McKellan's Run

McKellan's Run

by Nicole Hurley-Moore

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781760292607
Publisher: Allen & Unwin Pty., Limited
Publication date: 11/01/2016
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 328
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

About the Author

Nicole Hurley-Moore has a BA Honours in Medieval Literature and is a historical romance writer.

Read an Excerpt

McKellan's Run


By Nicole Hurley-Moore

Allen & Unwin

Copyright © 2015 Nicole Hurley-Moore
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-925267-11-2


CHAPTER 1

Violet pulled up outside the solicitor's office, her heart beating hard. Ever since she'd crested the hill into Violet Falls she'd felt fearful and uneasy.

Looking in the rearview mirror, she put on some lipstick, twisted her hair into a knot at the nape of her neck and then turned around. 'Are you ready, sweetie?' she asked Holly, trying to hide her unease with a smile.

'Uh huh,' said Holly, her face serious.

'Great, come on then, let's go and get the key to our new house,' said Violet.

'Mummy, are we ever going back to the city?' asked Holly.

'We'll definitely visit Aunty Lily whenever we can, but we're not going to live there anymore,' said Violet. 'We have a new home now, here in Violet Falls. And very soon, I'll have a new business as well.'

Holly remained quiet, her expression troubled, as Violet opened the back door for her.

'It'll be great,' said Violet, leaning over and kissing Holly's forehead as she unbuckled her seatbelt. 'You're going to have a new house, a new school and lots and lots of new friends. We're going to have a great adventure, just you wait and see.'

'I'm really hungry,' said Holly, taking Violet's hand.

'After we pick up the key, we'll stop at the local supermarket and grab some groceries before we head over to our new house.'

Holly looked uncertain as they walked hand in hand up the old stone steps and into the building.

* * *

After greeting Violet and Holly, Mr Taylor, who had been Violet's grandfather's solicitor, asked his secretary to take care of Holly for a few minutes while he spoke to Violet.

Closing the door to his office he walked over to his desk and handed Violet an envelope and a key before briefly explaining the terms of her grandfather's will. Violet thanked him, but couldn't trust herself to say anything more. She'd always believed that one day she'd be reconciled with her grandfather — but time had run out and now the words she'd practised saying to him in her head a hundred times would be forever unsaid.

Mr Taylor looked as if he wanted to say something more but the moment passed and there was just an awkward pause.

'Was there something else?' Violet asked.

'I know that you and your grandfather had your differences but I thought you'd still like to know that in the end he didn't suffer.'

'That's good,' said Violet. 'What happened?'

'I was at a council meeting with him and one minute he was laying down the law to the other council members — you remember how passionate he could get — and the next he's fallen on the floor. It was that quick. We called an ambulance straightaway but he was gone before they got him to the hospital.'

Violet reached over and briefly touched his hand, realising no matter what she thought about her grandfather, Hugh Taylor had lost a friend. 'I'm glad it was so fast and he didn't linger. He would have hated that.'

'You're right,' said Mr Taylor after a pause. 'He would have wanted to go out during a fiery exchange rather than have his health decline.'

'Well there was nothing he liked better than a fiery exchange.'

'Quite right, quite right. You'll find the house untouched. Other than organising for the fridge to be emptied and the electricity turned off, I left everything as it was when Silas set off for the council meeting.'

'The electricity should have been reconnected by this morning.'

'So you intend to move back?'

'I do. I'm going to open a party planning business,' said Violet, sounding braver than she felt.

Mr Taylor's bushy brows drew into a frown. 'I see. I'm afraid that other than the house, the funds left by your grandfather are rather meagre.'

'It'll be enough,' Violet said. It would have to be, she thought.

'Right then, very good,' Mr Taylor said before lapsing back into another uncomfortable silence.

'Well, thank you again, Mr Taylor,' Violet said. 'I'd better get going. It's a big change for Holly, and I need to pick up some groceries and get to the house before the removalist arrives with all our stuff.'

'Yes, yes of course. Welcome back to Violet Falls, Miss Beckett. Please give me a call if you need anything.'

'It was nice to see you again,' said Violet as he showed her out.

* * *

As Holly was getting back into the car, Violet caught sight of her old English teacher, Mrs Wardley, who waved to her from across the street and then started crossing the road. Violet watched as Holly snapped the seatbelt to her booster seat shut, and wondered if she had enough time to jump in the car and take off before Mrs Wardley reached her.

'Violet, my dear, it's so lovely to see you,' called Mrs Wardley.

Ah well, so much for the getaway plan.

'Mrs Wardley, how are you?' said Violet.

'It's been a long time. Why it must be almost six or seven years,' she said, looking past Violet into the back of the car.

'Yes, something like that,' Violet replied vaguely. She'd forgotten that the one thing Violet Falls loved most was gossip and Mrs Wardley was renowned as a master of it.

'Are you back now, to stay I mean?' asked her old teacher.

'Yes, I am,' said Violet, smiling nervously, desperate to get away.

'Good — and who is this?' said Mrs Wardley, bending down at the window and smiling in at Holly.

