Three Wishes(12)


by Liane Moriarty

Waking up was Gemma’s least favorite thing. She resisted it daily. Even when she was woken up by a phone call, like now, she continued to fight consciousness by keeping her eyes squeezed shut, her breathing deep, and not concentrating too hard.

If she was lucky, the conversation would be short and she could slip straight back into lovely sleep.

“I was actually sort of hoping somebody did die. Somebody not that important. It would help my shattered ego.” The voice was rather appealingly masculine but she had no idea who he was, or what he was talking about, and sleep was still a possibility.

“Yes, I see,” she slurred politely.

“Did you get a better offer?”

“Umm.” She breathed deeper and burrowed farther under her quilt.

“Are you still in bed? Big night last night?”

“Shh,” said Gemma. “Stop talking. Sleep time. It’s Saturday.”

But there was something twitching urgently and irritatingly at the very outer corner of her consciousness.

“Exactly. It’s Saturday. Last night was Friday night. I waited. And waited. Everyone in the restaurant felt sorry for me. I got free garlic bread.”

“Who is this?” Like Frankenstein’s monster coming to life, Gemma suddenly sat bolt upright.

“How many of us did you stand up last night? Is this like a regular Friday night thing for you?”

“Oh my God! You’re the locksmith!”

She threw back her quilt and jumped out of bed, the phone to her ear. She bunched back her fringe with one hand. How could this have happened?

“I can’t believe I forgot! That is so rude. So bad-mannered. I am so sorry. I had a family crisis. It was exciting, my sister turned into a psychotic stalker. Still, that’s no excuse.”

“Keep going.”

“I feel terrible. Really.”

She really did feel terrible. Not just because of hurting the locksmith’s feelings but because if she could so completely forget something like that, something she was quite looking forward to, then who knows what else she’d forgotten in her life? Perhaps she’d forgotten other things and never remembered she’d forgotten them. Good things. Like lottery wins. Job offers. It was frightening.

“You should feel terrible,” said the locksmith. “How do you plan to redeem yourself?”

Gemma sat cross-legged on the edge of her bed and pulled her T-shirt over her knees. He sounded quite sexy and stern. Perhaps she should make a habit of standing up first dates.

“Oh, redemption,” she said. “I’m a Catholic, we’re right into it. What shall I do? Buy you breakfast?”

“No. I think you should cook me breakfast. Breakfast for you. Lunch for me. Brunch for the two of us. You can tell me all about your psychotic sister.”

“I would, I really would, but I don’t cook. So we’ll have to think of something else.”

“I’ll be there in twenty minutes.”

Gemma let her T-shirt spring back from her knees and cuddled them to her with pleasure.

“I don’t cook,” she repeated. “My sisters cook.”

“Your sisters didn’t stand me up.”

He hung up without saying good-bye.

Well! He sounded nice!

Of course, they always did in the beginning.

Lyn believed that Gemma was addicted to a chemical called phenylethylamine. This was the chemical that flooded divinely through your body when you fell in love. Gemma had been in exactly fourteen relationships over the last ten years (Lyn was keeping count), and according to Lyn, it was starting to get beyond a joke, in fact it was becoming scary. Gemma was obviously breaking up with these perfectly nice men whenever the relationship moved from Stage 1—attraction—to Stage 2—intimacy—because of her addiction.

The good thing was that you could also get phenylethylamine from chocolate. Lyn said Gemma should therefore eat more chocolate and settle into a long-term committed loving relationship in Stage 3.

Gemma wondered what her chances were of reaching Stage 3 with—

With…?

What the hell was his name?

Her mind was quite blank.

There was a peculiar significance to it, she knew that.

She remembered picking up her keys from the kitchen table and jangling them in a maternal “You silly things” fashion, as if it was their fault they’d got locked in the house. The locksmith smiled at her. He smiled straight into her eyes because he was exactly her height.

Gemma and her sisters had a strict “nothing under six feet” policy, but looking into this man’s eyes had been rather pleasant, slightly shocking in fact, as if they were lying in bed together. Maybe, she thought, it was time for a change of policy.

“It’s funny how people always want to show me the keys they’ve locked in their houses,” he said.

His head was so closely shaven it was almost bald. He had wide shoulders, a slightly crooked nose, and…extraordinarily long eyelashes. They would have made a handsome man look effeminate. They made the locksmith a tiny bit beautiful.

Gemma said, “You have the most amazing eyelashes.”

It was a bad habit of hers, complimenting strangers on their physical attributes. She once told a woman in an elevator that she had an especially lovely collarbone. The woman had looked panic-stricken and had begun jabbing at the elevator buttons.

“I know,” said the locksmith. “I’m surprised you took so long to mention them.” Gemma burst into surprised laughter as he leaned forward and furiously batted his eyelashes at her. Then he laughed too. He had the deep, comforting belly laugh of a much larger man. It made her laugh even more.

She was still chortling away when he told her his name and asked if he could take her out to dinner that Friday night.

His name was significant in a vaguely comical sort of way. Something made her think, well, I’ll remember that name, ha ha. And there was also something that was just a tiny bit sad about it. Just a faint, delicate shadow of sadness. It was very odd. What could it be? What name could be funny and sad all at once? How fascinating! She couldn’t wait to remember it.

She looked around her room for inspiration. The sun was streaming through the open window, a breeze gently lifting and dropping a faded lace curtain. It had been only a couple of weeks, but it looked like this could be one of her favorite houses. The solid, mahogany furniture seemed patient and wise and the clutter-filled drawers and shelves felt friendly and nonthreatening.