$278 Worth of Escape
I used to think that trust was something that you needed to give someone unconditionally until they broke it. Innocent until proven guilty, I suppose. Certainly it was an innocent view, but my aunt had always told me I was far too generous and trusting when I was growing up. Not surprisingly, I no longer think that - now, my belief is more that while you can trust people, you can only trust them to do what is best for themselves. If you can align your wants and needs with theirs, you can bend them to your will. Schemey and tricky I know, but hey, I learnt from the best.
My name is Mike (michael to my mother), and I am currently ... well, lets just call it 'existing' ... in Darwin, northern Australia. I am hiding in this god forsaken hole as its the furtherest I could get at the time I needed to run away - $278 got me a single flight to obscurity with Qantas. I have been here more than 3 years now - ever since I escaped from my life coming down around my ears. Why did I escape you ask? Well...
A bit over 3 years ago, I was living in Melbourne happily engaged to someone I considered my best friend. We did everything together, and she was the reason I existed. We had met at work, well my work, and hit it off almost instantly. At the time I was driving trams (or streetcars as you yanks call them!), and she was working an admin job in the office of a company that imported cheap widgets from China. You know the types, the kind of stuff they fill show bags and McHappy meals with. The day we met I was driving into the city in one of the relatively new trams the tram operator had. Now this particular tram had a big enough drivers cab that there was room for a second seat - it was designed like that for training purposes. As such, it was at a 90 degree angle facing the driver so the trainer could observe the drivers actions.
On this particular day it was rather dark, gloomy and wet. I was coming through during the peak, and as such, the tram was packed. Annoyingly, every stop someone wanted to get either on or off, and as a result, at every stop more wet and miserable passengers tried to board. Now normally, I don't take great pleasure in other peoples misery, but on this day, I was in a bad mood. I can't remember what its reason was, but I was having great delight in watching the poor passengers who couldn't board having to resign themselves of a bit longer of a wait in the rain for the next service. That was until I saw her.
We all hear of stories of 'love at first sight', but I never believed it before. Still don't as a matter of fact, but there was just something about her that grabbed me. I don't know, maybe it was lust? Amy was a smaller woman, standing at what I later learnt was just 162 cm (5"3'). What I first noticed was her long brown hair which was plastered to her head, her brown eyes, and cute little button nose. I have always liked the smaller - fitter, if you will - ladies and she was certainly a sight for sore eyes. Think Natalie Portman's body shape. She was dressed in a standard business attire that showed trim legs and just a hint of cleavage from her perky b cups.
It had been bucketing down and she had obviously been waiting a while. I had noticed that when the tram stopped, she allowed other people to push in front of her. Well, maybe not 'allowed', I could tell she wasn't happy with their rudeness, but she wasn't exactly what I would call imposing, and as such, was limited in her options. I don't know why I did it, and it wasn't something I had ever done before to a passenger, but I stared at her until she caught my gaze and looked at me. I could only imagine her thoughts on my gaze, but she wasn't expecting me to point at her, and then at the empty seat next to me. In what would become her 'hook' if you will (I could never say no to her when she did it!) she tilted her head on the side and gave me a puzzled look. Indicating with my finger, I pointed to her and then to the front door of the tram.
At this stage, I stood up out of the seat and opened the door into the passenger cabin. I got much angry noises from the passengers that had to get back off the tram so I could open the door, but when the passage way between me and the exterior door was clear, she poked her head in and gave me a puzzled look. Much to the interest of other passengers (always a bunch of busy bodies!), I asked if she wanted to get out of the rain. Within seconds she was sitting out of the rain next to me, and we were on the way again.
We got chatting, and to my surprise she rode with me until we reached the terminus. Much to my amazement, when I went to change ends on the tram (Bi-directional tram) she shyly admitted she had meant to get off ten minutes ago, and hadn't wanted to get off. Well, I know an opening when I see one, and as she got up to disembark at her correct stop I asked if she would like to get together at another stage.
Bad mood? What bad mood!
