Leah Francis : Finding the Way contents

Retrospectives

LEAH FRANCIS
25th July 2002

It's 22nd of July 2002. My hearing aids have stopped working so I tell Leo I won't go to see Presence tonight. I'll stay home.

"That's a pity," he says, "it's better if we go together. Let's drive to Gosford and see if they can find the fault."

"Are you sure you don't mind?" I ask.

"It's time we started doing things now," he explains, "instead of putting them off until we have a few things to do in the same area. Anyway, I want us to go together tonight!"

I'm delighted.

They find the problem quickly and we set off for the Stables Theatre in Sydney.

We're early so we sit in the foyer, sip red wine and crunch crisps, chatting easily. We look at the names of producer and cast and reminisce about the productions in which we've seen them.

After the play we take the usual route home, reading and dozing in the train. Comfortably we climb into bed, casually exchange a goodnight kiss and fall asleep.

He has given up paid work, but he's everybody's voluntary treasure. The boys need him to drive them to sport, and other things. Anyway, he points out, I earn more than he used to earn.

I arrive home from work late, as usual. Each of us has a meeting tonight.

He shouts angrily as I open the door, "You're not going to any meeting. You can't go without dinner, and I'm not waiting one minute for you to eat. I should but there now, reading my report."

"I don't have to eat now," I say, and, with hardly a word to our teenage sons, I hurry into the passenger's seat." He drives dangerously fast. I get out of the car without a word.

The man who drives me home comes in for coffee. He stays too long, chatting with the boys and me.

Leo arrives. He smiles, always polite to other people. For that matter, he's usually polite to his family.

Tonight, though, I can't speak to him. Upset is what you'd call it, not afraid, not annoyed.

There is room for another couple between us in bed.

I remember a friend telling me how her husband would react to something she had done. "He'll belly-ache a bit, but he'll get used to it."

I move toward the middle of the bed, smiling in the dark. It's all over – just another bump.


After two miscarriages and no information about the state of the dead infant I become more uncertain as my third pregnancy progresses. Will the baby be able to see? Will it have some other disability?

Why did my first two babies miscarry? What happened to me, or them?

Will the baby be safe and Will my husband support me? Will he be critical and dissatisfied? How will his mother raact? Will she turn him against me?

Will I care for it adequately?

I read everything I can find about pregnancy and parenthood. I tell him what is expected of him, what I need. I nag nag, whimper, fret over nothing. He goes out with his old school friends. I am at home alone. What if the baby comes early, what is someone breaks in. Will he get drunk? Will he forget me in all the fun? I cry when he kisses me goodbye. What if he has an accident? What if. What if.

He's home before midnight, serene, loving, concerned.

God, give me faith, let me trust.

Four weeks ago it had been the eve of our marriage. On that night I had felt excited, fearful – was I committing to permanent prison, or on the brink of a lifetime of freedom?

Now the honeymoon had been managed, settlement had been achieved. We were back at work.

First Friday – four weeks after our wedding's eve. He could have been home two hours ago. Was he drinking somewhere? Was this what he liked to do on Friday nights? Would he come home drunk? What sort of life had I let myself in for. I remembered Auntie Bel telling me, "I made my bed. Now I have to lie on it." Was I to lie on a bed of thorns?

The front gate opened and closed, a key turned.

"Hello, darling. Sorry I'm late." On my lips a passionate kiss, in my arms a full-blown gardinia in a decorative pot. Oh God, give me faith, let me trust.


I arrive at the theatre more than half an hour before opening time, to wait for Leo and his girlfriend. Leo is the man from the Taxation Department who completed my over-due tax returns.

Five minutes before the performance will begin t walk towards the box office to procure a ticket.

Leo calls to me, "Sorry we're late! I forgot to ring you at work today."

He hands me a ticket and introduces me to Bert. Bert and his wife catch the same train as I, so they will walk to the station with me. Leo doesn't sit with me but he speaks to me at interval, and shows me some of the musical instruments and stage props.

We don't meet after the performance. I walk to the station with Bert and his wife. We seem to have little in common, and I forgot about Leo Francis.

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