The Price of Freedom
Jocelyn had been a major source of embarrassment with tears and protestations of eternal
fidelity; offering her virginity like a sacrifice on the altar of love. Friendship was all he’d ever
wanted - she was easy and intelligent to talk with.
A hot blush welled at the memory. Her bedroom, curtains drawn, fumbling with buttons and
zips, undressing, and an odd smell. Her excitement - his choking urge to escape only prevented by a
reluctance to hurt. Her confusion and anxiety - his excuses… Ignominy! She begged for his new
address - he falsely promised to send it. A miserable mess, like the sufferings of the poor bastard in
a Sci-fi novel he was reading. The bloke’s mind had accidentally been transferred to someone else's
body. There was no way he wanted to end up like that, choking on alien feelings, thoughts and
desires. Unlike the book's victim, Robert hoped that with the change of schools he could take
control of his life. The reset button had been pressed and this time he would be the real Robert -
whoever that might be!
Something poked at his thigh. He opened his eyes. The noisy kid peered down, eyes squinting
under a frown of curiosity.
‘Are you dead?’ the child inquired as though death were a mild cold.
‘No, my skin’s making vitamin D.’
This was considered for a moment. ‘Is it good for you?’
‘In small doses. Keeps you healthy.’
‘I’ll do it too,’ the young intruder declared with the solemnity of a banker deciding to invest a
million dollars. He lay down, casually resting his head on the young man’s outstretched arm.
A fiercely swung shoulder bag torpedoed Robert from his daydreams. Instantly defensive he
leaped to his feet, urged on by a demon howl.
‘Filthy child-molester! Paedophile!’ The woman yelled, grabbing at her son.
At first Robert thought the silly cow had lost her marbles, then realisation dawned. ‘Hang on, I'm
‘Pervert!’ she spat. ‘And in broad daylight! In a public park!’ Fury became hysteria. ‘How dare
you? How dare you?’ Clutching the child roughly by his upper arm, she stumbled back and thrust
her belongings into the holdall. In a desperate effort to explain, Robert grabbed his shirt and
followed her. ‘I wasn't doing anything like that… you're making a mistake… your kid...’
‘People like you should be locked away for life!’ Her revulsion was a physical force repelling
him. Grabbing shoes and bag in one hand and dragging the frantic child with the other, she faced
Robert squarely, lip curled in loathing. Spittle spattered lips and bare breasts, paradoxically
rendered her more impressive than ridiculous. The child's eyes were wide with confusion and fear.
His mother had saved him from something evil! He had been in great danger! The fury and hatred
of the mother permeated the son and he let loose with a scream of terror.
‘The police will hear about this, you queer, black bastard!’ Turning on her heel she stalked away,
head high, hips swinging with the timeless grandeur of protective mothers everywhere.
Only just able to control an urge to vomit, joy and warmth gone, love of life replaced by an icy
dread gnawing at his guts, Robert fled.
Monique perched at the breakfast-bar, savouring the joy of a dream realised. Winter sunlight
flooding through French windows open to patio and garden, imbued even the old furniture with
mellow life. A slow smile pulled at the corners of her mouth. ‘Contentment.’ She whispered the
word softly, relishing both sound and idea. The wait had given life purpose. For nineteen years,
since her marriage to Sanjay and immigration to Australia, Monique had worked hard. First in a
factory, all she could hope for with indifferent English, then in more demanding jobs until their son
arrived and she had taken over the bookkeeping of their small importing company.
Compared to most of her acquaintances she had a happy life. Two trips back to France over the
years had reinforced the rightness of her choice. After a week of provincial Catholicism and
traditional village ways, the claustrophobia that had driven her away in the first place was