Bush Love Story - I Will Change The Title When I Think Of Something Good
Karen M Australis


A/N: RFDS is the Australian Royal Flying Doctor's Service (sort of an air ambulance). They are legends and most of Australia could not function without them.

***Chapter One***

A sharp pain ripped across Kayla’s abdomen, wrenching her from sleep with a soft cry. Gradually it eased and she lay still, unsure whether the pain would return. Her breathing slowed and she became aware of her surroundings for the first time since she’s awoken. Her cool pillow beneath her head; the gentle breeze from the fan that suddenly seemed freezing. It was dark, with only the starlight shining through the open window, but she could make out the familiar shapes of her bedroom – the timber dressing table against the wall, the pale lace curtains billowing in the soft breeze. She could hear the croak of frogs outside, the rhythmic breathing of her big black Great Dane on the floor beside the bed.

Her heart still pounding from her painful awakening she turned and reached over to her left. She was seeking the warm comfort of Heath, her boyfriend –fiance, she reminded herself – but the sheet was empty and undisturbed. Her stomach clenched painfully, and this was nothing to do with the frightening pain of a few moments ago. He’d gone into town with the boys after work – the fourth time in five days – but had promised her he wouldn’t drink. Judging by the hour she guessed none of them had been sober enough to drive home, or else they were still drinking. She was astounded at her own gullibility in believing him. A glance at the luminous numbers on the bedside clock told her it was after three.

In an effort to still her trembling body she curled herself into a ball and tried not to think about how much she needed him right now. Instead she concentrated on the precious existence she was carrying within her still flat belly and tried to think calming thoughts. The cramps in her stomach had panicked her, but they had passed and she hadn’t felt the pain for several minutes now. She focused on her breathing and forced herself to believe that her already beloved baby was fine. It was probably normal, she told herself, to get the occasional pain. Even this early in the pregnancy. She hadn’t had a chance to ask about that yet, she was only seven weeks and had only seen the doctor the once to confirm the pregnancy. Just relax, she told herself. That’s the best thing you can do for the baby.

After a while she was calm enough that her mind started to wander – to Heath, which was about as far as it ever got these days. She spent so much time these days thinking about Heath, their relationship, the engagement, the baby – it seemed to spin around and around in her head in a never ending swirl of thoughts. She began to drift around the edges of sleep as she thought about the way things used to be, had been when they first got together…

She remembered the first time she’d ever seen him; she’d been twenty-one and still green. She’d thought he was the sexiest man she’d seen in a long time – although admittedly she hadn’t seen that many in the few years leading up to her taking a job on Nucotana Station, where they’d met and still lived. She’d left school at eighteen and had been offered her dream job straight away. Working as a governess on a cattle station meant she could combine her two passions – working with kids and horses – to her heart’s content. She’d spent those three years leading up to Nucotana Station in daily rapture, and nothing less than the children going to boarding school would have convinced her to leave. But she’d impressed the children’s parents to such an extent that she’d had no shortage of job offers to choose from in the months leading up to the new school year. She’d chosen Nucotana because it was in an entirely new part of the country; somewhere she could see new people and places and develop more independence from her sometimes suffocatingly close family. The fact that Nucotana was a much bigger station, relatively close to the (admittedly small) town of Burton and with more people living and working there, had also been a deciding factor. She’d been looking forward to mixing more with people her own age.

Heath wasn’t her own age, though. He was five and a half years older, a fact that had only flattered her more when he started paying her more and more attention. He’d been kind of sweet back then, or maybe she’d just been more easily impressed. He’d been there the day she’d arrived and had sauntered over; work-stained Akubra tipped back on his forehead, displaying dusty tendrils of sun bleached blonde hair. She’d let him carry her single bag inside and had been bedazzled from the start. Soon everyone had known that they were a couple and their relationship had gone on from there. Now, five years later, they had graduated to living in the tiny creek house instead of the staff quarters. Yet things were far from perfect. There wasn’t much Kayla could (or would) define specifically. Not the hurtful behaviour on Heath’s behalf or the seemingly endless stream of excuses for him on hers. He’d been drinking more and more and telling her to stop nagging, get of his back, every bloke is entitled to time ‘off’, away from the missus, and making other such asinine comments.

Heath Wickham was born at nine fifteen on a hot January evening and within an hour was deprived of his mother. Lynda Wickham died from loss of blood, abruptly ending her unremarkable and overworked life. His father Garry did his best to raise him alone; giving the little of himself that was left after the alcohol had taken its share. As a result Heath grew up always expecting more from everyone and with little supervision or direction. Consequently, when his father succumbed to cirrhosis of the liver when Heath was sixteen, he was a young man of no moral values or ethics. He had dropped out of school a year before and had done exactly nothing towards becoming in any way a useful member of society in the intervening months. His early belief that the world owed him everything had not dissipated.

