Tornado Trailer Park, home for those without a home. Number 6 - “My Piece of Paradise” - was smack bang in the middle of the park and everybody knew the owner. Betsy was a saleswoman for a well- known cosmetics company, Glowell and she was the life and soul of the neighbourhood. One to throw a party at the drop of a hat, Betsy was well liked by all and her door was always open.
She hung fairy lights around the windows of the trailer and she spent most of her time sitting in her lounger on the patch of greenery that she called a lawn, waving to passers-by and gossiping with the neighbours. Her laugh was unmistakable and carried on the breeze like a peal of bells. Admirers would line up to be invited onto the lawn for an iced tea and there were more men that went through that trailer than there were at the local factory!
Betsy never could stay in a relationship. She was a feisty woman, knew what she wanted and what she did not want was a man to tie her down. She loved having the girls around for card games and she often went away on Glowell seminars. She loved to be free to do what she pleased! Any relationship she had lasted no longer than 6 months and that is just the way she liked it. That was, until she fell pregnant.
Anderson stuck by her throughout the pregnancy but when Gel (named after Betsy’s favourite shade of eyeshadow) was seven months old, Anderson walked out the door, hopped onto his beat-up old Harley and rode off into the sunset - along with the savings from the cookie jar and all of Betsy’s jewellery.
Betsy was lucky to have such good neighbours to help her with the baby and Gel never wanted for love. She was surrounded by clucky women from the park, all smelling of Glowell’s number 4 perfume or Glowell’s Own Body Lotion and ready for a cuddle.
Betsy and Gel were the best of friends and spent all their time together. Gel would clutch hold of the cosmetic catalogues that Betsy would drop off around the posh streets of Bellevue and watch the world go by from the comfort of her stroller. Gel grew up learning to read from helping her mother with the catalogues and from the multicoloured cartons of cosmetics and Betsy delighted in the fact that Gel’s first word was Glowell!
The best times of Gel’s life were in the summer when people would stop by and stay for a BBQ and laze around the lawn in loungers. The ladies would dip their pretty painted toes into the paddling pool, as Gel would happily splash around. As it grew dark, Gel would be wrapped up in a blanket and she would become hypnotised as she watched the fairy lights flickering off the trailer. She would fall asleep in her mother’s arms with the warm breeze blowing across her face and laughter in her ears as the women gossiped and chatted away deep into the night.
Betsy had several different boyfriends when Gel was growing up but she didn’t trust any of them, not since Anderson had done the dirty on her. Gel was used to having a different ‘uncle’ every other week and her attitude towards men developed at about this time. Flirting was okay if it could get you a hot dinner. But relationships were no good. At least that’s what Betsy always said.
Time passed and Gel was enjoying life. She had a good time at school - not that she was any good at lessons but because she had inherited her mother’s glowing personality and was a favourite of classmates and teachers alike.
Gel loved having other children to play with and she was over the moon when a new family moved into the park. The eldest daughter Delilah was fascinated with Gel and all her make-up and styling tips. The two girls would sit for hours and flick through the latest fashion magazines, talking about where they would live when they became models.
They were busy flicking through a magazine one day when they noticed an article that told of the Glowell factory being shut down and the loss of many jobs. When Betsy arrived back from her round that evening she was visibly upset and told Gel that she too had lost her job. And to finish the day off the guy that she had been seeing, ‘Uncle’ Joe had just dumped her! Well this was a first. Betsy was always the one that had said goodbye to boyfriends, not the other way round!
Gel had never seen her mother sad before. Betsy had always been so full of energy and optimism, always ready to laugh and have a good time. But now it was as if a light had been switched off. She had nothing to get up for she said. She was no longer the centre of the Tornado Park’s world.
The other women with exciting jobs at the big malls in the city were the darlings of the park and they were the ones that would hold parties on a Saturday night.
Gel could hear the music clearly one night as she tried to get her mother to try some ‘Glamourpuss’ nail polish that Oneida from number 14 had given her. But ‘Glamourpuss’ would never, could never be Glowell according to Betsy who knocked the bottle right out of Gel’s hands whilst all Gel could do was watch as her mother started to cry as the bright red polish started oozing its way down the walls of the trailer.
Betsy soon pulled herself together and cleaned up the polish herself but as she leant over the puddle of red on the lino floor, Gel noticed the blisters on Betsy’s neck. Great big ugly black pimples. Gel cried out in shock and Betsy knew instantly what was wrong. She put her hand up to her neck and tried to hide the blisters with her hair. But she could not hide the fact that she was sick.
As each day passed she became more and more lethargic and she was soon trying to hide blisters on the rest of her body from her beloved daughter. Gel tried to look after her mother as best she could. She heated up tv dinners in the microwave and made endless cups of iced tea with plenty of lemon for vitamin C. But Betsy grew worse and eventually Gel went to the surgery and begged Doc Murphy to come and check on Betsy.
The elderly doctor had known Gel all her life - he had even delivered her! It broke his heart to tell her that her mother was dying. That there was a virus going around that was claiming the lives of many and that he didn’t think that Betsy had very long left.
Gel sat by her mother’s bedside until the end. She brushed Betsy’s hair and painted her nails with new polish as Betsy looked at her daughter for the last time.
Gel insisted on putting her mother’s ashes in an old Glowell carton and she buried it under a willow tree at the back of the trailer park. Then she packed up her things and walked into the city, ignoring the women from the park who pleaded with her to come stay with them.
She didn’t ever want to see that place again. There were too many memories there and the only way that she could get on with her life was to leave her life behind and start all over again.
Gel arrived in the city and managed to get a job right away. She became a cashier at a small diner in the bad end of town and only got the job because the owner thought she was a lot older than she actually was. All that make-up training had paid off! Besides, adult workers were hard to find in the big city.
Gel started to hang out with a group of kids that came into the diner and clearly liked make-up as much as she did. They were a loud lot, always demanding attention and fluttering their eyelashes at passing guys. A perfect gang for Gel. She could take on another persona and pretend that she was someone different, someone who didn’t have a story to tell, didn’t have memories that haunted her as she slept