‘Take a whiff.’
Bea and I are standing in the Botanic Gardens. The lush colours and scents of spring are all around us. The sky is a clear blue and I feel grateful to be alive.
‘There’s no way to imitate that smell, is there?’ Bea says, sniffing.
I unfold the picnic blanket from its holder and fling it over a grassy patch by the pond. She’s holding the hamper with all the goodies, so I move to take it from her hand.
‘Oh, I got it, thanks.’ She places it next to the blanket and sits carefully, slowly, as if she’s been injured recently.
‘Are you alright?’ I ask.
‘Yep, just my back hurts.’
‘Oh, stay still, then. I’ll take care of everything.’
Bea pulls out a book from her handbag and places an outdoor cushion behind her head. ‘Don’t mind if I do.’ She smiles. In that way.
Gets me every time. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of this woman.
‘They’ll all be here soon. The peace will be ruined,’ she mumbles. ‘God, can you imagine how terrible Nanc—‘
I interrupt her words; my mouth closes over hers. We’re both lying on the blanket, pashing like teenagers. My need for her increases to its most powerful and I forget the feast we’ve prepared for our family event, her mother’s sixtieth birthday.
‘Gabe,’ she says. ‘Stop!’ She’s giggling as she pushes me away. ‘God, if my mum catches us like this she’ll think we’re…’ her voice trails off. There’s voices, loud and raucous, approaching our set-up.
‘Too late!’ Bea says with a groan. ‘Here’s Nancy and her bogan children. Barry’s carrying his esky like his life depends on it.’
‘Bea for heaven’s sake!’ Shirley, Bea’s mother says crisply. Formidable. Judgemental. Religious. ‘What on earth are you doing? Out here in public? I’ve raised you better than that!’
Bea shoots me a look. I mouth sorry and we both collapse in laughter. She’s always been the black sheep in her family.