Hi lovely Readers! It’s time for Part 2 of my short story Karma. I hope you’re enjoying it!
KARMA – A Short Story
Celia’s legs dangled either side of the hammock that swung lazily from side to side on her back verandah. She’d returned home from school earlier than usual and had managed to pack away all the good crockery and glass into padded boxes before making a homemade curry paste and chopping the ingredients for dinner in readiness for Hamish’s return. The temperature was dropping and a cool breeze rustled the eucalyptus trees silhouetted by the setting sun at the back of the garden. Sam was nowhere to be seen. She called his name. A rustling noise was her only reply.
“Sam?” she called again. Celia heard a muffled bark and Sam’s face appeared from behind a shrub at the back of the garden. She swore softly. Sam had recently dug up the fledgling marijuana crop Hamish was cultivating for personal use and earned a wallop with a rolled up newspaper for his efforts. Celia had been horrified and refused to speak to Hamish for the entire evening.
“You get back here Samuel Hart!” Sam yelped in excitement and barrelled up the yard, nearly upsetting Celia in the hammock in his excitement. She laughed, ruffling his silky ears. “What did you find back there old boy? I hope you weren’t digging up any dope plants again! Or maybe you found a juicy buried bone, hey?” Celia kissed the tip of his nose.
The telephone rang. Damn. There were only two possible people who would be ringing at this time: either Hamish telling her he’d be late or her mother. Celia sincerely hoped it was only Hamish.
“It’s me.” The familiar, tired voice on the end of the line belonged to her mother. Celia wondered for the umpteenth time why Dorothy Hart even bothered to call when she sounded so disinterested.
“Hi Mum!” Celia said with forced brightness. “How’s everything?”
“Oh… you know. I always get a bit down toward the end of summer. Something to do with my bio-rhythms, the doctor seems to think.”
Celia doubted her mother even knew what bio-rhythms were. “Well, as long as you’re not ill or anything. How’s Jezzy?”
Celia’s mother gave a short laugh. “She’s getting old… like me. She sleeps most of the day… but she’s still got a good appetite.” Jezebel was Celia’s seventeen year old cat. She’d gotten her when she was fourteen years old and it had broken her heart when she had been forced to leave her behind when she moved in with Hamish and Sam. For all of her mother’s faults, Celia knew that Jezebel was in safe hands and was likely better company for Dorothy than Celia herself on most days.
“Give her a kiss and a cuddle from me, won’t you?”
“How’s Hamish?” asked her mother, ignoring Celia’s request. For reasons Celia could not fathom, her mother adored Hamish. This was unfortunate because Hamish treated his mother-in-law with the same muffled irritation he showed toward his own mother. And yet, according to Dorothy, Hamish could do no wrong. Perhaps it had something to do with Hamish’s profession, Celia thought drily. If only her mother knew the reality of their financial situation, she might see things differently.
“He’s good, thanks Mum. Things have been a bit slow since he left Hayward and Barr but he tells me they’re slowly building up a new client base. And he’s hopeful that some of his old clients might decamp—”
“What about the house on the esplanade?” Mrs Hart interrupted impatiently. “Has the sale gone through on Queen St yet?”
“Not yet,” Celia said, trying to keep her voice light. Sometimes, talking to her mother was worse than a trip to the dentist. “Like I said, we’ve found a buyer who seems willing to pay us more than the asking price but it’s not that straightforward. There’s a lot of other expenses to consider like stamp duty and then there’s Hamish’s mother to consider and whether we—”
“Well don’t dilly dally!” said her mother sharply as though Celia hadn’t spoken. “These opportunities don’t come up every day! And stop finding reasons to stay where you are. You don’t owe that old woman a thing. She didn’t raise you, for God’s sake – I did. Besides, from what you’ve told me, she doesn’t even know what time of day it is. Don’t you dare risk losing that house and getting Hamish off-side. God knows, if I’d married someone more like Hamish with a bit of ‘go’ in him, I wouldn’t have had to live in a mediocre house in a mediocre suburb all my life and beg and scrape just to spend a few dollars to make the place look halfway decent and—”
“Mum! You know I don’t like you saying those things about Dad. He was good man and you were lucky to have him! I never wanted for anything when I was a kid.”
“But you never knew what went on behind the scenes…God!” Celia pictured her mother shaking her head, her mouth pursed in its usual bitter pout. “Your father was the meanest man I ever met. Oh… don’t worry… he made sure his favourite daughter never wanted for anything… but I didn’t get a new dress for three years when we were first married!”
It was an argument Celia would never win so she kept her mouth shut and let her mother have her customary moan. “…And what with you getting married and moving away and your father and Tony gone, there’s nobody I can count on anymore.” Celia felt the familiar jab of pain at the mention of her brother. Bright, beautiful, talented Tony with the whole world at his feet. Dead, aged 23, of a heroin overdose. Even now, Celia still woke so mornings to find her pillow damp and her eyes crusted with dried tears.
Celia waited until her mother had finished, interjecting now and then with a murmured yes, no and I’m sorry. When she put the receiver down, she poured herself a large glass of wine and downed it in few gulps. Perhaps her mother was right. She should stop worrying about other people and concentrate on what was best for Hamish… and her of course.
Celia noticed him immediately her Corolla rounded the corner into Queen Street and glided to a stop outside their sandstone bungalow. He was a man who shouldn’t wear a suit: his shoulders were too broad, his neck too bullish, his legs too muscly. Hamish didn’t see her arrive. His body appeared stiff, his hands moving jerkily as he spoke to the tall, dark stranger standing at her front door. The man turned, smiled and extended his hand as she neared. “And you must be the lovely Celia!” His voice was not as deep as she imagined. She dropped her bags onto the porch and shook his hand. It was warm and strong, his stare intense.
“Celia… Vincent Grant. Vincent, this is my fiancée, Celia.” Hamish did not meet her eye. “You’re home early,” he said. He ran a hand through his hair, plainly agitated.
“Early minute,” Celia said lightly. “I thought I’d have the house to myself.”
Silence. Hamish kicked at a pebble on the porch. It skidded sideways and landed in Celia’s pot of basil. What on earth had gotten into him, Celia wondered?
Vincent Grant watched the exchange expressionlessly. Celia felt embarrassed. “Thank you… for your generous offer on the house, I mean. Hamish said your father used to live in Queen Street?”
The tall man fixed his eyes on hers. They were not dark, as Celia had expected but an unusual greeny-blue colour with flecks of hazel and gold. For a minute, they blazed. Had Celia imagined it? She shivered. He looked dangerous.
“It was my Nona. I used to visit her with him.”
Celia glanced at Hamish. His hands were fists, shoved deep into his pockets. He did not look at her. She picked up her bags.
“Well… I’m sure there are things you need to discuss. I’m ready to sign the contract whenever you are. The house is in my name, after all,” she laughed.
Neither of the men joined in.
END OF PART 2