Excerpt for Child Unknown by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Child Unknown

Old Balmain House Series

Second Edition

Box Set - Books 2 & 3

Novels by

Graham Wilson

Book 2 Lizzie’s Tale

Book 3 Devil’s Choice


Child Unknown

Graham Wilson 2018

Beyond Beyond Books Edition

ISBN 9781370203376

All rights reserved.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form without prior approval of the author. For permission to use contact Graham Wilson by email at

Books by this Author

Children of Arnhem’s Kaleidoscope – A Memoir

Old Balmain House Series

Little Lost Girl – Book 1

Lizzie’s Tale – Book 2

Devil’s Choice – Book 3

Crocodile Spirit Dreaming Series

Just Visiting – Book 1

The Diary – Book 2

The Empty Place – Book 3

Lost Girls – Book 4

Sunlit Shadow Dance – Book 5

Author Note

This is a story of a little girl, Sophie, unseen and unknown over three generations. Yet at vital times she appears to help this family when in great need. Who is this Sophie and where has she come from is the story of the first book in this series, The Old Balmain House.

Now in these two books the story has moved forward to another family, 50 years on, living in the same house and their own struggles, first the struggle of the mother to make a life for herself, pregnant after a brutal rape, without surrendering this child for adoption, and then in the next generation of her own daughter's fight to save the life of her child through knowing who the real father is.

Book 2, 'Lizzie's Tale" tells the story Lizzie, a young unmarried mother in the 1960s, and of the choices she must make to escape from an impossible situation.

Book 3, 'Devil's Choice', tells the story of Catherine, Lizzie's daughter, twenty years later, and how she must finally confront the truth behind what happened to her mother if she is to save the life of her own child. Woven through all is the recurring presence of Sophie, a child from a time long past, unseen and yet known, who becomes a friend to each child in turn in their moment of need.

This series tells of courageous women who rise above adversity. In doing so they touch and bring meaning to many lives. These two books provide a story which may be read alone, however they also form a sequel to Sophie’s story, told in the first book of this series, ‘The Old Balmain House. I hope you enjoy this story and if you do I encourage you to write a review, either on the original site you got the book from or on other book sites that you use such as Smashwords or Goodreads.

Lizzie’s Tale

Old Balmain House Series

Book 2

Graham Wilson


Lizzie’s Tale

Graham Wilson

Copyright Graham Wilson 2017

Old Balmain House Series - Second Edition

Published by BeyondBeyond Books

Book Cover designed by Nada Backovic

using an image supplied by Arcangel Images

Reader Reviews of Old Balmain House Series

Amazon Reviews

Great Read

This is the story of three houses and the people who built them and lived in them from the mid-1800s to the present day. Told in a rather quaint and old-fashioned manner, it is a wonderful portrayal of a multi-generational family who lived through good times and bad, but always retained a strong family bond. The growth of this area seen through their eyes is fascinating. And, the mystery of Sophie's disappearance is enough to keep one reading

Wonderful books

I'm so glad I got all these books in a set. Each book reached further into the story, always going forward, but also bringing the past as the story unfolded. Well-written characters, and such detail that I felt I was walking alongside them as I read. No imagination is needed to see the people and places in your mind. Vivid descriptions brought the time and place to mind easily. Kindle said it would take more than 9 hours to read it. I did it over two days...I could not put it down! I've always dreamed of visiting Australia, and these books just increased that dream. Well worth reading!!!

Absolutely loved this series

Absolutely loved this series. I could not put it down, it has held me riveted to each story and looking for more. I could vividly imagine each tale and description of the places even though I haven't been there. I would recommend this collection to anyone who wants to read about the settlers in Australia passing through generations and the fast paced tale that goes with all the books in the collection. Well Done Graham Wilson. Can't wait to read the Crocodile Spirit Dreaming books now I have purchased them.

Really enjoyed this story

Really enjoyed this story. Not so much historical Australian fiction out there. Made me go looking up the area online to see where they were talking about. It was sad and moved a bit quick through the characters at times but I thought it recreated the time period really well. Hard to imagine Sydney with that few people.

Five Stars

A brilliant read, very interesting Barnes and Noble Reviews

I absolutely loved both stories

I highly recommend you get to read. Definitely looking forward to reading more by this author. Awesome!!!! Held my attention to the very end

A truly inspiring story, brought teams to my eyes


A beautiful story that will stay with me. Loved it and wanted it to continue. One of the best I have read lately.

Lizzy’s story

An amazing story, couldn’t put it down. The author has written one of the best books I have read of this type. I was critical of the series he wrote at first but he had grown to be a favourite of mine. A dramatic, fast paced, loving and exciting story.

If I could give it 6 stars I would!!!

It is not often a book will bring actual tears to my eyes but this one did as well as kept me up well past bedtime. If it does not touch you similarly I would be very surprised!!!

Kobo Reviews

Old Balmain House Book Series

Wonderful I couldn’t bear to put them down.......wishing there were more in the series. The people were so real it’s almost like I’ve met them.

