I jerked awake, arms and legs tangled in the sheet and comforter, my pillows in a heap on the floor. What happened? What did he say?
Where am I? Oh no, not again. Not another nightmare, another shadow on my day.
If I were wearing a red-bordered name tag, it would read, “Hello! My name is Charlotte Angstrom Eddy McAntic.” At school, I enrolled with my given name, but I changed it to Charli when I was a preteen. Now I answered to hon, Mom, Auntie, “Where are you?” or “Help!”
When I was a teenager, at the dawning of the Age of Aquarius, my friends and I were convinced that we wouldn’t live, or didn’t want to live, past the age of thirty. But of course I did survive to cross that infamous, untrustworthy threshold. I spent my thirties, forties, and even my fifties in peace and harmony aligning marriage, mortgage, careers, and children.
I married Pud, a no-nonsense, hardworking, establishment-type guy. Somewhat surprisingly, based on his serious, no-frills demeanor, he parlayed a math degree into an exciting career supporting open-wheel auto racing. I started out as a free spirit, and I ended up taking the more traditional route. I earned a law degree, focused on contracts, and then dedicated myself to my favorite jobs—wife and mother. Our two boys were young adults now, almost launched, although still within the orbit of Planet Home.
Thanks to love, the stars, and a little help from my friends, the seasons gently went round and round.
So why was I having bad dreams?
I aimed to be joyful. Most of my screen names and usernames contained some form of the word joy to remind me every day to be a positive person. I believed that something wonderful was always around the next corner. From a first grader who daydreamed during reading circle and then discovered an exciting game on the playground to a shy teen who bought an ice-cream cone and then flirted for the first time with the guy behind the counter, I always knew that something thrilling would be around the next turn.
But now, my husband was newly retired, and some of my home responsibilities had eased up, as well. Yet my personal positivity was challenged. Was there really something amazing ahead for us at this point in our lives? I didn’t even know how many miles or corners remained for us, let alone thrills.
Pud and I had been in harness for over thirty years, creating a home, raising a family, being responsible. After all that, I had to admit that I was bewildered by the way Pud and I were getting along now. Not only was Pud leaving me and heading to the golf course morning, afternoon, and early evening; even when he was at home, he was quiet and withdrawn. We didn’t talk very much, and I didn’t feel close to him. When he was away at the golf course, I was lonely. When he was home, I was even lonelier.
We seemed to be at a distance from each other. We were like people passing each other on a walk, smiling politely and saying nothing beyond “Hi” or like acquaintances waving across a busy restaurant. We were cordial but not close—and certainly not husband-and-wife close anymore.
Who was this stranger in my house? I suppose when Pud worked and I was more involved with my home and children, we had grown used to going our different ways. Pud traveled so much for his job that we literally were physically apart for much of the time. Had we also separated emotionally through the years?
I had high hopes that when Pud retired, we would have fun together. But what exactly should we do? Just take it easy and binge watch multiple TV seasons? Or have contests to see who could read the smallest print without reading glasses, or who could count his or her pills into the plastic compartments faster?
I didn’t seriously expect that we would spend dreamy hours of bliss in twin hot tubs sighing at the ocean view like in the TV commercials, but I did crave some romance now that we had time together after the busy years. I yearned to hold hands as we smiled and looked deeply into each other’s eyes. I desired to lovingly stroll together into our golden years. Pud was strolling, all right—hand in hand with a golf club.
Part of me understood that the guy had worked hard his whole life and certainly deserved the opportunity to indulge his golf passion, and I could even go so far as to say that I was glad he had something interesting to do and wasn’t just hanging around the house with the retirement blues. Truth be told, we lived on a golf course, so I had to expect some golf. But the other part of me wasn’t expecting golf to be a new forty-hour-a-week job.
The men’s league was on Tuesday; Wednesday was a men’s group at another course in town; Thursday, Pud and his buddies traveled to different courses around the state; and Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were mandatory golf days. What about me? What was I supposed to do? Sit on a bench at the clubhouse and wave as he made the turn?
Some of our friends assumed that I golfed and that I enjoyed golfing with Pud. Wrong on both counts. We attempted to hit the links together early in our marriage, but I was too much of a type A personality and competitive. Pud was just as type A as I was, and when I had trouble learning the game, he became an impatient teacher. I was his frustrated student. Pud was a scratch golfer and relished the competition with his male buddies. I gave up and decided that I had better things to do than spend four hours on a Saturday afternoon on a good walk spoiled.
It was time for me to get up, but the dream had left my thoughts swirling and careening like an out-of-control carousel. Carousel? Oh, that was part of my bad dream too. There was something about clowns leaning from carnival horses and waving signs as they went round and round. What had the signs said? Pud, stay home! You can’t make him stay home! What should I do? I needed to catch the brass ring of blissful married retirement. Charlotte! You need to stop tormenting yourself. Take a deep breath, and think calmly.
Charlotte McAntic spent her thirties, forties, and even fifties in peace and harmony aligning her marriage, mortgage, careers, and children. As she stumbles into a new phase of life—also known as the Golden Years—Charli cannot help but wonder where the gold and her husband, Pud, are hiding.
