FRANKIE’S bare feet padded down the concrete steps then into the red dirt. She rubbed her hand over her puffy face. Her sore eyes squinted in the harsh sunlight. She breathed in the dry heat and looked at the mess her backyard was in after last night.

“Fuck that bitch,” she mumbled as she kicked her way through a graveyard of empties. “What the fuck am I doing staying with her? What are you doing Frankie?” she berated herself as she got down on her knees and with scratchy, dry eyes started to search in the earth around the fire pit. Her heart was a lump of sore red meat.

 her fingers sifted quickly through the dirt details of last night returned as shady images. She remembered the shock as Jess’ contorted face lunged at her, suddenly so close. She remembered her fingers gripping her necklace. The pain when she yanked it. “How did that fight start?” she wondered. She traced her finger along the burn mark on the back of her neck. “Where did she throw it? Try and remember girl.”

Frankie swung around as the fly screen door banged. Jess sauntered towards her, a sarong wrapped low around her waist, her beautiful torso bare, just a sports bra. She carried two mugs of tea.

“Here you go babe,” she said softly as she crouched down beside Frankie, placing the mugs on the ground. Frankie didn’t move. It took all her energy not to jump on her like a wild cat and tear her eyes out. Jess stroked her dark hair gently. “Hey Bub, come and sit on a chair. Have your cuppa.” They were both motionless. “We gotta talk about this, babe.”

Frankie could feel her anger beginning to dissolve. “How does she do this to me?” She made an effort to rekindle her sense of outrage.

“You’re unbelievable,” she said looking at her with watery eyes and shaking her head.

“Come on, honey,” her voice was soothing. She slid her hand under her elbow and guided her to a plastic chair. She handed her a cup of steaming tea.

“I fucked up, Frankie. You know it’s not me when I’m like that. I gotta get some help with this stuff. I need you to help me with this, Frankie.”

Frankie’s head was buzzing. “Don’t buy it, Frankie!” a distant voice yelled. “She’s always like this after a fight.” But Frankie disregarded the voice.

“What are you gonna do?”

“I’m gonna see that doctor, get some help. Will you come with me tomorrow?”

Frankie was still, she could feel some warmth building in the pit of her belly. “Okay,” she said softly, melting into a smile.

Jess stood and wrapped her arms around her from behind, kissing her on the top of her head.

“I’m gonna have an ice cold Corona. Hair of the dog,” she whispered into her ear. “Want one?”

Frankie could taste the cold beer. She could feel it wash all this sadness and hurt right away.

“Sure.”

As she heard the whack of the fly screen door that voice in her head spoke again, but louder this time. “You’re sick too, Frankie. You just can’t see it.”

This thought unsettled Frankie. She stood up quickly knocking over the cup of tea. “Shit,” her heart had started to race. She looked up at the big blue cloudless sky. A flock of black crows swooped and looped, their sharp, insistent “craw, craw” stirring Frankie. “They look like a bunch of drunks,” she thought as the big, heavy lumps of birds landed clumsily on the old boab tree next door screaming and making an unholy racket.

As she bent down to pick up her cup she saw a glint of reflected light. She dug into the dirt pulling out her gold chain with the heart shaped locket. Her fingers curled tightly around the broken chain and she held it to her chest. She looked upward. “Thank you,” she whispered.

The defeated sadness that she had felt all morning began to shift and move inside her and she felt something new. It was a small tender feeling of care for herself. Almost like she was someone else.

She looked around the filthy yard littered with beer cans and cartons and chip packets and cigarette butts.

“I’m gonna look after you,” the voice in her head was gentle now.

“We’ll start by walking out that gate.”

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**This article was first published in the January edition of the Star Observer, which is available to read in digital flip-book format. To obtain a hard copy, click here to find out where you can grab one in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and select regional/coastal areas.

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