rowan tree blossom

Extract from the current novel in progress. Working title Boer War Girl. (and that will change.)

“I’ll order tea for you, Lisa” Richard promised as he closed the door.

Melisande removed her hat, rearranged her flattened hair, changed her blouse, sighed over the unflattering black, and sallied forth to find her tea. Down the stairs she tripped, holding the banister with a firm grip as her feet still needed reminding that the earth stayed still. She found the ladies’ lounge, guided by the receptionist, a smart young man with a celluloid collar of dazzling white.

Melisande blinked as she registered the lounge décor: plum flowered wallpaper, dark paint and shiny wood, a huge, carved wooden mantelpiece and floor to ceiling windows, which lightened the room considerably, despite their framing of bobble edged, green plush curtains. The armchairs appeared well-padded, covered with a flowered cretonne. All very English Melisande thought as she headed for a comfortably plump one by the fire. She imagined her uncle had rooms like this.

A waitress entered a side door carrying a tray, Advik would not have approved, the china rattled and the tray lacked a decent starched cloth to cover the bare wood. Still there was a fat brown tea pot, a milk jug slopping over and sugar lumps in a bowl. The young woman plonked the tray down with a flourish.

“Here you are, Missus. Cook’s got a nice batch of drop scones just off the stove. Would you like some with your cake?”

Advik would certainly have reproved her for her manner and her words. But this was Australia and not India, with an inward sigh at her pang of longing for the familiar, Melisande made herself smile. “Thank you, that sounds delicious.”

“Did you say drop scones, Millie?” The speaker was one of a group of three women- mother and daughters perhaps? – who entered the lounge, shedding coats, removing hats and peeling off gloves as they headed for the fire.

“A large plate of ‘em for us, dripping in butter, Millie, and two pots of tea,” the other daughter said.

“Don’t forget cake,” the first speaker again. “Any fruit loaf, Millie, for Ma?”

“Can you manage all that, Millie?” the mother asked. “Bring it all to the table here by the fire. I’m sure this lady won’t mind sharing. Save you a bit of work if you bring us the one tray.”

Ah well, Melisande sighed inwardly, I needn’t stay long if they are overly talkative or inquisitive.


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