Coffee led to a date, which led to Amy moving in to my apartment 6 months later (much to her parents disapproval!).
At 26 she was younger than me, but she was everything I had ever wanted in a partner. Funny, smart as a whip, sexy (and enthusiastic in the sack!) and most importantly she got on well with all of my family. A little too well I was to learn at a later stage, much to my disadvantage. Her family was in Adelaide and while I only got to met her parents once, I had met her younger sister, Elisabeth, a couple of times when she came to visit.
At this stage, I suppose it is important to introduce the other 'actors' in my sorry sordid tale. I came from a large family, and have 4 younger brothers. At the time I was living in Melbourne and was 32. Robert, the next down was 26, Jason was 24, tom 21, and Tim just 14 and they all lived in Hobart with my parents. My parents were in their mid 50's and happily married to each other. We had always been close as a family, and as we had grown older and moved we had always made a point to get together a couple of times a year. We all had the same biting whit and fast minds, which lead to lots of jokes and kidding around - oh, and we all loved to pull a practical joke!
5 months after meeting Amy, it was time for one of our family get-togethers. This particular trip had been long in the planning stage, but we had decided to rent out a rather large house boat on the Murray River. We were going to pick it up at Murray Bridge in South Australia, and spend 2 weeks exploring the river. Splashing out on a bit of luxury, the boat was large enough for each of us to have a separate cabin, with each cabin sporting a queen size bed. After much deliberation (is it too soon?), I hesitantly broke the news to Amy. Suggesting she might like to join me and meet my parents led to an amazing night of what can only be described as full on "monkey sex".
As the oldest son, I took my job as chief mischief maker very seriously. As such, I didn't tell anyone that Amy was coming. To be totally honest, I had only really hinted about having a girlfriend at all, so nothing was expected. I won't go into detail, but it was easy to see that Amy was a hit amongst my family. I remember that my father pulled me aside at one stage to tell me that she was a keeper and that he expected me to treat her like a princess. I sometimes look back on this, and wish there had been similar advice given to Amy, although I don't expect it would have made much difference.
The holiday was a lot of fun, and we came away more - well, lets call it 'attracted', shall we? The L word still hurts. In hindsight, one of the things I do remember about the holiday was how well she seemed to get on with my brothers, often taking long walks with them while I relaxed or did something else. At the time, I was just happy that she had gotten on so well with everyone. It also lead to me inviting her to move in with me - naturally being male I made the 'official' request weeks after the actual event!
12 months later and 18 months after meeting Amy we attended a family reunion at my parents house. About an hour before dinner one night I had pulled my mother aside (after making sure Amy was out of ear shot) and showed her the ring. At the time, I put it down to sadness of 'losing' her eldest son, but her first emotion to me seemed to be sadness. She quickly hugged me, and told me it was a beautiful ring, before excusing herself to find my father. I was so excited and nervous myself at the time that I didn't pick up on her unease, but once again, in hindsight it was clear that something wasn't right.
That night I proposed. After much shocked silence (and I think my face was turning blue from holding my breath so long) she said yes. It wasn't the amazing "yes, yes yes!" (queue throwing herself at me) I was hoping for, but at the time the way she said yes wasn't important. What was, was that she had said yes.
In the weeks that followed our engagement we talked a lot about our ideal relationship, what we wanted, and what we thought the future held. Up until that point we had sort of skirted the issue like any new relationship - me not wanting to be the first to bring it up so as to not appear 'needy' or anything. She admitted that I had surprised her with my feelings, and that she needed time to come to terms with things and work out here 'head space', whatever that meant. Being the generous soul I was, I insisted she take as much time as she needed, and that there was no need to set a date until she felt comfortable with it.
