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All characters in this story are over 18 years.
‘You upset?’ Jules asked.
Leaning in towards her – ‘What’s wrong Leona? You look troubled about something.’
‘You wouldn’t want to be me.’
Filled with a yearning to unburden herself, Leona wanted to elaborate further, but feared exposing herself.
‘We all need to speak our feelings,’ – prompting her – ‘can’t you tell me?’
Jules asked the question as they sat side by side in Maxine’s hairdressing salon in Lygon Street early one Saturday morning waiting to have their hair shampooed.
‘So, what’s happened to you, kiddo?’ Jules flicked over a page of her glossy magazine.
‘I’m bitterly disappointed,’ Leona confessed. ‘This guy never got back to me, not even a phone call, – resentfully – ‘guys just want me for a one-night stand.’
‘I’ve known guys like that!’
‘He went out with me a few times, then said he was going over to Hong Kong for a few days on business. Promised to get back to me, said he’d keep in touch, but he hasn’t.
‘That’s bad,’ said Julie.
‘Not only bad but typical,’ said Maxine who joined them at that moment and was about to cream the make-up from Leona’s face. The hairdresser had taken up a position behind her client so that her face was reflected above Leona’s in the mirror. ‘Life seems to kick us in the teeth sometimes,’ – resentfully.
Maxine had recently been through a bitter and acrimonious divorce and was venting her hostility.
‘Men can be bloody fools at times,’ she asserted. ‘They assess you by your body only. It’s the surface that counts with them.’
Maxine was holding forth like an Ibsen heroine.
‘They make exaggerated compliments just to get you into bed,’ – spoken with aggression – ‘it’s your face and figure that arouses them; there is never any real ‘love’.
‘That’s Aidan exactly,’ said Leona.
Maxine had been shampooing Leona’s hair. She left the two women alone together while she went to attend to another customer who had just come into the shop.
Jules had straightened in her chair. Leaning forward, – ‘exclaiming, ‘Aidan! You wnt out with someone called Aidan?’
‘Unusual name, isn’t it? Aidan.’ Jules’s eyes were wide. ‘You wouldn’t be talking about Aidan Riodan, would you?’
‘Yes,’ – surprised ‘don’t say you know him? How could you know him?’
‘Because I know his ex-wife,’ Jules said. ‘Sandra went bursa escort to the same school as me in Pascoe Vale. I only met Aidan Riodan once. A lot of charm and polish on the surface, but Sandra’s told me a lot more about him. Talk about two-faced. Aidan can change from friend to enemy in a flash. How long did you know him?
‘I went out with him for two weeks. Then he said he had to go to Hong Kong on business. Said he’d keep in touch, but that’s five weeks ago, and I haven’t heard a word from him, not even an e-mail or postcard.
‘That’s Aidan Riodan, for sure!’ Jules said. ‘Aidan cares only for himself,’ Sandra said many times. ‘He lives solely for the present moment and his own pleasure.’ Jules turned over another page of her magazine. ‘Everything’s come easy to him. His father left him a lot of money and property, Sandra said. Makes you wonder how he’d cope if he hit hard times.’
Maxine had returned and was now combing Leona’s hair, Her assistant, Lucy was dry-blowing Jules’s hair into a fluffy mass of waves.
‘I think you’re well rid of him,’ Jules went on to say. ‘He can be a bastard when he loses control. He gave Sandra a hell of a time before she divorced him.’
‘What happened?’ – curiosity aroused.
‘Punched her head after one argument. Then begged her forgiveness. She forgave him. Then he hit her again a few weeks later. Sandra had him charged with assault. He broke one of her ribs in the last row they had. She left him then.’
‘I never thought he was like that!’
‘He was engaged to another girl a few years ago who threw him over. He was terribly upset and married Sandra on the rebound. Sandra had discovered that Nicole was the great love of his life some weeks after they were married and that Aidan was still torching for her.’
‘Nicole! I’ve met Nicole.’
‘Tall, platinum blonde. She came past our table in the restaurant the first night Aidan took me out. Some coincidence?’
‘Aidan took you to a restaurant and his old lady-love was there. Makes you think. Perhaps it wasn’t a coincidence. Maybe he wanted to show you off. Show he didn’t care any more.’
Leona’s mind was spinning in circles. She hadn’t even considered that Aidan might love Nicole.