Violet repressed a sigh and opened the back door. 'This is my daughter, Holly. Holly, say hello to Mrs Wardley. Mrs Wardley was one of my teachers.'

Holly gave the older woman a shy smile.

'She looks just like you, Violet,' said Mrs Wardley, straightening up. 'Are you by yourself?'

'Yes, it's just Holly and me,' said Violet with a tight smile. 'Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd better get to the supermarket.'

'Of course, dear. I'm so glad you're back.'

'Thank you, Mrs Wardley,' said Violet.

* * *

Violet felt a tumult of emotions as she pulled into the driveway of the large white weatherboard house she and Lily had once shared with their grandparents. Memories from the past — many happy but most of the latter ones were not — threatened to overwhelm her.

'Wow, is that all ours?' said Holly from the back seat.

'Sure is,' said Violet, smiling.

'It's so much bigger than our flat.'

'Yes, there'll be plenty of room for you to have friends over to stay,' said Violet.

'It's got a garden!' Holly exclaimed, her face alight.

As she parked, Violet recalled how as a kid she'd sort of taken for granted the acre or so of land around her grandparents' house, but for a city kid like Holly it would be a revelation to have so much space.

'Yes Holly, it has a garden.'

'It's as big as the park! Can we get a dog?'

Violet popped open the door. 'Hmmm, I'll have to think about that one.'

Holly held up her thumb and forefinger. 'But it could be just a little one, Mummy.'

'I think it would need to be a bit bigger than that,' Violet said with a laugh. 'We'll see, okay?'

'Okay,' said Holly, grabbing her bright pink backpack and clambering out of the car. 'Maybe we could have a cat instead.'

Violet started up the verandah steps. 'Why don't we get inside first before we start filling the house with pets?'

Holly tramped behind her and Violet waited until she made it to the top before she put the key in the lock and undid the bolt. They were here, they were home and ready to start their new life.

The seconds ticked by as Violet stood with her hand around the doorknob. She took a deep breath but somehow couldn't find that last scrap of courage to turn the knob and push the door open.

'Aren't we going in, Mummy?' Holly asked.

'Yes, yes, of course. Mummy was just thinking about the last time I was here, that's all,' Violet replied, smiling at Holly to hide how emotional she was feeling.

When she finally opened the door everything was just as she'd remembered it — dark, silent and oppressive. She tried to appear cheerful for Holly's sake, making a big show of opening up the windows to let in cleansing air and sunlight as well as talking about how much fun they'd have painting and redecorating their new house. She even promised Holly she could choose the paint colour for her new bedroom.

Hugh Taylor had been right about the place being the same as when her grandfather had set off to his council meeting. Other than a layer of dust it still looked as if her grandfather had just popped out and was expected back at any moment. Violet's heart lurched as she wandered into the kitchen and glanced at the table — an empty mug sat next to a half-finished crossword.

As Violet walked through the house she felt sad as she saw her grandfather's jacket slung over the back of the couch and the book he'd never finished reading next to his bed. She did her best to push away the melancholy feeling, rolled up her sleeves and tried to eradicate the ghosts of the past.

* * *

For the first two nights after their arrival, Violet and Holly slept on a mattress in the almost bare lounge room. Holly thought it was a great adventure and said they should always sleep in that room; Violet was just too tired to argue.

In the week and a half they had before Holly started school, Violet hired a skip bin, donated most of her grandfather's furniture to Vinnies and threw out lots of ancient belongings, including piles of newspapers. She quickly discovered the Hummingbird Café had the best coffee — and child-friendly staff — in town and made sure to take Holly there when they both needed a break.

After deciding impulsively to rip up the house's fifty-year-old carpet in its entirety she encouraged Holly to spend time exploring the huge backyard while she got on with the sweaty, dirty, tiring job of tearing up carpet. When it came time to start painting (she swore like a trooper when she realised it would have been better to do it before ripping up the carpet) she began with Holly's room, savouring Holly's delight when she walked into her freshly painted room for the first time to see all her furniture from Melbourne set up, and the little desk that Lily had bought for her, positioned in the corner, with all her pencils, textas, paints and paper set out on it.

Another special moment occurred when they came home from a treat at the Hummingbird Café, after days of Violet painting from the crack of dawn each day, to find the swing and slippery dip set that Violet had secretly bought had been delivered and assembled in the backyard.

Bit by bit the house started to feel lighter, airier and more 'theirs'. Violet couldn't wait to get someone to sand and polish all the wooden floors, but she'd do that when Holly started school. Meanwhile, all that was left to decide on was the main bedroom — the one that had once belonged to Violet and Lily's grandparents.

The room was austere with not a picture or a throw pillow to soften it. Violet ran her fingers along the foot of the large wooden bed. Its legs were carved in thick, barley sugar twists and it had been in the family longer than anyone could remember. There was no way she could bring herself to sleep in it but she couldn't give it away either. Maybe she'd buy a new mattress and set up a guest bedroom at the back of the house. She cleared out the room, but when she started sorting through the bedside table she found something that made her take a breath and pause. At the bottom of the drawer was an old-fashioned tin with a picture of a castle on it. She lifted the lid to find a stack of letters and immediately recognised her own handwriting.

