That evening, after dinner, he told Magda about the phonecall he had had that afternoon. And about his sudden doubt whether he really wanted to quit medicine. Magda listened quietly, with a comforting, supporting arm around him.
"I don´t know, Magda," he pleaded. "It´s like there´s two of me. One part whose heart is dedicated to medicine, and another part that wants to roam about the country, doing all kinds of things like I´m doing now! How am I ever going to unite these two in one life?"
Magda smiled. David´s story had given her an idea: "David, what if we´d take over Dr. Miller´s practice together? Do you think he´d settle for that? Then we´d both have time for other things as well."
He looked up. Hesitantly. "Is that what you want?"
She nodded. "It seems a fair deal to me."
"But is it really what you want?" he insisted. "You already gave up your job and your home at the Crossing for me... I don´t want to be responsible for yet another adventure you didn´t ask for, just because you love me."
"Not ´just because´..." She chuckled. "The fact that I love you so much is a perfectly good reason to do just about anything, just to be with you! But in this case..." She sobered. "David, I really enjoy the life we are living right now. I really do. And I think I could continue this way for years to come. But it´s just like you said: there is another part of me. A part that wants to belong somewhere. That wants to have a home, and friends, a quiet life in a small town. And that part of me jumped up with joy upon hearing Dr. Miller´s request."
A long silence followed.
"May I ask what you´d want to do beside your job?" David inquired softly. She had never mentioned a wish like that before, so he felt a little uncertain all of a sudden.
"Study perhaps," she replied calmly. "There are so many interesting subjects, even outside medicine. Or get a bit more active in cultural activities, like a dramaclub or a choir. And for the rest... perhaps it´s a little early to talk about it, but I would love to have a couple of children. And that would be easier to organize if we both don´t work full-time."
He glanced at her.
"Do you want to have children?" she asked cautiously.
He smiled. "Absolutely. Perhaps not right away, but... in a few years or so..."
Magda smiled back at him, and decided to remind him some other time of the fact that they did have to start pretty quickly - if they were to have these couple of kids at a reasonable interval. After all, he may not be 27 yet, but she had turned 34 a few months ago. And the planning of parenthood was quite a bit more dependent on the age of the intended mother than on the father´s.
"So," she returned to the subject, "does that sound like a reasonable solution to you? We share Dr. Miller´s practice, and we both have something else beside? If we could get a plane from somewhere, we could even turn it into a kind of private Flying Doctor´s base. What do you say?"
He sighed. "It sure sounds tempting. For I have to admit: sometimes I do miss the excitement of the RFDS. It wasn´t so bad working there."
Magda chuckled. "Well, we could always make Geoff´s day and go back to the Crossing, I suppose."
He grinned. "No way. I´d rather work with you, and be our own boss. So I suppose we are going to Barragunya?"
"If that´s what you want... You´ll have to make up your own mind, David. I can´t decide for you. But we have to keep in mind that it would mean making a commitment. If we take on this job, we can´t walk out after a few weeks if we don´t like the place."
He chuckled. "Like we can do now, you mean. But you´re right. I´ll think I´ll just sleep on it."
A few nights were slept on it, and quite some discourses were held on the matter as well. By then, David was able to make the call to Dr. Miller from Magda´s temporary office.
"Dr. Miller? It´s David Ratcliffe here."
"Ah, Ratcliffe. Well, have you made up your mind?"
"Yes, I have. We would be happy to take on the offered position. But we do have a few personal matters to settle before we come to Barragunya, so if you could stay on till the end of the year...?"
"Personal matters, hey?" Dr. Miller replied in a slightly teasing tone. "Are we still to settle something I´m not aware of?"
David chuckled. "No, my partner and I. We´d like to get married first."
Magda grinned at him.
"I see." Dr. Miller cleared his throat. "And this ´partner´ wouldn´t happen to be a certain Dr. Magda Heller, would it? I did hear you say: ´We are happy to take on the position´..."
"That is correct," was David´s answer.
"Ratcliffe, I think I have to caution you there. Barragunya is but a small town. The position of general practitioner here consists of hardly more than one full-time job. It won´t do for two doctors. There aren´t enough patients to go around."
David smiled. "That would suit us just fine, Dr. Miller. For even though we are both dedicated doctors, we´d also like to try our hand at some other ways of making a living. So we´ve decided to share the position at Barragunya."
"You mean you´re both going to work part-time?"
"Yes, that´s right."
Dr. Miller coughed. "Well, a bit unorthodox if I may say so, but if that´s what you want... And this Dr. Heller?"
"She´s as fine a doctor as Barragunya could wish for. Better qualified and more experienced than I am. She was the rising star at the Academic Hospital, but discovered that she preferred the country in every way."
Magda gave him a mocking offended prod.
"Well, I hope you don´t mind my checking up a bit on her, too? After all, under the circumstances I can hardly expect you to be impartial when it comes to your future bride."
They both chuckled. "Fine with me," David replied. "You could always ask Dr. Standish at Coopers Crossing."
"I will. And this Academic Hospital you mentioned?"
