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LOVE/Todd Pierce WHEN I WAS TWELVE I did not understand why my parents divorced, but looking back I can say with some assurance that my mother noticed other men. I do not mean she had an affair. Merely that she did not need my father as much as she once had. She had grown up inAustralia and, a few years after her mother's death, found she missed her country a great deal. She wanted to see the mountains again, to hear English spoken with a Sydney accent, and to have her own stars spread out above her. She called her brother more often, spent evenings alone, and when my father realized how things might go, they planned to separate. On May 10 my mother packed her bags and readied herself for the 10:35 flight, LA to Sydney direct. The last moment of tenderness I saw between my parents occurred in our living room: my mother sat next to my father, her passport tucked into her pocket, her arms looped around his neck. "Still, if you ask me now," she said, "I'll rip up my ticket and stay." My father turned away sadly, and when he turned back he was close to tears. "No," he said, "ifs better we do what's right." To seal this, he took her hand and kissed it. Three hours later she disappeared down a boarding ramp. The following June, I went to live with her. My mother had inherited a small mountain cottage in the township of Katoomba, not far from Sydney, a two-bedroom home, its exterior green and yellow, its roof nothing more than corrugated metal. In the front yard, my uncle planted flowers and a hedge; in the back my mother strung a clothesline from the verandah to a gum tree. Each Sunday I would help her hang our laundry to dry. "There are things I do miss about the States," she said. "For one, I miss the bloody electric clothes dryers. For another, I miss pizza delivery." I thought for the most part, though, she was happy there. As for me, I liked the mountains. I Uked them because they were large and open, because waUabies lived in their fields and because gum trees covered their hüls. I liked them because they held my famUy, and because for a while I felt special there. I was the quiet American kid visiting for a year, the one who didn't know the rules to rugby but was good in English. Most of aU, I liked them because they were where I first feU in love, a girl named KeUy Richardson the object of my desire. To my surprise, my mother didn't date in Australia. At least not at first. During my childhood, she had been the type of soft, pretty, The Missouri Review · 167 naturaUy flirtatious woman men often admired, but after she left my father her flirtatiousness disappeared, as did other qualities. She cut her hair; she bought darker clothes; she took an editor's job at the historical society. Her very mannerisms began to change, and I sensed she was slowly shifting back into the person she had been before she married. For these reasons, I thought she would not marry again, that her time for romance had passed. She loved new things: the mountains and trees, the way a breeze could curve down from Echo Point, and how my grandmother's words sounded when she read them aloud. Each day she rose at sunrise and sat in our breakfast nook, sipping tea and watching fog lift out of the vaUey in thin, wispy clouds. Each evening she tuned in the news, watching Australian anchors rattle off stories about the queen, our prime minister, and hostages in Iran. I thought she had found a kind of peace, brought on by her home, her work, her brother. I was surprised, then, when she started to faU in love. At first I noticed only a change in her voice, a softness that reminded me of how she once spoke to my father. She started wearing Ughter colors again—whites and pinks. In the evenings, she sat...


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