Double Spring: A Year of Tragedy, Grief and Love

Double Spring: A Year of Tragedy, Grief and Love

by Juliet Darling


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Double Spring: A Year of Tragedy, Grief and Love by Juliet Darling

Raw and beautifully told, this is the story of Juliet Darling's year of devastating grief after her partner was murdered by his schizophrenic son, as well as a story of the power of love

Nick died in the southern hemisphere in spring. Now I am in Paris in spring. We were to have been here together. I am experiencing a double spring. Double the bitterness, double the beauty.

Juliet Darling's account of the daily events surrounding the murder of her late partner, art curator Nick Waterlow, by his son Anthony is a moving story of a deeply personal formative experience. It is a passionate and urgent look at the ordinariness of evil, the intractability of fate, and the interconnectedness of art and life. Ultimately it is a story about the power of love, and how love can be sustained through grief. It is also a book about what it was like to live in the shadow of an impending death, which seemed to be foretold. It is about a grief that began long before death. For all involved, it seemed they were powerless to do anything to change the sinister course of events. They were living in a senseless, dreamlike state; in a state of mind where they knew something but they didn't know it at the same time. The events unfold with utmost simplicity, stripped of any falsehood. The small banal events which matter the most form the greatest part of this tale of almost unbearable suffering. This is a story of powerlessness and grief, families and friendship, fear and trust, and anger and love.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781743315057
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
Publication date: 10/01/2013
Pages: 208
Product dimensions: 5.70(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Juliet Darling is a filmmaker, writer, and artist. She wrote, directed, and produced the film Dead Letters, which was associate produced by Jane Campion. She has written for the Australian and the Sydney Morning Herald.

Read an Excerpt

A Double Spring

A Year of Tragedy, Grief and Love

By Juliet Darling, Torey Wahlstrom

Allen & Unwin

Copyright © 2013 Juliet Darling
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-74343-226-6


I heard the news

It was a little after ten-thirty on a spring night. Nick had not arrived home from his visit to his daughter Chloe's house but I was expecting him to walk in at any minute. I was in bed reading when I heard the phone. I sat up, leant forward and held my breath to listen to the voice on the answering machine in the hallway. My heart stiffened. I recognised Nick's younger son's voice, and I jumped up and ran through the darkness to grab the receiver.

'There's something on the internet,' Luke said.

'What?' I could hear him tapping the keys on a computer. 'What is it?'

'I'll bring it up.' He was still tapping the keys.

'Tell me. Just tell me.'

'Two bodies have been found in Randwick.'

'Two bodies? That means they're dead! That means Antony has finally done it!'

'Er, yeah,' said Luke.

'Yeah? What do you mean "yeah"?'

'Where are you?'

'At home.'

'The police are arriving now. They're at the door.'

'Can I talk to them? Put them on.' I heard myself crying: No, no, no, no.

There was a pause, then I heard a woman's voice in the background. Then she came on the phone. 'I'm a friend of Luke's. Just stay calm. Calm down.'

'Put the police on. I want to talk to them.'

'They can't talk to you on the phone. Stay there. They're going to come to you afterwards.' She hung up.

I walked into the bedroom and put on some clothes. I made myself a hot-water bottle and sat motionless with the shadows moving soundlessly across the walls, my heart pounding in my chest and the blood moving slowly through my veins — in that room where Nick and I used to love one another among the shadows of the swaying branches. I closed the curtains and then I sat and stared at the geometric pattern on the Persian carpet.

At one-thirty am the intercom buzzed. I picked up the receiver. A male voice said, 'It's the police.' I let them in then opened the front door and waited for them to climb the stairs.

The police had been here before, five years ago, looking for Antony, who had used our address on his driver's licence. They hadn't believed me when I told them that Antony didn't live here. I thought they had come to tell me that Nick had been murdered then, but apparently Antony had smashed up a backpackers' hostel in Bondi and had been captured on video.

This time, two policemen in uniform entered our apartment. One of them said, 'The bodies of a middle-aged woman and an elderly man have been found.'


'We don't have any names.'

'Nick Waterlow? Chloe?'

