Trust Your Heart

Not long ago, I launched The Red Heart. Initially, I intended this to be a stand-alone book, featuring Kathy Sullivan and pastoralist Alex Woodleigh. The book also described the secondary characters – Kathy’s friend Sarah, the chopper pilots Chris and Mark, and  Melissa Gilbert who featured strongly in the aircraft disaster.

In writing that book, I got to know some of those secondary characters to the point where I wanted to know more of their story. It was only natural to focus on Sarah to explore her life. What was she doing in Alice Springs? What happened with her and Dave Bishop, and how was she coping in the grieving process? She is lucky to have Chris and Mark to help her through some of the dark days.

Sarah’s social circles largely revolve around the aviation sector, but not exclusively as we discover in the final hours of the wedding celebration for Kathy and Alex. Sarah meets Joel Pemberton under circumstances she would rather hadn’t happened, and from there her horizons expand. Sarah is a forthright and bubbly character, but that is the persona that is visible to others. Underneath, she experiences the insecurities, doubts and loneliness of someone who feels that commitment is not to be trusted, and that happiness is passing her by.

The story follows her development as she makes the transition from grieving to accepting she does have a future. Here is a small extract from the book.

Here is a small extract from the book.

“Sarah!”

She looked around. Who was that? Where had the voice come from?

A figure was leaning against a tree, partially obscured by the shadows. Her eyes strained against the darkness. “Hello?”

Tomás kept hold of her hand, looking also in the direction of the voice.

“Senorita, you are okay? You want me to stay wiz you?”

The figure detached itself from the tree and moved into the light. Joel. In the dim light, he looked brooding and menacing, momentarily startling her. This was not the Joel she knew. What was he doing here?

“It’s okay Tomás—I know who it is. I’ll be fine—thank you.”

He raised her hand and brushed it with his lips, before relinquishing it. “Stay safe, senorita. See you next week.”

Sarah smiled at him before turning and walking towards Joel, who waited a few metres away, arms folded. “Joel—what are you doing here? How did you know where to find me?”

“That was a touching scene with Romeo. Am I interrupting anything?”

She experienced a surge of irritation. He’d tracked her down to ask her that? “Don’t be silly. Tomás is my tutor. You haven’t answered my question.”

He didn’t respond straight away but looked at her appraisingly. “Mark told me earlier today you were taking flamenco classes. I thought I’d surprise you. Nice skirt.”

There was no faulting the grapevine. Chris would have told Mark, and Mark in turn had told Joel. Now they were under the lamplight, the initial perception of moody and ominous disappeared. The man in front of her looked tired perhaps, but still with the charisma that had first drawn her attention. He also looked pleased to see her. That was encouraging.

“You’ve certainly done that. I heard you were back. Did you have a successful trip?”

He looked away momentarily before looking at her again. “It was eventful,” he said at last. “There was no fixed agenda but a few things that needed sorting on the family front.”

Those secrets again. Was he hiding something, or did he not trust her?

“Hey, that’s fine—I wasn’t meaning to pry into your personal affairs.” She half expected someone to jump out from behind the door crying “Liar! Liar! Pants on Fire!” Of course she was curious. Good manners dictated she shouldn’t stick her nose in.

“You’re not prying, Sarah. It’s not something I can talk about.” Abruptly, he changed topic.

He gave her a slow mile, the sort that started at one corner of his mouth, and crept upwards towards his eyes, emitting a tide of warmth with it. “I thought of you while I was away. I missed you. I kept thinking of those stars you can see in the Territory, and the stories they tell. I remembered one particular story that’s waiting for a happy ending.”

“Like I said,” she whispered with a catch in her throat, “they’re the same stars you see in the big city.”

“Except you don’t see them, do you? At least, not with the same intensity. There’s not the same magic.” He tilted his head to one side with a look that was wistful. “I wanted to see you again while I had a moment.”

“Only a moment? You could have rung me for that.”

“I could have,” he agreed, “but that’s not the same as seeing you. I don’t have much time tonight, but thought I could briefly catch you after your class. That’s why I’m here.”

As she looked up at him, he grasped her by the shoulders, and dropped a light kiss on her mouth. “I couldn’t do that over the phone.”

A zillion thoughts chased each other through her mind. She’d mentally decided that theirs was a relationship that was going nowhere. He had no right to stir things up, just when she thought her life was getting back on track.

He was close enough that she could smell the scent she now identified as his. That, and the proximity of his body evoked a reaction she hadn’t been expecting. The tingling in her breasts spoke of her own arousal. He looked at her with intensity, a hunger even. It mirrored a need in herself. Wrapping her arms around him, she lifted her face to his.

“Kiss me again,” she whispered. “Before you disappear, kiss me again.”

 

Trust Your Heart can be ordered from your preferred online retailer:

Amazon Aus https://www.amazon.com.au/Trust-Your-Heart-Centre-Book-ebook/dp/B07JZBHFJS/

Amazon US  https://www.amazon.com/Trust-Your-Heart-Centre-Book-ebook/dp/B07JZBHFJS/

Kobo, Nook, Apple https://www.books2read.com/u/3L0MKD

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Life on Mulga Downs

Alex Woodleigh, partner to Kathy Sullivan, has grown up on Mulga Downs. This a cattle station to the north-east of Alice Springs. As the crow flies, it’s around 125 kms from Alice, but a much longer distance by road. What Americans would term a ranch, the station is around 7,000 square km.  or about 1,750,000 acres. It’s a pastoral company, growing beef for local and export markets.

He studied at Roseworthy Agricultural College in SA, but otherwise has spent his life in the Northern Territory. He is in some ways an enigmatic character, but I managed to catch up with him briefly for a chat on one of his visits to town.

Mulga Downs is a huge property, Alex. Did you always see yourself running the station?

