Sue Mercer lives in Auckland. She is currently writing a history of the women in her family.
When I was fifteen, I was banned from my English teacher’s home. Her name was Von. A peroxide blonde, with bright blue eyeliner and seagull eyes.
She lived in a house very different from mine. Not from the outside. It was just a small brick box in Te Atatu, no bigger than ours. But inside: no housework done there. The stove-top encrusted with burnt food. Sometimes us kids would clean it for her. She was our idol. Our drama teacher. She knew everything about literature, the world. Art.
That year we were doing A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I was Hermia. And every weekend we would gather at Von’s place to read lines and practise, Titania, Oberon and me. All of us listening to Joni Mitchell, drinking red wine and being grown up.
I don’t remember exactly what I did to get banned, except that it involved a lot of alcohol. Vodka maybe. There were boys and dark streets. A red telephone box glows in my memory and at some stage I broke a chair.
I can remember the next morning though. Staying over at Titania’s.
“Von says you can’t come over anymore”.
I was heartbroken. Shamed. Only I had failed the grown up test. There was no reconciliation.
Years later I married Oberon.
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