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Authors: Joanne Horniman

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Secret Scribbled Notebooks

BOOK: Secret Scribbled Notebooks
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Kate has three notebooks, the Red,
Yellow and Blue Notebooks, in which she
records her life. Through reading,
writing, living and learning to love,
she discovers things about herself
that she never expected.

Praise for Joanne Horniman's previous novel,
A Charm of Powerful Trouble
‘A tight, intriguing, beautiful story'
‘Not to be missed'



First published in 2004
Copyright © text, Joanne Horniman 2004
Copyright © cover and text design, Sandra Nobes 2004
Copyright © cover image, Cody Alexander 2004

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording or by any information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher. The Australian Copyright Act 1968 (the Act) allows a maximum of one chapter or 10 per cent of this book, whichever is the greater, to be photocopied by any educational institution for its educational purposes provided that the educational institution (or body that administers it) has given a remuneration notice to Copyright Agency Limited (CAL) under the Act.

Allen & Unwin
83 Alexander Street
Crows Nest NSW 2065
Phone: (61 2) 8425 0100
Fax: (61 2) 9906 2218
Email: [email protected]

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication entry:

Horniman, Joanne.
Secret scribbled notebooks.

ISBN 1 74114 406 X.

I. Title.


Cover and text design by Sandra Nobes
Typeset by Midland Typesetters, Maryborough, Victoria
Printed by McPherson's Printing Group

10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

For APW and LGN

The Red Notebook

Hello, Red Notebook! Of the three notebooks I bought, Red, Yellow and Blue, you are the one I most want to write in. What is so special about the colour red? Is it that it's the colour of blood –of life; of Lil's favourite lipstick?

You smell (I have just sniffed you) clean and sharp and a bit spicy. Some books smell of mushrooms, but by the time you have developed that mushroomy odour I will be an old woman.

For posterity (I love that word), for the people who might unearth you from a forgotten attic or trunk, I will offer the following information:

My name is Kate O'Farrell and I am seventeen years old. I live in the town (some like to call it a city, but a real city must be more exciting than this place is!) of Lismore, on the north coast of New South Wales. I am in my last year of school, and when that is over I will be leaving this place for good –going to a proper city, where I will begin my new life.

I have long red hair and pale skin. I like staying up very late at night. It is my ambition to see the sun rise, but sadly I am always asleep by then. I love eating and reading, preferably at the same time.

I am very tall, and too thin.

I have never been in love.

I don't know what I want to do with my life, except that I want it to be exciting, and full of people and places. Maybe I'm just another wannabe girl writer, but I won't admit to it.

I would really like to be a tree. Not for ever, just for a little while. A mango perhaps, with lots of sheltering leaves and luscious fruits.

But for now, I live in a house called Samarkand with my sister Sophie and an old woman called Lil, who will not say how old she is. Sophie tells me that Oscar Wilde said to never trust a woman who reveals her age –she'll reveal anything. Since I have already revealed my age to you, perhaps I will end by revealing anything (and everything). I don't know yet. Can I trust you? Notebooks have been known to spill secrets.

I have never been touched by death or disaster.

I should say, though, that my sister and I are virtually orphans. Only virtually, because our parents didn't die, they simply disappeared. And not even in mysterious circumstances. They left us when I was three.

I have, however, just recently been touched by life! Less than twenty-four hours ago I became an aunt! My sister has had a baby –a girl, called Anastasia.

I love her!

(Oh. My accompanying music is Crowded House, ‘It's only natural'.)


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The Wild Typewritten Pages 1

Sophie started reading
to her baby in the fifth month of her pregnancy, so by the time she was born, my adorable baby niece was wonderfully well-read. She was familiar with Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, W.B. Yeats –Sophie had a thing about anything Irish –and
, of course, which although it wasn't Irish was Sophie's all-time favourite book.

The Baby (because that was what we called the foetus) was very appreciative. She kicked and danced about, and Sophie's otherwise perfect oval of a belly was always being pushed out of shape by a foot, an elbow, or possibly a head or a backside, as the baby rearranged her position. (We were always sure she would be a girl. We were also certain that she would have a lively and original character.)

