Short fiction: The Finale of The Diary of Pearl Farrell

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Back in February, I wrote a preface for historical fiction serial The Diary of Pearl Farrell, published on  The Story Mint website. This week I was given the task of finishing this ten-part serial. The Diary of Pearl Farrell consists of a series of letters that Pearl writes to her imaginary great-great granddaughter, detailing her life in New Zealand in the 1870s. Each chapter is written by a different author. Suraya Dewing, author of historical novel Bend with the Wind recently contributed the penultimate chapter.

In Chapter 10, set in the present day, Pearl’s great-great granddaughter finally gets to read the diary. You can read the previous chapters here. Many thanks to fellow writer Donna McTavish who edited and published each chapter of this serial.

The Diary of Pearl Farrell: Chapter 10 by Linda Alley

15 December 2015

Dear great-great grandmother,

It’s 5:35am and I’m still sitting at Grandma Edna’s roll top desk. My back is killing me and I can’t feel my left foot. I’ve been up all night, reading your diary. I found it among Grandma Edna’s things. I’m surprised she didn’t destroy your letters before she died. Most of the time, she refused to talk about you.

What an extraordinary woman you were, Pearl! I wish you could have lived to see that history has judged you more kindly than Grandma Edna or your contemporaries. You would certainly be surprised if you could see my own kids. Kim’s current boyfriend is Nepalese and Nick married a Japanese girl. Grandma Edna refused to come to the wedding, but later softened when Akiko brought her back a gorgeous, floral parasol from their honeymoon in Osaka.

Before I read your diary, I knew only the little I’d managed to worm out of Grandma Edna. You had seven children with Taine and Grandma Edna was the daughter of your youngest, Mere (or Mary as Grandma Edna insisted on calling her). You didn’t live to see it, but Mere married a Scottish missionary and moved to Otago where she was living when Grandma Edna was born.

You’d also be gratified to hear about the Waitangi Tribunal which is addressing the Maori land injustices that resulted from the Treaty. I doubt these will be rectified in my lifetime, but it’s a start.

Do your descendants still live in Wairoa? After Christmas, I’ll drive up and check.

***

The dawn’s seeping in through a crack in the curtains. Across the harbour, the city is taking shape. Sails dot the water and the Sky Tower spirals into the low morning clouds. Would you recognise Auckland if you could see it now? Perhaps the Pohutukawa trees. My gaze wanders to the one in Grandma Edna’s garden. With Christmas less than two weeks’ away, it is in full bloom, its flowers a festive red to rival the tinsel in the neighbour’s window. A bellbird lands on one of its branches, lifts its feathery throat and chirps loudly.

Down the hall, Dave whistles in tandem. The bathroom ceiling fan whirs into life and the shower door bangs. I’ll have to leave you, my dear great-great grandmother. There’s an important letter I must start before breakfast….

***

15 December 2015

Dear great-great granddaughter,

Greetings from 2015. I can’t help imagining what life will be like for you. Maybe you’ll sit reading this in your apartment on the 739th floor as flying cars whizz past your balcony. Or maybe you’ll be having a good laugh at my predictions from a house just like mine as you sip whatever the beverage of choice is in the 22nd century. Perhaps it’s still coffee. Somehow I don’t see that going out of fashion anytime soon.

Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Barbara Susan Cowden and I was born in Auckland, New Zealand on the 25th July 1963.

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