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April Catherine and Paul: Part Five

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‘Two days later Catherine was sitting in the garden.’ ‘You’re much better, April said, stroking Catherine’s hair.’ All that I ask is that you don’t rush things.’ ‘I feel quite well.’ ‘I’ll make an omelette. Could you eat one?’ Catherine said, ‘I’ll make it.’ ‘Of course you won’t,’ April said. April’s phone rang. She studied […]

‘Two days later Catherine was sitting in the garden.’

‘You’re much better, April said, stroking Catherine’s hair.’ All that I ask is that you don’t rush things.’

‘I feel quite well.’

‘I’ll make an omelette. Could you eat one?’

Catherine said, ‘I’ll make it.’

‘Of course you won’t,’ April said.

April’s phone rang. She studied the caller ID on the screen for some time before answering,

‘Hello mum. How are you.’

‘Alright, ‘said Margaret, ‘but how are you?’

‘As a matter of fact I’m exceptionally good,’ April said. ‘Why do you ask?’

‘You really are okay?’ Said Margaret, fussing. ‘I thought we could go to the theatre. It’s John Bell’s Macbeth.’

‘I’ll have to think,’ April said.

‘You’re ok for money?

‘Money?

‘They’re not keeping you short? I remember when your father died there was a terrible gap.’

No, David is working it, April said. ‘And the solicitor and accountant. They’d been very good.’

‘I hope you have been seeing people,’ said Margaret. ‘Not brooding on your own.’

‘Mum why do you have to ask me all this? Said April. ’It’s ridiculous. I’m in my middle age, not a teenager’

‘I was wondering if you wanted to come to a sale on the weekend, at Evandale.’ said Margaret switching her social outings without missing a beat.

‘I’m very busy Margaret,’ said April. ‘I want to start reading for Dee again. It’s been quite long enough.’

‘If you do need money –‘

‘God mum. I’ll talk to you later.’

April turned to see the omelette had overheated and was on fire. Licking up towards the inductor. Catherine saw what was happening and rushed in, grabbing the pan and hurling it out the window where the flames quickly died. Catherine ran the cold tap and placed her hand under it.

‘Cat, You’ve burned yourself,’

‘No I’m fine. I’m just cooling off. There are no burns or blisters’

‘My stupid mother.’ I still don’t know what she wanted. ‘Oh fuck it, she’s called again. ‘What on earth is wrong mum?’

‘You hung up suddenly,’

‘A minor problem in the kitchen,’

‘Should we go to the theatre,’

‘Yes, alright,’ April said. ‘Later in the week.’

A second attempt at the omelette was more successful.

April said, ‘I don’t want you going back to work too soon.’

You worry too much mon ami,’ Catherine said, smiling in the way April found almost unbearably erotic.

‘We really ought to take you away somewhere to recuperate Cat,’

‘April you fuss terribly. Can’t you see how well I am.’ Catherine said. ‘I don’t have consumption or pneumonia.

‘I don’t want to stay here,’ April said.

Catherine said, ‘But such a beautiful house April.’

‘Don’t you want to go to Mexico,’ April said.

‘How could I do that. I would need to save and save,’ Catherine said, waving the invitation away ‘And anyway I would probably get Montezuma’s revenge.’

‘His what?’

‘It’s a stomach upset,’ Catherine said. ‘Tourists get it.’

‘I don’t want you in that dingy office.’

‘I enjoy it there. I have plenty to catch up on.’

April said, ‘I suppose I should admit that I’m so happy. Just the two of us.’

*

‘I must go back, if only to tell them what has happened,’ said Catherine. ’I won’t phone. I need to finish some work.’

‘Yes, I suppose you should,’ said April. ‘How much do you pay for your flat?’

‘$380 a week.’

April said, ‘That’s far too much. I suppose you know you can live here for nothing,’

‘It’s a long drive every day,’ Catherine laughed. ‘Perhaps I’ll do it for the plumbing. It doesn’t burp in the night.’

‘It’s not as though you can’t do what you want,’

‘You’ll have visitors,’ Catherine protested. ‘What will you tell them?

‘Something,’ April said. ‘I’ll think of something.’

*

April said, ’So you’re not leaving Launceston.’

‘Not for the time being.’

‘Don’t you crave something more exciting,’ Said April.

‘I have you,’ Catherine said. ‘And they asked me. They need –‘

‘You’re too easily swayed.’

‘It sounds like you want me to go,’

‘No, sorry, of course not’ said April. ‘I’m just wondering. You have to tell me if I’m being demanding. If I make demands tick me off,’

‘If you like,’ Catherine said. ‘I still need to save money.’

