Sneak Peeks

Spanning fifty years, this is a sweeping tale of heartbreak and forbidden love. Read a sneak peek from The Three Of Us by Kim Lock.


Spanning fifty years, this is a sweeping tale of heartbreak and forbidden love. Read a sneak peek from The Three Of Us by Kim Lock.

Spanning fifty years, this is a sweeping tale of heartbreak and forbidden love from the author of The Other Side of Beautiful.

When seventy-five-year-old Thomas Mullet reluctantly sits on his psychologist’s couch, he discloses three things:

• He is dying.
• His wife doesn’t know.
• Nor does his other wife.

1960 Gawler, South Australia. Church Street: a quiet street in a respectable country town, where wives keep neat houses and neighbours keep neat yards. A place where gossip stirs behind closed doors and privacy is elusive. Where newly married couple Thomas and Elsie Mullet are excited to start their lives together.

After being forced to resign her typing job, Elsie tries hard to adjust to becoming the perfect housewife, but despite her best attempts, grows lonely and bored. Until she meets the mysterious woman next door.

Aida Glasson is eighteen years old, unmarried, and hiding a shameful secret. Through failed biscuits, euthanised chickens and shared loneliness, Elsie and Aida’s friendship is cemented. But when that friendship takes a surprising turn, where does that leave Thomas?

Tender, moving and titillating, this is a love story like no other: an unforgettable portrayal of a complex family hidden in conservative suburbia.

Chapter 1

Thomas Mullet considered 1960 as the year he devoted to suction.

Electrolux’s ‘Luxomatic’ was the first of a new generation of vacuum cleaners, boasting a dust-indicator light that demonstrated when the bag was full, a cord winder and self-sealing bags. There was much to be excited about with this extraordinary range of modern household appliance, and his enthusiasm for sucking was contagious amongst colleagues and customers alike. He knew that – and that’s why he was so damn good at his job.

Escorted to his boss’s office by his boss’s secretary, Thomas sat now and considered the Luxomatic poster on the wall as he waited for Bagnoli. He also appreciated that his boss’s office was the best location in the building to avoid the stink from the fertiliser factory half a mile away: a heady, noxious smell that permeated the rest of the building whenever the breeze came in from the south-east. As it was today.

The door smacked open against the wall. ‘Thomas,’ Bagnoli said. ‘You’ve topped the sales charts this month. Again.’ Mr Bagnoli’s chin remained almost indiscernible within the clutches of his jowls. Biceps like watermelons strained against rolled-up shirt sleeves. He bestowed upon Thomas a handshake and clap on the shoulder that left Thomas’s entire arm aching.

‘I see big things in your future.’ Mr Bagnoli migrated into his chair like a whale to warmer seas, and the chair let out a shriek. ‘Much to Watson’s consternation,’ he added.

The mention of Thomas’s colleague brought a prickle of irritation, but his polite smile stayed painted on as Bagnoli’s secretary, Sophie, rushed in and dropped a sheaf of paper on the desk. The chair whined again as Bagnoli leaned sideways to linger over the hourglass of Sophie’s retreating figure. ‘As a result,’ he went on, straightening up, ‘and with your obvious qualities as a decent family man, I’m happy to say that head of sales is yours if you want it.’

Thomas beamed. ‘I’m honoured, sir.’ Take that, Watson, he thought. It didn’t take a fancy motorcar and two figurative fingers inserted rectally into one’s boss in order to progress one’s career. Hard work, integrity and a fine reputation could produce admirable numbers, too.

‘So, the big day tomorrow, huh?’

Nerves kicked his stomach as he nodded.

‘Make your honeymoon count, won’t you?’ Bagnoli gave him a wink. ‘I want you back here raring to go in a week – so get it all out of your system, eh?’

Much laughter, shoulder clapping and more flesh jiggling ensued, before Thomas was set free for his first week of holidays in almost three years.

Chapter 2

Elsie Rushall stood by the closed door of her manager’s office, mentally composing herself. After taking a couple of bracing breaths, she squared her shoulders and rapped on the door.

‘What?’ a voice snarled from inside.

