A N Stuart
I met Shirley at a social function, where our mutual friend, Norman introduced us. 'Delighted to meet you', she gushed. 'Isn't this just the most wonderful do'.... crikey, I can't even remember why we were there. Some artisan fair, I'm picking.
Anyway, she was truly captivating and a real bundle of energy and fun. I hadn't met anyone quite like her before. She knew everyone, and everyone greeted her warmly. An older version of Pollyanna, was how I described her later. Age: well I don't know, hard to judge, as she acted way younger than what she was. I suppose she was in her mid forties, back then which was around 1982. I was 32 at the time.
I'd arrived in Christchurch about a year before I met her. My friends thought I was crazy for selling my house on the Coast, buying a manufacturing business and renting a tiny flat. But, to the contrary, I was in my element. I was forging ahead with my business. I was so scared of going broke and losing all the money from my house, that I was working 7 days a week and sometimes late into the night. All the money had gone into the business and even when I started making money, I ploughed it back in.
I was single again now and so was Shirley. So we hooked up and went out to a few social evenings. She was the manager of a shopping Mall in the inner city. A fairly stressful job, by all accounts. But one where she met legions of people. Some of them were quite high up on the snob list in Christchurch, which meant we got to go some pretty flash do's. Nights at the symphony, the theatre and the occasional opera. Plenty, of drinks and wah, wah's. Shirley had a spinster like bungalow, with a pretty garden and a couple of cats, which she swooned and crooned over. The house was in a stylish part of town and of course all her neighbours were sooo lovely and just wonderful. However, when we got together, we had a few laughs and she was always there if you wanted a night out and a bit of fun.
We shared our ups and downs over the next year or so. I asked her to come with me, over to the Coast for the weekend. I'd been invited to a cabaret, where Miss Universe, who was from New Zealand, was the guest of honour. I had offered her (Miss Universe) one of my beautiful white sheepskin jackets as a congratulation gift. Well, yes, I did want a photo or two of her modelling it and she agreed.
We stayed at Mum and Dad's of course. Shirley gushed and gooed over their new house and they were proud as punch, as they showed her through. Nobody had shown this much interest before, well nobody from the city and one as professional as Shirley!
All dressed to the nines, high heels and wraps, we trotted off to the cabaret in the local hall. Such a wonderful night. The local band, with the girl Rae singing ABBA. God, she was good. We drank and danced to the early hours. Shirley, was in fine fettle, making a big fuss of Dad. Was Mum grimacing? I'd had too much to drink, so I didn't take too much notice at the time, giving it a glancing thought. Next morning, Mum was in a mood. Dad was out the back shed showing Shirley his lathe.
But, not too worry, Shirley bounded into the kitchen, gave a delighted shriek over something Mum had made and everything was OK.
Today, we're going to my friend Lorraine’s for lunch. They wanted to show her around a bit. So, we headed off to have a look at the river and the wharf, before returning for a BBQ lunch and a few drinks. Not too much, as we were leaving to drive back to Christchurch late afternoon. Honestly, all the gang were there and you would be forgiven for thinking that Shirley hadn't always been in the throng of things. Laughing, joking, cajoling even. It was freaky.
Now that we were back to our real lives, and when I had a quiet moment, I was able analyse some of the weekend. I must say her flighty, scatty ways were beginning to get on my nerves. I decided to back off Shirley a bit.
It may have been a week or two, before we caught up again. She popped around to my home one evening for a drink and to inform me how her weekend over the Coast had gone. 'Whoa! back the truck up!' You just popped over there (a 3 hour drive) for the weekend without telling me. Yes, I know, it's a free world. But, hey, why the secrecy?
This took me by surprise. But, she didn't seem to notice my reaction and I couldn't quite articulate what I was feeling. What was I feeling? I don't know, betrayed, suspicious, what? Anyway, she prattled on telling me how she’d been on the phone to my mate Lorraine on Thursday night and decided on the spur of the moment to drive over on Saturday morning. I don't think she even considered me in the equation at all. I had the feeling that all of a sudden these were her people and I didn't even feature!
'What a wonderful time, Eva, really. We went to the pub on Saturday night (my local) the local lads were playing.' Isn't that Ian a hard shot. He had us in stitches as he told his old jokes.' Old jokes! Christ ....I'm thinking, you've only known him 5 minutes and you're talking like you've known him for years. What's going on here.
'Where did you stay?' I asked nonchalantly. 'At Lorraine's house, and I met Stephen. You know him' 'Yes, I know him' I sorta fancied him at one time, but I'm over that now and thankfully so. It appears he's the reason she was keen to get back. They had caught each others eye while she was there a couple of weeks ago and now it's all go. Yep, they're in the throe's of a fully fledged love affair. God, now I have to listen to all the antics, moon watching, Oh, he's so shy, does it matter that I'm 10 years older. What have his girlfriends been like in the past.
On and on, if she wasn't going on about him, then it was all this chat and gossip about MY mates. It was the weirdest thing I had ever experienced. She finally left and I was glad.
This was to be the pattern now. Shirley drove over on her own every other weekend. Visiting my friends even popping in to see my Dad. I say that, because I'm sure it wasn't Mum she went to see. Speaking to Mum on the phone one night, I was under no illusions on what she thought of her. Dad, of course thought she was the bee's knees.
'Ohh, your father is a trick, we get on so well' On her return, she'd give me a blow by blow commentary on MY world. How everyone was doing, their little idiosyncrasies. Yes, I know they do that. They're my friends, my life remember!
'You know' she'd say 'If I lived over there, I know exactly what I would do. I would become really good friends with Ann and John Brown. Now, it's my feeling that they are the ‘who's who’ in town and if I honed in on them I would have the keys to the town. This is what I'll do if Stephen and I get married!' What the fuck!
The love affair was still going strong, though Stephen wasn't one for public displays of affection and of course Shirley, who couldn't help but skip around when she was deliriously happy and show her happiness to all and sundry, wasn't quite able to understand exactly where she was with him. Meanwhile, I was privy to the intimacies that were taking place, as she elaborated with great gusto their hot sex they were having in the most unusual places, as he was still living at home with his Mum!
Christmas was looming and she begged to stay with me at my parents place. I wasn't keen, as I'd had a gutsful of her by now. Everything about her now drove me nuts, her voice, her silliness, her taking over my life and my friends. I weakened and said yes.
By now I had met Bryce, who was going to end up being my husband sometime in the future, but for now he had taken my mind off Shirley and her shenanigans. I'd confided in him as to what was happening on the Shirley front. He was mildly amused, and tried to understand my frustrations at the situation. After Christmas, I would have it out with her and cut all ties, though now it was difficult, as she was embedded into my other life over there.
Christmas had it's ups and downs. 'It's so lovely to be spending quality time with you and your family and quality time with Stephen and all our friends' I thought, what dream world are you in. By now I had been getting feedback about how her ‘new friends’ were growing weary of her and her 'quality times' with them! Stephen wasn't returning her calls and my friends were telling me how he has become interested in someone else.
I ran into Norman a few years later. Bryce and I were on holiday up the Sounds, where he now lived. He was still bone carving and he'd built himself a great house and studio in the bush. We called in to see him and have a cuppa tea. I told him how the saga of Shirley had played out and how she had taken over my life, how she had wanted my life to be hers, how she had desperately tried to make it hers, but failed.
The word here, he said is 'desperate' 'She was desperate to shed her lonely life for yours'