Living the Life

Verity Rose

The fresh, spring air floated in, carrying lavender and rosemary from the gardens outside the window. The chipped, scraggly beams held up the cottage like a ribcage as the heart and lungs of life breathed deeply in the home for the first time in decades. Old, flakey paint peeled from the walls, exposing orange and brown bricks that clashed with the grey stone flooring. However, to Elsa and Alice, it was their dream home.

The screeching, groaning noise pollution didn’t reach the couple here in the mountains. Instead, the soundtrack to their brand-new lives was filled with the soft melody of birds, the rustling of leaves, and the clink of cold glasses of iced tea on the balcony.

Elsa led the old, stomping goat into the overgrown paddock next to the cottage, followed by Alice, who made careful consideration not to step in any muddy puddles.

“Don’t worry about your dress, hon,” Elsa called to Alice once they’d entered the paddock. “This is what farm life is all about: being one with nature.” A strong breeze swam through the tall grasses of the paddock like a fish in water, and Elsa couldn’t help but breathe deeply in the fresh air, thanking her Gods for the cool caress.

“I really like this dress,” Alice said, barely noticing the breeze as anything but a mere nuisance to mess up her hair. “And it’s the shoes I’m worried about. They’re brand new!”

“Docs were made to be working shoes, they’re perfect for right now!”

Alice’s reddening face turned down to examine the silk-embroidered white Doc Martens. Elsa could almost see her trying to force her feet to step forward into the muddy, squelchy paddock, but she remained stuck to the spot. Alice whipped her hands through the grass like a toddler.

“I can’t do it! They’re not working shoes. These babies are not getting gross.”

Elsa’s head dipped slightly, her eyes shooting a piercing glare at Alice. Her hold on the goat’s leash loosened and the skinny, grey animal ventured to find the nicest grass to graze.

“Then change into different shoes,” Elsa shook her head in confusion, almost looking to the goat for confirmation.

Alice blanched, seeming to shrink back on her ‘safe’ spot, where no mud or dirt could crust her precious shoes. “I don’t have any working shoes.”

Elsa stood, looking at Alice, waiting for a genuine response. No other words exited her girlfriend’s mouth.

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope.” All of a sudden, Alice found the surrounding trees awfully interesting.

Elsa raised her eyebrows in stunned thought. “So then… what did you bring?”

Alice pursed her lips, still looking askance.

“Alice…” Elsa opened the floor and yet no response came. “Please tell me you at least brought some sort of shoes to work in.”

Alice did not move. Instead, Elsa walked into the far side of the paddock, away from the gate and the girl who stood there too scared to ruin her city girl shoes. Feeling the seed-filled grasses at her fingertips, she laid down on the muddy, root-ridden ground, tilting her face to the sky and praying. The wet dirt beneath her head clung to her hair and soaked into her clothes. Perhaps she would simply melt into the Earth and forget about her new girlfriend who had agreed to run away to the mountains with her.

“Elsa…” Alice’s careful footsteps gradually neared her mud-soaked girlfriend.

Elsa squinted her eyes to peer at her partner standing above her. Oh, the things she could say in that moment. The words burned bitterly on her tongue, tempting her to spit them out.

“What?” Elsa’s eyes remained barely open, not daring to look into the eyes above her.

“I can work on the house inside…” Alice’s voice cracked, shy and low.

“We live on a farm, Alice.” Elsa sighed, closing her eyes. In her mind, she’d go far away from this place—only, this was the place that she’d gone to, to get away. And now she was stuck.

“I know that—”

“Why did you agree to this plan if you don’t want to be here?”

“I do want to be here!”

The goat bleated, annoyed by the rising voices. Birds in the nearby trees chirped and squawked along, creating a cacophony of tone-deaf noise.

“No, you don’t.” Elsa sat up slightly to look her girl right in the face. “You hate mud. Even I can tell you that after these first few weeks.”

“I can get used to it!” Alice flung her hands in the air, mindful of the grasses that surrounded her.

