Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mail order Bride, Chapter 3, Gilbert, the Weak-willed Wimp

Gilbert, the Weak-willed Wimp

Two years had elapsed since the tragic shooting and Emma’s deportation back to the Philippines. Imelda was shopping with her kids at St Luke’s Square in Sandringham. They were at the food court which sold Long John Silver fish and chips, McDonalds Hamburger, Japanese Sushi and seafood salad, Chinese chop suey and fried rice, KFC and other ethnic food. While waiting in line for Spanish food, Imelda couldn’t believe her eyes. Not very far away from her, stood a Norman incarnate and a double of Emma queuing at KFC. Emma was in a body hugging dress, her hair had streaks of blonde, and she was clinging tightly to her man.

“Hi Imelda! Gilbert, Imelda comes from the same village as me in the Philippines,” introduced Emma.

“Hello, Imelda, it is good for Isabella to have a friend from home.”

“Isabella????” wondered Imelda.

“I need to go to the ladies to powder my nose, Imelda, you come with me,” pointing towards the ladies room.

Inside the ladies room, at the powder room next to the wash basins, Emma told Imelda, “I am now Isabella, no body knows I am Emma. You don’t tell nobody about me being Emma.”

“What? What are you doing here?”

“After my baby Christine was born, I left her with my parents, got a complete makeover, change my name to Isabella. Used what little of what Norman left me, bought a new passport and a round ticket. I came to Auckland on a three months tourist visa. Within two months, I meet Gilbert in the pub. He asked me to marry him.”

“Emma! Emma! Emma! You never learn.”

“Of course I do, I was desperate. My tourist visa was expiring in two weeks and I was in a great hurry to get hitched to a Kiwi man. I slept with men to make them marry me. Don’t worry, I make sure I never get pregnant. I didn’t get any luck until Gilbert came along. Gilbert is a good man, he has never been married. He is very shy and old fashion but he treats me like a princess. Gilbert is such a naïve person that it takes very little to make him a happy bunny. But don’t you dare ever utter a word about my past.”

Gilbert loved Isabella. All his life, he’s been called a boring wuss and a weak-willed wimp. He was treated as a persona non grata because he just didn’t belong to any group. Girls shun him because of his rotund shape, short and pimply face; his premature grey hair didn’t give a good impression with the opposite sex. The cruel school kids called him “Billy Bunter of Greyfriars School”. He was their New Zealand version of the overweight schoolboy oaf William George Bunter, known to one and all as the 'Fat Owl of the Remove'. He didn’t play sports and wasn’t interested in watching them on TV. He had spent most of his life with his mother which gave him a reputation of a mummy’s boy. It was no cliché but it was true. He had lived with his domineering mother who made him only vegemite white bread sandwiches for lunch. He went to the pub and had just one drink, and he had to go home even after his mother was long dead and buried. He lived alone in the old house since his mother died. Gilbert was a long distance delivery man dispatching frozen pies to small towns in the North Island. He enjoyed the long solitary hours when he was alone driving and listening to Elvis songs.

When Gilbert heard Isabella’s plight, he felt sorry for her. He invited Isabella to stay in his spare room when Isabella said she couldn’t afford the motel room she was staying. He had no other motivation apart from helping a poor woman from the Philippines. His mother had always taught him well to help the poor.

Isabella told him, “I was looking for a girlfriend who was working as a nurse in Middlemore hospital, but I couldn’t find her.”

A perfect gentleman Gilbert was, he told Isabella that she could stay as long as she wanted and she was free to use the kitchen and anything in the pantry. Soon Isabella knew that she had to act fast because her three months was up.

“Gil, I really love it here in New Zealand but I have to go back on Friday.”

“Why is that?”

“You see, my Visa is due this Friday, I will be an over-stayer if I don’t leave.”

“Is there anything I can do to make you stay?”

“First, you have to promise you love me, then you have to go to the registry’s office and marry me.”

“Is it that simple, Isabella, you are the first woman who loved me, and the first woman I love. I will do anything you want me to do.”

That night, Isabella left the tiny cot she was sleeping in the little spare room and moved to Gilbert’s room. Gilbert thought he had died and gone to heaven. His Mother’s voice was nagging him, but he tried to shut his ears, she is going to be my wife tomorrow, he reasoned. One day won’t make any difference.

The next day, they went the department of internal affairs at 99 Albert Street to apply for a marriage license. Gilbert happily paid NZ$170.00 for a Civil Union License and had a ceremony in the Registry Office three days later.

