The Empty Nest

The Empty Nest by Fiona Palmer

Book: The Empty Nest by Fiona Palmer Read Free Book Online
Authors: Fiona Palmer
The last Saturday in April was perfect. The sun warmed Sandi’s skin, drenching it with goodness, and the air carried a hint of the cold crispness of dawn. The sun had risen from the horizon and the birds were in full chirp. The pink and grey cockies were the loudest, screeching overhead in the old gum tree they’d nearly stripped bare. Having grown up on a farm, Sandi appreciated her morning walks. She loved taking in her surroundings and drawing on them for inspiration and energy. And to make it perfect was the little hand she held, so delicate and warm. The slim fingers slipped from her grasp as her daughter, Gracie, ran ahead to catch a butterfly that flitted across their path.
    â€˜I’ll see if I can catch it, Mum,’ said Gracie, her lanky arms and legs moving forward with determination.
    Gracie was good on her feet. She danced around the butterfly as lightly as a cloud floating around in the sun, even though they walked along the rough firebreak at the edge of the paddock. Gracie’s chestnut hair swished about her shoulders as she jumped and her smile was so big that the faint freckles across her checks seemed to move. Gracie had her brown hair and her father’s blue eyes. Sandi’s heart lurched with all the love of a mother, almost overwhelming her to tears. She’d just spent an amazing few weeks with both her kids over the Easter break and now they were about to leave for high school again. It just wasn’t fair.
    Turning away to wipe a stray tear, Sandi noticed a kangaroo in the paddock of stubble left over from harvest. While it sat watching her, a joey flipped out of its pouch. The roo turned her head to the side and Sandi felt like they were sharing a mummy moment. ‘They don’t stay babies forever,’ she whispered. And wasn’t that the truth.
    But it was too soon to be losing Gracie. It was okay when Jack first went off to boarding school – he’d been ready, and he was older. And at the time Sandi still had Gracie at home. Then some anonymous person sitting in an office somewhere had decided to change the rules. Year Seven would now mark the beginning of high school, they said, rather than Year Eight. But Gracie was only eleven years old! She was still a month away from turning twelve. Did anyone really consider the repercussions of this decision? Did any of them realise that Sandi had to give up a precious year with her young daughter because of it?
    â€˜Look, Mum. Isn’t it beautiful?’ Gracie held out her slim arm, the butterfly perched on her thumb. To Sandi, the butterfly’s orange and red colours paled in comparison to Gracie’s gorgeous blue eyes.
    â€˜Yes, but not as pretty as you,’ Sandi teased, and was rewarded with Gracie’s laughter.
    â€˜Oh, Mum,’ she said, rolling her eyes.
    As the butterfly left for another adventure, Gracie fell back in step with Sandi and together they continued their walk to the granite rock they called Rocky.
    Sandi glanced down at her daughter in her One Direction T-shirt, tiny buds of breast only just starting. It had seemed wrong to send her away to boarding school so soon. Their town only had a primary school, so boarding school, which was three hours away, had been the only option. How could she possibly let her girl, who was still so young, go away to a different place, to be raised by strangers? She’d begged her husband, Paul, to consider other options but there weren’t any. Some of the mothers she knew had moved to the city and rented houses so they could be there for their kids while they went through school. But Sandi couldn’t do that. They simply couldn’t afford to. The farm wasn’t going very well so there was no possibility of renting, and Paul needed her to help around the farm during seeding and harvest as they couldn’t employ a full-time worker. There wasn’t even anyone who Gracie could stay with in the city, her mum was

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