Family Friends (Berwick)
Family friends. That’s how those days were spent. Those formative years, when summer never ended. All the adults gathered around a barbeque, passing an unusually long cigarette. Years later, Loren would figure everything out, and in hindsight, see that not even the adults were that old.
Every Saturday evening, she arranged her room early. Then waited, trying against all odds to concentrate on the television. Excitement back in those days was physically and mentally taxing. She rocked back-and-forth, anticipating the visitors. Most of all, her favourite: Angelique.
Angelique was a vision. Loren knew because her parents said it all the time. Her father was South African and her mother was Mauritian. Angelique was like all of the world’s best genetics rolled into one person. Even then, at fourteen, she commanded a room. Some of the attention was unsolicited, and sometimes you could see her squirming. One male family friend or another would drunkenly ask her to sit on his lap as though she was a small child, sometimes grabbing her without consent. She would acquiesce, but her eyes grew glassy until he would let go. Around the parents she was demure, a perfect child. When it was just her and Loren, she was a tyrant. Casually she would kick Loren’s pet dog. She stole cigarettes and beer from the adults when they weren’t looking, cursed about everything until her throat was hoarse.
‘Have this,’ she’d say, throwing ten-year-old Loren a cigarette. Loren would shake her head and pass it back sheepishly.
‘Hrrr man!’ Angelique loved to use Afrikaans slang, thought it made her sound cool. ‘You are such a baby.’
When something was good, like her first swig of a stolen alcoholic drink she would exclaim, ‘That is lekka!’
After a few sips, she would start to warm up to Loren, putting her arm around her, calling her ‘little sister.’ Loren lived for this. She never told her parents what Angelique did.
They’d stand together in the front yard, the tarmac glistening in the afternoon heat, on the empty street, safe from parental view. Angelique would point to the hills that surrounded Berwick. .
‘See this shit pile, little sister?’ she’d say, motioning broadly with her drink at everything around them. ‘One day I’m gonna be fucking famous, you hear? I’ll get the fuck outta this place.’
On really good days Angelique managed to get her hands on one of the unusually long, fat cigarettes that their parents liked so much. These were Loren’s favourites because Angelique would have to walk very far away from the house to smoke it. She would tell the parents that she was taking Loren to the milk-bar to buy her lollies and they would walk hand-in-hand through the newly laid, still sticky asphalt of the housing estate. Angelique would be so sleepy and loving, and always grew so ferociously hungry. She would buy five dollars worth of chips from the fish and chip shop, chocolate from the corner store and together they would eat until it hurt. Splayed out on the concrete, Angelique would scratch words onto her skin with pebbles she found. Usually it was ‘FUCK’ or ‘SLUT’.
They would play forty-forty, and Angelique would sneak away with one of the older boys while gullible Loren tucked herself into genius hiding spots. For minutes, sometimes hours, Loren sat in these corners or cupboards waiting with bated breath. A few times in frustration, she’d pushed herself out of her position to go find Angelique. A mixture of jealousy would fill her. Part of her envied that the boys were getting Angelique’s attention – part of her wished that boys looked at her the way they looked at Angelique.
One dry summer afternoon, Loren’s nook grew hot from her breath, and her joints were aching. They tricked her five times, and a bubble of anger formed in her little chest.
The parents were on the patio and she could hear their laughter.
Around the side of the house where the hot water system was, that was where she found them. The boys were much older, around eighteen, and so tall that Angelique was on her tippy toes. She was kissing one, their tongues lapping at each other, like dogs drinking from a bowl, while her hand floundered on the outside of the second boy’s pants. The boys had free reign on one breast each, groping helplessly, fidgeting with her blouse buttons. She didn’t seem sure of what she was doing, or why she was doing it.
Loren was frozen with shock. She stood still until the trio felt eyes watching them.
Angelique let out a wail.
‘Fuck off, man! You fucking freak!’
A group of adults had formed behind Loren at what seemed like a second later.
‘What’s going on?’ Loren’s mum asked, grabbing her by the shoulders and giving her a little shake. Loren couldn’t speak., fascinated and disgusted by the dirty, awkward exchange.
Angelique’s father charged forward from the pack and landed a fist on one of the boy’s cheeks.
‘You filthy bastard!’ He cried, shaking out his hand.
‘You leave my boy alone, he’s done nothing wrong! You should keep that slut daughter of yours in a fucking cage!’ Said the boy’s mother. ‘Who you calling a slut? Just because your husband wants me more than he wants you!’ Angelique said with a manic laugh.
Her arms were crossed tightly over her chest and she seemed to be relishing the drama.
Silence fell over the group.
Both boys’ fathers looked offended, almost disappointed, or maybe even jealous.
‘We’re never coming here again. I’m sorry Claude, I’m sorry Antoinette,’ Angelique’s mother said to Loren’s parents. Then, addressing her, ‘But mostly I’m sorry for you, Lorry.’
She gave Loren a squeeze on the shoulder, then reached for Angelique. At first Angelique fought it. Her mother pinched her ear and pulled her away.
The crowd dispersed, the two sons taken home. Only Angelique and her parents remained.
Loren tailed her parents as they walked Angelique’s family to their car. Angelique’s father wound down the window, ‘You know, really, we could press charges against the boys if we wanted.’
Loren’s parents both shrugged.
‘Right, well we shall see you around, ja?’
No one said anything.
As the car drove off, Loren waved at a despondent looking Angelique. ‘Remember what I said, sister,’ she shouted through her open window, ‘One day I’ll be famous, and I’ll leave this fokken kak behind.’
Kleoniki is a twenty-seven year old Greek/Sri Lankan/Australian writer hailing from Melbourne’s South-East ‘burbs. She completed her honours thesis in 2014 at RMIT University, exploring the concept of Suburban Melancholy through a series of short stories called SuBOREbia. Place, race, family and class are the themes that primarily appear in her fiction.
Eva Zvedeniuk is a writer/photographer from Melbourne. She is in her final year of Media and Communications at RMIT. She is intern for Lor Journal, and founding editor of Wir Kinder magazine. You can find her work at www.wirkindermag.com.