Three Wishes(11)


by Liane Moriarty

“She’s made a career out of being our mother,” Cat always complained.

“So what?” Lyn would say.

“It’s exploitation.”

“Oh, please.”

Lyn flicked idly through the speech. Most of it she recognized from previous speeches, articles, and her mother’s book:

Sometimes you may feel like a traveling freak show. Eventually, you’ll get used to the stares and the approaches by strangers. I remember once I counted the number of times I was stopped by well-meaning people wanting to look at my daughters as I walked through Chatswood Shopping Center. It was—

Fifteen, thought Lyn. Yes, we know, fifteen times!

It has been calculated that it takes twenty-eight hours a day to look after triplets. That’s tricky, considering we only have twenty-four at our disposal! (Wait for laugh)

I’m not so sure you’ll get one, Mum. That’s not actually very funny.

Monozygotic twins—meaning one egg—share 100 percent of their genes. Dizygotic twins—meaning two eggs—share only 25 percent of their genes, like any normal sibling.

Gemma would be offended to hear herself described as a “normal” sibling. When they were in second class, Sister Joyce Mary chalked a picture of the three-leafed shamrock on the blackboard to illustrate how “the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost were three persons but one God.” Gemma’s hand shot into the air. “Like triplets! Like us!” The nun winced. “I’m afraid the Kettle girls are not like the Holy Trinity!” “Yes, but I think we are, Sister,” said Gemma kindly.

When Gemma told the story to their mother, Maxine explained that her analogy might have been reasonable if they’d all come from the one egg. However, as only Cat and Lyn were identical and Gemma was a “single egg” they probably couldn’t be compared to the Holy Trinity, which was a lot of nonsense anyway. “I don’t want to be a single egg!” wailed Gemma. “What if we were Siamese triplets?” asked Cat. “With our heads all glued together?” But their mother had turned up the car radio to drown out Gemma.

Sibling rivalry is obviously a complex issue, which I will be discussing at length. On other hand, you may feel envious of mothers of “singletons” and worry that your babies are actually closer to each other than to you. This is perfectly normal.

That was a new one. Surely their profoundly practical mother had never worried about anything like that?

“Why did you tell that journalist Gemma was a teacher?” Maxine came back into the room and handed over a glass of water and a tablet.

“I think she might still do some casual teaching every now and then,” said Lyn, putting the speech aside. “How was I meant to describe her?”

“Yes, well, that’s certainly a point,” said Maxine. “Odds-body! Jack of all trades! I called her the other day and she casually mentioned she was off to do stilt walking for some promotion at Fox Studios. Gemma, I said, are you actually capable of walking on stilts?”

“She wasn’t,” said Lyn. “She told me she kept toppling over. But apparently the kids in the audience all thought it was hilarious.”

“Hilarious indeed. Gemma is a drifter. I read in the paper today about that murderer in Melbourne. They called him a drifter. I thought to myself, that’s how people would describe Gemma! My own daughter! A drifter!”

“She doesn’t drift far. At least she only drifts around Sydney.”

“I’ll grant you that.” Maxine, who was sitting on the sofa in front of Lyn, suddenly took a deep breath and pressed her hands to her knees in a strangely awkward gesture. “Yes, well, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something. A little issue.”

“Have you really?” Her mother wasn’t in the habit of meaning to say things; she generally just said them. “What is it?”

At that moment, Lyn’s mobile began to ring and vibrate on the coffee table. She glanced at the name on the screen. “Speak of the drifter. I’ll let her go to voicemail.”

“No, answer it. I’ll talk to you about it another time. You’re in a rush anyway.” Maxine stood up briskly and removed the glass of water from Lyn’s hand.

“Tell Gemma to water that poor man’s flowers,” she ordered cryptically, and went tapping off again down the hallway, calling out, “Just what are you up to now, Maddie?”

“Cat Crisis!” announced Gemma happily. “Guess where she is!”

“I give up, where?”

“Well, all right then, I’ll tell you. She’s sitting in her car outside the woman’s place!”

“What woman?”

“What woman, she says. The woman! The woman dastardly Dan had sex with! Cat is stalking her. I think Cat is perfectly capable of boiling a rabbit, don’t you? Or a puppy. Even a kitten.”

“Can you please be serious for once in your life?” said Lyn. “What’s she doing there?”

“Wait till you hear how she found her! She was like an undercover detective.”

“Gemma.”

“I am being serious. Deadly serious. We have to stop her! She says she just wants to see what the woman looks like, but that sounds a bit passive for Cat, don’t you think? She’s probably planning to throw acid at her, something to horribly disfigure her. Can we drive there together? My air conditioning isn’t working.”

“I’ve got a meeting,” Lyn looked at her watch, “in half an hour.”

“I’ll see you soon. I’ll wait out front.”

“Gemma!”

“Can’t talk, going to sneeze!” Gemma hung up mid-sneeze.

Lyn put down the phone and rubbed her eyes with the heels of her hands, while she tried to remember where Gemma was living at the moment.

She thought of her meeting at the bakery. The rich fragrance that would envelop her, the respect that would greet her, the pleasure of dealing with efficient, professional, calm, normal people.

She called out to Maxine, “You’d better give me two more of those antihistamines.”

She’d forgotten all about her mother’s “little issue.”

CHAPTER 3

“You stood me up.”

“Did I?”

“Was it because somebody died?”

“Oh, I hope not.”