Three Wishes(16)


by Liane Moriarty

And then, when they were leaving and Charlie asked, “What are you doing tonight?” something about the slightly defensive way he was standing and the way his eyes grinned straight into hers, made her want to cry and laugh at the same time.

Wrapping a towel around her, her mouth minty with Listerine (tonight was most definitely first-kiss time) she went dripping down the hallway into her bedroom to choose her most unsexy, unmatching underwear so she wouldn’t be tempted to sleep with him too soon.

Probably, she thought, it was always this good in the beginning.

She imagined her fourteen ex-boyfriends, all lined up one after the other in an orderly queue. The plumber who liked country music, that funny redheaded guy with the glasses, the graphic designer who talked too much in the movies, that big guy who was obsessed about losing his hair. At one end was Marcus, grinning a bit contemptuously, the farthest away, but still clearer and sharper than the rest of them. And, now right up front, chuckling his belly laugh, was Charlie. The queue dipped suddenly in height. He was at least a head shorter than the rest of them.

Would Charlie one day be giving her that puzzled, hurt look? “But why? I thought we were going so well?”

At least, thought Gemma, Cat knew exactly what she wanted. She wanted Dan and she wanted a baby. She also wanted a Ferrari, a house by the beach, Lyn’s Italian leather jacket, and for some man at Hollingdale Chocolates to get run over by a bus.

And that was it. No doubts. No confusion. No lying awake at night trying to work out the magic formula for happiness. Even if she didn’t exactly have what she wanted at the moment, at least she knew what it was. Gemma couldn’t imagine a feeling more peaceful, or exotic.

The doorbell rang in an impatient way, as if it had already been rung once. She threw on some clothes over her unsexy underwear and went running down the stairs to stop him from breaking in again.

Perms and the Pill

It must have been in the late sixties. I remember I was wearing my mauve miniskirt, long yellow socks, and platform shoes. Paula and I were off to the hairdressers for our first ever perms.

We had to walk through that park on Henderson Road and we saw this girl about the same age as us. Tall, with gorgeous long red hair. She was running around after these three adorable little girls. All identically dressed in little yellow sundresses with their hair up in top knots. At first, we thought she was just minding them. But then we could hear them calling out, Mummy, watch me! Mummy, come here! The poor girl was running this way and that, trying to keep them all happy.

Paula said, “Triplets! Aren’t they sweet!” And at that very moment, one child grabbed another one and sank her teeth into her bare arm! The bitten child screamed blue murder! And the mother said, very firmly, something like, “I said no biting today! That’s it! We’re all going home!” Pandemonium! They scattered, like a bomb had fallen, pelting off in different directions! How that poor girl managed to get them home I don’t know.

Well, Paula and I were gob-smacked. We had no idea children bit one another, like savage little animals! You know what we did straight after our perms? We went to the new Family Planning Clinic in the city and got ourselves prescriptions for the Pill. We did! Perms and the Pill on the same day. I’ve never forgotten it.

CHAPTER 4

“My wife is a triplet, you know,” Dan said chattily. He leaned back against the squeaky vinyl sofa and crossed his arms comfortably behind his head. Cat watched him suspiciously. He was finding marriage counseling far too enjoyable for her liking.

“Really!”

The counselor wriggled with delight. Her name was Annie and she was a bubbly ball of spiritually advanced energy and positive new age vibes. Cat couldn’t stand her. She could feel her sulky teenage self reemerging in the hard line of her jaw. It was like religion classes when soft, oozy Miss Ellis made them share their feelings with the class. Gemma adored her, obligingly spilling her soul, while Cat and Lyn listened, appalled, at the back of the classroom. Cat would have taken a double period of calculus with psychopathic Sister Elizabeth Mary over one squirmy religion class with pink-fluffy-cardigan Miss Ellis.

“And are you close to your siblings, Cat?” beamed Annie. Her green dress was covered in a diseaselike rash of sunny yellow polka dots. No doubt there was a pink fluffy cardigan in her wardrobe. She leaned forward, presenting them both with an uninterrupted view of endless freckled cle**age.

“Not really.” Cat concentrated hard on Annie’s forehead.

“Are you kidding?” Dan, who had been observing Annie’s br**sts with awe, took his hands out from behind his head. “She adores her sisters! They’re unhealthily close if you ask me.”

“Except no one did ask you, Dan,” said Cat. Annie sat back in her chair and tapped her pen against her teeth with gentle empathy.

“The three of them are like this exclusive little club,” said Dan. “And they’re not taking any new members.”

“I want to talk more about Dan’s infidelity.” Cat shifted noisily on the green vinyl.

Dan looked irritated. “I don’t think it’s constructive to keep going over and over it.” He looked at Annie for approval.

“Cat has a need to work through her feelings about this, Dan,” replied Annie. “We probably should respect that, yes?”

Ha! Annie was on her side! Cat gave Dan a triumphant look, and his eyes glinted back at her.

“Annie, you’re right of course,” he said admiringly and gently patted Cat’s thigh.

Competition was an aphrodisiac for Cat and Dan. Their relationship was all about smart verbal jabs and wild wrestling for the TV remote and flicking each other with tea towels. Whether they were skiing or playing Scrabble or avoiding each other’s cold feet in bed, they were both equally, aggressively, in it to win.

They had fun together. Sometimes, just for the pleasure of it, they went through all their friends, trying to pick a couple who had more fun than they did. No one came close. They were the winners!

Not any more though. Now they were the losers. The couple going through a “rough patch.”

To her disgust and horror, Cat heard a sad, strangled little sob come out of her mouth. With practiced soothing murmurs, Annie nudged the discreetly placed box of tissues across the coffee table.

Cat grabbed a handful, while Dan cleared his throat and ran his hands up and down his jeans. “I went to see her, you know,” said Cat, looking at them both above her tissues, snuffling noisily. “She gave me directions back to the Pacific Highway.”