> Love Thy Neighbour: Paige Smith
by Sharon Harvey
Viewers got their first glimpse of Paige when she arrived in Erinsborough in 2014,
when we also learnt that she was the daughter of Brad Willis and Lauren Turner. She arrived after she had learned her biological parents had in fact gone looking for her after finding out the real truth - that she hadn't been born stillborn
as Lauren's mother Kathy had led Lauren to believe, but was actually alive and well after being adopted out. They had believed their search had come to a dead end and so while Lauren returned to Ramsey Street to resume
her life, Brad continued a while longer, then followed his former lover back after believing his search had hit another dead end, but unaware that Paige had secretly followed. His search hadn't prove fruitless as he
had initially thought, as one of the doors he knocked on had been answered by Paige's adoptive brother Ethan, who had then informed her of her biological father's search.
When she turned up in Erinsborough, any normal curious person would perhaps have found out who her biological parents were, then maybe introduce herself, after all they were looking for her, so wouldn't they be happy to finally find her? But this is Paige we
are talking about, and she went about it totally a different way, choosing to keep her identity a secret while she sussed out her new respective families, working out how they felt about her, since they now knew she actually existed and didn't die at
birth as previously thought. Her real identity came to light when her maternal grandmother Kathy worked it out after going into Paige's bag and seeing a young Paige in an old photo. Almost being caught by Paige, she managed to entice Paige to accompany
her to meet a client so they could chat further about her prospects. When Paige went to get coffee for them, Kathy took the opportunity to continue looking in her bag and found the sketching of her new family which finally gave the game away and convinced
Kathy that Paige was indeed her long-lost granddaughter. Confronting her caused Kathy to have an attack, and she needed her tablets which then caused Paige to confess she had earlier taken them and had them in her bag. Desperate to see Lauren and reveal
Paige's true identity, she started the car even while the attack was getting worse, resulting in her then running Toadie over too.
When things began looking like they were coming to a head for Paige, with Karl noting the difference in names on her ID cards at the hospital, Paige decided it was time to flee Erinsborough. After all, her maternal family surely would no longer want her
after what she had done to her grandmother and, given at that time both families were still friends, wouldn't the Willis family also have problems with her deceit, and what she had done to Kathy and her deceit? She went back home to collect her belongings,
but before leaving, left the two teddies that symbolised her mothers connection to her on Lauren's doorstep. She didn't think she stood a chance, believing her mother had disposed of the teddy into the garbage, convincing Paige it was another rejection and
she was not wanted now at all. Little did she know that it had actually been thrown out by accident after Sonya had knocked it while collecting Lauren's old Christmas decorations and into the box of rubbish it fell, leaving Lauren heartbroken
because it was the last memory of her lost daughter.
After returning home from visiting her mother, Lauren saw these teddies and the realisation that her long lost
daughter was somewhere close suddenly hit her, and she ran out onto the street yelling for her. Mark saw her, asked what she was doing with Paige's teddy, and it was then that Lauren realised that Paige was her long-lost daughter, and she went to Mark's
house to try and find out where Paige was heading and intercept her. The search came to a head when Lauren finally caught up with the bus Paige was travelling on and halted it to a stop. Then, cue reunion. Paige got off and finally mother and daughter
were reunited after almost
20 years of separation. After a brief chat about how they had initially connected and why Paige hadn't revealed herself sooner, it was then time to go and meet another important person - her father Brad. Brad opened the door, wondering why
Lauren was standing there with Paige, then looked at the two teddies knowing what they symbolised and the penny started to slowly drop, only finally doing so when Lauren revealed Paige was their daughter.
Those two reunions went very well... unfortunately the same could not be said for the rest of the two families, where it wasn't such smooth sailing, far from it. Lauren and Brad's spouses found it hard to swallow, especially Terese given all Paige's
fabrications. Paige's relationship with half-sister Amber was particularly frosty given they failed to hit it off initially, so finding out her enemy was her now new found half-sister didn't go down too well either. Her other siblings
seemed a little warmer and receptive with her after they got over the initial deceit of not knowing her real identity. I think it was more the adults that didn't take it very well, particularly, as I said, Terese who had handled the prospect of living on
the same street as her husband's former lover, then finding out about the daughter they never realised was still alive, and then of course learning about the illicit kiss that Brad and Lauren had shared during the search for Paige. Lauren's husband Matt
found it hard too, but he was more receptive to Paige, and after Terese had invited Paige to live with the Willis in order for her to try and accept her new stepdaughter, then going back on it when she realised it was harder than she thought, he agreed to
let Paige move into the Turners and become a part of their family. As he said, "You may have troubles in a marriage, but you put the children first." There began a frosty, not-so-friendly, relationship between Paige and her new step mum Terese, as
they continually butted heads at every opportunity, mostly started by Terese. But then Paige began to entertain the thought of 'What would it be like if my parents were reunited?' after seeing how tense things were between Brad and Terese - and of course,
by now Paige had started acknowledging her parents by calling them Mum and Dad. In time, she may even venture further to change her name to Paige Turner-Willis.
