We went to an organic vegetarian restaurant. I didn't even know they existed. The food was great though. I had a leek bake. I have no idea what was in it, but it was very filling.
Something had been bugging me. I think it was that Tracy was less surprised than I would have expected by somebody attacking the house.
“When I told you about the man attacking the house, you didn't seem very shocked. Does that sort of thing happen a lot?”
“Not frequently, but it is not that uncommon. Some cases of spousal abuse can be caused by a clash of cultures, a different set of beliefs. If you believe that women are less than men and that your wife has to obey you and your community believe the same. Then, when a woman leaves, the man feels she has shamed him and the only way to redeem himself is to retrieve her. Then, of course, his duty is to teach her the error of her ways. Of course, it can be something less complicated. Some men think of women as possessions. Generally, her best chance is to not be found. We try and keep the location secret and say it is only used for street kids to find their feet. It does not take much for that defence to fail. This is the 3rd attack that I have heard of. It is the first that got through a substantial front door. Thanks to you, it is also the first where the culprit was caught.”
“I hope they throw the book at him.”
“Thank god nobody was hurt.”
“Apart from him and he deserved it.”
“Quite. I think I might add a donation specifically for a better front door. If it wasn't for you, I would hate to think what could have happened. Maybe get Martha a taser. Now you have faced some of the pitfalls of girlhood, overaggressive men and bitchy girls. I think you handled it pretty well. I'm proud of you. I hope you are proud of yourself.”
“Thanks mum.” Changing the subject as quickly as possible. “Nice restaurant, you certainly know how to pick them.”
“Living with me, I will need to explain a few things. I am a terrible cook. I tried for years, used cookbooks, took lessons. My food still came out bland and tasteless or worse, over spiced, one way or another. At some point I had to accept, it was just not one of my gifts. Jeff, certainly let me know, and finally allowed me to hire a chef. When we divorced, I could hardly employ a chef to cook just for me, so I eat out a lot.”
“On your own?”
“Not always, but a lot of the time, yes. Money was not an issue, so I wasn't going to eat my own creations. Most of the friends I thought I had with Jeff, disappeared with the divorce. All the new friends I made here, didn't have any money. That doesn't bother me. But if I paid for them every time we went out, our relationship would change. I keep my financial independence a well guarded secret. When people think of you as rich, they treat you differently.”
“I can't argue with your choices. I have had some of the best meals of my life in your company. And I reckon this was even healthy.”
“Yes, as I said, I eat out a lot. The other side of that is that I had to find a lot of healthy restaurants or at least restaurants with healthy choices. Unless you either have or develop culinary skills there will be a lot more in your future. The other thing I want you to realise is that I get as much out of our relationship as you do.” I think either she is good at reading faces or I am very transparent. “Seriously, it is not all one sided. I was so used to eating alone. It was so normal for me that I forgot how much better it is to have company. And not just at meal times either. I need you as much as you need me.”
When I met her she didn't strike me as lonely, but I wouldn't have guessed that she had money either. I knew what she meant though. Sometimes you just exist, you get through the day as best as you can and if you do it often enough, you don't even notice that you are unhappy. Then a choice comes along and you can continue in your monotone world or take a chance on technicolour. I think so many of us aren't brave enough to make that choice, so sometimes the universe gives us a nudge. Without the assault, I probably would have gone through male puberty, become a man and lived a monotone existence. The universe nudged me in a rather harsh way. I was now going to become the woman I was always meant to be. I loved my father, I still love him wherever he may be, but the majority of my life has been an unhappy one. Sure, I had great times with him, but I was constantly having to ignore verbal abuse, stop physical abuse and never feel comfortable in my own skin. I was finally feeling more in tune with who I was, more relaxed with the world around me and truly happy for the first time in my life.
“I think I need to talk about money a bit more. I don't want you to get the wrong impression. I can't buy your happiness or your love. And I am not going to try to. On the other hand, I do have it and I won't be able to help myself from buying stuff for you. What I need from you is to not change who you are or how you behave with me. You are my daughter and I have the right to spoil you and I will enjoy doing so. Please don't take away my pleasure by refusing it or saying something is too much or I shouldn't.”
I smiled at her and said. “Would it make you feel better if I said all those things now, when I have no idea what you are talking about.” Then I started. “You really shouldn't have..” Before I could get any further, she put a finger on my lips to shush me.
“I wish Steph was that easy. I have to fight her just to pay for dinner.”
I put my serious face on. “I realised the first time we went to dinner....”
“When you paid for me.” she interrupted me.
“Yes, when I paid for you. I realised that I was relying on you for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. You knew that and still wanted to help. The money is great and all, but that first hug, the acceptance I found in your arms. That is what mattered to me. If you were broke tomorrow, I would not love you any less.”
“Yes. I don't claim to be the smartest kid, but I know what love is. It is not what you say, it is what you do, how you act. You act as though I matter, you care and show it. When you feel love from somebody, how can you not feel it back. I love you. I'm sure, as our relationship develops it will get deeper and stronger, but I already feel it.”
She blinked back tears, so I got up and went behind her chair and hugged her with our heads touching. “How can you be so wise, so young?”
“I have led a life of contrast. I have felt great love and its absence. This, at least, is clear to me. My father also taught me that life is too short, when you feel a good thing. Embrace it. Acknowledge it.” I squeezed her a bit tighter.
She drove us back to her granny flat. I shouldn't call it that any more. She drove us home. “Everything is now in process. It is just a waiting game. Whilst we are waiting, how would you like to spend your time?”
“What do you do?”
“As you know, I go out for my meals, a few are regular times with friends. I usually spend a few hours at 23 doing admin stuff. I spend a few hours each week, usually at the weekend managing my money. I would be happy to show you how I make my money, but you would have to do some studying to understand it. I read books and weather permitting, go for long walks. Worry less about what I do, and more about what you would like to do. Emphasis on like.”
“I have been thinking about what you said with my singing. I love doing it, but don't really like the attention. There are also so many talented people that I am not sure if it would be a great idea to hang all my hopes on it.”
“Fair enough. If you enjoy it, I think you should, at least, pursue it. Whether it ends up as a hobby or work doesn't matter.”
“I agree. But I want a back up plan. Do you really think I could learn how you make money?”
“Absolutely. It is not rocket science. I will have to think about how to go about it though. I have never even showed anybody. I thought about teaching Steph, but she was not interested.”
“That would be great. Apart from wanting more vigorous exercise, your lifestyle sounds like what I would like, too. I loved doing my Aikido training. I don't think I can continue that, it is too closely linked to Flower and you can't just show up with 8 years worth of training and no evidence of it.”
“Why don't you start from fresh with a different martial art?”
“Mmm...Yes, I think I would like that. What do you think I could learn?”
“I have no idea. You would have to research that. I don't mind driving you and I might even join you. It could be fun. So, do you want me to arrange voice coach lessons?”
“Yes. Do you think we should wait until we return from Thailand?”
“Umm.. that might be easier. Do all the research now and start properly when we return.”
When we arrived I went to my bedroom and found Christmas had come early. I had a pile of presents neatly wrapped on my bed.
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