Alex,-reducedAlex: I was the only child in the family and it was always assumed that I would run the family business. I’m the fourth generation to run cattle here. I took over management earlier than expected, because of the death of my father when I was in my early twenties. I had to grow up fast. Fortunately, there were some other experienced station hands working on  Mulga Downs, so I wasn’t without help or advice.

How did your friendship with Dave Bishop evolve?

Alex: Dave Bishop was a childhood friend. We didn’t know each other in the early years, but grew close when we both attended boarding school down south. Dave’s parents lived in town, but we managed to catch up regularly. Once he got the job with StationAir, he often dropped past doing the mail runs.

Is there much social life on the station?

Alex: It varies on the time of year and what’s happening. There’s a transient population to help with mustering or other aspects of station management and maintenance, and we might get together of an evening for a bit of a yarn. Otherwise, there are times when we meet up with others on adjoining stations, or at the local races or events like that. Having the plane is helpful. I can take Mum into town whenever she needs a break.

What appealed to you about Kathy when you first met her? I thought you would have married a woman who was used to station life.

Alex: It was a gradual thing. I noticed her at the railway station first, but that was just in passing. She looked a bit lost.  She irritated me initially. I didn’t think an inexperienced pilot fresh from the city was the best person for the job she was taking on. I particularly wasn’t impressed that she was taking over the job held by Dave Bishop. She kept turning up wherever I was though and she had a way of making her presence known. I admired her determination, even though I didn’t let on about that.  It was a gradual thing, but she got under my skin. As far as marriage went, that wasn’t on my agenda, whether to Kathy or anyone else. I had no preconceptions about the woman I might marry though.

When did you decide that Kathy was the woman for you?

Alex: I’m not sure really. My mother liked her, but of course, my mother has a very generous spirit and likes many people. It was important to me nevertheless. I think when we went for the morning walk on Jinka Station, things really fell into place. I was attracted well before that though, as you might have noticed when we were doing the fire-spotting.

She was mostly antagonistic towards me around that time, so I wasn’t sure how to proceed. Then I thought she was interested in that city bloke, which would be only natural for a woman from the city, so I backed right off. I was waiting to see if Kathy would last the distance with the job, and also to see what might be the best approach in developing the relationship. As things turned out, she sort of fell into my lap, though not in the way you might imagine and no, I don’t think she is a heifer. I wanted to set the record straight about that.

Thanks, Alex. We look forward to learning more about life in and around Alice.

Emily Hussey

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Women in Aviation

Women were just making inroads into aviation in the 1980s. Some were already working in the industry – Christine Davy was a senior pilot with Connair  – but it was still challenging for women wanting to pursue a career as a pilot. Deborah Lawrie had to take her quest to be accepted by an airline company to the Victorian Equal Opportunity Board.

This was due to a combination of misogyny and sexist beliefs that suggested women were not strong enough for the job, or else would be restricted by hormones and PMT. They could even fall pregnant, heaven forbid. A lesser factor was the cost of training and the fact that women earn less than men as well, making financing training a more arduous process.

Kathy took up her new job in Alice Springs in this environment. She was conscious of the biased attitudes she was likely to encounter and knew she would have to prove herself, whether to her colleagues or to the local community. She was apprehensive about how she would cope. It was the unknown rather than lack of confidence in her flying skills that caused her anxiety. By nature, she was reserved and controlled, and her outward demeanour hid her inner turmoil.

I asked Kathy what attracted her to flying as a career:

Women in Aviation

Kathy Sullivan

Kathy: Learning to fly was something I dreamed about for years, but never really thought it was possible. They I met some private pilots in a social setting, and realised if they could do it, so could I. I booked my first trial flight and after that, I was hooked. I had no definite career objectives until then, but suddenly a new option opened before me.

So you knew you wanted to become a professional pilot?

Kathy: Not immediately. My first focus was going solo and then getting my restricted pilot’s licence. Just getting that far took a bucket load of money but by that stage, I was really focussed. I was working in retail, but took a part-time job in hospitality as well so I could save up enough to do the rest of my training in one hit. My unrestricted license followed and then I worked towards my commercial license.

Did you have much support?

Kathy: My family were surprised at my choice but didn’t raise any objections. I also joined the Australian Women Pilots Association, and that is where I really felt supported. Whenever I felt discouraged or that I was chasing an impossible dream, other members reminded me of what was possible.

What made you decide to take the job in Alice Springs?

Kathy: Getting experience is so important, and the type of work that was available with StationAir would not be offered to me in a major city. It was a fantastic opportunity to both gain experience and to prove myself. At times I wondered what I was taking on, but I kept looking around at other people who were doing similar work and knew that I was just as qualified as they were.

You seem to have made some good friends in Alice Springs.

Kathy: Absolutely. That made such a difference to starting a new job, in a new town and with unfamiliar requirements. Sarah was an absolute darling, going out of her way to make me feel at home. Brian showed me the ropes as well, and I am really grateful to both of them and the welcome they gave me when I first arrived in town.

What advice would you give to another young woman looking to aviation for a career?

Kathy: Don’t believe anyone who says it’s not a job for a woman. There are challenges – I don’t deny that,   but if you’re determined and are prepared to go where the work is, the opportunities are there. I’d suggest joining AWPA and getting to know other women in the industry.

There was a suggestion that you only took the job in the Northern Territory in order to find a husband.

Kathy: Spurious suggestions like that shouldn’t even be given air. I know I met Alex in Alice Springs, and yes, we’re now married, but that was a surprise to me as much as anyone. The last thing I was looking for was a relationship. Is that all? I’m running late for the northeast mail run.

Don’t let me keep you – you’ve been most helpful. Thank you.

Emily Hussey.

 

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