Her extended family on both sides also welcomed her, even 'Nan' Kathy seemed more warming towards her now. Gramps
Lou was his normal comical self and introduced himself as though she was an enemy 'til he gave out his infamous laugh and welcomed her whole heartedly into the Carpenter clan (yeah yeah her mum and younger siblings were actually Turners, but who's going
to argue over a name...?) and she has even met her paternal Grandfather Doug 'Pops' Willis who welcomed her by presenting her with a baby bracelet, an old Willis family tradition. All the kids and grandkids had received one, and Paige was no different.
I felt this scene showed a vulnerable side to Paige, as her appreciation and shock over such a present of a family heirloom being given to her, showing she had indeed been accepted into the Willis side
of the family was quite obviously a big deal to her, and she hugged her new Pop, while revealing she didn't give hugs so easily, something the viewer had already noticed.
Another such occasion that springs to mind, showing us a glimpse of her vulnerability, was when she argued with younger sister Imogen over her lack of compassion and support to her best friend, Paige's other younger sister Amber, after Matt
died. Afterwards she admitted she had never experienced a situation like that and wasn't sure on how to handle it. Her loved ones were hurting and she couldn't stop it. Another similar occasion came when she broke up with Mark and, given she had never
had a proper relationship before, she was suddenly experiencing feelings for someone that she hadn't experienced before.
A new side to Paige's personality also came in her storyline with Mark's younger brother Tyler, who had got himself into a fix with the car scam because of Bailey stealing a stolen
car for a joyride. In order to stop her baby brother getting into more trouble, Paige agreed to keep his name out of it by getting involved in the scam, and we saw her get very scared dealing with thugs such as the awful Dimato and his nephew Joey, who
had become rather smitten with Paige. I was a little disappointed to see this side of Paige, given she seemed so strong, but I guess that was just maybe a facade to what was really a scared little girl? Even when Joey
came back to settle a score with her and grabbed her, the look of scare was evident on her face. But then when Mark and the police came to the rescue it was in fact Paige who had come out on top and tied Joey up. This is the vision of
Paige I had of her. All these noticeable scenes have shown us an insight to Paige and what makes her tick, also allowing us to see how she copes with situations that she has never come across before.
We also learnt a lot more about Paige when her adoptive mum Mary made an appearance in Erinsborough recently, and not
only did the viewers learn about her life with Mary and her adoptive family, but so did Paige. A lot of home truths came to light, but at the end of Mary's visit, her relationship with her mum had mended considerably and so they parted on better terms - not
before a warning from Mary to Paige to watch her back where Terese was concerned. This proved to be a warning well heeded, since we knew Terese was doing all she could to remove Paige from their lives and from Erinsborough, as she saw her as a threat, having
seen a text from Paige's adopted brother Ethan, asking if she'd succeeded in getting her biological parents back together. I think now the
Lauren/Brad/Terese volcano has erupted, after smouldering for months, Paige, whose hardest battle had been integrating herself into both families, is going to find it even harder to stay
integrated into them as she will be a constant reminder to them all of why the families are now so badly spilt up. It will be interesting to see what newly introduced youngest Willis daughter Piper thinks about Paige as she settles
back into the family after arriving home from Canada, as she has now met her eldest half-sister in the flesh, after conversing with her online through video calls, they hit it off immediately as they actually seem very alike,
a trait noticed by Lauren and Brad.
I have always liked Paige, there was something about her that instantly hit me when she first came on to our
screens, but just lately some of her actions have needled me somewhat. Maybe that is Paige's character developing more and I guess we all have little traits that, although others love about our characters, those little traits niggle and aggravate some people. Have
we seen the full picture of Paige now? I hope not, and although we have unwrapped a few layers of her character during Mary's visit, and we continue to do so as we continue on Paige's journey through life, I would like to unwrap some more of those
layers as we progress through the journey.
This article originally appeared on Sharon's website, Sharon Harvey Writer