Gilbert was beaming from ear to ear, he was on cloud nine. He didn’t mind spending almost all his savings to buy the diamond solitaire wedding ring that Isabella wanted from Michael Hill Jewelry. Isabella wanted a bigger diamond, but Gilbert explained that he didn’t have that much money.

“What have you done with all your money? You can’t afford to buy a ring your wife likes?”

“Isabella, I am sorry I can’t afford a more expensive ring, I am just a humble pie delivery man. We have to save for a rainy day.”

“Then you shouldn’t have proposed to me, I could have married a rich man. There were many men in the pub who wanted to marry me, and I was blind to choose you.” Isabella sulked and refused to let Gilbert to touch her.

“Sweetheart, I promise you, when I save up enough money, I will buy you the biggest ring.”

“You said it!!! Promise! Cross your heart and die!”

Gilbert was sad that Isabella would swear like this and at the same time smile at her broken English that she had misquoted “Cross your heart and hope to die”.

“Isabella, I loved you the moment I laid eyes on you. Now, we need to go to another place.” Gilbert went and bought a big bunch of carnations.

“Thanks, Gil, these are beautiful, but I prefer Roses.”

“Sorry love, these are not for you, these are for Mum.”

“Mum? But your mum is dead.”

“Yes, she is dead, that is why we are going to see her.”

Gilbert drove west to the Waikumete Cemetery and Crematorium at Great North Road. They went to the west lawn and Gilbert left the flowers at the vase at the head stone. He removed the not so old dead flowers. It was very apparent that Gilbert came to Waikumete very often.

“I come here on the first Sunday of every month,” Too often for Isabella’s liking.

“Mum, today is my happiest day. I am a lucky man to marry beautiful Isabella. You would love her.”

Isabella was muttering in a distance, “When is he going to grow up? I have to compete with a ghost.”

Isabella did not enjoy playing a good housewife. Fortunately Gilbert did not demand too much of her. He continued to do all the house work like when he was living alone. Gilbert brought home a lot of pies which he said were factory rejects so she didn’t have to cook too much. Most of the time, Gilbert was on the road anyway. She pretended that Gilbert was Robert. She didn’t feel it was unfair to Gilbert. She was sleeping with him wasn’t she, she reasoned. The wimp should count himself lucky that she married him. She just shut her eyes and her senses were besieged by thoughts of Robert, of everything they used to do, everywhere they went. Besides, Gilbert had no confidence in himself. She suggested he went to the doctor to get Viagra, the little blue pill which Imelda suggested. But no, Gilbert was too embarrassed to go.

A leopard does not change her spots, Isabella pined for the kind of affection and attention she received from Robert, the poor man who had died because of her flirting. Robert was the prince of romance and he knew how to please a woman’s heart and a woman’s body. Gilbert was plain old boring Gilbert who never exercised. Isabella felt the grass was greener over the fence. She’d blocked out the part that Robert had told her he didn’t love her, and their relationship was purely a physical one.

“Imelda, I am bored stiff with Gilbert.”

“What has he done now, didn’t you say he is a good husband?”

“It’s not what he has done, it is what he has not done. He is such a weak-willed man, I read from Dear Abby letters that he is the worst sort of man to marry. He will not push his way in the world. He lacks the energy necessary to make his mark. He is such a stick-in-the-mud that he eats the same lunch 365 days a year.”

“Isabella, Isabella, when Norman was too dominant, you complained, now you complain about Gilbert, what do you want?”

“I want a strong man to love me, to be my master, not wishy-washy like Gilbert who will not exert himself.”

When Gilbert was driving his truck to places like Te Kuiti, Whakatane and Tauranga, Isabella put on her war paints and took the bus and went to a pub on the North Shore where no one might recognize that she was Gilbert’s Asian girl. Isabella sat listlessly as she nursed her little vodka.

“Hi! Sheila, all alone?” a man in an Aussie drawl - blew smoke in her eyes.

Isabella smiled, for a while, she thought it was Robert. No, Robert was dead, perhaps he was Robert’s twin. The look on his face mesmerized her.

Greg smiled back, “I am all alone too, my name is Greg, and I am from Brisbane, can I buy you a drink?”

So it was, one drink, two drinks, three drinks and one too many, Isabella could hardly get on her feet. She had an overwhelming desire to cling onto Greg, to hug him tightly so she wouldn’t fall and to give him a wet kiss like she used to give Robert.

