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Purity in a Dirty World: A Novel

Purity in a Dirty World: A Novel

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Purity in a Dirty World: A Novel

Länge:
673 Seiten
9 Stunden
Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 8, 2009
ISBN:
9781440164804
Format:
Buch

Beschreibung

Love, passion, and danger collide in this engaging tale of two people separated by circumstance, but forever bound by fate.

Rose Gilchrist. The daughter of a wealthy Pennsylvanian mine owner, Rose has pledged to help the underprivileged of the third world. To do so, she volunteers as a doctor with Mdecins Sans Frontires. Her journey will take her from the hills and jungles of Haiti to the perils of war-torn Rwanda. And it is in this African nation that she will discover the greatest love of her life.

David Fitzgerald. A former delinquent from the slums bordering the East River, David was given a choice between prison and enlisting. He joins the U.S. Marines and after three years of service, becomes a second lieutenant. David joins a secret international force of highly trained soldiers whose job is to rescue those brave doctors who find themselves caught up in civil wars around the globe, little knowing he will meet a woman who will change his life forever

Brimming with vivid detail and emotional depth, Purity in a Dirty World plunders the depths of the human heart.

Herausgeber:
Freigegeben:
Sep 8, 2009
ISBN:
9781440164804
Format:
Buch

Über den Autor

Lawrence Clarke was born and raised in Northern Ireland. A former British Merchant Marine, he is a freelance architectural AutoCAD designer in Australia. Lawrence Clarke’s short stories have appeared in Australian magazines and he has three novels published.

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Purity in a Dirty World - Lawrence Clarke

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YOUNG ROSE

1980

On Rose’s first day of junior high school she served a period of detention. This did not worry her unduly since, by 12 years of age, she was an old hand at dealing with such minor things as the thieving of an hour by over zealous educators; and she had spent a fair amount of her time in lower school dealing with being punished in one form or another.

The excited gabbling of students, taking the next flight of steps up the stairway to the dais of adulthood, was soon forgotten when Rose and her fellow classmates entered their home-room; a domain dominated by a disciplinarian of the old school. Her new teacher was called Miss Cross; a woman who possessed a crumpled papyrus leaf for a face which was in dire need of pressing, or of having something of religious significance transcribed thereon. Rose could well imagine the number of pupils who had made similar judgements, not to mention her name describing her demeanour. With this in mind Rose christened her The Single Wrinkle because she could not determine where one face fold ended and another began.

The teacher introduced herself and then called the class roll. Primrose Gilleland, she arrived at, and it seemed to Rose that the spectre of a smile rippled through the unironed texture of the crone’s face. Rose sat mutely, ignoring the sound of a name that was a constant, troubling source of embarrassment to her when occasionally it surfaced. Eventually the old woman moved on down the list. When Miss Cross finished, she looked over the top of her pinch-nez glasses at the young faces which were made up of a few innocent gazes but the rest were world weary, in the disinterested fashion of cool, early adolescents.

The once authoritatively toned voice now held a hint of phlegmy, cigaretted poison. I have counted heads and I know that you are here somewhere Miss Gilleland, so raise your hand that I may mark you as present.

Rose stood up at her desk. Heads turned towards the beautiful, small statured student. May I address the class, Miss Cross? she asked in a modulated and refined tone. The Single Wrinkle showed no surprise, just nodded imperceptibly. Rose left the safe confines of her seat and strode to the front of the room. She looked around the class before finally resting her eyes on the teacher.

All of you have heard my name this once. I did not have a choice when this silly name was chosen and my family name is a similar burden. In future Miss Cross, I request that through junior and senior high you refer to me as Rose; if you absolutely need to call a roll, and that should have been left behind in primary school, then that will be the only time in the day that I wish my full name to be used. She lowered her eyes to the class. If any one of you uses my full christian name, whether coupled to a surname or not, and it was at this juncture her voice took on a more threatening modulation, you will be sorry, I promise, and with respect, Miss Cross, that includes you.

Her visit to the principal’s office was followed later that first afternoon by the detention. A member of the Gilleland staff, Melony, collected her at 4:45 pm.

Her short address was duly reported to her father. He, in turn, gave her a stern lecture on the abuse of imagined power that comes with privilege and money. He enforced his teaching by consigning Rose to her room for a week. For herself, she had made her point, and would stick by it.

Contrary to her initial outburst, during her three years at middle school and on into high school, she was an A grade student, attentive and seemingly interested in the important as well as the unimportant lessons she was taught. Except for morning call, Miss Cross never again called her Primrose or used her surname during teaching periods. Rose settled for the compromise.

It was an enigma to those that gave her basic education that she was constantly serving detention or suspension for things that happened outside of the classroom.

