Excerpt from Sea Changes by Gail Graham
She doesn’t have to get up if she doesn’t want to. She doesn’t have to do anything. Propped against the pillows, she watches the changing patterns of light filter through the branches of the tree outside her window. She could lie here until Friday and nobody would know or care. But that would be giving up. You’re not supposed to give up. You’re supposed to keep trying, whether you feel like it or not. If you keep going through the motions, sooner or later, something will kick in.
So she gets up and dresses, even though she’s not going anywhere. She puts on clean underwear and clean, pressed clothes. Her appointment with Kahn isn’t until Friday, but that’s not the point. You can’t spend the day in your nightgown.
There’s nothing much in the newspaper. There rarely is. It’s Australia, only eighteen million people in the whole country. Sitting at the kitchen table with a second mug of coffee, Sarah tackles the crossword puzzle. It was years before she mastered Australian crossword puzzles, which contain fewer words than their American counterparts and are shaped differently, more like skeletons than grids. The spellings are different too.
She hasn’t eaten since yesterday and she ought to be hungry, but isn’t. French women don’t get fat because they don’t eat unless they’re hungry. Sarah looks in the refrigerator, but nothing tempts her. She needs to go shopping. Later, perhaps, when it’s not so hot. She wishes she had a ceiling fan, or better still, central air conditioning. Nobody in Sydney has air conditioning. They don’t think it’s necessary, not with the beach so close. Nobody has central heating, either. They say it doesn’t get cold enough, but it does.
Sarah picks up a novel from the library and tries to concentrate. It’s not a very good novel, although it’s supposed to be a bestseller. That doesn’t mean anything, these days. Everything’s a bestseller. The protagonist has left his wife, is having an affair, has just learned he’s got cancer. He’ll probably die at the end. Sarah thinks he deserves to die and dozes off on the couch. When she opens her eyes, damp and sticky with the perspiration of an afternoon nap, it’s already getting dark.
The telephone rings. Nobody calls her, except telemarketers and sometimes Kahn, when he needs to cancel a session. If it rings five times, the machine will answer it. Five, six, seven. maybe she’s forgotten to turn the machine on.