It was my fifteenth birthday. Fifteen years of living in Hughenden, Queensland. It was all planned. A bike ride from home to the dry-as-usual Flinders River, a game of rugby on the riverbed, a nice milkshake at FJ's and to top it off, back home for chicken legs and chips from BP, with a generous helping of gravy and chicken salt.
But it started off completely on the wrong foot.
I woke up to a loud "Millard, Neville, Tessa, down here! Now!" Mum.
Tessa's the second-eldest child, at sixteen. Briar, at nineteen, left school two years ago. He's getting involved in cattle work near Gracemere. Neville's ten, and without Briar at the home, he's started to look up to me more and more. I do appreciate it, but it gets annoying sometimes.
Mum's the one who came up with the names, by the way. Dad didn't help much; he just goes along with Mum's opinion when it comes to names and other such crap.
When the three of us made our way into the kitchen, Mum began with, "Hi kids." We started up a four-way conversation on what we were going to do today, as usual, and Mum just casually brought in, "We're moving", as though it wasn't that big a deal. Then she said, "No biggie".
Liar, liar, pants on fire. Invisible fire.
This was followed by three lots of simultaneous outbursts. I said, "It's my birthday, my fifteenth birthday, and you ruin it like that?" Tessa said, "What's the point? It's perfect here and I am not going anywhere!" Neville said, "But Mum, I don't want to go. I don't want to leave my friends!"
It took a loud Mum-like "SHUT UP" to stop the shrieks. Mum remained calm, somehow. "Millard, I understand. Tessa, I will explain the point. Neville, you will make new friends and you can keep in touch with your current friends."
Then she explained the point. It turned out living here was getting too expensive, and a life in Melbourne (Yes, Melbourne) would be much cheaper. I pointed out it would be less spacious. We owned 1.5 acres, plus another hundred near Prairie. In Melbourne we wouldn't have half an acre. Where were we going to put Dopey, our poddy calf? I pointed this out as well, to which Mum replied, "Dad will sell him."
This was starting to get out of hand. I grabbed a muesli bar for breakfast and stormed out of the house. I grabbed my rugby ball and my bike and rode out to Flinders River. I know the streets of Hughenden like the back of my hand.
One week, fifty arguments and about a million tears later, we did it. Dad sold the lot. The cattle, the house, Dopey.
And I reluctantly began a new city life.