Lettie lay on her bed, eyes focused on the ceiling rose waiting for her breathing to settle and the sweat to dry on her skin. She knew, down to the last second, how long it would take to rid herself of the flickering images.
No matter what the papers described, no matter what the eyewitness reports and the scientific evidence suggested, the result was conclusive. A careless cigarette and her brother was no more.
She reached for her sketchbook and flicked through the pages to the last drawing she’d made: Thorne at the stern of the boat, his boater at a rakish angle and his smile blazing in competition with the noonday sun. If only she’d done as she’d promised, and hadn’t agreed to the ridiculous photograph to commemorate the insignificant achievements of the Women’s Club.
Perhaps if she’d made it to the wharf in time, Thorne wouldn’t have lit the cigarette. She could imagine his impatience. She’d berated him hundreds of times for smoking in the boat—they both knew the dangers of a naked flame with the engine primed.
They’d dreamt of shared adventures and exploration, made so many plans. The largest of them sat mocking her in the old stables behind the row of terraces on Macquarie Street. Their future, their escape. And now, she couldn’t bring herself to lift the dust sheets covering the Model T Ford. She might as well lie buried beneath them; better still, buried with Thorne beneath the open-armed angel in Waverley Cemetery.
‘Letitia! I wish to speak to you.’