Too Many Terrible Choices
“I’ve got great news!”
Fred grabbed Ruby by the waist and twirled her around the room.
“I’ve been offered the job of overseer! Better pay but best of all, they’re offering me a house! They said I can bring the family!”
“Wait, let me think! What about school … and Al’s job? What about me? Where do I fit in?” Ruby was full of questions.
“There’s a school on the property. The owners are real churchy people and she, the Missus, runs a school there. Educates the Aboriginal kids on the station and her own children too. Muriel could probably help her with the younger ones. She says she’s looking forward to having them. Al can get a job on the station. Easy.”
“All right,” Ruby’s brain was unable to take it in all at once. “Do you still want me to look after the children?”
“Do I want you? Of course I do.” He looked away as if to collect his thoughts. “Problem is, the Missus thinks you’re my wife. I had to say that to get the house. But we get on well, don’t we? You love the children. I reckon we’d make a good team. Maybe get that friend of yours, the Reverend, to make it all legal, and Bob’s your uncle!”
Ruby almost burst out laughing at this quaint marriage proposal but the gravity of the situation immediately became apparent. Would she have accepted Fred’s proposal if she was free? Possibly …but now of course it was out of the question. Or was it? Melbourne seemed as far away as the moon. No-one up here would ever know she was already married.
She would know. How could she live with herself knowing she committed bigamy. There was only one thing for it. She had to tell Fred.
“Fred, there is something I didn’t tell you. I said I was a widow, but my husband is alive and living in Williamstown. I left him because he was a gambler and because I didn’t love him and because I was…” She searched for the right word and suddenly it hit her. “I was frustrated.”
Fred didn’t seem surprised. He thought for a moment and looked at her keenly.
“All right. We have two choices. One is we get the Reverend to perform a marriage anyway because he won’t know about His Nibs in Williamstown. Or we just go away for a night to Townsville and come back and tell the family we got married.”
“I’ll go and see the Reverend Hale before I decide what to do,” announced Ruby.
“Don’t you go telling him you are already married,” said Fred, “or we’re up shit creek without a paddle.”