This story is based on the life of Dr Lilian Cooper, Queensland’s first female medical practitioner.
he light in the upstairs window was lit. Josephine must still be awake. Lilian was glad. She enjoyed these night-time conversations. Josephine felt the heat, was calm and soft-spoken in the day; the dark transformed her, made her flamboyant, vivid. She wore perfume and exotic clothes she bought from a Chinese woman in Fortitude Valley. She drank scotch from a teacup painted with purple flowers and curling vines.
Inside, Lilian found Josephine drawing in the study, her charcoal and paper spread across the table. The flame of the gas lamp was reflected back at them from the window, closing them in. Sweat gathered in the crooks of Lilian’s elbows, behind her knees. She pushed up the sash window, hooked it open.
‘How can you stand this heat?’ she said.
She leant forward over the windowsill to catch the breeze, the street dark beneath her. She could be anywhere, the two of them floating on an ocean, or hovering in space.