The Boundless Sublime

The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson Read Free Book Online

Book: The Boundless Sublime by Lili Wilkinson Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lili Wilkinson
felt it too. I knew it was only a matter of time before the mental and emotional spilled into the physical, and our daytime intensity would merge with my fevered night-time fantasies.

    I hadn’t been to school for over a week. I got up each morning and made polite conversation with Aunty Cath, who would hand me a packed lunch comprising mostly pre-packaged snacks – mini chocolate bars and individually wrapped crackers and processed cheese dip. When I was a kid, I loved food in little packets. Opening each one was like opening presents at Christmas, special and definitively mine. Now,I’d hold them up to read the long strings of preservatives listed on their sides, and shudder. Who knew what those chemicals did? Nothing good, that was for certain.
    I would head out the front door as if I were going to school, but turn left instead of right at the end of our street, and cut across the park and up the hill to the Red House, dumping Aunty Cath’s lunch in a rubbish bin on my way. I considered feeding it all to the birds, but figured that the birds didn’t need to be pumped full of preservatives either. I was doing them a favour.
    Walking through the squeaky iron gate into the dark green jungle beyond the wall was like entering the Secret Garden. I felt special, chosen, privy to secrets that nobody else knew. Occasionally I’d see someone else on the street outside the Red House – a parent pushing a pram, a postal worker, joggers and dog-walkers. They wouldn’t even see me. Their eyes glazed over the high red-brick wall of the Red House as though it wasn’t there.
    Didn’t they notice it? Didn’t they wonder what was on the other side?
    I knew they didn’t, because I hadn’t. Before I’d been to the Red House, before I’d met Fox, I’d never looked around. I hadn’t wondered what lay behind walls or doors. I hadn’t wondered what existed in the minds and hearts of the people I passed each day. It was as if all my senses were heightened, that I was opening up like a flower, suddenly aware of how much possibility there was in the world.
    Fox always met me at the front door, throwing his arms around me with a face-splitting grin. ‘You came back,’ he’d whisper into my hair.
    ‘Of course I did,’ I’d whisper back, breathing in his Fox-smell and feeling peace and calm and joy wash over me.

    One morning we found Welling in the dining room surrounded by boxes of bottled water.
    ‘Ruby,’ he said, smiling. His white teeth stood out against his dark skin. My cheeks grew warm. He was the only member of the Red House I found a bit intimidating. Even though he was younger than Lib and Stan and Val, somehow he was the one who seemed the most like a grown-up. Made me feel the most like a little kid. But I was curious about him. How did someone like him end up here, instead of being a charming lawyer or politician?
    ‘What are you doing?’ I asked, approaching the table.
    ‘I was just heading out,’ he said, lifting one of the cardboard boxes. ‘It’s my turn to hand out water.’ He considered me. ‘You should come.’
    Welling wanted my company?
    ‘Um,’ I said, glancing at Fox. Did he mean both of us?
    ‘Please,’ he said. ‘You’d be doing me a massive favour. It can get pretty boring standing on a street corner on your own. I could use the company and, well, to be honest I’d like to get to know you a little better. You seem interesting. Fox certainly thinks so.’
    He raised his eyebrows at Fox, and I saw Fox’s cheeks flush crimson.
    ‘You should go,’ he said. ‘There are some things I’ve been meaning to do around here anyway.’
    Welling’s smile was warm and welcoming, and I was flattered that he wanted to spend time with me. I could always hang out with Fox in the afternoon.
    ‘Sure.’

    We went to the main shopping strip near the park, where I’d first seen Fox. With a rush of adrenaline, I remembered that first brilliant spike of connection as our eyes met.
    Welling pulled out

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