As a child, Marie Cunningham Davidson was a Ten Pound Pom: a British citizen who immigrated to Australia with her family. On the fortieth anniversary of her exciting move from England to an unknown world, Marie began writing stories and poems that would eventually come to fruition as a thrilling collection.
Cest la Vie is fiction, but even fiction has elements of truth. Including snippets of information from the tapestry of Maries life, it would be impossible to leave the facts out completely. She creates stories with varied themes and characters, inspired by true events. Her recipe is a dash of fact blended with fiction, resulting in a delicious feast of words.
Within these pages find terror on the highway, a tale of ocean crossing, and poems about loneliness, depression, and autism. Through a mixture of poetry, dialogue, and essay, Marie expresses both deep emotions and light-hearted laughter. With the power to provoke, amuse, and inspire, this is a collection for everyone.
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|Publisher:||Balboa Press AU|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.26(d)|
About the Author
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THE JOURNEY BEGINS
It was six o'clock in the morning when I left Melbourne. Half awake, even after three cups of strong coffee, I set off from home. I had arranged to spend the weekend with my sister Susan in Mildura. It was great getting together. Unfortunately, this was something we were unable to do often. When we did, we usually had a few glasses of red wine, perhaps a nice Merlot from an Australian winery named the Four Sisters (we are a four-sister family, so it was special), and a singsong on the back veranda of her homestead in Merbein, just outside of Mildura.
Susan was the coordinator of a childcare facility, and her partner, George, was a primary school teacher. I was also looking forward to spending time with their two gorgeous kids, Toby and Jean. From Merbein, I was heading over to Whyalla, in South Australia, to catch up with the rest of the family.
I have no idea why I headed for Ballarat that day. It was probably a result of my being tired. Normally, I would travel this way to drive to Adelaide. So it may have been from habit. On the road, I was singing to wake myself up. Suddenly, I realised I was heading in the wrong direction. Instead of going west, I should have been travelling north. Quickly, I pulled over to the side of the road and turned on my GPS. Sure enough, I was heading for Ballarat, whereas I should have been heading for Bendigo. I'd now have to travel cross-country on very small, barely used roads.
I reached Newbury before travelling cross-country to get back to the original route and on to Highway 79, headed north to Mildura. This mistake had added two hours to my overall journey. Still feeling very tired, I pulled in to a roadhouse in the small town of Winchester for some brunch.
The sign informed me that Winchester had a population of 130. After ordering a sandwich and a drink, I asked the guy behind the counter if there were any parks in the town where I could go to eat my lunch. He said that there were plenty of parks in the town and that they were easy to find if I just drove around. Actually, he was a bit creepy. It wasn't anything in particular that he'd said. He just creeped me out.
Settling back into my car, I drove around the town, which was deserted. It was forty degrees already, and the day was getting warmer by the minute. I guessed everyone was inside with the air conditioning turned up. There were numerous parks, but the picnic tables were right in the middle of them. The parks were really quiet and isolated, so I decided to eat my food in the car and then head off.
I had been driving for about fifteen minutes when I noticed a car in my rear-vision mirror. At first, the car followed at a distance, and then it commenced driving right up to the rear of my vehicle, before pulling off again. The car was green, but I couldn't see much of the driver — just that he was wearing very dark aviator sunglasses.
I didn't take too much notice initially, but after he'd tailgated me and then backed off five or six times, I got a bit nervous. I was on a quiet country road, with no one within "cooee", so I felt isolated.
I decided I had to get rid of this pesky driver. Pulling into another roadhouse in the next small town, I ordered a coffee and a slice of cake and sat for a while. I allowed the nuisance driver to overtake me so I could resume my journey without the hassle of him following me.CHAPTER 2
While I had stopped at the roadhouse, allowing my nuisance driver to pass me, I tried to read his registration plates, but that was difficult because I didn't want him to see my face. All I managed were the first two letters: RW. I did take note, however, that the car was green and was a Toyota, perhaps a hatchback.