They didn't respond. They had come to tell me something they couldn't tell me. But I already knew. My body told me. As I moved forward to close the door, suddenly I had to double over, and as I stood in the bright light of the doorway, which at that moment seemed to represent all of space, I felt something enter my being. A rush of warmth that came up from the ground and moved through my feet and rose up through my body to my head. I stood fixed in that position, bent over my feet, for what seemed an eternity, but it couldn't have been very long because the policemen were still in the hall watching me, and they hadn't come to my assistance — and they hadn't said anything. At last I pulled myself up, and slowly, mechanically followed them into the living room. The policemen sat together on the sofa. I noticed a small rubber ball on the carpet. I felt the need to pick it up. I bent over and with both hands took hold of it; it felt like lead, and I struggled to lift it onto the piano. I could feel the steady gaze of the policemen, and I saw one of them glance at our old cedar clock on the bookshelf; it had stopped at eight o'clock years ago and I had never bothered to repair it.

I was experiencing time in a different way. Time was no longer something I could measure with a dial on the face of a clock; it was bigger but I could measure it with my heart. I was outside of it all — yet I was inside an eternal present.

I turned on the standard lamp and we sat in silence for a long while facing one another. They didn't say anything and nor did I.

I was thinking about their words, 'an elderly man'. I have never thought of Nick as that. 'If only you knew how young he was,' I thought, almost with contempt.

When I met Nick he was bald, with white hair combed at the back; his body was slightly collapsed and the folds of his skin hung loosely off his limbs. Still, I thought he was so young, and as open and innocent as a child — and as wise. The fact that he carried his delightful childlike innocence well into his maturity was what first attracted me to him.

At last one of the policemen said, 'We've been to see Luke. When we told him what had happened he behaved very strangely.'

'What did he do?'

'We're not at liberty to tell you that.'

I was lost in a dream. The police had arrived to tell me something they couldn't tell me but they knew that I knew. And I didn't care that they couldn't answer my questions. I knew all I needed to know.

I thought about Luke, and how he might have behaved. Was he indifferent? Did he laugh? Maybe he was relieved. Maybe he felt nothing, nothing at all.

I was wondering if I should stay that night in the apartment alone.

'Am I safe here?'

'Yes. Antony would be mad to come by here,' one of them said.

I let them out, and returned to the living room, where I walked around in a circle. 'But Antony is mad,' I thought. I tried to ring my son George but he didn't answer. I sent him a text. He was asleep or his phone was off. I sent my friend Jane Campion a text. Call me. It's about Nick. She didn't reply either. I rang my sister Camilla in Cairns. Her husband Jamie answered.

'Nick has been murdered by his son. He's dead.'


I heard him calling to Camilla, trying to wake her. Camilla came to the phone.

'Stay on the line. Don't hang up,' she said. 'I'm calling Fiona on the mobile.'

There was a pause while she called our friend, Fiona Waller. Then she was back.

'Fiona will pick you up. Pack a few things. She'll take you to her place.'

I threw some clothes in a bag, and I waited by the door. When the buzzer rang I went down to the street. A black sedan was stopped in the middle of the road, with the engine idling and its high beam flashing. Fiona's son Sam, whom I hadn't seen since he was ten, was now a six-foot, well-built twenty-one-year-old. He was standing in the middle of the road with a golf driver in his hand. Fiona was in the back seat. I got in and she grabbed me and held me tight as Sam drove us very carefully through the empty dark streets to their home in a nearby suburb.

Fiona gave me a sleeping pill, and I fell asleep, sitting up, in their daughter's bed with the light on. Fiona's husband Craig saw the light when he went to the bathroom. He didn't turn it off, he told me the next day, because the switch was on the wall, and he would have had to lean over me to reach it — he didn't want to frighten me.

* * *

After the longest night I woke early to the singing of their eleven-year-old, who was doing her homework in the hall. I got up to walk down the road to Ross Mellick and Margaret Raffan's house. They are both dear friends of Nick's.

'I'm looking forward to cutting down the workload and spending more time with good friends like Ross,' Nick had said recently.

'Ross loves me,' I told Nick playfully.

'He loves me more,' said Nick.

I walked down the street as if sleepwalking, under the jacarandas in bloom. I knocked on the garden gate, which was locked as usual. There was no bell, so I called out over the fence. It was six o'clock but I knew they both rose early. Then I saw Margaret, with her dog on a leash, walking up the street towards me.

'Juliet! What are you doing here?'

