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  • Published: 27 February 2024
  • ISBN: 9781761343285
  • Imprint: Bantam Australia
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $34.99

Joy Moody is Out of Time


It was always busier in the cold months at Joyful Suds, Bayside's Premier Laundromat. Joy Moody, proud owner and operator, hadn't sat down all morning.

‘These will be ready for collection between 3 and 6 pm,’ Joy told Brett Carmichael, a regular. She had never thought much of Brett; he always looked at her like she was an appetiser, and she did not appreciate that. But she would prefer she serve him and his hungry eyes rather than one of her daughters have to. If he found Joy attrac­tive, then he must be positively gobsmacked at the sight of Cassie and Andie.

Joy had once thought herself somewhat beautiful, but these days she considered herself more utilitarian than eye-catching. While she still maintained her hair and nails, always had her eyebrows and top lip waxed, she didn’t make time for make-up or anything she deemed showy. Perhaps that was right up Brett’s alley, or maybe he was just not that fussy. She was long and lean and always had been, not shapely like her daughters, who glowed with youthfulness and purpose and in summer tanned in a way she never had. It was obvious to her that they weren’t her biological children, although she considered herself their mother in every other conceivable way.

She didn’t find Brett’s gaze flattering in the least. At fifty-six she was still angry at most men and would happily punch him on the chin. But that was unprofessional, and Joy Moody would do just about anything to avoid being considered unprofessional.

‘Have a joyful day.’ She smiled as Brett took his receipt, giving her a final up and down glance before leaving.

The only other customer in the shop was Hal, using the free washing machine. Hal had come and gone from the laundromat almost as long as Joy had run it, just over two decades now. Machine number six was exclusively for the use of those between permanent abodes. Hal was a kind-eyed, older gentleman who reminded her of driftwood, in that he was so intricately weathered he was quite striking. He had barely uttered a word to her in all his visits and certainly never looked at her the way Brett Carmichael did. She knew his name because Cassie had told her. Cassie had that way about her; people just wanted to tell her things and she absorbed it all like a Chux dishcloth. Joy had always had to keep extra watch over Cassiopeia.

Today, Joy had made Hal a coffee, which she delivered quietly, along with a muesli bar from the vending machine. She had tried to give him a fiver a few times – she did that quite often with the people using Britney’s washer, as she had always privately called machine number six – but Hal had made it clear that was one step too far. He would leave it tucked somewhere at the register for her to find. He didn’t want her money, though he would happily accept the free spin cycle and a cuppa.

‘Thanks, miss,’ Hal mumbled, taking the coffee and muesli bar.

Most took Joy’s demeanour as brusque, sometimes to the point of dismissive. In the one hundred and fifty-two Google reviews the laundromat had received in its existence, just one wasn’t a five-star rating. And that two-star review still bothered Joy. The customer in question had taken her abruptness as outright rudeness and reviewed her accordingly. Later, when he’d unpacked his jumbo bag of washing and realised it had never been cleaner or softer, he’d wanted to take it back. But it was too late. His review was commit­ted to the annals of internet history.

Joy disappeared through the in-between and back to the house. The three Moody women occupied the residence attached to Joyful Suds. It was one of four two-storey townhouses in a tidy row, pushed up tight like Lego blocks. They shared a common wall with Monty Doyle, locksmith, who shared one with Linh Tran, tattoo­ist, and she shared one with Ellen Scott, lawyer, who made Joy look like a ray of sunshine. The laundromat had the distinct advantage of its own parking lot, which the neighbouring shops argued should be for general use. Joy disagreed entirely and had signage made clearly denoting the car park for Joyful Suds Customers Only.

Their home was modest in size and required the twins to share a bedroom on the second floor, but it served them well. Besides, Joy thought the girls would share a room even if they had the chance to sleep separately, not that she’d ever asked. The townhouse was dated now and lacked natural light, but it was paid off in full, an inheritance from Joy’s father. He’d been a savvy businessman, but an insecure father, having never recovered after being widowed in his thirties. Joy had been three and her brother, Grant, six when their mum had died. A week after her funeral, a rotund housekeeper, Hazel, arrived. Their father went back to work, his days stretch­ing longer than ever, and they just got on with it. Her mother was relegated to photographs on the wall, becoming less and less like a person who had ever existed in real life and more like a character in a story. Joy had been just a toddler, after all, and could only assume now that any recollections of her mum were really just memories of Hazel.

Cassie and Andie were eating breakfast at the table. Cassie was sketching the box of Cheerios in one of her notebooks and Andie was reading something; she was often nose-deep in a novel. It was probably an Agatha Christie, which Joy didn’t mind her reading now she was twenty. She’d been worried about Andie diving into the crime genre and finding out the terrible things people did to one another, but the general fiction section had become awfully lustful, and murder and mayhem seemed preferable to that. It was easier vetting her daughters’ reading material when they were younger, when the books tackled topics Joy felt comfortable having her children read. It was up to her to keep them safe, and that meant both in body and mind. The girls didn’t need to be unnecessarily distracted by trivialities.

The laundromat was born out of necessity when she realised her employment choices were limited with twin newborns, no husband and a lack of official paperwork for the girls. She grew it from an empty shell, painting the walls pink (her favourite colour) and laying the chequered floor herself, while her daughters slept in rockers in the house behind the shop. She was more than a little proud of herself and what she’d created at 225 Station Street, both a home and a living for her little family.

Joy looked at her girls and smiled to herself. So little time left, she thought, but she couldn’t dwell on that. She crossed the room to the kitchen, picked up a black texta and struck another day off the calendar. Open plan was too generous a term for their living space, but it wasn’t entirely inaccurate. The kitchen flowed into the dining area, which also housed her desk and a bookshelf. And then the couch and her armchair formed the lounge nook. The three Moody women together could stand hand in hand and reach from one side of the house to the other. Home was what came to mind when Joy looked around.

‘Four weeks to go,’ Joy said, trying to remain upbeat, but feeling the gaping hollowness that came every time she considered her world in four weeks and one day, when her girls had left her. They would be gone, twenty-seven years into the future, to the year they were born. She had done the maths and knew that she would turn eighty-three in 2050. This was not only a grand old age, but one she couldn’t fathom reaching, not without Cassie and Andie beside her. And also on account of the brain tumour she was playing host to, which was no longer allowing her to ignore its presence.

Joy took two Panadol and gulped some water. She didn’t want to use the more heavy-duty painkillers that the doctor had prescribed for two main reasons: outright denial and because the twins knew nothing about her condition.

Andie was watching her. Andie always seemed to be watching.

Joy’s body ached with tiredness, and it had only just gone 9 am.

Joy Moody is Out of Time Kerryn Mayne

'Mayne's skilful storytelling and brilliant characterisation will take readers on an unforgettable journey - a must-read for fans of Liane Moriarty and Sally Hepworth.' KELLY RIMMER

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