Lorraine had been a sharp, moody child. She was now a sharp, moody adult. She was the eldest of four girls, but they did not have the same dad, and Pauline Earl was a single mother, young and poorly educated. Lorraine and Jemima, who was a year younger to the day, were taught along the lines of their mother’s values, but it was Jemima who broke away from the norm and followed her artistic and academic dreams at university. Lorraine, on the other hand, met and married an Australian man, Alain Donner, and a son arrived almost before they had decided to move back to Alain’s birthplace.
The third of the Earl sisters was seven years younger than Jemima, and eight years younger than Lorraine, and it can be imagined how difficult it might have been for the young fatherless girls to watch their mother’s boyfriend fade into their family life, and fade out again just as strangely – leaving behind him a baby girl.
Ashleigh was blonde and carefree, and though she appeared to be kind, she was disgracefully contrary and horribly sensitive and Jemima vowed that her brains were made of feathers.
Finally, Sadie Earl had been born when Lorraine was nineteen years of age, and consequently the two sisters scarcely knew one another.
Two years afterward, Louie Donner was born, and when Lorraine was twenty-three, and an established citizen of Canberra, Australia, and enjoying it, Roxie came to join the little family.
Back at home, and a few years later, Ashleigh was showing signs of restlessness and a longing for sophistication, so Pauline made arrangements to take her third daughter on a holiday to Sydney.
Upon receiving the email carrying this information, Lorraine was possessed of an outrage of temper. She had truly been enjoying the past few years of independence in a place where she could not see her mother’s constant turnover of unsatisfactory boyfriends, and now, though she had not seen them for years, she felt an overpowering aversion to the idea of seeing her family again.
With an attempt to compromise, Lorraine and Alain swiftly decided that they needed a holiday back to England, perhaps to visit Jemima, the one member of her family who Lorraine could feel any inkling of affection for.
Jemima’s situation was no more satisfactory than Pauline’s, for the modest happiness with which Jemima conducted her little family and business drove Lorraine green with jealousy. For one thing, Jemima had recently been promoted to manager of the local dolphin park, and owned a small comfortable house in the countryside where she lived with her husband.
The husband – though Lorraine herself could not distinguish the emotion inside her own thoughts – provided the elder sister with a constant source of contempt. He was clever, which she resented, and he was foreign, which she despised. Borace Fitzgerald, his brother Mark, and his sister Emmie, who was three or four years senior to Sadie Earl, had been brought up between the two countries of England and Germany. Mark was long-since married with his own little daughter, but Borace and Emmie had always been very close, and after Borace and Jemima Fitzgerald’s honeymoon, the young girl had come to live with her brother and sister-in-law. Sadie, also, was living with them, as she, like each of the Earl sisters, preferred Jemima to her mother.
Finally, there was Joletta Geraldine. Joletta was Jemima’s baby, named so because it was the German equivalent of ‘Violet’, and Jemima’s great friend bore that name. Called ‘Tilly’ on a regular basis, Joletta was a pretty baby of auburn hair and brown eyes, very like Jemima, and Lorraine loathed her.
Perhaps she envied her sister’s success. Having married early, to a man of good nature but shallow understanding, and with two children of the same disposition, Lorraine felt inferior to Jemima, who had all the benefits of higher education, a clever husband and a loving family of closely knit bonds all to her credit.
Okay, maybe there is no story to this little sketch, and no evidence of an attempted literary masterpiece – because it isn’t one. The purpose of this chapter is to introduce you to dear friends, and show you a dear family. And so I give them to you – Pauline Earl, single mother of four, who has never seen the world through the eyes of a child, or perhaps she always has seen the world through the eyes of a child; Jemima Fitzgerald, happy happy lady, with her quirkily-accented husband Borace and his helpful and loving sister Emmie, and their lively daughter Tilly, who will someday make a trio of best friends with Vivienne Harrington and Lulu Bloom; Ashleigh, the sophisticated, now twenty-two, in Australia, regrets at having abandoned her old friends long since having paled to non-existence; little Sadie, gentle and thoughtful; and we have jealous Lorraine Donner, the sharp and moody, who is discontented with her devoted husband and obedient children.
How I wish I could help her – but I know I cannot, for it is she who fancies herself discontented, and she alone who can dispel that vain fancy.