Greg asked, “Where do you live? I’ll drive you home.”

Isabella was so drunk that her speech was slurred. Greg couldn’t understand her Togolog accent. Greg took her right hand and supported her and took her to his car. He drove her to his motel and she hesitated going into the room with him.

Mistaking her reluctance to be modesty, Greg said, “Come in and have coffee and play cards. When you feel better, I will drive you home.”

They continued to drink beer and sat on the bed playing poker.

After a while, Greg said, “This is boring, let’s play with stakes, how much money do you have?”

Greg soon won all the money from Isabella and he suggested they play strip poker. Isabella giggled when Greg deliberately let her win while he stripped down to his briefs. Then in quick succession, he got Isabella down to her black bra and panty. He beat her again and they were both in their birthday suits.

“Let’s dance,” Greg suggested. The two of them first gyrated, and shook their bums. Then a slow dance as they entwined together like two pythons squeezing each other. There was chemistry and fireworks and they had tender moments and she spent the night with him.

“Robert, don’t leave me, don’t leave me.” Isabella kept moaning and saying,

Greg let her imagine him to be her Robert who ever he was. It didn’t matter, he didn’t know this Asian woman and when he finished his conference in Auckland, he would have enjoyed his “one night stand,” or a triple “one night stands”. The next day, they didn’t leave the room except for when Greg got beer and fish and chips. Isabella got up, and in the shower, she thought her lucky stars had smiled on her. In the shower, she kept imagining that Greg was her second Robert.

Greg told her not to leave, “I will be back after my meeting.”

For three blissful days and nights, Isabella was like a queen in that little motel room. All she did was eat, drink, watch TV and had casual romping on the bed with Greg.

On the morning of the fourth day, Greg told her, to wake up and go home.

“Are you leaving me?”

“No, I am going back to Brisbane.” replied Greg.

“Please take me with you to Brisbane.”

“No, I can’t, I am married.”

“Will I see you again, honey?”

“I don’t think so, my job here is finished, my boss won’t be sending me here again. We had fun didn’t we? There was never anything between us, we had a good fling, that’s all.”

Isabella sat quietly and watched Greg pack up his stuff and leave after giving her a wet slurpy kiss on the mouth.

She wanted to scream, “You bastard!” and throw a pillow at him.

But then, she had gone with him and offered herself to him in the first place. She took a long shower, got dressed. She only left when the chamber maid came to clean the motel room.
“Sorry, mam, you have to go now. The next guest is checking in and I have to vacuum the floor and change the sheets,” the Samoan cleaner told Isabella.

“That was fun, I must do it again.”

So again, and again, and again she went on her rendezvous. She met men from all walks of life, she was in control, she chose the men she wanted. Isabella even dressed up as a young Filipino girl back-packer to go to the Globe Bar known to tourists as the sleaziest bar in Queen Street. In the dim light, with her short stature and her heavy make up, she managed to fool the male back-packers that she was a young chick. She didn’t fool the bouncers but they pretended they didn’t suspect her real age. They didn’t stop her from getting in for free because she was quite a character and attracted a lot of attention. Clients often bought her drinks because she let them hug her and kiss her. There were free drinks on Friday for ladies and she became a resident fixture of the bar. She enjoyed the sleazy games and watching the tourists in simulating the sex act. With free flow of copious alcohol and the closeness of the male bodies, Isabella lost all inhibition and joined in the hedonistic partying. The bouncers teased her, the Grandma Tina Turner of Philippines, they even let her take the mike and sing her raunchy songs and tell her risque stories and jokes.

After a while, she got quite tired of this life. She was afraid her double life might be exposed and she might get deported again. She was worried about Aids. At the back of her mind, there was always the ogre Norman. She was always plagued by his fat ugly face. He haunted her like a strain of bubonic plague. She could not get rid of his condescending look and comments. “Slut! Whore! Hooker! Bitch!”

The kinder Gilbert treated her, the worse she became, and she felt guilty though not remorseful. She had a battle to keep the communication between them on an even keel. Gilbert had no social life except that little drink at the pub. He went to his mother’s grave every month. He kept all his mother’s old stuff.

Isabella wanted to spruce up the house and called the Salvation Army to take away his late mother’s stuff.

For the first time Gilbert showed a strong reaction or opposition to Isabella, “Over my dead mother’s body, these are my memories of mum and my life.”

