Ann was about 15 and I was the same age. It was she who was told to not talk to boys through the cyclone wire fence at school as she would become pregnant. We were neighbours in a modest Gippsland country town. Her mother worked at an upmarket dress shop. The owner was a glam woman who each morning teased her hair into a very high style, wore the latest of suit fashions and would never been seen out without heels on her feet. Once I and the local paper boy Ricky called on her at home when she did not go to work and stayed at home unwell. Her hair was down, she was in very ordinary clothes and we could see she was unwell. Maybe we took her flowers? I can't recall. She loved us for visiting her, but I was really thrown by seeing her 'out of costume'. Oddly, my rather common father did some building work for her and she found his common ways quite charming. I kept in touch with her for a time. She later worked at the Windsor telephone exchange for a time before taking over a milk bar in Fitzroy. I visited her there once, so long ago. She was ironing her husband's clothes when I visited and we chatted away.
Back to Ann. Her mother's name was Phylis. Each Friday night Ann and myself would visit Phyl in the dress shop on the late night shopping night and walk home with her after closing time and the shop was locked up. Now the memory is problematic. Shops shut on Friday night at 9pm, but we back at their home by 8.30 pm to watch Columbo. Phyl must have already prepared and eaten dinner as her husband Norm's dinner was keeping warm in the oven.
Phyl, Ann and myself would be watching Columbo on tv. Phyl will have opened a bottle a beer. As the bottle emptied, her posh voice would mellow and she began to slur her words. She was a good Catholic woman who drank and smoked and confessed her sins at mass on Sunday.
Her husband Norm, after eating his evening meal from the warm oven once he returned from the pub would come into the lounge room and observe the lounge room situation. His wife was by now quite tipsy and his daughter and the neighbour lad, myself, contentedly watching tv.
He stood and swayed back and forth as he took in the situation, his thought processes slowed by alcohol. "Do you want something Norm?" Phyl would ask. With a loud harumph, he proclaimed, "No nonse (nonsense) then", and went to bed, followed by Phyl, saying, thank god for that. It was a loveless marriage and they led their own separate lives.
Good times they were. By the age of sixteen Ann was bald from chemotherapy for brain cancer treatment at the Peter MacCallum cancer hospital.
By the age of 17, she was dead.