Three Wishes(14)


by Liane Moriarty

Love from Gemma

“So, when do you think I should have sex with my locksmith?”

It was that same night, and Gemma lay immersed to her neck in a peachy-smelling bubble bath, talking to Lyn on the portable phone. She had turned the lights out and the bathroom was lit by dozens of perfumed, flickering tea-candles. A box of funny-shaped chocolates from Cat’s work was in convenient reach. (Cat kept her in constant supply of rejected Hollingdale chocolates. It was a truly tragic occupational hazard that Cat was now repulsed by even the smell of chocolate.)

The Penthursts had a gigantic claw-foot bathtub, which was wonderful, although it did remind Gemma of those movie scenes where the woman dreamily (so foolishly!) runs an extremely steamy bath while a knife-clutching villain creeps up the stairs. To ensure this didn’t happen, she thought about it a lot. As an added security measure, she took the phone with her into the bath and telephoned no-nonsense people like her sisters and her mother.

“I’m thinking, controversially, the fourth date. Normally, I succumb on the third date.” She lifted a foamy leg and watched the froth sliding back into the steaming water. “What do you think?”

Lyn’s voice burst forth from the portable phone, spoiling the ambience quite considerably. “I don’t know and I don’t care,” she said with an irritable clatter of crockery. Lyn always seemed to be packing or unpacking a dishwasher when she spoke on the phone. “I’ve already got one teenager in my life, thanks very much.”

“Oh.”

Gemma’s leg splashed down into the water as she hurriedly tried to think of a breezy new topic of conversation to demonstrate that her feelings weren’t hurt.

“For God’s sake, Gemma, why do you always have to be so bloody sensitive?”

Too late.

“All I said was oh.”

“I’ve got Maddie whining. I’ve got Michael stressed. I’ve got Kara threatening to sue me. I’ve got Christmas orders flooding in and staff flooding out. What do you expect?”

“I don’t expect anything. It was just, I don’t know, idle chat.”

“I don’t have time for idle chat. Have you talked to Cat since Friday’s drama?”

“Yes,” Gemma relaxed again. “Dan wants them to try counseling.”

“He’s a f**kwit.”

That was strong language for Lyn.

“Yes, he is,” said Gemma. “But only a temporary f**kwit, don’t you think? They’ll work it out. Dan just made a stupid mistake.”

“I’ve always hated him.”

A tidal wave of bubbles went flying over the side of the bath as Gemma sat up straight.

“Really?”

“Yes, really.”

“I thought we all loved Dan!” Gemma felt slightly sick.

“It’s not a group decision who we like and don’t like.”

“Yes, O.K., but I didn’t know we—I mean you—felt that way.”

“I have to go.” Lyn’s voice softened and a saucepan banged. “The locksmith sounds really lovely. Sleep with him whenever it feels right. Try not to break his heart. And don’t take any notice of me. I’m just tired. I need more iron.”

Gemma put the phone on the wet bathroom floor and used her big toe to dislodge the plug just slightly so she could put more hot water in. She selected a large warped strawberry cream.

Of course she was angry with Dan. She was furious with him. She wanted to punch him in the nose. She was looking forward to publicly shaming him on Christmas Day by not giving him a present. Not even a scratch ’n’ win card.

But the cold hatred in Lyn’s voice was way beyond what Gemma was feeling.

It made her feel left out.

She thought about Friday and pulling up behind Cat’s blue Honda. For some reason it had wrenched Gemma’s heart to see the lone little car sitting on the side of the road outside some strange block of units.

Lyn turned off the ignition with a grim flick of her wrist.

“This is ridiculous.”

Together they walked over to Cat’s car and tapped on the driver’s window.

Cat wound down the window. “Get in, get in!”

Gemma hopped in the backseat, while Lyn went around to the front. There were spots of feverish color on Cat’s cheeks. “This is fun, isn’t it?” Her eyes were bright.

“Nope,” said Lyn.

“Yep,” said Gemma.

“It’s O.K. It’s fine. I’m not going to talk to her,” said Cat. “I just have to see what she looks like. I can’t bear not knowing what she looks like.”

“Apart from the weirdness of this,” said Lyn. “wouldn’t this girl be at work?”

“Oh no, she’s too young for work, Lyn!” said Cat. “She’s studying law. Smart, as well as attractive. My husband doesn’t have one-night stands with just anybody! Anyway, I’ve worked out her timetable. She had a lecture first thing and then nothing for the rest of the day.”

“Oh. My. God.” Lyn twisted around in her seat to look at Cat.

Cat turned and looked at her fiercely. “What’s your problem?”

Gemma looked fondly at their identical profiles. “There’s someone coming,” she said.

Lyn and Cat turned their heads and Cat made a strangled noise. A girl was walking toward the car. She had long swinging dark hair and a knapsack.

“Is it her?” A bubble of schoolgirl hysteria was expanding in Gemma’s chest. “Should we hide?”

“Yep, that’s her,” said Cat. She sat very still, looking straight ahead at the girl as she got closer and closer to the car. “That’s Angela.”

“How do you know?” whispered Lyn, beginning to sink lower in her seat.

“I made Dan describe her to me,” said Cat. “I’m positive.”

She put her hand on the door handle. “I’m going to talk to her.”

“No!”

Lyn and Gemma both made a frantic grab for her arm as Cat purposefully got out of the car, slamming the door behind her.

Lyn put her face in her hands. “I can’t watch.”

Gemma stared, transfixed, as the two women got closer to each other.

“Should we go after her?”

“Just tell me if she starts to assault her,” said Lyn in a muffled voice.