I told her. She didn't say anything, just motioned for me to follow her into the house. She went to the bathroom and Ross came out with a towel around his waist and he hugged me tight.

* * *

Two homicide detectives arranged to meet me at our apartment that afternoon. My friend Lisa Hochhauser had flown down from Byron Bay, and she was standing in the street outside the building waiting for me to arrive. We went inside and the young detectives sat side by side at the table, at the place where Nick used to sit and work each night after dinner. They wore matching grey suits, and their mobiles were placed in front of them, on the table. Every few minutes their phones would ring, one phone and then the other, and both mobiles had the same ringtone.

I stopped still. 'What is it?'

'The Godfather,' said Lisa.

'Is it? I'm not sure. Maybe not.'

'It's The Sopranos.'

'I think it might be.'

'No, it's The Godfather.'

Lisa and I began to laugh, and soon we were laughing hysterically. The detectives didn't say anything, they sat at the table, not moving a muscle, watching us. Just like in the movies.

After Lisa and I calmed down, one of them turned to me. 'Did Nick have any enemies?'

I flashed to one of the homicide police shows on television. I had seen this scene numerous times. This was a crime show but, as my son described it when he was little, it was in 'the real air'.

I thought about the word 'enemy'. So many people loved Nick. But of course, he must have had detractors. But who? There was the man from the university who had asked me at the Bacchus Ball whether Nick had any plans to retire. But that did not make him an enemy. Nick didn't think badly of anyone; I'd never heard him speak negatively of anyone, not once. A hundred different faces appeared before my eyes, each one a friend. There were his children. Can a child be an enemy? Yes. His son Antony was an enemy.

'No, he didn't have enemies. I really believe Antony has killed Nick and Chloe,' I said.

'It couldn't have been someone else?'

Perhaps they believed Antony hadn't done it. I wasn't about to read the papers but I knew that the story was on the front page and that the police were looking for him. Did they think I had done it? These homicide detectives weren't going to presume anything. One of them asked me if I knew how Antony managed to get from his place to Chloe's house so quickly as he didn't have a car.

'Maybe he took a taxi.' My answer didn't seem to satisfy him and they kept questioning me. They didn't know and nor did I that Nick had driven Antony to the house.

Now my mind went wild. I saw all kinds of scenarios. A demented man, a stranger, was rushing in from the street, through the front door, brandishing a knife.

'It is possible. Of course,' I said. All things are possible. 'Yes, I suppose a madman might have walked in off the street, but I just don't believe that happened. I really think Antony did it.'



The next two days were a blur. My friend Rachel Griffiths arrived from Los Angeles. On the phone, I told her not to make the trip. She had recently nearly died herself giving birth to her third child; she'd had to have three blood transfusions. She was pale. 'You would do it for me,' she said when she walked in the door. Then she said, 'Nick was killed by entitlement.' She had met his children only once, at the Waterlows' beach house.

My friend Marta Garciá-Carrió arrived. 'This day had to come,' she said. 'I told Nick so many times he had to do something but he wouldn't listen.' She reminded me that years ago she, Nick and I and another friend, Father Steve Sinn, had been to see a two-person South African play in a pub in Woolloomooloo. Antony played the role of a son who killed his father. After the play, the four of us had a drink in the pub. Marta was horrified and she kept asking Nick how he felt about seeing his son playing such a role. 'It's fine,' Nick had said. I remember Antony being very wooden and rigid on stage. I just thought he wasn't a natural actor.

Steve accompanied me to the apartment because I wanted to find a photograph of Nick for the funeral card. There was a press photographer waiting in the street outside the apartment. As we entered the building the photographer came to the door and said, 'Can I ask a few questions?'

'There's no point,' said Steve, closing the door.

Nick's black Volley sneakers were leaning on the banister in the hallway where he had left them after our last walk — the grass was still on their soles. I opened the blue door and in the hallway on a sideboard stood a large glass vase filled with dead sunflowers. Steve did something that was unforgettable. Composed, and in silence, he took the dead sunflowers out of the vase. He didn't ask me to tell him where the bin was. He just did it. He went down to the street and found the green bin. Then he washed the vase in the kitchen sink. An act of defiance? It was a gesture of hope that made contact with my soul — and whispered, 'Death has no power over us.'

