and The Quest to See
Chapter 6 - Too much information
'A lot of times it's just as simple as saying it plain.' said Amelia
Black, her back to Priscilla as she worked away at the kitchen sink,
washing the grit from a huge bunch of Silver-beet.
From somewhere toward the front of the house, Mollie, their Irish
cleaning-lady could be heard powering through various rooms: vacuuming,
rattling buckets of soapy water, cursing and singing in a deeply-pitched
Priscilla was perched on a kitchen stool and beside her, on the floor,
sat Harry, his tail slowly wagging to and fro as if he was undecided as
to what might happen.
'It's not that easy Gran,' said Priscilla, her fingers roaming through
'I hope it's not about personal hygiene my girl, that's surely up to
Rachael to explain...' Amelia paused as a cascade of water flowed into
the sink. 'I would have thought that your mother...' She sniffed as if
the subject of sex education might be about to arise, and recalled how
she and Pa had fumbled their way through that minefield with Matty when
he was a kid. Her eyes rolled as she began to shake water from the broad
dark-green leaves and place them out to drain.
'That's what Henry and me want to know about. No, not about hygiene.'
Priscilla managed, stumbling blindly into unknown territory. 'About our
Mother, our actual Mother. We know that mum... that is... Rachael, isn't
our real mum. Henry saw our birth certificates. He didn't mean to, he
was looking for other stuff and kinda stumbled across our birth
certificates and saw...'
Priscilla watched, biting her lip, as her Grandmother's back appeared to
stiffen, whilst her hands halted their motion at the sink.
'Priscilla.' Amelia's shoulders sagged. 'What exactly do you and Henry
think you know?'
'Oh Gran please don't be angry with us. Dad got married to another woman
before Rachael. She was our mum. Later something happened and she wasn't
our mum. Dad found Rachael and they got together. Rachael had Louis with
her from another time. Louis is our step-brother. Henry isn't able to
handle this. I'm not either, but Henry doesn't even know that I'm
talking to you and I'm pretty scared about it too but I've got to find
out, for him as well as me. I thought it might be best to ask you, I've
always trusted you Gran... I've always thought that you loved us...'
Granny Black turned swiftly and to Priscilla's surprise, sank to her
knees before her like a settling wildebeest.
'I do love you, all three of you, you're all my Grand Children. I
guessed this day would come and I hoped that it might not be to me that
you or your Brother would turn. Rather, I hoped that Matthew and Rachael
would be the ones to speak to you both when they felt you mature enough
Priscilla gulped. 'I'm mature enough Gran, I have to be right now
because whatever this is all about can't be turned back. Me and Henry
known this much and what's been kept secret has been hidden away from
Louis knows what it is doesn't he? And why? Why? Why does he know and we
'You didn't ask him?'
'I couldn't. I guessed that whatever Louis knows he has promised not to
tell, for one reason or another.
Granny Black took Priscilla's hands in hers. 'Perhaps you are maturing
quicker than we thought.'
'Will Henry get into trouble?'
'I shouldn't think so, it was all bound to come out one day.' said
Amelia absentmindedly. 'Anyway, you'd better help your Grandma up and
give me a cuddle. Not as young as I used to be. Then, while we have some
time to ourselves, a cup of tea if you want or maybe fruit juice for
you, and I'll tell you what I can.'
Granny Black heaved a huge sigh as she found her feet with Priscilla's
The sounds of Mollie's cleaning rattled upward to the floor above.
They settled in the dining room with a pot of tea, a yogurt smoothie and
Harry, who sat expectantly beside Amelia so that he could watch
'Alright Priscilla, we have an hour before dinner. First, you and Henry
mustn't think too badly about Louis. He has only done what he was
cautioned to do. That was not to tell either of you what he knew, which
is just a part of the story anyway. He was told that you would be
informed when you were considered old enough to cope, and that was to be
decided by your Father and... Rachael.
But somehow it seems to have fallen to me. It's a difficult thing to
explain and yet now that you know this much, you are entitled to know
Your Mother's name was Loretta. Loretta Maxwell Aruda. Of course you
both already know that, having seen your birth certificates. What
exactly was Henry trying to find?'
'Honestly can't remember Gran. You know Henry, always off on some crazy
thing about pirates and stuff. I just know that he really didn't mean to
do anything wrong.'
'You stand up very well for your little brother Priscilla, you're a good
'Don't ever tell Henry that Gran.'
'Of course not Dear, that's just between you and me.' Amelia heaved
another long sigh and a pained expression clouded her face. 'Well, best
I begin and you must prepare yourself for what is to come.'
'Is this going to be bad Gran?'
'Our real Mum is dead, right?'
'She... She took her own life Cilla.'
'Oh!' Priscilla trembled as if a sudden cold seizure had gripped her.
'We don't know the answer to that question. We only know that you and
Henry were spared. She left you both alone but unharmed. Perhaps it was
some terrible depression, maybe even her aboriginal background...'
'Yes, your Mother was part aboriginal. She and your Father met when he
was researching his very first documentary in Queensland. And they fell
in love. Simple as that. They got married in a Registry Office in
Brisbane. I only met Loretta twice. On their wedding day and once some
years after, here in Melbourne when they came down for your Dad's newest
project. I liked her. She was young and quiet, but I spent a week with
her and discovered more. Loretta painted, she was interested in design,
literature and in Matthew's film passion. By then, you and Henry were in
The vacuum cleaner rolled to a halt and the clanking and rattling of
mops and buckets descended and headed toward the front door.