Weeks later, Amy announced to me that she had been invited down to my parents house for a 'girls' weekend with my mother. I was particularly surprised at this as I hadn't thought that she had been in touch with my mother - or even the rest of my family. She explained that she didn't want it to be weird, but she wanted to just get away for a weekend by herself for a change to let loose and have some fun. I knew she didn't have many friends in Melbourne so to me it sounded reasonable - plus I was delighted that she had gotten on so well with my mother. On the friday night after work, I had driven her to the airport. During the drive, Amy had seemed distracted and pre-occupied, but I had just put it down as stress - after all, up until that point I had always been there with her whenever any of my family were around.
When I picked her up from the airport on Sunday night she seemed quiet and withdrawn. I could see something was bothering her, but thought best to give her the space she needed to deal with what ever was bothering her. By the time we had returned home she seemed to have returned to her usual self, although I could detect a trace of sadness - there were a few moments during the drive when I had caught her watching me, and I am sure there was a tear or few. Being the typical male, I had not really taken any notice.
That night in bed she seemed more 'clingy' than normal, and where she would normally drape herself over me after our lovemaking to fall asleep (I used to joke I was just another mattress to her), she seemed to want to to hold me tight - not that I was complaining.
The week continued in the same vain, and I often found her watching me with moist eyes. I didn't bring it up or make a deal with it, figuring it was something to do with my recent proposal. The one time I had brought it up, I was quickly told that I was being silly and that she loved me.
On thursday night, I had a phone call from my parents, and they surprised me with the news that they would be in Melbourne for the weekend and wanted to get together. Surprisingly, Robert was making the trip, and they had booked rooms at a near-by hotel. Being football season I wasn't surprised that he was coming and assumed that he was coming so as to catch an Aussie Rules game.
I arranged to pick them up at the airport on the Saturday morning. Having only a four seater car, Amy had elected to stay at home. When I met them at their gate, they all seemed to be cheerful, although I did notice that Robert didn't make his usual wisecracks. They were keen to catch up with Amy, and suggested a nice lunch somewhere. While waiting for their luggage I called her and she suggested a pub close to their hotel that had been recently renovated and now served nice meals.
Dropping them off at the airport, I had dashed home to pick up Amy. Coming home, I found her wearing one of her favourite dresses and sitting on the bed staring out the window. As I entered the bedroom, she turned to look at me, and I noticed her eyes looked like she had been crying. Wondering what could be the problem, I took a step forward so as to comfort her. As I did, a panicked look came across her face, causing me to stop in surprise. I must say that my first thought was that she looked afraid of me, and this puzzled me greatly. We stared at each other for a few minutes before she stood and brushed past me, saying that we should hurry as we didn't want to keep them waiting. She almost ran towards the bathroom, closing the door
I must say, that at this point, alarm bells started going off. It wasn't full blown panic, but I knew something wasn't right, and that I had either done something very wrong or something was majorly amiss. Moving slowly towards the door, for the first time I noticed one of Amy's small suitcases just outside the bedroom door.
Queue full blown panic.
Amy came out of the bathroom a few minutes later to find me staring at her suitcase. With a gasp, I heard her stop, and I slowly shifted my gaze to her face. Up until that point I had just been confused, thinking I had pissed her off somehow, but when she refused to meet my eyes, I started to feel sick.
After a few minutes she moved over and picked up the suitcase. Mumbling something about being late she carried the suitcase out the door. In a daze I did the obligatory male four point check (Spectacles, Testicles, Wallet and Watch) and followed her into the lift.
We rode to the basement car park in silence, before getting in the car. To this day I don't remember to drive to the restaurant - all I can remember is sitting there in the car park after we had arrived staring at the steering wheel trying to figure out what was going on. Obviously something was going on, but what? Why? Where? What did it all mean.
After what seemed like an eternity, Amy softly suggested we should go in and get this over with.
Her words, 'Get this over with' confused me and as I climbed out of my car and stood looking at her as she took her suitcase off the back seat. As she closed the door she looked up at me, finally meeting my eyes.
I will remember the look in those beautiful eyes until the day I die. She had always had the most beautiful brown eyes, the 'windows into her soul' I used to call them. Usually a pleasure to look into, at that moment, they were the saddest eye's I had ever seen. With a sob, she turned an hurried to the restaurant entrance, disappearing inside. In a daze, I followed.
