Monthly Archives: February 2015

Chapter two – part one

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So far in Embraceable You. Josefine Hanrahan, the neglected daughter of mining tycoon St John Hanrahan, has escaped from her boarding school to play her saxophone in the mist garden beside the National Art Gallery. There she will connect spiritually with her mother Liv, who died when Josefine was six years old.

 

the three of them cropped

 

 

Chapter Two

The sound filled the mist laden space inside the Canberra garden with a smooth, mellow, honey-wine moan. With her eyes closed she imagined herself back in on the Jutland Peninsula in the blue sitting room of her grandparents’ small white house, with a frozen waterway just outside, glittering and brittle in the thin light. Her mother was reclining on the sofa just across the white shag pile carpet and every now and then the soft scuffing at the door indicated that Mormor Axelsen had crept stealthily past, looking in at the two of them, as they blended together into a precious memory wrapped in the cadence of Embraceable You.

“I’ll be hugging you whenever you play it. Wherever you are, you’ll know I’m watching you and loving embraceable you.”

Josefine was not drawn out of her memory by the occasional scuffing sounds, as tourists, visiting the lovely misted space, made the round white pebbles tinkle in sharp vibrations. There was an agreed quietness whenever she played there and she was grateful for the thoughtfulness of strangers. It was kind of them to hush, to let the girl play. Their unseen presence, outside the pink-veined membrane of her closed eyelids, somehow added to her sense of spiritual reconnection with Liv.

“Love’s the only thing that matters,” she whispered to herself.

“That’s it, Princess. Don’t you ever forget. My sweet Embraceable You.”

Liv’s reply seemed so real it was hard to believe she wasn’t there. Her mother would have been sad, but unsurprised, that her daughter made no friends at school. She would have understood and been lovingly reassuring as her awkward girl grew into a mismatch of features that had not blended. It had been the same way for her, Liv insisted. It was hard to believe that her mother had been an ugly duckling as a teenager but even smiling Mormor Axelsen had nodded and agreed that it was so.

“Your mother’s mouth and legs grew like topsy but then, when she was seventeen or eighteen, it all stopped and the rest of her caught up and look what a beauty she is now. My lovely swan emerged in all her glory.”

She’d always be looking at the portrait of Liv on the wall when she said it for the pale sick version of Liv was not the swan she was talking about.

Chapter one – part four.

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So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a  lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

Play Saxophon

“I want you to remember that love’s the only thing that matters. Will you do that for me, Baby?”

So blue, her mother’s eyes were, even when the rest of her faded.

“I’ll remember Mummy.”

“Say it for me, baby girl.”

After Liv died, taking longer than St John had budgeted for, her father made the trip himself to fetch his daughter back. She must have made a sad little bundle with Mormor’s small cardboard suitcase and a battered leather saxophone case – all arms and legs and bewilderment. As she’d been expecting an envoy, Josefine briefly thought that his arrival was a sign of love for his only child. It was a fleeting delusion. She read in the in-flight newspaper that it was the only way that the Danish authorities would agree to her leaving the country. Liv Axelsen’s daughter had dual citizenship and her maternal grandparents had contested their son-in-law’s demand that they return his off-spring, so he had to come to collect her himself. How annoyed he must have been to be forced to take his eyes off managing every little thing in the conglomerate that was Hanrahan Iron!

A couple of years later, she checked the business pages for December that year and found an article which confirmed that the company’s share price dropped one percent during the week that St John was fetching back the inconvenient child. Extrapolating from the information, she calculated that JosefineKarla Hanrahan was worth over five hundred million dollars a week when she was just eight and a half years old. She wondered if, like a good wine, her market value might even improve with age.

“Happy birthday Josefine,” the senior year school girl murmured to herself as she bundled up her golden saxophone and set out from Our Lady’s gated grounds.

The bodyguards her father paid to protect her should have known she would creep out through this path, but she’d scanned with an expert eye and she couldn’t see them. The walk along the lake from the school was cold and crisp and she could feel the frosted grass snapping under her feet.

In the sculpture garden, the automatic timers had not yet turned on the misters, so the central sculpture was just rusty metal strips, evoking the impression of a ship hull sallying forth amidst waves of soft fern tendrils. Josefine nestled into the pebbles on the ground. They were cold under the thick fabric of her heavy overcoat and her saxophone was icy to touch as she slipped the pieces together. She closed her eyes as she placed the mouthpiece between her lips. It was only because her torso she was so elongated that she could sit on the ground and play without the saxophone bumping onto the pebbles. There was one advantage to being freakishly tall.

“Happy birthday Josefine,’ she whispered to herself as she began to play.

