Sunday, August 02, 2009
Stories of Friendship and Betrayal: Part 2
Ilona was a big young raw-boned Scottish woman. Her face had a strange unfinished look. As if by playing with her face a little more you would have a stunning beauty on your hands – perhaps by squeezing her nose just a little to make it smaller and her chin to give it a little point, and push those farmhouse cheekbones a little higher to give them more prominence.
Her hair was red, that golden red, and hung to her waist and it made you forget all about her raw-boned face for it was that magnificent. She was an artist and a visionary. One of her heroes was the Scottish architect Mackintosh, one of her many artistic pursuits was unusual needlework along with textile art. Her looks were at odds with these finer interests, her hands were enormous and to watch her expertly wield delicate handmade lace and fine embroidery into breathtaking pictures was a shock to the senses.
Newly emigrated to Canada, she was staying in this Scottish boarding house on the Beaches in Toronto and was dating the owners’ eldest son who shared her birthday. They were both twenty-five. I met her about six months after her Toronto arrival, through my husband, Ted, and her boyfriend Ian who played on the same rugby team. All names are changed to protect both the innocent and the guilty.
Funny that, when one is an emigrant to a new and more vast country than one’s native land, the new friendships that are formed are quick, intense and all encompassing in a very brief period of time. It was that way for me and Ilona.
A few months after I met her the healthy outdoor glow had faded from her face. Ian had met someone else. Someone so at odds in appearance with Ilona as to be almost comical. A young woman just turned twenty with a boy’s name, Robbie, who was so utterly tiny, delicate and fragile against Ilona’s heartiness as to make his jilting of her only more painful. Robbie was, and still is, the love of his life. Being in the small circle that we were in, Ilona still came to the rugby games and hung around, wearing, it seemed an extra coat of dignity and pride around the tiny little Robbie and her stalwart Ian. Only venting to a trusted few such as myself.
I was startled to see her take up with Ian’s younger brother, Billy, who was a bit of a waster in more ways than one. He could never stick to anything. His mother bemoaned his dependency. Bumming from her and her pensioner husband as they tried to make ends meet with boarders and the additional burden of supporting their teenage daughter and a grand-daughter, the product of their older daughter’s brief liaison with a long evaporated and ever nameless ‘foreigner’.
It’s funny that, how we can sit outside others’ life situations and decisions and take a psychological profile of it all and a lot of good it does any of us. They’re going to proceed on their life path anyway. The race was on, in any case, as to who would get to the altar first, Ian and Robbie or Ilona and Billy. Ilona waited. I think she wanted to make sure Ian was serious about Robbie. He was. A month after Ian and Robbie’s wedding, Ted and I were witnesses to the betrothal of Billy and Ilona.
The wedding was held in a tiny house in the Beaches, recently rented by Ilona. Billy’s suit of burgundy velvet with a lavish lace-enshrouded shirt pushed the bride’s creamy silk simple dress into backdrop. Cascades of lace protruded from both his cuffs and poured down the front of the burgundy jacket. His thinning black hair was tied in a matching velvet bow at the back of his head. He swooped around, posing fetchingly now and again against the fireplace, in the garden, in a wing chair while we took pictures.
However, the biggest shock of the day was waiting for me. About midway through the festivities as I was exiting the bathroom which was down a tiny hall off the kitchen, I was literally pounced upon by Billy who had obviously been lying in wait. He shoved me back into the bathroom, closing the door behind us and began kissing me. I was so shocked it took me a few minutes to catch my breath.
“This is your f***ing wedding day you bastard and Ilona is a friend of mine!” I finally exploded, “Get your f***ing hands off me!”
Except I used stronger language.
In response, he laughed. He laughed and laughed.
“Haven’t you heard of open marriage?” he finally sneered, “I’m in an open marriage!”
“Starting on your wedding day?” I said, “Does Ilona agree with your behaviour?”
“Frankly,” he said, “I really don’t care. Now are you going to play or not?”