Two students during her high school days made the mistake of poking fun at her name.

Here comes little shit-yellow petalled Primrose, our own little flowery student. Primrose Pillowland with her top marks bought with daddy’s money. This jibe, in the middle of her first year, came from a tall and sturdy female student. It was a dropping of the gauntlet; a testing of the waters. Rose walked on by, noting the remark but oblivious to the giggles. Meanwhile the girl moved up a rung in the pecking order inside her clique.

Rose was waiting calmly at the base of the steps leading to the main entry when the same girl emerged into the end-of-day December snow. She walked to the middle of six gabbling girls and fronted the same girl.

You were in the class when I issued my warning and yet you’ve had the bad manners to ignore it. The smirk the girl fashioned was slapped hard from her face; and face, Rose was well aware, was the one thing that the young woman would not want to lose. The girl swung her arm at Rose in retaliation. Her wrist was caught in a vice-like grip and the arm twisted viciously. Two other girls jumped into the fray and Rose’s arms pumped in and out like pistons. She kicked, bit, slapped and punched. Wisely the remainder of the girls showed the level of esteem, in which their friend was held, by disappearing into the white drifting flakes.

When the fight was broken up by a monitor, the attacked student was treated at the local hospital for a wrenched elbow and numerous cuts. Her cohorts were patched up in the School Medical Room. Rose walked calmly to her family car and was driven away. She treated her own injuries at home. She did not plead in her defence and this time, unbeknown to her, Whitman Gilleland’s standing and money were the two things that enabled her to survive expulsion.

The word went out and a year passed before someone else dared to tease her.

Bobby Dalfour’s father was the manager at a coal mine where the major shareholder happened to be Rose’s father. She would have fought but since Bobby was a big bodied country boy, she thought it prudent to take another tack. Rose matter-of-factly informed her father at the dinner table that Bobby had been consistently harassing her and was poking fun at their name. Her father waited until he was present at a mine board meeting and at its conclusion gave the adult Balfour a gentle warning concerning the treatment of young and small girls, and requested that he, as the parent, pass the warning along to Bobby. The unfortunate father of Bobby was embarrassed, since the warning was given in company, and he promised that the boy would be severely dealt with, and rapidly. Whitman Gilleland thanked him. Bobby, for all his claims of innocence, was quietly withdrawn from Rose’s high school.

2004

Rose was flashing her wonderful win-everyone smile now, while she thought of Bobby Dalfour all those years ago. Behind the beautiful mask that was her displaying face, she was wonderingly idly where poor Bobby had finished up in life. The reason for her wondering was the broad Bobby-type face that grinned back at her across the restaurant table.

I’m flattered that you actually agreed to a date, Rose, he gushed.

Well, there you go, James, and if you behave I may permit you to have dessert later. Her smile was self explanatory.

James Druse laughed. A forced mirth, she decided. She hated insincerity. She had made a mistake agreeing to the date, she realised within the first 30 minutes. It didn’t matter. Her hints and promises would be empty since physical intimacy had been beyond her for more than a decade.

Rose was working as a receptionist at this juncture in life because when she settled for a short time she hated, like her father, to be idle. To Rose, sitting behind a counter and smiling was in keeping with what she considered to be the limit of what she wanted right now. It was also, unlike Washington, an anonymous, stress free job. Her perfect face and ability guaranteed little need for references. She called this form of existence her falsehood, since her womanhood had been suspended on the killing plateaus of Rwanda. Nowadays, while living an almost nomadic existence, she fought with all her strong will to bury the horror.

At some point in the evening after one more inane comment from James, she decided that the date was at an end. She left him at the front of her apartment building wearing a frown of disappointment. His dessert amounted to no more than a peck on the cheek.

The following morning she gave a week’s notice and moved on.

Ten days later, on the train to Colorado, she asked herself why she was doing the correct thing after considering, then putting it off again and again. The answer was a complicated mixture of disappointment, loneliness and sadness. When the memories of Rwanda had dimmed to the extent where she could eventually take stock within herself, she considered the journey which she had set out on so many years previously had been a failure. When, or if, she eventually forgave herself, for the failure of her aspirations to attain a personal goal of curing the sick and downtrodden of the Third World, home would be the only haven left. She had listened to the psychologists, had even tried to implement the well meaning advice she had been given, but nothing proffered removed the feelings of failure, shame and guilt. She had also failed in her search for the man who had saved her life.

So, having failed the first part and the second part, here she was now setting out on the third. To begin gluing the broken pieces together it was time to search out and confront the other half of her genetic make-up. If she succeeded with that it would then be time to travel the winding road back home.