Shortly after the death of his father Maurie Sheppard contacted Heath, offering him a home and a job on his property, Nucotana Station. It emerged that Maurie and Gary had been good mates as children and young men, and although they had had little contact in the past sixteen years Maurie was saddened to hear of his death. In a last gesture of mateship, he had decided to do all he could for Gary’s son and only child. Upon his arrival at Nucotana Heath had proven himself greedy, lazy and the proud owner of an over-inflated ego and nothing had happened over the past fifteen years to change Maurie’s first impression. But somehow, having him around meant that he still had some connection to his old mate, and so Heath had stayed on.


Kayla rolled over on her side, tucking her cool white pillow more comfortably beneath her head. Suddenly she was tired. Tired of making excuses for him: he’ll be better when the weather cools, he’ll be better when summer comes, when it gets busier, when it quietens down…she’d stopped believing her own excuses long ago. But she loved him and she believed that meant working through the occasional (or frequent, lately) times of frustration and hurt. She decided it must be her. She’d been feeling flat for a while and then when she’d found out about the baby she’d put her relationship lethargy down to that. Hormones or something. Certainly no reason to break up with him…and now they had a child to consider. She was so happy about the baby, though it wasn’t exactly how she dreamed it would be. She’d always planned on a beautiful white wedding first and feeling a little more secure in their relationship. Yet, her feelings of insecurity stemmed from nothing she could put her finger on, so how could she expect Heath to help her fix it? Nonetheless, since the baby had decided that now was the time to put in an appearance she was determined to make things work out the best they could.

Her heart expanded as she thought about the day, just a week ago, when she’d told him about the baby. She’d been so excited that she hadn’t even stopped to consider that he wouldn’t feel the same. She hadn’t said a word until she was sure, but on the day the doctor had confirmed it… She’d travelled the forty kilometres from town with the needle nudging the speed limit the whole way, anxious to get home and share her news but determined to drive safely for the baby’s sake. She remembered how she’d slid to a stop and jumped from her ute without even taking the time to kill the engine, sprinting across the dusty yard to the verandah of the staff quarters, where she knew Heath would be having his knock off beers with the boys. She could remember the way she’d breathlessly asked him to come with her, away from the boys, and the leery grin he’d given the boys who all shouted sexually insinuative comments about why she wanted to see him.

Then she told him. She remembered the look of shock blended with distaste that crossed his beautiful face and she remembered the way her stomach dropped like a stone.
‘Aren’t you happy…?’ she’d asked falteringly. Not that she had to. His feelings were plainly written across his face.
‘Did you really think I would be? How could you have let this happen?’
She remembered so clearly how she’d reached out for him as he turned away and he spun on the ball of his foot, throwing her hand off as he did so. She hadn’t known what to say. She’d been absolutely flabbergasted. She hadn’t planned the pregnancy either, but she would never have foreseen this reaction from him. She had been stunned that she apparently knew him so poorly. Her head had spun with shock and her feelings had plummeted as low as her earlier elation had raised them.

In remembering it she was reliving it in her mind. She saw how he’d tugged his cigarettes from the top left-hand pocket of his worn work shirt. She remembered how he’d flicked the lighter with a single practiced move, lit one up and parking it between his lips, had inhaled deeply.
Kayla hadn’t known what to say. But since it was plain that he wasn’t going to say anything at all she made an attempt.
‘I – I didn’t plan it either…I don’t know how it happened. But we talked about this, we said that we wanted kids, remember? Before we even got engaged we decided it was something we wanted to do.’
Heath had kicked the dirt at his feet. ‘Yeah, well, I don’t remember it exactly like that.’ he bit off his words nastily. ‘Seems to me that was just another part of the price you put on yourself. You seem to value yourself pretty highly, thinking a man will do anything to get you to marry him. You’re not all that, you know.’
Abruptly he had turned in a cloud of cigarette smoke and walked away from her, back towards the worker’s quarters.
Kayla’s eyes had filled with tears as she watched him go. Surely he didn’t mean it; she’d had no idea he’d felt like that. She was still watching him when suddenly he turned back towards her.
‘Kayla?’ he called.
Her heart had leapt painfully. Was he going to apologise, tell her he hadn’t meant it, that he’d just been taken by surprise?
‘Since you’ve gone ahead with this, I suppose I wouldn’t mind a son.’ He had turned his back to her and kept walking, tugging his hat down lower as he went. Kayla’s brimming eyes had overflowed as she’d quietly walked back to her car, engine still running, and slowly drove down to the creek house she shared with Heath.