David grinned. "In Munich, Germany."
There was a moment of perplex silence before Dr. Miller continued: "I see. Well, I´ll see to that then. So if you two take over here at the 1st of January? It would be best if you´d arrive here the week before, so I could show you the ropes, and you could find a place to stay. Shouldn´t be too hard: you can either move in to my apartment above the practice, or take your pick around town. There are several houses empty here."
"Thank you, Dr. Miller."
"Well, if there are any more questions, you know where to reach me. Otherwise I´ll see you by the end of December in Barragunya. Good day, Ratcliffe!"
"Goodbye, Dr. Miller."
David slowly put down the phone. A broad grin marked his face.
"Well?" Magda was dying to know what Dr. Miller had said.
But David pulled her close to him and put his arms around her waist. "Well... Dr. Miller does want to check up on you first, but if that enquiry turns out right - of which I have no doubt - he agrees to turn over his practice to us. And we´re expected in Barragunya by the end of December."
"Great!" was all Magda got out with a big shining smile - before she got tonguetied by David´s kiss.
The weeks following that phonecall seemed to go by in a flash. Magda got a visum as a ´wife-to-be´, to which David simply couldn´t resist making funny allusions from time to time.
Further she had to organize for her savings in Germany to be transferred to her Australian bankaccount. They would just about do to buy out Dr. Miller without getting a mortgage. David felt bad about her having to spend all her life-savings, but Magda reasoned that - when they would sell the practice again one day - she would get them back anyway. And why getting an expensive mortgage if she had the money?
Then there were their respective relatives who had to be informed of their plans; something that upset Magda quite a bit at the thought that her family hadn´t even met her groom yet, and nor had she been introduced to his parents. But all that would be remedied by the time the wedding-bells would be ringing. For Magda had expressed a profound wish to get married among her family, back in Germany, since she would be leaving them for good now. David had readily yielded to her request, and so it were mainly Magda´s mother and her sister Lori who organized the wedding according to Magda´s modest wishes.
Just before they left for Germany the last days of November, Magda finally saw herself introduced to Mr. and Mrs. Christian D. Ratcliffe. They welcomed her as their own daughter, and their kindness and genuine interest in her prepossessed them completely in her favour.
David´s brother Joss on the other hand gave her quite a shock. When David had told her about his family a while back, she had liked the idea of him having an identical twin-brother. Still, when she was confronted with Joss, she was struck by the perfect likeness of the two brothers, even though they hadn´t seen each other in years. As a matter of fact, it took her quite a while to be able to tell them apart without looking at their clothes...
All five of them were to travel to Germany together. Magda and David would stay with Mrs. Heller, while the others preferred the freedom of a hotel. Nevertheless, they enjoyed the good German hospitality nearly every evening, mostly spending that time at the different Heller houses.
While the Ratcliffes went around to see the sites, David and Magda had to attend to the final arrangements of their wedding. They were to be married in the parish of Magda´s childhood, in Immenstadt. Fortunately, the priest there spoke English fairly well, for Magda insisted that he´d do at least the actual marrying part in English. She had even brought a copy of an Australian mass-book for him, for she said: "It´s far more important that David knows what question he´s answering to, than that my mother understands every word of her daughter´s wedding." Which was the kind of logic no one could possibly argue about.
The morning of the 10th of December came with a special wedding present: the night had brought the first snow of the year. The whole world was covered with about an inch of glittering bright snow, turning good old grey Immenstadt into a fairy-tale town.
The wedding-ceremony was warm and simple. To Magda´s joy, it was mostly done in English, but the songs were all German. David was very serious during the ceremony; Magda on the other hand felt all kinds of emotions running through her mind. Happiness, uncertainty, relief, excitement, fear, expectation, suspense, even a little doubt... For the bond they were creating now was really meant to last a lifetime. Even beyond this world. Was it really possible to love the same person for so many years, she wondered all of a sudden. Her "yes, I do" came therefore out rather quavery, but the half smile David gave her at those words both comforted and reassured her. It was right what they were doing. She loved him, and he loved her; what more could they want for? The broad smile, brought about by that thought, didn´t leave her face all day - not even when they shared their first married kiss on the church-steps.
There were pictures to be taken, which caused some general merriment since the photographer mistook Joss twice for the groom. "Are you sure you married the right one?" he sighed to Magda in the end...
Afterwards they had dinner with the family and a few intimate friends of the Hellers in a cosy, very German restaurant. To David´s relief there was no Sauerkraut on the menu, but they got to enjoy the most delicious recipes from the German cuisine.
Of course there were the usual sketches and songs afterwards, but since no one was very well acquainted with David and Magda as a couple, these served mainly as an insight for the in-laws on their new family-member´s youth. Joss seemed to have occupied his time with the Hellers by taking on several parts as David in their sketches; the most hilarious one as a hypernervous David on the brink of becoming a father, with all kinds of funny allusions to the idea that a medical couple does not guarantee a secure and carefree medical life at home.