Isabella yelled back and rolled her eyes in despair. “They are giving me creeps and nightmares, bloody things from pre war days.”

The boys from the Salvation Army said, “We sit in the truck, when you decided what you want to do, we come back.”

They laughed, they had been to such scenarios a hundred and one times. One partner was a Sila Marner, and one was not. The Sally boys had to leave empty handed.

The Norman monster kept coming back to haunt her. She cringed at the nightmares, Isabella couldn’t sleep, she couldn’t eat. She went through cycles of low when Norman was taunting her. She was ecstatic with sweet Robert memories. She would jump up and down with excitement at thoughts and images of Robert touching her arms and her body. Her face would lighten up. She won’t let Gilbert exercise his conjugal rights. She kept saying she had a headache or she was too tired. Gilbert could not make out what this was all about and thought she was homesick for Philippines.

“Darling, I think you must be longing for home. I have a good idea, let us both go back to Philippines for a holiday. Seeing your family will be good for you.”

“No, it won’t.” Isabella was afraid that Gilbert would find out about her daughter.

Isabella went to Imelda and told her of Gilbert’s plan for a holiday.

“Go for it, why not?”

“But! baby Christine?”

“Grow up! Emma, who told you to tell the truth about Christine? Just tell him that you are her aunt.”

Thankful for Imelda’s suggestion, she went to St Luke’s Shopping Mall and at Farmers and K Mart, she bought lots of presents for her family and for Christine. Gilbert did not care. He was happy to see Isabella happy and lively again, and her depression gone.

It was the first time that Gilbert had been in a plane and overseas, and he was really excited. Arm in arm Gilbert and Isabella walked out of the Manila airport. Then they took a colorful motorcycle taxi and checked in a middle range motel. Gilbert told her that he had to watch his money. The next day, they boarded a Philippine Mini Jeepney bus and traveled for four hours to Isabella’s home town.

Everybody in the shanty town was there to meet them. Isabella was given a royal welcome. Holding her mother’s hand was a little beautiful Eurasian girl of four. She had light blue eyes and streaks of blonde hair in her mop of wavy long black hair. This little girl was the most beautiful thing anyone had laid eyes on. Christine had such an infectious smile that she melted Gilbert’s heart. He was wondering how lovely if he and Isabella could have a little girl like that.

“Say hi to your Aunt Isabella and Uncle Gilbert, Christine.”

Gilbert gave the gift wrapped Barbie doll to Christine.

Isabella had a sharp pang of pain in her heart. Tears welled up in her eyes. She fought the temptation of grabbing Christine in her arms. She did not want to let on that Christine was her child. Isabella was worried her emotions might get carried away and betrayed her secret.

“Wake up, Isabella, Gilbert doesn’t know your past,” a little voice told her.

That night, lying on the bed in her mother’s bedroom, Isabella twitched and whimpered in her mother’s narrow bed, she hardly slept a wink. Gilbert was as usual lost to the world and snoring like a steam engine, despite the hot humid air.

Her heart told her to acknowledge Christine, but her head warned her, “Remember Norman.” The episode of the furniture and the Salvation Army boys showed to Isabella that Gilbert didn’t listen to her one hundred per cent.

Isabella’s head was in turmoil. Her mother and Gilbert knew she wasn’t happy.

Her mother told Gilbert, “Isabella misses the city, take her back to Auckland. She is not used to the village with no electricity and water supply.”

Back in Auckland, Isabella got worse, she became listless. Besides fighting the evil ghost of Norman and love ghost of Robert, she missed Christine so much. She went to Imelda. Imelda always knew what to do.

“Well, Emma, you can pretend and lie to Gilbert that you want to adopt Christine. As long as Gilbert doesn’t know that Christine is your love child, you will be fine. But make sure you don’t tell, because if Gilbert finds out, it will be like Norman all over again. Hell has no fury like a woman scorn, only it is a man scorned in your case. And a man scorned is worst than a woman. ”

Isabella went home and cooked Gilbert a delicious Kiwi dinner, when Gilbert came home, the scrumptious smell of the roast leg of lamb wafted out of the kitchen. She laid candles on the table, with a beautiful rose centre piece. Gilbert and Isabella normally sat in front to the TV and ate a haphazardly cooked dinner or his factory-reject pie.

“What a nice surprise, what special occasion is this, love?” asked Gilbert.