Lizzies’s tale

If we all had just some of Lizzies courage our world would be a much better place to live in. Such a nice story so interesting. Great read

A moving delight

A great story about a courageous young girl who triumphs despite adversity. The world needs more stories like this.


Many people have reviewed this novel in the four years since it was first published. Your advice, mostly positive, is greatly valued.


From reader reviews and a structural review by KJ Eyre, I have substantially revised this book and released a new edition It has many changes but keeps the main elements of the original story. The house and Sydney location are important parts of the background, which give context and place the story. Hence the ‘Old Balmain House Series’ name keeps this sense of location within the story.

The cover for this second edition has been produced by Nada Backovic. I thank her for her creative flair in taking my description of story elements and creating an outstanding image which captures part of the essence of this story. Arcangel Images supplied the background image for this cover.

Part of the inspiration for this book and series came from reading Geraldine Brooks novel, ‘People of the Book’, which used small artefacts of history to carry people’s stories from the past into the present day.

Authors Preface

This novel continues the Old Balmain House Series. It begins in the same house as the first book. It tells of a poor family who live here at a time when Australia was moving into the 1960s; a highly conservative society, but on the brink of major change.

It centres around the life of a girl who makes a painful journey from childhood to adulthood, at a time when unmarried teenage pregnancy almost invariably meant forced adoption and when the social stigma for unwed mothers made their lives unbelievably difficult.

While the characters are not based on real people, the treatment of pregnant women in this society and, in particular, the consequences for teenage girls who became pregnant outside marriage, were real features of Australian life in the 1960s. Therefore this story is something that could have happened to a person like my imagined character, Lizzie; so it becomes her tale.

Some people have told me that someone of Lizzie’s age could not have done the things she did in this book, that there was no way she could have displayed this level of maturity. However 100 years earlier girls of this age regularly got married, had babies and fulfilled their parental responsibilities from their mid-teens. It was a matter of necessity in these times.

My experience of Australian life in the 1960’s and 1970’s, particularly in small towns, is these were very trusting places, people were accepted at face value, identity documents were rarely required and, provided they met society’s behaviour expectations, people got on with their lives with minimal interference from others.

I also have no doubt people can act with a maturity well beyond then years when needs require. So I think the story of Lizzie as a fifteen and sixteen year old remains realistic. It seems that many of my readers, particularly those of older generations, concur with this view!


It was September 1956, a warm spring morning in Sydney. Lizzie lay in her bed, she loved her room. It looked out onto the Smith Street, Balmain. In the early morning the sunshine came in, helping her get up for school.

Lizzie would turn eight soon and felt very proud to be able to walk up to school on her own. She did not have any brothers and sisters, though her parents kept trying to have more children. But she did not care; she was happy, really happy. She had the most wonderful friend, a friend named Sophie.

Sophie was just eight too. She lived in their chimney; that is what Sophie told her. She had seen Sophie lots of times, mostly after the lights were turned out. Sophie always wore a school dress. She told Lizzie she went to the same school as Lizzie did. But Lizzie had never seen Sophie at school, and Sophie’s uniform did not look like hers; it looked oldish, longer and sort of quaint, like the clothes you saw in photos taken before the war.

The only trouble was that nobody else believed that Sophie was real. Lizzie had told her Mum and Dad about Sophie. They listened politely but she knew they did not believe her. Later she had heard her Mum say that Sophie was Lizzie’s imaginary friend.

But Sophie was real; really real. They told stories together for hours and Sophie knew things that only real people could possibly know. She had told Lizzie of a special place in the school yard where she, with her own friend Matty, hid a jar with coloured stones and carved wood toys. Lizzie had found it, just where Sophie had said it would be. Sophie said Lizzie could keep these thing; they were hers to give away. Lizzie was delighted even though they looked a bit old fashioned too. So she hid them in her bottom drawer; she did not want other people to see them and laugh.

Yesterday Lizzie had done a job for Sophie, an important job. Sophie had told Lizzie her own Mum, Maria, was old and sick and asked Lizzie to go and visit her. Sophie said her Mum was really missing her and her Dad, Jimmy, who was now staying with her. Sophie she said she wanted her Mum to know that she and her Dad were together again, were both happy and could not wait until her Mum came to see them too. Then they would all be happy together. Sophie had asked Lizzie to go and tell her Mum, Maria, this as soon as she could.

So, yesterday, after school, Lizzie had followed Sophie’s directions and walked to a big house in East Balmain, a house Sophie said was her grandmother’s house. It was a long way, but Lizzie did not mind, she knew it was really important. When she got there, she banged on the door for a long time. Finally a lady, a nurse who said her name was ‘Sister Rebecca’, came to the door.

Lizzie told Sister Rebecca that she wanted to see Mrs Maria because she had a message from Sophie. At first the nurse told her to stop being silly and go away. But Mrs Maria must have heard Lizzie because she called out and asked who it was.

She heard the nurse say “It’s just a silly school girl called Lizzie. She says she wants to tell you a message from Sophie.

Straightaway Lizzie was called into this lady’s room. The lady asked the nurse to go away and close the door. The nurse did, even though she grumbled out loud.

