Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Nadine, Chapter Fourteen

Nadine was still underage and ineligible to be on the dole. After a few months, Patel dropped a bombshell.

“Nadine, you have to come home, I can’t afford to pay your rent anymore. The new Foodtown just down the road is taking away all my customers and I have to save up for a husband for Smita.”

“Smita! Smita! Smita! All you care is Smita, you don’t love me at all.” In a huff, Nadine slammed the door and left the house.

Patel shook his head, later he told Manchala and Kim, “When Nadine said those words, I felt as if a knife had pierced my heart.”

Manchala and Kim said in unison, “Patel, you have done your best, Nadine could never find a better father than you.”

Nadine told Andy, “My dad kicked me out, I have no where to go.”

“Go to Keita’s place, her parents will let you bunk in with her,”

“How old do you think I am?”

“No more than sixteen! You don’t want me to get into trouble living with an underage kid.”

“I have been officially married with the consensus with my parents. I had a big wedding.”

“Bloody hell! Why didn’t you say so?”

Nadine moved in with Andy in Kingsland. Andy lived for his rugby, fishing, TV and beer. Life was good until Nadine became pregnant within a short time.

“Shit! Shit! Why didn’t you take the f***ing pill? What the f*ck am I going to do, you are just a kid yourself, and you wanted a kid?”

This was when I became her neighbour from across the road. Next to me was a Tongan Island boy Finau. Finau did not work, he had Muldoon and his mother to provide for him. Finau lived with his widowed mother Anapesi who was a very good couturiere.

Every Sunday, Finau and Andy went fishing. It did not matter if they did not catch any fish. It was their boys’ day out. Patel always came with his box of groceries. He made a
short and sweet visit because Andy did not like him to come.

Andy said, “I might be on the dole, but I still have my dignity. I don’t want no charity.”

Nadine had to hide the grocery because if Andy saw them, he threw them out of the window. Sometimes she brought them to my house to hide them from Andy.

Peter, my husband, said, “One day, you might get me into trouble with Andy.”

We had a Ford Escort, it was a rust bucket but Peter was very proud of it.

Every weekend, the boys did their boy things. Andy was out fishing with Finau in Piha. Peter became a grease monkey and tinkled with his banged-up car giving her TLC.

Once I semi-jokingly commented, "What’s the point, it’s an old bomb.”

“Shut up and get out! What do you women know?” I was shocked at Peter’s outburst.

I knew I was relegated to second place, playing second fiddle to an old rusty car that I was embarrassed to be seen riding in.

Nadine and I were two bored and frustrated girls. So we used to pop next door to see Anapesi.

“MÄ�lÅ� e lele,” Anapesi would say in Tongan which means ‘hello’ and she showed us the beautiful dresses and wedding gowns she made for her clients. We tried on her dresses; strutted around like supermodels on the catwalk, made pirouettes like ballet dancers and pretended to be courtesans with feather boas, masks and long black gloves. Nadine wore the wedding dress Anapesi had almost finished making. We had a fun all girls’ time.

We pretended to be Gucci and Yves Saint Laurent. We giggled and gave our expert opinions in exaggerated French accent to Anaspesi how she should make her dresses, “make them shorter, lower cut to give more cleavage, body hugging and make them sexier.” We nagged her to make us a little black dress like Coco Chanel’s little black dress.

Anapesi laughed and said she made dresses for good Polynesian Island girls, not bad gals like us. We hugged and kissed her and called her ‘mummy’ because she only had Finau: we could be the daughters she never had. Anapesi was utterly astounded at our very unladylike ways.

“You Kiwi girls have no modesty, I will die of heart attack if you girls were my daughters.”

“Nadine, why don’t you ask Andy to marry you and you can wear a beautiful white wedding dress.” I suggested cheekily.

“Why not, it is high time he stops his footloose lifestyle and settles down.”

“Even you think so, Anapesi?”

“Yes, I will make a wedding dress for you before your pregnant stomach looks too obvious,” said Anapesi.

The next day, Nadine came with a swollen lip and she kissed goodbye to a tooth. I knew it was my fault for suggesting that she wore that white wedding dress.

Andy pulled her long hair and yelled, “Remember this, you bloody moved in to shag me. Now you want to wear a virginal white wedding dress? You shameless cow!” Then he slammed the door and did not come back that night.

I didn’t know what to make of this Nadine and Andy liaison. If Andy was home, he and his mates sat downstairs in the garage, drank beer, played the guitar and watched TV. The witches at Keita’s brother’s party were always there behaving shamelessly even in front of Nadine. They always called ‘Andy love’ and ‘Andy honey’ which made me want to puke.

One day, Nadine came and she had a black eye. Andy did this to her, she said.

“Andy got sent to the sin bin a lot when he plays rugby. Then he comes back in a foul mood, and at a drop of the hat, he lands a blow on me,” said Nadine.

I asked, “Is he always so violent?”

Nadine said,” No, he was ‘lovey-dovey’ when I first moved in. It got worst when I got pregnant, I did not want to sleep with him. He did not understand when a woman is pregnant, sometimes she wants to sleep alone. Andy wants to bloody shag me all the time. You won’t understand, you have never been pregnant.”

I asked, “Why don’t you leave then?”

She replied, “I can’t leave him. I’ve got no money, and my dad is adamant that he has no more money for me.”

I said, genuinely, as Peter had cautioned me not to get involved, “I am sorry for your predicament and am sorry I can’t help you.”

Tragedy struck. One day Andy and Finau were fishing off Piha beach. A gale wind suddenly blew: both of them had no life jackets. The wind howled, the sky darkened, big rain drops pelted on them like stones, the waves crashed against the boat, the boat overturned and sank. Miraculously Andy used his last ounce of energy and swam back to the shore: he was dogged tired when he ran for help.