Entering the restaurant, I saw my parents, and my brother sitting at a table next to the window. The table was a long table, with two seats on either side and one seat at the head of the table with the other end of the table against the window. My parents sat on one side of the table while Robert sat on the other side. As Amy was sitting down next to my brother, I thought it was weird that Robert would choose to sit there, as it meant that Amy and I weren't sitting next to each other on the same side.
Ever had tunnel vision? Where one minute there is a big wide world around you with noise, sound, smell and activity, and the next minute you couldn't tell if you were on fire? Yeah. Me neither before that. She had reached out and grabbed his hand. Grabbed it like it was the last life preserver on a sinking ship. I noticed that his hand went white. Then I noticed that neither of my parents were looking at me, but at Amy holding Roberts' hand as well.
Finally my mother turned to me and suggested I take a seat. I don't remember sitting down but I do remember my mother putting her hand on my arm. She didn't say anything - or at least I don't remember any words.
At this point the waiter arrived and started handing out menu's. Talk about comic timing, huh? I think he realised he had interrupted something as he disappeared almost as fast as he arrived.
I dropped my eyes and stared at the menu. I couldn't tell you what I was wearing, but I remember every single detail on that menu. Oh, I don't remember the words, or what was on the menu that day, but I remember the small sauce stain over the Entree heading. I remember the dog eared corner. The bottom where the laminated pages were starting to separate.
Then I heard the words that I had fantasised about hearing from a woman that I loved since I was young. Those words that brought both terror and absolute, unbridled joy at the same time to any husband or boyfriend the first time he hears them. They were spoken so softly I almost didn't hear them.
I can't exactly remember what was said after those three little words, but it was as if the oxygen had been sucked out of my lungs. I am sure that I wavered between consciousness there for a few seconds because the next thing I remember was my mother, from what seemed a great distance saying my name. I ignored her and managed to focus on Amy's face. She dropped her gaze before looking at my brother. I followed her gaze and found myself looking at my brother. He had an awkward look on his face and after a few minutes he nodded at me, before turning to Amy and kissing her. Kissing her lips. The lips that I slowly realised I would never kiss again.
Bastard. Oh, the rat bastard. She ... He ... Them ... Oh...
If you had have seen me at that moment, I am sure I aged 20 years in an instant. Slowly I realised my mother was still saying my name. I turned to her and saw the pain in her eyes. Oh crap, they had known all along. And if they knew, my brothers knew.
Oh crap. Bastards.
Then I realised that my father was speaking. Something about respecting their wishes. Giving them space. Blah blah blah. Something else.
All I heard was 'Giving them space'.
I would have loved to see my face at the instant I understood everything. It must have happened when I heard the words 'giving them space' because at that moment my mother went pale. Once again time stood still. I reviewed what I knew. I thought about what I wanted at that very moment, and realised that I could give them what they wanted and what I needed at the same time.
I stood up. Suddenly. That was a mistake, as everything swum before my eyes. Low blood pressure can be a bitch sometimes. My mother gripped my arm. My father stood suddenly as well. I am not sure why, but ... well, who knows? I no longer cared. I saw Amy cringe. I saw fear in Roberts' eyes. I looked at them. I hoped they were happy, I know I wasn't.
I turned and ran. Literally. Out the door. Down the street. I saw a taxi. I hailed it.
40 minutes later I was at the airport. Right. Give them space. How much space did they need? Sydney? Nope, not enough. Adelaide? Ah, Amy's family. Nope. Perth? Nah. Brisbane? Hmmm. Cairns, maybe? Beach? Nah, hate sand in my budgie smugglers. Darwin. Perfect. Ass end of the world. No family or friends, 4 hours flying time, departs in 2 hours.
30 minutes later I had my ticket. $278 worth of escape. Sick of iPhone going nuts, have nothing to say. Hmm. Little kid looking bored. Pacman should keep him happy for a while. Calls now his problem.
No luggage. No ties. No past.