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Journey to the Stone Country
Both Annabelle’s parents were dead, but she now pictured them as if they were still living. They had loved her devotedly and would have been stricken for her at this moment, sharing her humiliation and incomprehension, wounded by the injustice of her betrayal. The two of them growing old and frail together in the rambling weatherboard house on Zamia Street in Townsville---the way their eyes would meet and the way they would not speak openly of such a difficult and unseemly thing as this, but would each know the other’s mind and would bear it in silence.
Tropical North Queensland. Thousands of kilometres from Melbourne. It was another country. She had neglected the old connections. She had not even visited Townsville for three years, since the tragic death of Allan Templeman, her sister’s husband, in a car smash on the Bruce Highway. She would have telephoned Elizabeth now but her sister was traveling somewhere in Italy with her son, Peter. There was only one person in Townsville at this moment to whom she could appeal for a hearing. Susan Bassett was a woman of Steven’s age. Unmarried and childless, she had been a friend and colleague in the department of history in Melbourne until she turned her back on academia and went alone to Townsville to set up the first cultural survey business in North Queensland to service the requirement of the new Cultural Record Act. But Annabelle had neglected this friendship too and had not been in touch since Allan Templeman’s funeral, when she and Susan had had lunch together.
Anabelle checked the phone book on her mobile. Susan’s number was not on it. She rang directory assistance and gave them Susan’s name and the name of her street in Townsville. When the recorded voice directed her to press 1 if she wanted to be connected or to wait if she wanted to hear the number, she pressed 1 and listened to ring Susan Bassett. For in a way she knew that in telephoning this woman she was telephoning another reality, and did not really expect to make contact with it. The number rang once then was answered.