‘Anyway,’ April said. ‘For the moment you’re settled.’

That evening Catherine’s phone rang. April realized she’d never heard it before. She heard Catherine laugh and soon return to the lounge and resume reading Madame Bovary.

April said, ‘I thought every student in France would read Flaubert,’

‘It helps my English, to read a translation, even though it’s very old fashioned.’

It was April’s insecurity that made her both suspicious about the call, and also unable to ask who had phoned.

‘I will be away tomorrow,’ said Catherine. ‘Is that ok?’

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‘You’re free to come and go as you please Cat,’ April said. ‘You should go to bed’ You still look ill.’

‘Yes, I read in bed. Goodnight.’ They kissed lightly and Catherine silently climbed the stairs.

*

Peter rang and asked April if she wanted to go to the theatre.

‘Well, I could,’ said April. ’But I’m going with Margaret. Would you like to come with us?

Peter wanted to be alone with April but assented with a tinge of deflation and disappointment. ‘I hope Margaret doesn’t chatter during the play.’

‘It wouldn’t surprise me,’ April said. ‘Tomorrow then.’

April checked the locks on all the doors and the garage door rumbled down. She saw Catherine’s light on and knocked. ‘I must give you a key,’ April said.

‘When are you going to the theatre?’

April said, ‘Did you overhear us. Margaret and I?’

‘Yes when I came in to put out the fire,’

‘The thing is,’ said April, ‘Margaret is going and now Peter is going. It will probably be a kind of hell’

‘Don’t worry about me,’ Catherine said. It seemed impossible to anger or upset her. ‘I’m happy to read or watch a film.’

‘Do you understand all the channels? Paul had them all. Netflix, Apple, Amazon I’m not sure how they all work. I don’t watch a lot of television.’

‘I’ll work it out,’ Catherine said. ‘Are you going to bed.’

‘I’m going to have a bath,’

‘Shall I come in, when you’re finished?

‘If you want to,’ said April. ‘Of course.’

*

April and Peter were hugely impressed with the play which began at the agreeable time of 4pm, but Margaret was quite unlike herself.

‘I have to go home,’ she said. ‘I’m not feeling well.’

‘Oh mum, is there anything I can do’

‘No I’ll be ok.’

I do worry about you,’ April said.

‘I know,’ Margaret said.

Peter and April decided on an Italian restaurant on George St. ‘It’s the thought of place where you can talk,’ Peter said.

‘We can talk anywhere,’ April smiled.

‘And go hungry?’ Peter said,’ I gather you’ve got you lodger organised.’

April paused. ‘Yes how did you know?’ Did he realize who it was? But then what did it matter? Peter was trustworthy. ‘It’s the French girl who works in the office. Have you met her?

‘Yes, briefly,’

‘She came round because he’d lent her some books. Paul. I think she wanted to offer her … consolation. She seems nice. We lead completely separate lives of course,’ April lied. ‘I had the spare room, and she’s giving me French lessons. She bought a pair of headphones. Such a strange sensation. Such a powerful sound but no-one else can hear you. It makes you feel in your own world,’

‘Will it distress you if I tell you how beautiful you look?’ said Peter

April had dressed casually, and without her usual style, to cool Peter’s ardour and suppress Margaret going on about a dress being too revealing. She was ambivalent about Peter. He wasn’t

Catherine but April exploited his boyish crush.

‘Probably the wine.’ April said discouragingly. ‘Making you see things.’

‘Oh I don’t flatter myself it’s me,’ Peter said. ‘More coffee or a brandy.

‘I’m fine, and I’m driving,’ said April.

‘I hope we’ll always know each other.’

‘I rely on you sometimes.’

‘You can never ask too much of me,’ said Peter

April said, ‘Who’s babysitting?’

‘The girl, Helga. She has a cold but she only has to prevent them burning down the house,’

Peter had parked his car on the opposite side of the street to April.

‘Come with me,’ he said. ‘Come in,’

‘Just for a minute,’ she said. ’I’ll follow you, but I know where it is in any case.’

Peter paid Helga and she skipped out into the bright evening, away from Peter’s house in West Launceston. The house was a hundred years old but predictably renovated with an inch of its life.

‘I love you,’ said Peter. ‘You know that don’t you.’

She leaned across and kissed Peter on the lips. ‘April,’ Peter said. Are you being kind.’

She unzipped her dress and Peter turned out the lights.

‘I didn’t plan this you know Perhaps I did, but I didn’t really know,’

‘We’re not past it yet are we?’ April said

‘You’re all I’ve thought of for weeks.

They kissed, and Peter’s hands followed the undulating contours of her body.

