Outback Bachelor

By: Margaret Way


THE night before she was to make her sad journey back to Djinjara, after a self-imposed absence, Skye’s dreams were filled with vivid childhood memories of life on the great station. Those had been the halcyon days when Djinjara had been the centre of her universe, the days before she had become overpowered by the McGoverns, cattle barons prominent among the nation’s great landed families. Broderick McGovern had been master of Djinjara when she had been growing up; a man with tremendous obligations and responsibilities, greatly respected by all. Keefe, his elder son, had been the heir. Scott, next in line, the difficult one, burdened with sibling rivalry issues, always making it his business to stir up discord. Rachelle, the youngest, was rather good at stirring up trouble herself, but happily for the McGovern dynasty Keefe was everything he was supposed to be. And much more.

By the time she was five she had fallen totally under his spell. She couldn’t imagine life without Keefe in it! A deprived child, struggling with the loss of a mother and a mother’s love and guidance, she found Keefe to be a source of continual comfort, delight and admiration. He commanded her world. It was a role her hard-working, grieving father didn’t seem able to fill. At least not for a long time. Skye’s father, Jack McCory, was a man who had never come to terms with losing his beautiful young wife Cathy in childbirth. Thereafter, he lamented it would never have happened only Cathy had insisted on having her child on the station instead of at Base Hospital.

By such decisions was our fate determined.

In her early years Skye couldn’t understand her father’s deep melancholy, neither as a child could she be expected to, though she always tried to ease it by being a good girl and putting her mind to her lessons at the station school. Her teacher, Mrs. Lacey, always embarrassed her, instructing the other children, offspring of station employees, “Let Skye be an example to you!”

With Mrs. Lacey, an excellent teacher, she could do no wrong.

“Why shouldn’t she praise you?” Keefe commented lazily when she complained. “You’re one bright little kid. And you’re really, really pretty!” This with a playful tug on her blonde curls. Keefe was six years her senior. From age ten he had been sent as a boarder to his illustrious private school in Sydney. The times he was home on vacation were, therefore, doubly precious to her.

Times changed. People changed with them. It wasn’t unusual for the bonds of childhood not to survive into adulthood. By the time Keefe became a man he was no longer the Keefe who had laughed at her, listened to her, tolerated her showing-off, taken her up on his shoulders while she squealed her pleasure at the top of her lungs. The adult Keefe not only filled her with awe, he came close to daunting her. Even when he was looking straight at her she imagined he was looking through her. Something absolutely fundamental between them had changed. What made it all that much harder to bear was it seemed to happen overnight.

Their respective roles became blindingly clear.

She could never, not ever, enter Keefe McGovern’s adult world.

Despite her strenuous efforts to distance herself, and make her own way in life, Keefe continued to live on in her mind and her dreams. He was her shooting star, with all a star’s grandeur. Not with the best will in the world could she change that. Obsessions, unlike many friendships, remained constant.

It had been devastation of a kind after she had made the break to go to university. It had become very important for her to separate herself from the McGoverns. Separate from Keefe, her hero. Even the thought made her weep, but her tears fell silently down the walls of her heart.

Keefe! Oh, Keefe!

Had it really happened those few years ago, or had she imagined it all? Remember. Oh, yes it had happened.

No young men she had met thereafter—and she had met many who were attracted to her—could measure up to Keefe. Now twenty-four she was making a success of her life even if she continued to feel deeply obligated to the McGoverns. Their interest in her had secured her bright future. McGovern money had paid for her expensive education. Her father explained years later that Lady McGovern, grandmother to Keefe, Scott and Rachelle, had insisted that fact be keep quiet.

“Skye is not to know. But she’s such a clever child she must be given the best possible chance in life.”

Although Lady McGovern had always been a majestic figure, as aloof as royalty, in all truth she had been oddly protective of a lowly employee’s young daughter. That alone had caused the ever-deepening rift between Rachelle and herself. Rachelle had a jealous nature. She loved both her brothers, but it was Keefe she adored. It was Keefe’s attention Rachelle always fought for. If it were true that some mothers couldn’t give up their sons to girlfriends and wives, it was equally true that some sisters were unwilling to take a back seat in their brother’s affections. Rachelle hung in there, determined Skye would never be allowed to stake a claim on the family. Skye was always “the pushy little daughter of—can you believe—a station hand? Always trying to ingratiate yourself with our family.” Reading between the lines, that meant Rachelle’s adored brother, Keefe. These were just a couple of the insults Rachelle tossed off like barbed arrows.

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