A gentle upbringing had not prepared her for the pain and sadness that had lain in waiting. She still suffered regular nightmares depicting her last days in that other world, but awake she clearly recalled the soldier’s first words to her; he had said that she looked lucky. Looking lucky was a long way removed from being lucky. Back then she had believed fervently in affirmative action; but over the last decade she had roamed across America and searched for a peace that she wasn’t sure would ever be found. And occasionally she had, what she had come to term, a living dream.

The train she rode crossed the Centennial State line and pulled into Denver’s Union Station at 1:00am, an hour into her 36th birthday. She walked a mile down 75th Street, took a right into Broadway, and travelled another half mile. She confirmed her reservation at the cheap and sad Broadway Motel. On a hard bed she struggled through three hours of fitful slumber.

In the grey light of morning, chilled not only by a soft but cold wind seeping across the plains from the Rockies, but also through lack of sleep, she took a taxi to the Denver Bus Terminal on Arapahoe Drive. Two hours later she was on a TNM & O coach bound for the town of Breckenridge on Highway 9, ten miles west of the Continental Divide. She dozed most of the way.

She sat in a small bus terminal nervously fiddling with the straps of her backpack. Come on, Rose, get going girl, you’ve faced far worse than your long lost mother, she said to herself. Eventually she slung the pack around her unsullied shoulder and strode out onto the main street.

It took just five minutes to find Great Divide Antique Gallery. She knew the content of her mother’s old letter without reading it again but she did anyway, just before she entered. Rose took a deep breath and walked through the open doorway. A plump but well dressed and groomed woman approached her almost immediately. This is not Celestra, was Rose’s sure judgement.

Good morning, young woman, may I help you? The smile was practiced and friendly. The eyes held a curious mixture of recognition and wariness. Rose judged that she would have been suspicious herself of a grubby, tussled, backpacking female.

Are you the manager here?

And the owner. You almost seem as if you were expecting someone else, the proprietor said while knowing the answer.

I’m looking for a woman, perhaps around your age. Her name is Celestra. I was led to believe she owned this shop. The tone of disappointment was not missed.

I am so sorry. Celina was the name I knew her by. She sold this shop to my sister nearly 20 years ago, and when Florence passed on, I sort of inherited it. You, my dear one, are the image of Celina, so I take it you are her daughter? Rose nodded. A skeleton in that lovely woman’s closet, she said while smiling at Rose. She never mentioned a daughter. Then again, she never talked about her past to anyone that my sister and I knew.

Does my mother still live in these parts?

No, she moved away, oh, must be fifteen years ago now. The last I heard she had her own shop somewhere in Idaho, might have been Boise, but I wouldn’t swear to that.

Six hours later Rose found herself in Denver again, planning a bus route north-west to the Snake River Plain and Boise, Idaho. It was December, approaching Christmas, and the snow was blowing down off the Rockies.

RWANDA. 1993

It took a mere 100 days for the Hutu Army, militiamen and citizens to slaughter 800,000 Tsutsis. True genocide has only been applied to three situations since the United Nation’s Resolution 260 (iii) was adopted on December 9, 1948, and Rwanda is one of those three. The actual mass killing began in April 1994, however in August of 1993, when Rose had been doctoring at a Médecins Sans Frontières outpost on the northern plateau, surreptitious killing was being carried out against the Tsutsis minority, and those Hutu politicians requesting peace. In remote areas especially, away from the public eye, a war was being waged against an unarmed race. Plane loads of guns, machetes and other weapons arrived mysteriously and rapidly to arm those intent on despicable atrocities against the innocent and defenceless.

Romeo Dallaire, a Canadian and Commander of the UN Assistance Mission, sent out emissaries to warn all foreign aid workers in remote areas to seek shelter or make their way across Lake Kivu into The Republic of Congo. High up in one of the volcanic valleys, nearly two miles above sea level on the east side of the Great Rift Valley, Rose and her accompanying foreign staff were overlooked when some of the messengers were murdered. Even so, the clinic had been warned of coming trouble, and Rose had already witnessed the brutality escalating across the whole continent. The Administrator felt it was safe enough to hold out for a short while longer; at least until they received word from their contact down in Kigali on the political situation. Rose and Ruth were adamant that they should at least try to procure some protection but they were reminded that they were part of a peaceful and merciful organisation. They were given the choice to ‘abandon’ the gentle Watusis and, of course, they refused. This turned out to be to their cost.

