“Hayley, boom! Wassup dog?” called out Caleb as I climbed onto the bus. I smiled indulgently and took my usual seat near the front. Caleb was probably my best friend, but he had spent a week with his cousin in Perth during the Christmas holidays and had come back thinking he was all gangster. The year before he had gone through his pansexual stage and before that his goth stage.
At fifteen, we were the oldest ones who caught the district east bus to school; next year we would both be going off to boarding school in the city. I was the last stop and settled down with my book for the thirty-minute drive into town. I was re-reading the Hunger Games series for the third time, I thought Catniss Everdeen was one of the best female protagonists in modern literature, Suzanne Collins was my hero and I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
Glancing up from my novel, I noticed a red pram by the side of the road. It stood out starkly against the dry countryside. It was wedged against a tree, and looked brand new, the metal still shiny, the cloth unstained. The stark red of the pram against the faded summer foliage reminded me of the scene from Schindler’s List with the little girl in the red coat. We were in the middle of nowhere, there were no farms around here, my farm was the last farm before we got to town. Between my farm and town was just uncleared bushland. How did the pram get here? I wondered where the mother and baby were.
On the way home from school the pram was still there, still in the same position as it was the next day and the next.
Each day I was surprised to see the still pram there, this was the type of thing that the local boys would usually have collected. I remember when Caleb’s little sister had grown out of her fold-up stroller, we had spent an afternoon careening down the mud in it and into the dam until eventually it collapsed and sunk to the bottom.
By the end of summer the red cloth had faded to a dull pink, one of its wheels had deflated, but the pram had not budged.
Winter was a good one for us farming families with lots of rain and the dams were full. The pram was slashed about, the pink cloth fading further.
Caleb and I both had to go to Perth for interviews at our respective boarding schools in the October holidays, we were both nervous and apprehensive. Our mums took us down and we stayed in the same hotel and made a holiday out of it staying for a week. Caleb had moved on from his gangster phase and seemed not to be taking on any new persona at this time.
When we got home we had six weeks of Year 10 left and then our days at the district school would be over. No more school bus, no more familiar faces.
On the last day of school there was a graduation ceremony held for us. This was tradition for all Year 10s regardless of how many students the school had. Caleb and I didn’t have to dress in our school uniforms. Mum had bought me a new dress when we were in Perth, Caleb also had new clothes to wear. We would catch the bus for the last time that morning as our parents would be coming to the graduation and we would drive home with them.
Driving home in the back of the car, I looked out of the window, the frame of the pram lay rusting in the dry scrub, and a slither of pale pink fabric was picked up by the wind and danced across the windscreen before being carried away.