Three Wishes(8)


by Liane Moriarty

Kara was six when Lyn first met her, a girly little girl, with butterfly clips in her curly black hair and skinny arms that jangled with sparkly pink bangles. Her most treasured possession was an extra-large pencil case that she called her “Crafty Case”; it had special things in it like glitter, glue, and chunky plastic scissors. Lyn was allowed Crafty Case privileges, and they spent whole Sunday afternoons together, making cardboard and Paddle Pop–stick creations. When Kara eventually began to find other interests, Lyn kept clinging on, making hopeful suggestions for new projects. She gave up only after that fateful, embarrassing day when Kara ceremonially presented her with the Crafty Case, saying, “Here, now you can play with it on your own, whenever you want.”

At fifteen, Kara kept her hair dead straight and rimmed her eyes in thick black eyeliner. Some days she slouched for endless hours on the sofa, yawning hugely, like someone suffering from terrible jet lag. Other days she was flushed and glittery-eyed, almost maniacally happy. Her most treasured possession was her mobile phone, which beeped night and day with text messages from her friends.

Lyn watched as Kara opened the fridge door and stood with one hip at an angle. She stared vaguely into the fridge, swinging the door, and suddenly said, “When did you lose your virginity?”

“None of your business,” answered Lyn. “Do you want something to eat? Have you had breakfast?”

Kara turned around with enthusiasm. “Was it really late? Like, embarrassing late? Why? Did no one want to sleep with you? Don’t feel bad. You can tell me!”

“The apples are good. Have an apple.”

Kara took an apple. She slammed the fridge door and swung herself up on to the kitchen bench, swinging her legs.

“Who did Dad lose his virginity to? Was it Mum, do you reckon?”

“I don’t know.”

Kara gave Lyn a sly, slanting look over her apple. “I’m going to lose my virginity by the end of next year.”

“Are you? Good for you.”

Lyn wasn’t especially worried about Kara and sex. She was fastidious and easily revolted. Just last night Michael had said at the dinner table, “Lyn, I want to pick your brains about something,” and Kara had exploded, covering her face, making him vow to never say anything so disgusting as “pick your brains” ever again.

Surely she wouldn’t be interested in anything as messy as a penis.

Lyn opened the dishwasher and began rinsing that morning’s breakfast dishes. Due to the distressing and frankly shocking news about Dan, last night’s drink with Cat and Gemma had gone three hours longer than scheduled. That meant today’s “to do” list was longer than usual. She’d been up since 5:30 A.M.

Dan was a truly horrible cheating sleaze…She must remind Michael to call his mother for her birthday…Why did Dan even tell Cat? What did it achieve?…If Maddie slept for another hour or so, she could prepare for tomorrow’s meeting at the bakery…Cat could get so irrational. Would their marriage survive this?…Ten Christmas cards a night, starting from tonight…

And beneath all those thoughts was a flicker of concern, a long-buried, knotty little worry that she was refusing to bring out and dust off, just in case it looked really bad.

“It’s going to be my New Year’s resolution,” Kara was saying, her mouth full of apple. “To lose my virginity next year. Are you going to tell Dad?”

“Do you want me to tell him?”

“I don’t care.”

“Fine. Shouldn’t you be going?”

“So, but what do you think about me losing my virginity this year?”

“I think it’s a very personal decision.”

“So you think I should. Wait till I tell Dad you said I should lose my virginity next year. He’ll go ballistic.”

“I never said that.”

“Out of all the men you’ve slept with, where would you rate Dad? Is he like—any good?” Kara’s face contorted with delighted disgust. “Is he in your top ten? Have you got a top ten? Have you slept with more than ten men even?”

“Kara.”

“Oh my God, don’t answer. I just thought of you and Dad having sex. I’m going to throw up. Oh my God! I can’t get it out of my mind! It’s revolting!”

A miniature figure in pink pajamas toddled into the kitchen, sucking on an empty bottle like a cherubic wino. “Hi!”

Lyn nearly dropped the plate she was holding. “Maddie!”

“Hi!” Maddie politely acknowledged her mother and then immediately turned to Kara with worshipful eyes, offering her bottle like a gift to a goddess.

Kara graciously accepted the bottle. “Can she get out of her cot herself now?”

“So it seems,” said Lyn, trying to readjust to a new world where Maddie could no longer be safely incarcerated in her cot.

The doorbell and the office phone began to ring simultaneously.

“Could you watch her for a minute?” asked Lyn.

“Sorry.” Kara swung herself off the bench and handed the bottle back to Maddie. “I’m really late for school.”

Carelessly, she ruffled Maddie’s dark curly head. “Seeya, sweetie!”

Maddie’s bottom lip quivered. She slammed the bottle down on the floor.

Lyn picked up Kara’s half-eaten apple from the kitchen bench and threw it in the rubbish bin. She scooped up Maddie and walked toward the front door.

“Kara, Kara,” Maddie sobbed pitifully.

“I know just what you mean, darling,” said Lyn, holding tight to her squirming little body. “Kara, Kara.”

To: Michael

From: Lyn

Subject: Please hurry home

Shocking day. Both your daughters driving me insane.

P.S. Who did you lose your virginity to?

P.P.S. Please pick up milk and cockroach baits on your way home.

To: Lyn

From: Michael

Subject: O.K.

Home at 6:30 at the latest.

Fish and chips on beach to make up for my daughters?

Lost my virginity to Jane Brewer on the way home from watching Star Wars at the movies. The force was with me! HA!

P.S. Why?

It was past midnight that same day. Michael kissed her tenderly and said, “You did come, didn’t you?”

“Yes, of course,” said Lyn. “Ages ago.”

She moved her hips. “Heavy.”