Isabella took out the photographs they had taken in Philippines. She deliberately lingered looking at Christine’s photographs.

“What do you think of the poor children in the slums of Philippines? My friend says that the World Vision sponsors children?”

Then she gave Gilbert his beer, put his legs up and proceeded to massage his shoulders. Then she popped the question, “What do you think of Christine?”

“She is a beautiful little girl, pity she is growing up in the slum.”

Isabella took her chance, “Gilbert, I always like children, and we don’t have any of our own, what do you think of adopting Christine?”

“Let me think about it. We are not young you know.”

“You will make me the happiest woman on earth if you say yes.”

Gilbert thought about it, perhaps having a little child would make Isabella’s depression go away, especially that beautiful Christine. He had to admit he was very much charmed by her, “Okay, I will find out how to go about it.”

Isabella whooped with joy, she danced the Spanish bolero and pranced and she hugged and kissed Gilbert so affectionately that he was wondering what he had done to deserve this. Gilbert went down to the immigration to enquire what he had to do. The procedure was simple enough. Gilbert had always had a steady job and there was no other child to complicate things. Besides with Isabella being a Filippino herself. It would be easy for Christine to adjust and adapt in New Zealand.

Isabella flew to Philippines to bring Christine to New Zealand. But not before she made Gilbert spend hundreds of dollars renovating the spare bed room into a pink little Barbie doll’s bedroom. When he protested, she argued that he should be grateful to be getting an instant child and not to have to spend thousands if she were to give birth to a baby. Her enthusiasm won him over.

“Christine! Christine! Christine, call me mummy.” Isabella hugged Christine openly, having no fear that her dark secret would be exposed.

As the Air Zealand flight took off from Manila to Auckland, Isabella clutched Christine’s little body. She hardly believed herself that fate was smiling on her. She was coming home with her baby and the old fool Gilbert hadn’t a clue that Christine was her own.

At the entrance of the arrival hall, Isabella had a bout of nauseated anxiety.

“What if Gilbert suspects?” Isabella stalled and panicked. She couldn’t move her legs. It was as if her legs had been cemented to the floor. The anxiety was uncalled for.

Gilbert was waiting in great anticipation to be a new father. He stood at the entrance of the arrival hall an hour before their arrival time. He had a big bunch of roses for Isabella and a little white stuffed lamb for Christine. Isabella was misty-eyed, and the only thing that clouded her elation was her conscience. Gilbert the “rough-and-tumble” man had only given her flowers once, the day he proposed to her. Here he was being soft in his head. Gilbert took them to McDonalds and ordered a cheese burger happy meal for Christine, a fillet of fish burger for Isabella and a big Mac for him.

When they got home, Gilbert opened the door of Christine’s room. It was done with pink curtains, the frilly table cloth was covered with lace and ribbon, the bedspread was a pink care bear pattern. There were many Barbie dolls and a Barbie truck. Isabella wished she was in Christine’s shoes.

“Oh Daddy! Oh Daddy! I love you, I love you.” Christine clung so hard to Gilbert giving him kisses that Isabella was jealous. The green-eye monster raised its ugly head. She could see that Christine could easily twist Gilbert around her little finger. Gilbert had spent more money on Christine than he had spent on her, and Isabella was jealous.

“Enough! We both are tired from the long flight. Christine, you take a shower and go straight to bed.”

“But Mummy, Daddy I am not tired.”

“Its okay love, you can stay up tonight,” said Gilbert.

It was Isabella who had the long shower to cool her fuming. “The little slut better watch her steps.”

“Christine, sleep tight. Tomorrow we take you to see Grand ma,” Gilbert said as he tucked Christine in.
“Oh bloody hell! Do we have to go through that again?” Isabella talked to herself.

Isabella had protested going to the cemetery claiming that the graves gave her creeps. During the initial months of their marriage, Gilbert requested Isabella to go with him on his monthly trip to his mother’s grave. He could sense Isabella was reluctant to go and wasn’t sure if the graves were responsible for her moods. Gilbert did not insist on Isabella going with him. Subsequently he went alone and apologized to his mother on Isabella’s behalf.

The next morning, Isabella told Gilbert, “Gil, I have a terrible headache, I am not going to the cemetery.”

Gilbert treated Christine as his own daughter. After each of his trips, he brought something for her.

She was as Isabella told Imelda, “She could wind him around her little finger.”