Two days later, the attackers came out of the misty dawn, killing anyone in their path. Nurses, patients, children and doctors; all were slaughtered. Rose had been eating breakfast with Ruth and planning the morning ahead when the men came charging out of the trees and down the hillside above the clinic. Both women ran through the kitchen making for the hidey-hole beneath the pantry floor. Ruth was the first down the steps followed by some staff and patients, whereupon Rose threw the door shut before dragging some heavy cases of tinned fruit over the hatch. There was one small male child, lying in a cot in her office, who could not fend for himself and she was duty bound to make a rescue attempt. By this time the attackers were already rampaging through the clinic rooms.

Rose killed one man by cutting his throat with a scalpel. She knocked another senseless with a fire extinguisher. The clinic was well alight, as she snatched the small one from his cot, before running into the smoke and the mist. She felt the searing heat of the bullet before the sound of the shot registered. Rose prayed for Ruth’s survival as she kept running until she was corralled in a clearing 600 feet from the clinic. A Hutu man stood there smiling, a look of lust on his long, dark face; the evil feeling of power that accompanies the easy taking of lives.

The machete blow did not come from this tall, slim, ebony skinned man facing her. She was fully expecting the attack from that direction. She was staring into his black, violent eyes, while holding a dead infant close to her breast. ‘Heaven above forgive me,’ she murmured because she was about to use the tiny body as a defensive weapon against the slashing violence evident in his black glower.

She knew she had been shot from a fair distance, while fleeing the medical compound holding the month old child tightly to her chest. The small calibre bullet had entered the left side of her torso near the fourth rib and had been deflected outwards. On exiting it had taken a chunk of her flesh before hitting the child flush in the face. She had fallen, still gripping the baby, but had battled gamely to her feet, not realising immediately that her act of life saving had been fruitless. It was only when she was confronted by the grinning machete man that she looked down. ‘Ah, no,’ she whispered through her dizziness. Bleeding badly and holding the small raggedy corpse, a sense of unreality and detachment enveloped her. She raised her head to confront the insanity before her with nebulous vision.

As in other times and in far away places during her life, she would fight to the bitter, useless end.

She was concentrating her strength so much, readying herself to throw the baby’s body then run, that she didn’t notice the second man emerge from the dense bush to her left. The long razor-sharp maize-cutter’s blade descended from an oblique angle in a semi-roundhouse arc and severed the tiny infant’s head, before the momentum carried it through her lab coat to the crook of her elbow. The blade bit in deeply. She dropped the tiny body as her arm swung down uselessly to her side. The sudden shock from the deep wound caused her to pass out.

When she came to, she had been hauled up on jelly legs and leaned against a blackened, smoking tree stump. The burning sensation added to her pain but she did not move.

The facing man grinned and pointed to his scrotum. Now in shock, Rose swayed from side to side. Over his shoulder she faintly registered the flaming hospital building. From far away she could hear screaming and occasional shots. Blood dripped from the fingertips of her useless left hand and formed dust covered globules on the parched ground. She looked up to the sky as she began unbuttoning her laboratory coat with her right hand.

The two men argued in Kinyarwanda and, with what rudimentary knowledge she had of the language, she knew the talk was over who would have her first.

When her coat dropped to the ground they turned to look at her bloody torso and laughed. In the heat of the day she only ever wore pants and a bra under the white, knee-length lab coat. Both garments were bloodied on one side from the bullet wound.

The man with the machete stepped up to her, placed his hands on her breasts and pushed her to the ground. Despite the throbbing, intense pain in her almost-severed arm, Rose closed her eyes and escaped to another place in her mind.

Her pants were cut away, and her limbs were pushed apart. The man removed his rough cotton trousers, and as her trance-like state took over, she could still smell sex and death emanate from him. Tears filled her eyes as she walked through the elms and sycamores of Northern Pennsylvania holding her father’s hand.

Both men tasted the spoils of another gruesome and pointless war. When they had finished and pulled their trousers on, they argued again over who would kill their prize. Captive concubines were of no value to them since these remote highlands contained a veritable smorgasbord of unprotected women and young girls. Victory went to other man this time, and he would deliver the first slash. He walked forward and stood over the small, abused body.

Rose had her head turned to the side and, with eyes firmly shut, she was gazing across an impossibly green lawn at the front door of a big country mansion, her family home. Her father was beckoning her to come inside, to return. Another figure stood under the trees near the house, wearing a sad smile. She remembered the river.

The blade, dyed a rust colour with dried blood, rose in the air. The downward stroke had commenced when a bullet punched into the base of his skull and exited through his eye socket, pulverising the prominent glabella as it went. He dropped away, and Rose returned to reality and a pain she had never known. The remaining man had barely enough time to look off to the side as multiple, muffled shots struck his upper torso and throat. His body actually stood for a few seconds; but he was dead before he began to fall.

