I text Happy Birthday, two weeks late on a whim. Evie rings me back to say thanks. I tell her I would’ve called, being her birthday and all, but she always seems so busy in Prague.
The Hague, she says. And it’s Eve now, not Evie. But I can’t speak to being busy like you with the farm, she says. It must be all so … so hard – I don’t know how you do it. Droughts, floods, fires, hours. She says she understands long hours, herself. Says some of us have no choice if we want to thrive – no – just to survive in business.
I am still not sure what her business is exactly. I daydream:
Scenario one: A rescue mission under the cover of an early school drop-off. ( Child actors, given she doesn’t have any herself.). The Russian Mafia still tucked-up in bed as Evie enters the back of a downtown Czech Laundromat. Tumeric late in one hand while the other –single-handedly – saves the last remaining wild population of miniature saffron pandas, stolen from western Nepal the night before and smuggled out by Laund-R-Us vans into eastern Europe behind the cotton curtain of a certain aged-care empire as dirty laundry. Evie has the pandas loaded into her Lexus by smoko; the animal smugglers, still in their pyjamas, are prosecuted by lunch. Then as she orders a jasmine-white-tea late` before dinner, every eligible monarch queues across continent and sea in hope of wooing the hipster-ist solipsist of all spinsters.
Evie says my kids must be getting big. By which I’m sure she means: Popped out any more yet, Annie? As it happens, I’m half way along gestation number three but I’m not about to give her the satisfaction. If only she could see me now …… she’d think I was at the end of Pregnancy Twelve.
Who’d be one of those super tall women who go through cooking a bun in their oven without hail damage to show for it? Evie. Evie could’ve had a kid by now for all I know – and gone on with the career regardless.
And cook. Did I mention, the woman can cook?
Scenario two: The Daydream in Which Evie is Jealous of Annie for Reasons as Unfathomable as Annie’s Chicken-tasting Almond Macarons – otherwise known as: The Daydream in Which Annie Refers to Herself in the Third Person Because She’s Forgotten Who She Is, Who She Was, If She Ever Was an Organism at All … or … A Shell? …
Evie: tall, fine, full set of teeth. Even at fourteen, she was a woman of consequence. Had our town been a city, or just further west, our maths teacher would’ve had a crack. The boys only ever cackled at me.
Evie makes some joke, but I’m too caught up twirling my cankles.
Been nice talking to you Annie, Evie says. Really … nice … But she has to go – the bell’s ringing. Has to go to an important meeting whenever it rings, she says.
Saved by the bell.
Like school. Bells always seemed to ring just as Evie was getting it . I turned once to offer her an eyeroll of how achingly predictable the question was and instead I saw her, my work hidden under the crook of her arm, hiding what she had (or rather) what she hadn’t done.
And yet the teachers never seemed to notice the switch.
Evie. Diligent. Conscientious. A pleasure to teach, they said.
Annie. Fails to apply herself, they said.
Me, forever looking out the window. Forever having finished the work on the board before anyone else understood. Before Evie finished sharpening her pencil. Evie who wanted the world. Annie who had no idea what to do with it.
She laughs. I laugh. I miss her laugh – ours together. That’s what I would say if she asked. The truth is I don’t. Not anymore. Now I can do without her.