Changing Times


Chapter 5

Written by: Rosemary Wakelin

Nelson parked his canvas duffel bag between his feet, mindful of its progressively fraying drawstrings.

“Need me to wait?” the cabbie asked.

The icy, nighttime northerlies burnt Nelson’s cheeks and he drew his faux-leather jacket tighter around him. He glanced at the double storey semi-detached house across the road. Frannie was in that house, his Frannie. Not that he had the right to call her that anymore.

So, why was he here?

“I’m fine.” But was he? The pungent stench of exhaust fumes tortured his nostrils as the cabbie sped off. Nelson made cover beneath a nearby street lamp, hunched his broad shoulders and blew warm air into his cupped hands. A sudden surge of wind penetrated his clothing. He pictured icicles hanging from his bones, had forgotten how damn cold this place was.

So, why was he here?

Frannie’s house still looked the same, with its neatly trimmed hedges, its evergreen vines that obediently snaked up the rustic walls.

But somewhere, somehow it had lost its original friendly charm. The lights spilling from the upstairs windows, the many candles flickering downstairs, all appeared cold, more threatening. Even the suffocating stream of rumbling traffic wasn’t playing fair… making the air too difficult to breathe and the road a challenge to cross. And he wondered if guilt had painted this picture just for him.

So, why was he here?

For forgiveness?

He didn’t deserve forgiveness. Not after what he had done to Frannie, leaving her to battle the emotional and physical scars on her own. But it had been painful for him, too, seeing her suffering like that.

Grow up, Nelson, his inner voice said. Time to move on from the reckless, self-serving thrill seeker you once were. Whatever pain you felt, you could still ‘walk’ away, drown it with the stunning ‘sights’ of Thailand. Neither of which Frannie could do. And you now want her to join you in Chi Phat?

Nelson drew a sharp breath, sensed the cold air seer his insides. Coming here was a mistake. He heaved his bag onto his shoulder, teetered on the kerbside, searching for the next taxi.

“Guilt’s a destructive emotion.”

Nelson spun around. An age-wearied woman wearing an unravelling yellow jumper, faded black trousers and several tattered scarves, stared up at him. Her forest-green eyes, Nelson noted, were rich with kindness.

“Excuse me?” he said.

“Guilt,” she explained, balling her small, wrinkled fist, “is like an uninvited guest – it clings, sucks you dry… until you would sell your soul to shake it off. Don’t let it destroy the good things in your life.”

The old woman then wobbled off until she disappeared into the far unlit darkness.

Nelson tried to rationalise what had just happened. Was the woman real? Or had the intense cold messed with his increasingly confused head? And yet, he couldn’t ignore what she had said either.

Across the road, the upstairs lights went out.

Nelson bit down hard on his bottom lip and headed towards Frannie.

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Rosemary I love what you have done here, while Frans world changed it makes us aware that so did others and how they come to terms with change
thanks, Jasmine.
What a lovely use of language – icicles hanging off his bones. I can imagine that is how it feels after leaving Asia.I agree with Jasmine. You reminded us that Frannie alone was not affected by what happened. This added insight adds another dimension to the story and fresh complexity. This is about the time in the story for this to happen also.
Thanks Suraya 🙂



The Beauty Contest


Serial Starter

Written by: Rosemary Wakelin

There’s a camel in my backyard.

Eating Mrs Whitman’s neighbouring prized white and violet hydrangeas.

I make a coffee, deciding that whatever I drank last night must’ve been good, like really good. The first caffeine sip and I shudder.  The next and, one by one, my muscles stand to attention.

A goose-bumpy cacophony of nasally groans snaps my attention to the living room. Snorey-Corey must’ve stayed over. I flip-flop against the old, patchy linoleum in my tiger-print slippers, [a Coles’ winter special]. I was right. Snorey-Corey is spreadeagled on the divan, fast asleep, wearing his Mighty Thor boxers and a dopey grin that I find quite disturbing.

I make a fast retreat to the kitchen.

More caffeine required, much stronger this time.

What is it about first morning coffees and windows? That fixated need to blend the two. I look up [for the second time] and immediately wished I hadn’t.

There’s a camel in my backyard.

Now feasting on Mrs Whitman’s daffodil-yellow roses.

I rub my eyes. But no amount of rubbing makes the one-humped creature disappear. I try recalling the previous night. An instant mistake. Nights like that are not for recalling. Mainly because one can’t.

I study the camel further. It is bejewelled in a sun-dazzled green and gold bling necklace. Was that envy I felt staring at the bling? I quickly shrug it off; begin the compulsory skin pinching. Surely, this is nothing more than some poorly scripted dream.

When my skin hurts from over-pinching, I make tracks to Beatrice, my flatmate. She is on her bed, wearing her black eye-mask, a pair of paisley-printed harem pants and matching top that reads: Life is good when you’re in pyjamas.

I shake her.

“I’m asleep,” she grumbles.

“There’s a camel in our backyard.”

She lifts one eye patch. Her bloodshot eye is not pretty.  “Sure, Molly, just like there are ants in my pants.”

I push the troubling image from my head. “I’m serious,” I say in my best serious voice. Beatrice grumbles some more and then struggles to her feet.


We are all in the backyard. Me, Corey, Beatrice… and the camel.

Camel slowly twists its long neck, pouts out its large, floppy lips and bats its black curly eyelashes.

Corey hitches up his boxers and carefully approaches the camel. “Nice camel,” he purrs in a ridiculously tawdry voice.

Camel lets out a freaky sounding bellow, follows through with one colossal spit. Corey’s face drips with something sticky-looking. “I think it likes me.”

“Because it just puked on you?” Beatrice doubles over, laughs so hard, she starts choking.

Corey makes for the nearest hose.

“Molls, why’s the camel in the backyard?”

It’s Gerard [current boyfriend] wearing his Sunday bests and a clearly mortified expression. He hoofs it to the camel and inspects it with the most bizarre care. “It shouldn’t be here,” he says.

Well… hello.

“It should be in the garage, instead.”


“This sun,” Gerard says, “is really bad for its complexion.”