By the same author
|© Copyright 2003-2009 K S Mulholland|
Chapter 4 - Waking up is hard to do (And Spooky too)
Priscilla opened her eyes.
'Phew!' said Priscilla, relieved, scratching at her scalp through the mass of
THUMP! RATTLE! THUMP! The sounds arose from below.
'That'll be the carpenters and the plumber again, I suppose', she muttered,
throwing back the covers and sitting up. Her toes touched the floorboards and a
sudden involuntary shiver ran through her.
'Dream? Dream...Yes of course, a dream...' mumbled Monique, stirring and
propping herself upon an elbow.
'You can just call me Cilla, if that's easier. That's what Henry, my little
Brother, calls me.'
'Cilla Black. It is a name that seems to have some meaning for me...'
'Yeah, yeah,' said Priscilla, stretching and going to the window to peer down
at the devastation below.
'Pardon?' said Monique, coming to her side to peer out into the sunlight.
'Oh nothing. But about that Cilla Black thing...It's the name of a singer, I
don't know, someone who was famous as a singer...She made recordings, records
they used to call them, sort of like C.Ds now, in the nineteen sixties or
'And you have her name?'
'I expect it was Mum and Dad's idea of a joke, or perhaps Dad getting even.'
'Getting even?' Monica asked, clearly puzzled.
'Well not exactly getting even. More like continuing what happened to him.'
'I do not understand,' said Monique, staring at Priscilla.
'He copped the name Matthew from his Mum and Dad, his Mum being Granny Black,
the lady you met last night.'
'This "copped", what does it mean?'
'Sorry, ' said Priscilla, breaking into a smile. 'It's an Australian
expression, it means what was given you, even if you didn't want it.'
Monique shook her head slowly, clearly at a loss.
'Matthew Black...Matt Black...Don't you see? Like paint...Dull black...Not
bright...Matt...' Priscilla shrugged. 'Guess you had to be there. Kinda like
Teresa Greene...Get it, Trees are green?'
'Oh! It's a play on words! And so they, your Mother and Father, gave you a
name of someone that was popular...'
'When they were very young, yeah, and all the old far...that is...older
people remember and kid me about it.'
'Boy, I can see we're gonna have lots of fun translating,' laughed Priscilla,
taking Monique's hand.
'Girls! If you both don't get showered and downstairs in the next fifteen
minutes breakfast will be off!'
The two girls exchanged a glance that spoke of hope that something good was
to be forthcoming.
Grandma Black turned back and flung at them, 'And I want to talk to both of
you as well!'
Showered and dressed, the two girls came down to breakfast in the living
Monique looked at him expectantly.
Matthew drew a deep breath. 'I'm sorry to say that there is no news on your
parents' disappearance. All the people available over there are on the case.
They're searching, questioning, following every possibility; whatever can be
done is being done. I'm going to be in contact all the time. As soon as we hear
anything I'll...' he ended, a little lamely.
Monique bowed her head. Her hands trembled.
'What's really going on Dad?' said Priscilla.
'I don't know pet. Monique's parents have just vanished; gone into smoke. Her
Dad, Jean-Michael, was my cameraman on "The Dark Side of Mothers and
Children", a doco about women and kids in South Africa. Her mum Monica, as
Monique might have told you, is from Durban.'
'No Dad, I don't know anything about it. Monique was too tired to talk last
'I see. Alright kiddo, here it is in a nutshell, and Monique, I hope it wont
upset you too much?'
'You can say what must be said Mister Black,' muttered the girl, now clearly
Bang! Bang! Crash!
'Oh such a nuisance! All these workers! Well everyone I have to fly! Taxi's
'Break a leg!' shouted Matthew as the front door slammed in the distance.
Monique blinked and looked from Matthew to Priscilla with an expression of
absolute bewilderment on her face.
'Don't you fret at all, young lady,' said grandma Black, collecting breakfast
plates. 'You'll get used to all this commotion soon enough.'
Matthew, half out of his chair, sank back and again turned to the girls. 'Now
then where was I...Oh yes, well, I first met Monique's Dad some years ago when
we were doing a nature film called "Sahara Song". Then we teamed up on
"The French Attaché", a spy story set in Uganda. Before that, he had
been all over Africa as a wild-life cameraman on lots of other projects, and
that's where he met Monica Lawaka, Monique's Mother, in Durban...'
'And they fell in love,' suggested Priscilla.
'I guess so,' Matthew answered. 'Otherwise Monique wouldn't be...'
'I don't want to hear anymore!'
'Sure you do,' said Matthew, reaching out a hand to steady the trembling girl
and drawing her over to his knee. 'But we have to get through what has already
happened so that we're able to see where we have to go to get them here.' He
gently patted her cheek. 'Just take a deep breath and trust us. We're all here
to help you. You're not alone.'
Monique looked steadily into Matthew's eyes. 'I know that I am not alone, but
Monsieur, I am so desperately frightened.' She buried her face against his
shoulder and began to cry.
'There now, child,' said Granny Black, coming to comfort her, 'things will
get better. Matthew will make sure of that.'
Matthew allowed his mother to take Monique from his grasp, although, as
Priscilla noted, he seemed far from confident that he could indeed do anything
'You were talking about Monique's Parents when they first met,' said Louis in
the doorway, a screwdriver held in one hand, a framed picture of Spiderman in
'Yeah, cut to the chase Dad,' added Henry, rushing in slightly out of breath,
a lidless empty cardboard box in his grasp.