‘April,’ he whispered.’

*

April could do nothing to stop the sobs.

‘He hates me,’ Margaret said. ‘He hates me.’

April said, ‘You still haven’t told me what actually happened.

‘To do something like he did. It’s the most horrible thing that’s ever happened to me. He must hate me. It’s the only explanation that makes sense. And he wanted me to come and live with him. He

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cried. He actually cried.

‘When was this?’

‘Oh before,’ Margaret sniffed. ‘He wanted me to live with him eventually.

‘When did this all blow up?’

‘He’s a baby. He doesn’t know what he wants,’ said Margaret. ‘He said as much.’

April said, ‘I thought you were going to get married?’

‘How could he be married. He doesn’t know what it is. How could I have been such a fool A foolish old woman.’

‘I’m so sorry mum.’

‘Do you know what he did?’ said Margaret. ‘He tried to pass me on to some American who’s just moved into a unit.’

‘Who is he?’ April said.

‘I don’t know. Some man from Los Angeles. I don’t even know what he’s come here for. He’s in a club. David’s in a club.’

‘I don’t think that’s true,’ April said.

‘You know what they’re called? The studs. Christ. I rang David. He was in Queensland. You know what he said? “It won’t hurt to be nice to and American fireman”’

‘A fireman?’ April said, loading the dishwasher. ‘How peculiar.’

‘It’s not peculiar,’ Margaret said. ‘It’s insulting.’

‘Is he back; David?’

‘Yes. I thought it was a misunderstanding. It wasn’t. He’d been drinking. He said … he said. “Oh come on what’s one more fuck between friends.” Those were his actual words. I wish I’d gone to bed with this man.’

April said, ‘Why don’t you go and see Peter?’

‘Oh he’s a fool,’ Margaret scoffed. ‘He never knows what to say about anything.’

‘I don’t think that.’

‘I don’t want to see anybody.’

‘What brought you here?’ April said.

Margaret said, ‘April you’re my daughter for god’s sake. What else could I do. You’re so balanced and sensible. I don’t want to use you like Kleenex.’ Margaret stared at the floor. ‘He just wants someone young.’

‘You look amazing,’ said April. ‘No-one would guess you were the mother of someone of my age.’

‘And no-one would believe you were the mother of Joe.’

‘Have you left him?’

‘I didn’t say anything,’ Margaret said. ‘He said I was disloyal. Disloyal! He’ll probably evict me. I don’t want to go back there. I don’t feel like I’m old … or elderly. These villas are full of old people.

He’s such a vindictive bastard. And I’m sure he slept around. I would have been some way down his list of conquests.

‘You should have a break at Peter’s,’ April said.

‘Oh and then I’ll have children all around me, asking me what’s happened.’

‘When did you last eat? I’ll make you some food.

‘I don’t know if I can even eat,’ Margaret said.

‘It won’t go to waste. We’ll … I mean I’ll eat it.’

‘Why did he even have to talk about marriage?’ Margaret said. ‘No-one should talk about marriage in the first place.’

‘The more insincere people are,’ said April, ‘the more they talk about sincerity. Put it down to experience. You made a mistake.’

‘That’s all I ever do. Why did I leave Peter?’

*

Peter phoned April. ‘I’ve got Marg here and she’s in a hell of a state.’

‘She wanted to go back to you. I hope I did the right thing. What’s she doing?’

‘I think she’s asleep,’ Peter said. ‘She’s been through absolute hell. What did this shit do to her?’

‘She let herself in for more than she bargained for,’ April said.

‘Only when she got involved with a bastard like this,’ said Peter.

‘It made a change.’

‘What?’

‘No-one could accuse you of being a bastard.’

‘I wanted to see you but we’ll have to put the brakes on that I expect.’

April said, ‘It doesn’t matter.’

‘It matters to me. Quite a lot,’ Peter said. ‘But I told Margaret she could spend an extended stay here – And now she’s here – so.’

‘She must be grateful. She loves you very much,’

‘It puts the kibosh on us for a while. I don’t think I can break it to Marg just yet.

‘Of course you can’t!’ April said. ’What are you thinking?

‘I hope it doesn’t mean I’ve hurt you.’

‘I’ll survive,’ April said.

Peter said, ‘This doesn’t negate anything I’ve said. I still feel the same way.’

‘I still feel the same too,’ April lied. ‘Give my love to mum and the children.

*

Catherine arrived at Beauty Point about fifteen minutes after April. Something bristled in April when she saw Catherine’s low cut top.

April said, ‘Did you have a nice evening?’

‘Yes, with friends.’