Then the lady asked her to come and sit on the bed, right next to her. The lady was very old and thin. But she had the most beautiful eyes; and when Lizzie looked at them she felt like she was talking to Sophie. On the dresser beside her bed was a picture of Sophie, the same as now, except in the picture she was wearing a white dress. There was also a picture of this lady, when she was young and beautiful; standing next to a man who was Sophie’s Daddy, Jimmy. Somehow Lizzie knew it was him in their wedding photo.

Lizzie told her Sophie’s message. At first the lady sat very still for a long minute, then she cried, but they were happy tears. Then the lady told her, if she saw Sophie again, to say to Sophie she was already packing her bags and hoped to come that night.

Last night, after this, Lizzie had seen Sophie again. Lizzie thought it might be the last time she would see Sophie like an ordinary person. Sophie was starting to fade away; Lizzie could look through her now and see across the room. Sophie had been so happy. She had told Lizzie that, even though they would not see each other after this, they would stay best, best friends, for ever and ever, and Lizzie could still talk to her and that she would hear and understand.

So, although Sophie was gone and Lizzie could no longer see her, she knew they would stay friends. This made her feel good. She knew she did not need to feel lonely, as Sophie would keep listening to her. So she smiled a happy smile as she lay in her bed in the morning sun.

That day, after school finished, Lizzie saw Mrs Maria’s photo in the newspaper. The paper said that Mrs Maria Williams of East Balmain had died last night. Lizzie felt sad about this but it made sense; when Mrs Maria said she was packing up to leave what she really meant was she was dying.

Lizzie had begun to understand this when Sophie faded away last night. Then she realised that, while Sophie was real, she was also a ghost of someone who had lived before and died a long time ago, at the time when Mrs Maria was young herself. That was why nobody else could see her. Now Sophie did not need Lizzie’s help anymore. She had gone to another place with her own Mum and Dad, a place where no one living now could see her. Lizzie knew it was a happy place, because she could feel the happiness in Sophie. Perhaps it was that place grown-ups called heaven, which they talked about in church.

Just before she had left Mrs Maria’s place, yesterday, Mrs Maria had given Lizzie a small package wrapped in plain brown paper. It fitted into the palm of Lizzie’s hand. Mrs Maria said it was a present for her from Sophie, it was a present that Sophie’s grandmother Alison, had given Sophie when she turned six and it was special because it had a little bit of magic in it, magic just for Lizzie.

Mrs Maria said that Lizzie should not open it unless a time came when she really, really needed it. In the meantime she should put it somewhere safe, but she must take it with her if ever she moved to another place to live.

So Lizzie made a solemn promise that she would never open it, unless she really needed help. She knew she would keep this promise. For now she put it into the purse which she had been given as a present on her last birthday. To make sure it did not fall out she cut a little slit into the lining and put it inside the lining material before sewing the lining up again. This was the best and safest place she could think of, a place where no one else would know but where she could take it out again if she needed to.

Chapter 1 - The Dream - 1963

Lizzie found herself lying awake in her bed. At first she found it hard to tell whether she was awake or asleep. She knew she had been dreaming and the dream still felt so incredibly real. But now she looked through the window and saw the familiar outline of the tree in the faded street light. So she knew it was definitely her bedroom window not some imaginary place in her mind.

This was the most vivid dream she could ever remember having and it was a scary dream in which Sophie had tried to tell her something. It was a dream of warning, though the warning was hard to understand. The first part she could remember was that she was in a car with some boys. The boys were a few years older than her. She was with Julie, her best friend, and they were going to a party.

They were all dressed up and excited. Julie was even more striking and elegant than normal with her shoulder length fair hair, lipstick and eye shadow. And Lizzie felt really pretty too, Julie had styled her short dark hair into a fashionable bob and made up her face with rich red lipstick and mascara that made her dark eyes stand out and gave her a sophisticated look. She wore a lemon coloured dress of a soft flowing material. It must be Julie’s; it was far more glamourous than anything she owned. It had shoes to match with heels which made her look tall.

One of the men seemed to be Julie’s boyfriend, they were holding hands together. The others were people she did not know, but they must have been rich because one of them owned the car they were riding in, and they were all well dressed with expensive clothes.

Later in the dream, three of these boys wanted her to leave the party and come for a drive with them. Julie and her boyfriend were still at the party talking to some other people and she could not really see them. Lizzie sort of liked the boy who owned the car and he seemed to like her. Now he wanted her to come back to the car with him.

As Lizzie stood outside the front door of the party house, deciding whether to go, suddenly, there was Sophie standing in front of her. Sophie was pulling at her arm and trying to get her to go back inside. Sophie was just the same as she had looked all those years ago, when she had lived in her bedroom chimney. Now she seemed so little; quite babyish really. She stood right in front of Lizzie, trying to block her from going to the car with her boys, saying it was dangerous. She begged Lizzie not to go.

But Lizzie had walked straight through where Sophie was standing. It felt like she was knocking Sophie aside, even though she disappeared before Lizzie got there. Of course Sophie was not really there. Now Lizzie was awake she realised that it was only a dream, even though it felt real. Sophie was only ever a ghost and she vanished from Lizzie’s life a long time ago, when Lizzie was only seven or eight. She could not remember talking to Sophie since when her Dad was living here. So she decided it would be childish to listen to her now.

