She was only a country kid, not confident, only 19 and a bit of a pudding - overweight now since moving to the big city. She wore glasses, and didn't really know how to dress. City life was lonely, and now she had a job it was just too easy to buy the things she had never had as a child. Most of these were to comfort her, and to help fill in empty hours, spent watching people living and laughing, while she just waited for her own life to begin. So she ate. She had never even known that such a thing as tartare sauce existed, so the pleasures of food were irresistible.
She had recently moved into the boarding house, which was actually two separate houses, seemingly packed to capacity with both Aussies and Kiwis, both male and female. There were all ages, and the houses usually joined together in the communal dining room for their morning and evening meal. There was always laughter, music and chatter, rarely any dissent. The boarders called themselves "Mrs M's", after the landlady, and on weekends would troop en masse to the local beach, where they would raise a flag to signal their meeting spot.
Her life was now happy, she went to parties with the others, and to the pub (although she didn't drink). There was laughter, and fun, and most of all there were friends. Then the landlady's younger son arrived home from his travels around the world. It won't be difficult to guess the rest - an older, more sophisticated man and a gullible young woman.
For months, perhaps forever in her eyes, they went everywhere together. She was learning so much at the same time, and they seemed to fit each other perfectly. They had a special friend who often accompanied them, and he was so dear to them both that he was always welcome.
There was a party, to which all were invited, and they set off in the car - she beside him in the front and the friend in the back seat. She chatted happily away, until they suddenly stopped in front of a block of flats. "Be a love and sit in the back" he said to her. She asked why and he replied "never mind, just sit in the back ok?". Puzzled, she did as he asked. He disappeared into the building and several minutes later arrived outside again, with another woman - whom he sat in the front of the car with him, and casually introduced.
She was frozen with shock, disbelief, so much pain and bewilderment - she couldn't even speak as they drove to the party. Somehow she managed to get out of the car, holding on to their friend, who was just as astounded and devastated. Not knowing what else to do, or what to say, they went inside. Minutes later, she found herself being violently sick in the downstairs toilet. Too stunned to think, she could only beg her friend to walk home with her.
It ended one chapter in her life, brutally. And opened doors she hadn't know existed. She moved into a flat with a colleague, and began living a different life. It took her eighteen months, but she slimmed down to less than 8 stone. Her 20th birthday came, and on the day she was humiliated beyond belief when a young man screamed to her from his balcony "HEY! FOUR EYES!". A few weeks later she was fitted for her first pair of contact lenses. By now her hair was long, halfway down her back, and she had at last gained dress sense. Her wardrobe wasn't extensive, but was chosen with care and she was ready for any occasion.
She had kept in touch with Mrs M, who had been like a mother to her. On one visit to Mrs M's, the older son and his wife happened to be visiting at the same time, and were pleased to see her. A few days later, strangely, she had a phone call from her ex - and an invitation to dinner. She was curious, intrigued and accepted his invitation. Her curiosity turned to a stone in her chest when he arrived the next evening to pick her up. The first words he said, after not seeing her for so long, were "A man must be blind."
The evening was fine, very civilised and pleasant. After his usual over-consumption of wine, however, he revealed that he had been engaged to an English nurse, and that she had broken off the engagement. It seemed that she had not only hurt him but had left him quite impotent. The young woman could pity him, but felt nothing apart from that. She refused to be a consolation prize, and she refused to be second-best. She finally realised that he was a very shallow man. They never saw each other again.
You know, Keith, I truly hope you found what you were looking for in life, but I somehow doubt it. You and I were together for a long time, and yet you never knew me, did you? It isn't all about our appearance - I was the same person as I had always been, inside. In my heart and my mind and my soul. I am happy to tell you that I found what I was looking for, and it made my life truly and wholly happy.