Summary: Episode 3. Lally can’t forgive Adrian for insisting she stay to protect their house from the fire.
Characters: Lally, Adrian
Disclaimer: ABC TV Australia owns the rights to the Fires series and its characters, which I am borrowing without permission or intent to profit.
Notes: Trigger warning for anyone who’s been affected by bushfires/wildfires.
2. What We Had
Lally goes back to the house that is no longer her home.
It’s been two weeks since the fire front went through. She knows that Adrian saved the place from worse than a singeing, and she knows he ended up in hospital thanks to smoke inhalation. She thought about asking him not to be there when she picks up her stuff.
But that’s the coward’s way out, and he already thinks she’s a coward.
He comes out to meet her in the driveway, hands shoved into his jeans pockets. Lally braces her hands on the steering wheel and breathes in deep before she gets out of the car.
“Hi.” Adrian shifts his weight. “Well. Come inside.”
She looks up to the roof line as she follows him up to the door. The timber is streaked with soot, and beyond it the trees are stark. But there’s a swathe of green surrounding the house, like a moat, and the worst damage looks superficial.
“Guess you were right,” she says. “You saved the house. Congratulations.”
“Don’t be like that, Lal. Come on, let’s have a cup of tea.”
“No thanks. I’ve got a long drive ahead of me. I need to start packing.”
Adrian sighs. “Everything still smells of smoke.”
“Yeah, well, they have washing machines in Melbourne.”
“You’re going back to your mum’s?”
Lally turns away, heading for the bedroom. “Until I get back on my feet. That is, unless you have the money to buy me out of my share of the house.”
Adrian is silent.
“I’ll take that as a no.”
“It doesn’t have to be like this, Lally. You could come back.”
Lally yanks open a drawer, scooping up underwear and shoving it into her carry bag. “I can’t.”
“We could forget about all this, make a new start –”
“With what? What do we have left?”
“We have everything we need,” Adrian insists. “We have the house.”
“I’m not talking about the house!” Lally tosses the half-filled duffel on the bed and puts her hands on her hips. “You care so much about what you have that you don’t even see what’s really important.”
“This house is all I have.” Adrian is almost shouting now. “You never understood what it means to me. I wasn’t going to lose it. Everything we worked for, Lally. The last three years of our lives.”
“And I wasn’t willing to trade my life for a fucking house!”
“I never asked you to –”
“You still don’t get it,” she half-laughs. “I was terrified, Adrian. You left me here alone and I wanted to leave and you manipulated me into staying. I could have died in that fire.”
“I didn’t die,” Adrian roars. “I stayed and fought and I survived, and if you’d just had a little bit of –”
“What? Faith? Guts?”
“You’d have been fine. I’d have protected you.”
Lally gives a bitter laugh. “Forgive me if I don’t believe you.”
Adrian says nothing, and Lally returns to packing, mouth tight. He says her name once, and when she ignores him, he leaves the room.
By the time she’s finished up and loaded the car, Adrian is outside again, up on the carport roof scrubbing tiles. He clambers down when he hears her slam the boot shut, comes over to lean on the driver’s side windowsill.
“That’s it then?”
“Yep.” Lally switches on the engine and waits for him to move back.
“Please stay,” Adrian asks her quietly. “I love you.”
Adrian steps back.
Lally puts the car in reverse and backs out of the driveway. At the end she stops, just for a moment, for one last look at Adrian and the house behind him.
Then she drives away.