A Change Of gender And Beyond
Chapter 2
by F.W. Hinton
          As the year  advanced  Rachel  grew stronger and was able to
          give up wearing  the  boots  prescribed by the Kenny clinic.
          Delighted with her  progress,  she had a trip into Richmond,
          and for the  first time in years bought a new pair of shoes,
          good  strong walking  shoes  that  fitted  snug  around  her
          ankles.  Most of  her efforts and thoughts went into looking
          after the twins.  She had a feeling of guilt, believing that
          because of her  illness  they had been neglected, especially
          Shaun. They had  also  been  separated,  something she vowed
          would never happen  again.  It became obvious that the twins
          were different in many ways. Casey Ann, her long blonde hair
          in tight ringlets.  A  happy child, curious about everything
          and every one.  Full  of fun and mischief, just like Pauline
          and Jillian when  they  were  very  small. She was concerned
          about Shaun. Even  though  her hair was blonde, it was short
          and straight.

          " Easier to  keep  clean," her sister-in-law told her, " too
          much for me  when  it's long. Arthur told me to keep it that

          Shaun seemed contented  just  to be on her own. Never crying
          to be picked  up  and loved, in fact, Rachel thought, hardly
          ever crying at  all.  She was happy to sit in her cot or her
          high chair.  When  she  did  play  with  other  children she
          appeared to be  dependent  on her sister. Her mother thought
          she was withdrawn,  even a little retarded. She spoke to the
          doctor in Richmond about it.

          " She'll grow  out of it eventually," the doctor told her, "
          you worry too  much  Mrs  Maclaren. Treat both the girls the
          same, be sure you don't favour one more than the other."

          Rachel blamed her sister-in-law for Shaun's problems.

          " How could anyone leave a tiny baby in a cot, day after day
          without ever picking  her  up,"  she  said  angrily, " never
          making a fuss of her, never talking to her. Never trying, or
          wanting to love her."

          Her anger with  Jane  for neglecting her dead brother's baby
          overwhelmed Rachel, and  she  was determined to talk to her.
          Then she remembered  her  father telling her when she was in
          the clinic that  she  should  be  thankful  Shaun  was being
          looked after by  relations,  instead  of  being  placed in a
          foster home. She  knew  Jane and her husband were an elderly
          couple and realized  they  would  have  very little patience
          with tiny children.   Rachel  thought  about asking Jillian,
          just sixteen to  help  with  the  twins.  She knew she would
          refuse. Jillian had  always wanted to be the youngest in the
          Maclaren family. She  hated  being the middle child, and the
          thought of looking  after  two  small children abhorred her.
          Not only was  she jealous of the twins, but she thought that
          a  woman of  her  mother's  age  had  no  right  in  getting
          pregnant. Secretly Rachel disgusted her.

          The running of  Luckham  Downs was becoming more than Rachel
          could cope with.  The  banks  were  a  constant  problem. On
          occasions they threatened  to  take some action against her.
          but every time  she  managed  to  resolve the situation. She
          knew Susan and her husband had borrowed more than was really

          Rachel made some  inquiries about her father's property, and
          was told he  died  intestate,  and  it would take at least a
          year to obtain administration of his estate.

          When George came home on leave he helped where he could, but
          it was obvious  the Station was beyond being saved. Joey and
          Ilarra, with most  of the station hands had gone walk-about.
          Somehow  Rachel  Maclaren   survived   the  winter  and  was
          sustained through the  spring  by  letters  from  George and
          Pauline, who eventually  got  a divorce and came home to her
          mother with two  very  small  children. After many sleepless
          nights Rachel decided  to go to Richmond, sell Luckham Downs
          and stop the  banks  from foreclosing. She hoped to come out
          with enough money  to  buy  a  cottage close to the town, or
          even somewhere near  the sea. Feeling happy that at last she
          had made up  her  mind  to  leave  Luckham  Downs, early the
          following  morning she  dressed  the  twins  in  soft  white
          blouses and their  best  tartan  skirts and went to the real
          estate office in  Richmond.  On  the  way she bought the two
          girls a gold  signet  ring,  which they showed to anyone who
          happened to glance at them.

