Three Wishes(5)


by Liane Moriarty

“Oh, darling. Don’t worry. I’m sure she did. Those little techniques of yours are so reliable. I’m sure she was very appreciative.”

“Cat, I’m begging you to stop.” There was a tremor in his voice.

She wiped sweat from her forehead. It was too hot.

She felt ugly. In fact she was ugly. She put her hand to her chin and felt the pimple. Makeup! She needed makeup. She needed makeup, wardrobe, a hair stylist, and an air-conditioned set. Then she’d feel clean, beautiful waves of grief like the stars of Med School.

She got to her feet and picked up both their plates.

The back of her throat itched unbearably. Hay fever. Right now, of all times. She put the plates back down on the coffee table and sneezed four times. Each time she closed her eyes to sneeze, an image of a sliding bra strap exploded in her mind.

Dan went into the kitchen and came back with the box of tissues.

“Don’t look at me,” she said.

“What?” He held out the tissues.

“Just don’t look at me.”

That was when she picked up one of the plates of spaghetti and threw it straight against the wall.

To: Lyn; Cat

From: Gemma

Subject: Cat

LYN! WARNING, WARNING! DANGER, DANGER! I just spoke to Cat and she is in a VERY, VERY bad mood. I would not recommend ringing her about minding Maddie for another twenty-four hours at least.

Love, Gemma

To: Gemma

From: Cat

Subject: ME

Warning, warning, if you’re going to send e-mails about my bad mood at least make sure I don’t get them. That could really put me in a bad mood.

To: Gemma

From: Lyn

Subject: Cat

G. Need to be careful about hitting “reply all” instead of “reply to author” on old e-mails. Set up address book!! No doubt Cat v. impressed. Kara minding Maddie so no problem. L.

To: Lyn; Cat

From: Gemma

Subject: Kara

Dear Lyn,

I don’t know how to set up an address book but thank you for the thought. I don’t mean to alarm you but have you heard of SHAKING BABY SYNDROME? I think leaving Maddie with Kara could be very dangerous. Once I saw her shaking a box of cornflakes FURIOUSLY. She is a teenager and teenagers have problems with their hormones that cause them to be just a little insane. Can’t you ask Cat, once she has finished her bad mood? Or else I could cancel my date with the luscious locksmith. I am prepared to do that to save Maddie’s life. Let me know. Love, Gemma

Cat wondered if her face looked different. It felt different, as if it were bruised and swollen. Both her eyes as if like they’d been punched. In fact, her whole body seemed strangely fragile. She’d been holding herself stiffly all day, as if she were sunburned.

It was surprising really, how much this hurt and how consistently it hurt. All day at work she kept thinking that she ought to get a painkiller and then remembering that she wasn’t actually in physical pain.

She hadn’t slept much the night before.

“I’ll sleep on the sofa bed,” Dan had announced, looking heroic and pale.

“No, you won’t,” said Cat, refusing to give him the satisfaction.

But when they got into bed and she lay there looking at the ceiling and listened to Dan’s breathing starting to slow—he was actually going to sleep—she had snapped back on the light and said, “Get out.”

He went, clutching his pillow sleepily to his stomach. Cat lay in bed and imagined her husband having sex with another woman. She was right there, under the covers with them, watching his hands, her hands, his mouth, her mouth.

She couldn’t stop. She didn’t want to stop. It was necessary to imagine every excruciating second-by-second detail.

In the middle of the night she woke Dan up to ask him what color underwear the girl was wearing.

“I don’t remember,” he said blearily.

“You do! You do!” She kept insisting until finally he said he thought it might have been black, at which point she burst into tears.

Now Cat looked at the people in the 4:30 P.M. Operations Meeting and wondered if this thing, this vile thing, had ever happened to them.

Sales Director Rob Spencer was in his favorite position by the whiteboard, enthusiastically scribbling flamboyant arrows and boxes. “Folks! I think this makes my point very clear!”

Rob Spencer. Well, that was a joke. For the last five years or so Rob Spencer had been having an affair with gorgeous Johanna from accounts. It was the company’s favorite secret. Telling new staff the Rob/Johanna legend was part of the induction procedure at Hollingdale Chocolates. The only people who didn’t know, presumably, were Rob’s wife and Johanna’s husband. Everyone stared with enjoyable pity at the two unfortunate spouses when they made their appearance each year at the annual Christmas party.

It occurred to Cat that she now had something in common with Rob Spencer’s pathetic wife. She was the faceless wife in Angela’s amusing story of a one-night stand with a married man. Well I feel sorry for the wife…the wife isn’t Angela’s responsibility…who cares about the wife, just give us the gory details, Ange!

She swallowed hard and looked down at Rob’s analysis for a quick way to humiliate him.

Colorful graphs. Nifty little spreadsheet. All done by his minions, of course.

Aha.

“Rob,” she said.

Ten heads turned in relieved unison to face her.

“Catriona!” Rob spun from the whiteboard, teeth flashing against solarium-yellow tan. “Always value your feedback!”

“I just wondered where those figures came from?” she said.

“I do believe the marvelous Margie did the number crunching for me.” Rob tapped his figures seductively, as if Margie had given him a rather marvelous blow job at the same time.

“Yes, but what figures did you give Margie to crunch?” asked Cat.

“Ah, let’s see,” Rob began shuffling vaguely through his paperwork.

She savored the moment before moving in for the kill.

“Looking at the marketing budget here, it seems you’ve given her last financial year’s figures. So your analysis, while fascinating, is also, hmmm, how can I put it best…irrelevant?”

Too bitchy. Male egos were so tender, just like their balls. She would pay for that one.

“Crash and burn, Rob, mate!” Hank from production thumped his fist on the table.