This story continues from Reflections, unacknowledged. If you haven’t already read that, you might like to read it first – it’s much shorter than this.
I don't know if you will bother to read this, but I trust you will. It contains no reiteration of the advice I gave you yesterday, but only the story I should have told you, had you remained long enough to hear it. I have never told anyone else anything that is contained here, and I should appreciate it if you would respect the confidentiality of this, and say nothing of it to anyone, at least until I'm dead. After that, do what you will; it can't harm me.
I will tell you the facts, as they happened, no more, no less. You are an intelligent, reasonable woman, thanks, at least in part, to myself. You will be able to judge them and draw your own conclusions.
So, on to the story.
My parents had a block of land at Tiraumea, and Kelly's family owned the next station, the largest in the area. I suppose you could say I knew him all my life, but he was ten years older, and we didn't come across each other much. By the time I was at school, he was helping his father run the farm, and if I'd thought of him at all, I would have categorised him in my mind as an adult.
I left school at fifteen. I’d enjoyed it, and I could have gone further, but that wasn't how things worked then, especially in rural areas like the one I grew up in. Higher education for girls was seen as rather wasteful, an expensive luxury. Farmers' sons became farmers, farmers' daughters were destined, if they were lucky, to be farmers' wives. Kelly and I really "met", in that we properly noticed each other's existence, the summer I left school.
The big social event of the year was church Christmas picnic, and like every girl in the area, I and my sisters spent all the beforehand cooking. No self respecting unmarried girl would have dreamt of going without some delicious goodies; they almost served as advertising, as we showed the world what good wives we would be. Being pretty was a help in catching a husband, but being a good cook was essential. So, I spent hours producing pikelets, scones and feather-light sponge cakes. Once the benches were groaning with provender, we turned our attention to our appearance. The evening, was spent washing and drying our hair, and pressing our nicest frock, then we bathed, and covered our faces with a mask of crushed strawberries to ensure clear complexions. Finally we smoothed in an ointment that mother made, lanolin based, naturally - there was never any shortage of lanolin on a sheep station.
You, who have only known me in the later part of my life, will find it hard to believe, but I was quite lovely when I was young. My hair fell to my shoulders in waves, and it had the colour and shine of polished matai. I wasn't slim in the way that is fashionable now, but rounded, curvy, exactly as a girl was supposed to be in the late nineteen thirties. Few healthy young girls are unattractive in any case, but I was considered, locally, to be something of a beauty. I was lively too, with no trace of shyness. Shyness is a sure path to being completely ignored in a family of ten children, so none of us cultivated it.
I looked at my best that day. My dress was a shade of blue that highlighted my eyes, and I was excited - it was, after all, my first picnic amongst the grown-ups. Last year, I had been a child, but this year I was a woman, and I took such trouble over my appearance!
All that considered, it probably wasn't surprising that Kelly McMasters noticed me. He joined our family, where we stood, and talked respectfully with Dad for a while, but his eyes kept straying in my direction, and when I met them, he would smile. He manoeuvred so that he "found himself" next to me. He asked about school, pretended to be shocked at how I'd grown, and suggested that we go together to get some lemonade and something to eat. All the time, he gave the impression of just being polite, but his eyes sparkled with interest.
At the trestles where the food was laid out, he asked me what my contributions were and made a great show of selecting them, simulating ecstasy as he bit into a scone, making me giggle. Now that we were stood a little apart from the others, he became animated, and his interest more apparent. He was a good looking boy - young man - tall, and strong looking, with a loud, happy laugh. As we watched the games and races, he told jokes that had me in fits of laughter, and when I was press-ganged into the sack-race, he stood alongside the makeshift track, cheering me on.
Being so much older than I was, he seemed incredibly knowledgeable to me, and I was bedazzled. When he asked me, somewhat hesitantly and formally, if he could see me again, I was delighted.
