One by one, my girlfriends married. L, who was one of the ‘nightingales’ beside me at choir, married and moved to Canada and A, who was at boarding school with me, did the same. J, who went to cramming college with me made it into university then went bush to build a mud brick house in the wilderness with her partner. My oldest and dearest friends are still my friends today, but always far away.
I spent the months after arriving back in Sydney job seeking, house hunting and baby sitting. My sister-in-law was pregnant when she left my half brother in Hong Kong, ostensibly, for a holiday to visit her parents. My mother agreed to let her stay at our North Bondi home. She’d fooled my brother into signing a blank cheque and withdrew a large sum of money from his account then cashed in the return tickets. I cared for the children when she worked the evening shifts and gave her what spare cash I had.
Then my father died and left his fortune to his sons. Instead of pursuing her husband for a settlement, my sister-in-law decided to claim my mother’s house. Her reasoning: my father would have wanted her to have it. It was never going to end well and it didn’t. At least I succeeded in talking her out of a legal challenge and compensated her with a re-settlement package. Though I continued to offer my support she sent her children elsewhere whenever I visited and one day, claimed that they were too traumatised to see anyone from our family and cut us off. It would be thirty years before I saw one of my nephews again. His brother had died young, from an overdose.
I spoke to my father two weeks before he died. I was engaged and to be married at the end of the year; Dad said he would come to the wedding. When he died my mother said we must marry within a hundred days or wait three years, according to custom. My eyes were swollen in my wedding photos; I didn’t sleep the night before.
My sister had recently migrated to Sydney with her family. They didn’t have anyone to care for their three year old daughter so I said they could bring her. My fiancé threw a tantrum and threatened to throw them out of the wedding if they did: I’d agreed not to have children at the wedding. I was breaking my promise. So I offered to cancel the wedding. We both slammed our phones down. He called back later and backed down; but that night, instead of coming to bed he talked to his brother and sister on the phone. A marriage that started this way was never going to end well, and it didn’t.