Three Wishes(17)


by Liane Moriarty

“Who?” asked Annie.

“Angela. The girl Dan slept with.”

“Goodness me,” said Annie.

“Fucking hell,” said Dan.

To: Lyn; Gemma; Catriona

From: Maxine

Subject: Proposal for Christmas Day

Girls:

It seems to me that it is quite ridiculous and inequitable that I am always responsible for cooking a hot Christmas lunch. I have done so for the last thirty years and it is becoming tiresome. This year I would like to propose a cold seafood picnic somewhere by the water. Everybody could contribute. Your thoughts, please?

To: Maxine

cc: Cat; Lyn

From: Gemma

Subject: Proposal for Christmas Day

MUM! You have made exactly the same proposal every Christmas for the last five years. Every year we ACCEPT your proposal with enthusiasm. Every year you IGNORE us and continue to cook a hot XMAS lunch. You are so funny! This year I would like to make a counterproposal. Let’s have Christmas lunch at Lyn’s!! She has an exquisite harborside home as we all know. That way we could all swim in her exquisite harborside pool and enjoy observing her shapely legs as she brings us drinks. We’d be lovely and cool and polite to one another. It would be fun! We could all contribute something. I will contribute my potential new boyfriend, Charlie. He is delicious.

With much love, Gemma

To: Gemma

cc: Maxine; Cat

From: Lyn

Very funny G. But a good idea. I will have a seafood lunch for Christmas at my place. Better for Maddie anyway. Everybody can bring something. We’ll give you Christmas off this year, Mum. I shall e-mail more details. O.K. with you, Cat?

To: Maxine; Gemma; Lyn

From: Cat

Re: Christmas

Fine with me.

To: Gemma; Lyn; Cat

From: Maxine

If you would all feel more comfortable at Lyn’s place then I won’t raise any objections. I do apologize that past Christmases have obviously been so unpleasant for you all. I shall bring a turkey and roast potatoes, Lyn. Otherwise there are sure to be complaints. Gemma, Lyn has a lot on her plate! She certainly won’t be serving you drinks on Christmas Day. Everybody will have to roll up their sleeves and pitch in! As for bringing a new boyfriend, who we’ve never met, please don’t be ridiculous.

To: Maxine

From: Gemma

Subject: Christmas Day

You’re a classic, Mum.

Love, Gemma

“You look very nice,” said Dan.

They were crossing the Harbour Bridge in the back of a cab, an hour late for Dan’s Christmas party in the city. “Thanks.” Cat smoothed down her skirt and scraped at her lipstick with her fingernail.

It was her fault they were late. Over the last few days her body had become a leaden weight that needed to be dragged around from place to place. It was a tremendous effort to do anything at all.

Dan had sat silently on the end of their bed while she paused to rest and sigh after doing up each button on her shirt, his feet tapping a violent rhythm on the carpet. He liked parties.

Cat watched the lights of the city reflecting red and blue on the harbor’s murky depths. She liked parties, too. In fact, December was normally her favorite time of year. She loved the way Sydney become all giggly and light-headed. She loved the way nothing mattered quite so much and work deadlines lost their power. Of course we can’t even think about that until after Christmas, people said happily. But this December didn’t feel special at all. There was no special December smell in the air. It could just as easily have been March, or July, or any boring old month.

The car careened across two lanes as they took off from the tollgates and Cat fell against Dan’s shoulder. They both laughed polite-stranger laughs and Dan looked at his watch. “We’re making O.K. time, we won’t be that late.”

“That’s good.”

They sat in silence while the cab headed toward the Rocks. Cat spoke to the window. “Do of any of your friends know, you know, about…”

“No.”

He took her hand and put it in his lap.

“Of course not. Nobody knows.”

Cat looked out at George Street. Traffic had slowed to a jolting stop-and-start crawl. Horns tooted. Men and women in business suits spilled out of the pubs and their laughing faces seemed hard and strident. People in the distance kept seeing Cat and Dan’s cab, throwing one arm in the air and then dropping it with aggressive disgust when they saw it was taken. Sydney wasn’t giggly and light-headed at Christmastime; Sydney was just drunk and sordid.

“I wish you’d got the Paris job,” she said.

“Yeah, well, I didn’t.”

Ever since Dan had started working for the Australian branch of a French company, they had dreamed of a transfer to Paris. The Christmas before, he had made it onto the short list for a management position and the dream got so close they could touch it. They even enrolled themselves in a Beginner’s French course at the local evening college. In France, they would be themselves, but better. They’d wear French clothes and have French sex, while still, of course, maintaining their fundamental Aussie superiority. They’d be more worldly, more stylish, and in years to come, they’d say, “Oh yes, we both speak fluent French! Naturellement! We had a year in Paris, you see.”

But he’d missed out, and it had taken weeks to recover from the sour disappointment. And now here they were trapped in their stale, same-old Sydney lives. The only difference was a girl with shiny black hair and fresh young skin.

Cat turned away from the window to look at Dan. “Did you kiss her good-bye?”

He let go of her hand. “Oh, Cat, please no more, not tonight.”

“Because you called a cab, didn’t you? What did you do while you waited for it? Did she stay in bed or did she get up and wait with you?”

“I don’t understand why you can’t leave it alone,” said Dan. He was looking at her as if he didn’t know her, as if he didn’t even particularly like her. “You’re actually getting pretty f**king boring, Cat.”

“What?”

The rage was a glorious relief after the apathy. It went straight to her head, like tequila.

“I can’t believe you said that.”

She had a vision of his head snapping back as her fist slammed into his chin.

In a sudden rush of movement she leaned forward, so that her seat belt pulled tight against her and tapped the taxi driver on the shoulder.