A cup of strong coffee was in order — not this time to keep me awake, but to calm my nerves. This idiot had me a little rattled, I had to admit. After ordering coffee and a buttered finger bun, I sat and thought about what was happening here.
Not much really. Then why was I so spooked? This mystery driver had followed me for about fifty kilometres, tailgating me and then dropping back, over and over again. I tried to rationalise it. Probably some bored teenager was playing chicken with me for as long as he could get away with it. Had I been in the city, I would have jumped out and given him a piece of my mind. But I wasn't in the city. I was in the middle of nowhere, and he knew it. Maybe he was trying to run me off the road, and then maybe he'd —
Stop it, I told myself. I just knew I was getting myself all worked up over nothing.
I tried to convince myself that this was all in my imagination. Why would he choose me to play silly road games with? There was no reason for me to get panicky over this. I needed to get back into my car and just get on with the rest of the journey.
After finishing my coffee and my finger bun, which was really tasty and gave me a sugar boost, I found that I was no longer tired. By then I was alert and anxious to reach Susan's place in Mildura as quickly as I could. Dropping my waste in a rubbish bin, I hopped into the car and resumed my journey.
He'll be well gone by now, I thought. Keep up a steady speed and you won't catch up with him. You'll be fine!
Observing the speed limit, I exited the town and started out onto the main highway. I felt good because there were no other cars in either direction. I started to sing "Ben" along with Michael Jackson. That's an oldie but a goodie,I thought.
As I thought this, I glanced into my rear-view mirror and —
No, this is not possible. I watched him drive past me at the roadhouse.
How can he be behind me again? I sped up, and he dropped back.
Okay, I'll drive as fast as the speed limit will allow me. That will get me ahead of him.
Looking in the rear-view mirror and realising he was tailgating me again, I thought I was going mad.
Why is he following me? What purpose does it serve? None. He is either just playing with me, or he means me harm!
Stop it! You're just frightening yourself for no reason.
So I flattened my foot and accelerated to 130 kilometres an hour, thinking he'd never catch up with me at that rate. I was driving a Mazda 3 SP25, which I knew could handle two hundred kilometres per hour. I didn't intend to drive at that speed, but I took some comfort in the knowledge that I could probably outrun him if I needed to.
Flabbergasted, I checked the rear-view mirror and there he was — about eight metres behind me. I tried to note anything of the driver or the car that I could. There was a yellow strip hanging from his rear-view mirror. He had a dark, swarthy complexion, perhaps Mediterranean or Middle Eastern, with dark aviator sunglasses. He was so close that I could see that he wasn't clean-shaven.
Am I just imagining this? Maybe I'm going mad.
I was approaching Wedderburn, still six hours out of Mildura. I had to get rid of this idiot once and for all. So stopping at the town, I once again allowed the green car to pass me, catching another letter of his registration plate as he passed by: RWD.
Taking my time, I topped up the fuel tank, checked the water levels of my car, checked the tyres, and added some air to one tyre, which had deflated a little. It wasn't a real issue, but it gave me time to let this idiot driver get well ahead of me.
After entering the roadhouse, I paid for my fuel and ordered a sandwich and a cup of tea. I took my time, waiting until I thought the road was clear. I allowed half an hour to pass before taking off towards Mildura.CHAPTER 3
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
Following the sixty-kilometre-per-hour limit out of Wedderburn, I gradually increased my speed until I was on Highway 79 once again. I dreaded looking in my rear-vision mirror, but the road behind me seemed clear.
Phew! Thank goodness for that, I thought. I don't think I could have taken much more.
About twenty kilometres out of Wedderburn, I glanced behind again. I don't believe this! I thought I gave him a half-hour head start on me. What's going on?
This time, there was no doubting it. I had left this guy at Wedderburn and allowed him half an hour's grace before heading off again. He couldn't be behind me. It must be someone else. But checking my rearvision mirror confirmed that this was the same driver, in the same car that had been following me for the past eighty kilometres.
Perhaps it's a mistake, I thought. I must be imagining this. I'm going crazy.
