Stella’s arms had rested and the soreness from holding her baby gave way to the need to hold her again.
Teresa gave up the precious bundle into the arms of her mother not wanting to admit her arms were getting tired too.
Stella continued her narrative. ‘When Kath found me, I was in the maternity ward at the Women’s Hospital in Sydney.’ ‘I had gone into false labour a few times since I was admitted with my fluid retention problem so they decided to keep me there until I delivered. I almost didn’t recognise her. Kath’s face had a green tinge about it and there were black and blue bruises around the white tape across her nose. Her right arm was in a sling. I just held her in my arms until she needed to sit. She was still weak from the ordeal. Her story was frightening.’ Stella cleared her throat. ‘After David had found the bull dead in his paddock, he had stormed inside yelling that he was going to get revenge on Ryan. Kath try to calm him down but he was too angry. She said he went on like that for days after he buried the animal. One night he swore to Kath that he would make me pay and he would take me to court for the property that should never had been given to Ryan in the first place. Kath tried to reason with him but that just made him angrier and turned on her. After he beat her, he took his horse and rode off leaving her on the floor. It was their housekeeper who found her. Her son is the stable boy and the two of them helped her to Doc Stone’s house using David’s utility. Doc’s wife took her in until she was able to catch a train to a women’s shelter in Sydney.’
‘Oh my. That poor woman’, Teresa whispered as she retrieved a tissue from her dress sleeve. Doesn’t she have family?’
‘Yes, but she was afraid he might hurt them too.’
‘He went somewhere to cool off, or so everyone thought. Probably did the lap of their 92,000 acres. It usually takes a few days when he goes out to check on the fences and livestock.’
‘Why would he want your property if he had so much?’
‘Greed’, was Stella’s short reply. ‘Ryan was given just over 300 acres from his Uncle Rick. Rick had bought it from a neighbour who wanted to retire and live in Bourke with his daughter. It was just a rundown hobby farm really.’
‘Hungry again’, she whispered. ‘Can you take her while I warm her bottle?’
‘Why would I not’, she chuckled as Stella opened the door of the cabin behind them.’
After Stella had returned and repositioned herself in the seat, she focused on feeding Sarah. ‘She has Ryan’s eyes’, she said smiling through her sudden sadness. ‘I don’t think I will ever forget him.’
‘I should hope not.’
Stella found it hard not to like Teresa. They had made an unusual connection in a very short time. ‘We should be in Dubbo by mid-afternoon. Are you getting off there?’
Teresa looked thoughtful. ‘I don’t know.’
Stella was confused. ‘What do you mean? Surely you know where you’re going.’
‘Well it’s like this, I have a ticket to Bourke but I can get off at any station before there.’
Stella was quiet and a hint of fear returned. ‘I’m not sure I understand.’
‘Don’t worry yourself. I’m just a free spirit. I can stay with you through to Bourke to keep you company and return to Nyngan later tonight. I’m retiring and Nyngan is the only home I know.’
‘That’s sweet of you but won’t there be someone expecting you?’
‘Sadly, no. My father’s house is there but he and all my family are gone now. The last of my siblings passed away last June.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’ Stella waited for Sarah to finish her bottle before speaking again. ‘I hope David doesn’t come to the back of the train again. Oh, I didn’t think. What will I do when I get to Bourke? He’s bound to be getting off there.’
‘Let’s just wait and see. Don’t stress. Tell me more about your story.’
‘Well, Kath stayed close until after Sarah was born.’ She smiled at the thought. ‘It was nice to have her there with me. Anyway, Kath was visiting me a few days later when David came into the ward. I freaked and Kath screamed. Nurses came running and security was called. David was escorted from the ward and the police came to take him away. He was charged for the attack on Kath and a restraining order was set in place.’
‘Where’s Kath now?’ Teresa was eager to know.
‘She’s caught a train a few days ago to stay with her mother in Dubbo. Kath promised to keep in touch. The police suggested she find a lawyer in Dubbo and see what her options are. I don’t expect she’ll go back to Bourke or David.’
‘Surely not! So, what will you do? What do you think he would do to you?’
‘The day after he was escorted from the hospital he returned. One of the nurses recognised him. He was in the nursery and standing over Sarah. She ran to call security but David had already taken Sarah out of her crib and sneaking toward the elevator. When the elevator door opened, there were two security guards. I haven’t let her out of my sight since and I honestly thought he would be in jail. This morning while I was signing my discharge papers a policewoman came up to me and explained that David had been released after he was charged. I was so scared I think she thought I would faint. We sat in a small sitting area near the entry while we talked. David had claimed he was just visiting his new niece and wasn’t intending to take her anywhere. I don’t know what to believe or what he’s up to.’ Stella paused. ‘He wouldn’t have hurt her. Would he?’
Teresa shook her head. ‘He sounds very angry still and he has already been charged with violence but why would he take Sarah? He may just want to hurt you. Maybe it’s a way to get his property back. I’m not sure but I think you should be careful and get some legal advice.’
‘I know but…’
Before she could continue the train was slowing to a stop at Nyngan. ‘Are you sure you want to come with me to Bourke?’
‘I’m sure and look.’ Stella leaned forward to see what Teresa had seen.
There were two police officers standing on the platform.
‘Why do you think they are here?’ Teresa asked and Stella shrugged.
As the train came to a stop, the police officers walked along the platform looking through windows and doors. There was a curve in the railway at the front of the train so they could see clearly the front carriages and engine. After the police officers had past the first two carriages, David jumped from the first and ran towards the exit sign where two other police officers stepped out and grabbed him. The two walking down the platform continued looking until they came to the last carriage where one of them stepped inside.
He removed his hat. ‘Stella Wilson?’
Stella raised her free arm slowly. ‘I’m Stella Wilson.’
‘Don’t be alarmed Ma’am. We received a call from David Wilson’s wife. He’s being arrested for breaking his restraining order by calling her from Sydney and threatening her and her family.’ He shook his head.
Stella gasped and covered her mouth. ‘What are you saying?’
‘Everything is going to be all right, Mrs Wilson. He’s going away for a very long time.’ He turned to leave but spun around again. ‘Do you have anyone who can stay with you at your property? At least until Kath Wilson returns home.’
Stella felt numb. She looked at Teresa who blinked once and turned to the police officer.
‘Will I do? I’m just an old retired nun but I have a mean kick if anyone comes near her.’
The officer chuckled. ‘I meant for company but yeah, you’ll do.’ He replaced his hat and left the train.
The other passengers applauded.
Stella sat dazed.
Theresa just smiled and took Sarah in her arms. ‘I always wanted to live on a big property. I also wanted to help busy young mothers with their babies.’
Stella just stared at her.
‘Well, do you mind? I can’t leave you alone. Now can I?’
Stella swayed a little with the movement of the train as it left the station. ‘I don’t know what to say. You hardly know me.’
‘I think I know enough about you that we can be friends.’ She looked down at the wee baby. ‘What do you think, Sarah?’
Sarah made a squeaking kind of noise and closed her eyes.
As the train rolled out of Nyngan, both Stella and Theresa watched the two police cars that had stopped at the rail crossing to let their train through.
Suddenly Stella burst into tears. ‘It’s over. It’s really over.’
© Chrissy Siggee – 2019