You might think that my parents would have disapproved. I was very young, after all, and families with innocent young daughters don't generally support attractive young men paying them too much attention. Kelly had a good reputation though, and, more to the point, his father had recently died, suddenly, and Kelly had inherited the farm. Owning a farm at twenty five was an enviable position for any young man to be in, but when the property in question was the McMasters' station, it made him the best catch in the district. My family fell over themselves to encourage him.
It was almost inevitable that I would tumble into love. I was the right age, and not only was he very attractive, but he was a truly good man too, caring and responsible, without being dull. He knew how to have fun, and being with him meant laughing, most of the time. He took me to matinee movie shows, all the way into Masterton in his car, and afterwards for ice-cream. Then, on the way home, he would stop the car, just for moment or two, and kiss me, in the dark warmth of the summer night. Within weeks, I was head over heels. Soon, he proposed, and I accepted.
We married when I had just turned sixteen, early in 1938. Kelly brought me home to Maryanna station, named for the first Mr McMasters' sister. I found, to my surprise, that the main house was all mine. The manager's house had been empty of recent years, since the family had four strong sons to help run the property, and Kelly’s mother, Marion, had shifted herself and her younger children into it. "Two women trying to run one kitchen never does," she explained, smiling. The stockman's wife who had helped her around the house, Irihapeti, stayed on to do the heavy housework for me, while another wife took over housekeeping duties for her. It was a dream situation for a new bride to be in, especially one as young as me.
The dream grew even better inside the bedroom. Kelly was as considerate in love- making as he was in everything else, and sex was a joy for both of us. I had not, of course, expected to actually enjoy it. Nobody in a place where there was as little to do as Tiraumea would ever have let young girls guess how much fun sex was, for fear of the natural consequences. It delighted Kelly to introduce me to its pleasures, and I was an eager and enthusiastic student.
I soon fell pregnant, and your mother was born within the year. I was as completely happy as I could ever have imagined being.
Then the war came.
Kelly could have stayed home, being a farmer, but he would never have done so. His father had fought in the last war, and Kelly would have seen not joining up as letting him down, even a betrayal. He enlisted straight away and after training at Trentham, he was gone. We spent his embarkation leave in bed, then he left me crying, and although I didn't know it, pregnant again.
He wrote to me, religiously, and I discovered a side to him I would never have expected. In person, he was the archetypal "Kiwi Joker", matter-of-fact, practical, a little bluff. He had always been fun, and I knew that he loved me, but he was hardly romantic. When he wrote, though, his language was lyrical, full of tenderness and passion. He rarely said anything of the war, but only spoke of how he missed me, and longed to be home. When Laurie was born, his letter was ecstatic, but tinged with regret that he couldn't be there to see and hold him.
I ran the farm, with my mother-in-law's help and the assistance of land-girls, as one by one Kelly's younger brothers enlisted and left for Europe or Africa. Apart from at shearing time, we rarely saw a man, and the atmosphere was something like a girl's school. It was oddly jolly, and we managed pretty well, overall. When the sun was up, I rarely missed Kelly, and didn't feel any lack from having no man around, but in the evening as I lay in bed, after reading his letters, I tossed and turned, yearning for his presence, for his body on mine, for his arm around me, holding me to him as I fell asleep.
You are probably thinking, right now that this was when the affair happened. You will have heard about the American soldiers who made their way here, and of the Kiwi women they had affairs with, but you are wrong. It would have been almost impossible, even if it had crossed my mind, to have taken a lover then. Firstly, the Americans never made their way to our remote backwater, and also Marion had moved back up to the main house when Marie married. She felt terribly alone with the boys gone, and it helped me to have her there too. With nobody but ourselves to cook for, the kitchen didn't need to be fought over, and we got along well.
Months passed, and became years. When the cable came addressed to me, in the winter of 1941, Marion hugged me tight before I opened it, although she must have dreaded the contents even more than I. It was better news than we had hoped though. Kelly, it said, had been injured in Egypt, but was recovering and would be back with his unit soon.
The next cable came in summer, and it had Marion's name on. This one carried bleaker news - Jack, the youngest, had been taken prisoner. The third early in 1943, told us that William was dead, killed in Italy. He was the brother nearest to Kelly in age, and although I hadn't had the chance to get to know him well, he seemed the one most like my husband.
