Rising early as always, I tiptoed around the house so I didn’t wake my wife. A quick breakfast with coffee, then a shower so I would at least walk out into the summer heat feeling somewhat refreshed, knowing I was going to be dripping with sweat within minutes as always. Dressing in the spare room, I only had to grab my bag, keys and sunnies before leaving for work, sneaking back into our bedroom to kiss my wife goodbye.
“Love you,” she whispered sleepily.
“Love you more. See you tonight,” I whispered back.
I’d left school at 16 to become what Australians called a ‘tradie’, or tradesman if you want the full term. I had no interest in going to university, so sought out and found an apprenticeship with a reputable company. I had to decide at a young age what path to follow, and I figured people would always be wanting people to redecorate rooms and even entire houses, so worked at becoming a fully-fledged painter and decorator, with a side-gig in carpentry, in case prospective clients wanted a little work done at the same time.
At the same age, I’d started dating my future wife while I was in my last year at school. Hayley. We’d known each other since starting high school at the same time, and had always been friendly, but I think we must have nursed crushes, as when I did finally ask her out, her first response was a broad grin and an exclamation of “Finally!”
During that last year at school, for myself at least, we were almost inseparable, at least outside of the classroom. We were already working part-time jobs at the same time, while I played sport on a Saturday, so the only day we really had together was on a Sunday. But we made sure that Sunday was always free, or as best we could. Sometimes there were family events we just couldn’t get out of, but more often than not, we’d enjoy a date on a Sunday.
I left school and started working almost immediately at the end of the year while Hayley wanted to keep studying and go to university for future studies, aware of what profession she wanted to pursue. She certainly had my support as she was far more intelligent than I was. Apprentices were not exactly paid well, but I certainly made enough to pay my parents rent, put away a little more in savings for the future, while I could also take Hayley out for what I thought were ‘better’ dates. I didn’t splash cash, certainly couldn’t afford that, but I was able to do a little more for the both of us.
My apprenticeship lasted two years before I was taken on as a full-time employee, and while I might not have wanted to go onto further study, I did take part-time college courses as I figured having other certifications, within the same or similar fields, could only be a good thing. Once I hit full-time work, and my sister had finished high school herself, my parents divorced.
I knew they hadn’t been happy for years. Surprisingly, Mum was the one to leave the family home, stating she was going to return to her home town a few hours north, and that her children would be more than welcome to join her, though she understood opportunities up north were less than where we lived now. My sister was still studying, while my job was leading places, but we both assured her we’d travel north as often as possible to see her. She was upset, of course, but we were now old enough to understand, and knew she had to put her own happiness first now that we were both adults.
My father wasn’t sad to see her go, the divorce pretty much uncontested, and despite the fact they were no longer in love, it wasn’t a bitter divorce. They’d simply fallen out of love, stayed together until we were old enough, then they split apart. Wasn’t the first time I’d heard it done, wouldn’t be the last.
With Mum leaving, Dad didn’t want to keep the large house so put it on the market, wanting to downsize to little more than an apartment, as the house was worth considerably more thanks to the booming housing market. That left my sister and I with a problem as he was going to be downsizing considerably. He sat me down one evening and pretty much said I’d have to move out of home, my sister remaining since she was at university and couldn’t afford to live away from home. Wasn’t particularly what I wanted to hear, but at least he gave me time to put things together.