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“Hi, I’m Jessie Cole and I’m reading from my novel Darkness on the Edge of Town which is coming out in 2012.
The steering in the old girl lunges a little to the left, so on that night I was holding tight around the corners, swinging into them the way Marie says she hates. She can just see herself plummeting down the drop on the side of this mountain, but I’ve lived here for years and I know the road pretty good. It’s real green and bushy out here, and in the night it can look like there’s nothing, no houses, just this winding precarious stretch of road. It was late, and I’d dropped Gemma off earlier at her girlfriend’s house. She’s sixteen, my girl, and she’s only just reached that girly stage. Nail polish and lip gloss. She came home from school the other day all dolled up. It was photo day and her friends had taken her aside and done her makeup. I reckon she expected me to hit the roof, to tell her to “get that shit off”, but I just looked and didn’t say nothing. She washed it off anyway, soon as she got home.
That night, I was on my way home from the pub. I don’t drink much, just a couple of beers, but I like to see the boys now and then. It was coming into winter and the air inside the truck was cold. I lit a cigarette, banged around the final bend before my house, and right there, right out front, was the upturned car, engine still running. The lights of the car were shining down into the bush, lighting up the dark. I pulled up on the grass out front of my house and ran over to the car, peering in the window, but there was no-one inside. The smell of exhaust fumes lingered in the air, and reaching in I turned the engine off. There was a flicker of movement on the side of the road. She was squatting there, swaying slightly, the bank dropping away steeply behind her. Humming — she was humming. In the moonlight she looked kind of crumpled and broken, her long dark hair falling forward over her body.
‘Shit, honey, you right?’ I said, but she didn’t move, as though she didn’t hear, and so I crept up a bit closer. ‘Mate, you okay?’
She looked up then and her hair fell away, and I could see in the shadow of her arm she held a baby. Its body was limp, its eyes closed.
‘We got to get you some help,’ I said, and she whimpered. I crouched in front of her, reaching out a hand. ‘Sweetheart, you need some help. Come on off the road.’
ABOUT JESSIE COLE:
Jessie Cole grew up in an isolated valley in Northern NSW, and lived a bush childhood of creek swimming and barefoot free-range adventuring. As a child she travelled widely with her family, backpacking throughout Asia and later through Italy. In 2009 she was awarded a HarperCollins Varuna Award for Manuscript Development, leading to the publication of her first novel Darkness on the Edge of Town. Jessie lives in her family home with her two sons, her mother, her soulful dog, two cats, and various carpet snakes.
“I’ve frequented Varuna quite a bit in the last few years. Wide-eyed and slightly star-struck, I first arrived in 2007 as part of the Litlink program. Then again in 2008 for Longlines, with the lovely Peter Bishop. In 2009, I was a recipient of the HarperCollins Varuna Award. Varuna has not only been an amazing place to stay and focus on writing, but it has provided me with so many lasting friendships. For me, it has also been the primary stepping stone to publication.” Jessie Cole
Jessie writes music related articles for Australian travel magazine get lost, and her work also appears in The Big Issue. Her first novel Darkness on the Edge of Town will be published by 4th Estate in June 2012.
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