last time on “Diary of Another Time“, it was 1965
Sylvia said…..We would cling like two sides of a peach pip, the way we did in mother’s womb; one side darker and one lighter. Two halves always meant to be split because they were worlds apart. In the morning Meryl would go on and on about how lovely it was to be close and cuddle, while I assured her that we were getting too old to be holding on to our sibling love for each other. It was time to move on with our lives and be introduced to the opposite sex.
A time for coming out of the closet. We were sixteen. The years flew by…..
Four Years Later…
We grew up fast, Meryl and I, matriculating in a private girl’s school, St Mary’s, and at that time James did the central Johannesburg area for Daddy. He drove a white Pontiac convertible and stood two foot taller than me. Our school friends referred to him as ‘the dish’.
“ Can we stay over at your place this Friday again! Do you think he’ll be around? Are you sure you two aren’t, you know, attached ?”
Meryl found this all very elementary, as she had sourced others to hold her, hug and love her, other than me, her twin sister. Meryl was easy going and trusting, fun to be around. Where I searched for perfection, Meryl had found Kenny. She was mixing below our standards, and I knew this, but she thought it was grown up to hang around with bikers. She also thought nobody knew.
Kenny was the leather jacketed club leader, who wore a long plait down his back and smoked marijuana. Meryl was his girl. Subsequently as a result of her relationship with Kenny as the hallowed biker chick and his property alone, Mitch came into my life. Coincidence?
It was years after we were married when I finally found out the reason Mitch was looking for Meryl the day he came to our house in Ferndale. His red-brown hair was tangled on his shoulders and he had tattoos on both arms. He was nineteen then, working as a mechanic and owned a motorbike. Not that I would have looked twice at someone like that, but as he was standing at our front door; this was all pretty unavoidable.
The story related about the two of them was that Mitch and Meryl had developed a secret friendship. When Kenny was out of town one day, Mitch had devilishly ‘borrowed’ Meryl for a spin on his bike. They stopped off at the river for a smoke outside town. Meryl said he kissed her first; but I knew my sister was full of fire and fun. Mitch wasn’t looking for anything permanent to tie him down, so what developed next, suited both of them. They used each other. The river became their place to end an invigorating bike ride and Kenny never found out.
The day I met Mitch was a unique day. Meryl hadn’t turned up at the allotted and planned meeting place for their ride, because she was in bed, ill with food poisoning. Mitch, didn’t know the facts but said that it had taken a lot of courage to knock on our door. He had ridden past our rambling thatched house with shaded gardens twice wondering which door would be the front one, before thinking as he had come that far, it would do no harm to knock anyway. As he put his bike on the main stand under one of many Jacaranda trees, he conjured up a’ friend’ that he could say he was enquiring for. He could do that very well, fabricate and smile. But he kept it simple.
The shock showed on his face when I opened the door. He looked me up and down, seeing another version of Meryl, the smarter one, longer hair, a pale painted wonder in a tight very short black mini skirt. Not your average biker chick, he told me later but a right “fit bird”, all the same. He gazed around the hallway, hands with dirty finger nails on both hips, and both amazement and approval registered on his face.
“I have arrived,” was in point of fact what his brain told him.
“No harm in keeping my options open here!”
It worked. For whom I still wonder.
So after the dating, and finally the ‘all grownup’ lovemaking which I had been pre-primed for, the removal of both tattoo’s and a haircut, and the motor bike being threatened as well, we took the plunge, we were engaged to be married, me eighteen and Mitch twenty. But rosy gardens also die.
I had a good vantage position in the bus I could see down the narrow side streets both filled with cars, bumper to bumper. Nothing moved, as the long promised November rain chose that moment to start; much to the disgust of the six policemen piling out of a people carrier. They’d miraculously pulled up onto the pavement alongside the mass of weaving red busses. Traffic diversion was imminent. The yellow backed men were soon spreading themselves between the cars like little robots with bright shining blue and yellow cone toys, waving and signalling.
Those new colours were refreshing against the backdrop of dreary London. Glazing over and narrowing my eyes I allowed the colours to smear into the greys and blacks creating a collage more acceptable for the surroundings of my thoughts. Colours that blended together; I thought of Fiona…..
It was 1990…
Fiona was no angel when she first met Mitch. He would have corrected her, when first she ‘couldn’t recall’ meeting him. That night had also been memorable for Fiona by being almost obliterated from her mind. She remembered leaving the hall where the Hobo party had died, tidying her hair and pulling in her tummy because the man with the blue eyes had looked at her strangely. But she never could recall the starry sky, the hot clammy night and the smell of the eucalyptus trees, as Mitch could.
Calvin jumped at the first opportunity to pounce on her as soon as they were alone.
“How can you justify being so rude? You’re incredible and tonight a horrible embarrassment to any prospective customers we may have gained as well. I accept the fact that we were out enjoying a few drinks; but you’re on another planet, totally drunk! There’s no other word for it!”