Soon Lizzie would be fifteen. It was silly to let something from all those years ago interfere with her life now. Sure she had promised Sophie they would stay best friends for ever, but that was just a kid promise; one did not pay attention to those when grown up, as she was now.

But, as she tried to brush this dream aside, she had a bad feeling. A voice inside her head kept telling her that she must listen to Sophie, that Sophie was her real friend and would not come all the way to tell her this thing unless it really mattered.

The trouble was that neither she nor Julie had a boyfriend. Certainly they knew no one like the boys in the dream. And, even if they did and went for a ride in a car with these boys, what harm could it do. Deciding that she had thought about it enough she fell back to sleep. When she woke in the morning the dream was pushed out of her mind, soon to be almost forgotten.

It did come back, just for a second, when she saw Julie. But it seemed too silly to tell her grown up and fashionable friend, the one everyone in school had voted the cleverest, most beautiful and most likely to succeed person. If the truth was told Lizzie was in awe of Julie who seemed much cleverer and prettier than she was, with her blond hair and perfect features. Julie had much nicer clothes and other good things because her parents had a lot more money. She lived in a big house over near Birchgrove Oval, and her Dad worked in an office in the city and drove a fancy car called a Jaguar. Perhaps Julie did know real boys like the ones in her dream, but she had never introduced people like them to Lizzie.

Despite their different lives Julie had become her friend at school and most morning teas and lunchtimes they sat together and talked to each other. Lizzie did not know why Julie payed attention to her. Even though boys at school seemed to like Lizzie too she realised she was much plainer than her beautiful friend and her clothes and hair were not nearly as nice. She made her own clothes with her mother’s sewing machine using whatever material was available. Julie bought hers in expensive department stores, places like David Jones in Elizabeth Street.

Lizzie was fourteen and would be fifteen soon. She had lived in the same house and slept in the same bed for all the life she could remember. But much had changed from the life of her childhood.

Lizzie now had one brother, David. He was six years old. Her Mum had three miscarriages, after she was born before David came along. After each of these her mother seemed to go off to a place inside herself where she barely talked to other people and forgot to do all those things that ordinary people did, things like housework, going shopping, or putting on nice clothes. Sometimes, for days at a time, her mother would barely come out of her room, and she would forget to wash herself, do her hair or almost anything. Then it was just Lizzie and her Dad, Ronnie to her Mum, who had to manage. Lizzie started to do housework and cooking, even though she could not do it as well as her Mum.

At first her Dad had been good and had tried to get her Mum out. He had also helped to do a lot of the housework. But as it went on, year after year, gradually it began to get her Dad down too. He always worked long days on the docks and it was hard heavy work, lifting and carting things. So he would come home tired and dirty. However when Lizzie was little he always came straight home and would pick her up and swing her around in his arms and hug her. And he would hug his wife, Patsy, and dance her around the room to make her laugh.

The first miscarriage came when Lizzie was about five or six and she could only kind of remember it. She knew that the baby had been born way too soon; it was only about four months old. Her Dad had said it was as tiny as a little finger. This first time her Dad had tried really hard to get her Mum to come out and keep doing things. He had helped heaps, and their family life had still been good. He told her Mum they needed to keep trying and he was sure they would have another baby soon.

Sure enough, soon, maybe a few months later, another baby came, but this one was also lost around four or five months. Her Mum had sparked up while the baby was coming but, all too soon, it was over and she was back to being miserable again.

Her Dad kept trying to help and Lizzie tried really hard to help too, and their Mum seemed to appreciate they were both trying. She stayed upbeat about her chance to have another baby and said that this time it would come out alright. It was like she made this promise to them and herself that it would work out right this time, a sort of bargain.

After another year or two, when Lizzie was around seven, her Mum got pregnant again. She had become her old self again, talking, laughing and playing with Lizzie, going out with her friends, going to the shops to buy baby clothes for the boy she was sure it was. And her Dad seemed really excited and happy too. All the pregnancy it seemed to go just fine and, gradually, her Mum’s tummy got bigger and bigger.

But then, when it came time for the baby to be born, it all went horribly wrong. The baby was turned the wrong way, and the cord got twisted around its neck. Her Mum was rushed up to the hospital where they did an operation. They cut her tummy open and took the baby out. But the baby was dead; this little blue thing, which should have been her new brother Ronnie.

For a while her Mum had tried to be brave. That was the year she turned eight, the last happy year Lizzie could remember. Her mother kept saying that soon another baby would come. But it seemed like the operation had messed up something in her insides, she would often hold her stomach in pain. Gradually she started not getting up in the morning and doing less and less. Now Lizzie found herself doing more and more around the house to help her Mum again.

It would not have been too bad if her Mum had been pleased with Lizzie’s help; but instead she found fault with whatever was done, the meals were not nice, the clothes were not washed properly, the floors were dirty; that’s what she said while she lay around, doing nothing.

