Chapter 24 – Fate Stepped In

I resigned myself to loneliness all over again and each weekday I would wait
for the postie to bring me love letters from Australia. Countless nights (and
days) were spent pondering over the vulnerability of our long distance love
affair. Would it be a matter of “absence makes the heart grow fonder” or,
heaven forbid, “out of sight, out of mind”? I prayed for guidance from above
and sooner than I had expected, Fate stepped in…

In May 1981 Rick came home with a major piece of news – he had been transferred
to work in AUSTRALIA! We were to move back to Queensland with all removal and
shipping costs covered by GSI. We went on a shopping spree purchasing heaps and
heaps of household furniture, linen, crockery sets, etc., everything except
white goods and the kitchen sink. We gave Brother and Rahimah our fridge
and washing machine and in early July, we were on a Qantas flight back to
Brisbane. It was heart-wrenchingly difficult saying goodbye to Brother and
Rahimah, never knowing when I would get to see them again. So much so that I spent
the first half of the flight weeping in sorrow.

We stayed with Wanda and John for a few days and before the grown-ups caved in to
insanity brought on by the presence of our combined tribes of seven boisterous kids, we quickly signed up for a rental
property in Kawana Waters on the Sunshine Coast. We rejected the challenge
of sleeping on the bare floors until our worldly possessions arrived so we rented a holiday
unit in Cotton Tree, Maroochydore. The next step was to shop around
for a cheap reliable used car in Brisbane. We finally fell for the usual slick spiel
(A definite steal! Genuine bargain! Only one careful lady owner since new, yadda-
yadda- yadda…), and I drove out of the used car-yard in a white 1969 Automatic Mini,
driving gingerly in peak hour traffic following Rick (who was driving his sister’s car)
all the way back to Kawana Waters. (I named my first car “Lady M” and kept it for about five months before trading it in for a roomier red Gemini.) I contacted Wayne as soon as I could and he jumped into his Alfa
to come and join us in Maroochydore. It took a lot of will-power for us not to
rush into each other’s arms and we had to be satisfied with a ‘friendly’ peck on
the cheek instead. I think we succeeded in behaving as merely good friends or
if Rick suspected anything, he sure didn’t show it… After Rick left for work, Wayne & I
spent ten glorious days living in fantasyland just like a truly happy family. Even shopping for groceries with the three kids became a fun thing to do! Most of our days were spent fishing or going for long walks on the beach with the kids, digging for pippies (edible shellfish used mainly for bait) in the sand in the ebbing tides, enjoying fish and chips by the Maroochy River as we lazily watched the pelicans and seagulls around us. This halcyon period brought home to us how very much we wanted it to continue forever…

Wayne and I returned to earth with a thud when Rick came back on a few days’ leave to take delivery of our shipment so we could finally moved into the rental property in Warana Beach, Kawana Waters.
After enrolling Deej and Sharon into Buddina State School, Rick went back to
work in Longreach and I was left to unpack with little Nina supervising while her older
siblings were at school. I settled into a new routine and it wasn’t long before
I befriended Nancy, a high school teacher and her husband Des, a builder, from across the road. I introduced them to curries
and satays and as our friendship grew, Nancy was always there to mind my kids
whenever I needed to escape anywhere with Wayne. We remain good friends to this

With Rick working away from home for weeks at a time,
I had plenty of time to ponder over the future of the love
triangle I was in, not to mention the impact a break-up
would have on the three young lives Rick and I had brought
into this world. While I continued to pray for guidance from above,
I tried to maintain the facade we presented to family and
friends – that of a happy family. I became actively involved
in helping out at the kids’ school from the time Deej came
home with a note from one of his teachers, Janice,
regarding an upcoming International Day class activity.
As part of their Year 3 Social Studies education, a
classroom was to become the Les Bon Amies Restaurant
for a day and teachers were asking for parents’
co-operation in getting national costumes for their children
representative of the countries covered in the Social
Studies lessons, namely, France, Great Britain, Holland,
Italy, New Zealand and South East Asia. Furthermore, a generous
plateful of a traditional fare from the countries mentioned
would complete the experience. Bursting with enthusiasm,
I scratched around among some of our suitcases that had remained packed
and located a Malay costume that my sis-in-law Rahimah had sewn for Deej
to wear on the last Aidil-Fitri we had in Singapore. With the costume
dilemma solved, I turned my attention to making a few chicken curry puffs
(120 of them to be exact) for the special occasion, ensuring that the filling
were not overly-spicy for the young tastebuds. The event was a huge success
and the unexpected ‘reward’ for my contribution came in form of a
warm and special friendship with Janice which began that day and
lasted for many years after.