Things were never the same after that. Marion drew back into herself, working herself to exhaustion during the day, so that she could fall into bed as soon as she had eaten, and forget what had happened in fitful sleep. I became the support, reading the paper for her, and reading the letter that said that George and Kelly would not join the New Zealand troops when they finally came home on furlough, because George was suffering from some kind of fever in hospital in England, and Kelly was going to stay close to him.
I could hardly remember Kelly by this time. I was twenty-two, and I had seen nothing of my husband for four of the six years of my marriage. His mother and his children were much more real to me than he was, despite the beautiful letters that still arrived regularly every week.
As winter began to flex its icy fingers again, Operation Overlord came. My brother, Dick was badly injured at Gold Beach, but George and Kelly came through unharmed. As the papers printed reports of victory after victory, Marion dared to whisper "This is it, Evelyn, it's coming to an end."
On the farm we had a bumper year for lambs, and Caroline fell out of a tree and broke her wrist, which seemed to me a bigger disaster than the carnage in Europe, since it was my responsibility.
And then, finally, the war was over, and the men was coming home.
As I drove the truck to meet them all - Jack and George, and my brothers Bob and Dick as well as Kelly - I was overcome by a twittering nervousness that I didn't recognise. Would he like me with my newly shortened hair, my body toughened by manual work, leaner than I used to be? At least the lanolin in the fleeces had kept my skin soft, I remember thinking irrelevantly, as I smoothed the skirt of my navy suit, straightened my hat and combed the crowd for my soldier-boys. I suppose it must have been shyness - it's the only time in my life I ever felt it.
The arrived together, one big clump of khaki with an assortment of faces. There was a hesitation before Kelly stepped forward, and then caught me in a hug so hard and tight I could barely breathe. As I stepped back, I found I was weeping, and he wiped my tears away gently.
"I'm home," he said, "no need for that now."
I had expected a riot of conversation on the way home, but everyone seemed subdued, looking around, just absorbing the sights and sounds of home. As we came closer, they started to speak more, pointing out landmarks, talking about the memories associated with them. Jack drove, and Kelly kept tight hold of my hand, stroking his thumb back and forward across the knuckles. He kept turning from the window to look at me, as if to reassure himself that I was real. I could understand how he felt. I too, marvelled at him, freshly struck by his height and good looks.
We dropped Bob and Dick at my parents' home first, where he was instantly swallowed in a sea of brothers, sisters, parents, nieces and nephews, then we drove back to Maryanna. Marion, together with Irihapeti, had killed the fatted calf, and the evening passed, almost as full of tears as it was of laughter. Kelly got acquainted with his initially somewhat nervous children, and as we put them to bed together, Kelly's hand again reached out to clasp mine.
Finally, it was time for bed. I had been simultaneously longing for, and dreading the moment all day. I had grown used to sleeping alone again, and after more than five years, I was concerned that I would have forgotten what I was supposed to do. I wondered if Kelly had the same fears, and ruthlessly pushed aside any fears that he had found someone else to practice with while he was away.
Always, before, we had made love in darkness, at least when we made love at night, but when I went to put out the lamp, he stopped me. "Leave it, Evie," he said, "please. I need to see you to believe that you're real."
I blushed, but let the light shine as he slowly undressed me, touching me gently, at first, as if I was a dream or a shade that might melt away from him if he tried to hold it too tight.
"God, woman, you are lovely," he told me, as I stood, nude and nervous.
He was still gentle as he laid me on the bed, and quickly shucked his clothes, but there was more urgency to his actions, and when at last his body covered mine his movements were hard and desperate. He thrust deeply, over and over, as if he was trying to lose himself inside me. He didn't so much kiss me as take possession of my mouth, and his hands bit deeply into my shoulders.
It was wonderful.
There was something more profound in that coupling than in any before, and I clung to him as he cried out my name, and I, his, and tears misted my eyes and gathered at the corners as I held him, shuddering, afterwards.