“I want to go home. Drunk! …. I need a drink after that lot! And you’re a boring pain in the arse…and a good reason to be drunk!”
“Boring I may be, but some things are right, and I’m right this time, Baby. You’ll do this once too many times. It has to be your way or not at all; always your way. A drink! You need a drink? I don’t know where you put it all. Look at you!”
“You should look at the miserable excuse for a man you are; a drink might improve you!” She smiled at her thoughts in the dark.
Three vehicles set off down winding back roads, towards Karkloof, where they had a small holding surrounded by forest, Meryl and Neville leading in their mud encrusted jeep.
Fiona lapsed into a silent abstinence as Calvin ranted on. They said many things to regret later that night, as they were doing more and more during the last few years of their marriage, a marriage that was lying dieing in a heap at the side of a lake because of lack of attention.
There was always time for attention to be given to extra shifts at the restuarant or the all important stock take but not to an ailing wife, ailing from lack of consideration, understanding and loving.
“Fiona has to learn to be patient, wait for more important things to be done.” Calvin would have said to anyone wishing to discuss the subject.
“Calvin has no idea what beauty passes him by as he lives within the line of duty. It’s a kind of selfishness. Everything is more important than me!” Fiona’s possible input on the debate.
“Look around you and wake up to the fact that there is more to life than simply enjoying yourself. Consider others.” Calvin spoke again out loud.
“My eyes are open, but are yours? When last did you pause long enough in your working day to look in the mirror at yourself or even at the new Wisteria coming on again in the front garden that needs tying back?”
“Exactly as I thought!” she mumbled.
“What?” Calvin peered into the darkness as he lost his vision of the tail lights turning ahead. He had also just lost interest in Fiona’s mumblings.
They parked in front of a farmhouse set aside from the sprawling outbuildings just faintly visible in the dark. Towering behind were three of the oldest residents of the area, tall yellow wood evergreens. They had survived the hungry wood seeking furniture builders. Their extensive lazy branches were home to wood pigeons and the occasional visiting night owl.
As the party revellers stepped from their vehicles, they were greeted by a pack of dogs, all sizes and breeds.
Inside the house was rambling, open plan and cool.
It was at this part of the evening procedures when Fiona really began to sulk. If asked her opinion about the invite, the hosts lost points for disorganization as no wine was available not even on request! The men indulged in drinking cane spirits and mixers, while the women were subjected to coffee and biscuits. An African situation, the division of the sexes then developed.
The women sat in the lounge and the men remained in the kitchenette closer to the alcohol supply. More points lost. She thought,
“Wasn’t ‘going to our place for coffee’ just a cliché these days? She was actually drinking coffee! and both Sylvia and Meryl were boring.
Sylvia criticized Meryl’s lack of interest in her appearance as Meryl sat curled up on a large sofa with two cocker spaniel pups draped over her.
“It’s always jeans with you, have you anything else in your wardrobe?”
“Not much!” Meryl giggled, looking towards Fiona hoping for support or at least a smile.
“We have the club dance coming up soon, maybe I should take you shopping to Pietermaritzberg. Get something presentable. Make sure you have enough to spend and we could get you a complete make over! What do you think?”
“I’m a lost cause as far as your standards go, Syl. Make over! And my hair… or lack of! What about that, then?”
Fiona dozed in the corner listening to pieces of conversation that made little sense. She caught bits of Sylvia’s rant only because her voice was rasping and rounded, enunciating each word. She was going on about hair pieces, colorants and earrings.
Long after, when the evening was rehashed, Fiona did recollect herself at one point thinking, there wasn’t a single thing she had in common with the two women in the room. A strange thought to have stuck in her mind when so much was a blur.
But not so strange, considering the amount of coffee she had consumed between eleven thirty and one o’clock. Return from the inebriated brain, wow! She was awake suddenly, wide awake. Slightly embarrassed, she asked to be directed to the bathroom where she brushed her hair and drank large gulps of cool water straight from the basin tap. On her return to the lounge, the scene had changed, she hadn’t been gone that long?
Neville had squeezed in beside Meryl and was nibbling her ear, both of them stroking the pups. The others were collecting themselves ready to leave. Mitch stood behind Sylvia, his eyes boring into Fiona, willing her to glance his way. He liked what he saw, from her long unruly hair to her old flat leather scandals. She had a style of her own. It was the sad lost look he aimed to change.
How different life may have turned out for Fiona if she had stuck to that thought. That one, single thought.
“She had nothing in common with…..” But it was never only the thoughts or desires of one individual that drew two people closer together. Some one else was thinking. Mitch was planning, as Fiona had sat loathing her lot all evening. The moodiness on Fiona’s part, left her completely oblivious to the scrutiny she was getting from the kitchen earlier.
She had wished, as she sat there smouldering wanting to go home, that she could change her life in a flash. For Mitch, all that remained was, when.
Links to other chapters.