          Sandy Highfield was the only real estate agent in Richmonds.
          He had known  Rachel  for  years  and  when  her husband was
          killed, more than  once  he  was  tempted  to  visit Luckham
          Downs. He never  married,  and  his happiest moment was when
          Rachel Maclaren walked  into  his  office with the twins. He
          was fond of  all  her children, in his eyes they could do no
          wrong, and more  than once Pauline had confided in him about
          her marriage.

          Secretly he wished  all  of  Rachel's children were his, but
          the twins, and  especially Shaun were his favourites. He was
          a year older than Rachel and had come to Richmond to work as
          a delivery boy  in  her  father's general store.  He fell in
          love with his  employer's  youngest  daughter,  and when she
          married Ian Maclaren, Sandy Highfield was heart-broken.

          He began selling  real  estate.  His dealings were in money;
          real money, or  it's mysterious, volatile ghost; credit, and
          the people of  Richmond were finding it hard to remember him
          as  the boy  on  a  trade  bike  delivering  John  Carlyle's

          Sandy Highfield had  his  defenders, although he had no real
          friends. When he agreed to do something, he did it promptly,
          efficiently and to the extent he had contracted. He was firm
          on money matters,  and took opportunities to create business
          whenever he could.  He  did  nothing  against the rules that
          applied to business or politics and it gained him respect.

          Twice he had  run  for Mayor of Richmond, twice he had lost,
          knowing it was  because of his being a bachelor. He realized
          he should marry,  had  been  tempted more than once, but his
          undying  love  for  Rachel  Maclaren  put  all  thoughts  of
          marriage out of  his  head.  He  joined the church, attended
          Sunday service regularly  and contributed varying amounts of
          money as he prospered. Every man in Richmond had his own set
          of ethics, and  those  who were in a position to be critical
          of Sandy Highfield made a compromise.

          Sandy was prospering,  perhaps,  some thought at the cost of
          strict adherence to  a  code  of  honourable conduct. But he
          behaved himself, lived respectably, and those bold enough to
          question his unmarried  state  were reminded of his love for
          Rachel Maclaren. Whenever  he  consumed too much amber fluid
          at the local hotel he would loudly declare his love for her.
          He arranged to  sell  Luckham  Downs as quickly as possible,
          and to stop  the  banks  from  foreclosing, without Rachel's
          knowledge, advertised the  Station  extensively.  In  a last
          desperate attempt to  stop  her  from  losing everything, he
          bought Luckham Downs himself, and a cottage large enough for
          Rachel and her family at Westhill-on-Sea.

          Rachel hated leaving  the  Downs  and  as she went about the
          homestead on the  last  day  she was conscious of a terrible
          weariness. Her legs  seemed  to have lost the power to move,
          and remembering the  feeling when the twins were born forced
          herself to walk.  Her  throat ached, and there was a pain in
          the middle of her chest she had not experienced before.

          In  the  empty  hall  of  the  homestead  dust  had  settled
          everywhere. The men  who  Sandy had sent to take some of the
          furniture to the  cottage  had torn a strip of wallpaper off
          and left it  hanging. There was straw from the packing cases
          in one corner,  and  through  the door could see branches of
          bougainvillea dangling around  a  window, tapping against it
          in the wind, until a shutter blew and stopped it.

          Rachel walked through  the  rooms,  her  footsteps  echoing,
          ghosts moving about  her. Ghosts were dying, perhaps passing
          on. Angus, Ian  and  his  grandfather  Shaun Casey Maclaren.
          They wandered about  trying  to  find a place to remain, but
          everything they had  lived  among was gone . The dust on the
          floor their ashes.   The  sound  of  hammering came from the
          verandah.  There  were  men  outside,  repairing,  replacing
          broken and worn  boards.  Sandy  had  told  her that the new
          owner wanted the homestead renovated, and as she climbed the
          stairs, wondered who had bought Luckham Downs.