She acted the same way towards her Dad too. He could not do a single thing right. On the one hand she said he did not work hard enough and earn enough money. On the other hand she said it was his fault that he worked such long hours and came home late. Lizzie knew it was unfair to both her Dad and her; they were both trying their best. But she could not make her Mum understand. Gradually they both stopped trying to please her and started to ignore her and leave her to herself.

Her Dad started stopping at the pub on the way home and often spent most of his wages there. Lizzie would take any chance to go to a friend’s place and not come home till late and when she did come home now she would often sit in her room and read books, just to escape this poor and dreary life. She kept trying her best to look after her Dad, but it was hard now when he was often drunk. It also seemed that every time her Mum and Dad were together they either fought or had nothing to do with each other and this made her Dad miserable and grumpy.

Lizzie had really wanted to have her old happy life back, just her with her Mum and Dad, all being happy together. She could not really see why having another baby was so important to them. Sure it would be nice for her to have a brother, but they were still a family and could enjoy things.

Then, just when it had seemed hopeless, her Mum had come out of the bedroom one day with her hair washed and wearing clean clothes. She told them she was expecting another baby. After this it was like she had become a new person, she cleaned the house until it was spotless, she made them keep everything really clean; she said she was not going to let anything happen this time which might put at risk this precious child. Everything was about the baby that was coming, nothing about anyone else. It felt as if her Mum had forgotten about her Dad and her, even though they were still living here too.

Soon her Dad was going back to the pub again, coming home late, drunk, having spent far too much money. Her Mum could not stand this either. Before long she would not let him stop in the same room as her, she said he was too dirty. Her Dad would still hug her, his Lizzie, when he saw her and she hugged him back tightly. Even though he had often not shaved and smelt a bit bad, she still loved him lots. She just wished she could make it all better.

Then one day he did not come home. He was not there that night and not the next night either. Lizzie was beside herself with worry, even if her Mum barely seemed to notice. Her tummy was getting really big now, and all she seemed to talk about was what would be good for the baby. It was as if her husband’s absence barely registered in her mind.

So Lizzie went to the place where her Dad worked, early the next morning, and asked if he was there. The people said that no-one had seen him since the night before last when he finished work. He had told them he was finished for the day, obviously heading for the pub.

So she had gone to the pub, just herself, an eight year old girl in a school dress, even though she should have gone to school. She asked if anyone had seen her Dad or knew where he was. Finally someone told her he had been there the night before last and had left about ten o’clock, so drunk he could barely walk, saying there was no point going home as his wife did not talk to him anymore, as he wobbled out the door.

That was the last anyone had seen him. The publican said that, if he had gone missing, Lizzie should go and see the police. So she had walked all the way up to the police station, up in the middle of town, and talked to a kindly police sergeant. She had asked him to help her look for her Dad and had also told him about her Mum and how her Mum did not seem to realise her that Dad was missing.

So the policeman organised a search with a few men from the pub and from the nearby streets. They found him soon enough, lying at the bottom of some rickety stairs which went down from behind the pub; going down the side of the cliffs to the docks below. Underneath the stairs grew some scrubby bushes.

There was the body of her Dad, lying hidden under these bushes. They said he must have tripped and fallen over the rails, coming from high up on the stairs, falling headfirst onto the rocky ground below. Now he lay there with his head smashed and his neck at a funny angle. It was awful.

They tried to keep her away; they said he smelt bad and she should not see him until the undertaker had fixed him up. But she had ducked under peoples arms and ran to where he was; just wanting to go and hug him one more time. A policeman caught her and held her back, but not before she saw him with his broken neck and smashed head.

Since then she could not quite forgive her Mum for letting this happen, through sending her father away. She knew it was not just her Mum’s fault; but if her Mum had been nicer her Dad would not have got so drunk and it would not have happened.

Now six more years had gone by. Her Mum had baby David soon after this. While Lizzie quite liked her brother, she could not get the thing she most wanted, to have her Dad back. So now, while her Mum tried to talk to Lizzie again and pretend as if it had not happened, Lizzie was angry deep inside. Even though they still lived together and she played a bit with her brother, she mostly kept to herself.

And now they were so, so poor. Her mother got some sort of pension, but it did not go far towards feeding them and buying clothes. The house needed a new coat of paint, the kitchen cupboards were falling apart and there were holes in the bottom of her shoes that she tried to stuff with newspaper.

She looked for any odd jobs she could find; baby-sitting, mending clothes, washing and ironing, running errands; but it was always hard to earn enough money and what she got she gave straight to her Mum without keeping any for herself, because she knew that her family was more important and her Dad would have wanted her to do this.

She knew her Mum was trying to make it up to her for that awful time she had caused, but yet in Lizzie’s heart a hard lump towards her Mum remained, like a piece of ice or stone.

But, at last, things were looking up, Julie had become her good friend and Julie was rich and had other rich friends. Julie talked to Lizzie like she was not some little poor girl and, sometimes, she gave her spare clothes, bits of jewellery and other nice things. Plus she really liked talking to Julie, with both of them telling stories and imagining what they would do with their lives once grown up. Soon she would leave school; it would happen at the end of this year as she had been promised work in a factory in Pyrmont. She was not sure what the job was but the pay was a pound a day which seemed a huge sum, and the money would really help her family. Now she was determined to forget about any silly dreams like the one last night.