Chapter one – part three

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Singing woman on grey background

So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a  lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

For the ten years that she’d been a boarder at Our Lady, Josefine had the largest room in the building, much bigger than the college tutor’s apartment down on the ground floor. She had defied the convention of moving rooms when she graduated to middle school and then to the high school and stayed in her renovated double quarters. For a decade, Josefine had been able to gaze at the ducks on the lake in either of two stained glass windows, if she wanted to.

On that particular frosty mid-May morning, however, that was not what she wanted to do. As soon as she finished her hot chocolate, what she planned to do was pack up her tenor saxophone and make her way, sans permission, to the Japanese mist sculpture garden beside the National Art Gallery. There, she would play her mother’s favourite song “Embraceable You” until her mouth bled and, through every rendition, she would imagine that Liv was right there behind her with her cool hand on her shoulder, preparing to sing in her surprisingly clear confident Ella Fitzgerald, bluesy voice. Her long black lashes would line her eyelids like a pair of little dark smiles and the sound of love and longing would rise up through the mist like it used to when she was alive.

As a little girl, Josefine had Liv with her for six wonderful years, followed by two more not-so-wonderful years while her beautiful Danish mother suffered through a slow, wasting death in her home town. In the pretty fjord town of Vejle, Liv was weak, thin and pale all the time. Trying to pack so much into too short a time, she would hold her daughter’s face in her hands, smile into her eyes and tell her that she was loved. Then she would sing until she had to stop for the coughing.

Why do you have to leave me?”  How she ached to voice her anguish but Mormor made her promise that she’d never ask Liv that question.

Liv took Josefine to Denmark to be out of St John’s reach, to thwart his intention to send their daughter to send her to boarding school. The Jutland Peninsular was not really beyond the reach of Australia’s Richest, of course, but they were sufficiently out of his thoughts for Liv to be permitted to fade with Josefine close to her, cramming all the mothering she could, into the dying years. Most mornings they would retreat somewhere, just the young woman and her daughter.

Without musical accompaniment, Liv would sing. In their second year in Vejle, Mormor had brought out an old saxophone and presented it to Josefine for Christmas. When the girl took to the instrument as if born to play, Morfar gave her proper lessons and then she realized the saxophone was his and she noticed that Liv’s passion for jazz was something she shared with her father. With or without the saxophone, Liv would let her long, dark hair fall forward over one shoulder, close her blue-as-the-sky eyes and let her voice soar.

Embraceable You.

Chapter one, part 2

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So far in Embraceable You ….

School girl Josefine Hanrahan has been a boarder at Our Lady of Dolores for most of her childhood. Today is her eighteenth birthday but it’s a lonely birthday. Josefine finds it difficult to make friends and the other girls don’t like her. Her father is Australia’s richest man but he’s a lousy father. Today, Josefine is going to break free …

 

It was Saturday. The girls were free to do whatever they wanted on Saturdays except leave the school campus without letting the staff know where they were going.

Most of the other girls in her wing would already be out on Lake Burley Griffin, rowing. That was a team sport and Josefine wasn’t a team player, so she wasn’t invited into any of the crews. Some of the girls would play tennis after breakfast.

Josefine had two left feet, two large left feet, and no hand-eye co-ordination so the ball was never in the spot where her racquet floundered ineffectually. As usual, there were no tennis invitations for her which was just fine as far as she was concerned; she didn’t like sport.

“Call me JK,” she once suggested hopefully, to the girls in her class.

It wasn’t much to ask of a cohort whose cosy nicknames, allocated by loving families, were destined to follow them into adulthood. The rare moment of exposing her insecurity had harvested only a snide campaign against her. She heard giggling whispers as she cowered in the bathroom cubicle and knew then that Bundle Haig was encouraging her friends to call Josefine something else entirely.

“We should call her Too Hanrahan,” she heard the melodious voice, which carried with such clarity, explaining to a coterie of admiring boarders.

She was a trendsetter, was Bundle, a ringleader whose every opinion, every fashion innovation was slavishly copied.

“She’s too tall, too skinny, her chest is too flat, her jaw is too square and her mouth is too wide,” someone else chimed in.

They probably knew she was in the bathroom with them but still, the whispering was audible and so she heard Sharna Petherbridge-Wedderburn add: “…and she’s too clumsy.”

Too rich, they probably said that as well, for her father was the richest man in Australia. The Business Review Monthly listed St John Hanrahan at the top of the ‘ten richest’ for so long that their readers had probably stopped bothering to look there. There was a chasm between first and second place that meant her father had long been unassailable at the top of the pile.

Luckily for Too Hanrahan, this meant that when she was dispatched to Our Lady of Dolores College as an inconvenient parcel, at least her father could afford to pay for a very nice room and he saw it as a matter of social standing that his daughter had the best. In fact, she’d ratcheted up her privileged place in the best room with the nicest view, by demanding that they combine two rooms into one. St John had delegated the request to a junior secretary (not Happy Birthday Josephine but some other member of the shifting sands in the secretarial pool) and it was done.