          The midday sun  came  through  the  slats  of  the room that
          belonged  to  Angus   Maclaren.   The  room  where  she  had
          eventually learned to  walk,  and  had  fallen so many times
          onto the canopied  bed,  exhausted  after hours and hours of
          trying. The room  Angus  allowed no one to use, but when the
          old man went  out  for  an afternoon, the room where Pauline
          was conceived.  Rachel  turned  away,  wishing she had taken
          Sandy's advice, who  told  her she should not go back to the

          " It's always  best,"  he said, " to keep the bright glowing
          images of the  past  as  if they went on continuously. There
          was no danger in the place where they had been created."

          As the hammering  continued  Rachel felt she had reached the
          end of a  phase  in her life. Wanting to leave it all behind
          she ran down  the  stairs.  There  was  a slip of paper in a
          crack in the  woodwork of the bottom step. She picked it up,
          it was Ian's last letter.

          She remembered spending  hours  searching  for it, wondering
          where it could  have  gone. She sat on the step and read it.
          The homestead seemed  suddenly very cold. With an effort she
          stood up, shivered and ran out of the door.

          It was dark  when  Rachel  arrived  back at Westhill-on-Sea.
          There were lights  shinning  from  the windows of the little
          town. The lamp  that  hung  from  the breakwater pier drew a
          moving wavy line  across the water, revealing that the great
          darkness in front  was  the  sea.  There  was  a soft lap, a
          splash on the  beach  below  and a smell of fresh seaweed in
          the air.

          Rachel woke early  the  next  morning  and looked out of her
          bedroom window. She  had slept only a few hours. Perhaps the
          bed was not  as  comfortable  as the one in Angus Maclaren's
          old room. Perhaps  it  was the twins on her mind. She leaned
          out of the open window, saw a soft throbbing light that made
          the stars grow  pale,  and  as it strengthened flush the sky
          from east to  west  with a rose colour that turned the great
          sky of cloud into a deep purple gloom.

          She saw the  grey  little  town  that  nestled around a grey
          little church. At  the  end  of  the beach there were cliffs
          that rose majestic,  grim, uncompromising, then dip down, as
          if on purpose  to  allow the fishermen of Westhill to launch
          their boats. Headland  after headland came into view. And as
          the sun showed  it's  bright  face  over  the  horizon,  the
          crimson sky and shore were bathed in a sea of light.

          There was a  rush  of  small  feet  behind her; then she was
          dragged down stairs by the twins who begged her to take them
          to the beach.  They  dug  in the sand, caught tiny crabs and
          picked up empty  shells.  Rachel  marvelled  at  the  sudden
          change in Shaun.  Playing with Casey Ann away from the Downs
          she seemed a  happy,  ordinary  little  girl  and Rachel was
          thankful she had decided to move.

          For hours they played on the beach by the pools in the rocks
          with seaweed that  waved  as  pale little crabs sidled away.
          Tiny fish that  flitted  over  stones  on the bottom. Stones
          that looked like  priceless  gems  until  they reached them;
          slippery boulders over which it was exciting to climb.

          With the help  of  Casey  Ann, Shaun filled the skirt of her
          blue dress with  shells,  then she dropped most of them when
          she went to help her sister.

          Rachel, with a  sort  of exhaustion that is almost pleasant,
          if one is  left  alone, even only for a few minutes, can sit
          still and dream,  leaned against the breakwater. She thought
          first of Ian,  then her father, John Carlyle. Life seemed so
          short just then  and  the promised land so near. She thought
          it wasn't hardly worth worrying about how she should manage.
          Luckham Downs had  been  sold. There was enough money in the
          bank to see  them  through  the coming year, and the cottage
          had been paid for. Even so she still wondered who had bought
          the Station and  secretly  hoped  that  they were nice, kind

          It was early  when Sandy Highfield came down to Westhill the
          following Sunday. With  the  twins  and Rachel, Sandy walked
          slowly along the  beach.  Somehow he had managed to hold her
          hand. Rachel gripped  his  tightly, it gave her a feeling of

          A fishing boat  anchored  near the end of the pier reflected
          on the placid surface of the sea. It's mast prolonged in the
          reflection of the  ripples  of water that fell from the sand
          and sunk back with a murmuring sigh.