She passed out. When she opened her eyes again, a man was wrapping her in a blanket. Another pushed a needled vial of morphine into her thigh. Both men wore camouflage jackets and dark green berets. The first one to speak had a soft Brooklyn accent. Miss Gilchrist, sorry we were late. We’ve come to take you out of this hell. I’m David and this is Lars. We’ve padded the bullet wound and strapped your arm as best we could but we need to get you away from here quickly and then sort out some professional care.

Ruthie and the others, she croaked, they’ll need help as well, to get away.

Sorry, miss, you’re the only survivor of those we came for, and, as it happens, the only one left and that’s because you were … well, you know why.

Oh, sweet Jesus. Ruth. She wept unashamedly before the heavy dose of morphine hit and she passed out.

It was raining when she came around. She was on a stretcher being hoisted into the belly of a camouflage painted helicopter. She looked up at the soldier walking beside her. I’ll probably be HIV positive now. Incredulously, given the situation and her condition, she thought, what a stupid thing to say.

No, he said gently with a warm smile, that’s just morphine talk. You resemble one of the angels too closely to be that unlucky. He touched her hair as she felt herself being laid on the chopper floor.

That’s almost as stupid a statement as I just made, she whispered, as the first ugly sensations stirred within her body. His smile turned to a gentle chuckle and, although surrounded by the results of man’s voracious appetite for cruelty and violence, she detected something good and clean and normal in that mirth. She shielded her eyes and looked up into his camouflage painted face. A molecule of purity in a dirty world, she thought. I will remember your laugh always, Soldier David, she was going to say but, once again, she passed out.

When she opened her eyes again, she was securely strapped into the chopper and the soldier, David, was crouching with three others by the open rear cargo door. She thought of Ruth and cried softly for her friend.

She came around briefly each time the Huey stopped somewhere along their escape route to load other victims, some more severely wounded than her. She dimly heard gunfire.

At one point, she looked through the open rear as they flew and saw another helicopter close behind.

At times they were grounded for what seemed like hours, and other times it may only have been minutes. During these lulls she was given field injections which eased her discomfort to a degree. Finally, they flew for a long period, and for most of that time she was out of it; but awake, she existed in a world of intense throbbing pain and only felt relief each time the black cloud of unconsciousness settled over her.

Eventually they landed in a hazy clearing containing a few tents scattered here and there, and surrounded by charred forest. Here she was transferred to a waiting vehicle. David’s face, appearing tired even under the streaked paint, leaned over the stretcher as she was being lifted. He touched her shoulder. This is the second time we’ve met, Miss Gilchrist; you wouldn’t remember me from the first time but you were luckier back then.

Haiti, she said quietly, and you wanted to take all the whites to safety. I see you’re still wearing war paint.

Peace paint, Doctor, and yes that was Haiti. Your head doctor should have listened, I believe. My group here were ready to sit at the clinic while you were ferried to safety. He gestured to the other men in the chopper body. Well, you stayed and survived that and now you’ve survived this. Eventually you’ll run out of lives. Another soldier, a tough looking woman, approached and whispered something to David. He began to move away. I hope we meet again, Angel, under more pleasant circumstances. We’ve landed in Kenya, a place called Nakuru, and you’ll be driven south to the hospital in Nairobi, you and these other good people.

Whe … where are you … she ran out of breath but he understood what she was about to ask.

Our job is only half done. We’ve got to refuel and head back to the northern end of the mountains where we found you. Good luck. And I truly meant what I said. I hope we meet again. Then he was gone. She thought she may have said she hoped so as well, but wasn’t sure.

A week later, as Rose’s body fought off the various infections passed to her, the decision was made to sever the lower section of her left arm completely. The damage inflicted by the blade, the embedded cotton threads of her coat, elapsed time and the dirt, had removed any chance of radical micro-surgery. From that point on she had an idea she would be referred to as ‘doctor’ in name only. Rose was not HIV positive.

She spent a further year in Nairobi while the worst genocide since the Second World War occurred on the central and eastern lowlands of Rwanda. During that time, Rose resigned from Médecins Sans Frontières. She used her own money to survive, and when she eventually flew out for Cape Town, and later New York, Rose left behind on the north-western highlands of Rwanda her belief in God, her dreams, her ambitions, and a goodly sized slice of her soul.

During that year she cried a lot for Ruth and Esoko. She felt responsible for their fates. By the time Rose returned to her homeland her tears had dried. She would continue to feel pain in her lower left arm for many years, even though it was gone. She began the process of losing herself in America.

