ‘plane lower and lower as Pamela exclaimed. “What’s happening? Have we arrived? Already?”

It was fascinating to fly over Los Alamos and see all the familiar buildings from such a novel angle. Glancing at her watch Juli saw that it was exactly twenty-five past four. As there were cows and a couple of horses spread out across the earth airstrip in the nearby field, Terencio buzzed the foreman’s cottage. Don Elizondo appeared waving his arms. He ran to unhitch his tethered horse and hastily galloped off to clear the airstrip. Pamela and Juli watched with mounting nervous fascination as he rounded up the cows and herded them off to one corner of the field, while Terencio took a big circle before heading for the airstrip, lowering the little ‘plane gently as he approached it. All of a sudden one of the horses, frightened by the noise, broke into a gallop and raced blindly towards the ‘plane. Juli felt the slight bump as the ‘plane touched down.

Pamela screamed and covered her face with her hands. Horrified, Juli gave a low, involuntary moan. There was no possible way to avoid a head-in collision between the Piper and the terrified animal. “Oh , my God, this is the end,” she thought. “we’re all going to die.” Instinctively she cringed, waiting for the impact as, like a flutter of black red-eyed birds, the thoughts, “It’s because of I’ve fallen in love with Dereck, it’s all my fault, all my fault…” tumbled back and forth in her mind.

Terencio jerked back the joystick and pushed the throttle. The Piper shuddered, faltered and then swung up over the horse, missing it by only a few centimetres as it shot up into the air once more. A little while later he brought the Piper down to a perfect landing, his eyes fairly glowing with excitement.

“Never a dull moment, eh?” he exclaimed, adding exultantly. “I told you she was a marvellously manoeuvrable little bird, didn’t I?”

“I wet my pants,” Pamela wailed and burst into tears. Juli, who was surprised that she hadn’t done the same, looked bleakly at Terencio. He laughed and shook his head. “Not to worry,” he consoled Pamela. “We’ll consider it a baptism.”

“They shouldn’t have horses and cows in the same field where there is a landing strip!” Juli exploded.

“But they keep the surface nice and hard with their hooves,” Terencio assured her. “All we pilots are on our toes for just such occurrences, you know?”

He opened the door of the ‘plane, jumped down and helped the two girls to alight before hopping in again and handing them down their suitcases and other belongings. They thanked him for bringing them and said a shaky goodbye as Terencio gave them each a cheerful kiss. Suddenly Juli said, “If your friend had come, could you have ….?”

Terencio looked into her eyes and replied softly. “Probably not … that’s destiny.” He grinned, touched her cheek with his fingers, jumped back into the ‘plane, banged the door shut and taxied off down the airstrip. “Delighted with his adventure, his reactions and his beloved Cherokee’s response,” Juli thought watching it take off and rise over the trees like a shimmering metal bird, dipping its wings in a last farewell. She felt her legs would never obey her command to walk, they felt so weak and wobbly. She kept seeing the horse racing towards them and knowing, without a single doubt in her mind, that they were all going to die. She looked around timidly, feeling in some way born again.

Don Elizondo, pale with shock under his tan, galloped over to them just as Dobbie, a sixth sense advising her that her beloved Juli had returned, raced out to the landing strip, greeting them with joyful barks and a wildly wagging tail.

“Por Dios Santo,” Don Elizondo gasped “That was a miracle, that was truly a miracle señorita Juli.”

Hernán came running up and Don Elizondo recounted the spectacle of the near collision and how the ‘plane had missed the horse by millimetres with a multitude of details. Feeling cold, Juli shivered. “Come on,” she said to Pamela. “You’ll have to get out of those wet jeans or you’ll get pneumonia, it’s icy out here.” Leaving Hernán to carry the suitcases she gathered her belongings and led the way across the field towards the homestead some distance away. Dobbie, despite her age, pranced around them sniffing up imaginary rabbits and partridges, barking cheerfully every now and again. When they were nearly there, and Juli was feeling more herself again, she said, “By the way Pam, Tishy doesn’t talk yet.”

