The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

The Hidden Hours by Sara Foster

Author:Sara Foster [Foster, Sara]
Language: eng
Format: epub
Publisher: Unknown
Published: 2017-04-03T04:00:00+00:00

29.

THE ACCIDENT

March 2005

After Solomon’s first appearance, he begins to visit regularly, always arriving in his chuggy old truck with Charlie on the flatbed. He often says he is on his way back from the shops, but then he doesn’t leave for hours. Instead he holds up the building progress, his chewing, saggy-lipped mouth in perpetual motion as he leans on his vehicle, leaving Charlie to sleep or watch longingly from the back of the ute. Sometimes he shouts advice to Eleanor’s parents, while they sweat up ladders, passing each other bricks or tiles or equipment.

On other occasions he accosts them on tea breaks and regales them with stories of the past – what things were like when he and his wife worked the land out here. It turns out that the land Eleanor’s family is building on used to be Solomon’s, but he doesn’t have a pension, so the sale was to make ends meet. Some of his tales capture Eleanor’s interest, as she tries to imagine the horses and the crops in the fields, the smoke from the bushfires, the huge lightning storm that struck a tree, which then fell onto the barn and killed a family of goats. She tries to picture Solomon with a wife and child, but it’s hard to believe he could ever have been that young.

It is almost Easter now, and the roof is taking shape. Eleanor’s mother wants to hire someone to finish it, but her father remains confident that they are capable of pulling up and affixing the large corrugated panels. Eleanor has grown used to watching the intensity of their labour, and she’s given up asking if they need help. Her parents are a well-oiled machine now; they complete the necessary tasks without much of a word between them. Meanwhile, Aiden uses any excuse he can think of to disappear.

In the last week of term, a girl called Katie Slater finally notices Eleanor. Eleanor is invited for tea after school, and follows Katie around feeding and petting an assortment of animals. Katie’s mother is friendly until 8 p.m., an hour after Eleanor was due to be collected. There is no mobile reception this far out, and the woman grumbles about courtesy as she packs the kids in the car and drives out to Eleanor’s place.

Eleanor is nervous. A year ago she would have been frightened, but right now it wouldn’t surprise her if her parents are so busy they have just forgotten.

As they slow down on the unmarked dirt lane, Eleanor sees the shell of the main house standing in darkness. She can’t see her parents’ car, but there is a light coming from underneath the door of the shed.

‘You’re living in there?’ Katie’s mother asks in astonishment as they come to a halt.

Eleanor is embarrassed. ‘Yes, but it’s just temporary.’

‘It looks fun,’ Katie says.

Eleanor turns to her. ‘It’s not.’

She gets out the car, hoping Katie’s mother will come with her, but the others stay put. ‘We’ll just see you safely inside,’ Katie’s mother calls through the window.



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