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A Life In Red

Ella Crosby

Isobelle Carmody Award

for Creative Writing

Honourable Mention

Billowing clouds roll across the desert, engulfing the arid landscape. I

squint and pretend the red cloud carries rain. The illusion is quickly

spoiled by the dusty wind tearing through my hair. Returning to

reality, I’m blinking sand from my eyes when I see him —


. A

tiny figure against the bloody sky, arms raised to welcome the storm.

I take off at a run, eyes fixed on him. The dust stings as I sprint

through it, blind to anything but the swirling red clouds around me.

The storm is closing in and soon I’ll be completely blind. Being lost

out here equates to almost certain death, especially when you’re as

old as Gramps is. I have to get to him, have to save him, but he’s too

far away. I watch in horror as he vanishes into the cloud.

Once, I was the one lost in the dust. Unable to return home in

time, I stumbled around, searching desperately for a way out. Five-

year-old feet aching and eyes burning with unshed tears, I had

begun to give up hope when I heard a voice cry out over the roar of

the wind.

“A-Adèle! Can you hear me? Where are you?” Choked and

wretched as it was, Gramps’ voice was the most beautiful sound I

had ever heard. He carried me home, whispering stories of a happier

time, of rain, as we battled through the bone-dry storm.

I used to love listening to Gramps talk about the rain. To me it

was alien and magical: water, falling from the sky. That was before I

grew up. Before I grew up and realised that rain and the life it

brought was a thing of the past; something dreamed of by those who

were too naïve or stubborn to know any better.

Gramps met Grandmama in the rain. He always said she was the

most beautiful thing he had ever seen, even shivering on the side of

the road like a drowned rat. Gramps used to laugh through his tears

when he remembered how she had thrown one soggy high-heel at

him when he first approached her.

It was love at first sight,

le coup de foudre

, Grandmama called it,

unlikely as it was, between the earnest Australian farm boy turned

soldier and the willowy, sharp-tongued Parisian girl.

Now, Gramps is old, sick and terribly tired. He’s forgotten

Grandmama’s smile and the red dress she was wearing when they

first met; his own name; and me, his only grandchild. But he still

remembers the rain. He still stands on the porch every morning and

sniffs the air, searching for a windblown scent he’ll never smell again.

It hasn’t rained in fifteen years, not since the end of the War, when