Chapter 2 – Lizzie Turns Fifteen

The year was 1963 and soon it would be in 1964. It was the last week of school at Balmain High School. Lizzie and Julie had sat their final exam for their Intermediate Certificate. Lizzie generally got good marks, people said she was bright and should stay on at school. Julie was going to Croydon Presbyterian Ladies College next year as a boarder, Lizzie’s Mum said it was a sort of finishing school for rich girls, before they went and found husbands and got married.

Julie however had other ideas and talked about going to University and doing some course, perhaps Arts or becoming a lawyer. She was bright and got good marks too, but usually Lizzie beat her in this, at least in Maths and Science. Julie really encouraged Lizzie to not leave school; she said she was way too clever to end up working in a factory, packing boxes or something similar.

But there was not enough money in their family for that, her Mum was barely managing to make ends meet. Lizzie knew it was time for her to get a job and contribute to the family income. Now a job was on offer in Pyrmont and she would start it in two weeks.

Right now she had two more days to go at school. Then, on Saturday, it was her birthday party; she would turn fifteen. She knew her Mum had been scrimping and saving every little bit she could in order to have enough money to give her a nice party where she could invite a few school friends. She even suspected that her Mum was trying to buy her a present from David Jones on lay by, she saw what looked like a lay by docket in her Mum’s purse the other day.

She and her Mum were getting on better now; she was starting to appreciate just how hard it was for her Mum to bring up two children on her own. Her Mum had no other family that lived in Sydney, her own mother and father were both dead and her one brother lived in Melbourne. While he wrote occasional letters he did not have a good enough job to help with money. And since her husband, Ron’s, death, her Mum had heard nothing from his family. It was as if they blamed Patsy for Ron’s death. While Lizzie knew this was part true, she was last managing to forgive and forget, and she thought they should too.

Lizzie had also read about a thing called post-natal depression that doctors were talking about, she read lots of science books and had started to understand it was a sort of mental illness. She thought that this was what her mother had before and that it was not fair to blame people in this situation. So, even though she still missed her Dad terribly, that hard lump in her heart towards her Mum was slowly going away.

Lizzie knew she was not exactly beautiful. People told her she had a bright, interesting face and, in the last year, her body had filled out, although she did not have the radiant beauty of Julie. But people seemed to enjoy talking to her and thought she had interesting things to say. She had lots of ideas in school discussions and her teachers were all most encouraging for her to try and continue her studies.

The day of Lizzie’s birthday came around; it was a Saturday, and her Mum had organised an afternoon party, starting at three o’clock in their back yard. This was shaded by a big gum tree, and her mother had set up a table for food, surrounded by all the chairs she owned, along with as many more as she could borrow from neighbours, arranged in little clusters in the leafy garden. Her Mum had always been a really talented cook; she had worked in a hotel preparing food for a couple years before she met Lizzie’s Dad and got married. Today it seemed that she had excelled herself, everything she had prepared looked and smelt delicious. David had been given the job of decorating it all using ribbons, balloons and streamers. He had taken to this with gusto; now it had a really festive air.

Six of Lizzie’s classmates were coming, including Julie, along with two other friends around Lizzie’s age who lived in her street. The neighbours from both sides, who had helped with the cooking and preparing food, were also coming.

Julie had also asked if she could bring a friend of her own, someone Lizzie did not know. The way she said it, it sounded sort of significant and it made her wonder if Julie had started seeing someone.

Just before three o’clock the neighbours came round; they offered to help with any last minute arrangements. The Locke family were a young couple, with a boy around David’s age, who lived to their right. The two boys immediately disappeared into David’s attic bedroom, not expected to come out again until the food was served.

Mr and Mrs Collins, who lived on the other side, were an elderly couple whose children had grown up and moved away. They were kind, if a little nosey. However their help was welcome, even if they were too churchy for Lizzie’s taste. Lizzie greeted them politely and chatted with them for a minute to be courteous while her mother worked away. Then Mr Collins took up the role of serving drinks to other guests and Mrs Collins took up the job of keeping an eye on the pies and cakes which were finishing in the oven while her Mum attended to other arrangements.

Today Lizzie felt inordinately proud of her Mum. Sure their house looked old and shabby. But her Mum had done everything humanly possible to make it look its best, it was spotless and bunches of flowers graced all possible locations. And she was amazed with the food her Mum had put together, little pies and pastries, sweet cakes, some bread, cold meat, cheese and fruit and lots of lollies and chocolates. It looked beyond wonderful.

The door bell rang. It was five of her classmates, come together, each with their own present, bright wrapping and brighter smiles. It was lovely and so exciting that these people had brought these things for her.

A big car drove past and parked just in front of the next house. Lizzie barely looked at it, none of her friends owned cars. Then a noise drew her eyes that way and she noticed Julie sitting in the passenger seat, wearing a lilac summer dress and looking gorgeous. And there was a tall, good looking man sitting in the driver’s seat. He got out, came around to Julie’s side and courteously opened the door. Julie got out, trying to look grown up and graceful, but obviously a bit self-conscious. The man took her hand and they walked together up to the front door, where Julie introduced Lizzie, sounding formal. “Lizzie, this is my friend Carl who I wanted you to meet.” “Carl, this is my best friend from school, Lizzie.”