Finau was never found that afternoon. Later they found his limp and bruised body among the rocks. Finau’s bereaved mother tore at Andy, and cursed him. Finau’s uncles had to hold her back. Andy just stood there quietly as if he wanted Anapesi to rant and rage and even beat him. We were surprised that Anapesi swore, she was such a well-mannered and gentle woman. Maybe she learnt it from us.

Andy came home and took it out on Nadine. She feared for her own life and the baby’s. She locked her self in the bedroom, but he kicked the door open. Nadine felt like a trapped fox in a fox hunt, and there was no way she could claw her way out of the danger that Andy was posing. Blow after blow he rained on her, until she pleaded that he was killing the baby.

“It’s all you bloody fault, Finau my mate and I had been fishing for years, and nothing ever happened, and now you f***ing cow move in and I lost my best mate.” Andy slammed the door and didn’t come back for two days until it was Finau’s funeral.

The Tongan community had a funeral at Finau’s house, and they buried him in Waikumate cemetery. Andy was full of remorse. Finau’s mother banned him from attending the funeral and burial. Andy sat at the garage overlooking Finau’s house drinking Lion Beer, Finau’s favourite beer. His empty bottles crashed and ended up a million brown glass crystals and broken shards on the driveway. He was still there when Anapesi came back from the cemetery. The kind natured Anapesi went over across the road, she removed the empty beer bottle from Andy’s hand and told him to go back inside the house. She told him she knew it wasn’t exactly his fault.

“Go back to the house, I am sorry I screamed at you,”

Andy got moody and depressed and beat Nadine more often. Sundays were worst, because he’d got no mate to go fishing with.

We had a telephone, but Nadine did not. So often she came to my place to use the phone to call her girlfriends. She spent hours on the phone and Andy would come to my door and knock. Andy didn’t come in the door. He was not rude to us. If you didn’t know him, he was a perfect gentleman.

“Nadine, I got some grub for you, or Nadine I got some fish and chips. The baby needs to eat even if you don’t.”

Nadine did not have a good time being pregnant. Every morning she opened the window and vomited down to the bed of calla lilies. She told me she got no time to rush to the bathroom. Andy howled at her,

“You lazy bitch!”

I joked, “Never mind, they are natural fertilizer, no wonder your calla lilies are so beautiful.”

Peter was a student then, and our car was home. Nadine came to call a taxi to take her to St Helen’s hospital to have her baby. Andy was nowhere to be seen, the taxi did not come. Nadine was in pain.

“Where’s the f***ing taxi?”

“Are you alright? Shall I take you to the hospital?” asked Peter.

So Peter drove her to St Helens. At St Helens, the nurse mistook Peter for the baby’s father and encouraged him to go in with Nadine, because Nadine needed him. Peter tried to explain that he was not the baby’s father. The nurse thought he was afraid of childbirth.

The nurse said, “You will be fine, most fathers stay with the mother.”

Nadine looked earnestly at Peter, “Please?”

Peter said, “Sorry, Nadine, Robyn might not be happy and Andy might misunderstand.”

Peter came home and related the funny incident, I laughed. I teased him that he was a father.

Peter said, “I suspect Nadine did not call for the taxi, she had intended for me to drive her to St Helen right from the start.”

I asked, “How did you know?”

He replied, “The nurse asked if she had any money or valuables to put in the locker, she said she had none.”

I laughed again,” So you played the role of a gallant hero who saved a damsel in distress?”

Andy did not visit Nadine and the baby in hospital. Nadine came home to Kingsland with her baby girl, Amanda. Patel drove them home with Smita. Amanda was a beautiful part Maori part Indian girl. Andy wasn’t home during the first week.

On Sunday Kim and Manchala came with pink baby things. Manchala and her girls had knitted matinee jackets, booties, mittens, blankets, leggings, bonnets. Nadine was so happy that her two Pukekohe aunties had overlooked that she was an unmarried mother.

Kim was very clucky as though she was the real grandmother, “I am very happy to be a Chinese Grandmother to Amanda, here is a little yellow Chinese gold bangle. All Chinese grandmothers give their grandchildren bangles. Next time, Amanda will in turn give bangle to her baby.”

Nadine was seething - Where the hell was Chandra?

Chandra still refused to see Nadine or Amanda.

Nadine said, “I don’t need her. She will regret this for the rest of her life.”

One day, Nadine came to tell me, “Bugger it, do not tell Andy, I am calling it quits and leaving him, I will be far away from him. I am now on domestic purpose benefit. I do not need his money. I do not need my father’s money. I am a solo mother.”

Nadine moved away with Amanda.

Andy came, looking remorseful, to Anapesi and me, “Have you seen Nadine?”

Anapesi said, “Forget her, don’t look for her, she only wanted a baby so she can get a domestic purpose benefit.”

“F***ing cow!!! I should have known.”

Initially I used to go to Patel’s dairy to ask how she and Amanda were.

Patel sadly said, “We do not keep in contact. She did not even come to Smita’s wedding.”

I had a short stint in Singapore as an expatriate wife. I befriended many Indian ladies. I was surprised that most of them had arranged marriages. What was more intriguing was some of these women also arranged marriages for their daughters who grew up in Singapore. I had many discussions with them and they extolled the advantages of arranged marriages. I came back to Auckland and lived in Sandringham: this suburb is dubbed “Little India” of Auckland. One Sunday after the Farmer’s Parade in Queen Street, I was sitting next to two young teenage Indian girls at Burger King. They would have been the age at which Nadine married Gopal. I boldly interrupted them and asked if they would agree to their mothers’ proposal for them to be arranged to marry boys they did not know.

“NO WAY!!!!”

The three of us laughed. I thought of poor Nadine.

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