Pud is happily
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As the sunset over the headland at Kings Beach, an elderly couple watched as the passenger liner “Sun Beauty” sailed out to sea on its next voyage. The couple were in the twilight of their lives, and they had shared a beautiful life together. They had earlier that day, spent time with their children, grandchildren, and their great granddaughter while they celebrated their 38th wedding anniversary.
They shared a bottle of Muscadean, a white wine produced from white Muscat grapes grown in Ballandean, hence the name. A light, easy drinking aromatic semi-sweet white makes it perfect served chilled for that warm summer day picnic. They discovered the wine on a weekend visiting Queensland’s Granite Belt wine region and, at once it became “their wine.” Later on, the owners of the winery opened an outlet at nearby Mooloolaba, and while he could still drive, he managed to call in about once a month.
When the sun had set, he dozed off in his favourite chair, placed to take in the picturesque outlook over the entrance to Moreton Bay. She was comfortable with him dozing off, and she knew he was at peace. Although now in his eighties, they both liked to look back at the uncertain times, at the peak of World War two when they first met, and how over time, their love grew.
Although the population considered Australia to be safe at the start of the war, as Europe and Germany were on the other side of the world. Attitudes changed with Japan entering the war. Japan shared the same Ocean as Australia. Although Japan and Australia were successful trading parties before the war, with Japan attacking Pearl Harbour and making menacing overtures towards Singapore, Australia was now at war with Japan.
When Darwin was bombed for the first time in February 1942, the government played down the damage to the public. The general population knew nothing of other bombing raids at Broome, Mossman, Derby and even Katherine.
After the midget submarine attack on Sydney Harbour in May, it had become impossible to disguise that an impending threat became real. This became even serious when rumours began the spread about “The Brisbane Line.”
When it became seriously believed by the government and military that Japan would attack Australia, it needed to be quickly decided what areas should be protected. Because Australia was a vast island with the majority of the population confined to the southeast, in February 1942 General Ivan Mackay drew a line on the map of Australia. This line stretched from the coast north of Brisbane to west of Melbourne. Although no record of the “Brisbane Line” was being activated, many believed, (and some still do) that the line was implemented and all of the country north and west of the line was to be abandoned.
The other item kept from the public, concerned that during the twelve months between May 1942 and May 1943, 25 ships were attacked within forty miles of the New South Wales coast.
The government began to realise that unless they could control panic, large numbers of the population may abandon the major cities like Brisbane.
Because of its proximity to the Pacific battlefronts, Brisbane was the crucial point for resupplying the troops in battle. The Americans developed it as a Major Naval base, including a vast submarine base. In 1942, General McArthur set up his headquarters for the Pacific in Brisbane. Brisbane needed a civilian population to make sure the smooth running of so many essential services.
The government and the military were in a “catch 22” situation. Secrecy needed to be maintained for security, and yet, the population needed to be reassured of their safety. This, compounded by the military distrust of elected politicians, as well as the parliamentarian’s need to placate their constituents. A unique approach obviously was needed.
The member for Port Macquarie and now the defence minister, David Millar called an urgent meeting of his department heads to see if a solution could be found. Because of some of the difficulties, the meeting was held in Sydney. As it happened, in the same hotel that the defence department rented rooms, the senior media lecturer at Queensland University was with colleagues in a get together of their own. Tom Walker was the former editor of a major newspaper who also had extensive experience producing newsreel films. Tom and David were friends from the University of New South Wales, where they both studied. When the defence Minister ran into the media lecturer in the hallway, they made time to have a few drinks and reminisce about their university days.
It was during this time that the Minister started to conceive the basis of how Tom may be able to offer a solution to his problem.
Although they realised, the invasion of these cities by the Japanese would be remote; a specialist public relations unit still should be instigated. It could give reassurance through movies (newsreels) and newspaper articles that would show to the civilian population the defences were in place.
With Brisbane is becoming the headquarters for the allies command for the war in the Pacific, it would become necessary to play down the military importance of Brisbane as a target.
A by-product of these films would be to discourage a Japanese invasion, as they would show the Japanese Brisbane was too difficult a city to invade.
They finished their talk with Tom agreeing to put a concrete proposal together. He needed to show how it would also work including the resources needed. This plan was required to be able to be presented to the War Cabinet by the end of the week.
Being the driven person that he was, Tom was able to put the basis of his proposal together in just two days.
He approached the task as if preparing a lecture for his students. He defined exactly the end achievement needed. What would be the best way of achieving the result? What resources are needed? He was able to present a written proposal two days later.
To reassure the residents of Australia that there was no need to evacuate their homes and thus maintain a steady civilian population to enhance the war effort, I propose to set up the following civilian unit.
1. Reporting directly to, the Defence Minister, this unit will work, in conjunction with the military authorities, but the military shall have no control over the activities of the unit.
2. The unit would make newsreel motion pictures depicting the defence efforts of an area without divulging crucial information that the enemy may not know of.
3. The movies are to be processed and scripted before handing over to the distributors, who will then add the scripted soundtrack using their staff.
