Summary: Episode 2. Kath struggles with change.
Characters: Kath, Brooke
Codes: Kath & Brooke
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.
3. What We Lost
The drive to town looks different every day now.
Verdure bursts, shocking, along the charred trunks and takes insistent root in the dust, and Kath can’t tell if the new growth is nurturing the fire-ravaged bush or choking it. She tries to think of it as a good thing, a parallel to the child swelling Brooke’s belly – Lachie’s child; her grandchild – but she can’t help but think of it as parasitic.
The insurance came through a week ago. Duncan has gone up to the farm every day since, measuring, planning, deciding on the optimum aspect for rebuilding. Kath … can’t. Not yet.
It’s been three months since they lost almost everything, and Duncan has started muttering about getting out of Brooke’s way before the baby comes. Not that they’ve seen much of their once-almost-daughter in law. Kath isn’t sure if Brooke has moved in with her friend Charlotte so that Kath and Duncan can use the house, or because she can’t bear to be there, in the house she shared with Lachie. Where they were going to make a family.
Kath pulls into an angled park on the main street. She has to buy feed for the cattle – and how she resents that – and fill up the four wheel drive, and mangoes are cheap so she’ll stock up on a few when she buys groceries. She thinks they smell like rotting flesh, but Duncan likes them.
Brooke steps out of the pharmacy as Kath walks past it, and they both halt mid-step.
“Hi,” says Brooke, and Kath returns the greeting with her customary terse nod.
They are an island of wary cordiality in the middle of the footpath. People swerve to pass them with sidelong glances.
It makes the back of Kath’s neck itch.
“Well, I’d better –” Brooke starts, and instead of taking the easy way out Kath finds herself asking abruptly, “Been okay?”
“Oh. Yes, I guess so. You?”
“Fine.” Kath’s gaze is drawn to Brooke’s bump. “You look well.”
“I feel like shit,” Brooke confesses with a small laugh. “Sick all the bloody time. I suppose you were out on the quad bike right up until you had your boys, but I can’t –”
“No,” Kath interrupts. “Lachie was an easy pregnancy, but Connor … I was on bed rest for the last couple of months. Couldn’t keep a thing down. Kept passing out.”
Brooke gives her a grateful smile. “I’d never have guessed. You always seem so …”
“Yeah… well, yeah.”
“Want to get a cuppa?” As soon as the words are out of her mouth Kath wonders if she regrets them, but it’s too late now: Brooke is nodding and saying yes, and they’re walking into one of the two cafes on the main street, the bell jingling as they push open the door.
They sit at a window table and Kath orders coffee; Brooke asks for peppermint tea – “helps with the nausea,” – and then they sit, in a silence that grows ever more awkward.
“Listen, Kath, I –” Brooke starts at the same time as Kath says “I suppose you’ll be wanting your house back soon.”
“Oh,” Brooke shakes her head, “no, not yet. I still have a few months before the little one comes. And…”
“I don’t really want to be alone right now. It’s too hard.” Brooke shrugs. “It’s okay – I can stay at Charlotte’s until the baby’s born.”
“And then what?” Kath asks. “If you think it’s hard being alone now, just wait.”
“Gee, thanks,” Brooke mutters. “What else am I supposed to do?”
“Come home,” Kath blurts. “Stay with us.”
“No,” Kath realises, she isn’t. “You should be with family. Lachie would have wanted it that way.”
When she looks up again, there are tears in Brooke’s eyes.
“That’s the first time you’ve ever called me family.”
“Well.” Kath fiddles with the tablecloth. “It’s true. Not just because,” she gestures at Brooke’s swelling stomach. “Duncan can come pick you up tonight, if you want.”
“I should get back to Charlotte’s then,” Brooke says in a voice that’s almost steady. “Pack up my stuff.”
“Finish your tea,” says Kath. “Then I’ll come help you pack.”
“Okay.” Brooke smiles, settling into her chair.