A second devastating pain split her abdomen, yanking her from her thoughts, but she didn’t cry out despite the pain being worse. She tried to breathe through it but this time it didn’t pass. In agony she slowly eased herself into a sitting position and switched on her bedside lamp with the vague idea that she might be able to think more clearly in the light.

Despite her attempts to remain calm she began to whimper as the white hot pain refused to ease. She needed Heath. Why wasn’t he there when she needed him? Reminding herself to breathe slowly she tried to clear her head, her thoughts blurry with pain and pure terror for the safety of the baby.

 Pushing her long dark hair back from her face she felt the pain recede and slowly began to feel she had overcome the worst of it, whatever ‘it’ was, when she was hit harder than before.

Her bravery and positive thoughts dissolved into the intense pain as her cheeks were flooded with tears. Her hands splayed protectively across her belly she crawled out of bed and was hobbling towards the closed bedroom door when her worst fears were realised. A familiar warm wetness began to spread over her thighs as she broke out into sobs. She loved her baby; she couldn’t bear it if something was happening to it.

She managed to get to the kitchen where the only phone, an ancient yellowed thing with chunky buttons in the habit of sticking, hung on the wall. Breathing deeply in a twofold effort to combat the pain and calm herself she grabbed the phone and, almost doubled over, managed to dial the number for the main house. After several rings she heard the sleepy voice of Tania, her boss.

‘Tania?’ her voice trembled so much as to make her almost unintelligible. ‘Tania, I need help. I think it’s the baby…’


The next hour passed in a blur of pain and tears for Kayla. Tania had arrived at the creek house within minutes of Kayla’s call but her heart had dropped when she’d seen the suddenly fragile looking younger woman doubled over on the bathroom floor. She’d bundled her into the ancient Toyota wagon and had driven hastily into town, awakening the town’s only nurse when they arrived at the clinic, which was all that Burton could offer in the way of medical assistance. Tania had waited long enough to see Kayla settled and clearly in the best hands she could be before allowing her anger at Heath to take over. Now it was nearly four in the morning and she was back in her car, grimly headed for the one place in town she was sure that Heath would be.

Tania drove directly for Becky’s place. Becky Stevens was known to be something of a troublemaker in town because of her euphemistically close relationship with most of the boys in the district, at one time or another, and lately Tania had been hearing disturbing rumours about her ‘closeness’ with Heath Wickham. She would never dream of telling Kayla, the girl seemed to think he could do no wrong, but privately she had spent many evenings venting her feelings about his worthlessness and poor treatment of Kayla to her husband Maurie.

Poor Maurie, she thought as she flicked her indicator on to turn down Becky’s street. He was in a difficult position too, having taken it upon himself to look after Heath as the last thing he could do for his mate. Even now, with Heath into his thirties and clearly not inclined to outgrow his deceitfulness and laziness, he would never be able to bring himself to ask him to leave.

Pulling up into the driveway of the run down house Becky shared with another girl of equally questionable reputation she yanked on the handbrake. Clearly a party had happened and by the look of things would keep going well into the dawn.

Stepping out of her four wheel drive Tanya was greeted by the sound of someone retching behind a tree. She picked her way between unconscious bodies and a couple of lovers entwined in each others arms on the front porch. Advancing through the open door, she was immediately accosted by the stench of alcohol, cigarettes and something suspiciously sweet.

A few people were scattered around the room in various states of consciousness and she was pleased to note that none of them seemed to be employees of hers and Maurie’s. Still, she was positive that one in particular was somewhere within the house, and pausing only to switch off the absurdly loud stereo, she proceeded to walk through the hot pink net curtain hanging in the doorway to the kitchen. No one seemed to notice the sudden quiet, with those still awake too drunk or stoned to be aware of much at all.

She supposed she shouldn’t have been surprised at the scene that greeted her in the bottle-strewn kitchen, yet her heart ached for Kayla. Becky, her short skirt slipping up towards her hips to expose her cheap nylon underwear, was locked in an embrace with Heath; their tongues clearly lost somewhere below each other’s tonsils.

Clearing her throat, Tania waited for them to move apart. When nothing happened after a few seconds she changed tactics.
‘Oy! Dickhead!’ she bellowed at Heath. At this they pulled apart and glared at Tania. Without even the grace to look ashamed Heath slung his arm across Becky’s bare shoulders. Noting his opened shirt and unzipped fly Tania wondered just what she’d walked in on.
‘You’re coming with me. Kayla needs you.’ Tania ordered, not at all sure that Heath was what Kayla needed just then.
‘She’s gunna hafta wait, isn’t she,’ Heath slurred. ‘Can’t ya see I’m busy?’
Tania stomped the three feet over to where the illicit couple was standing and yanked him towards her by the ear, unceremoniously knocking Becky into the kitchen bench as she did so.