Cigarette smoke seeped out when she cracked the door open. ‘It’s me, sir.’ She tried not to cough. ‘Elsie.’

‘Sweetheart! Come in, come in.’

Elsie stepped into the office and closed the door. Clouds of smoke clung to the ceiling and she parted her lips to breathe discreetly through her mouth.

‘Elsie,’ Mr Johnston said. ‘Have a seat, love.’

Her skirt rode up when she sat. Automatically she tugged at it, to keep the hem below her knees.

On his desk, a photo of Mrs Gregory Johnston and two cherubic toddlers angled towards her. Their straw-blond hair was combed to a shine, and Mrs Johnston’s brown waves were tucked neatly around her ears, her blouse collar pressed against her clavicle. Elsie had seen this photo every day and yet, had it ever mocked her before? From the first time she had walked into Mr Johnston’s office, on the day of her interview eighteen months ago, this picture had reminded her of a photograph her mother kept on the mantle in the living room: Elsie’s eldest sister, Rose, eleven months after her wedding with a perfect, bonneted baby in her arms. Model children, dimpled with milk fat and healthful as freshly scrubbed new potatoes. Both Mrs Johnston and Elsie’s sister had been immortalised wearing the same expression: eyes squinting slightly, lips pursed in a knowing smile, smug serenity oozing from the frame.

‘Sweetheart.’ Mr Johnston sparked up another Lucky Strike. ‘What have you got for me?’

She hesitated before handing over the letter. Neatly typed, perfectly punctuated and with impeccable grammar unmatched by her fellow secretaries. After a cursory glance at her letter of resignation, he set it aside.

‘I was expecting this earlier.’

‘I’m sorry, Mr Johnston. I was unsure whether –’

‘Doesn’t matter,’ he waved his hand, ‘the wedding’s tomorrow, in any case.’

‘Yes, sir.’ Elsie couldn’t help a smile.

‘Congratulations to you both.’ Smoke puffed from his lips and dissolved into the haze hanging from the ceiling.

‘Best wishes, sir.’

‘Come again?’

‘You say “best wishes” to the bride. It’s feared congratulations imply that a bride tricked or won over her groom, as though he might otherwise not have married her.’ She smoothed her skirt. ‘Congratulations are for the groom.’

Mr Johnston laughed. ‘I won’t say I won’t miss you, sweetheart. Now get out of here – your resignation was effective this morning.’

With one final glance at the photograph, Elsie left Mr Johnston’s office for the last time.

In the lunch room, she nibbled at a slice of Sadie’s prize-winning lemon sponge. (Sadie’s sponge had taken out first prize at the local show for the first time that year. In doing so, she’d thumped Mrs Sidebottom from her fifteen-year lemon sponge reign, much to the consternation of Mrs Sidebottom’s staunch troop of supporters.) A handful of the Gawler Town Council’s other secretaries milled about the tea room, having snatched a few minutes from their duties to wish their now-former colleague well in her new life as a married woman.

Dora, widowed when her husband met German machine gun fire at El Alamein, made tea and ranted beneath her breath about archaic laws. ‘Menzies really should do something about that marriage bar,’ she said. ‘Who says a lady can’t have a job and a family? Besides, when all the men went off to fight, who was left to do the hard work here? Me. Us. We women took on the men’s jobs and we did it well. I worked with the Women’s Land Army. Drove a hay-carting truck, fixed the tractor when it broke a fan belt – used Fred the old draught horse’s reins – and we –’

May scoffed. ‘Didn’t you see that poll in Woman’s Day? Six to one are still in favour of it. A woman’s place is with her family. The war’s long over. It’s not proper to take away a man’s ability to support his family. Leave the jobs to the men and we can get on with running our homes.’ Smiling at Elsie, May finished up, ‘I’ll be married in December. Best wishes to you, dear.’

Elsie swallowed her mouthful of sponge. ‘Thank you,’ she said.

Chapter 3

Aida Glasson tentatively followed her mother across the threshold. Drywall dust coated the linoleum floor and the air was redolent of fresh paint and chalky plaster flushing. Late morning sunlight sieved through plain lace curtains.