‘Josh?’ Said April, tired of so many small fits of jealousy.

‘No, just we girls’ Catherine said. ‘I met a French girl, It was nice to speak my best language after so long. No-one to be concerned about.’

‘No, I have no right to question you,’ April said. ‘My room or your room. Mine I think. I could look at you forever. I’d like to give you everything you want. I’d like to love every inch of you. Every centimetre.’

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‘Come to bed,’ said Catherine.

‘I want everything for you, and I don’t want you to do a thing. Give me that little pleasure.’

*

April said, ’Tell me something about Paul.’

‘What can I tell you you don’t already know,’

‘Did he make you laugh?’

‘Not that often,’ said Catherine

‘I found that he was worried if he couldn’t make you smile or laugh,’ April said, ‘Perhaps it was his generation.’

‘I think I might go back to my room,’

‘If we can’t talk now when can we. Isn’t it now, traditionally?’

‘Catherine said, ‘We must do what is traditional? No, never.’

‘What if he had left me? Would you have married him.’

‘We never talked about marriage,’ said Catherine. ‘Never’.

‘Never. Do you like deceiving people?

‘I never deceived anybody.’

‘Don’t you feel it makes you feel more alive?’ Said April. ‘To seem to be one thing and actually be another.’

‘I was with some friends. Why are you like this?’

‘If he hadn’t been married would he have been the same man?

‘I don’t give a damn,’ Catherine said. ‘What do you want me to say? Tell me and I’ll say it.’

‘Did you ever think of me? His wife.’

‘I tried not to, if you really want to know,’ said Catherine. ‘What are you trying to find out?’

‘I know where I went wrong of course. I forgot to deceive him. How are we alike do you think, Paul and I. Paul told us both that he loved us. There must be some way.’

‘We are alike because he told us that,’ Catherine said.

April said, ‘Did either of us know him?’

‘Know? Knowing. What is this all about?’ Catherine said. ‘I don’t know I’m tired. I’m going to bed.’

‘Was he like any of your other lovers?’

‘Like? In what way?’

April said, ’In bed.’

‘It’s too late for all this. Merde.’

‘I’d do anything for you. Doesn’t that give you a sense of power?

‘Not at all Au contraire.’

‘You’re French. Yes. You can bring men here if you want. I won’t object to anything.’

‘April what are you saying. What makes you think such a thing?’

‘Have the car, the house,’ April said. ‘It’s all here. Do what you want with it. Let’s see what effect it has on you.’

‘Why are you being so ridiculous?’ Catherine said. ‘I don’t want your things.’

‘I could make a will and leave everything to you. There’s weed killer in the garage. You could see how long before you decided to kill me.’

‘Why would I want to kill you,’ Catherine said. ‘What is the matter of you? I don’t want your things.’

‘Would you walk out when I started to get sick.’

‘Do you hate me so much?’

‘No it was a joke Cat.’ April said.

‘Why do you find such things funny?’ Catherine said. ’It’s cruel.’

‘I’m sorry darling,’ April said.

*

In the morning April said, ‘Cat I’m going away for a few days.’

‘Oh, but you didn’t say.’

‘No, I decided this morning. I’ve needed to go for some time.

‘But where can you be going?’

‘I’m going to Sydney,’ April said. ‘I have to see my boss.’

‘But can you not phone her?’

‘It’s good to see her now and then. She’s my best friend.’

Catherine said, ‘I don’t know what I should do.’

‘You can work, you can take baths, sit in the garden,’ April said. ‘Perhaps you can read some of the manuscripts I’ve been sent. Most of them are rubbish but now and then. You can make notes.’

‘Why would I be any good at that?’

‘Because you’re bright. Because we think alike.’

‘I’m not sure,’ said Catherine.

‘I’m leaving this afternoon, I’ll be back on Thursday,’ April said. ‘I can drop you at the office, then I’ll park and have a coffee before the plane leaves.’

‘Who else will you see there?’

‘Nobody Cat. No-one at all.’

Catherine nodded. April smiled. She knew Catherine would be forgiving, sensible. Of all people. Catherine thought how April would have made it all more difficult if it was she not April getting on a plane.

‘Get your things,’ said Catherine. ‘We’ll go.’

*   *   *   *

Michael Witheford is a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Launceston Examiner, and various periodicals. He is the author of the novel Buzzed (Penguin) and non-fiction book The Very Worst Of The Beatles (Vivid). In a former life he played in The Fish John West Reject and other bands.

Source: Tasmanian Times https://tasmaniantimes.com/2020/09/april-catherine-and-paul-part-five/#utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=april-catherine-and-paul-part-five

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