'Oi'm outta here Amelia! Thanks for tha cheque. Get togedder fer
shoppin' next week!'
Priscilla's mind swirled back to a conversation with John Wynd, the boy
who called himself Warrigal, the part aboriginal boy who had told her
that they might have more in common than she knew. The same boy who had
vanished from the world in a distant place down at the most southern tip
of Tasmania, where still dwelt a hidden people.
'Oh Gran, why did my... Loretta, do it, why? And how did she... Please,
tell me... I want to know what happened, all of it.'
Amelia closed her eyes. 'You were three and a bit. Henry was two. It
happened here in Victoria, up in the Grampians.'
'What's the Grampians?'
'The Grampians are mountain ranges north and west of Melbourne, about
three to four hours drive from here. Back then Mathew rented a small
property near Lake Wartook. It was like a hobby farm. Matty was using it
as a base while researching and filming aboriginal artworks in the
Victoria Valley and other lesser known sites.
When he left that morning with his crew everything seemed to be fine.
His last memory of Loretta was of her with both of you playing on the
front veranda while she worked away typing up running sheets and
He and his sound and camera men were gone all day searching out a number
of little known art sites and when they returned Mathew discovered the
two of you in the care of the local Stawel police. The alarm had been
raised when the farm owner chanced to call by to see how your folks were
settling in and discovered the two of you alone and unattended in your
playpens in a bedroom at the back of the house.
A search of the area failed to find your mother. There was no sign of
anything unusual around the property. No one came forward. No one saw anything.
It was some days later that a hiker reported sighting a... a body below
a place known as The Balconies. Searchers recovered the body and your Father
identified her. There was no doubt that it was your Mother.'
'Perhaps she just went for a long walk and slipped.'
'Priscilla, I wish with all my heart that that could be the answer, but
think about it. Why would a young mother abandon her two infant children
and go off alone into the mountains? Besides, it wasn't a walk that took
her to her... end. Her mountain bike was also found on the road where
the track winds up to the Balconies. Evidently she had ridden there
'I don't believe it! She couldn't just leave us behind! Our Mother
wouldn't do that to us Granny! She wouldn't!' Priscilla hugged herself,
shaking so much that Amelia thought she might go into a convulsive fit.
'It still might have been an accident!'
'There, there, my girl, let your old Gramma help you through this. It's
not an easy time now, but in the future you'll be able to cope. After
all you have your Dad... and...'
'Rachael!' said Priscilla, almost accusingly, beginning to sob. Her mind
was whirling with these stories of her real mother and revolting against
'She wouldn't have left us alone like that, not our real Mum, she must
have had some reason to go off on her bike... maybe to get a doctor!
Maybe Henry or me was sick! Maybe she was going to find help for us!'
'Cilla! Cilla! No! Calm down! Calm down. It wasn't like that at all.
Your Mother wasn't trying to do anything for you. You were both alright.
Alone and unfed, but otherwise fine. She simply abandoned you and went
off into the mountains... and there... threw away her life.'
'She couldn't do that Granny! My Mother couldn't do that! Not to her
children! Not to us! It must have been an accident!'
Granny Black drew her grand-daughter to her, encompassing her within her
comforting, sturdy arms. 'Perhaps it would be for the best not to tell
the truth to you, and that is one of the reasons that your father wanted
to wait until you were older, but...' Amelia looked deeply into
Priscilla's eyes and Priscilla, sobbing, looked back at her Grandmother,
seeing the tears mirrored in Amelia's aging eyes. 'But a half truth is not
as good as the truth, a lie can never better it. A secret, once guessed at,
must be fully told, else one day, in some way, it be found out. In this
instance, it was recorded on the Death Certificate. We wanted to shield you
and Henry, yet I'm hopeful that you both can take this sudden blow and recover...
Your Mother left a note...
I am so sorry dear... '
'Not from her, someone else wrote it!'
'In her own handwriting, your Father knew...'
'No!' Priscilla wrestled herself away. 'No! No!'
She was crying freely now and turning about without any thought of
direction or motive. 'No!' she cried again, breaking away and running
headlong out of the room with Harry barking at her heels.
The sound of her footsteps pounding toward the back garden and the
anguish of the whole situation hit Amelia like a sledge hammer as the
back door slammed.
It was all over, all out in the open. A truth that had been hidden for
many years, and she had been the one to open the door. What, she
wondered, would be Mathew's reaction, what would Rachele think? More
importantly how could Priscilla cope, and Henry when she told him?
'Knock knock Amelia.'
Granny Black almost bounced off her chair. 'Mollie Maeve! Still here!'
'Stayed. Heard tha row and figgered ya moight need a helpin' hand.'
'Oh Moll, a steadying hand would be good. I don't know if I've done
wrong or right! Shouldn't have taken it on myself! I'm not her
parents... Father... What do I do now?' Amelia halted, shutting her
mouth and looking extremely glum.
'Do now? Ya get on tha phone and call up yer Son Matty, that's what ya
do o'course. Yev taken tha brunt of ut and ut's all up ta yer Boyo and
I been with ya toime enough now Amelia and I know somethin' of tha
family's state of affairs. Make tha call and jist give tha teenager some
whiles out in tha garden. That luttle furry fella Harry will keep an eye
on her Oi'm sure.'
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