By Rachel Sweasey
R peered through the darkness watching L as he slumbered. The wrinkles and creases around their eyes told the tales of a lifetime of travel. On and on and on they’d trekked, tramping up and down hills, through the swamps and deserts, forests and fields of life. There had been lonely valleys and glorious mountaintops, times of pain and times of joy.
Their beginnings were so far away, so long ago that she could barely recall them. Flashes of remembrance offered up the rubber plantation, roaring with heat, action, sweat, and humanity, representing life and destruction, creation and desolation all raging at once. Then they’d been there together on the cattle station and journeyed through the stench of the abattoir. It had been good to get out of that place in one piece.
They didn’t know each other back then. Hell, they didn’t even know themselves yet. They were so early on the voyage of life it would take what seemed like forever until they were each comfortable by themselves, confident in their own unique shape. But the journey had continued and all the history of their youth shaped them into mature creations. The critical eye of others hammered them into respectable, acceptable, form.
Finally, by pure chance, they were thrown together – an arranged marriage with no pre-ceremony meeting. It wasn’t a traditional honeymoon. Six long weeks cocooned together in very close quarters on board a ship bound for the other side of the world, their tan skins hidden from the sun.
The sights and sounds of the new world had been so exciting to share together. They watched and waited and looked on longingly while others were cherry-picked and granted the chance for bigger and better adventures. But they knew their time would come, if only they could stick it out together. There would be a chance for every pair in this new world.
When their day came to leave the security they’d grown used to, fear stiffened them. They knew they were destined for a life of service, slavery if you like, but hoped against hope for a good owner. They were bought and paid for and only luck stood between a life of useful activity and enduring mistreatment.
R looked again at her partner in this long, happy life and remembered with a warm glow the many journeys they’d taken together. That very first one, hiking the cliff walk on the Isle of Purbeck, looking out to sea across Old Harry’s Rocks, smelling the salt air. The seagulls screeched overhead as they’d stepped in time, alternating, first R ahead and then L following on. Neither ever stayed ahead for long, always willing to let the other catch up. Real teamwork. They’d faithfully protected their owner from the cold and the damp, the rocks and the mud.
Then one day She’d brought them to a new country, reached via a second ship-board honeymoon in that familiar, dark cocoon. The heat and humidity here reminded them so much of their humble beginnings. New territory, new terrain. Together they’d only known limestone and mud and now they trod ancient forest floor of fern, leaf and lichen.
Grace is given freely but is always rewarded with more grace. They’d repaid their owner’s loving kindness and care with gentleness, support, and comfort through 27 years of service. In all that time She had never betrayed their foreign roots. They’d tramped and hiked alongside others of far more superior stock who were proud of their heritage, wearing their badges of origin with pride. R and L had loved Her for concealing their ancestry and never expected any more, knowing they were forever, secretly, branded ‘Foreign Import’.
R nuzzled into L’s side as gratitude for the day’s events engulfed her. They’d been mistaken for Merrell’s. The warmth of pride reached from the tip of her tongue to the very bottom of her sole.