“Isabella, I think you are just jealous, she’s after all your daughter. Don’t you do anything that might jeopardize your dicey situation.”

When Isabella got home, she told Gilbert, “We have to make some very fundamental changes in the family. We can’t afford to have you buy presents for Christine all the time. We got to save up for her education.”

Of course, Gilbert was not to know why Isabella suggested this. He was only trying hard to be accepted as Christine’s new father and after all, it was Isabella’s idea to adopt her. To keep peace in the family, Gilbert listened to Isabella. The next time he came back, he was empty handed.

Christine threw a tantrum, “Where’s my present?” and refused to eat her dinner.

“Suit yourself!” Isabella told Christine. “You forget how it was to go hungry in the Philippines? You don’t want to eat, you don’t eat.”

“Sorry! Mum,” Christine quietly ate up her dinner.

Isabella smiled to herself. She still had the upper hand and was the mistress in this house after all, and Gilbert would do anything she told him. The ghosts of Norman and Robert were still haunting her. Isabella had her ups and downs, at the drop of the hat, she would accuse Gilbert of ignoring her and loving Christine more than her. Without Gilbert knowing it, Isabella slipped into manic depression.

Christine Gilbert took Christine to the Sandringham kindergarten at Kenneth Avenue. Isabella avoided talking to the other mothers because she was conscious of her Togalog English. She was paranoid that people were saying she was a mail order bride. When Christine brought back her art work, Isabella threw them away because she didn’t like clutter round the house. Sometimes, Christine had made a special art piece for Gilbert, and Isabella threw it out as well. When Christine protested, Isabella threatened her.

“I send you back to the Philippines, you little beggar.”

Christine threw a big tantrum and reported to Gilbert when he came back.

“Daddy, mummy wants to send me home.”

One day, Gilbert got a telephone call from Christine’s teacher.

“Your daughter seems very unhappy and unstable at home. She is a very happy child in kindy. She says her mum hates her.”

When Gilbert asked Isabella, she replied, “It’s a load of rubbish. Christine is just imagining things. If I hate her, would I have spent so much money to adopt her, a slum girl from the Philippines, she is lying.”

Another day, Christine had a big blister on her hand, “My mum did it. She poured hot water on my hand.”

The teacher asked Isabella when she came to pick Christine, “It was an accident, I was holding a saucepan of soup, and Christine ran to me. Please do not believe her, she doesn’t speak much English, and in the slums in the Philippines, she is used to lying to survive.”

The teachers weren’t sure what to believe. They decided to keep an eye on Christine.

Christine came back from kindy chirpily, “My teachers talked about the beach. All the children have been to the beach. How come we don’t go to the beach?”

Gilbert promised Christine, “Next time I come back early from work, and if it is still bright, I will take both of you to Mission Bay, we can have a picnic and a swim at the beach.”

Isabella was very unhappy, “Don’t make empty promises to a kid.”

“It’s not an empty promise, I just have to drive faster, and I can come back earlier than usual.”

“How come you never brought me to the beach all these years I have been married to you?”

“Isabella, you know that I am not supposed to use the truck for private purposes.”

“Then why is it OK to drive Christine to the beach? Isn’t that private purposes? You love her more than me.”

“Oh Isabella, she is just a kid, we don’t want her growing up different from other Kiwi kids, already she looks different from them. If she doesn’t do the things Kiwi kids do, the kids will ostracize her and think she is weird.”

“She better be thankful she is living here and not in the Manila slums.”

Isabella took Christine out of the Sandringham Kindergarten and enrolled her at Wesley kindergarten at O’Donnell Avenue in Mt Roskill when Gilbert was out of town. She told Gilbert that Christine wasn’t learning anything in the old place and it was a waste of time and money. Gilbert believed her.

Christine lost her first milk tooth. Gilbert told her to put it under the pillow and the tooth fairy would visit her in the night and exchange her tooth for money.

Isabella argued with Gilbert when she found out, “It’s a load of Pakeha rubbish. She has so many teeth. Are you going to lie to her and give her a dollar every time a tooth comes out?”

Gilbert ignored her and quietly slipped a dollar coin under Christine’s pillow before he went to bed. When Gilbert started to snore, Isabella quietly slipped out of her bed, and retrieved the coin.

“Gilbert, it isn’t working, the tooth fairy didn’t leave me the money,” said Christine.

“Perhaps the tooth fairy ran out of money, there are many children in the whole wide world. She will probably come tonight.”