4. Regular newspaper and magazine articles are also to be produced.
5. Staff required would be
a. A General Manager to oversee operations and report to the Minister
b. A Cinematographer, who would produce the movies and supervising a cameraman. He would also act as the second cameraman.
c. A Journalist to write articles and the scripts for the movies.
d. A personal assistant to the General Manager who would also act as a secretary and other duties when needed.
e. A driver who must be competent in small boats and all types of motor vehicles. Would also be an aid in labouring and any other tasks as required?
6. The budget would be set by the Minister and vehicles, camera and other equipment to be supplied by the military where available. But the unit would buy directly when needed.
7. The Military are to supply accommodation including living, office and workshop space independently from the military accommodation. The Military is required to provide security for this area.
To his surprise, Tom received a call from the minister that afternoon is telling him it had been approved without alteration. A meeting was set up the next day with the minister and his senior staff. The chief of the defence forces would also be attending.
David told him the cabinet wanted this unit to be operating within a fortnight.
David arranged for Tom to use a parliamentary office in Canberra to enable him to get the ball rolling. Some of the minister’s staff members were allocated to generate all the legal and performance documents needed so that Tom could start with the recruitment. His first need would be for a personal assistant.
David suggested Jill Robertson, 32-year-old, a career public servant with the defence department. She had previously worked for David Millar before he entered politics.
She was married to Colonel Bob Robertson, an Australian military liaison officer attached to the British Air Ministry in London.
Her knowledge of the public service, politics and military protocols would make her invaluable in dealings with government and defence personnel. Not having any ties would enable her to travel as required.
David assured Tom that, as he would be operating a division of the Ministry of Defence and all members of his unit would be paid by the department, so would all expenses. In fact, even though there were shortages of materials and other supplies, Jill would order everything under the auspices of the department. Therefore, all suppliers would, under the wartime regulations, have no alternative than to supply the unit in preference to all others. This would also mean that the unit had priority over the three military branches.
All accounts would be forwarded to the department for payment. This also meant that all the unit’s civilian staff would be treated as Commonwealth Public Servants.
Tom was relieved that he would have no supply problems to hinder the operation.
Ministry Communications Unit
David arranged for an interview and within two minutes, Tom decided that she was ideal, and she wanted the job. Jill transferred to Tom’s unit that afternoon. Jill was an extremely good-looking woman. She stood about six feet tall with a body would make most Australian women envious.
Tom, hearing that the famed Australian filmmaker, Charles Chauvel, was in Canberra that afternoon, had one of his staff arrange for them to meet at the Canberra Hotel.
Although Tom couldn’t reveal much about the unit, he told Charles enough, so it was possible to ask if Charles knew of any suitable candidates for the Cinematographer's role. Charles had no hesitation in recommending Bill Munro, who had worked as an undergraduate cinematography assistant to Charles.
Bill, raised up, on his parent’s farm in central Queensland near Roma, went to boarding school at Toowoomba Grammar and a cinematography graduate from Queensland University. Being 22 years old and single would also be helpful.
As Bill was in Sydney, Tom met with him on Monday morning at an office that Jill acquired near Victoria Barracks.
In two short days, Jill arranged for working offices in Sydney and Brisbane, while the Army provided living and working accommodation near the Eagle Farm racecourse. The army also supplied a car in Brisbane and when required in Sydney and Canberra.
Over the weekend, Jill moved into the Brisbane accommodation while Tom, taking advantage of being in Sydney, met up with his two daughters. Both were staff car drivers at Victoria Barracks, which made it easy to catch up when he was in Sydney.
The meeting with Bill concluded remarkably successful, although he advised Tom that he needed a week to tidy up his current projects. He did, however, know of a young cameraman who would be ideal for them. Tom agreed to give Bill the week to tidy up and then, he was to join him at Eagle Farm the following Monday.
Tom also gave Bill the approval to employ the Cameraman, who lived in Clayfield, the next suburb to Eagle Farm.
On Tuesday when Tom arrived at the Eagle Farm property, he was impressed with what Jill had been able to organise, on such short notice.
She heard of an experienced journalist, Joe Grady. Joe, a feature journalist for the last ten years with the Brisbane Sun, had resigned from the paper with the intention to join the army.
Joe was thirty- years old and married to Joan, a nurse working in the burns unit at Royal Brisbane Hospital. Ninety percent of her patients were R.A.N. and RAAF personnel, injured while on duty in the Pacific. Both were career orientated although, Joe wanted to join the army. Jill met Joan several years ago at a conference, so on Saturday when she arrived in Brisbane, Jill gave her a call. She heard about Joe resigning, and she asked if he would see Tom before he enlisted. They made an appointment to meet with Tom on a Tuesday afternoon. Tom, being familiar with Joe’s work, looked forward to meeting him.
Joe and Tom hit it off at once. Joe could see the importance of the role and, even if he wasn’t to add a by-line to each article he wrote, he was allowed to keep copies for his resume after the war.
