Three Wishes(6)


by Liane Moriarty

Rob held up both hands in boyish surrender. “Team! It seems the Cat has caught me out again with her razor-sharp eye for errors!”

He looked at his watch. “It’s nearly five on a Friday afternoon! People, what are we still doing here? Who wants to join me in drowning my humiliation at Albert’s? Catriona? Can I shout my nemesis a drink?”

His eyes were opaque little marbles.

Cat smiled tightly. “I’ll hold you to it another time.”

She bundled up her files and left the room, feeling quite ill with inappropriate-for-the-workplace hatred for Rob Spencer.

To: Cat

From: Gemma

Subject: Drink

Would you like to have a drink?

We can talk about the bad mood you’re not in.

Love, Gemma

P.S. Essential that you back me up on Kara issue!

P.P.S. Do you owe me any money by any chance? I don’t seem to have any.

Cat sat in a dimly lit corner of the pub with three beers in front of her and waited for her sisters.

She wasn’t going to tell them. She and Dan needed time to work it out for themselves. It wasn’t necessary to share every single detail of her marriage. It was weird and triplet-dependent. “You tell those two everything!” Dan always said, and he didn’t know the half of it.

If she told them, Gemma would hug her and rush off to buy supplies of ice cream and champagne. Lyn would be on her mobile ringing friends for referrals for good marriage counselors. They would inundate her with advice. They would argue passionately with each other over what she should and shouldn’t do.

They would care too much and that would make it real.

She took a gulp of her beer and bared her teeth at a man who was making hopeful gestures at the two stools she had saved.

“Just checking!” he said, hands up, looking hurt.

She definitely wasn’t telling her sisters. Look what happened when she went off the Pill. Her cycle became public property; every month, they’d call to cheerily ask if her period had arrived yet.

They had both stopped calling now but only after she’d said to Gemma that yes, it had come, and yes, she probably was infertile, and now was she satisfied? Gemma had cried, of course. Then Cat had felt sick with guilt as well as period pain.

“Are these seats?”

“Yes, they are seats, but no, they are not free.”

“What’s her problem?”

“Ignore her. Bitch.”

Two girls in matching Barbie-doll business suits tottered off disapprovingly on their high heels, while Cat examined her knuckles and imagined jumping up and punching their lipsticked mouths.

She wondered what that girl looked like.

Angela.

She was probably short and curvy like those girls who had now stopped to giggle and gurgle up at a group of, no doubt married, men.

Cat hated curvaceous little women. Feminine, doll-like women who tilted up their sweet faces to Cat like she was some sort of towering, lumbering giant.

Her sisters understood. Tall women understood.

But she didn’t want the humiliation of their understanding. In fact, for some reason the thought of their intensely sympathetic faces made her furious. It was their fault.

She searched her mind for a rational reason for blaming them.

Of course: it was their fault she’d ever met Dan in the first place.

Melbourne Cup Day over ten years ago. Twenty-one and delightfully drunk on champagne, back when you were still allowed to call cheap sparkling wine “champagne.” Betting spectacular amounts of money on every race. Laughing like drains, as their grandmother said. Making a complete spectacle of themselves, as their mother said.

They accosted every boy who walked by their table.

Gemma: “We’re triplets! Can you tell? Can you believe it? They’re identical but I’m not. I’m a single egg! They’re just half of the one egg. Half-eggs. Would you like to buy us a drink? We quite like champagne.”

Lyn: “Got any good tips? Personally, I like Lone Ranger in Race Five. We’re drinking the $9.99 bottle of champagne if you were thinking of buying us a drink. We’ve already got glasses, so that’s O.K.”

Cat: “You seem to have an unusually large head. It’s blocking the television and I’m about to win a lot of money. Could you go away? Unless you’d like to buy us a drink.”

The boy with the large head sat down in the booth next to Cat. He was very tall, and they all had to squash together to give him enough room.

He had evil green eyes and stubble.

He was gorgeous.

“So,” he said. “You’re all ex–womb mates.”

Gemma thought this was hilarious and dissolved into tears of laughter. Cat sat back, sipping her drink, waiting for the gorgeous boy to fall in love with Gemma. Men generally fell in love with Gemma when she laughed. They couldn’t hide their sheepish grins of pride. It became their life mission to make her laugh again.

But this boy seemed more interested in Cat. He put his hand on her knee. She removed it and put it back on the table.

“Did you just put your hand on Cat’s knee!?” shouted Lyn, whose voice tended to rise several decibels when she was drunk. “Gemma! That boy just put his hand on Cat’s knee!”

“Do you like her?” said Gemma. “Do you want to kiss her? She’s a good kisser. She says she is anyway. After you’ve kissed her could you buy us some more champagne please?”

“I don’t want to kiss him!” said Cat. “His head is abnormally large. And he looks like a truck driver.”

She wanted to kiss him quite a lot.

“If I pick a winner in this race, will you kiss me?” said the boy.

They looked at him with interest. They were all gamblers. It was a rogue gene they’d inherited from their grandfather.

Lyn leaned forward. “WHAT IF IT LOSES?”

“Bottle of champagne,” said the boy.

“Deal!” Gemma knocked over Cat’s champagne as she reached across to shake his hand.

“What are you two, my pimps?” asked Cat.

He picked a horse called Dancing Girl.

“NO CHANCE!” cried Lyn. “She’s fifty to one for God’s sake. Why didn’t you pick a favorite?”

Gemma and Lyn were screaming on their feet for the whole race.

Cat stayed sitting next to the boy. She kept her eyes fixed on the television. Dancing Girl ran in the middle of the pack until the last few seconds when she broke free and began surging forward. The race caller’s voice rose in rapid surprise. Gemma and Lyn wailed.