Number six in the Magpie Tales series. Visit Magpie Tales to read the many responses to this prompt. Hosted by Willow of Willow Manor.
The girl with the sun in her eyes
She'd left George and gone to bed, him listening to his beloved Beatles. She read herself to sleep to the lyrics of Fixing a Hole ....... where the rain gets in and stops my mind from wandering. George's obsession was deeper than nostalgia. He was a collector of musical ideas. The idea that all modern popular music began with Sergeant Pepper was an article of faith. For him everything that came after 1967 was somehow contained in that album - strings, orchestras, synthesizers, sampling. Creative genius and experimentation was evident in every track.
Louise left for work early next morning before sunrise. She worked in the city, a two hour journey from their idyll in the mountains; first by car down the narrow twisting mist shrouded mountain access road, then a forty minute dash across the plains to rendezvous with the 6:15 express to the central office district.
It was a great way to start the day. An hour of solitude; an hour to catch up on her reading and mentally prepare herself for the battering she had come to expect as the outsider in the hospital system. Doctors ruled. Her recruitment as the director of teaching had been an anomaly. She was well qualified but unprepared for the animosity to her fresh ideas.
She rang him at 9am from her office as was her habit. He didn't answer. Not that unusual really. George’d be up but avoiding sitting down at his computer to write the next article commissioned by his magazine editor - breathing down his neck for another daily contribution on 'surviving the change'. Louise, at 48, used to joke that it should have been about her hormones rather than living in the country.
After another two phone calls she had an uneasy sense. Her skin prickled. She became distracted in the early afternoon briefing with her director. As a supervisor he was an odd man - at one level sympathetic and sensitive to nuances of mood; at the another he could be extremely cold and almost cruel when he was under pressure. She had occasionally received calls from him at 2am on a Sunday morning. He'd just read one of her emails questioning the direction of the teaching program and he could not resist the impulse to respond.
Recently he'd been pretty supportive. He understood her pain. He had seen loss, and while not having experienced such devastating grief as hers he was able to make a connection.
He sensed her distraction. Are you alright Louise? He was genuinely interested. These last few months had built a new closeness in their working relationship. I can't raise George. It came out as a question which, strangely, seemed to be directed at the furniture. It's not like him.
She was on the 2:15 train and approached the main gate to the old farmhouse by mid afternoon. The day was still warm. another perfect blue day. As she bumped her way down the rough cow track she tried not to let her mind race ahead. He would be okay. Probably just one of his quiet withdrawn days.
She crested the rise and stopped. The large pond before ger lay perfectly still. Water hyacinth clung to the perimeter of the irregular circle marking out the man made dam which supplied their fruit orchard with permanent water. The new fence still looked out of place. It was ironic this fence, like trying to fence in the rain. They'd come here to escape the changes in their old neighborhood. To avoid the high walls springing up around them creating gated enclaves; neighbours paranoid about nothing but their own fear. Louise and George wanted no fences, only open spaces. How could they have possibly have foreseen the unlikely scenario. Their daughter was sixteen for heaven's sake. Not a child. Why shouldn't parents treat themselves to a weekend at the coast once in a while. At sixteen Julia was a young adult, mature enough to spend two days in the company of her close mates.
The Coroner had not been able to say definitively what the cause had been. Death by misadventure was so enormously unsatisfactory an explanation. She put the car in low and through her misted vision bumped her way towards the house.
She could hear Lucy in the Sky playing as she climbed the stairs. George used to say it was written for Julia. It was what he needed to stay connected. Underneath the chorus, 'ko koo ka chu', she detected a series of arrhythmic sounds - like someone tapping at the door, but she was the only visitor on the doorstep. The tapping stopped and began again. Then silence.
She caught sight of the foot of the aluminium ladder straddling the doorway to Julia's room.
'Look for the girl with the sun in her eyes
And she's gone'