Violet sat down on the floor and picked up the letters. The first was the note she'd sent her grandfather just after Holly was born. She hadn't asked him for anything — it had been a quick note to let him know he had a great-granddaughter and that the baby was perfect and beautiful. She'd enclosed a photo of Holly swaddled in a bunny rug and looking angelic. Though Violet had never received a reply, Holly's picture showed signs of being looked at many times.

There were another half a dozen letters, all of them written by Lily. She opened one and a couple of photos fell out. One was a picture of Lily standing next to a sample of her dress designs and the other was of Holly's fourth birthday. In the second photo, Holly, Violet and Lily were all crowded around a pink birthday cake which was covered in candles and sparklers.

Violet looked back at the letters, which all appeared to have been well-read — the pages creased from being folded over many times. The tragedy was that Silas Beckett had cared enough for his granddaughters to re-read their letters and keep them safe but he'd never been able to bring himself to get in contact with either of them. His stubborn pride had robbed him of the family he could have had.

Violet wiped away her tears with the back of her hand and stood up, still holding the tin close to her chest. Walking out of her grandfather's bedroom in a daze she went to find the letter that Mr Taylor had given her which she hadn't been able to muster the courage to read. She riffled through the suitcase and found the letter but she still couldn't bring herself to read it.

* * *

Outside the Violet Falls Public School, Violet bent down and wrapped Holly in a hug. The old school — which Violet and Lily had also gone to — was a pretty, Victorian-era red brick building set in an established shady garden. But its beauty was lost on Violet today, as her whole attention was centred on her daughter.

'Have a great day.'

Holly gave her a broad smile. 'I will.'

'You're excited aren't you, about meeting the other kids?'

'Ah-huh. Mummy, stop worrying. I'll be alright.'

Violet gave her another squeeze. When had Holly become so perceptive? It seemed like only yesterday when she started to talk.

'You'll be having fun while I'll be stacking up the last few boxes in the spare room before starting on the floors. Are you sure you don't want me to walk you to your new classroom?'

Holly shook her head. 'Nope, I'll be fine.'

The bell sounded and Holly gave her mother a peck on the cheek. Reluctantly Violet let her go and watched as she skipped up the steps at the front of the school.

'I'll see you later then. I'll pick you up from here,' Violet called out as she pointed to where she was standing.

Holly looked over her shoulder and waved before she disappeared into the building.

Violet stood there a while longer, staring in the direction Holly had gone. Her stomach was knotted. Lord, she was more nervous about Holly's first day in a new school than her daughter was.

'Are you okay?' came a woman's voice from behind her.

Violet turned to see two women smiling at her. One was a little shorter than Violet and had a warm friendly face and deep russet -coloured hair that fell around her shoulders. The other woman was taller, thinner and had her blonde hair dragged back into a ponytail.

'Oh, yes I'm fine. Thanks,' said Violet.

'I'm Meg Laragy,' said the redheaded woman, offering her hand, 'and this is my friend Sally Ford,' she added.

'Hi, I'm Violet Beckett,' said Violet, shaking her hand and nodding to Sally. 'It's my daughter's first day. We've just moved up from Melbourne.'

'What grade is she in?'

'Um, grade one with Mrs Henshaw.'

'Oh our girls are in that class! I'll tell Amber to keep an eye on ...'

'Holly, my daughter's name is Holly.'

'Right then. We'll make sure Amber and Kylie help her find her way around.'

'Thank you — that's very kind,' said Violet, smiling.

'Not at all. If there's anything you need just let me know. Even if it's just a coffee and a chat,' Meg said.

'So where are you living?' asked Sally.

'I'm over on Black Jack Road.'

'Oh, it's pretty over that side of town, although I always thought it odd that they called the road after a card game,' Sally said with a frown.

'Um, actually it was named after a notorious bushranger who lived in this area during the gold rush. According to legend "Jack" wore a black mask every time he robbed and raided and that's how he got his name.'

'Really, I didn't know that,' said Meg, shaking her head. 'Did you say your name was Beckett? Are you any relation to the Councillor Beckett who died not that long ago?' she asked as the three of them fell into step together as they made their way towards the car park.

'Yes, he was my grandfather.'

'My condolences. He was a bit of a character I hear,' said Sally. 'Of course, I know your place — it's a great house. I run past it every morning. Are you doing it up?'

'Yes, it needs a lot of work but I can only afford to do a bit at a time,' said Violet.

'Oh, you're so lucky to be able to restore a wonderful old house like that,' said Meg. 'I bet it still has all its original features.'

'It sure does,' said Violet.

'I love old houses,' said Sally, 'but Jim insisted on opting for a new build. I'm over on Prospect Way if you ever want to come over for a coffee.'

'We're around the corner from each other,' Meg said, leaning against the fence beside her friend. 'And you're more than welcome.'

'Thanks,' said Violet, smiling. 'That's very sweet of you both.'


(Continues...)

Excerpted from McKellan's Run by Nicole Hurley-Moore. Copyright © 2015 Nicole Hurley-Moore. 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.
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