A creative response to The Secret River by Kate Grenville

Words Evangeline Drinnan
Image Wayne ye

As I looked up from my pale feet sprouting from the river sand, I noticed a figure not like the others around me.

Confident. Inquisitive. Playful. Beautiful.

Her thin, young body appeared strong and frail at the same time. She was at that stage in childhood where one plays rigorously from dawn to dusk, but seems like they could snap at any moment from the strain of it all. Waves of thick, jet-black hair hung over her shiny chest, hiding her face. A sheepish smile which unveiled her glowing white teeth escaped from behind the strands lifted by the late afternoon breeze. The shadows of dusk came, but did not darken her.

She was always a bright flame in a world which was becoming increasingly dark. A world in which Da regularly let off a gunshot to scare away her and her people, as if they were cockatoos feeding on the crops. Where Smasher and Saggity often turned up in the hut, bringing with them stories reeking of violence, torture and dehumanising acts towards the natives. Where Da either scowled at me or beat me every night when I returned from the camp, disapproving of my playing with the native children. She made me rise from my bed each morning and not dread the day ahead entirely.

The figure made its way down the rise, through the sticks, until its dark feet sprouted from the sand like my own. It planted itself next to me, calm and still. I grabbed my knees, expecting it to sit down with me. But it didn’t.

A branch swayed, reaching towards my body. It creaked gently.

I wasn’t scared. I did not know whether I would be attacked, stripped and eaten as Da’s friends said I would, or whether I’d make a friend better than any I currently had.

But I took her hand, and followed her into the lanky, dark figures, whether they were spindly trees or grown men sharpening their spears.


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