last time on Diary of Another time- it was Nov. 1999
Things had changed so much since girl met boy and then waited to be asked out. Thinking about it, as he stared out the window at the passing blur of shadowy buildings, it had never been that way with Fiona.
She hadn’t seen it coming at all. Fiona was flirtatious, young, even happily
married, but he made all the moves on her nevertheless. She was everything Sylvia wasn’t, she wasn’t critical, pompous or perfect. She was someone he had wanted to get to know.
The eternal triangle emerged. Oh yeah, for a while there were more than three of them in it.
Today the world around him was bustling, seemed too loud, but very real. He closed his eyes trying to shut it out, then realised it was the banter from behind him penetrating his head.
The girls on the bus seat behind him discussed socializing.
They used words he would rather have avoided right then, like, “commitment”, “moral support” and “duty”. After their earlier stories of pub conquests, now suddenly they both seemed to be spoken for, in the space of time it took to get from the bus stop queue to the second set of traffic lights on Regent Street and into the jam of jams.
Both spoken for, the way Fiona was that night. So, things hadn’t changed all that much. He felt a buffer wave of forgiveness wash over him to compensate for the thoughts he was about to embark on.
He knew that she would never remember as clearly as he could, the first time they had met socially.
Perhaps because she had no knowledge of his obsession and was therefore at a disadvantage. Or perhaps it was because she had consumed too much cheap wine at the time.
But he would never forget it. It was at a function for charity; events which were always well supported by the residents of Sunbay. Anything for a party.
That night was no different, in fact it was a fancy dress hobo party and held in the scout hall of this lakeside village south of the equator , nestling in the lush midlands amongst the foothills of the Drakesberg, the soul of Kwazulu.
Mitch and Sylvia North had been delayed. After the fiery row ended, Mitch felt drained, still seething with rage but committed to go. Sylvia insisted, and after all, she had promised influencial people. So she had the last word. The tale end of the banter continued…
“…of course it must have been important, how could you think otherwise! Larry would only call if it’s about money. Why else does a bank manager need to see you? He made the appointment, but you chose not to go! Where have I put my lighter? You need to sort out your priorities, survival and commitment and spend less time on your training…… Now we will have to wait until Monday to find out! Won’t we?”
She seethed, inhaled deeply then picked up the phone inviting her sister to join them at the scout hall.
Grinding the gears before bringing his bakkie to a halt, Mitch stepped out in silence beside two rows of worn grave stones. He mopped perspiration from his broad forehead in the hot night air, thinking how his company had never been enough for Sylvia; she needed her support group. He had been a convenience, a means to an end.
He narrowed his eyes, as he entered the red brick building. Walking ahead as Sylvia waited for her lackys.
This hall, once an old church, had always fascinated him, with it’s early 1900’s architecture. That night the lighting was turned down low, and Phil Collins sang a fitting rendition of Another day in Paradise. Good, really good. There were newspapers and sheets of cardboard on the floor boards, where years of dust was embedded, across which hundreds of feet had shuffled when it was the village church.
Happy sounds of raucous laughter came from the floor area where most of the guests were seated, depicting homeless and hobo people.
Mitch paused with his hands in his pockets and took it all in.
He scowled as someone knocked against him passing in the doorway. He annoyed easily but rallied.
“For a tramp and hobo party, good choice of venue, drab and deprived, lowly, as well as down to earth.”
It was having a calming effect on him already, the music, the merriment and the perfect beauty of the unadorned architecture around him and then he spotted her.
“A-ha!” A sense of excitement replaced the waning rage; causing his heart to pick up a beat again, but this time it made him smile.
“This night is rapidly changing into something worth while. Bring it on!”
She peered up inebriated, at four fuzzy late arrivals.
Fiona was fuming because, Calvin her husband, leaning on ‘the bar with no wine’, his blonde hair flopped over one eye, had offered her personal wine to all the ladies. She stared rudely at the newcomers to the party questioning why they were so late, not in fancy dress and more importantly, wondering if they had brought any wine with them. And that was how Mitch’s presence as another human, registered on Fiona’s radar.
Fiona hadn’t eaten all day, work was demanding. She was hungry and because the one course meal on the menu that night was “bunny chow”, consisting of a half loaf of bread hollowed out and filled with the curried meat of your choice, which she detested, Fiona drank.
“Glad you made it.” Calvin greeted, recognising customers, Neville, Mitch, and wives Sylvia and Meryl, as he walked across the hall.
“You missed a great chow, but the booze is still flowing.” He nudging Fiona, when she made no move or stand. So he offered.
“Grab a pew. Makes your bum numb!”
Pointing to the floor, he rubbed his jean clad posterior, and everyone laughed.
“On cue, ha, ha, so funny!” Mumbled Fiona, nodding her head. Mitch lipread and looked puzzled.
“This is a fancy dress party?” She said aloud, gesturing with her hands questioningly, head on one side. Calvin kicked her gently, trying to silence her.
Mitch was now put fully in the picture as to the source of her irritation.
“So, I’m am not in fancy dress. No score for that!” He thought with a smile. His khaki shirt was damp and taunt across his bulging biceps, tucked neatly into light tan trousers.
“ My colours are conservative, co-ordinated, five points? I am confident? Sober? Do I get score for these?” He drew in a deep breath and stood up straight, posing, amused by his own thoughts, he wondered if he had her attention yet.
