The house had been in the family for something like 50 years when they decided they would go and live there. You could find it now, though it has been renovated. You follow the road out of Avalon, along what seems to be a suburban street. When it suddenly narrows and twists as you come over a crest in the hill and you are smacked with the view of Pittwater glittering in whatever light is available, the house is just below you, on the right, down the bank behind that huge tree.
Then, it was a beach cottage, one of the last on the peninsular. The floorboards were made from the spotted gums that had been felled to make room for the house and they had been scuffed by the sandy feet of so many yachts-men, fisher-men, holiday makers that their smoothness seemed unnatural. Out on the veranda to the west the boards had been weathered turning a shade of grey and they seemed to suck the moisture off your feet. The fibro walls were stained with mould, the paint on the windows peeled gracefully in the extreme light thrown at them by the water. And out below the veranda the water itself seemed to be too close, lapping at the foundations, eroding at the sandy soil and the wooden trusses that held the house in position.
Either side of the house the land had been cleared to make room for the pools and trim gardens of the neighbours. Their houses leaned in on the cottage with the swathe of gums, their speckled trunks standing guard, the untidy bushes that crawled and cascaded their way down to the sandstone platform at the bottom of the garden, where the tide was eroding the bank.
Sasha worried about this. She agreed with Elise’s collective of aunts, that something should be done, but there was such a complex knot of wills and various contests that Elise had rolled her eyes and walked out of the room. Sasha noticed herself twisting the bangles on her wrists, upset – or was it irritated – by Elise’s silence.
Sasha wanted to repaint, to tidy, to hack and neaten the garden. She looked at the houses next door and caught herself admiring their order, the paths clear of leaves or gum blossom dropped by the screeching lorikeets. But, there was a part of herself that loved the sound of the house settling into the night, the bandicoot scratched under the foundations, the possum thumping on the galve roof, the sound, or so it sometimes seemed to Sasha, of old wood twisting in the humidity of the night. Crickets. A car passing, and the slap of the water, boats on their moorings, the hiss of the tide rising.