Out of practical considerations, most of the wedding-gifts were in the form of money, to be spent on furniture and a trousseau; both of which they needed now, but scarcely owned. But later in the evening, Chris Ratcliffe got up to address his son and his new daughter-in-law personally. "David and Magda, you´ve had congratulations and presents flowing in all day long. I would like to add ours, of course, and at the same time congratulate ourselves on such a delightful daughter-in-law." He exchanged a warm smile with Magda. "You two have chosen to stay together for the rest of your life. And from what I´ve seen from you as a couple, I think that was the wisest decision you could ever make. Knowing David, and from what I´ve seen from you and heard about you, Magda, I am sure that you both will do everything humanly possible to make each other happy. And that´s exactly what we wish for you: a lifetime of happiness together.
"Your mother and I have long been contemplating on a gift that would enhance the happiness we so wish for you. Fortunately, you guys mentioned something yourselves. Something that you would love to have, something that you might need in your job, but that would be convenient and fun in your private life as well. But you also admitted openly that you wouldn´t be able to afford it for years to come. Well, it was a bit hard to wrap, and it was impossible to take on the plane here, but... David, Magda, we want you to have the old Madeira."
Apart from the Ratcliffe-clan, no one understood what he meant. But David himself could hardly believe it: his jaw slowly dropped, and after a long silence he brought out: "You´re kidding..."
His father shook his head. He beamed upon seeing this present being received so well. "No, son. I want you to have it. I´m sure it will be of a lot more use there in Barragunya than it will ever be in Leeton. But I hope you will take the opportunity to come and visit your old folks now and then, too."
All David could do was nod. He was speechless.
But Magda still didn´t have a clue what this was about. "David, what is the old Madeira?"
"His plane... the Cessna..." David stammered. On which it was Magda´s turn for happy bewilderment and an excited hug of her father-in-law.
Finally, it was David who delivered the general speech of thanks. With Magda´s hand tightly in his, he thanked everyone for the wonderful day to which they all had contributed, and his new family-in-law for the kind and cordial welcome they had given him and his family. He even added a few lines in somewhat broken German, to thank for the party, and to promise them that he would take very good care of Magda. Mrs. Heller even had to brush away a few tears now that she realized that even her last daughter - the one she had worried about so much, fearing that she would be alone all her life - was finally provided for. And the tender kiss to his bride with which David concluded his little speech brought about even more tear-brushing, along with the more modern cheering from the younger generation.
With a lot of farewells ringing in their ears they left for a little cottage on the edge of the mountains. That´s where they were to spend their wedding-night, followed by a week´s honeymoon, though at first Magda feared that David was far too amazed about getting an airplane to be in any mood for a romantic wedding-night. He reminded her so much of a boy who unexpectedly got the toy-firetruck he´d been dreaming about for years... Luckily, David managed to put the plane out of his mind in favour of his new wife when they arrived at the cottage, and a huge part of the night was devoted to the exploration of the game of love.
They had the most wonderful time together, and after a few more days at Magda´s mother´s to say a final farewell, the new Mr. and Mrs. David Alexis Ratcliffe returned to Sydney, to spend Christmas on their own in Leeton, as David´s parents were staying in Europe till January. And from there, they took David´s new toy to Barragunya.
"David, why did your father call this plane the old Madeira?" Magda wondered when he was stuffing their luggage into it. "Is its official name Cessna Madeira or something?"
He shook his head. "The callsign. He tends to make words out of those. He does it with numberplates, too. With quite funny results most of the time." He chuckled, and Magda stepped back to see what callsign their plane had. VH-MDR.
"Mike Delta... What is the R again?"
"Romeo." He came up to her and took her in his arms. "Mike Delta Romeo, my dearest Juliet."
"Or Magda and David Ratcliffe," she pointed out to him with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. On which they had another one of their dreamy long kisses before climbing into the Madeira to leave for their new home.
Apart from Dr. Miller and Ron Moore, the locals´ reception of their new doctors was not extraordinary cordial. It didn´t really bother David and Magda; they knew the people would come round. They moved into a nice house, just outside the town, with a wide grass garden, and hidden among a couple of huge pine-trees. The house was in pretty good condition, and David had picked up enough handicraft this past year to be able to fix smaller things and change a few others to their liking. They just loved playing house together, to finally have a place of their own. A place where they could belong.
"No," Magda said, "I´ve finally understood. You can´t belong to a place. You belong to the people you love. To the people who love you. So it doesn´t really matter where we are, David. The only place where I belong is with you."
And she is dead right of course.
And how their life together in Barragunya continued?
Well... I could tell you, I suppose.
But I think we´d better leave that for another story.
For now, let´s just content ourselves with the thought of them living there together, more or less "happily ever after".
The episodes this story refers to are:
155 Valentine´s Day (the story of Andrea Grayson)
159 A Place Where You Belong (Magda´s arrival)
163 David and Goliath (Dr. Miller)
171 Deceptions (David´s departure)
As well as regular references to the story "Magda´s Diary", seeing that this is actually an alternative ending to that one!
David´s brother Joss refers to Ann´s story "Twins", to be found right here on ffnet. I have her permission to use Joss in my stories.