It was the first time since the renovation had started on her place at the hands of the two boys that Eb was alone. She had a task to keep her busy the whole day. Task to keep her mind occupied and away from things she no longer remembered . The ghostly gossamers in her mind weaving in and out of her days like snippets of a past she was desperate to figure out. But it would be a lie if she said that was all the she wanted to keep from her mind; the images of what had happened between her and Frank that the too many iced teas had robbed her of. She didn’t really need to think about either.
Clad in old trackies and a loose jumper, both of which had once belonged to Niko, Eb dipped the roller brush to the paint tray and continued painting the living room wall. ‘Walls first and then floor.’ Niko had dropped off supplies and the paint she had ordered. ‘You don’t need to finish anything, but if you think you can start without us, go on. We will join you after work.’
She had been at it for a little over half hour and every so often she felt she were looking through a window. Snippets of broken memory messing with her vision ahead of her. Sometimes she were painting the wall, sometimes she could see a large canvas ahead. Sometimes the streaks were straight lemon-yellow up and down the wall and sometimes, it were a mixture of other colours and shapes.
‘Easy does it, Ebony. Whenever you get these flashbacks of memory, just don’t strain yourself to focus on them. Once they start, they will slowly unfold to you. Let them.’ The doctor from the home had said many times whenever she felt she wasn’t trying hard enough. That time when she’d seen the red barn doors, she had tried so hard to piece it together only to loose her wits when nothing more unfurled.
‘Watch the brush strokes. Careful with the coats. One layer, then the next.’ She mumbled to self, surprised at how familiar the activity felt. ‘Keep going. You’re doing good.’
Eb dipped the brush once more and turned back to the wall. Up and down.
‘Looking good. Just make sure you are all paying attention to the shadows and how they curve with the object!’ A distant echo rang in her mind. A figure, male circled around her and others in a sun flushed large room. His hands held behind his back as he stopped at her stand. He pointed at the underside of the apple she was painting. ‘See here, the apple actually has a sliver of light just before the shadow starts. Pay attention to those lights within the shadows.’
He smiled. The only thing that seemed to be in focus. ‘The rest is not too bad.’ The image dissolved back into the lounge room. Her roller brush in hand. She’d stopped mid stroke. Confused. She stared at the tray of paint, then at the lemon-yellow wall. ‘I can paint?’
‘You most definitely can’t paint!’ Niko hollered at the wall. The wall and a half that she had managed to paint during the day was uneven and the streaks slanting. ‘And what kind of colour did you choose? It’s so YELLOW!’
Eb shrugged, wolfing down her sandwich.
‘You gotta change the colour. I refuse to help with this.’ Niko dusted his palms and sat down on the floor in his overalls.
Eb turned to Frank for support. It was the first time in two days that she’d looked him in the eye, or rather his face. ‘You don’t like it either?’
‘Its…it’s nice. Reminds me of, well, lemons.’ But Frank’s grimace gave way.
Eb leaned across the counter. ‘I ordered it over the phone.’
‘Lesson number uno. Don’t buy anything relating to this house without either Frankie or myself here.’ Niko grabbed his esky and pulled out cold beers and a cider for her. ‘Lesson number two…’
‘Don’t let Niko make all the rules.’ Frank interjected. Refusing to take the beer. ‘Your house, your rules.’
He looked at her through narrowed, questioning eyes. ‘I’m tired as a dog. I can take you to the hardware store tomorrow afternoon. G’night.’
‘Did I miss something?’ Niko looked from one to the other.
Frank shook his head. ‘Was at the Barrister’s today.’
‘Ah’ comprehension dawned on Niko’s face but Eb failed to understand. ‘Go home mate. I got Ebony.’
Once Frank had left and the door shut, she turned to the man on the floor. ‘What’s with a barrister?’
Niko twisted open his second beer.
‘Nada. Not a barrister. The Barristers. They are a family further up from town. The man used to be the Mayor once upon a time.’
‘What about them then?’
‘I keep forgetting you are new to town, aye?’ Niko looked up from his food. ‘They were his in-laws. Tragic really. They really liked him. Every now and then, they still call him around to fix this and that, but I reckon it’s more so they can see him.’
Eb stared at the door. Frank’s ute’s rumble down the driveway had faded ages ago. ‘I didn’t know he was divorced.’
Niko sprung from his seat, taking his rubbish to the kitchen where she was. ‘Not divorced. Just wife’s gone.’
Something in her felt acidic. A sick feeling that sat on her chest. Poor Frank. ‘How did she die?’
Niko shrugged. ‘No one knows really. One day, him and I go up to the McKensies to help restore their fence on their property, and when we came back, she was gone. They never found her.’
The feeling sunk deeper down, and Eb felt the sandwich wanting to come back up any time soon. ‘How long has it been?’
Niko thought about it. ‘Reckon couple of years.’
‘Yeah he does alright. I guess. You wouldn’t know by looking at the man huh?’
Eb shook her head. No. Not by looking at him.