Chapter 5 – Maxine meets Silvie
As Maxine was walking along Meanjin river at New Farm Park, she felt more happy and at peace than she had in a long time. It felt amazingly good to move her body, stiff from all this time spent in the same positions. The sun was powerful but there was a cool breeze from the river where catamaran ferries buzzed up and down the stream. Maxine marvelled at the old big trees and expansive the herb and vegetable gardens had been extended. People were tending to their plots in the community garden. The playground was teeming with children, and she watched for a while, wondering what her own little boy would be like one day. Closer to the river the barbecue hot plates were surrounded by groups of people of all ages. Groups of youngsters were kicking footies or playing volleyball. Maxine took her time to soak everything up, exchanging smiles and friendly glances as she walked, slowly making her way back towards their gathering.
Will’s performance was going to start on the park’s main stage soon, yet she didn’t want to go back to where her in-laws were. As soon as they had arrived in the auto 20 minutes ago, she had been surrounded by a clutch of women spruiking nightmare-inducing pregnancy stories, stroking her swollen belly – uninvited of course – giving her compliments, and asking uber personal questions. When Alicia began to brag about William, Maxine had excused herself to go for a walk, “Alone, please.” she added when they began to consult who should accompany her. Under a tirade of cautions she had been left to withdraw and go for a walk in peace. Maxine took a deep breath and reminded herself to stay positive and grateful. They mean well, she reminded herself. But she still didn’t want to sit with them if she could help it.
The performance had not yet started, but there were a lot of people around now, probably over 100, many of them family members. Classic fifties music was playing while the stage was getting prepared, some couples were dancing, many of them in 50’s clothing. Robots were scurrying around with food and drink trays, people went back and forth, talking on phones, ushering newcomers. The atmosphere was thick with expectation, today’s performance was the premiere of a 1950’s comedy.
Maxine surveyed the crowd and noticed a young woman sitting alone on a blanket off to one side, near where the children played. She was cradling a baby in a sling. Maxine walked over.
‘Mind if I sit with you for a bit?’
‘Sure. Here, have a pillow.’
They shared a giggle while Maxine carefully lowered herself to the ground and got comfortable.
‘Which one is yours?’ Silvie asked, nodding in the direction of the stage.
‘My husband?’ Maxine asked and Silvie nodded.
‘William Fenceking Junior. And yours?’
‘Mick McLusky. We’re based in London. Have escaped the winter this year.’
‘Cool. Is he an actor, too?’ Maxine asked.
‘Darling, they are all actors.’ Silvie replied curtly.
‘What do you mean?’ Maxine said after a moment.
Silvie looked squarely at her, ‘All of them train in acting so that they can pretend to give a shit about you and me while we bear their children.’
Maxine sat stunned, her mouth opening and closing several times, unable to grasp any of the countless thoughts rushing through her mind.
‘Oh shit, I’m sorry.’ Silvie said then, ‘I shouldn’t have said that. I shouldn’t unsettle you before you give birth and all.’
She looked at Maxine, her eyes wide with regret – and fear.
Maxine took a deep breath. The baby kicked.