          The gulls seemed  to  be resting, settling down on the water
          in groups. Idly  rising  and falling with it's gentle motion
          as if the  strong  wings  that battle against storm and wind
          were weary. The  little cracked bell of the church rang out.
          Rachel and Sandy  decided  they  should  all  attend morning
          service. It was  a sleepy old church, with high narrow pews,
          sombre  galleries and  dusty  monuments.  Sunshine  streamed
          through the greenish  glass  windows, striking the head of a
          marble cherub and  the  board  that displayed the numbers of
          psalms and hymns to be sung.

          The singing, although  rough and unpretending, had an honest
          ring and a  simple  sweetness  that  stayed  in the minds of
          those who heard  it and associated it with the murmur of the
          sea. The twins  sat  on  either side of Sandy Highfield, and
          resting against his  arms  dropped  off  to sleep during the
          sermon.  Delighted  that  Rachel's  children  found  a  kind
          security and comfort  in  him, he sat very still not wanting
          to disturb them.

          Rachel raised her  eyes  on  occasions  to the thick crimson
          fringe of the  pulpit cushion, over which, from time to time
          she saw part of the minister's black gown. She tried hard to
          listen  to the  complexities  of  his  reasoning.  Her  eyes
          refused to remain  open  and  at  the  end of the sermon she
          awoke with a start.

          In the afternoon  the  twins  wanted to go down to the beach
          again, but the  beautiful morning had clouded over. It began
          to rain, and  their  mother  told them that they had to stay
          indoors. Sandy sat in the armchair and began to doze. Rachel
          went upstairs to  her  bedroom. The twins sat on the seat in
          the bay-window and  watched the showers of rain sweep across
          the sea. Sometimes  the  rain  mixed up with the sea and the
          sky  into one  grey  misty  mass.  Sometimes  clearing  off,
          showing an indigo, hard horizon against the sky.

          Bored with the view the twins went outside. They stood under
          the eaves of  the  cottage and giggled as tiny drops of rain
          ran down their  necks.  Suddenly  Shaun ran across the road,
          jumped over the low stone wall and raced down to the water's

          " Come on!" she called to her sister, " come and look at the

          " We mustn't. It's still raining. You know how cross ma gets
          when we go out in the rain."

          " I don't  care!"  Shaun  shouted,  "  I'm  tired  of  being
          indoors.  I'll  go  on  my  own.  "  Unable  to  resist  the
          temptation, Casey Ann  ran  across the road and chased after
          her sister. For  hours  they  roamed  up and down the beach,
          jumping over rocks,  squeezing knobs of seaweed, making them
          go Pop! They found an old crab pot, left high and dry by the
          tide.  Inside was  the  claw of a crab, which Casey Ann told
          her sister had been left by it's owner trying to escape from
          the trap.

          Overcome by hunger  they  decided to go back to the cottage.
          They stood for  a  moment by the stone wall, hoping they had
          not been seen. They clambered over the wall and side by side
          waited at the  edge of the pavement making sure the road was
          clear. Shaun let  go of her sister's hand, dashed across the
          road, and waited by the cottage for Casey Ann.

          " Go Back! Go Back!" Shaun shouted as her sister ran towards

          Casey Ann stood in the middle of the road for a moment.

          " Go Back -Cas - -Go Back!" Shaun shouted again.

          Casey Ann hesitated,  ran  back  towards the pavement. Shaun
          screamed as a  semi-trailer  dragged  her  sister  along the

          The grim presence  of  death  in  the cottage seemed to have
          swept  away  all   times,  seasons  and  objects  for  doing
          anything. Shaun at  the  age  of  seven,  and even with that
          startling power of  rapid  recovery granted to children, sat
          by her sister's empty bed and cried.

          She lost all  power  to  speak  or  move, and when her elder
          sister Pauline and her mother insisted she leave Casey Ann's
          bed, there appeared to be no power on earth that would shift
          her. After two  days  and  nights they tried picking her up,
          but she screamed and kicked her way out of their arms.