No, I wasn't mistaken, and I wasn't crazy. The driver zoomed up, almost touching my rear bumper bar. Then he dropped back ten metres or so and did it all over again. This continued for another twenty kilometres or so. I was getting scared.
What is he going to do next?
But he didn't change his pattern at all, accelerating up until almost touching my car, and then dropping back. I tried speeding up, but he matched my speed. Then I tried slowing down, but he wouldn't overtake me.
How had he managed to get behind me anyway? He must have hidden around the corner and watched me leave Wedderburn. Then he must have waited until I'd left the speed zone for the town, before following me again.
Why? I pondered. My thoughts turned to the backpacker murders and the Truro murders — true stories about young people being taken on lonely country roads. Oh my God, what if he's a murderer? Then I thought I needed to take it easy. Apart from tailgating me, he hadn't done anything to threaten me, had he?
Just as I had this thought, the green hatchback that had followed me for nearly a hundred and thirty kilometres suddenly overtook me. What now?
Without warning, he slammed on his brakes and pulled over to the side of the road. Through the dust, I saw him fling open his driver's-side door. I reacted instinctively, swerving around his door, but I was shaking; I could feel the terror creeping in.
Jeez, that was scary!
I peeked in my rear-view mirror and saw that he didn't get out of the car but just sat there staring at me as I headed off into the distance. I thought this was good, that his car had probably broken down: wishful thinking!
Trying to keep both eyes on the road, I turned the next bend, and when I looked up again I flashed to my rear-vision mirror. Oh my God, what's happening? There he was, not ten metres behind me.
So the "game" took on another strategy. He would tailgate me and then drop back ten or twenty metres, and then suddenly he'd be almost touching my rear bumper bar again. Every now and then, he would accelerate, overtake me, and slam on the brakes, flinging open his door. I would once again swerve to miss his car and accelerate, leaving him behind, until he caught up with me again. I was lucky that there was no traffic coming in the other direction; the result would have been catastrophic.
I was really scared by now, but I didn't know what to do. Ring the police? I'd feel like an idiot. My story was so crazy that they would probably think I was mad.
The town of Boigbeat was about twenty minutes away.
I've made it this far, I thought. I can make it to the next town.
Deciding to have another long break, I hoped again that he would lose interest in me. In the meantime he kept up his routine of tailgate, drop back, tailgate, then overtake and make me swerve to avoid him.
I have to admit I was really scared by this time. He'd been following me for over 150 kilometres. The stress was showing, through stiffness in my neck and arms, and a splitting headache that wouldn't abate.
My heart lifted as I saw the sign "Boigbeat, five kilometres". Trying to ignore the idiot on my tail, I focussed instead on a hot cup of tea and a break from the stress of this nightmare.
Drawing in to Boigbeat, I quickly located a roadhouse and climbed out of my car, keeping my eyes down and surreptitiously taking note of his registration number as he flew past me. "RWD" was all I managed to see. The day was dragging on. At this rate it would be late afternoon before I reached Mildura, but I needed to try to put some distance between me and the green hatchback, so I ordered a cup of tea and a biscuit and sat down to wait for half an hour before hitting the road again.
I used the restroom, pausing to wash my face with cold water. I dried off with paper towels and felt a little refreshed.
While at the roadhouse, I checked the large map of Victoria on the wall. I verified that I had been followed for over 150 kilometres, and I was convinced that this guy who was following me was a mate of the creepy guy at the roadhouse in Winchester.
I knew he was sleazy and creepy; I just didn't know what gave me that feeling. I could just imagine him getting on the phone to his creepy mate and telling him I was alone and driving on Route 79 to Mildura. This horror story only started after I'd left Winchester.
I was angry at the driver of the green car for making me feel afraid on the road, for tailgating me, and for putting my life at risk by forcing me to swerve to avoid his open car door. The more I thought about it, the angrier I became — and the more determined that I wouldn't let him beat me. What I didn't know was that when I left Boigbeat, things were about to get a whole lot worse.