3

YOUNG ROSE

1975 – 1987

Primrose, gifted by the angels with silken blond hair and the deepest of blue eyes in a perfectly balanced face, was a boisterous, happy child until the age of seven when she was afflicted with a series of diseases that other children contracted as infants, or avoided altogether, because of immunization. To her father’s utter shame and shock it was found that she had not received any preventative inoculations. Her mother, suffering from severe depression, had decided to up and leave when the child was three months old and in the aftermath, during the dark days of her father’s mourning, the baby’s continued good health was taken for granted. The house staff looked only to her immediate needs and not her future welfare.

When, after a Winter spent overcoming chickenpox and measles, she eventually walked out of the mansion’s front door to greet a damp, grey Pennsylvanian sky, the young girl carried in her heart a desire to heal. At eight years of age her awareness of life, after being dangerously ill, was intense. Before the sicknesses, she looked at the trees and flowers in the way a child subconsciously admires God’s handiwork while frolicking in nature’s paradise; now she stopped to caress the petals and stems, running her fingers through the different textured leaves, and imagining she felt nature’s slow moving life move up through her nerve ends to touch her heart.

This new awakening did not mean her whole character had changed for the better. She remained a mischievous child at home and was constantly in trouble at lower school, whether it be talking back to her tutors or abusing other students. Her name caused her great grief and saw her physically hurt others who poked fun, so she had resolved to change it legally as soon as she was of proper age.

Illnesses overcome, she returned to school where her class teacher was quick to realise that Primrose, once an ordinary studious plodder, was drifting along with the class while being intellectually superior. The teacher asked permission from the father to give Primrose the Stanford-Binet intelligence quotient test. Rose sat the test, normally given to older children and adults, in the school library where an independent psychologist was present. With obvious enjoyment at the presented challenge, and minimal effort on her part, the results were astounding.

When her father was informed that his little girl was a gifted child, he laughed. He believed he knew Primmy better than anyone and, to his way of thinking, she had never been anything other than a normal child of average intellect. He was told the results did not lie.

Sport of any kind was of no interest to her and female child activities such as playing with dolls, scrap books or keeping diaries were fleetingly tried and quickly discarded. She liked to read, mainly children’s stories, but occasionally she would take a book from the family library and spend a month reading about actions and emotions that were, as yet, foreign to her. The Bronte sisters and Charles Dickens confused as much as entertained her.

For herself, Primrose accepted she was different but was happy to stay in age-related classes with her friends. She steadfastly refused to be considered a special student or to be promoted a year or two. It was a sign of maturity far beyond her years that she was able to keep her grades on a similar level to her classmates. None of the other students in her years at lower school knew that she was considered anything more than one of them.

It was only in her last two years of high school that she made a concerted effort to gain outstanding grades. She had decided to aim for one of the best colleges, Penn State, under her own steam; not with the assistance of her father’s considerable fortune. He had wanted her to attend finishing school in Switzerland and, perhaps later, Oxford or Cambridge. Primrose was adamant she would make her own decisions when the time arrived. He held out his palms in supplication and said simply, That trait came from your mother.

Rose still retained a desire to tend the ill and the injured, and to prevent disease as well as treat the unfortunate. She had no plan other than gaining a medical degree, and becoming a doctor.

By the time graduation rolled around, she and her closest friend had been accepted into the undergraduate scheme at Penn State College of Medicine.

Rose’s father, Whitman Gilleland the Second felt, with the absence of a mother, that in many ways he had failed his beloved daughter. However in one thing he knew he had succeeded. He fervently believed, like his father before him, that all people were equal under God, even though fortune and fate played a major part in existence.

Because of his wife’s views on wealth and power, he made sure that Rose was fully aware of her fortunate life and circumstances and, consequently, would never be tempted to look down on those who waded through the marshes of everyday survival.

Rose grew to be a sharer of what she possessed as a child and, later, as a young woman. Friendship was the greatest gift she bestowed on those with whom she schooled. Being no saint, by her last year of high school she had gained a reputation as a girl who was prepared to stand toe to toe with anyone in the school, including teachers. She fought for herself, friends and even acquaintances. Apart from the innumerable bouts of detention, at least once a month she was on the receiving end of an expulsion threat; but the staff knew they had a rough cut diamond in their midst and, more often than not, pled on her behalf. Her grades never suffered although the teacher’s comments on her behaviour were at times scathing.

So it was that her father’s wish to take her out of the local high school and send her to a private college was vehemently rejected by the young woman. He had succeeded too well in instilling in her his slightly communistic views.

Ruth Bannister, her best friend, was a plain faced, slim girl whose father was a labourer at one of the steel mills controlled by Rose’s father. Rose was as happy sleeping over at Ruth’s run down but clean home as she was having Ruth and other friends sleep at the mansion. Ruth, just like her best friend, also desired to use her intellect and humanity to practice medicine.