“Not yet? But she’s three already!” Pamela exclaimed.

“I know, but we have only just discovered that she may be very short sighted, which means that she has never seen anything clearly but she’s going to be fitted with glasses now.” Juli uncrossed her fingers because what she had just said was not strictly the truth, although she hoped fervently that it was. “She understands everything you say, but she’s very timid, because of not seeing well I suppose, so just … you know … be gentle with her and treat her just like Marina”

Pamela nodded seriously and then looked about her with interest. “I remember all this,” she said. “I came here with Mummy and Daddy once when I was nine on our way to Bariloche.”

As they approached the kitchen gardens Marina appeared. She raced up to them, her fair hair flying out behind her. “Juli, Juli,” she chanted, throwing herself into Juli’s arms.

Juli hugged her and said, “This is your cousin Pamela, Marina. She has come to stay for a week.”

Marina eyed Pamela shyly. “Hello,” she murmured before turning back to Juli and saying, “Tishy’s in bed. Why are Pamela’s pants wet?”

“That’s a long story,” Juli replied quickly. “A very exciting one too, which we’ll tell you later. What’s the matter with Tishy?

“She’s got a very very very bad cough, she’s in bed.”

“Poor little Tishy. And this dress …?”

“It’s new. My Mummy made it. Look, this is lace,” Marina indicated the white collar and cuffs. “Do you like it?”

JUli took her hand as they all continued on their way. “Yes, very much,” she replied. “You’re looking very smart in your new red dress and white socks and black shoes and all, and all.”

“And all, and all,” Marina repeated happily, bouncing as she walked.

Lena met them in the passage by the nursery. “Juli,” she cried. “Where’s Dereck, why did you come by ‘plane? What’s happened?”

“Nothing to Dereck Lena, I’ve brought you a letter,” Juli said quickly. “Pamela has come for a week’s holiday.” She handed Dereck’s letter and the instructions for Don Elizondo to Lena, who kissed Pamela coolly.

“This is where I sleep and Juli and Tishy,” Marina pronounced, pushing open the nursery door and skipping in excitedly, thrilled to have Pamela as a companion.

“Why did you bring Pamela?” Lena asked angrily in a low voice.

“Dereck felt it would do her good.”
“Dereck did?”

“Yes,” July replied a little defensively, meeting Lena’s surprised gaze firmly, but inwardly quailing. Lena, cross, was a real burden. “It’s all in the letter. Marina told me that Tishy is in bed with a cough,” she added, changing the subject hastily.

“I am so worried,” Lena said at once. “She started coughing the very day you left. I put her straight to bed and I really think we should take her to see a doctor, but Dereck isn’t here. I just don’t know what to do. Marta has been with her all the time. She hasn’t done a stroke of her own work since you left. I thought Dereck was coming back today and now … he’s not here and you’ve brought Pamela. Really, it’s so inconvenient having her here just now, when I’m not feeling well.”

“Oh, Lena I am sorry,” Juli said at once, insincerely. “Don’t worry about Pamela, I’ll look after her. She’s only a child you know, it’ll be someone for Marina to play with. We just had an awful experience by the way. We nearly hit a horse just as we were landing. Sr. Solá, who brought us, just managed to pull the ‘plane up over it and into the air again in time.”

Lena’s attractive hands with their carefully painted fingernails flew to her cheeks as Juli explained the whole adventure in greater detail. “You might have all been killed,” she gasped, horrified. “What a terrible experience. How lucky that Terencio is such a very good pilot. Oh, the very thought makes me feel weak.”

“But nothing happened,” Juli comforted her. “I’ll go and see Tishy now. O.K.?”

“Yes, of course,” Lena said as she turned her attention to Dereck’s letter, but still shaking her head at the thought of the near accident. “Tell Marta to serve you tea at once, I’ve had mine.”

