This lyrebird discovery helps lighten the tension of danger in chapter 16 of To Kill for a Dream by Ryn Shell.
“We’ve spoken to the police.” Frank stuck his thumbs in his belt. “They said they’d do what they could. They haven’t seen a small dark blue car with dirty number plates, but they’ll watch for it. All the local coppers are pulling over small dark blue cars and giving them roadworthy checks.”
“That’s not going to make Mummy happy.” Emily giggled.
“I bet it won’t.” Iain winked.
“They wouldn’t be pulling over a woman and a boy unless they think Simmo has started using mothers as his intimidation agents.” Maude frowned. She observed Iain raise an eyebrow. “We might live in the country, but we’re not uninformed.” She pushed a copy of the Sydney Morning Herald to Iain. “Don’t leave it where the kiddies will see it,” she whispered, holding her hand over the headlines.
“Okay.” Iain slid his right hand over the headline as Maude removed hers. His brow furrowed, and he quickly placed his left hand over the photo of Janice. Looking up, he relaxed when he saw Jarrah leading Emily out into the backyard.
“That lad is very intuitive,” Maude observed.
“They are both, uncannily so,” Iain said. “It’s a wonder Emily hasn’t picked up on the danger.”
“Jarrah is absorbing it for her,” Maude said. “He is distracting her. Sparing her from feeling fear.”
Iain and the children settled for a week as guests at Fernglade. Appreciative of the hospitality, once Iain knew he had enough money over from the cost of the ute repairs, he paid a generous boarding house lodgings fee.
Emily was thrilled to be given the run of the back garden and a pair of secateurs and permission to pick flowers. She came up the path, her arms laden with red, pink and white camellias.
In a far-off corner of the garden, Jarrah waved to her. She lowered the flowers carefully to the porch and ran empty handed towards him. She slowed down and tiptoed, as he’d taught her to do when she saw him raise his arm.
Jarrah’s face turned to her. She beamed when she saw the wonder within it. She wanted to hurry but took long, cautious steps towards the noise in the shrubbery behind him.
A strange assortment of noises welcomed her. There was the sound of a tinkling stream where there was none, and then a crackling noise, followed by a yoo-hoo, yoo-hoo from a human-sounding voice.
She peered into the semi-darkened space between tree ferns and saw a strange brown bird—not unlike a skinny, unattractive hen—making these noises. Then she gasped and stood transfixed behind Jarrah, in awe at the visual transformation she witnessed.
Jarrah lifted her and brought her slowly around to sit on his knee, in front of him, to observe the lyrebird more closely.
In front of the mound the lyrebird danced. With a shimmer and rustle of his long, drab, grey tail feathers, the male bird lifted the massive tail and spread it wide open.
Emily gasped at the beauty as he opened the fantail and brought it forward over his body like a lace veil between two large, white side feathers that formed an exquisite lyre shape. The bird made clicking noises and danced a side step and then bowed to his admirers.
Jarrah and Emily exchanged glances of sheer exhilaration experiencing the affinity of being equally awed by the spectacle.
After a few minutes, Jarrah nudged Emily and pointed as the shy female bird walked into their view. The male rhythmically danced, raising his magnificent lyre fan of feathers up and down and rattling them for his mate’s attention. The hen scratched around in the leaf-litter finding insects.
The male lyrebird made shrill whip sounds. Then he made noises like a dog barking. He closed his tail. Jumping and bobbing over his mate, he enticed her to mount the mound with him. Then he covered both their bodies and heads with his majestic lyre shape of feathers. The children watched spellbound.
Bangs came from the direction of the front drive, where Iain’s ute was being worked on as something of a community project.
Word had got around that the children’s housekeeper had been murdered, and while no one understood the details, they all understood a family in need of a fair go—a fresh start.
The locals oxy welded scrap metal, attached recycled vehicle parts and panel beat Iain’s ute back to a resemblance of acceptability for a country drive as the lyrebird continued to dance and even learned to mimic the banging of hammers on metal.
“I’ll never forget this.” Emily’s eyes glowed. Her cream skin became a healthy pink during the week they spent at Fernglade in the Blue Mountains.
Iain understood this was a rare opportunity for the children to experience a rainforest environment. He gave Jarrah and Emily permission to explore the bush out the back of the house while he kept watch in the front driveway. He was confident the men in the blue car wouldn’t dare come back. Still, he kept guard, especially over the ute. To take no chances on there being night intruders, he slept in the ute with his rifle.
Jarrah and Emily gathered pinecones together in the daytime, and in the early evening they sat around a warm, glowing pinecone and log fire and talked. Sometimes Emily sat in front of Jarrah, and he hugged her shoulders. He’d begun to think of her as his little sister.
“Penny for your thoughts,” she said as they watched a glowing pinecone fall apart.
“I was thinking of how scared I was when I ran away from Kellincha, and the first time I arrived home to Fife Springs. This time, I’m not afraid. I’m going home with a friend.” He squeezed her shoulders.