On Tuesday afternoon, the Minister arrived in Brisbane and called on Tom. He was impressed with the speed the unit set up. Tom explained that they could not arrange for film equipment until Bill came on board, the following Monday. He explained to David that the only position not filled was the driver.
David suggested that Alf Watson may be suitable.
Alf, a 23-year-old single man, grew up in Port Macquarie and worked on fishing boats. He had driven semi-trailers to market and is a good 'bush mechanic.'
When Alf was rejected by the army on medical grounds, because of his flat feet, he appealed to his local Member of Parliament and family friend (David Millar.)
As David had known Alf as the son of a friend, he never hesitated in recommending him to Tom. “Alf will be an ideal member of his team because of his driving ability, knowledge of the sea and his mechanical ability as well.”
When Tom called Alf, he jumped at the opportunity as he realised, it would be far more interesting than in the army, and he would still be contributing to the war effort.
Alf was on the next train north.
During the first week, Jill set up important meetings with the local Military commanders, where the Minister explained what was about to happen. He instructed them to brief Tom on the entire military (army, naval and air force) tasks surrounding Brisbane. They all agreed the first movies would centre on the sea approaches to Brisbane.
They felt most of the strategy for the defence of Brisbane seaways would be known to the Japanese anyway. There is only one shipping channel into Brisbane, and they were sure that the Japanese would have extensive charts. These would’ve been gathered before the war while Japanese cargo ships regularly carried cargo in and out of Brisbane.
Knowing the shipping routes, it would be a simple exercise for the Japanese intelligence to estimate where shore defences would most likely be located. Tom arranged for the Navy to take him on board for a journey between where they met incoming convoys and the Brisbane River.
This survey journey took place on Tuesday after Bill arrived. The first task he needed Bill for was to make a list of the photographic equipment he needed.
Jill would use her talents to make sure it was all available within days. Tom become amazed at what Jill could organise. He often wondered if Jill knew there was a war on and led to equipment being in short supply. If Jill asked for material, Jill got equipment. The acquisition of a truck and small boat created no problems for Jill.
The rest of that week the unit worked together and settled into their new roles. It was decided that they should wear army style work wear, and they were given “All Area” passes. This allowed them to enter restricted areas at any time. The unit was given the imposing name of “Ministry Communications Unit.”
They all now signed the Official Secrets Act and to make their job easier when moving around they were given talks on a broad range of military subjects covering all three services. They needed to be able to recognise all badges of rank for both Australian forces as well as American forces. They also needed to know operational requirements of the Navy as well as the army.
Their quarters at Eagle Farm consisted of a separate room for each person with shared toilets and showers except for Jill, who had her own. Joe had a room, although he usually stayed at home when not required. In the office block, they all had their workspace.
Alf was allocated an area allotted for his truck. This would be where he parked it, and could do any services that the army didn’t do. He also used a general store room that he stored any timber or other supplies that may be needed.
Bill had a comprehensive workshop where he could store all his equipment and prepare the film stock. All the processing of the film would be carried out at the Milton Kodak Laboratories.
The film, by its inflammable nature, was required to be stored in a special fireproof vault that somehow Jill found.
An American Air Force unit, being next to the Eagle Farm compound was ideal for meals. Jill arranged for breakfast and dinner to be taken at their Officers Mess while, lunch was sandwiches that Alf would collect after breakfast. They often joked about Alf being probably the only driver who ate in an Officer’s mess anywhere in the world. Jill had also arranged for tea making facilities to be available at their compound.
They started the day that they were to have their first journey with the Navy, by having the whole unit being assembled on the Hamilton wharf.
This was the same day that their cameraman, Fred Williams, joined them from the south coast. He signed the “Official Secrets Act” paperwork on the dock. Their vessel, a harbour tug, usually travelled through the channel with every convoy in the case of an incident.
As they departed the port, they looked at Fort Lytton on the southern side of the river. The fort had been erected to protect Brisbane from the Russians in the 1870s. The tugs captain pointed that the North West shipping channel ran from the Brisbane River to Caloundra. After leaving the river, the channel runs northeast to around Cowan Cowan on Moreton Island, and then it turns North West to Bribie Island where it then rounds Wickham Point at Caloundra and heads out to sea.
They saw defences at Cowan Cowan and again at Skirmish point on the Southern end of Bribie Island, and again towards the northern end of Bribie.
At the high points of Caloundra, they could see lots of activity and undoubtedly, a lookout or two. The tug captain told them of the trenches, barbed wire and other measures that extent to well past Currimundi.
On the return journey, they observed the tight formation of the ships in the convoy, and how the escorts weaved in front of the convoy. This was to make sure that no submarines were amongst them. The same procedure took place at the rear of the convoy.
Tom thought that the journey well worthwhile, but he knew a lot more knowledge of the defences would be needed. Before the planning of the projects could start he needed to be more familiar with all the activities around the Caloundra and Bribie Island regions.
A two-day fact-finding mission was arranged to take place on the Wednesday and Thursday of that week.
Tom wanted to have the cameras rolling by the following Tuesday. Meanwhile, there were meetings to be had with the printed press, as well as with the two newsreel companies.