"I love you Evie," he whispered, but he was asleep, curled against me before I could tell him I felt the same.
We spent the night drifting in and out of sleep, waking and making love, and as dawn painted the hills, we came together again, before falling, exhausted, into a deep sleep. It was noon before Irihapeti tapped gently on the door and murmured "Dinner on the table, boss, Miz McMasters."
It looked, then, like everything would be alright.
Slowly, though, as things began to settle, it became apparent how much changed he was - indeed, how different all of them were. Perhaps I was changed too, but I can't judge that, not from the inside.
With Kelly, the change manifested itself mostly in a loss of his spontaneous humour. He would still try to amuse me, but the spark was gone, and often, when he was laughing about some joke, he would pull himself up short, and fall silent, his eyes troubled.
With Jack, it was a kind of nervous restlessness, as if he was afraid of being caged again, and with George, a bullish dogmatism. Others showed it other ways, but in all of them the change was there.
None of them spoke of the war in any but the most general terms to those of us who had not been there, but in the evenings, occasionally, a group would form in the kitchen - Kelly, Jack, George and other young men who had experienced whatever the horrors were that they wouldn't mention -- and they would talk in low voices over a bottle of whisky.
At the end of those evenings, Kelly would always make love with that same desperate urgency as he did on his first night home.
I asked him to tell me about what he had seen and done, but all he would say was "I did what I had to, Evie, but I'm not proud of it. It doesn't have any meaning now I'm home, anyway."
When I pressed him, he stopped the group coming, and instead they met somewhere else. When they did, he didn't come home. Soon it became a weekend ritual for him to disappear "with the boys." He worked hard all week, was loving, considerate and attentive to me, and gave his time unstintingly to the children, as if to earn these retreats. I sensed that he needed them, for whatever reason, and simply made sure that a good meal and a welcoming bed waited him when he returned on Sunday.
He would smile at me then, his eyes full of warmth and say "I'm a lucky man, Evie, so very lucky to have you, and this and the kids. I don't know what I'd do without you.". It gave me a feeling of incredible love to be so needed.
Marion had moved back to the manager's house with Jack and George, but Jack's restlessness made him unable to fit back into his old life. Within six months, he went to Wellington, where he studied to become a teacher, then moved to Taranaki to take up a job.
George too moved away, shortly after, when he married a Dannevirke woman, whose husband, a close friend in George's unit, had been killed in Normandy. Her father needed a manager on his dairy farm, and George decided to go there. As he said to Kelly, "You have a son to inherit this place. Robert doesn't."
Their desertion hit Marion hard, and she became ill and listless, going downhill quickly. She developed a hacking cough, and nothing seemed to shift it. Kelly became more and worried about her, and at the end of 1947 suggested she joined us back at the main homestead. I had just given birth to my third child, and he thought it would revitalise her to be around the kids. Instead, she decided to move in with Marie and her husband in Pongaroa. She told him that it was because Marie needed her help more than I did, but I think it was simply that she didn't want him to know how ill she was, seeing how he worried.
With Kelly's brothers gone, we needed a manager, and Arthur had top flight qualifications, although he was only my age. Poor eyesight had kept him out of the army, and so he had studied Agriculture at Massey College, gaining a degree. He had worked in Canterbury for a while, assisting the manager on a huge station, but he wanted to move back north to be closer to his parents in Palmerston North. He came to us with a glowing reference.
Marion died at the end of 1947, about five months after Arthur came to the station. The death of William and the departure of the other two had all but destroyed her, and I think, at the end she was glad to go, although she was barely sixty.
Arthur was slim, and very boyish looking, and to begin with I eyed him with scepticism, sure that he wasn't up to the job. Kelly had confidence in him, though, and they were soon fast friends. Since he was single, he ate his meals with us, most of the time, and often I would invite one or other of my younger sisters over, gently trying to promote a romance. Ellen became very smitten with him, but it was clear that the feeling wasn't mutual. After a nearly a year of fruitlessly trying to engage his interest she turned her attention away, settling instead for Harry Forbes, who'd been pursuing her for as long as any of us could remember.