After the end of our six months’ rental lease, Rick and I bought our own home in Kawana Waters so I then had something to occupy me both physically and mentally when Rick was away. I threw myself wholeheartedly into creating a rose garden in the front yard and a vegetable patch out the back. My enthusiasm must have rubbed off on Rick as he too became interested in doing some home improvement. During his time off work, he went on the prowl for discarded bricks on the building sites in our area and would arrive home with my Mini heavily weighed down with the assorted brick collection in her boot. When he had accumulated enough, he built a rather impressive, albeit a touch unusual-looking, barbecue in the backyard. This was quickly followed by paving a section of our backyard leading to the barbecue. Pleased with his successful handyman work thus far, he decided it was time to tackle a more serious project – converting the lock-up garage into a living room… He got me to sweet-talk Deej’s mate’s dad to buy a window at tradesman’s discount and for his help, we gave him a carton of beer. After weeks of having everything in the house covered in white gypsum board (plasterboard) “dust”, he declared his mission a success and we celebrated by inviting Wayne and his good friends Bill and Julie for a feast of chili crabs.

Despite presenting an outward appearance of being a happy family unit, I found it harder and harder to carry on with the pretence and the situation had deteriorated to the point where I could hardly wait for Rick to go to work just so I could stop pretending. When he showed hardly any emotion upon discovering the loss of his wedding ring after an afternoon’s fishing off Point Cartwright one day, I somehow knew the end of our marriage was fast approaching. We started to drift even further apart. More and more he sought comfort from the bottle and took umbrage when I recoiled from his alcohol-fuelled advances in the bedroom. About the only thing that we enjoyed doing together was fishing – quite sad really, after almost 14 years of marriage… Fortunately for me, I had a confidante – my friend, Bev. We became friends not long after we moved into our Saleng Crescent home – our friendship began with a friendly wave and a cheery “G’day” from across the street where she lived and lasts to this very day. She was a single parent bringing up two of her three kids on a very tight budget and I was a lonely grass widow for six weeks out of every eight. She empathized with me, having experienced an unhappy marriage herself. Over endless cups of coffee either at her unit or at my place, we indulged in our ‘secret women’s business’ – from serious matters of the heart to frivolous discussion on which flea market or garage sale we would check out each weekend. Whenever Wayne came up from Brisbane for a visit, we would go out as a foursome with her partner at the time, Lloyd.

Knowing that one cannot survive on just love and fresh air alone, Wayne made up his mind to seek his fortune in the aviation industry in Melbourne. Desperate for possibly one last taste of romance, I told Rick that I needed some time to myself and that I was going to spend a few days on the Gold Coast. He reluctantly agreed to look after the kids so I threw a few clothes into an overnight bag and hopped on a Greyhound bus – to Brisbane, where Wayne was waiting for me in his Jag. He took me to meet his mum and step-dad and his sister Jillanne and her husband John, who lived next door. I was as nervous as a mouse in a cattery and wished the ground would open up and swallow me when his folks made a bee-line for the Jag to meet me for the very first time. I wondered what his mum thought of this Asian mother of three who had won the heart of her darling first-born son. I need not worry too much after all, for the dear, sweet woman welcomed me with open arms. She did however, have one concern, “Does Rick own a gun?” After a cup of tea with his folks, Wayne and I drove down to Surfers Paradise and spent three precious days together, making memories to last us until we could be together again. He put me on the Greyhound bus back to the Sunshine Coast before driving home to load up his car for the long drive to Melbourne. How well I remember the parting – tears streamed down my cheeks as I listened to Perry Como’s “For the Good Times” playing on the radio in the bus. I had two hours on the bus to collect myself – a hasty touch-up with the lipstick and powder and all too soon, it was time to paste a fake smile on my face as I stepped off the bus…

Time seemed to creep by ever so slowly when one is unhappy – there wasn’t much for me to look forward to anymore. Most of all, I missed the surprise visits that I used to get from Wayne. I occupied my time by becoming more and more involved with the kids’ classroom activities and the Cubs movement when Deej became a Cub. I volunteered as an aide in reading classes and went to great lengths making costumes for fancy dress events for my kids. Most of my days were spent doing humdrum tasks around the house or hanging out with Bev, with not much else to break the monotony. All I had to look forward to were the late night phone calls to or from Melbourne. As a result, both Wayne and I had huge phone bills at the end of each month and Wayne often sent me money to pay my bill to allay any suspicion. In the following couple of months after our separation, desperation and misery joined forces and began to consume my waking hours until I almost reached breaking point which lead to a plan for Wayne and me to be together again, if only for a brief rendezvous. He got his mate, Dave, who was also living in Kawana Waters to buy me an open plane ticket to Melbourne and asked him to give it to me during his postal round (Dave was the local postie at the time). The next time Rick came home on leave, I told him that I needed to have a break and that I intended to go down to the Gold Coast for a week. He didn’t object at all as I think he was secretly relieved to have some time with the kids without the marital tension anyway. He dropped me off at the Greyhound terminal in Maroochydore and didn’t even wait to wave goodbye. What a relief that was as I was able to purchase a ticket to the airport instead of the Gold Coast. Wayne was waiting for me at Melbourne Airport when my plane landed and we were united for ten glorious days before I reluctantly returned to reality. How long could this state of affairs continue for, only God knew…

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