          Four days later  Sandy Highfield penetrated her dulled brain
          and managed to  bring  her  back  to consciousness, everyone
          thankful he had  succeeded.  There was no way of knowing how
          long she would have remained by her sister's empty bed, sunk
          in a stupor  of  grief.  Dazzled  and  shaking Sandy led her
          downstairs. The daylight  seemed to have an unnatural glare,
          and the old  familiar  things,  that  with Casey Ann she had
          played, to Shaun now looked strange and impossible.

          There was a  brilliant  hectic  flush  in her cheeks. As her
          mother  undressed her  and  put  her  to  bed,  Shaun  began
          coughing, a deep  seated  cough, and her skin was hot to the
          touch. She lay staring out of the window as if she were in a
          trance. Her blonde  hair  pushed back from her forehead, her
          hot little hands  thrown  outside  the  bed.   It was around
          midnight when she  started  to  toss and turn in the grip of
          burning fever.

          " Go back Cas! Please go back!" she cried.

          " She's out  of  her  head,"  Pauline told her mother, " the
          poor little thing doesn't know what she is saying."

          Shaun was quiet  for  a  moment.  Then as she slid back in a
          world clouded with  fever  she  kept telling Casey Ann to go
          back to the pavement again.

          " I wonder  how  long  it  will  be?"  Shaun  asked,  laying
          suddenly still.

          Rachel knelt by  the side of the bed. Buried her face in the
          bedspread, then covered  her  mouth  with  her  hands  in an
          effort to stifle the agony.

          " How long before what?" Rachel mumbled.

          " How long before I'm with Jesus and my Casey Ann?"

          It was then  Rachel lost her self control. After the funeral
          she believed she  had  reconciled  herself with the death of
          Casey Ann. But  to be parted from Shaun seemed more than she
          could bear. Crying,  calling,  sobbing  she clasped Shaun to
          her breast. She  walked  up  and  down with her begging her,
          imploring her not to go.

          Pauline terrified of  the  consequences,  pleaded  with  her
          mother to lay  Shaun  down.  In  desperation she dragged her
          sister from Rachel's arms.

          " Please let  her live!" Rachel cried as tears streamed down
          her cheeks, "  please  give  me  back my baby." Pauline laid
          Shaun on the  bed.  Held  her mother close for a moment then
          led her out of the room.

          The Westhill doctor  diagnosed pneumonia and prescribed only
          fluids until the  fever broke, telling Rachel that sleep was
          imperative. He visited Shaun every morning. Slowly she began
          to improve, but  when  the  flush left her cheeks she looked
          ghostly white.  She seemed unable to speak and Rachel put it
          down to the  soreness  of her throat although she did manage
          to smile at  Sandy.   By  the  end  of  the  third  week the
          doctor's visits became  less  frequent. Rachel spent all her
          days looking after  her,  and  in  her  nightly  prayers she
          thanked the Lord for sparing her youngest daughter.

          Rachel noticed that  Shaun  had  become withdrawn as she had
          when she was  a  baby  in her aunt Jane's care. She spoke to
          Sandy and Pauline  about  it. They both thought Shaun should
          be taken to  see  a  specialist.  Rachel protested strongly.
          She didn't want  some strange doctor filling her baby's head
          with weird ideas.  She didn't want people thinking her child
          was retarded or  insane.   "  There's nothing wrong with her
          brain," she told  them angrily, " all I'm asking is a little
          help from both  of you. I know we can bring her back. It can
          be done, if we all try."

          For hours Rachel sat by her daughter's bed, trying to rsuade
          her to play  even the simplest of games, hoping, praying she
          would speak-just one word- any word.

          " You've got  to  stop  blaming  yourself,"  Rachel told her
          constantly, " you  know  it  wasn't your fault. No one could
          have known Casey  Ann  was going to run across the road. You
          tried to save  her,  told  her to go back. You know you did,
          she just did  not  listen.  You've  got  to  stop this silly
          nonsense. Please Shaun, please come back to me."