At the weekends, when Kelly was away, Arthur would eat with us, and once the children were in bed, we would play euchre on the verandah and talk.
His past was unclouded by war, and he was open and friendly, so our talk ranged over subjects far and wide. He was intelligent and witty and our evenings together passed quickly and pleasantly. There was an easy comradeship between us that I cherished, and the card games became highlights in my week, but it didn't occur to me that there was anything odd in that. I didn't even see the danger when I realised that I almost looked forward to Kelly's weekend jaunts
, because Arthur, I thought, was just a good friend, and I loved Kelly with all my heart.
It was just before the Christmas of 1948 that I found out my heart had more room in it than I had imagined.
The sheep were shorn, and the stockmen were capable of doing what needed to be done for a couple of weeks, so Arthur was going to Palmerston North to spend the holiday with his parents.
Just before he left, Arthur brought in presents for the children, and also for Kelly and I, and I gave him our gift for him, and a ham to take back for his family. Kelly wasn't back from his trip, and as the children spirited the gifts away to put them under the tree, I walked with Arthur to his truck.
"Kelly will be sorry to have missed you," I said, "I know he wanted to thank you for all your hard work." I passed him the envelope that contained his Christmas box, regretting that Kelly wasn't there to do it, as he should. 'Have a happy Christmas, and we'll see you in the New Year."
As he took the envelope from me, his hand closed around mine. "I'll miss you," he said. I wasn't at all prepared for the flare of desire that ripped through me, and I jerked my hand away, as if I had been burned - I suppose I had, in a way. "Both of you, of course," he added, hastily, but he couldn't leave it there, and I saw a reflection of my own feelings, when he said, "but especially our card games."
Almost involuntarily, it seemed, he put his hands on my shoulders and brushed his lips across my cheek. "Merry Christmas, Evelyn."
I wanted, against all logic and all I'd been taught was right, to cling to him, and ask him not to go. Instead, I just said his name, quietly, as he declared, brusquely, "I have to go."
I spent the time until Kelly returned analysing my feelings for Arthur, and getting nowhere. When I saw my husband and didn't feel any lessening in my love for him I decided it was some kind of momentary madness, and tried to dismiss it from my mind.
Christmas went by happily, but every so often the thought of Arthur would pop into my mind, and I realised, guiltily, that I was awaiting his return with pleased anticipation.
When he first came back, we each avoided the other for the first fortnight.
It wasn't hard. Summer had developed harsh and dry and all the men were busy, spreading the sheep over a wide area to make best use of the little grazing left by the sun, and taking the lambs to market early before they suffered and grew thin. Naturally this left them tired, so it gave Arthur a feasible excuse to eat supper with the stockmen and to call off our weekend evenings together. He sent notes via one or other of the men that he wouldn't make it, I sent notes back saying that I understood.
I too, was busy, as Irihapeti and I became misers with water, saving it to carry out to the vegetable garden after washing, bathing or doing dishes. My glorious summer flowers had shrivelled and dried, but I had no intention of allowing the same to happen to our salad greens or our autumn veggies.
Then anniversary weekend came. Kelly went to Wellington, where one of his old mates was having an extended stag weekend. I told Irihapeti, to take the weekend off, as there would just be me and the children, and see to her own whanau, and I spent Saturday and Sunday laughing and playing with Caroline, Laurie and James. I didn't see Arthur, and I assumed, if I thought of him at all, that he was either camping out in the paddocks or had gone away.
On Sunday evening, after the children were asleep, the sky was full of clouds, but I didn't neglect to haul the dishwashing water out to the garden. Rain had promised and disappointed too often that year for me to expect it to come. I went barefoot, and the thick dust I kicked up coated my legs.
