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 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.