Ruth and Rose worked on their submissions for acceptance together and travelled down to Penn for their interviews. Rose’s father threw a large party for both girls a week after their acceptance into the undergraduate program of the Medical Faculty.

Rose upped her educational studies with little effort and finished her last year as the school’s highest marked student ever. She took no pride in this. Her happiness lay in the hugs and tears bestowed on her by her friends, and later her father.

For all her misbehaviour and continual scrapping the staff, as a whole, were proud of her academic achievement; even when she refused to accept the awards and forbade the head mistress to single her out at the graduation ceremony.

After that final ceremony had wound up and she was walking with her father across the car park, a thin voice she knew well called to her. She turned around and shielded her eyes from the sun. The Single Wrinkle came marching up to her.

May I talk with Rose alone for a moment, Mr Gilleland?

Her father smiled and walked away. Rose removed her graduation gown.

Norma Cross stood for a moment, wearing the frown that had been a part of Rose’s life for six years, then she smiled and her face was transformed.

You should have smiled more often, Miss Cross. There is a gentleness there that we never saw.

Thank you, Rose, but this smile is for you and you alone. You, for all your troublesome ways, are the most special person I have met in my shielded existence. There is an aura about you, Rose; you will not follow in this life, you will lead. I would like to think we had a small hand in shaping your destiny. It still truly amazes me that you do not accept being beyond the intellectual capacity of your fellow students; that you play this Scarlet Pimpernel game of hide and seek with your ability. Do you know that I have followed your entire educational path through our humble school? Rose shook her head. I have read everything you have written, examined all your papers and watched your attempts at avoiding sport. I know you have held yourself in check all these years. Young woman, it is time to flower. When you go to Pennsylvania, make a name for yourself, and remember us. Miss Cross took Rose by surprise by leaning forward and kissing her on the cheek.

Miss Cross, I’ll always remember this school with pride.

As the teacher walked off, she turned with a smile, You should have been expelled 100 times, Primrose Gilleland, for misdemeanours and holding me in fear of my life.

On that warm July day, when she stood at the gates to the garden of adulthood, Rose forgave the use of her whole name. She simply waved and turned to follow her father.

4

Whitman Gilleland was sipping a whiskey while sitting on the steps below the great Doric columned entry to the family home. He was medium height and grey haired with the handsome soft features that had, along with her mother’s genteel beauty, lent themselves to Rose’s looks; clear, wide apart grey-blue eyes, strong nose and full mouth although, at 51 years of age, the lips were thinning. The puffy cheeks on the hard businessman were damp.

This was the day he had been dreading for weeks; the day of Primmy’s departure and another beloved female stepping away from his life. He looked across the flat green lawn to the pasture beyond. A foal was suckling at Dandy, Rose’s favourite mare. The late Summer breeze lifted the mare’s mane as she tossed her head, before turning to look at the house. You’re sad as well, girl, aren’t you? he whispered. Primmy was setting out on the road to life while he felt his road would narrow without her effervescent personality and love. He sighed and wiped his cheeks as Rose came through the door, walked across the portico, and sat down, draping an arm over his bent back.

He turned to her and smiled. She used her thumbs to wipe below his eyes. I’ll be home at Christmas, Whitty, and that’s not that far off. I’m sure Melony can look after you until then.

Oh, I know that. Forgive your old man’s emotional outpouring but, holidays or home, we’ve never been apart.

She gazed across the lawn to where the mare had now moved to the nearest fence. What a beautiful day, she said softly, just the sort of day to take the boat along the lake. The property lay below the Allegheny Plateau at the southern end of Lake Tionesta where they moored a small, unobtrusive cabin cruiser.

He looked into her eyes. Primmy, be very careful out there. The world is becoming more unstable every day that passes. And don’t say you can take care of yourself, I already know that better than anyone, but there are those in society who … well you know.

Dad, asked Rose using her serious form of address when she dispensed with her pet name for him, where is my mother now?

He had waited 18 years and now she had asked the question. He had expected the inquiry when she attended lower school and, failing that, at some time during her high school years. But, like her mother’s stoic silence throughout their doomed marriage, she had waited until the final act of goodbye. As always he was honest with his reply. The last time I had her traced, some years ago, she owned and ran a small antique shop in Colorado.

I’ve never asked you these questions before but I sort of feel this is the right time now, dad, before I cross over, if you get my meaning. He nodded, knowing he was talking to someone who had flowered as a woman but in reality had been a mature adult since turning into her teens. Why did she never contact you for money, like a few years down the track when the dust had settled?