I had just finished pouring out the bowl, when the sky became noticeably darker, and thunder pealed. Huge raindrops fell, plastering my hair to my scalp. I suppose I should have run inside, but the rain was warm, and I'd always loved summer storms. There was nobody to see me, so I did something I hadn't done since I was a child. I lifted up my arms, put back my head, and let the water flow all over me. Arthur came on me like that - hands reaching to the sky, head back, my dress moulded and clinging to my body, as I smiled and made love to the rain.
I didn't even know he was there, until he pulled me into his arms and kissed me. I don't think it occurred to me for a moment to push him away, or resist. I leant into his body, and tangled my tongue with his, every bit as ardent as he was. He tangled a hand into my dripping hair, as the other fumbled with the buttons of my dress and peeled the wet cotton off. I stripped him of his shirt and then his hands were at his belt and he was stepping out of his pants.
We became lovers on the hardwood deck of the verandah as the rain made a curtain to hide us.
When Kelly came home the next day, Arthur was out in the paddocks and I was almost incapacitated with guilt. But as Kelly kissed me and took me to bed, I realised, stunned, that as if he was caught up in some backwash of passion, I wanted him more than I had done for a long time.
I balanced my conscience, as the affair with Arthur continued, by telling myself that Kelly was as much a beneficiary of it as I was myself. He certainly seemed happy, as I took the lead more in lovemaking.
Not a whisper about the affair surfaced. Carefully, discreetly, Arthur and I confined our trysts to the weekend evenings that everyone had grown used to our sharing, never spending a night in the same bed, and, I honestly believe, never showing a change in how we acted towards each other, except when we were actually having sex. I'm not sure that anything apart from sex did change - we had become so close that the physical expression of love was just an extension.
It seemed like paradise, and I thought it could last forever, but of course, it couldn't. I didn't consider the effect it was having on Arthur.
"I can't go on this way, Evelyn," he said. "Half the time when I look at Kelly, I hate myself, because he's the best friend I've ever had, he gave me a decent chance when I needed one, and I'm betraying him, the other half I hate him, because he has everything I want. I don't know if I want to hit him, or kneel at his feet and beg forgiveness." I held his hand and stroked it, not knowing what to say.
"Come away with me," he demanded. "There's a job down south, managing a property close to the one I used to work on. I know I'll get it, and we could be together, openly."
I looked at him, dumbfounded. I told him, "I couldn't leave my children." The words came out flat, toneless. It was an automatic response.
"Then bring them. They like me. They'll be happy when they get used to it."
"I love Kelly."
"You love ME."
"Don't, Arthur. You know I love you, but this is my home. My children and my husband need me. I could never leave them. And I certainly couldn't take Kelly's kids away from him."
"Don't you think I need you?"
"Not like he does. And anyway, you HAVE me."
"Not all of you."
"Nobody has ALL of me."
"I love you, Evelyn. I want to marry you, live with you...."
"I can't leave Kelly, I told you."
His voice became bitter then. "You mean you can't leave all THIS." His hand waved round the homestead, taking in all the beautiful things.
"He's rich, and I'm not, and you won't leave this for what I can offer you."
I cried then, shaking my head, and the argument went on until James came downstairs, wondering what the noise was. When he heard the child on the stairs, Arthur slipped out of the back door. The following day, he asked me again.
When I wouldn't change my mind, he threatened to tell Kelly, but I knew that he never would.
As soon as Kelly arrived home, Arthur took him aside, and tendered his resignation.
I was too hurt and angry to ask him to stay, and unable to be around him with so much ill feeling between us, I arranged to visit my sister and her husband in Auckland. A new baby provided the excuse, and when I returned, Arthur was gone, as I knew he would be.
I never saw him again.
I threw myself into my marriage, and my children. Every waking moment was spent doing things for the farm, for Kelly, for the kids. If there was a committee for school, I joined it, if there was a cause to be espoused, I took it up.
None of it filled the emptiness. It was as if the sunshine had gone out of my life.
A new manager came, a married man, with children. He did a good job, and he was a good man. I liked him, but I hated seeing him in Arthur's place.
Kelly went out of his way to let me know how much I was loved and needed, as if he could sense my unhappiness, but I felt every word, every gesture of affection as another link in the chain that bound me. When the children hugged me, they felt like ropes tying me.
