From the point-of-view of the Step-Mother
(i) It begins in a red-lit pub glazed with cigarette-smoke. He sits alone, eyes hung brown thick with the gravy of old love. The froth on his beer is drying a watery ring hugs the bottom of his glass. He does not tell me of his daughter her beauty an echo from her dead mother's womb. Instead, he speaks of home set down amongst bush: the tall mess of stringy barks and the tangled webbing of his grief. He doesn't ask for my number but I press it to his palm honing the digits a tattoo of my longing. It is his arms that are the first to love me. (ii) Alone in the bath I stir his kisses in with lavender oil. Safe. Scented. Warm. (iii) And so it happens (the wedding) flung yellow with wattle blossoms and his daughter: age 12, a flower girl with honey-suckle in her hair. Our honeymoon must include her. A day in the city. I trail in her wake - her joy-high cries - and lick drips from the tip of my ice-cream cone.
(To be Continued)