Julie handed her a beautifully wrapped present, along with a card. Lizzie brought all her guests into the house and introduced them all around. The party began, everyone chatting politely and sipping punch; then presents were given which Lizzie dutifully opened. Julie had given her a lovely embroidered top and a swim suit with the fashion house label still attached. Her other friends had given her a range of other considerate gifts, for all of which she dutifully showed enthusiasm.

Last was a present from her Mum, the soft shape showed it was clothing. She opened it; it was a stunning summer dress, beautiful floral patterns and soft silky fabric. She knew this would have cost her Mum big time, scrimping and saving for months and then some. She could feel tears prick her eyes, and her Mum seemed to be crying too.

Her Mum said. “Lizzie, I only wish your Dad could have been here to see you in it, I know he would have approved and been so proud.”

Lizzie went over and hugged her Mum. It was like all the hate and badness of the years was finally washed away.

Chapter 3 - The Party

On Monday next week Julie called round to Lizzie’s place about lunch time. Lizzie was just hanging about, feeling at a loose end. So it was a relief to have a chance to chat to Julie. With all the other people their chance to talk at the party had been limited. So they walked around the corner to the park where they sat under a shady tree to talk in private without disturbance.

Lizzie was bursting to know more about Carl; she wanted to know how and when Julie met him, how serious it was, what they had done together and so many more things. She had never had a boyfriend herself and part of her was jealous. There was so little time, so much work to be done and she was not striking to look at, at least not the way Julie was. Not to mention that her clothes were often threadbare, her Mum cut her hair in a simple plain manner, and she had not practised all the ways of making herself attractive to men that most of her other friends had.

She knew a couple other boys around her age in her street but the relationship was like brothers and sisters, they had never taken any particular notice of her and she had never taken any real notice of them. But she sensed that there were other boys out there who were different creatures, charming and sophisticated, like those she had read about in the great novels of English which she studied at school and read in her bedroom at home.

Carl seemed like one of these sophisticated boys, resembling a figure from a novel, who dressed in striking clothes, drove a luxurious car and who knew how to laugh and make jokes in ways which charmed girls. So she had a hunger to know about him, and other men like him, who mixed with the likes of Julie, and bombarded her with questions, ‘Tell me where you met him, tell me what he does, have you ever kissed him?” Her questions went on and on.

Julie basked in Lizzie’s enthusiastic excitement; “Yes, he is handsome; yes, he has a lot of other friends who are like him.”

Julie told Lizzie she had met Carl at a party that she had gone to with her parents, at a family friend’s house in Woollahra, a couple weeks before their exams. He was nineteen and working in an office in the city, which was part of a business owned by his father. He had invited her to come to the movies with him the day after they met. Her parents had given a guarded OK; yes, but she needed to be home an hour after the movie finished.

Carl had complied with this direction like the perfect gentleman. He had taken her hand during the movie and had given her a kiss on the cheek when he said goodnight. And riding with him in the car was great fun. After that they arranged to meet the following weekend when he had invited her to come to the beach with him for the afternoon, saying that he was going with his parents and some other friends. Of his parents there was no sign but she had met some other boys and a couple other girls who seemed to hang out with them. They had all gone swimming together in the sea at Manly and at one stage Carl had picked her up and kissed her on the lips, and she kind of liked it, it gave her a funny feeling in that place.

He had not tried to do any more but she could tell he was attracted to her and she knew that more would come soon if they kept going out, he had hinted at that. While she knew she had to be careful she was kind of interested herself to try some more kissing and whatever followed, not going all the way of course, but plenty was exciting to try before then.

Julie and Lizzie talked wonderingly about what it would be like to go all the way. For both of them it had little more meaning than some imaginary pleasure, talked about in books and glimpsed in movies. Neither of their parents ever talked about this with them, but they had the general idea from biology and other books, if not the exact details.

Julie told her she had started to tell fibs to her parents about going out with Carl, she had not let on that Carl’s parents were not there on the beach that day. And now they had arranged to meet at the beach again tomorrow. Julie had told her Mum and Dad that she was going shopping in the city with a couple of other girls, when actually she was going to catch the ferry over to Manly to meet Carl and his friends for another day at the beach.

Julie said, “I am kind of hoping you could come with me, wear your new bathing suit, the boys are sure to think you look good in that. But you must not tell anyone else about it or, you know how gossip gets around, next thing the story will get back to my parents. Then I will be grounded.”

Lizzie felt a tingle of excitement at the thought of this adventure. Of course she would come, she would catch the bus into the city, saying she was meeting Julie there, to give Julie her opinion of some clothes and other things that Julie wanted to buy, and that they would not be back until late, as they would go to a movie while they were there.

Next day they met in the mid-morning at Circular Quay. Julie bought them both an ice-cream and handed Lizzie a ferry ticket which she had bought for her. Lizzie felt embarrassed at taking things from Julie, but Julie said not to be silly, her parents were rich and they gave her plenty of pocket money, more than enough for them both to share. So Lizzie accepted.

