Macy stared up at the ceiling as another drop of condensation narrowly missed her head and splashed onto the pillow. For nearly an hour now she’d been playing a game of Russian roulette with the air conditioner which was working so hard to fight off the February heat that the drips were now big enough and so frequent that she really ought to have put a bucket underneath it. Instead, she just lay there, waiting in anticipation for the next droplet to fly past her, knowing it was only a matter of time before her face was speckled with moisture.
She could hear her mother in the next room lamenting about something that was surely insignificant and unworthy of that much attention and she knew that she should probably go and relieve her brother from their mother’s constant nagging, but Tim had refused to help her clean the chicken coop this morning citing sore legs as his excuse, so she felt somewhat less obligation to bail him out than usual. She focused her attention back on the air conditioner and watched as the next bead of water formed, slowly swelling before falling, as if in slow motion, reflecting the afternoon sunlight and as it sparkled toward her, Macy imagined a tiny Faberge Egg were about to land on her head.
She was jolted back into reality by a loud knock on the door. Her mother paused just long enough for Tim to realise this was his chance and in an instant he had left his mother and bolted down the hallway towards the door. Macy knew he had opened the door when she felt the familiar hot wind rip through the house and she sat up, reluctant for their visitor to see her being so unproductive with her Sunday afternoon.
“Would you let them in and shut the door please, Tim!” her mother yelled down the hall, having yet to even stick her head around the corner and see who had arrived. “I’ll bet if you had to pay the air con bill you wouldn’t be so keen to turn this place into a Swedish bath house!” Macy couldn’t hide the smirk which rippled across her face as she considered the idea of her mother actually in a Swedish bath house. She heard the door close and she sidled off her bed, intrigued to notice that Tim was yet to speak to their visitor. Finally Macy’s mother, apparently also having noticed Tim’s silence, emerged from study.
“I didn’t raise you to gawk at people like some oaf, Tim. Hello dear, Macy’s in her room, second on the right’. Macy’s heart raced – who would be here to see her? She saw the flash of her red raced little brother race down the hall before the familiar figure of Juliette appeared in her doorway and she sighed a small puff of relief. Juliette was an imposing figure – much taller than most girls her age and her long, waist-length hair made her seem like a teenage Morticia Adams. Macy could not quite understand why Tim hadn’t spoken to Juliette – they’d practically grown up together, but she suspected it might have something to do with puberty. Juliette sauntered in and sat on Macy’s bed, staring at the wet circle that had formed on her pillow.
“You seriously need to get that fixed, it’ll make you sick if your head gets cold while you sleep” she announced.
“Is that true?” Macy quipped
“It’s what my mum always says when I try to sleep with my fan on” Juliette replied and Macy realized that it was not. Juliette’s mother was a real fish out of water in their town and although they’d moved to Margoa when Juliette was just a baby, her mother had raised her very differently to most of the kids in the town. Macy had been sidelined from swimming in the dam with the rest of the kids during the summer of her ninth birthday because of an ongoing ear infection and it was there that she had met Juliette, whose mother had forbidden her from swimming for fear that she would contract Giardia or the like, and Macy knew that if it weren’t for that summer, they would surely have never spoken.
“It’ll be fine” Macy reassured Juliette but the concern on her face remained.
“Can I stay here tonight and catch the bus to school with you in the morning?”
If it weren’t for the severity of her tone, Macy would have laughed at the idea of Juliette on the bus, instead she looked back quizzically. “It’s just that I had a fight with Mum this morning…” she paused, seemingly assessing how much she was going to tell Macy. “I told her that I helped you feed the chickens yesterday and she went mental. Did you know that I probably have bird flu now?” They both laughed.
“It’s called ‘Avian Influenza’ actually” Macy joked, “ but if you’ve got it then my chickens are screwed!” Juliette smiled all the way to her eyes and Macy was suddenly reminded of why they were friends. “Mum, Julie’s staying over tonight!”
“What’s she cooking?” Macy’s mother replied from the kitchen and the girls smiled, wild ideas of what they would do with their night together quickly forming.
“So what do you want to do?” Macy asked
“Well,” said Juliette, “have the chickens been fed yet?”