'What's up Henry?' asked Priscilla.
'Gizzard, he's gotten out again...Anybody seen a green lizard about this
big?' He held the box out.
'Please allow your Father to finish, then we'll organise a search party,'
said Granny Black, her arms still around Monique.
'Yes mate, I am trying to cut to the chase, if I can get a word in...Anyway,
some time ago I offered Jean-Michael work in Tasmania and Queensland on a couple
of film projects and he said that he was interested. So much so that he wanted
to bring his family over and settle here. He made application for a temporary
work visa with the object of becoming an Australian citizen in the future. When
his visa was granted I managed to enrol Monique at Hopewell so that she would
have company there with both you, Louis and Priscilla as pals. Well, everything
was going along fine. We finished the doco before time, Monique's folks were
packed and ready to fly out of Capetown, all their luggage was set to be sent
off to the airport, and then...' He shook his head, as if he still couldn't
believe it. 'Monique went to say goodbye to some of her school friends and when
she got back to the hotel...her folks had gone...'
'That is true,' said Monique, sniffing and wiping her eyes. 'I came back
there, went to our rooms and found only our baggage. Father's equipment, his
cameras and lighting gear, was not there...And neither were Mother and
Father...Since then I have never seen them again.'
Matthew nodded. 'I was at the wrap party at the hotel where our production
unit was staying when Monique rang me. At first she thought her parents had
perhaps gone there and forgotten to leave a message. When I told her that I
hadn't seen them since the day before, alarm bells began to ring. First I went
to the hotel and met Monique, then I asked at the desk if anyone had seen Monica
and Jean-Michele. No one had. But they hadn't checked out. Then I began to ring
around to Monique's aunt and other relatives in Durban and Bloemfontein.
Nothing. After that I reported them as missing to the authorities. Our flight
was due to leave late that evening and when nothing more happened, I informed
the police that I was departing and taking Monique with me.' He turned to the
girl as if to reassure her. 'I couldn't just leave you there, with no family and
only a couple of short term school friends. The arrangements had already been
made for your travel. I had to become your guardian or send you back to Durban.
I...Well, I made the decision to bring you to Australia.
Monique looked as if she would break down at any moment, hanging on to Granny
Black's arms in absolute misery. 'I know you will, Mister Black...I just...I
can't...' Her eyes filled with tears.
' Um, in any event, I have many things to do today,' said Matthew moving on;
his own eyes, as Priscilla alone saw, glistening.
'Yes Monsieur, I will be patient. You must forgive me if I shed some tears,'
said Monique, gulping and standing away from Grandma Black. 'Please, I am most
grateful to be here and to spend my time with all of you.'
'And you are most welcome,' said Granny Black, motioning her son into action.
'Now let Matthew get off to see what he can find out, and the rest of you,' she
indicated the three children, 'should do your best to make our guest as
comfortable as you can. Mind, considering it's school holidays, I don't want you
getting under the workmen's feet. They'll be gone in a few days and then we can
bring this house to order and sort out all the unpacking.'
Matthew stood and headed for the door, saying, 'I'll be off now, but I'll
ring if I hear anything today. I'm going to organise a second phone line here so
that we can get the computer up and running. There are people in Cape Town that
I can talk to as well via email'.
'Great!' said Louis. 'I've missed the internet. Fantastic! What do ya think
'I think I've lost my skink', Henry muttered, peering around the room, the
cardboard box wilting in his hand.
He made as if to wander off in search, but Granny Black halted him with an
The children could hear Matthew's car keys jingling as he hurried down the
hall and there was a faint thumping coming from somewhere outside that sounded
like Prentice attacking the pipes.
'The problem is, young man, that when I got up earlier this morning and came
downstairs I found the kitchen door open. We could have all been murdered in our
beds. Your Mother and Father were still asleep, as were you...So...How did it
get opened? I know it was locked last night.'
'Beats me,' said Louis with a shrug.
'Maybe Gizzard opened it,' muttered Henry mischievously, itching to go and
look for his pet.
'I...I don't know how it got opened,' said Priscilla, although the thought of
her weird dream jumped into her mind. And yet even in the dream she hadn't
unlocked the kitchen door. But before she could say anything further, Grandma
Black went on, 'And another thing, the door to the cellar was open too. Now what
kind of game are you children playing?'
'Maybe the house is haunted,' offered Louis with a smirk on his face.
'Maybe you all think I'm going crazy too,' Granny shot back at him.
No one spoke.
'Oh very well, get on with it. You girls, go and help Henry find his lizard.
And keep out of trouble. Lunch will be ready around twelve. And bring down any
clothes for the wash. And make an effort to get your beds made and your rooms
'Gee, Gran sure can go on sometimes. Here Gizzard, here boy,' said Henry as the
four ambled down the hallway.
'It's no good just wandering around,' said Louis, getting practical, 'let's
split up. Henry and I will search down here. You girls can look upstairs while
you're tidying our rooms.'
'Sounds like you two get the easy part,' Priscilla said, stopping at the
stairs. She turned back and beckoned Monique. 'Come on, we may as well.'
When the girls were out of earshot of the others, Monique took hold of
Priscilla's arm, saying quietly, 'Cilla, there's something I want to tell you. I
think it was me, last night. I think I opened the back door!'
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