It had to be said, Susanne thought, there was something uplifting about a ceilidh.
It seemed like the whole of White Rock was crammed into the Anzac Hall that night, and Susanne was pleased, for her mum’s sake more than anything else. Even her dad appeared to be enjoying himself.
“Cooee!” Avril called out, her face flushed with exertion.
Susanne waved to her and Spike. They were making an expert job of the Gay Gordons, and directly behind them Kym and Lee were doing their best to keep up.
“Can I get you something cold to drink?” a voice said from behind her.
She recognised it immediately and turned to find Walker standing next to her.
“Do I look hot?”
“No. You look beautiful.” He held her gaze with an engaging smile.
It was a long time since anyone had flattered her and she wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Then, noticing his tartan trousers, crisp white shirt and well-polished black shoes, she said, “You’re not looking too shabby yourself.”
“To tell you the truth, I was going to wear something casual, but Mum forced me to dress up!”
“You’re moving to London, I hear,” Susanne said.
“That’s right,” he replied. “I need a change.” An expression of sadness crossed his face as if there was something he wanted to forget. He lowered his voice. “I was sorry to hear about you and Mark. Jess is a great kid, though. Mum says the two of you have settled in nicely.”
“Oh, yes, we have. But it’s not for ever. I’m hoping to buy a place of my own eventually. I don’t want to move too far from here, because Jess and Denny are mates and they like to be able to cycle between the farms.”
“She reminds me of you at that age,” Walker said.
“You think she’s a tomboy?”
“It’s not that. It’s her sweet nature and enthusiasm for life. And she laughs a lot.”
What a nice thing to say, she thought. The truth was, since returning to Emu Hill and revisiting her childhood haunts, places like Mooraburra and Eureka Creek, Walker had often found a way into her thoughts, and now here he was, as lovely as she remembered.
But he’s not here for long, she reminded herself quickly. Walker had left her behind in White Rock twice before. Once when he went off to university in Brisbane, then a second time when he took a job in Sydney. She’d always had a secret crush on him, but their friendship would never be more than that.
“You know,” he said, “I always thought you’d end up marrying a farming bloke and take over Emu Hill.”
“You never can tell how things are going to work out, can you?” he said, meeting her eyes.
Just then, Denny and Jess bounded up, full of excitement.
“We’ve got a plan,” Jess declared. “To save this place.”
“Let’s hear it,” Walker said calmly.
“We’re going to start a petition,” Jess explained. “Then we’ll put posters up all round town and encourage people to send their objections in to the Civic Council, then we’ll write an article about this place and we’ll send it to the ‘White Rock Post’.”
Walker turned to the girls.
“If you’re going to run this campaign, you’ll have to do it right, girls. You’ll have to give it all your energy for the entire summer holiday. It won’t be easy to get the Civic Council to reverse their decision. I reckon if you make a good go of it, you’ll attract a lot of support.”
“So you’ll help us, Uncle Walker?” Denny asked hopefully.
“I will,” he said. “As long as you’re serious. You’ll need to be clear about why you think this old place should be saved.”
Jess and Denny glanced at each other. To Susanne’s surprise, it was Jess who spoke.
“They can’t knock it down. It’s got a special place in everyone’s heart.”