Red Dirt In Her Veins

By Chelsea A. Cook

Short Story
She grew up in the Pilbara with best buddies Mary and Trevor. They were inseparable. But she was different – she was born in the city centre and didn’t look like a scrounger, like the other two. She was the one who married Trevor and had five kids, so why is it that she hates Mary with a vengeance?

That bitch always thought she was better than everyone else. She would strut around town, muckin’ on about how she was gonna “make it outta here”. She thought she was too big for us, too big for this town. I don’t know what it was. I guess she thought she was different, always playin’ up her quirks to seem interesting. Mary even went by the name ‘Maria’ – she isn’t even bloody Italian; her dad was born and bred in the Pilbara, just like mine. And just like me, red dirt ran through her veins. It was like the second she turned 17 she was someone else, that’s probably when my hatred for her began. What happened, you must be thinkin’ – why do I hate her so much?

Mary tried to leave Karratha when she was 17. She told me she was gonna drive to Perth and catch a plane to Sydney. ‘Righto,’ I thought. Truth is, she always came back, never got too far. I guess she tried – but like anyone hopin’ to leave, she had a pretty hard time of it. The Pilbara works that way, always callin’ its people back when they stray too far. I tried once – to leave, that is. Didn’t pan out as I had hoped, and I ended up married to Trevor Murke – a name to match his scummy personality and filthy stench. A mixture of sweat and cigarette smoke always wafted into the room a few seconds before he strode in.

But that isn’t why I hate her – I mean, credit where credit’s due, if I’d played my cards right, I would’ve been on the next plane to Sydney, too.

See, I was different; I was born in the city centre. My house was right next to the first Coles they brought in. I only had to walk around the corner to get to school, and when they opened up the bottle-o, I could sneak in and buy booze because I didn’t look like a little scrounger – not like the others. Me, Trevor and Mary would do everything together, my favourite was sneaking into the drive-in.

Funny story, actually. We would walk the pipeline out of town to the industrial area, carrying our doonas and our pillows, and whatever grog we could get our hands on. On the odd occasion, we got a friend to let us sneak in by hoppin’ into the boot of their car. Every other time, we would just jump the fence at the back and sneak down the front, hoping that we wouldn’t get caught. Those were the days – we were free, we had dreams, and we weren’t gonna end up livin’ here for the rest of our lives.

Then we got older, money got tighter and dreams faded. I guess I was content to stay in town. When Mary’s plans failed, I even thought we would all stay together – me, Trevor and Mary. Pipe dreams, I guess.

So how did a nice city girl like me end up marrying Trevor Murke? You know, he wasn’t always like he is now. He was scruffy, yeah, but in a sexy kinda way. When we were growing up, he would always protect me, give me a boost over the fence at the drive-in, hold me close if I got cold. And boy, when he grew into himself, he really grew into himself. I knew I would fall for him – his charm, his jokes, his smile. Now, if you’re thinkin’ this is the part where I tell ya that I stole him from Mary, or she was with him when we were married, it isn’t. That isn’t why I hate her.

As we got older, distance grew. I was married to Trevor – he was workin’ out at Burrup; I was workin’ at the Chinese restaurant. By then, we’d moved into a Woodside house in the new part of town; Mary was still outta town, with her parents.

We only had one car between us, so drivin’ out to Mary’s was a bit of a pain. She came into the restaurant sometimes – her old man loved the Kung Pao chicken. We smiled and had a chat, but nothin’ like we used to. By then, she had dropped the ‘ia’ and gone back to the ‘y’. Maybe she’d finally realised she wasn’t really that special after all.

I wouldn’t call us friends, not anymore. When I had my first, Cain, she didn’t even come to visit me, not a peep outta her. But that’s not why I hate her. You see, Mary couldn’t have kids of her own. Not that I feel for her, imagine the spawns of Satan she would pop out. Probably best that a piece of work like her doesn’t reproduce.

So, Mary and I weren’t talkin’ anymore. She didn’t come to see me when I had Cain, not when Samson popped out into the world, and there was no card when I had the twins, Joshua and Gabriel. I thought at the very least, she’d visit me when I had Miriam – we always talked about having kids when we were barely out of the bloody womb ourselves. We would both dream about the cute dresses we’d buy for our girls, and how they would grow up together, just like we did. We both wanted girls, and when I finally had one after four boys, I thought she would want to come see her. But no, nothing. Still, that isn’t why I hate her.

With a house full of kids and a fat, lazy husband, I wasn’t exactly loving life. I knew one thing for sure – I wasn’t gonna have any more kids. I mean, I never finished readin’ the Bible so I had run outta names. Plus, Trevor wasn’t exactly the sexy man he used to be. In fact, the thought of going anywhere near him made me physically sick.

You’re probably at this point thinkin’ that I hate everyone and everything. Well, you’d be right in that assumption. But you still wanna know why I hate Mary, don’t cha?

