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“For There Is No Friend Like A Sister”

January 26th, 2011 by admin

It’s midnight. Winona has just finished pacing, unburdening herself to her sister Karin, about how it feels to walk in on your partner with another woman’s face in his lap. The day has been so long and peculiar that it barely registers that she is now in a foundry-cum-studio on the outskirts of Waikanae, talking to a sister she has barely seen for five years.

Karin shakes her head.  “Darling. It’s not just you. Wellington’s always been like that. Always, always, always.  It’s got too many fresh faces for couples to feel truly settled with each other, but it’s also too small for them to not get found out if they go out of bounds.” She exhales a perfect smoke ring. “That’s why I was happy to move up to Kapiti. Apart from the approach of the energy and climate crisis, of course. If Kev and I are “alternative,” and we each have our girlfriends, we also have our privacy.”

Winona’s mouth is such a perfect O that some cigarette smoke drifts in until she coughs. “But…you’re married…”

“That’s right, and it’s our marriage!” Karin snaps. “Kev and I have a life together. I’m not his mum telling him what to do, he’s not telling me to go cook him some eggs. We have space here, to be apart or come together when we need it. Mum and Helena never understood us.”

Suddenly, Winona feels exhausted. “I don’t understand. What it means for me, I mean. Do you mean that Will and I should break up if he’s – whatever – with someone else? Or move away from Wellington? Or get married ourselves?”

“What you do is up to you. You could stay in the sleepout for a few weeks if you wanted. If you need space, too.” As a child, Win had always thought her eleven-years-older Karin was an avatar of cool teenaged beauty. Karin’s face is now seamed after her sun-baked, hard-smoking prime. But her  world-weary, accepting eyes make her, to Winona, that dazzling, amazing older sister again.

They both glance out of the studio’s wide doorway, into the gravelled driveway. Winona’s car is parked in front of the sleepout, looking irregular. “The car…there was a bus…I haven’t driven in a while.”

Karin stubs out her cigarette. “If you’re not going to get that car door fixed, I’ll take it. That could be the centre of a very compelling installation.”

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