Her mother’s heels made a pert clip-clip as they stepped into the empty front room. On the far side the modest kitchen was arranged: bare laminate benchtops, a new electric stove, an empty space where the refrigerator would sit.

Aida fought a flash of panic and turned to her mum. Seeing Aida’s expression, Dorthea Glasson gave her an attempt at a smile.

Setting the suitcase on the floor, her mother said, ‘Your father will bring a refrigerator up tomorrow, so in the meantime you can make do without milk or cold meat. I’ve packed plenty of sardines, there’s bread there and some canned peaches …’ Her head bobbed as she glanced about the room, as though mentally assessing the situation and finding it good enough. Her dark hair was set so unyieldingly that it moved as one solid entity along with her head. ‘We’ll bring that small round table for the kitchen here, and I think Dad said he’d bring up your armchair from the living room.’ Dorthea tried for another stiff smile. ‘So you’ll have that bit of home – won’t that be nice?’

Aida swallowed and nodded, not trusting her voice. She walked a slow circle around the rest of the empty space. A dining setting could go there, by the screen door. A couch and perhaps, one day, a television set in that corner.

It was a fantasy image, of course – an imaginary picture for someone else in the future. No ample-cushioned couch or the luxury of a television set would furnish her time here. For Aida there would be only the basics – food, brought weekly by her mother, a roof over her head and walls between which to hide. A calendar on the wall where she could mark off each passing day.

Aida crossed to a screen door off the kitchen and peered down the length of the house, towards the backyard. Knee-high nettles and giant capeweed scrambled amongst leftover builder’s rubble: broken cladding, chunks of unearthed quartz like loose teeth, ochre clods of clay.

‘There’s no fence between the two houses,’ Aida pointed out with dismay. ‘Look – they’re so close together. I practically could spit onto their matching side door. Does anyone live there?’

‘Don’t say spit, it’s unladylike. And I don’t know. Your father has done the best he can at short notice. I’m sure the fence will be up before you get too …’ her mother sniffed and checked the integrity of her bouffant. ‘And besides, if I were you I’d not be worrying about matters of the neighbours. Best you keep to yourself.’

Aida said, ‘I won’t show my face in daylight,’ and drew her finger in an X over her heart.

Dorthea ignored her petulance. ‘You won’t be too lonely – I’ll come up every Saturday.’

‘You’ll be too busy.’

‘It’s not forever,’ Dorthea said, becoming sharp. ‘And you know how much worse it could be.’

Aida didn’t answer. She needed to look somewhere other than at her mother. Fishing a cigarette from the pack in her handbag, she paused to light it, then stepped into a narrow hallway leading off the living area. Off one side of the hallway were bathrooms and a laundry, and along the other were two small bedrooms and what had been listed as a ‘study’ but was little more than a broom closet. The bedrooms had thickly piled carpet coloured in a rich bronze, and more generic lace curtains. Standing at the foot of the new bare-mattressed double bed, in the only bedroom with a wardrobe, she heard her mother’s footsteps behind her.

‘Help me get the rest of your bags out of the car. I need to be at Glenda’s for tea at five. And for heaven’s sake, get an ashtray.’

And so Aida did. She helped her mum retrieve the rest of the worldly possessions she’d been permitted to take: a small pile of skirts and dresses, her sewing machine and threads to adjust them in the coming weeks. A handful of novels, a small wireless radio. A bunch of scarves like slippery snakes, stockings. Two sets of bed sheets still wrapped in their store packaging; the quilt she’d made herself when she was thirteen with the red, gold and green fan pattern. Deliberately, in her last act of defiance, the only photographs she’d plucked from her shelves in her bedroom had been those of her childhood pets – a Doberman puppy named Blackie who had lived with her for only ten days before vanishing after he had pooped beneath the kitchen table, and her now-aging tabby cat, Freckle, who would probably not even notice Aida’s absence, who would pay no heed to the quiet step of her parents, now alone in that house again, as they had once been before she was born eighteen years ago.

The Three Of Us will be available from the 1st of October 2023

Get your copy here

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