          Circumstances prevented Sandy  Highfield  from going down to
          Westhill every weekend.  When  he did manage to get down, he
          spent most of his time by Shaun's bed. Sometimes he held her
          tiny cold hand,  talking  to her very softly, trying hard to
          make her laugh,  and  when  she  did  smile at him he felt a
          sense of achievement that delighted him.

          Rachel with the  help  of  Pauline  changed  Shaun's bedroom
          around in the  hope  that  she  would  find  the view of the
          village interesting. They  placed her bed by the window, but
          she still stared  at the ceiling as if waiting for something
          to happen.

          Convinced at last that Shaun needed professional help Rachel
          allowed Sandy to  take Shaun to see a Psychotherapist. Sandy
          told Dr McKinnon  about  the  accident, explained that Shaun
          was not a gregarious child and nothing like her twin.

          " She was  left on her own, when she was a tiny baby," Sandy

          " Did her mother neglect her?"

          " She was  in  hospital for a very long time - -in the Kenny
          clinic. Her sister-in-law took care of Shaun."

          " The twins were separated?"

          " From a week old."

          " Why didn't the mother bring Shaun to see me?"

          " She wouldn't. She tried so hard to get Shaun to speak, she
          felt that by  bringing her to you she had failed. For months
          Rachel has been trying to help her daughter"

          Although Sandy Highfield was in love with Rachel and fond of
          all her children,  he  had  no  wish  to  become involved in
          arguments with other  members of her family. Feeling that Dr
          McKinnon should be given all the facts that affected Shaun's
          behaviour, he persuaded  Rachel to take Shaun to the doctors
          rooms for the second session.

          As usual Shaun sat on the settee, expressionless and showing
          no interest in  the  toys piled high in the big boxes in the
          corner. She stared at the ceiling, her eyes rarely blinking.
          Rachel feeling the  child  was in some kind of a trance, and
          doing her best  to hold back the tears began telling him all
          that had happened.

          The tears flowed  freely  when she spoke of Ian being killed
          by Japanese bombs  in  Darwin  and  of her father's untimely

          " If only  we  had stayed at the Downs," she said drying her
          eyes, " this would never have happened."

          " You had no way of knowing that," the doctor reassured her,
          " it could  have  happened  at  the  Downs.  It  could  have
          happened anywhere. We  both  have a job to do, and I suggest
          Mrs Maclaren that we try and put the past behind us and help
          your daughter."

          It  was during  the  sixth  consultation  that  Dr  McKinnon
          brought his Golden Retriever to his office.

          " Come here boy," Shaun whispered.

          The dog obeyed and sat down beside her. She wrapped her arms
          around him and  fussed him and Dr McKinnon gave her the dogs
          brush. For more  than  an hour Shaun brushed and played with
          the big retriever  while  Rachel, with tears in her eyes and
          the doctor watched.   When  Shaun  finished brushing the dog
          she went to the doctor's desk.

          " Thank you for letting me brush an play with your dog," she
          said handing the brush to the doctor.

          Tears of relief  and  joy streamed down her cheeks as Rachel
          stared at her daughter in amazement.

          " Come on  Ma," Shaun said, pulling her up from the chair, "
          we mustn't keep uncle Sandy waiting."

          The last consultation with Dr McKinnon was two weeks later.

          " Dogs and  cats  can  be very helpful in cases like Shaun,"
          the doctor told  Rachel  and  Sandy as they sat watching her
          play, " they  offer a special kind of therapy but she has to
          be moved from  her  present  environment. She has to be with
          other children,"

          " She is,"  Rachel  told  him,  "  she  plays with Pauline's
          children. I know  they don't get along very well, but she is
          never on her own."

          " You have  a  good friend in Sandy Highfield, Mrs Maclaren,
          and I know  he will do everything he can to help, especially
          with Shaun. But  she  must  be taken away from Westhill. She
          must go to  school.  Be among other children.  I suggest you
          send her to  a  boarding school. That you move from Westhill
          as soon as  possible.  The memories are too strong and could
          cause a relapse.  There  is a school I can recommend it is a
          very good school and if you wish I can arrange for her to be
          accepted. The fees  are high but Mr Highfield has assured me
          he will help."