Sophie was often too weary to read. She'd moan, ‘Read to us, Kate.' I could never get my head around James Joyce, so I read to Sophie and her unborn baby the poems of Yeats. One in particular, ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus', I read time and again. I especially love the last verse for its rhythm, and its longing.

Though I am old with wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
And kiss her lips and take her hands;
And walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.

Sophie's baby was born in early spring, not long before I finished school. A message was brought to the classroom when Sophie went into labour, and I tore off to the hospital on my bicycle straight away. I was one of two official birth helpers, so they allowed me into the labour room, but when I got there all I could do was stand and gawp.

Lil was the other helper. She was feeding Sophie bits of ice, and when the pain got really bad, she cried to the nurses, ‘Oh Gawd, can't you give the poor child something for this?'

‘No!' cried Sophie.
‘No drugs!'

But she was in such pain. I couldn't bear to see her like that; I thought she might split open, like an egg. Earlier on she had been reading
The Collected Works of Oscar Wilde
between contractions to cheer herself up, and I took hold of the book and held onto it, hard. Later, I noticed that my fingernails had dug little half-moon impressions into the cover.

The Baby certainly took her time to be born. I walked Sophie up and down the hospital corridors for what seemed like hours, stopping whenever she felt a contraction coming on. When she implored me to rub her lower back, I rubbed it, until suddenly that wasn't what she wanted at all, and she snapped at me to stop. Finally, well into the early hours of next morning, the Baby decided it was her time to come into the world, though she wasn't so much born as shot out, red and angry, her limbs flailing with unexpected, terrifying freedom.

It must have been awful for her, to come so quickly from a confined, dark place to brilliant light and endless space. She wailed fit to wake the dead, until she was swaddled tightly by the comforting restraint of cloth. She had been covered with a gleaming, bloody, cheesy substance, which the nurse partially wiped away before wrapping her. Then she was placed at Sophie's breast. Lil stroked the top of the baby's head. ‘What a perfect little darlin',' she said.

The baby looked like one of those Russian dolls, a bundle of cloth with a rather stoic little face emerging from it, dominated by bright, dark, knowing eyes. I imagined her clicking open to reveal, magically, a set of identical dolls in descending order of size. She was the beginning of
, our first descendant, the only other person we knew on this earth to be properly related to us. I thought that her life should be recorded in words and pictures and perhaps even song.

Sophie named her Anastasia.

It was almost dawn by the time the initial excitement died down. Lil had kissed everyone she could get her hands on, reaching up to grasp the sides of their faces with her old hands and puckering up her creased red mouth far too early for the actual kiss. The doctor looked very surprised to be rewarded by a kiss from Lil. If I hadn't been so overwhelmed and pleased by becoming an aunt, I'd have died of embarrassment.

When there seemed to be nothing else to do, the nurses said that we should allow Sophie to rest. ‘Kate, bring me back something new to read!' Sophie cried as I made a lingering exit from the room, reluctant to drag myself away from the baby. ‘Bring me something interesting!'

An inkling of light had appeared in the sky. I waited with Lil on the footpath for the taxi. ‘Anastasia!' said Lil in a tone of disbelief. ‘It's a big name for a baby.'

I stood awkwardly, straddling my bicycle. I can't think of words to express what I was feeling –fear and wonder and awe and exhilaration might be a start. I wanted to get away from Lil to savour my feelings privately. ‘I'm going to tell Marjorie,' I said, and pedalled away down the silent laneways that surrounded the hospital, my headlight making a wavering beam in the darkness. When I arrived at Marjorie's place I had to sit beneath a tree for a few moments to gather myself together, though where it was all the parts of me had gone, I couldn't say. I sat there in the near dark, and dew came down on me, and finally, when I felt I could be with people again, I went to Marjorie's window, and threw pebbles at the glass to wake her (I've read of this in books and had always wanted to do it).

Marjorie had been my best friend for a long time; I knew that she would wake at once. She is one of those rare people who open their eyes and jump out of bed looking as fresh as . . . a daisy. I've seen her do this when I stay overnight, and it's a bit scary. I don't know if she ever needs sleep, really, or if she goes into a kind of suspended animation. And her pyjamas are never creased or wrinkled or even worn-looking.

BOOK: Secret Scribbled Notebooks
4.85Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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