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Out With Lanterns

Page 6

Jane Downing

She paused and laughed at herself. She was no poet. What she needed was a bath, with a bubble bath bomb, then a latte in a café. She laughed again. It felt good gurgling up through her chest. Maybe her sister had been right all along. She had just needed a break.

She looked around at the townsfolk combing the bush beside her. A woman in a green beanie, a man in a nautical souwester, a couple in matching Driza-Bone of ancient vintage, and so on down the line to the left. Breakfast, bath and barista could wait. It was good to be a part of something larger than herself. It was good not to be alone.

‘Poor kids,’ called back a grizzled old man stomping through the wattles slightly ahead and a step to Ros’ right. A branch sprang back and just missed her face.

‘Kids?’ she asked.

‘They weren’t able to contact her all last night, so they called the police. The motel room was empty.’

She missed the pronoun as she was busy thanking ‘goodness’ that Tessa and Eliot were safe and untroubled with their dad. With their dad. The thought was, for the first time, a solace. The sky was a deep blue. The throttled call of a distant crow echoed.

‘Do you know the name?’ she asked. ‘So we can call out to him.’

‘To who?’

‘The missing man.’

‘Missing woman,’ he corrected. Then the old man cooee-ed to a woman in a baseball cap further along the row of searchers. ‘Do you remember the name?’

Ros heard the woman call back. ‘What?’

‘What is her name?’ she asked the woman directly.

‘Yes,’ the woman called back. ‘That’s the name of the woman.’

A woman. A woman called Watt.

Before she realised quite how literal her search for herself had become, Ros Watt said loudly, sincerely, ‘I hope we can find her.’

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