I'm sitting by myself in the seat in the front of the bus. We're crossing the Victoria Bridge, as this bus does every day, and every Monday I'm on board on my way to work.
The trip from Hill End only takes 20 minutes and half of that is filled by conversations with my wife. We have our Monday conversation. "What have you got on today? Busy?" "Could be. The phones usually go mad after the weekend. Everyone's had too much time to think." My wife is a counsellor.
"Sorry about what I said yesterday. I was a bit stressed out. I love you. You know that." I like the adage that one should never let the sun go down on your anger. My version is apologies and reconciliation on the morning bus. At least we're not doing it by mobile phone. Hurling our affections and apologies the length of the vehicle.
She's gone at the half way mark and I pull out my book. I've only got eight pages to go and I'm in a state of suspense. My emotions are on high alert. The woman's lost her child and is in deep mourning. So am I. Her partner's in gaol, charged with kidnapping and perhaps murder. He's written a letter to her to ask for forgiveness, while explaining why he's had to do what he did. She's despatched the letter to the bottom of a drawer. She wants him to suffer. They've lost their daughter forever, but will never be anywhere where she won't be a presence.The river glides below us, a chocholate milkshake flowing silently to the bay.
I read, and as the climax approaches I feel my eyes mist up and then I'm crying. Not sobbing like a drunk, but feeling like a parent. Feeling the loss. Understanding the terrifying choices that any parent faced with loss of a child would feel, and despairing at the thought that they will also lose each other as a result of this horrible situation for which they can blame no one but themselves.
The bus turns into Adelaide Street and crosses the last intersection before my stop. I've still got three pages to read. I could stay on the bus to the Valley and be late for work but I don't, I slip my marker into the book and swipe my GO Card on the machine and step onto the pavement. I usually get a coffee from the outlet at the base of my building but I'm not prepared to sit and sob in front of my favourite barista. I head for the closest coffee shop and order a flat white. There's an almighty din in the background, echoing through the gaps between the multi-story buildings. The BWF are protesting in Ann Street singing songs of protest, telling Premier Newman where he should shove his October public holiday and demanding back their Monday May Day holiday.
My coffee arrives just in time for the last page. There's a death and a reconciliation and hope and, shit, I'm so moved I drink my coffee without sugar, the first time I've done that in years. Some writers just hit the right notes. And this is her first book. I am inspired by this wonderful storytelling and it makes me want to keep writing my novel. Or give up in the face of my mediocrity. And then I'm in the lift to level 10 and I walk in and say "Morning".
The book: "The Light Between Oceans" by M L Stedman. The setting: SouthernWestern Australia , Janus Rock 300 miles west of Albany. A lighthouse.