28/12/2014 by Alan Crawford
Margaret and Ruth
The garden was alive. More alive than it had been for years. Greens, yellows, reds and browns all fighting for attention. Margaret sat in her window box seat and watched it move with the gentle rain driven breeze. The trees and flowers mingled with air that had travelled from elsewhere as it moved on to somewhere else. Birds were gathering food while the food was darting about like the leaves trying to escape. The garden was alive with life and death, but looked serine. Ruth was busy gathering her thoughts as she sat in the cold bus shelter on the other side of Margaret’s fortress like garden wall. Her gaze was drawn upon the rubbish blowing about in the rain. The storm had pushed a load of water down the gutter and drains, It too had a collection of rubbish it was taking elsewhere. Neither lady knew of the other as they shared the impact of the summer rainstorm. It was Margaret and Ruth.
Margaret had inherited her comfortable lifestyle from the Browns who’d lived next door to her childhood home. She had a reasonably normal life until the letter arrived. The solicitor’s letter advising her of her good fortune – it was a very large fortune. The inheritance put paid to her struggling with her retail sales income and associated battle with credit cards, rent, clothes and the next to nothing social life. Margaret had been ready to pack it in and move to the country. A small country town that advertised it’s free land option through one of those tabloid TV shows.
Margaret could afford a small mortgage which would cover the transport of an old wooden stilt house onto her free block of land in Nodesland. The house was best described as a Queenslander, although it reminded onlookers of a run down shearing shed or maybe a toilet block. It had no plumbing, electricity, nor was it together. It was cut in half, truck size bits for transporting.
The two ( or sometime 3 ) bits were driven, planted, connected and then re-imagined into a modern – old world home. Margaret was handy enough to do a lot of the work herself but she’d gone into this venture with her brother and his family. Once finished the house would be big enough for everyone and everyone would work together to put it together.
The letter changed all that thinking. 7 million dollars being deposited into her account put paid to that. She gave her brother 2 million and bought her own house in Lillydale. The rest sat in a distant bank account making a load of money all by itself. Her brother and family put their home together and enjoyed their new life in Nodesland.
Every one seemed to be far happier and secure in their new life. Ruth was not so lucky. She’d decided to sell her home and ended up living on the streets for a while. She’d recently managed to get a job and rent a small badly stained studio apartment in town. The neighbours were a rowdy family of 8 and on the other side a meth lab that was franticly cooking day and night. The smell was horrible from both sides.
At least Ruth had a roof over her head and some plumbing that would take her cares and any evidence away. Her recently acquired drug habit was not yet noticeable to her neighbours or workmates. Ruth was sure she could stop soon. That ray of hope distracted her while watching the rain washing the streets of discarded goods and wrappings.
The Browns had loved Margaret since her birth as their son was her father. Only three people knew this. The son, Mr Brown and his wife Rose. Mr and Mrs Brown had two children, exceedingly randy condom free Robert, and Ruth. Both children were born into relative luxury although Robert felt he always wanted more.
While Ruth being shy and happy with her lot, never bothered to concern herself with anything not happening in her small cloistered world. Robert though, sought out the world and its temptations. This is how he came to meet Margaret’s mother Alice. She helped to clean the house two days a week. Her mother was the permanent housekeeper.
Robert raped the poor defenceless Alice one spring while his parents were on holidays. The truth was revealed when Robert admitted under a severe thrashing for something unrelated that he’d done so. The Browns sent Robert away to school. He died in a rowing accident the next year. Ruth remained at home and busied herself with not too much at all.
When Mr and Mrs Brown died, from natural causes, on almost the same day, they left 7 million dollars to Margaret and 5 million to Ruth. Poor health, guilt over their son Robert and neglect had ruined the home, so much so that Ruth sold it to a property developer who’d promised to build a town house complex. She moved into the city and started to party. A shy innocent girl with 5 million dollars soon attracted some attention and Ruth was aided in squandering all of her inheritance.
All gone, living on the streets and ever increasingly ravaged by crystal meth. Even Alice wouldn’t recognise her now. After a year of this life and her turn around is where Ruth now sat, unknowingly on the other side of Margaret’s garden wall.
Margaret remained comfortably at her window watching and listening to the rain. Her life which began in such horrid circumstances was now truly wonderful. She’d enjoyed going to the theatre, art exhibitions, concerts and hard arsed dance raves and live music venues from time to time. She was single and dedicated to remaining so.
Men were great, but only for the use they provided, she didn’t mind providing a use of herself but only on her terms. Margaret could continue to live like this for the rest of her life she thought. She sat absorbed by the weather outside her home. The two would never know each other, they’d not know of the connection and the close proximity that day brought.
Only soppy novels and ridiculous short stories would bring them any closer. Although they did share a drink once at Alf’s Bar in town. Neither knew of the other’s story. They only knew they both liked the band and had decided to share a cocktail at the bar. They laughed, flirted with some guys who needed flirting with and then after gossiping in the ladies went their separate ways. Ruth had headed out to a lane way with her glass pipe while Margaret was driven back to her lovely new home with the splendid garden. Both had a life to look forward to.