Deborah gazed at the words on the wall and in an instant recognized their irony. The words in themselves were loving, but their message was hateful, especially as the words were written in blood. The blood of her beloved magpies. Before she could even think about it, Deborah blacked out and collapsed on the wooden floorboards of the verandah.
“Well, I’ll see you tomorrow then,” Bianca said as she stood up and left the cafe terrace with a curt “goodbye”.
“Bye,” Giulia replied blinking her eyes to hold back the tears.
She watched her best friend walk down the street until she turned the corner at the other end of the square in the little Italian town where they both lived. Unable to enjoy the warm spring sun on her face, she looked back on the conversation that had ended only minutes ago. Why had they gotten so angry at each other, she asked herself. What had started as their weekly get-together, had turned into a quarrel over nothing, leaving both of them feeling hurt.
That same morning Deborah awoke late to the laughing call of the kookaburras in the casuarina trees on the perimeter of the front yard. She smiled, blissfully unaware of the storm that had struck about half an hour ago. The raindrops on her half-open window and the musty smell coming from outside were the only clues of the heavy downpour that had pounded the warm ground. Deborah rubbed in her eyes, stretched for a bit and then rolled on to her side to look outside. She pondered over the dream she had had just before she woke up.
“Alan, are you still there, mate?” Dave Frankston asked when it had gone silent at the other end of the line. “Alan?”
It took Ironbark a few moments to recover from hearing Dave’s full name.
“Yes, I’m here, Dave,” Ironbark replied. “It’s been a while,” he continued, “I never thought we’d be in touch again.”
“Well, we are, and I reckon you know why.”
By this time, Ironbark’s memory was going full throttle and he had cottoned on quick enough as to why Dave had contacted him after all those years.
“Yeah well, it’s funny, really, that you should phone me.”
“Oh?” Dave exclaimed.
“I was down at the National Archives the other day when you came to mind.”
“So, you found out for yourself, eh?”
“Hmm, yes, I did.”
Something felt different when Ironbark woke up that morning. The birds were sounding in a new day like they did every day, and still, there was something odd about them. They sounded livelier than usual. Maybe it was the oncoming storm, Ironbark thought as he looked through the opening between the curtains at the multi-coloured clouds billowing high in the sky.
“We had it coming, what, with all that abnormal humidity lately,” he mumbled as he went to sit on the edge of the bed.
At that very same moment a kookaburra burst raucously into laughter, as if it was mocking him. It gave Ironbark the clue he needed. Ah, that’s it, he said to himself. With their keen senses animals knew what was going to happen long before humans did. They must already be feeling the relief in the wake of the storm, Ironbark concluded. Still, it was strange, he thought, he had never noticed anything like this before in the 72 years he was alive.