She walked away from the riches, Primmy. She could’ve manoeuvred plenty of cash into a hidden account or even emptied the safe but it wasn’t about money. She came from the Levings, a moneyed family themselves, and she never even went to them or bid them goodbye. She left a letter for me. It’s in your grandpop’s bureau. Read it before you go. This was the way of the man. The letter had lain in the bureau throughout Rose’s growing years and now here, as if he was talking about something mundane that had occurred that morning, he mentioned it almost in passing.

Did you ever go and see her, you know, to ask her why, or to come home?

She left this area of land she loved, what she had named her Rainbow Valley. Primrose had heard her father use the name from time to time and had always assumed it was his description of the numerous Spring rainbows, caused by sunshine and the fine precipitation blowing down off the Allegheny Plateau. She left a new born, a loving, faithful husband and a life of luxury and, with the reasons she gave, my talking to her was not going to change her mind. My treatment of her wasn’t the best but I was trying to consolidate our future. I thought that was the right thing to do. I found, to our cost, I was wrong. The letter will explain some things, and then we’ll drive out to the airstrip. Primmy, I may not have been the father you deserved, what with the time spent away from you running our business interests, but I know you understand how much I’ve always loved you. The young woman smiled and in her open face he saw his wife for a fleeting moment and it tore at his heart. He held no malice towards Rose’s mother but throughout the missing years he had carried a weighty burden of sadness at her leaving; so much so that he had not once looked sideways at another woman, save his beautiful daughter. Perhaps it was a mistake, but I tried to raise you as much with her values as mine. Without a male heir, I could’ve insisted you be educated towards entering the family concerns but, chauvinistic or not, mining and smelting is a male dominated world. I pray every night that I moulded a hardy and compassionate soul. In the tunnels and pits there is no place for pity. I watch you sometimes, with the mare or your friends, and I see the gentle soul of Celestra. Of course, your behaviour in school at times, that was pure daddy. They laughed together and she hugged him again.

Then I pity your employees having to deal with a tyrant.

Fifteen minutes on and Rose sat down in her late grandmother’s favourite armchair. She removed the 18 year-old letter from its envelope and reverently opened the single page. Her mother’s script was immaculate, unlike Rose’s untidy scrawl.

Darling Whitman,

I am finding it hard to write this, to see through the tears. I am going away this night, and I won’t return. I know you will raise the little piece of heaven well and lovingly. I would never have made a good and responsible mother. Add to that, I am so desperately sorry, darling, but the life that you love, and pursue so diligently at our expense, is not for me. I hated my upbringing, and I made a mistake by marrying back into riches and the love of those riches. I will think of you always, as I will the child. I can never hope to give her the security and upbringing that she will have with you. I can’t ask for your forgiveness, that would be stretching things, but please don’t hate me. I am what I am, and I tried so hard. You are what your family wealth has made you. Goodbye and God bless you both. Celestra.

Rose’s tears fell from her chin onto her travelling jeans. Her father had shielded her by failing to disclose the truth but now she felt the deep shadows of rejection darken this sunny day. The letter was frustrating. It gave an explanation which described only hills, not mountains, which could have been scaled with support and love. There was nothing of substance in the short note, nothing to grip, to say, ah, so that’s what happened. As far as she could judge, her father had done nothing wrong and it seemed as if he loved Celestra and she loved him.

In her confused head she heard a soft, compassionate voice of no determinate sex. It will be okay, Rose, you will pass through this and a lot more.

Eventually Whitman drove her to the private airstrip, where a Lear Jet waited. He cried and almost crushed her small body; she cried and then flew out of his embrace into the midday sun, bound for Harrisburg.

5

YOUNG DAVID

1987 – 1990

The judge knew him, and his type, well. The flinty, judicial glare was directed fully on the lad standing with squared shoulders beside his bald and horn-rimmed bespectacled, court appointed lawyer. To the judge’s trained eye, Fitzgerald was a fine physical specimen of a young man; clean, jet black hair, dark eyes, square jaw and handsome. In the past, Judge Feldon had fined the boy, given him community service and sent him for three stays in juvenile detention. Fitzgerald, like so many who passed through this lower court, had still not accepted the harsh realities of bucking the system.

Tell me, Mr Fitzgerald, do you suffer from any brain malfunction? The accused stared dispassionately at the judge. Well?

David Fitzgerald tossed his black mane back and stared the judge down. Not that I’m aware of, Mr Feldon.

Don’t increase the size of the rod, Fitzgerald. Show respect; address me as ‘Your Honour’. The boy had the cheek to raise his hand slightly. The judge motioned him to speak.

"With all due respect … Your Honour, if you can

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