Rosanna wakes. It is her regular practice to lie still for five minutes before rising. She likes to centre herself. All part of getting ready to face the day.
Today, however, she throws back the covers and hops straight into her jeans and shirt. She throws on her coat, pulls on boots and runs out the door.
‘Have something to eat!’ yells Bernie.
‘No time,’ she calls over her shoulder. Opening the driver’s door of the ute, Rosanna looks back, smiles at Bernie, who’s glaring at her through the kitchen window. She slides the glass across, waves away a blowfly as Rosanna says, ‘I’ve got to help Tully mend the fence on the back paddock.’
Bernie nods. ‘OK,’ she mumbles as Rosanna screeches off, leaving a dust cloud at the back door.
Rosanna’s tummy grumbles as she drives over the gravel roads. She chuckles. Shoudda listened to Bern.
Ten minutes later she arrives at the fence that borders her property with Tully’s. She’s a good neighbour, reliable and friendly, but keeps her distance. Bernie jokes that she’s got bodies buried on the property somewhere. Rosanna never finds this funny. Tully’s built like a fridge and strong as a herd of cattle.
‘Hey Tul,’ Rosanna says, shaking off a picture of Tully dismembering backpackers and digging shallow graves. ‘How’s it going?’
‘Better once thiz iz done.’
‘Won’t take us long.’
Three hours pass quickly with Tully and Rosanna working together. Thirsty, they sit in silence under the shade of the huge coolibah tree. In the distance, Rosanna can see dust circling.
‘Company’s on the way,’ she mumbles.
‘Dunno who. Can ya tell yet?’
‘Think it might be Bern.’ Rosanna squints in the direction of the dust. She can’t yet make out the car.
‘Yer, itz ‘er,’ Tully says quietly. She sips from her water bottle.
They watch as Bernie parks under the tree. She gets out. ‘Thought we could have a picnic,’ she says, opening the boot and bringing out a hamper and picnic rug.
‘We’re workin’ Bern,’ Tully grumbles.
‘No you’re not. Not right now,’ Bernie sounds annoyed; Rosanna shoots her a sideways glance. ‘Anyway, Rosanna left without brekkie, so I’m looking after her. Making sure she doesn’t fade away.’
Rosanna scoffs. She’s 112kgs; not much chance she’s fading anywhere soon.
‘Gonna take much longer, ya reckon?’ Bernie asks.
‘Should be done by early afternoon,’ Rosanna responds. ‘You agree, Tul?’
‘Yer,’ Tully answers, loading a scone with apricot jam. ‘You country lezzos really know how to cook, donchya?’ she quips with her mouth full. A dollop of jam drips onto her chin.
‘Careful Tul,’ Bernie warns.
Rosanna doesn’t understand why, but Bernie prefers to keep a lid on their predilection, and squirms when Rosanna openly acknowledges they are lesbians. When Bernie first moved in with Rosanna, she referred to Rosanna as her ‘companion’, even to her own daughters. Bernie continues to use this term, despite her children and grandchildren, the local town and community folk all knowing the two women share a bed, home and life together on the farm.
‘Ah Bern,’ Tully responds. ‘Ain’t got nuthin’ ta hide. Better off without men anyways, I reckon. Nuthin’ good eva came from a man in me own ‘sperienz.’
‘What about those four children of yours, Tul? Where’d they come from, if not your late husband?’ Rosanna teases, intent on keeping the spotlight off Bern.
‘Rosie, ya met the bastard. And ya know me kids.’
Rosanna laughs good-naturedly.
‘Az I sayz, got nuthing ta be shamed ’bout ladies. Iz got ya backs. Always.’
Bernie pours a cup of tea from the thermos and hands it to Tully, ‘Thanks Tul.’
Tully simply nods. ‘End of,’ she mutters. ‘Now skedaddle so me and ya Mizzus can finish up ‘ere.’