It was really exciting on the ferry, Lizzie could only remember going once before, with her Mum and Dad when she was little. Now she felt so grown up as the two of them stood by the rail with the breeze blowing in their hair and chatted. She noticed that several young men were paying attention to them as if they were suddenly beautiful, but then she thought, Well, of course, it’s Julie, men and boys always notice her.

At Manly they walked along the Corso until they came to the beach, where Julie pointed out her friends lying together in a group on the sand. Some of the boys looked very grown up and muscular, the other girls also looked grown up, wearing swimmers that really showed off their bodies.

Lizzie realised that she was lucky to have a new swim suit as the old one was much too small and raggy; it did not fit her body properly anymore, looked sort of babyish, and the material was faded and fraying. But she felt self-conscious showing so much of herself to these almost total strangers in her new bathing suit. Carl was the only one she had met before and she had barely said hello to him. So, for a while, she left her shirt top on to keep hiding her body which was very obvious in the swimmers. But then, feeling like a party pooper, she removed her shirt and lay out on the sand, sunning herself in her swimmers, just like the others were doing.

All the friends seemed nice. There were six men aged from eighteen to twenty and two other girls as well as her and Julie. One said she was sixteen though, when Lizzie looked closely at her, she seemed no older than Lizzie was, and the other was seventeen. Julie went and sat with Carl and the two of them were holding hands. The other girls each seemed to each be with one of the boys. So that left three of the boys who seemed to all want to talk to Lizzie and entertain her. This made Lizzie feel very flattered, particularly when they all told her things like how good she looked in her swimsuit and what beautiful hair she had.

Their leader was a big strong looking boy named Martin. He said he had come down from Newcastle last year, along with his other two friends, Dan and Will. Dan and Will seemed like his followers, rather than other men out for their own good time, laughing at Martin’s jokes and nodding when he talked.

Martin’s Dad had a shipping business in Newcastle with an office in Sydney. Now Martin had come to Sydney to learn the way things worked here. He said he was just starting to get to know people and things in Sydney, but he went back to Newcastle to visit because his family and his regular girlfriend still lived there. He said it was good to meet some other pretty girls in Sydney, perhaps he would find a new girlfriend here. Lizzie felt he was hinting it might be her. She was flattered, though she did not know if she liked him enough for this.

Lizzie found Martin interesting and easy to talk to, he seemed so confident. But there was something a little pushy about him and his friends seemed too much in awe of him. However he was well mannered and charming so she found herself enjoying his company.

Soon they went into the water swimming. The rest were all really good swimmers including Julie. Lizzie was glad her Dad had taught her to swim when he was alive; she had been a good swimmer when she was little. But she had not had much chance to practice since then. So, while she could swim well enough, she did not have the smooth and polished stroke to cut through the water that the others did.

However it did not stop her having fun, she joined in all the games. She went with the fun of it when the boys tossed her in the air and caught her, even if it seemed that they tried to touch her in private places when they caught her. But she was starting to realise that this was how grown up boys and girls played and, if Julie did not object, why should she.

In the mid-afternoon two of the boys went off and came back with a huge bag of fish and chips, along with big bottles of soft drink that they all shared. Then they turned to talking about their next outing together. The next Saturday night there was a party in Vaucluse that most of them were going to. It was at another friend’s house. “His Dad is seriously rich and he throws the best parties,” Carl said.

Before she knew what was happening Lizzie was being pressed into coming along. She said, “I don’t think Mum will let me and I don’t have the nice clothes that the rest of you do.”

Carl said, “Surely Julie can lend you a dress, you are both about the same size, and you can say you’re going to stay at her place and she can say she is stopping over with you, that way neither lot of parents needs to know. Then, the next day you can both go home to your own places and no-one will be any the wiser.”

Lizzie felt a bit doubtful but now Julie joined in enthusiastically, “Yes let’s, why not, no one needs to know and what harm can it do. It sounds like such fun.”

So Lizzie found herself agreeing and feeling secretly excited at the prospect, as well as at the clever trickery it involved.

They arranged to meet at the City Town Hall steps next Saturday, at seven in the evening. It was agreed that Lizzie would first go over to Julie’s in the mid-afternoon, for a planned sleep-over. They would both get ready there. They would say to Julie’s parents that they were going to the pictures in the State Theatre in Market St and would catch the bus home to Lizzie’s place where they would stay for the night.

Instead Martin and Carl would pick them up in a car at Town Hall and they would go out to Vaucluse from there. Carl had a cousin in a house in Paddington, with spare beds. So they would come back there, after the party, to sleep before they went home the next morning.

Soon it was Saturday, and Lizzie was packing to go to Julie’s place. She felt a pang of guilt, she tried not to lie to her Mum, and this sneakiness did not feel right. There were often things she did not tell her, but she tried not to tell outright lies. And yet now she was doing just that. But she pushed it away, she was just going out for a good time, she was doing no harm. It was what everyone did at her age, easier than trying to explain to parents their need to go out and have fun with others

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