Chapter 6

Written by: Anna Zhigareva

“Ye up nice an’ early.” Betina sat at the edge of her blanket, picking at a scab on her knee. She had barely looked at Stella when she had plodded up in the mist of the early grey morning, droplets of rain frizzing her long hair.


“We’re going somewhere.” Stella tapped her boot on the ground, scattering loose bits of gravel towards Betina’s blanket and eliciting a sigh of contempt from the older woman. 


“Where?” Betina still hadn’t looked up. The scab would soon fall off. Stella tapped her foot again, more impatiently. A gnawing desire to get moving ate at her senses. 


“You’ll see.” She tried to sound excited, but the attempt to be cheery bounced back across the concrete wall of the underpass and hit her with a vicious snarl. Too early; you haven’t figured anything out yet, smarty-pants.


Her whole life, someone had been there to tell her what to do, what things to say – first her parents, then her brother when they had passed away, then Greg – the ever so helpful, kind, loving Greg. And now she was completely alone. This was perhaps the biggest decision she had made since moving to the new flat. And look how interestingly that had turned out.


Was she doing the right thing? I don’t know. Was she thinking clearly? Perhaps, just perhaps, this was the first day in a series of many steel grey weeks when Stella Linton was thinking the clearest she had done since the accident. 


“So ye foun’ ye ca’?”


Her reverie shattered, Stella stood for a second, dazed. Betina stared up at her through the haze of her starting cataracts.


“I sure did. And we’re going on a road trip.”


“Where to?”


“You’ll see.”


“You said that last time.”


But there was no accusation in the older woman’s glazed eyes, just – was Stella imagining it? – a twinkle of excitement. It was not until she’d met Betina – or Betina had met her – that she’d realised how much she missed human contact, the touch of a word, the feeling of someone nearby.


The car was under the branch of a eucalyptus tree, obscured from sight. As the clock on the dashboard indicated five past six in the morning, Betina finally spoke, “I use’ to like mysel’ a li’l adventure now an’ then.”


As soon as Stella’s door closed, she instantly regretted allowing Betina into her space. The woman practically stank. But there was no turning back. She shifted the car into gear.


“So where-”


“To find my dead husband and son.” Stella’s mouth formed a tight line as she pulled onto the motorway. After all these years, she remembered the way. Her fists tightened around the steering wheel, eyes boring into the faint sunrise peering through the clouds.


“Bu’ if ye wantin’ to fin’ ‘em, then they ain’ dead..”


“I damn sure hope you’re right, Betina. I damn sure do.”


It had been so many years. The Lintons would be surprised to see her, she bet.


Nice one Anna. It will be interesting to see how Betina figures in the last four chapters. You painted a great picture of her and I could see an unwashed old woman with no personal pride in her appearance and who had reached the bottom of the social ladder, unabashed at picking at a scab on her knee. This is just the kind of characterization that makes the difference between a good and a fabulous read. Liked this a lot.
This is the road trip of a lifetime and Betina's state is so well described I could see it and smell it. Loved this line: ....she missed human contact, the touch of a word, the feeling of someone nearby. The touch of a word. That is imaginative and evocative. Such a good chapter Anna with the dialogue short, snappy and fitting in well with the characters. Fabulous!