That night, Christine pretended to sleep. She saw Gilbert come in with the money and then Isabella come to take away the money. The next morning, she told Gilbert about Isabella and it was the start of the mother daughter rivalry.

Every time Gilbert showed any affection for Christine, Isabella’s jealousy would make her very pissed off with both of them. Isabella’s green-eyed monster would erupt like a runaway train. When Gilbert was out of town, she would shout at Christine and yell at her that she was lucky to be in New Zealand.

Isabella was always threatening Christine, “You listen good, I brought you out of the Filipino slums, I can just send you back at the snap of my fingers.”

The poor kid didn’t understand why she upset Isabella most of the time, and she suffered in silence, afraid to tell Gilbert that Isabella had threatened her.

Christine turned five, Gilbert gave Christine a long pink Barbie dress, a long chain of imitation pearls and a tiara to make her feel like a princess.

Gilbert gave Isabella two hundred dollars and told her to invite her Filipino girl friends and their families. Imelda came with her husband, Jason and children, plus three other girls Isabella met at St Lukes. Gilbert and the men sat at the backyard drinking beer and discussing their role as fathers, adopted fathers and step fathers to these Erasian kids. The boys were cooking their Barbeque of sausages and lamb chops. The women had made traditional Filipino foods of pork adobo, pancit canton and menudo.

“Ewww! What’s that?” Dave pointed to the menudo with Chickpeas.

“It’s Menudo, chuck beef made with chickpeas or garbanzos,” replied Imelda.

“It’s a damn waste of good steak, I say,” said Dave.

“And this? What’s this name canton. I thought Canton was a place in China, why do you have a food named after a Chinese place?” asked Ivan.

The boys remained drinking while the girls went inside to do the dishes.

“It’s a damn good thing having these Asian wives, they happily do the dishes and they don’t complain.” said Dave.

“What are you guys gossiping?” said Teresa.

“Nothing, we are saying how lucky we are to be married to you gals,” said Dave the more vocal of the five men.

“You better be, we Asian gals are such loving wives, we do everything for you. We are not like the Kiwi wives who claim women rights and equal opportunities, and our children are so good looking,” said Imelda, who was the self acclaimed mother hen to her charges, the younger Asian wives.

The women were eating and giggling in the lounge. A muffled ripple of laughter erupted at the coffee table. They were rating and comparing how their Kiwi husbands and their ex Filipino husbands perform in bed and the size of their male members. They were talking in Filipino languages so that the husbands would not understand what they were discussing. They were ecstatic describing their sex romps with their Kiwi boys friends behind their boring old husbands’ backs.

“You naughty girls, our Kiwi husbands are giving us good life. They may be old and boring, you can’t have everything. Don’t be wicked witches. Listen to me, and learn from me, be thankful with what you have,” scolded Imelda.

“Imelda, you stick with your boring old man, and let us enjoy ourselves. You will never know what it is like to snuggle into our Romeos’ hairy chests, you are only jealous because we can get out of this rut and find a young husband,” retorted Teresa.

“I may live a boring life, married to an old husband but I will never know what it is like to be arrested and deported. Ask Isabella, she will tell you.”

Isabella said haughtily, “Don’t worry about being deported, you can always come back as another person. Pay me and I will teach you.”

“Why did you leave your first Kiwi husband?”

“Norman was an old fart. He cheated me. He said he was an engineer, he was just a fitter and turner. I couldn’t stand Norman’s greasy smell from his boilers. My horoscope says I will meet my Mr. Right in New Zealand.”

“So did you?” asked Rita.

“May be yes, may be no, I don’t think Robert is the one. I know Romeo will come soon, I can feel the vibes. In the mean time, I am open to any good looking takers. Gilbert gives me the creeps.”

The girls went home in a jovial mood, laughing and happy to know there was a way out of this hell hole of marriage to old boring husbands.

When Christine turned five, Isabella enrolled her at Edendale Primary School. It was twenty minutes walk from their house at Duncan Street. Every morning, Isabella walked her to school, and made a detour up Sandringham Road. She did not want to go back to a drab, cold, draughty and empty old house. In winter, it was wet and she went to the Super Liquor bottle shop and talk to the men in the shop. Usually it was quite quiet during the morning, so the guys in the shop didn’t mind her hanging around. They laughed behind her back and pegged her as the old Asian woman who was so desperate and trying to pick up men.

No comments: