Hawk & the Lady - Elizabeth Stevens



There wasn’t much that scared me, but my mother in one of her moods always managed to send a chill down my spine. It certainly didn’t help that I was already half an hour late to meet her. A fact not changed by me checking my watch again.

“Sorry, miss. I’ll get you there as soon as possible.”

I looked up towards my driver. “All good, Rich. Not your fault that I refused to leave the house on time.”

I saw him give me a tight smile in the rear-view mirror before he went back to concentrating on the road. He was no stranger to my mother’s disposition and knew as well as I that I was in for a tongue-lashing when we arrived. Rich would only be spared because my mother knew me so well, which was the only reason I felt less guilty about putting him in the position I always did.

Rich had been my driver for as long as I could remember, and that was going back a fair way by now. As far as jobs went, he had it pretty easy; I only used him for mother-related sojourns. That meant trips to her house or galas, parties, or soirees she considered ‘societal’. All right, and I also sometimes (often) used him on nights I went out with the girls. On a day to day basis though, the guy theoretically had nothing to do; I drove myself to work, appointments, the shops. In reality, we were neck-deep in function season and I did call on him more than usual.

Still, I had to suppose he might prefer that. If I wasn’t needed in my job most of the time, I guess I’d feel pretty useless.

But my mother’s life was never one I’d properly belonged in and thus I didn’t bask in the lifestyle expected of Priscilla Carmichael’s daughter. I was like a triangle block trying to squish into a square hole; you could put me in it, but the fit wasn’t quite right. And, instead of being my older sister and trying harder to fit in, I did the opposite and emphasised being the odd duck as best I could.

It didn’t help the people around me. It didn’t really even help myself.

Wishing my life were different in all manner of ways, I said nothing to Rich and I went back to my phone.

I ignored the multitude of messages from my older sister and her step-daughter. They all said the same thing anyway and it amounted to: forget queen of the desert, we were about to have the queen of Hell. Because Heaven forbid somebody disobeyed Priscilla Carmichael by being late to family brunch.

I was momentarily distracted by an email from one of my Year Eleven kids with a question about the essay due the next week. I was usually available to all my Year Elevens and Twelves on the weekends, but I just didn’t have the energy to reply then. I flagged the email and looked up just as we pulled into the driveway of my parents’ home. Calling it a mansion in Adelaide seemed a bit ridiculous. We didn’t really do ‘mansions’ per se, they were just big houses for rich people. But that was a bit of a mouthful.

“Thanks, Rich,” I said as I opened the door.

“Just let me know when you’re ready to leave, miss.”

I nodded to him. “Will do, thanks.”

I scurried out of the car and legged it up the front steps. The door was open before I could hit the doorbell and my older sister looked at me with the kind of grin that we’d shared our wholes lives. It was kind of a ‘shared misery but at least we can see the humour in it and we have each other’ sort of smile.

“Hi. I know, I know. Hi,” I told her before she could say anything.

“What are you wearing?” my sister sighed fondly as she hugged me.

I stepped back and looked down. “What?” Then my stomach dropped and I looked up at her quickly. “No?” I breathed in horror.

Anna nodded. “Oh, yes.”

“It’s one of those brunches?”

“Yes. Yes, it is.” She didn’t look apologetic about it at all. “You didn’t know?”

I rolled my eyes. “If I knew, do you think I would have turned up like this?”

To be fair, it wasn’t that bad. I would have been totally comfortable rocking up to PD day at work like this. I probably could have even got away with wearing it during term time if I was that serious about