Juli made her way quickly into the nursery and found Marta sitting beside Tishy who lay curled up facing the wall, wracked by a hard dry cough. After greeting Marta, she bent over Tishy and said softly, “I’m back. Juli’s back. Don’t cough any more Tishy. You’re going to be O.K. now. Look Tishy, I’m back. Juli’s back, see?”

She sat on the edge of the bed and stroked the little girl gently, smiling at Marta. “Could you bring us some tea, Marta and a big jug of boiling water, maybe inhaling steam will help the little one.” Paula had always done that for Susan she remembered and she had seen a white enamelled inhaler in her imposing cupboard a few weeks ago. Marta rose and left the room obediently as Juli jumped up and going into the cupboard she scrabbled about until she had found it. She cleaned it carefully and laid it on Marina’s bed while she waited for Marta to return.

Marina danced in through the garden door dragging Pamela, who had changed her jeans for a pair of red corduroy trousers, by the hand. The cold air had whipped colour into her cheeks and she looked happy and more relaxed.

“Where am I going to sleep?” she asked.

“You can sleep in my bed,” Marina said. “Pamela can sleep here, Juli. I’m sleeping with Mummy, in Mummy’s bed. Mummy’s tummy is big, big, did you see, Pamela? She’s going to have a little brother for me.”

Marta appeared with a large tray heaped with mugs a thermos, milk, bread and butter and half a cake. Hernán followed with a big jug of hot water.
“Tea!” Pamela exclaimed happily. “Great, I’m starving!”

“Help yourself,” Juli said as she prepared the inhaler. “I want to see if inhaling will help Tishy.”

She picked the child up and found her to be soaking, her nappies unchanged. Controlling her irritation with difficulty she changed Tishy, washing her and spreading ointment on her chapped buttocks. She also changed her vest and pyjamas as well as the bedclothes. Once all had been done she wrapped her in a fleecy shawl and sat her on her lap to help her inhale. Tishy began to cry, her usual heart-breaking wail, which made her cough again.

Once the water had grown tepid and there was no more steam, Juli tucked the child back into bed and drank a cup of tea. Marina and Pamela were playing with the dolls’ house, the fire crackled and soft music filled the room from the new cassette which Juli had bought. Satisfied that the atmosphere in the room had taken an upturn, she began to unpack and pulled out a parcel from her suitcase.

“Marina, here’s a present for you,” she said. Marina gave a squeal of delight as Juli handed her the parcel. She tore off the pretty paper and beheld a scarlet cardigan, running to the mirror she held it up against her, looking at herself from various angles as she had seen her mother do.

“A cardigan, a red one, thank you Juli,” she shouted joyfully. “I’m going to show it to my Mummy!” So saying she rushed off in search of her mother.

Juli unpacked a larger parcel and carried it over to Tishy. “Tishy, here’s a present for you too,” she said. Tishy lay without moving. Gently Juli laid the parcel on her chest and placed the child’s hands on top of it. “Open it, baby,” she said softly.

After a little while Tishy began to bore a hole in the paper with her right forefinger, but that was all she did, so Juli opened the parcel and gave her the soft, feather-light pale blue dressing-gown she had bought.

“I must have guessed you were in bed with a cough,” she said cheerfully. “It’s just what you needed.” She arranged the garment so that Tishy could stroke it and touch it easily.

“Is she backward?” Pamela asked, watching.

“No,” Juli replied. “Just terribly shy.”

At that moment Lena came into the room together with Marina. Marina saw the dressing gown and snatched it up. “A new dressing gown,” she cried. “But Tishy’s got one. Did you buy one for me too?”

“No,” Juli said. “Please Marina, give it back to Tishy.”

“I want it.”

“It’s much too small for you, love. Give it back to Tishy. Look I’ve got a present for Mummy too.”

Her attention diverted, Marina’s petulant expression melted. “Where?” she demanded.”