I never failed to respond to Kelly when he wanted me, but a part of me stayed separate, yearning for Arthur. It didn't seem possible to me then that if I had gone with Arthur, things wouldn't have been wonderful, though maybe, had I yielded, I would have blamed him for the pain it caused Kelly, and the love I had for him would have died the same slow death the love I had for Kelly did, when he left.
But maybe it wouldn't - I will never know, because I didn't have the courage to find out.
Home became like MY war, I did what I had to, but I had no enthusiasm for it, and felt no pride.
As coldness and sunlessness froze me, Kelly felt my withdrawal. He stopped going away, tried to bring me back from wherever I had gone, but I was beyond his reach. I made it his fault, for keeping me here, I made it Arthur's fault for leaving, but I never took any blame on myself.
After all, I was doing my duty.
Deprived of the company of his comrades, Kelly began drinking at home. A little at first, but more and more over time. I saw that as a weakness in him, and I despised him for it, but I kept doing my duty. The children reached adolescence, one by one, as I dutifully kept up my pretence, and Kelly solaced himself with bottled warmth every time I denied him mine. Caroline and Laurie left home as soon as they were able, Caroline to teacher's college, Laurie to Massey. They spent a lot of time together, but rarely came home. James would have followed them, in time.
It ended, suddenly, in 1959. His heart, like his father's had, failed him, but he was only forty-eight. No doubt the booze had hastened his death.
I received a note of condolence from Arthur, saying what a good man Kelly was, and sending regards from his wife.
Your mother was newly married, and Laurie hadn't finished his degree. Neither of them wanted to take on the farm, which wasn't surprising, given what a cheerless place it had been. James was too young.
It was a relief to me. I could finally escape, and if I was heading for freedom alone, then that was all I wanted by then. I sold the station and gave Jack and George their share, then I bought a house in Dannevirke, close to George and his wife, and divided the rest into trust funds for the children.
James remained in Tiraumea, with his grandparents, to finish school, then went to Wellington to University, and became a doctor, as you know. I was very proud of him - of all of them, but I had lost the knack of showing it.
The rest, you know.
It is only in the last few years that I have come to realise how much of my pain was my own fault, and how much pain I have caused others. This is why I wanted to speak to you, to try to prevent you from making the same mistakes. I realise that you have little affection for me - nobody does, and I can only conclude that I am loved precisely as much as I deserve - not at all.
I don't like to think of the same thing happening to you. I have sent this in the hope that it might help you avoid it. It is all I can do.
Please come and see me again soon. I miss company these days, but I couldn't live with James any longer, I was too homesick for New Zealand. If you come, we won't talk about this.
Take care, dear Margaret.
Maggie puts down the letter, swallowing the lump in her throat. She wouldn't ever have believed she could pity the old tartar, but she does. She will have to go and see her again very soon, but there is something she has to do first.
She smiles, a strained, tight little expression. Things have changed since Grandma Evelyn's day, and contrary to the old woman's judgement, Maggie isn't very much like her.
She picks up the phone, and dials her husband's direct line.
"Hugh, it's Maggie"
"Can you come home?"
"Not really, not right now, what's up?"
"We need to talk."
"Oh God! 'We need to talk' is always a bad start to a conversation." She doesn't say anything, hears him breathing, then he speaks again. "You aren't going to tell me that you're leaving me for Richard are you?"
She had guessed he knew - Grandma couldn't have known that - his secretary had seen them, and Laura would never have passed up the chance to tell Hugh, she'd fancied him for years. Maggie hopes she knows the answer to the question she is about to ask, hopes that Hugh's silence means what she thinks it does.
"Do you want me to?"
There's a long pause. It stretches like a changeable summer evening, that could bring rain or cloudless stars. She hears him take a deep breath. All of a sudden, she is terrified and unsure.
"Don't be stupid." He says, and she smiles as tears slide down her cheeks, "I'd share you forever, rather than lose you. I love you."