Sitting in the roadhouse at Boigbeat, I watched the second hand on the clock move as if in slow motion. I needed to wait half an hour, and I was anxious to reach Mildura in one piece. That was the problem: I didn't know for sure that I'd reach Mildura, let alone intact. Seriously worried by this time, I thought about phoning the police, but I feared being labelled a crackpot. After all, he hadn't exactly harmed me. No, I wouldn't do it just yet. I kept thinking I was imagining it all.
I still had two hundred kilometres to cover that day, and all of these stops were dragging the day out. I knew that it would be late afternoon, at that rate, before I arrived. Thank goodness for daylight saving, as it would still be light until nine thirty in the evening.
I finished my tea and watched the news on the screen in the roadhouse. Everything was doom and gloom, so I switched it off. I kept imagining myself being a body found on the side of Highway 79 to Mildura. I shuddered.
I waited exactly thirty minutes, and then I used the conveniences, once again washing my face with cold water. It was a hot day outside and my lips tasted salty. Looking in the mirror, I realised that I looked exhausted and had puffy bags under my eyes. I needed to get to Mildura as quickly as possible.
On the road again, I once again waited until I was outside the city limits to put my foot to the floor and zoom myself out onto the highway and resume my journey to Mildura.
The next stretch was a difficult one. The roads were winding, and there were often kangaroos and sheep on the highway looking for water. It was ninety kilometres to the next main town of Ouyen, about an hour away if I were left in peace by Mr Green, car stalker.
I couldn't believe it: at the very moment that thought entered my head, I glanced up at my rear-view mirror and saw the grille of his bonnet grinning up at me.
What the ...? How did he get behind me again, and why? What sort of sicko gets his kicks from following women in cars on outback roads?
The movie Jindabyne flashed into my head. I started to shake.
This was ridiculous. It had to be my imagination ... But then something caught my eye up ahead. There was a blue Holden station wagon in front of me, travelling at about 80 kilometres an hour instead of the posted limit of 110.
Glancing in the rear-view mirror, I could see Mister Green creeping up behind me. The blue Holden wasn't going any faster, so I became wedged between the two. The road was very winding and I was trapped. I tried to get Mister Blue to increase his speed by flashing my lights, but to no avail.
Then it occurred to me: these two were working together. I thought, Oh my God, what am I going to do?
We drove like that for another twenty kilometres, until Mister Blue was driving at about forty kilometres per hour. I thought, Fuck this for a joke. I'm getting out of here.
So I overtook Mister Blue and left him for dead, zooming off down the highway with no respect for any speed limit. I had to put some real distance between me and these two jokers. I was almost hoping I would be pulled over by the highway patrol, so they could catch these idiots red-handed.
All went quiet for about ten minutes. I slowed back down to the speed limit. Billy Joel's "Piano Man" came on the radio, so I joined in, knowing that music soothes the soul. I was really getting into it when I glanced up at the rear-vision mirror.
I couldn't believe this.
"Why are you frigging doing this to me!" I screamed at the driver of the green car behind me, who obviously couldn't hear me at all. I was dreadfully tired and emotionally drained.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "C'est la Vie"
Copyright © 2018 Marie Cunningham Davidson.
Excerpted by permission of Balboa Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Outback Terror, 1,
Ten-Pound Poms, 36,
The Immigrant Child, Forty Years On, 38,
Popping the Question, with a Difference, 46,
What Do You See When You Look at Me?, 49,
Where the Outback Meets the Sea, 53,
The Tooth Thief, 54,
Captain Sweatpants, 56,
Winter Is Coming, 59,
We Won!, 61,
James, the Cognac, and the Wardrobe, 64,
Alzheimer's-Locked Inside, 74,
Disorderly Order of the Mind, 75,
The Lone Piper, 77,
I'm Not Perfect, 79,
PW the Extortionist, 81,
Alien Invasion, 82,
Take the Stairs!, 91,
I Spied a Yeti in the Bush today, 94,
The Fifth Child, 95,
My Amazing Dream, 98,
Autopsy Reveals, 102,