Jules went on to say, ‘He really loved her, so Sandra said, but because Nicole wouldn’t let herself be manipulated into doing whatever Aidan wanted and because he was rough with her, she broke off with him. He proposed to Sandra a month bursa escort bayan later.’
‘Aidan believes everyone owes him the lifestyle he craves. His whole way of life is one long ego-trip flexing his power. A hard man is our Aidan. An cynical,’ Jules said, ‘He’s not a man I’d make the mistake of rubbing the wrong way. You’re well rid of him. Aidan Riodan can be a real nasty piece of work.’
Leona had a long session with Richard Golde, her therapist, the following Wednesday, telling about Aidan Riodan, including what Jules had said about him. ‘Aidan turned out to be another in my long line of one night stands,’ – tearfully – ‘guys make use of me for sex and then leave.’ She felt herself engulfed in a black despair, she said.
Dr Golde was sympathetic. ‘Depression can be worse than actual pain at times.’
Her mouth took on a sad ironic twist as she spoke. ‘I can feel pain inside me; it feels like a physical growth.
The doctor went on to say that lonely people in trying to escape their loneliness often drift into relationships too quickly. And quite often with unsatisfactory partners.
‘You’ve created a sort of pattern, it would seem,’ – explaining – ‘ You’re attracted to men who’ve had their own problematic relations with women; then out of empathy, you rush into a relationship with them.’ That’s true enough, Leona thought. ‘You’re acting out the same script over and over again,’ he said. ‘You need to break your pattern.’
‘I didn’t realize that,’ – trying to justify herself. She was lying on the couch in the surgery. The doctor shifted in his chair behind her; she couldn’t see his face.
‘But let’s leave that for the moment and talk about your family.’
‘What’s my family got to do with things?’ – puzzled – ‘my parents are both dead!’
‘Sometimes behavioural patterns are established in childhood. This may or may not have happened in your case. But we need to look into it.’
She had spoken in her therapy sessions about living alone with her father for several years after her mother had died when she was thirteen; how her father seemed never to have any love for her. ‘Dad never held me close or displayed any affection at all!’ Robert Nelson was a morose silent man who lived in a house full of books and literary magazines. ‘He had few friends and little time for people,’ she said. She then told how her attempts at showing love were always pushed away. Her father died in his study one winter afternoon escort bursa of a massive heart attack. ‘I felt no sorrow,’ she said. ‘I sold the house and bought a flat in North Melbourne.’
‘So, in a sense, your father pushed you away, and in return you dismissed him from your mind?’
‘I suppose so.’
‘And in a different way, you’re doing much the same thing with your men friends.’
‘How do you mean?’
‘By rushing into relationships, you’re seeking affection and love from men who have their own problems, which you sympathise with. But in effect, you’re actually pushing them away. They make no emotional connection with you and leave.’
Leona thought that this was a possibility, but for the moment didn’t want to think about it, except to say ‘So, how do I break the pattern?’
‘You have to make a life-changing decision,’ the therapist said. ‘And changing one’s way of life can be one of the most difficult things to do.’
‘How do I change?’
‘By exerting your will-power. It is through exerting will-power that we establish a sense of identity.’
‘And how do I do that? By playing hard to get with the guys?’
‘To an extent, yes. By exerting your will-power, you can give yourself a stronger sense of your own identity. In other words, you become more you. And it is with this inner strength that you can break your negative pattern.’
‘One thing you must not do is passively accept any cycle in everyday life as inevitable. Most situations can be changed, especially in relationships.’
‘How do I know if it needs to be changed?’
‘By recognizing familiarities in situations. By reflecting on how situations tend to recur; then acting to avoid them by stepping out of their way by holding back for a short time to assess the situation.’
‘I’ll keep guys at a distance from now on.’
‘You’ll need to,’ – firmly – ‘otherwise you’ll end up becoming little more than a cut-price call-girl.’
‘What!’ She sat up on the couch and faced her therapist. She was angry. ‘What did you say?’
‘I make no apology. That was a bit of shock therapy. You need to have things pointed out to you. It’s part of your treatment. You must face up to things.’
This was the stark, implacable truth. She was what guys called ‘easy game’. But for the moment she was not quite ready to confront things head on.
She cancelled her next appointment with Dr Golde. But his words kept echoing in her mind. A cut-price call-girl! Words – like the stab of a sharp needle. The image burning in her brain. No doubt he thought her a nympho with some element of self-destruction in her.
Leona felt she was alone against the world.
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