She wasn’t aware of how happy he was to at last be officially introduced to her. For many months he had been trying to cross paths with her ever since he had first seen her walking down South Street one Sunday morning, long hair bouncing about, wearing a three piece shorts set, which left nothing much to the imagination except what was just above the two tanned thighs. After some detective work he had found out who she was.
“…and this is my wife, Fiona.” Calvin nudged her again.
“I know that!” Mitch thought, looking at Calvin from a different perspective.
This was his rival now; a man holding a prize that he wanted so much . Each day when he visited their business, making any excuse to do so; he envied Calvin standing beside her. Her unruly hair tied in a bunch that needed touching, her pouting lower lip that could do with kissing. Not any more. He had waited on corners to stalk her movements in town. He craved her attention. You could have been arrested today for a lesser crime.
“From tonight he’s my opponent, to challenge. I must act to take what I want. Weakness is not in my nature. Only Sylvia does that to me, but not any more.”
She stood beside him then, his wife, and he felt the dislike affecting his left side, the loathing eating away at him. Being close to her was torture after she had belittled him in a row.
Sylvia spoke quickly, dragging on her cigarette.
“We won’t be staying long or drinking, we just popped in to show our faces.”
Her short black fringed cut, a typical Mary Quant look, framed her face. The face was one of painted perfection, above, a petite black two piece. Twin sister Meryl stood beside her in jeans and a tee shirt, always overshadowed in every way. That was the way it had always been. Meryl walked over to the bar.
Mitch grinned at his then ally, easy going Meryl, relaxing into the mood.
“What did you think, hey, that this was, a, ‘Come as you are’ party? You wouldn’t have to do much to your attire to fit in with this bunch”
Both of them laughed.
Dirk, the barman for the evening, quite in character, took no notice of Sylvia and handed beers to the men. Leaning his tall frame across the counter with ease he flashed Sylvia a smile. His puppy dog eyes endeared him to most, but being six foot four and an ex rugby player for South West Africa, didn’t make him strong. He was fragile, recently deserted by his wife.
She had gone back to her parents with their children. The shame of their tool shop in town going into liquidation was the cause.
“I said no thank you, Dirk.” Sylvia’s absolute clarification.
Dirk poured a beer for Meryl, as she moved in behind the bar next to him, winking with her naughty eyes and snuggling up close to irritate her sister. Sylvia gave her the look. So in defiance Dirk teasingly put an arm around Meryl, he liked her boyish looks and cropped hair.
Back on the floor, Fiona mumbled under her breath from her chosen spot, watching her wine bottle hovering in Calvin’s hand.
Mitch crouched down to be closer to Fiona and spoke. “Hello, are you happy down here? Enjoying the party?” When there was no answer only an arrogant look, he moved a wisp of hair from across her face and continued.
“What can a guy get to eat around here?”
“Ghastly bunny chow!” She offered under her breath, he raised his brows.
Then out it came. “Terra firma is obviously not an option…..might dirty your fancy trousers!”
Unchallenged and smiling, Mitch stood up and looked around for a possible meal.
He wasn’t conservative at all in fact, but because he was married to Sylvia who had high standards to keep up in the local community which included being seen at charity functions, it was expected of him. One always made a point of getting to know the new mayor and attending the opening of the flower show. Of course she belonged to the dance club, associated with the local attorney and attended the new parish church and all functions alongside the good Dr. Luke.
One also made doubly sure, no matter what it cost, to buy property on the correct side of the lake, and to the detriment of Mitch’s bank balance, they of course had.
Mitch watched Fiona for the rest of the evening as she examined legs and shoes. Was she thinking, they were a very boring bunch of people who had ruined a good night coming in ordinary clothes?
He smiled as she drained all the wine bottles to refill her glass, and pretended to read an article on Princess Di in the newspaper where a damp patch had obliterated Di’s hat.
She watched him too, then suddenly noticed his odd socks, one brown and one green,. After looking unashamedly, up the length of his body, she reached his face where she found Mitch scrutinising her in her tramps’ rags. Her old faded orange blouse with buttons missing and a ripped skirt. Her hair hung long and tatty falling in ash blond tails around her shoulders, her pointed nose which was noticeably red. She touched her hair awkwardly, trying to fluff it into some reasonable state, a flirtatious gene suddenly awakened and clear-headed.
He winked with the bluest eyes.
“Remember that, my little beauty and you will remember me!” Mitch willed her with his mind.
“Lets go home.”Fiona said to Calvin, suddenly getting to her feet, feeling uneasy under the gaze of the hunter.
She wanted home and normality, nevertheless it was not to be, as by a unanimous decision it was decided that they should all go to Meryl and Neville’s place for coffee. It was Friday night!
Waving goodbye to Dirk, who was well on his way to forgetting his troubles, happy and smiling with a brandy and Coke in his hand, they left the dying party.
The black night skies of Africa shone with a million stars. Mitch glanced up at the Southern Cross, and crossed his fingers. He made a wish. When he opened his eyes he focussed on Calvin and Fiona arguing their way to their Ford Capri. He knew that he had taken step one.
He was confident, following his instincts. In the same way he knew now as the bus inched forward a car length at a time, that he would see her again.
“Forever!” It had been said often then. Forever…. now there was a word…..
…to be continued.
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