An excerpt from Tree of Strangers


I pressed my forehead to the cold window. Bruce's reading light reflected a bright spot against the native bush that enclosed us. I put down the phone and said nothing.

The bathwater was still hot. I caught my breath as though I was warm and the water cold. My hair floated over the surface and a picture of my mother formed. She would be tall with pale eyes and straight hair that hung thick and glossy, the opposite of my thin plait. I sat up in a rush. I never intended to stay under the water for so long. The stillness induced an amniotic slumber, until a frantic signal from my brain propelled me up, finally desperate for air.

The next morning, with the girls playing, I returned to a version of the letter that began with the wind and the bush.

Outside, in a patch of unexpected sun, I read about our lives.

Desperation soaked into every word. I tore the paper into tiny pieces. The chickens consumed the flakes before they realised it was not an early meal.

The next version was more natural.

Reproduced courtesy of The New Zealand Herald. Read the full excerpt here.