Red lipstick, wobbly anyway, highlights the downward curve of her stroke-weathered face under her dyed red bob, a green felt hat hiding the white roots. Clasping rosary beads, a red pen because the ink’s easier to read in the shaking, sloping letters – as old books are packed up and sent across cities, skyward across eucalyptus hazed mountains to dried up country towns, to Melbourne, to Queensland, unexpected, to her family.

She reads into the night, doesn’t sleep, there are piles of books in the bookshelf still. Her husband’s book, which she funded from her savings and never read. Another one, somehow secret,  writing in blue ink in the front – not read for sixty years, because no-one speaks Italian. I can’t help imagining a terrible stain from the blood that had been seeping and sticky when her husband took it from a corpse in the war. He had good intentions. And now her husband is dead as well. There’s just his book, unread, and her, alone in this room. Amongst the crowding chatter of the pages; of romance, facts and fictions, sometimes sex.


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