Tuesday morning Tom met with the editors of the two local newspapers and explained his mission to them. They both agreed they would take and publish the articles Joe would write and give them by-lines of a staff journalist. They also knew that being a War Cabinet mission, secrecy of the source along with the need not to alter the transcripts were vital.
After lunch, Tom arranged for the team to meet at the Breakfast Creek Hotel. This was a “getting to know you” exercise. Tom stressed the importance of their job and he could take the luxury of relaxing for the first time since he had run into David. In only eighteen days the unit developed from a concept into a fully functional branch of the defence ministry. Jill commented that, in all her years in public service, she had seen nothing happen so fast.
At the beginning of a semester at the University, Tom had used the following exercise many times. It involved getting everyone to tell their life story to the group. They adjourned to a private room that Jill had organised and with jugs of beer on the table and a supply of nibbles Tom started the ball rolling.
“After I gained my degree at the University of New South Wales, I started out my working career as a cadet journalist with the Cumberland group in Parramatta. As a young man I met my wife, and we had two lovely daughters within two years. I became a feature editor for the whole group in less than ten years. When I was preparing an article to focus on the benefits of the new Harbour Bridge, I happened to stand right in front of the official party. I was amazed at the audacity of Captain de-Grout in cutting the ribbon. This led me to think words could never adequately describe the mood and reactions of the Premier and all the official party. The looks of amazement mixed with anger could not be captured in words alone. This led me to think about exploring the possibilities of working with film.”
“The following year I became editor of the Daily Telegraph and even though I enjoyed the work, I still had this nagging feeling about the inadequacy of the printed word.”
“I stayed there for three years before I joined the Cinesound Company as a journalist working on the scripts for newsreels. This led me to become a producer supervising the story choice and managing the film crews for them.”
“It was about this time that my marriage collapsed, probably because of the long and odd hours I worked, and it left me with the task of raising two teenage daughters by myself.”
“I realised that to bring up the girls, my life needed to be more organised, and I needed to be home far more than in the past. It was around this time that the media studies faculty at the University of New South Wales was put into place. I applied to join this faculty and became the first media lecturer.”
“War came along, and the girls were now young women. They both joined the WRAAC on the same day and now drive staff cars around Sydney.”
“About a month ago I was in Sydney for a meeting when I ran into David Millar, whom I had known from my student days. David suggested we have a few drinks, and it was during this time that the formation of this unit developed. David went back to Canberra and asked me to put a proposal together. Within two days David had presented my proposal to the Cabinet and Cabinet approved it unanimously.”
Jill was next to telling her story. She was apprehensive at first being acutely aware of her husband’s position and careful not to infer that her position in the public service had anything to do with her husband’s station in life.
“I was born in Sydney and spent most of my teenage years at the beach. I love the surf, and I am extremely motivated to be the best of whatever endeavour I undertake.”
“I went straight from high school into the public service as a clerk. I noticed those around me who sought a career in the public service had university degrees. This led me to enrol in a business studies program with a major in government studies.”
“An opportunity arose to transfer to Canberra that I jumped at. After all, Canberra was the place for an ambitious public servant to be.
Canberra was good for me as I started to get promotions even though still studying for my degree.”
“Canberra was also good for me as this is where I met my husband, Bob, a cadet at the Duntroon Military College. We married later that year and made a firm commitment not to start a family until later on.”
“Bob was more of an administrative officer and as it turned out the army is short of young administrators. They had plenty of leaders and field officers but, short of those with highly developed administrative skills. This was good for us as it meant Lieutenant, and then Captain and finally Major Robertson worked at Army Headquarters in Canberra.”
One night Aaron Tyler has his world interrupted by a knock at his front door. He finds himself confronted by a broken and bloody girl unconscious on his doorstep; he makes the snap decision to help her, something that goes against his reclusive behaviour – a decision that will transform his life.
What ensues is an unlikely friendship between two people, but why is Sophie there? Over the course of several weeks Aaron’s life is reawakened by the seductive powers of Sophie. She realises early on that her hidden agenda could ruin everything, her family are manipulating her for their own gains, dysfunctional at best, violent and abusive at worst. She is torn between doing what they want and her new found loyalty to Aaron – and what roll does the mystery man play in the scheme.
At fifteen Sophie has no business living in the home of a forty year old man, but she convinces him that she has no family, nowhere to live and no other options. Aaron for his part only wants to help the poor girl.
Sophie brings out a side of Aaron that even those closest to him didn’t know existed. For twenty years he has not left his house, as he gets to know her he realises that he would do anything for her, even die for her. As her seduction progresses she uses his infatuation with her to entice him out of the house, baby steps at first before breaking his tether from Sotherby House.
Happy with her new found life, she decides to abandon her families plan for her. The plan was that after they placed her in the midst of Aaron’s universe she was supposed to manipulate him into sleeping with her which would then trigger their scheme of blackmail.
Before she undertook the task she had been warned that Aaron Tyler was a pervert who likes underage girls, what she discovered was the sweetest man she had ever met. For the first time in her life she feels like part of a family.