“In my handbag, but put the dressing gown back where it was first, please.”

Marina flung the dressing gown onto her sister and rushed over to Juli’s handbag on the sofa. “Let me see,” she cried. “I want to see.”

Lena had sat down on the sofa, Dereck’s letter in her hand. She picked up the poker and poked the fire ineffectively. “I have just read Dereck’s letter,” she said, before Juli could stop her. “Poor Marion, and how dreadful about Peter!”

Juli glanced quickly at Pamela who had looked up from playing with the dolls’ house and was staring at Lena.

“And now Marion is in the British Hospital,” Lena went on. “Of course one can understand. Such a terrible shock when one’s son, one’s eldest son, goes and does something like that. Poor Arthur he must be absolutely distraught.”

“I don’t know why Mummy is so upset,” Pamela said loudly. “She was always fighting with Peter.”

“Now Pamela, you mustn’t say such things!” Lena remonstrated. “Of course your mother is upset because of Peter.”

Irritated at Lena’s lack of tact, Juli said firmly, “Yes, well, Pamela has come to get away from all those problems.”

“But it’s always best to talk about one’s problems,” Lena declared. “It is very bad to bottle them up. Any psychologist will tell you that.”

“Is this it?” Marina shouted. She had been scrabbling about in the depths of Juli’s capacious handbag and now held up a small slightly crumpled purple envelope with a gold bow stuck onto it.

“Yes,” Juli said shortly, then, with an effort she injected a bit more warmth into her voice and said,” Give it to Mummy, Marina.”

“Can I open it, Mummy?” Marina shrilled. “Can I? Can I?”

“May I,” Juli corrected, but Lena took the envelope and opened it delicately herself. She drew out the gilt necklace and held it up delightedly.

“Why Juli, what a lovely gift,” she exclaimed. “Thank you very much. You’ve been very generous to us all. The red cardigan is exactly the same shade of red as Marina’s new dress, did you notice? How do you like the dress? I think perhaps it should be a little longer, don’t you? Just a shade. Stand over there Marina and let me look at you. She had just put it on when you arrived.”

“Did Juli tell you about the horse?” Pamela asked.

“Yes … what a terrifying experience! But Terencio Solá is a very good pilot.”

“What happened? What happened?” Marina wanted to know.

“A naughty horse came running along, clompity, clompity,” Juli recounted miming the movement of the horse’s legs with her fingers. “Just as Señor Solá had landed the ‘plane, so he quickly flew up into the air … whishhhh…” Her hand turned into the plane flying up. “… and the horse went running on.”

Her imagination fired by the story, Marina turned herself into the horse, running about the room ‘neighing’ loudly, then she became the aeroplane, ‘flying’ about noisily with her arms outstretched. Lena watched the whole performance with unabashed pride, quite unworried by the noise, but when Marina turned herself back into a horse Juli hastily found some paper and coloured pencils and told her to draw it all.

Noticing that Tishy was stroking her dressing gown gently Juli picked her up and put it on her before carrying the little girl to the sofa and sitting her on her lap.

“Hasn’t Tishy got a perfectly good dressing gown?” Lena asked.

“Yes, but it’s Marina’s old one and it has a stain on it which won’t come out so when I saw this I just couldn’t resist it.”

“Very nice,” Lena said, feeling the quality of the material between her fingers, but she made no effort to take Tishy into her arms.

“Brooom,” said Marina from the table, colouring furiously. “I don’t know how to draw an airplane Juli.” She often made the respective noises of the objects she was drawing.

“Like a bird, but with straight wings,” Juli said helpfully.

“Tweet tweet, Brrrm brrrm. Whishhhh.” Marina intoned returning to work with renewed vigour.

“Well,” said Lena rising. “I must go and tidy up my sewing room. I think I’ll just let the hem down one centimetre. It’s just tacked so it will be no trouble. I’ll do it once Marina is in bed. She’s been sleeping with me because of Tishy’s cough.”