By the time the boys and Miriam were in high school, Trevor and I were barely talkin’. He’d go to work and I’d stay at home and write – got a knack for it, don’t cha reckon? I guess I had somethin’ to say, about my life and the hole I had gotten myself into. I thought people would be interested in growin’ up in the red country, marryin’ a Burrup man and raisin’ five kids. I thought people would relate to me, to my story. I thought wrong, I guess.

Trevor didn’t ever hit me or cheat on me, if that’s what you’re thinkin’. He was a good dad to the kids. Always takin’ them out fishin’ – except Joshua, who liked to stay home with me. We would cook dinner and dance around the kitchen. Josh was always my favourite. Trevor and me just drifted apart. He stopped winkin’ at me when I had a new dress on and kissin’ me on the forehead when he got home from work. I suppose I lost my figure a little, and he started stayin’ at work later and later. But that shouldn’t matter, we used to be so in love. Life just gets in the way, I guess.

I reckon life is always getting in the way. The fun that Mary, Trevor and I used to have back when we were young never got re-created. We never lived like we did in the ’80s – as soon as we had bills to pay and popped out a few kids, all the fun was drained from our lives. Maybe that’s what drove a wedge between me and Mary. She was still out there livin’ – sleepin’ around and going off on holidays, while I was changin’ nappies and lookin’ in the paper for two-for-one offers on washing powder.

The biggest holiday I ever went on was a trip down to Perth to get Cain circumcised – didn’t bother with the others, it was too expensive. Trevor’s mum didn’t like that, but she wasn’t the one who had to fork out for fuel to get down there, and pay for the hotel in the city. The shopping was nice, and for a few days I felt like I belonged there, like I wasn’t just a wife, just a mum. I felt like I wasn’t just a Pilbara girl, I felt beautiful. I think even Trevor thought I was beautiful, as he looked at me like he used to. We even went out for dinner a few times, just me, Trevor and Cain. A cute little family in Perth. At least for a few days.

That never lasted though. I mean, there’d be moments where I didn’t completely hate my life. Like when we went to Perth for Cain’s snip, or we had a big party at the local park for the twins’ 15th birthday. I stayed up late for three nights to do all the bakin’, and it turned out pretty nice for a budget party.

Even though it was for the briefest of moments, I felt like I was a good mum. I was proud of my family, of my husband. Then a few days later Cain got a speeding fine and Trevor caught Sam in the back shed with a girl. I guess I’m just not supposed to feel free.

It’s like every time I get to step outside of my life, someone pushes me back in, full force.

I guess I was always jealous of Mary for that. She could just up and leave when she wanted to. No kids, no husband to tie her down. She could go down to Perth and traipse through the city all she wanted – probably wearin’ them high-heeled shoes, and a fancy dress one of her men bought her. Maybe it was the little green-eyed monster that kept us apart, or maybe it was because she’d turned into
a snobby city girl.

That city life was supposed to be mine – I wasn’t born on a farm like Mary and Trevor. I was born in town, I grew into myself quicker than the others and I was always the prettiest in the room. I did well in school and I had big dreams. It was supposed to be me, struttin’ down the city street, clippity-clop.

That’s why I started to write, I guess. I wanted to put my life down on paper. I wanted to show Mary and Trevor I was better than them, better than the life I’d ended up with. I reckon I coulda made it big, if I’d had more time to write instead of lookin’ after the kids and makin’ dinner for Trevor.

Maybe it didn’t even start when I married Trev, maybe it was a long time comin’. What I’m tryna say is maybe it’s me who’s the problem here. My life didn’t mess itself up, I messed it up meself. I married Trev when I coulda gone to school in Perth – I got whisked off me feet, and dropped me knickers at the first toothy grin and charmin’ pick-up line.

When I gave up my job at the Chinese restaurant to look after Cain, I gave up my freedom. When I let Trevor convince me that we didn’t have enough money to get the rest of the boys snipped, I gave up the chance to live my imaginary life in Perth for a few days. So maybe it is me, I’m the problem. I shoulda yelled out, shoulda left Perth kickin’ and screamin’, insistin’ we go back.

Instead of sittin’ here writin’ down my feelings and thoughts as if someone cares, I guess there is a lot I shoulda done with my life. Because here I am, still sittin’, still trying to write my story. Still tryna figure out why I hate Mary.

Author Chelsea A. Cook

Chelsea Cook is a recent graduate of Murdoch University, Perth, where she majored in English and Creative Writing. She is continuing her education with a Master of Teaching (Secondary). Chelsea is an avid writer, who enjoys crafting poetry and short stories. She is passionate about giving voice to those who are often overlooked, and is always striving to delve into the psyche of her characters. Chelsea believes strongly in the power that words have in the world, and enjoys the way that novels, short stories and poetry can bring even the unlikeliest of pairs together.



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