The Berenice Diaries

THE BERENICE DIARIES

ROZ HALL FARLAM

It was a bit of a shock – more than a bit really – probably more like what the dinosaurs felt when they looked up five seconds before the meteor hit the planet.

I’d always felt lucky that my husband and mother really liked each other. Well, you hear so many stories about husbands and mothers-in-law not getting on. It just never occurred to me that they were getting on THAT well.

Mum always said I’d “missed the boat” when it came to getting married; that I’d passed my “use by date.” But I knew the moment Steve walked up to me at the Church social and said; “Hello Berenice, I think you’re Bear-a-nice!” that he was the one. It wasn’t love at first sight so much, as just a type of knowing. He had a twinkle in his eye – and funny! He was always cracking us up, especially Mum. Steve and I used to talk about getting our own little place, something small but cosy, with a little garden out the back – and a cat.

They left me a note.

Dear Berenice, Steve and I have decided to leave Eagle Flats and move to Tassie. I’m afraid we won’t be sending for you, dear. I know it’ll be a bit upsetting for you at first but I’m sure with the passing of time you’ll realise I’m right and this is best for us all. You’re a good girl Berenice, but not the right girl for Steve. Look after yourself, love. Love Mum and Steve.

I didn’t know what to do, so I rang Carla. She wasn’t happy.

“You know what Mum’s like,” she said, “give her an inch and she’ll take a mile. Oh my God, Tilly Maidstone is going to have a field day with this at the next Tidy Towns meeting!”

I still went to work at the library, even though Mrs. Mac thought I should take a few days off because, apparently, I’d put Fifty Shades of Gray in the Automotive Maintenance and Repair section and the Lynda La Plantes in Native Garden Landscaping. But when she showed me eHarmony and RSVP on her computer and announced there were “…plenty more fish in the sea”, I said “Oh no, no, no, no!” But she insisted I had to “… get back on the horse!”

Well, the next thing I know, I’m sipping a lemon squash across from one Eric Hinglestone at the local Mandarin Court Chinese restaurant that Saturday night. He was a farmer from out the back of Burner’s Stumps and everything was going well until Eric started making choking noises into his prawn dumplings. I thought he was laughing and was going to tell me a funny story, but then he looked up – tears were streaming down his face. Turned out Eric had lost his wife, Angela, only a year ago and he was finding it all… a bit hard. There isn’t much I don’t know about Angela Hinglestone now and as he told me – several times – if I’d met her I’d have loved her too.

And then one day Barry Majecklian walked into the library – former school captain, State level rugby and cricket player – and asked me out! You could have knocked me over!

We had a few drinks at his car dealership and then he offered to take me for a spin in one of the new convertible Mustangs he’d just got in. We raced up and down every back road between Eagle Flats and Burner’s Stumps – the wind was in my hair and I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face and then suddenly Barry hit the brakes, it made a huge cloud of dust, and he leaned over… and kissed me!

I don’t know what came over me but after he got the seat down, well… it wasn’t like anything I’d ever experienced before. I mean with Steve it was only ever in our bedroom and only on a Friday night with the lights out and we always had to be quiet because of Mum, but this…!

And then the phone call came.

I thought it was Barry confirming our date. But it was Steve. I didn’t answer it, so he left a message.

Mum had left him and he wanted to come home – back here… to me. He said he’d realised it was me he loved not Mum and that we should move out to a little place of our own like we’d always planned, something small and cosy, with a cat.

“Of course you should take him back!” Carla said. “And put an end to this whole embarrassing saga.”

Then he rang and left another message, that he’d call me again… tonight.

She pulls her mobile phone out and dials a number.

Hello Barry? Hi it’s me… no everything’s still good. I was just wondering if you could come and pick me up now instead of… oh you’re already on your way… great! OK I’ll see you outside, bye.