While she deviates from the plan the friction between her family increases. The pressure and strain on her parent’s relationship results in a violent split and her dad taking things into his own hands having realised they put their daughter in harm’s way. He decides that he will do anything to get her back and to punish anyone that gets in his way.
With her dad prepared to do anything, things get eventful at Aaron’s house when he turns up to retrieve his daughter, a man on a mission who will stop at nothing to protect his family.
The story highlights society’s stereotypical ideas about love and life, how a married couple with a fifteen year old child would appear to be the idyll. While a man living a lonely existence of exclusion from the world seems to be living a wasted life. At its heart ‘Hard Candy’ is a forbidden love story between Aaron and Sophie – a love that turns out to be pure, and the abusive marriage of her parents which on the surface is good and wholesome but below is toxic to the core.
Society’s need for material possessions is a driving factor for why Sophie’s family do what they do as well as the mystery man. Elements of jealousy and a sense of being owed by the world are also highlighted.
“So, James.” Knowing how much it was always Captain Flint to him, she said it deliberately. “What brings you here?”
As if she could not guess. There was only one thing he could want: money.
Removing his hat, he eased down into the satin upholstered chair. Of course, he wasn’t going to look anything other than ridiculously uncomfortable on that, with his long legs and tall body. Flint Blackmoore and cream satin. It was probably why his sigh came all the way from his bones.
“What do you think? I’m Malmesbury’s valet.” He adjusted his beige coat.
Daring to lift her eyes, she glanced around. The kinder amongst those twelve good men would describe her glance as furtive, the less kind would say shifty. Had she been asked she would have said fearful; but no one did enquire. The judge asked his question a second time; this time with impatience.
‘Have you anything to say on your behalf?’
What should she say to a judge? It was beyond her experience, so she replied with the only words she could conjure.
‘Please sir, I am a housemaid and my family don’t know where I am.’
She shivered uncontrollably, although the afternoon warmth made her stained, woollen dress stick damply to her skin. The huge courtroom overawed her. It was a room bigger and grander than she had ever seen or imagined was possible. The jury to her right stared intently at her, but she avoided their stare as she would avoid the look of any man. Instead, she hung her head and stared unseeing at her tight, entwined hands, making her look both sullen and guilty. It was of no consequence to them that she was young and pretty for she was just another girl down on her luck. There were a thousand others, no ten thousand, others like her. Something must be done about it.
Nora felt unrehearsed for these legal proceedings. She had no money for a lawyer and found this whole experience terrifying. The stern appearance of the judge, in his scarlet robes and long horsehair wig, made her want to crawl into a hole somewhere. But here in this large courtroom, there was nowhere to hide, nowhere to escape. She was the main exhibit.
The horrors of the morning still tormented her. Chained to other prisoners at the ankle, she shuffled from Millbank to the Old Bailey. The journey took a good hour, as they tried to avoid the rotting fruit thrown by ragamuffins, gleeful that there were some worse off than themselves. The shame of it sickened her. She felt tired and sore where the iron had bruised her ankle and. longing for home and her sisters to comfort her, Nora’s mind began to wander again.
But now the judge was speaking and she forced herself to try and take in what he was saying.
‘Eleanora Nolan, you have been found guilty of grand larceny and will be transported beyond the seas for the term of seven years. Next case.’
A smirk of triumph appeared on Mrs Pocket’s face, satisfaction on the constable’s and boredom on the judge’s. Nora listened to the judge but without understanding because the words made no sense to her.
‘Please sir’ she tried again ‘when may I go back to my family?’
‘Take her down,’ was the terse instruction and the court official hastened to comply.
Every night, Jade is rattled by a recurring dream—a dream that’s as real as the research institute where she lives. When flames fall from the sky and an alien ship crashes into Earth, Jade becomes government property and at the mercy of scientists. After all, she’s imprinted with an intelligent alien metal that could be the answer to all of Earth’s problems.
However, in the wrong hands, the metal implant could become the deadliest weapon known to humankind.
Kept underground for sixteen years, Jade fights to keep her sanity and understand the intelligent organism that is wrapped around her spine. When a new company takes over the science institute, Jade’s alien symbiont warns her of imminent danger.
Then Jade meets Aric, the lone survivor from the spaceship. They form an alliance that will change their personal destiny and they put a plan into motion that will alter the future of mankind.
Book One of THE IMPRINT TRILOGY.
When Charli and her husband, Pud, enter retirement, Charli mistakenly believes that paradise is just around the corner. Unfortunately, instead of spending their days soaking in matching hot tubs and admiring each other’s wrinkles, Pud lives on the links and Charli cleans out the basement. Still, they press on, eventually becoming closer while bonding with young relatives through a love of fine dining. Now the couple faces new and weighty challenges.
Charli and Pud’s days are filled with more excitement than AARP discounts and Lawrence Welk reruns—and more calories than they ever imagined. Realizing they are out of shape and slipping mentally, Charli and Pud check their BMIs and immediately decide they need to change their ways. With a goal of becoming healthy sooner than later, the couple embarks on a roller-coaster ride through calorie counting, label reading, and laborious exercising. But when Pud begins making mysterious phone calls and acting strangely, Charli cannot help but wonder if more problems are lurking around the corner.
