Sitting in silence beside her husband on the steps, Cis knew to refrain from enquiring about his thoughts until her father had finished speaking. Her father’s strong-minded nature always commanded the floor, even if it was in ink that he spoke.
Rocking baby Jack gently in her arms, Cis tried to enjoy the soft squeaky sounds of her baby son. Unable to focus for long, her gaze soon shifted to the boys. The sun fell upon little Kev’s halo of hair lighting it up like a red fireball as he happily worked away on the fence. Her face of earnestness relaxed into a smile as she noticed his chubby white fingers trying to lift the oversized paint brush up and down along the palings.
A minute or two passed by before she stole a sideways glance at William who twisted the end of his moustache with his spare hand. The furrows of his brow deepened as he continued to read in silence. Cis returned her gaze forward, resisting the temptation to speak. She thought it best to wait, despite her growing curiosity. She knew that even her father would have difficulty convincing William to turn away from the military.
Cis fiddled with the edge of her apron whilst the crisp notes of turning pages began to consume her with regret. She wished that she had not given Padda’s letter to William. She felt trapped in the moment, where the sounds of life in her garden amplified William’s silence. The rustling of birds nesting on the roof became increasingly deafening as she tried to analyse her own thoughts.
Distracted by the birds’ feet scratching against the iron above, Cis looked up to see bits of grass and twigs protruding from the gutter. Suddenly she was reminded of her own life. She had spent the last six years building a nest to keep her family safe and secure. Since buying the house in September, William has constructed a fence and done improvements in order to make it a home. Whilst there was merit in her father’s offer, she knew there were immense risks. Was it worth risking what they have achieved? Especially now that they have three children.
William’s outburst of laughter startled Cis. She had not expected his reaction at all.
“Padda really amuses me,” William said shaking his head.
“I was expecting a reaction from you, the least of which was humour.” Cis said, somewhat relieved.
“He has been trying to talk all and sundry to take up land on the Haughton for growing sugar cane. When he gets an idea in his head, he never gives up.”
“So you are not going to take his offer seriously?’ asked Cis.
“I know how passionate Padda is about cane farming, but the thought of giving up my military posting is not something I can decide on a whim.”
Cis knew how much William enjoyed his job and she didn’t want to seem selfish and expect him to. On the other hand, she would enjoy living closer to her family as well as moving to the warmth of North Queensland. She wasn’t sure whether she should push the issue though.
“Besides,” William continued. “what do I know about growing sugar cane?”
“Perhaps Padda is looking at the long term,” Cis suggested. “This could be a way of building a future for the children.”
William’s blue eyes softened as he looked at Cis and then down at his new son. Stretching his arm around her narrow shoulders, he said, “But Cis, I am not a farmer, I am a soldier. You knew that when you married me!”
“Nor was my Father,” said Cis. “But he has never been afraid of change. He has always faced a challenge head on.”
“Cis, I am not your Father and I never will be.”
Releasing his arm, William handed the letter back to Cis and slowly stood up. Without saying another word, he strode with his usual rod straight posture and swinging arms to where his sons were playing at the front fence. As Cis watched from the steps, she realized that her husband wasn’t merely a soldier. In her heart, she knew the military was the air that he breathed. She also knew that her Father was not likely to give up, not yet anyway.