There was a knock on the door.

‘Ah’ Julie! Come in.’

Quick peck on the cheek.

The trail led to the kitchen, strong coffee.

Into the yard, smoking roll ups, small talk.

The lounge, she sat on the piano stool.

‘I quit my job, life’s a mess.’ She said. Turned and finger thrashed the keys.

I cringed, the life story, the piano sound.

We talked it through, her life.

I showed her middle C.

We talked patterns, the work life balance.

She played on.


The China Suite.

She’s the Baron’s daughter, Kathryn, standing there by the window, scratching a name into a glass pane with a diamond. From her spot she looks down to see the gardener’s son planting a beautiful plant in the middle of a flower bed.

She remembered how they played as infants, her only friend on the great estate. He’d shown her how to sow seed later, ploughing a furrow, scattering the seed and gently covering them up. Her father had stopped all that, she was to be the lady of the house and must keep her place.

He had been away inspecting his interests in China, from where he had sent back magical gifts and an artist to assemble them. From there he had gone to the West Indies, to oversee new work on his plantations. Now he was returning to the castle built from sugar, an urgent matter had been the word and home he sailed.

Kathryn was confined to the China Suite, the upper floor of the tower, the rooms her mother had died in. They had been redecorated by the Chinese artist who lived somewhere about the grounds. The young Miss had gotten into trouble, the house keeper found out, locked her away and waited the return of the master.

The faces looked at her from the walls, eye’s followed from the fields, rice planters in paddies, from tea houses and from palaces. All of them watching, from the peasants all the way up to the emperor himself. Fish jumped out of water to see her, animals wandered closer and birds flew by, wings flapping. They all wondered,

‘what was going to happen now?’

The life in the hand painted, papered wall covering continued, the sun came up, the days work continued, all the industries of life and death, wealth and poverty carried on and all watched Kathryn and talked in whispers about her. Eventually they started answering questions she posed, with secret signs, left in secret places, on the sunrise seas and in the deep tree lined valleys and on the tables tops at banquets. She only had to listen and a whisper would move her eyes to a spot, un-code a message.

The China Suite was a Godsend, keeping her sane over the months she waited for her father to return. One day a whisper from the wall alerted her to the sound of hooves and the rattle of a carriage coming up the main through fare toward the gate of the sugar castle. The creaking doors were opened to the sound of hurry inside. The stairway thundered under the baron’s force and the China Suite door was thrown open.

He just stood there and looked at her standing, back to the window, blocking out the light. The walls now became coloured wallpaper, her eyes looked in dread at the new reality. He stormed across the room, she cowered and he took her in his arms and gently held her, cradled her. He looked out of the windows and said,

‘It will be made good.’ He paused, stood up releasing her. ‘You are my flesh and blood, my only child, I love you. Rest now child, I’ll see you in the morning.’

The walls were now dead to her, she could not see them anymore, had she gone mad too, like her mother, and now her father has come to rescue her. She slept comfortably, no conversations and secret signs, no cows pulling ploughs and no peacocks standing proud.

A commotion woke her up, it came from the garden, all the way down below the tower window. She struggled to get up and as she walked to see what was happening outside, the door burst open and the baron stood there with a covered tray. He bellowed,

‘Sit girl sit, I bring breakfast.’

He smiled, she smiled back and sat waiting. He placed the tray before her, looked into her eyes and lifted the lid.

‘Isn’t it pretty?’ He laughed

A plate of meat was surrounded by decapitated heads, flowers, from the plants below her window.

The sun rose out of the China Sea as the artist walked in, carrying a long hooked needle.