The Golden Age of Charli continues the delightful tale of the energetic, friendly, and positive McAntics as they cruise through their retirement years and discover the consequences of too much of a good thing.
“All right, so the nightgown isn’t the best.”
It wasn’t. It was some old gown that had belonged to one of his sisters. But he wasn’t going to tell her how badly conflicted he’d been about this, any more than he was going to let her give the game away, as her squawking threatened to do. “But I’ll take you out tomorrow and get you something better. I swear I’ll get you whatever you want. Clothes. Jewels. Shoes.”
Shoes? Shoes were agreeable to her. At least, out of all the mouthing and biting, the squirming like a sea serpent against him, shoes got the loudest squeak.
“You think I want shoes?”
So, he was mistaken? Shoes weren’t agreeable. Shoes ignited her, made her incandescent. And not with joy, he realized as she spat the words in his face.
“Jewels? What do you think I am? Do you have any idea what I want—”
Pressing his fingers harder against her mouth, he tipped her back on the mattress. Just when Snotra would be listening this hissing, spitting troll was going to ruin this.
“I don’t care what you want,” he gritted. “Shoes are what you can have. And jewels and whatever…”
Actually tipping her back onto the mattress so her flailing body was underneath him, wasn’t the smartest, although if Snotra had crept up the ladder and was staring through the drape, this tussle with the troll would certainly look convincing. On the surface anyway. He didn’t know how much muster it would pass if Snotra looked closer. He could and would make this Saxon she-wolf obey him now.
“Do you understand?” He seized her wrists, dragging them above her head so she couldn’t move. “You’re in no position to bargain here. If you can’t moan, I’ll get someone who can.”
She stuck her chin in the air. “So you say.”
“And they can have the damned dress, the troll toothed shoes too.”
“Viking shoes. Oh fortunate them.”
“Start doing it now.”
“So Snotra can tear my eyes out?” Her face was set in the blandest lines. “You know? I think not.”
“Well I do.”
While blizzards raged across the Northern Hemisphere, tourists donned sunglasses, sandals, and garish T-shirts to confront a sultry January day in Barbados. The fierce sun seared virgin white skin and waves of heat rippled off the pavement.
Swarming the dock like ants attacking a crumb of sugar cookie, crew and passengers disembarked from three cruise ships docked in the deep-water harbor. Two of the ships, the Aurora and the Polaris belonged to Constellation Cruise Lines. The uniformed crew—wearing caps with bold blue and red CCL insignia and short-sleeved cotton shirts tucked into crisp white shorts—patiently directed passengers through the congested terminal.
Metal stairs rattled, supply carts clanked, and a loudspeaker crackled messages over the din of the crowd. Caribbean music pierced the discord. A string band twisted the melody of an old ballad into a lazy calypso beat punctuated by the mellow timpani of a steel drum. Five black musicians swayed and twisted through the throng keeping step with their own music—a Caribbean-style marching band. Frayed straw hats bobbed in time to the rhythm. Red, orange, and purple flowered shirts undulated over boxy green shorts and dirty white tennis shoes as the musicians played homemade instruments fashioned from lead pipes, coconut shells, scrap lumber, and tin. Electronic flashes burst from the crowd of tourists who diligently recorded the scene with cameras.
A man wearing a dark turtleneck shirt under a long-sleeved white service coat scowled at the crowd. Hefting a CCL tote bag the agile man maneuvered through the horde of bewildered tourists and slipped down a vacant corridor. Hesitating for a heartbeat he scanned the empty hallway, inserted a key into the door, and slipped inside.
The sign on the door read: “Quarantined Area, No Admittance,” but no alarm bells blared, no security guards charged in to make an arrest. The intruder turned on the lights and opened his tote bag. He removed a pair of surgical gloves, a cotton swab taped to a long stick, and a small black manicure case. A cricket chirped, a tree-frog trilled, and leaves rustled as lizards scuttled from sight. Forest sounds seemed incongruous in a room full of stainless steel equipment, wire cages, and glass enclosures plastered with large red labels proclaiming “Danger” in several languages.
Snapping surgical gloves onto sweaty hands, he cautiously pried open the lid of a small terrarium, inserted the cotton swab, and stroked the skin of the tiny frog. Startled, the frog vaulted toward the open lid. The stranger jerked back and dropped the cotton swab into the glass cage.
The two-inch reptile clutched the edge of the glass with sticky, bulbous toes and peeked through the opening. It looked harmless, strangely beautiful with iridescent yellow stripes down a navy blue hide, except for the deadly toxin coating its skin. One touch could kill a man as surely as a cobra’s bite.
As the diminutive creature squeezed through the glass lid, the intruder retreated to a safe distance. The frog jumped, landing near his shoe. Screaming, he scrambled to avoid the dangerous reptile, plastic soles squeaking against the slick floor, and crashed into a cart full of metal trays that clanged to the floor. The frog vanished. Holding his breath, the man stepped in circles, searching. He spotted the quivering reptile—a patch of glowing color in the dark shadow of a table—and exhaled a sigh of pent up breath.
