So the next phase of Clive's life began, which centred around enrolling in structured activities with the aim of finding a new woman. The first thing he tried was an introductory massage course, where he met Barbara, a professional masseuse who supplemented her income by teaching a class at the Australasian College of Natural Health. Barbara was 40, a few years older than Clive, and didn't have kids of her own. He had short dyed gooseberry coloured hair and wore emerald studs. Barbara liked to talk about astrology and birthstones, and as a ten year old I found this very interesting indeed. We went on outings with her and Clive to candle shops and health food stores in trendy suburbs like Subiaco and Fremantle, where they would discuss essential oils and the powers of wheat germ. She also introduced me to food the likes of which I had never seen before. I was sitting in Barbara's nicely scented kitchen once when she was preparing herself a fancy salad. "What's that?" I asked as she cut open a dark green wrinkly item. "An avocado. Haven't you seen one before?" she asked. "Nope" I said. "Wanna try a bit?" Barbara cut off a luminescent green sliver for me to try and held it out to me on a knife. "No thanks" I said. She shrugged, popped the slice into her mouth and went back to preparing her salad.
When Barbara stayed over at our house for the first time she brought her massage table into Clive’s room, and spent the night in there practicing their therapeutic techniques with the lights turned down. I sat out in the kitchen eating ice cream, hoping that they'd come out and talk to me. The next morning she woke up early and efficiently packed her portable massage table into the boot of her little red Suzuki. Barbara never came round again after that.
Clive then took up Scuba Diving. He had to learn how breathe underwater in a pool at the Perth Diving Academy, and invested heavily in diving equipment. He'd take off early on Saturday mornings to go on dives off Hillary's Boat Harbour. While he really got into diving, and performed exceptionally well for a newbie in the annual potato hunt, where numbered potatos were chucked out of boats for Scuba Divers to find, he failed to meet any single women, as almost everyone in the diving club was a bloke, or married to one of the blokes. So he moved onto 'Parents without Partners' meetings.
'Parents without Partners’ is a community organisation made up of long term singles who put on family friendly events like barbecues in the park, red light discos and games nights at the richer singles' houses. We would routinely turn up to these events without a plate of food, which probably would've been a bigger deal if Clive wasn't one of the few eligible bachelor attendees. He'd send us off to the kid’s room to watch action movies and start feuds with the other children of divorce. It was at one of these parties that Clive met Kerry. Kerry was a self-described ‘real Aussie chick’ who worked for a real estate agent and had three freckled children called Alison, Sonya and Michelle. Michelle was a teenager with beautiful long curly brown hair, but we didn't see much of her because she lived with her Dad in Currambine. Alison and Sonya were our age so Clive assumed that we would like them. We did not. Guy and Sonya happened to be in the same year 5 class at Marangaroo Primary School and by terrible coincidence had been boyfriend and girlfriend for about a week towards the end of third term. While they were no longer boyfriend and girlfriend, my brother was still really cut that she'd dumped him for David Blins, who played cricket with the year 6's at lunch time and was an undisputed cock head. So that all made things a bit awkward.
Alison was in the year above me at school, and was also a bit of a tomboy. What could have been a beautiful friendship was instead a bitter rivalry as we both fought against ending up at the bottom of the pecking order. We would get into fights over the tiniest things, from whether Home and Away was shit or not (it was) to whether Coke was better than Pepsi (obviously).
Unfortunately for us, Kerry stuck around. Clive continued to practice his new found skill as a masseuses on her and they spent their days rubbing oil on each other and taking walks on the beach in their new matching sandals. With each passing day, they smelt more extremely of tea tree, citrus and almond oil. The longer they went out, the more I hated Alison, and Guy hated Sonya. They liked to eat weird things like meatloaf and polony, and when we stayed over at Kerry's house she insisted we go to bed at 7.30pm, even though we usually stayed up as long as we liked.
It all came to a head one night after Clive and Kerry had driven us to the Video Store for some evening entertainment. Guy and Sonya went straight for the New Release section. Guy grabbed Blue Chips, featuring Shaquille O'Neal and Sonya chose, Sleepless in Seattle. This put Allison and I in an awkward spot because that meant we only had enough money left for one weekly.
