Al set high standards. If a girl couldn’t tell a Little Lorikeet from a Musk Lorikeet, mimic the call of a powerful owl or get excited about pelicans mating then she wasn’t for him. Al was young, strong, intelligent, good-looking, and obsessed. He left, in his wake, a string of girlfriends, each with a slightly crumpled heart and an antipathy towards birds.

Gloria knew how to get to him. ‘Except roasted,’ she said. ‘Roasted they’re ok.’

Al was appalled enough to laugh. They’d been carpooling for three months and most of their conversation was either about birds or patchwork—Gloria seemed to spend all her spare time patiently sewing tiny pieces of fabric together.

‘I don’t see the point,’ he said. ‘You can buy a decent rug at Murchison’s for next to nothing.’ Gloria’s pieces were beautiful. But that wasn’t going to stop him goading her.

‘What would you know, Birdman.’ She fingered the stitches on the centrepiece she was working on. A pink cockatoo on a branch. She’d have it ready by Christmas.

Al had been thinking about a bird book just to stir her up. But he’d checked out a shop she talked about and bought a sewing box instead. Maybe it was too much. Ah well it was done now.

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