Belinda lay in her bed and stared through the darkness at the pale square of the window. Against it the shadow of the big gum sighed and rustled.
It would have been a nice night to sit on the porch and study the stars, wrapped in the companionable silence of her mother and father, except she had been bundled off to bed early. She wondered what they were arguing about.
"I won't!" came her father's rumble.
The protest in the rumble lowered, as her mother's clear accented voice dropped to a whisper.
The smell of coffee wafted up the passage with the suggestive clink of cups. They were having coffee, and not inviting her! They had pushed her off to bed like a baby, because they wanted to discuss or argue about something.
Belinda blinked back tears. It was bad enough having a father getting transferred all the time because he was an executive with a big company.
Now just as she was getting settled in her new home, in her new district and her new school, her mother was going to have to go away. Tonight was her last night home. She had been ill for ages with some mystery virus.
"A couple of months rest under nursing care will give her a chance to recover properly," the cheerful young doctor had assured the family.
Belinda made her decision. She wasn't going to be pushed off to bed while things happened. She padded down the passageway, and paused at the kitchen door, blinking in the light.
Her mother's thin intense face turned, and the silky brows arched over the gleaming green eyes. "Not asleep, darling?"
Belinda shook her head.
"Should be in bed," grumbled her father.
He was large and untidy, and every hair on his dark head stood on end. Belinda took after him, in that she had dark hair, and perhaps one day would be quite tall.
She wished she had either his warm twinkling brown eyes, or her mother's gleaming green eyes. When she looked in a mirror, her gray eyes didn't seem to belong with either her mother or her father.
Belinda stared from her father back to her mother without speaking. She thought about the dreadful fact that her mother was not going to be home when she came back from school tomorrow.
"We can visit every weekend," promised her father, his brow wrinkling with the intensity of his promise. He knew what she was feeling.
"It's not the same." Belinda felt her voice start to quaver.
Her mother straightened narrow shoulders and looked at her. Belinda choked back the sob. It would never do to cry like a baby.
"That's better. After school tomorrow, Daddy will drive you to the airport."
"To collect your grandmother."
"I've got a grandmother?"
Belinda thought about that. Everybody else in the world had grandmothers and other relatives except her, Belinda Anne Robinson. All she had was a father who kept getting transferred, so they shifted from place to place, and a mother who painted.
"Everybody has grandmothers." He looked worried, unhappy and mulish, all at the same time.
"What's she like?"
"Just a grandmother, like any other grandmother," answered her mother. A secret look of amusement went over her pale face. "She will look after you both while I'm away."
"Now, off to bed," ordered her father. "You'll meet her tomorrow."
"I'm sure you'll get on - it's never dull while Matilda's around," promised her mother.
Belinda sighed, kissed her parents, and padded back to her bedroom. As she became drowsy, she again wondered just what had her parents been arguing over?