“Yes, she told me,” Juli said forcing herself to smile.

“Look Mummy, look at my picture,” Marina cried.

“Lovely darling,” Lena said fondly, picking it up and looking at it.

“It’s for Juli,” Marina said, snatching it away and giving it to Juli.

“Gently Marina,” Juli chided her softly.

“Do you want to come with Mummy now?” Lena asked, rather too sweetly.

“No,” Marina replied. “It’s story time now. D’you like my picture Juli?”

“Where is Pamela going to sleep?” Lena asked, a slight edge in her voice. Before Juli could reply Marina said, “In my bed, ‘cos I’m sleeping with you, Mummy. She can, can’t she Juli?”

“Well be careful not to dirty you new dress Marina,” Lena said briskly and left the room with a slight flounce. Pamela and Marina chose a story book each and both crowded onto the sofa to listen to Juli read.

The following days were torture for Juli, she could not take her mind off Dereck nor her feelings for him. One moment her love for him was so great that it was like a strong wind blowing through her, at others she felt so guilty her despondence was like a grey cloud which wrapped itself around her with smothering folds. She slept badly and ate very little.

She went riding with Pamela every afternoon, because Tishy’s cough began to improve almost at once so she felt she could safely resume her daily routine of riding for an hour or so after lunch. Pamela rode Mariposa and Juli took La Nena because she was inclined to shy. However, she did not play the guitar or even bother with the usual routine with the children, for her emotions gave her no peace of mind and Pamela kept Marina entertained. They spent most of the days skipping or playing the ‘elastic’ game together, or with the dolls’ house. She herself remained in the nursery with Tishy reading, writing letters and dreaming, or trying not to dream.

Lena decided to have tea in the nursery which irked Juli considerably. Forgetting that with Dereck away Lena merely felt very lonely at her end of the house, Juli considered Lena’s presence to be a demonstration of wanting to ‘poke her nose in’ and control what was ‘going on’ with regard to the children. Lena’s presence caused Marina to behave badly, to jump about and shout and make far more noise that Juli ever permitted her. This irritated Juli even more because if Lena let Marina behave like that and made no effort to control her, she felt she couldn’t very well be stern. Pamela was also a worry, for Lena obviously resented her presence due to the fact that Tishy’s disabilities were so painfully obvious.

What Juli most wanted to avoid was that Pamela should feel unwelcome or in the way, so she went out of her way to spoil her and chat to her. Lena’s presence made this difficult for she did most of the talking when she was with them and very obviously ignored Pamela, directing her conversation either to Juli or to Marina. One afternoon she decided to play snap with Marina, leaving Pamela to find something to entertain herself. Juli had never felt so angry, and the fact that she had to be polite made her feel like a pressure cooker about to explode. Picking up her guitar she said to Pamela, “Let’s go and find Hernán and see if he can give us both a guitar lesson,” and marched out of the room.

That night the weather changed and a huge storm blew up. The wind howled about the eaves of the house and forced its way into the room through the cracks round the doors and windows, creating icy draughts which made the flames in the fireplace flare up and light the nursery for a moment or two with a wavering light which gave the impression that the very walls of the house were moving. Thunder growled and crashed, while the rain thundered onto the corrugated iron roof sounding as if the Niagra falls were suddenly pouring onto the house. Pamela awoke, terrified by the noise. The strength of the wind made the walls shudder and reminded her of the Piper ‘plane shaking violently before responding and rising once more, leaving the runway and the horse below and behind. She felt as if some infuriated giant were trying to pull all the buildings out of the ground and that soon the whole house would collapse. Scrambling out of bed she ran over to Juli’s corner.

Juli, finding a deep relief in the fury of the storm had fallen fast asleep. She awoke with a wild sense of exultation when she felt Pamela shaking her shoulder gently, convinced that Dereck had returned and come at last to take her in his arms. For a moment or two she could understand nothing, the sound of the drumming rain drowned out Pamela’s voice and she looked wildly round for Dereck before realizing that it had been a dream and that it was Pamela who was shaking her shoulder.

