From the "Autumn Leaves" anthology of short stories
Hello there, I'm Carly Shaw and I'm 30 y.o. In high school I fell in love with the handsome farmer, Elliot Fraser and we were inseparable. It was all we could do to keep our hands off one another in the school yard, and we hung out as much as possible in our own time.
The first winter we were together he gave me one of his jumpers to wear and I've had it ever since. It as too big for me, but it became my favourite fashion statement, because it smelt of him, all warm and earthy. We planned for a future together and never doubted that our love was strong enough to last.
Then I turned twenty and discovered that when my good for nothing father walked out, he left huge debts. Mum would lose the farm and the house I'd grown up in, if I didn't do something about it. So, I made the most difficult decision I've ever had to make. I left Cockatoo Flat for a high-paying job in Adelaide city. Money, an apartment within walking distance of the mall and trendy clothes were never things I'd coveted, and Elliot should have known that, but he wouldn't listen. All he heard was 'I'm leaving you'. It didn't matter, I still had to put Mum's needs before my own.
All he heard was "I'm leaving you".
It broke my heart when I heard that Elliot had moved on. He was married to another local girl and they were going to have a baby. There was no point in ever moving back to Cockatoo Flat. On the bright side, I made a lot of money fast and paid out all of Mum's debts.
Now, Mum has been diagnosed with cancer, so I've come home to take care of her during the chemo therapy. Being back is like having a weight lifted from my chest. I can breathe again and air is crisp and smells of cut hay. It made me realise how much I'd missed Mum and the camaraderie of the community. In truth it was the excuse I'd needed to leave an unsatisfying life behind. I reckon seeing all my old school friends with their doting husbands and cute kids, made my biological clock start ticking.
There wasn't much chance I'd find my soul mate a second time...