I went through the drawers and shelves, muttering and praying, 'Where are the photos? Please help me find one.' I no longer remembered where anything was kept and I had forgotten how to look for anything. At last I found some discs, and Steve and I sat in front of the computer and we went through them. They were of our travels to Venice, the forest on the south coast of New South Wales; there was a silly one of Nick at the beach wearing a necklace of seaweed, and one of him wearing a snorkel and a mask in front of a gum tree.

'You did lots of nice things together,' Steve said.


One photo of Nick in Istanbul reminded me of my friend Tina's observation. When Nick was visiting her there she noticed he was always rocking on his heels and she said, 'It was as if he was trying not to fall down.'

'It was hard to take a good picture of Nick. There are not many photos of us together,' I said.

'That's a good sign,' said Steve.

I found some of Nick in front of the Monets at the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris.

'What about that?'

'Out of focus,' said Steve.

As I scrolled through the images in iPhoto I saw things in Nick's face I hadn't noticed before. I noticed the anxiety in the rut between his brows, and also I sensed something deep within him, something frozen. When we first met I had given him a story I had written about a friend of mine, Roland Topor. I had written how touched I had been when I saw that Roland was as white as a sheet when he got out of a car after a trip to Stockholm. Nick told me that story made him think I would be able to understand his own very vulnerable self. Looking at those photos I thought I didn't realise quite how vulnerable Nick actually was. In those photographs I saw a more fragile soul, and a kind of emptiness within. As I flicked through the years, I saw a man looking more and more exhausted.

The photos in front of the Monets were all out of focus except one: it was of Nick gazing obliquely out of frame, wearing his black baseball cap and brown moleskin jacket, standing in front of the pale pink and green waterlilies.

I quickly grabbed a few things I thought might be useful to help me with the funeral: Nick's jazz CDs, some Thelonious Monk and Coltrane's Love Supreme, and Nick's A4 notebook which was on our bedside table. I tossed them on the floor by the front door to make sure I wouldn't forget them. Steve picked up the notebook and was looking through it. He pointed to a page of Nick's jottings: there were meetings and thoughts, people's names, revealing a busy life and a most eclectic range of interests and concerns. 'This page is Nick!' He suggested it as an image for the funeral card. Then he found the list in Nick's handwriting entitled A Curator's Last Will and Testament.

We were in the apartment for about two hours, and when we left the building I had forgotten about the photographer. I looked across the street and stood stock still, like an animal, hypnotised by the telephoto lens. It seemed to take ages before I saw the man on the other side of the street or registered what he was doing, and then I grabbed Steve's arm and tried to duck behind him.

Steve and Nick had been friends for many years and I knew Nick respected him greatly. Each time Nick returned from Sunday mass he would walk in the door and say, 'I love Steve.' Over the years Steve had come to dinners and parties at our apartment and he made us all feel comfortable in his relaxed and easy presence. But I didn't know him very well. I was a little shy, in awe of him. I'd always called him Steve but now he wasn't just a friend, he was helping me as a priest, so I asked him, 'What should I call you, Father Sinn or Steve?'

He looked at me as if to say, 'What do you think?' and without reproach said, 'Steve!'

* * *

Over the next few days, friends arrived at the Waller house. I hardly knew they were there. Friends later told me they had been to visit but I couldn't remember having seen them. Jane brought me a bunch of lotus flowers and we went for a walk to nearby Nielsen Park. From a tree, she picked a branch with brick-red flowers and held it out over a crack in the bitumen road. 'Look. This is the story,' she said.


Excerpted from A Double Spring by Juliet Darling, Torey Wahlstrom. Copyright © 2013 Juliet Darling. Excerpted by permission of Allen & Unwin.
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

Preface vii

Part 1

I heard the news 3

Hiding 11

A presentiment 34

Our last dance 40

Nick's pocket diaries 44

The morgue 49

The funeral 55

The wake 65

Still in hiding 70

Part 2

The seeds of time 79

Nick's love 91

Losing one's senses 95

The arraignment 100

Part 3

Let me weep forever 109

The trial 111

Grief 115

Visiting Nick's mother 125

Nick's ashes 131

Part 4

A double spring 143

Strange familiar 149

One day one of us will be lost to the other 157

Dreaming of reality 161

Part 5

The continuing gift 173

Nick's passion 179

A Curator's Last Will and Testament 188

The crime-scene photos: the sleep and peace of love 202

Acknowledgments 207

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