Without stopping to listen to Heath’s drunken complaints or Becky’s shameless reminder for him to call her, Tania marched Heath out to the car. He was completely unable to even do up his own seatbelt and as tempting as it was to let him risk it she took the trouble to buckle him in.

‘What’s this all about? What’s wrong with Kayla?’ Heath over enunciated in the manner of the very drunk, concentrating on keeping his eyes open. Houses flashed by in the moonlight as Tania sped towards the clinic.
‘Do you even care? What the hell was that back there with Becky?’ Tania couldn’t and didn’t particularly want to keep the anger out of her voice.
‘She’s just a mate. A very good mate,’ Heath said in a tone that he believed was intensely lascivious and attractive but merely turned Tania’s stomach. How any woman could stand to be close to him she didn’t know, with his thin lips and hard features that somehow only inspired distrust.
‘Kayla’s bleeding. It’s the baby. She might be losing it.’ Tania said abruptly.
‘Oh well. Less trouble for me,’ Heath said sleepily.
Stomping forcefully on the brakes Tania whipped around to face him and truly believed that she was about to throw a punch or kick him out of the car, only to see that he’d finally passed out after threatening to for the last few minutes. Throwing the car back into gear she turned the last corner into the small car park of the little clinic, furious with him and with herself for letting him get her so incensed. In disgust she left his unconscious body slumped in the passenger seat and jumped out of the car, slamming the door behind her.

Once inside Tania slipped into the small room where Kayla was lying quietly. A hospital gurney and a stainless steel sink and bench were the main features of the room. Boxes of miscellaneous medical supplies peered out from shiny steel shelves. Kayla was lying very still; tears rolling silently down cheeks that were as pale as death.

‘How you going, matie?’ Tania asked sympathetically. Kayla looked so white and small lying under the hospital sheet that her heart ached. Kayla didn’t seem to hear her and she repeated the question. Kayla shifted her blank gaze and focused on Tania, seeming to see her for the first time since she’d walked in.
‘They don’t know what’s wrong. They don’t know if the baby’s okay.’
Tania’s eyes burned with unshed tears but she was determined to try to be strong for Kayla.
‘How are you feeling, sweetie? Are you still having the cramps?’
Kayla turned her head to the wall. ‘I don’t know. I feel numb.’ Closing her eyes she hoped Tania would take the hint that she wanted to be alone and quiet footsteps heading out the door a few minutes later confirmed this. As soon as she was alone she opened her eyes, preferring staring blankly at the wall to the images that greeted her every time she closed her eyes. Images of the baby that she was losing.

Another cramp gripped her, more severe than the ones back at the house but she didn’t feel it. She hadn’t been completely honest when she’d told Tania she felt numb. What she hadn’t wanted to say was that the physical pain was nothing compared to the pain she was feeling in her heart that knew her baby was gone.


Out in the empty waiting room Tania was conferring with Beryl, the nurse. Beryl was crowding sixty, though no one was sure from which direction, but all agreed that there wasn’t much about bush medicine she didn’t know. With her thick set body and severe steel gray bun she was a force to be reckoned with when circumstances called for it but in reality had a heart of gold. She had delivered all five of her own children and up until just a few years ago she’d delivered just about every baby in the district. She’d seen her share of miscarriages too and it was because of this that she spoke with sympathy and authority now.
‘I think you need to consider it probable that the baby is gone,’ she said quietly to Tania.
 Tania had suspected but it broke her heart to hear it put into words.
 ‘The RFDS are on their way. They expect to get here within the hour and we’ll have Kayla waiting at the airstrip. But it’s really not looking good. I’m sorry,’ Beryl said with a mixture of compassion and professionalism.
 Shaking her head to clear her thoughts Tania focused on what could be done for Kayla.
‘Is there anything I can do for her? Is there anything she needs?’
‘That good for nothing man of hers wouldn’t go astray. I suppose he didn’t see fit to bring her into town himself?’
‘Let’s just say he’s in no state at present to offer her any kind of support or comfort. And believe you me I’ll be dealing with him in the morning. In the meantime I think I’ll go and sit with her until it’s time to go out to the airstrip.’ Walking towards the hallway she stopped. ‘Is there anything we can do for her pain? She says she’s not feeling much but it might help…’
‘I’ve done what I can. To be honest I think the pain she’s feeling is nothing any drug can help.’
A sad smile crossed Beryl’s face and her eyes seemed suspiciously damp - she that was known for being the toughest of bush women.


The flying doctor arrived with the dawn that morning to take Kayla south to one of the big town hospitals. By midmorning tests confirmed that precious baby inside of Kayla was dead.



Copyright © 2008 Karen M Australis
Published on the World Wide Web by "www.storymania.com"