I bolted over to the Kids section and grabbed Garfield’s Halloween Special; my all-time favourite. Alison picked Little Monsters, which I'd never heard of. Alison told me that Little Monsters was actually really, really great and it had the kid in it from The Wonder Years, which she knew I liked. "I don't care!" I replied, and clutched Garfield's Halloween Special even tighter. Sonya told me to grow up, and that we should get something we all could watch. Something that wasn't a cartoon for example. Then Guy took Sonya and Alison's side too, telling me to hurry up and put Garfield pack, and then it was totally fucking on. I took Alison by surprise in the Thriller section as she waddled over to seek back up from Kerry. I crash tackled her into a rippled Arnold Schwarzenegger cut out who was promoting Terminator II with a two dimensional but nonetheless loveable Edward Furlong. She pulled my hair and soon had me on the defence over in Romantic Comedy. After failing to receive the expected back up from Guy, I was forced to into a risky manoeuvre. I reached out blindly for a VHS cassette box to fend her off with, and smashed her in the head and face with Gérard Depardieu’s Green Card. I straddled her and pummelled her with the tape as Andie McDowell looked on it me with girlish abandon, and kept on hitting and hitting until Clive, who had been alerted from the car by my rat brother and Sonya, his rat ex-girlfriend, pulled me of her and threw me to the ground. “You. Little. Shit!”
The car ride home was tense. Alison was crying, saying that her tooth was broken. Kerry sat in the backseat, comforting her. I was relegated to the boot of the station wagon, where I sat feeling really guilty.
When we got home Clive made me walk over to the oval across the road and sit on the grass with him, even though there were spiny double G's everywhere. "Sarah, if you keep acting like this Kerry and I are going to have to split up, and that will make me really angry" he said. "But I hate her! I want it to just be us!" I said. "Well that's not what I want" he replied. I sat, stung by his comment. He didn't say anything else, and after a few minutes we went back inside.
They'd just started watching Little Monsters, and I sat at the back, defeated. Alison's tooth clearly wasn't broken, as she was shoving ice cream in her mouth. The movie was actually really good, and we all ended up laughing together. From that point, I started getting used to Sonya and Alison. But one day they just didn’t come over, and then they never did again, and then that was the end of all that.
After Kerry, there was a couple of months when Clive wasn't seeing anyone. We spent evenings playing Dungeon Master on the Atari ST together. Our roles were finely calibrated to emphasise our respective strengths. Clive would control the action with the joystick and Guy would be the map reader who told Clive where to go and what buttons to press to cast spells. I gripped onto the map for the next level so I could pass it to Guy at the exact right moment. I could watch the pixelated disembodied white hand cut and slice it's way through Mummies and Screamers all night long. When I would go to bed at night I would lie awake thinking of the horror of being lost forever in an ever changing dungeon.
But the good times never lasted. Clive met Dawn at a Partners without Partners karaoke night. Dawn was a sweet, kind lady with soft, blonde curly hair. She had two daughters Ruth and Sarah, who were equally soft and kind. They liked to play with dolls and dress up like fairies. I found them completely boring. Since we had nothing in common when we went to their house the girls would play in their room, and Guy and I would watch endless amounts of TV. It was during this era that Guy got into Australian Rules Football, and become a devotee of the West Coast Eagles. While I didn't really understand the rules or care about the game, I did like watching Fat Cat's "Goodnight Girls and Boys" cartoon that would play every night at 7.30pm right before the evening games started.
The only thing that we all really came together for was trips to Balcatta Rollerdrome. The girls and I both loved to play Rollerdrome's very chaste version of Spin the Bottle where you had to pick a corner to stand in every time the music stopped. A junior staff member would spin a tenpin bowling pin in the middle of the rink, and send the group in the corner it pointed to off to the sidelines. This would go on until there was only one skater left and a winner was crowned, who would then receive a complentary Paddlepop or Hot Chip voucher to be used at the Rollerdrome canteen. Guy was off course above all this nonsense, and would spend this time playing NBA Jam in the tiny arcade near the entrnance. Dawn despaired at my regular Rollerdrome get up which consisted of Guy's old hand-me-down T-shirts and trackies, and for my birthday she bought me some fluoro flower print leggings and a purple Hypercolor T-shirt for our Rollerdrome outings. The leggings were slightly too small, and my belly would flop over the top of them. My Hypercolor T-shirt would soon start to hypercolourise my armpit region after my first few laps of the rink. I kept wearing this outfit in an effort to please Dawn until one time Dawn and the girls just didn't turn up. This time I asked Clive where they were as I put my skates on. He sat down next to me and explained that Dawn had been abused by her ex-husband for many years, and so didn't like to be touched, which made intimacy between them extremely difficult. I did not know what to do with this information, and so rolled off to the sounds of Michael Jackson. I never wore my Hypercolor T-shirt again.
A couple of months after, Clive announced that we were going to Margaret River for the weekend with a new friend of his called Kate. We stayed in a cabin with a real fire place. I loved fire, and would spent what seemed like hours poking at the kindling and watching the flames grow. There was a see-saw that Guy would ride with me for at least a minute before he became bored and dismissive. Kate had peroxide blonde hair and worked at the hospital in the city. She seemed nice enough, and I laughed at her Scottish accent everytime she spoke. On the last day she told Guy and I that she had two children of her own, Craig and Lynne, and asked if we'd like to meet them. And we said sure.