“Juli, I’m so frightened,” Pamela gasped and began to cry.

“It’s only rain Pamma, here, get into bed with me if you like.” She lifted the covers and Pamela crawled into bed beside her, shivering with cold and fear.

“The roof is going to blow off,” she sobbed.

“No-o-o,” Juli assured her. They’re made especially to hold out against storms like this.” “But I wonder if that’s true,” she thought and pulled the bed clothes up closer under her chin. “I hope so!”

Pamela cuddled against her occupying a large portion of the bed. Juli tried to go back to sleep but found it impossible, so she lay still, listening to the storm and thinking about herself and her feelings for Dereck.

“I can’t go on like this,” she thought wearily. “I’ll go crazy. Dereck doesn’t love me. I’m just Juli, age twenty three, looking after his kids, not much more than a kid myself as far as he is concerned. I probably make him think of Rowena every time he sees me. But what can I do? What can I do not to want him so? It’s like a thing inside me, an animal, something I can’t control!”

She thought of St. George and the Dragon and wondered if St. George had been fighting his own personal dragon rather than the mythical dragon which had been terrorizing the neighbourhood and eating up all its beautiful maidens year after year. Perhaps the poor, fair, defenceless girls or girl stood for what was good and ethical in himself. If the dragon ate her up then St. George would lose all that part of himself, so he fought the dragon. She mulled over the idea for a while and finally thought miserably, “I’ll just have to fight my dragon that’s all, whatever the legend really means. If I give in to him he’ll just grow bigger and bigger and that will be the end of me!”

With an enormous effort she began to imagine the probable results of an affair with Dereck, for that would be the reality of any relationship with him. She envisaged Lena leaving him and taking the children with her to go and live with her parents, perhaps even losing the baby, a son of course, from all the emotional upset. She imagined Dereck sending her, Juli, back to England, uncaring for her love for him, taking to drink, cursing the day he had ever met her; she saw Tishy ignored and abandoned, shut up in some home for backward children, because Lena had no time for her.

With hot burning eyes she stared up at the ceiling which glimmered faintly above her, a slightly paler darkness in the darkness surrounding her, while her thoughts and images churned about in her mind. Outside the wind gradually died away, the rain drumming on the corrugated iron roof lessened, and quietness slid slowly back over the estancia bringing peace. Juli’s eyes closed and she slept again, fitfully, until her little clock advised her that it was time to get up.

It was very cold. Juli scrambled out of bed and went to light the fire and to pot Tishy. Then she dressed and went out into the garden to walk in the soft drizzle which still fell, to feel it on her hair, her hands, her face, and to think of England, of her family and friends, and of her mother lying so still in her coffin in the cold earth.

She felt something in her had died, or spent itself like the storm; something wild and beautiful and vital; some primeval part of her, which she had loved. It seemed strange to feel that she had loved that ‘dragon’ if one could call it such, she who had always been so reserved, and cool and uninvolved. She realized that she had always been half consciously aware of the ‘dragon’s’ presence and had been afraid of its power. She wondered if Ann too had a similar dragon and doubted it. Her father? Yes, he had. And he had given in to it and finally he had left them all and each one of them had remained a little maimed. With Paula it was different. He was older, he wanted less from Life with a capital letter and more of creature comforts. Paula satisfied him. Her jealousy made him feel wanted, successful. “How strange,” Juli thought. “This is the first time I’ve really understood my father, and he and Dereck are more or less the same age.”

As she returned to the nursery to wake Pamela and Tishy up, she suddenly remembered the odd letter which Rita had received and wondered if she had found out who Julieta Caminos was.

1 thought on “Under Another Sky 8

  1. The plane ride and subsequent scenario of the almost-collision with the horse had me enthralled. Lot of action and momentum! Great chapter!

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