Heart pounding, he fished out the cotton swab, unzipped the manicure kit, and extracted two glass vials, a white plastic toothpick, and a pair of tweezers. Eyeing the frog, he rubbed the moist swab over the toothpick and the tweezers, slipping each into a glass vial.
Storing the vials in the manicure kit, he noticed a sticky smear on his jacket sleeve just inches from bare skin. A similar smudge the size of the frog marred the glass terrarium. Cursing, he threw the swab to the floor and stripped off gloves and coat. Folding the tainted sleeve to the inside of the jacket, he wiped a trickle of sweat with a trembling hand. Turning off the lights, he fled.
No one noticed a man wearing a dark turtleneck shove a white bundle into the dockside trash bin. He joined a group of tourists who climbed the gangway to the Aurora.
The laboratory remained quiet for an hour. When the door clanged open, the tiny reptile retreated to safety behind a table leg.
Hubert flipped on the light switch singing, “Every liddle ting goin’ ta be ah—all right.” He wagged his head to the rhythm of his own song as he dragged a sloshing orange bucket on wheels into the laboratory. Glaring fluorescent lights flickered and buzzed overhead.
He abruptly stopped singing and surveyed the room warily. “Hello! Who’s been makin’ such a mess?”
A marshy scent of rotting wood and leaves wafted from a nearby enclosure. Inside a miniature dinosaur shifted its head to peer at him with an eerie gaze.
“It’s a good job I’m not de bloke cleaning your cage, mister,” he said and skirted past the reptile.
“Wonder how des trays get spilt over de floor. Nobody was working las’ night.” After stacking trays onto the proper cart, he bent and picked up a cotton swab from the floor. “Dis looks mighty strange. Dem science blokes don’t toss trash ’round like dis.” He fingered the sticky substance at the end of the swab. His skin tingled and heat flashed up his arm, sweat stung his face. He swiped his forehead with a meaty brown hand. “What in de world...” Eyes widening, he clutched his throat and gagged.
Scrambling for the door, Hubert tripped over the orange bucket and sprawled on the floor. Legs twitched. Fingers jerked. Soapy water sloshed across the checkerboard linoleum, soaking Hubert’s body and seeping into the shadows. The frog climbed up the table leg, its beady black eyes watching the large man die.
That evening Bajan radio spread the news over the airwaves: “A terrible accident resulting in death at the Port Authority occurred today when a janitor touched a lethal Poison Dart Frog. The frog, which escaped from a shipment earmarked for the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland, was subsequently captured. Discovery of the body occurred when a lab technician entered the facility to perform afternoon feeding duties. Public release of the identity of the deceased was withheld pending notification of family members. The Port Authority promised a full investigation.”
THE MANCINI SAGA. A family of six close Italian siblings each has a compelling story of romance, danger and mystery that could tear them apart or bring them together.
What if the woman you love is kidnapped from your vehicle during a traffic accident?
When famous actor Antonio Mancini meets famous paparazzi Candace Moore, he doesn’t expect to fall in love with the beautiful, passionate photographer of the rich and famous. Candace is thrilled when Antonio embraces her and the demons in her closet.
On the night that Antonio proposes to Candace, their car is involved in a massive car accident. When Antonio wakes in the hospital the following morning, the investigator tells him that he was alone in the car at the time of the accident. Against medical advice, Antonio flees the hospital and starts to search for the woman who accepted his proposal. One clue after another brings him closer to discovering the truth and proving his sanity.
Everything starts with little girls.
This little girl was walking down a white dirt farm road one day in June 1954. Her slender shadow was just twice her height. And it crossed the road in a westerly direction, reaching out nearly to the irrigation ditch that ran alongside. A single thick braid was bouncing up and down on her back. The braid was stiff and damp, for the little girl had just been swimming at the big Vanducci house on the hill. Plomp, plomp, plomp went her bare brown feet in the warm soft dirt, little puffs of dust blowing up in her track to settle slowly in the windless air.
Cradled in her long skinny arms she had a big nervous fighting cock with beady eyes. She’d found him by the side of the road just a moment before. And she was very happy to have met him there, for she’d had no idea that he had escaped from his pen in her mama’s backyard. The cock was brown and gold and purple. His feathers shone in the sun. He turned his head all the time, fast and jerky from side to side. Her eyes were like the bird’s eyes, black and darting. She turned her head like him too, looking everywhere.
Her name was Selena Cruz.
Surrounding her were vast fields of alfalfa, tomatoes, and sugar beets, cut through with irrigation canals and county roads, sliced like adobe cakes into gigantic squares. The valley was green where it was planted, brown where it was fallow, and wide: fifty miles from the yellow Diablo Range, which rose up directly behind her, to the blue Sierras on the horizon. Lengthwise its dimensions were beyond her imagination: five hundred miles from Red Bluff in the north to Bakersfield in the south.
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Utopia by Thomas More Narrator: Douglas McDonald Published by Cornerstone Studio on 06-23-17 Genres: Classics Length: 4 hrs and 19 mins Format: Audiobook Source: Publisher