“Really?” Elsa spat, hoisting herself to her feet. The cool breeze was freezing along her backside where the mud and wet grass had soaked into her clothes.

Yes.” Alice was sure.

But Elsa was determined. “Well then,” Elsa said, and threw her arms out, pushing Alice through the shimmering grasses and into the brown, squelching mud.

Elsa could see the cogs spinning in Alice’s mind as her cheeks blushed and her eyes widened. Was that too far? Elsa squirmed with anticipation, anxious for how her girlfriend would react.

Alas, Alice screamed.

The goat bleated, screaming in unison with Alice, and the birds chimed in too. Mynah birds danced in the wind, squawking and swooping as if their first instincts were to seek out drama and escalate it. Alice threw a fist to the ground like an angry toddler, flinging a sprinkle of mud onto her face and clothes. Elsa peered down to Alice’s feet where, lo and behold, the once-pristine white Doc Martens were now drenched in brown and black mud that would be a bitch to wash out.

A smug scowl graced Elsa’s face. Without a second thought, Alice wrenched forward, grasping Elsa’s leg, and jerked her onto her side.

“I hate you!” Alice screamed, throwing a mudpie at her girlfriend’s face.

“Oh, no you don’t!” Elsa retaliated with her own muddy ammunition.

The mynah birds and goat did not cease their commentary as it broke into an all-out war. The lesbians fought in the mud, their faces full of raging determination, as if they were fighting in the trenches. Blow after blow of mud and dirty water made contact with Alice’s beautiful clothes and Elsa’s sneering face. Soon enough, there were sizable ditches in the paddock beside both girls where their ammunition had gradually run dry.

Panting from both rage and exhaustion, the girls slowed their attacks. The world around them stilled as the breeze kissed them both on their cheeks, as if to urge them to keep their newfound calm. Elsa’s eyes stayed fixed on the ground. Keeping her breathing slow and steady, her heartbeat found its usual rhythm. With one last breath, Elsa’s eyes cracked open to gaze at the world around her. The beautiful mountainous forest was heaven. The vegetable and herb gardens were picturesque, and the cottage was—slowly—becoming a work of art. This could still work; they’d just have to work together. Elsa looked to Alice with a peaceful, gentle smile. Only, Alice did not return the look. Instead, her eyes were flicking in every direction, searching anxiously.

“Where’s the goat?” Alice asked, her voice back to its usual anger-less tone.

Elsa’s gaze darted around the paddock and, sure enough: no goat. Standing upright, Elsa and Alice searched the tall grasses for the animal, but only grass and mud were there to be found. In the gentle quiet, not a single bleat could be heard.

“Shit…” Alice groaned, looking to the paddock gate that was gently squeaking, swinging open in the wind. “I’m so sorry, Elsa.” Alice looked ready to cry.

“It’s fine,” Elsa sighed, closing her eyes and pressing her lips together in a shrug. “I hate goats and sheep anyway. They have such creepy eyes.”

“What do we do?”

After a moment of consideration, Elsa sighed. “Let it go.” Elsa dipped her head, starting towards the ivy-covered cottage, past the herb and flower gardens. Alice followed, squelching with each step through the gravel.

“How about we just keep to veggies and herbs, yeah?” Alice giggled, linking arms with Elsa as they walked. “At least carrots can’t run away.”

Verity Rose (she/they) is a Meanjin-based (Brisbane) poet, screenwriter, and novelist working on the 2024 Content Writing Team at ScratchThat. She has been writing stories since she was four and has studied screenwriting at universities since she was sixteen. Verity consistently incorporates the new experiences and ideas that she’s gotten from living and travelling around the world—from North America to outback Australia—into her writing.


Inspired by childhood classics such as Shirley Barber, Monster High Dolls, and Sailor Moon, Erin McKenna (she/her) aims to create whimsical, ethereal, and uncanny contemporary artwork. She mainly works in a digital space and discusses her personal experiences with mental and physical health, sexuality and liberation, and her relationship with her body.

Instagram: @erinxisobel