The Bonus

“Marley, I do love the new puffa. Very bold choosing white, but it looks fabulous.”

Never one to let a compliment to someone else go unanswered, Caroline picked up the baton Sarah had dropped at her feet. “Well, yes, it is nice. I see we’ve moved away from the textured hood this season? I rather liked it myself.”

“Yes I suppose so.” In truth I had found it difficult to wear the furry hooded puffa from last season, as it itched my face and I kept rubbing some of my foundation off. “This season things are more streamlined. Minimal.”

Ever the warm, fresh air that melted some of our frostier exchanges, Brita smiled sweetly and effected a quick subject matter change. “It’s lovely dear. Just your style. What’s in the bag?”

I had just come from shopping before meeting our Nanny, (Sharon), with Luke and Layla at the Rugby club, and I was carrying a few purchases with me.

“Oh. Actually, I wanted your opinion on something. On what to wear tonight.”

“Darling, that’s what selfies are for. It’s rather gauche to parade expensive shopping bags around, don’t you think?” Something was bothering Caroline, but I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

“Yes, well, I wanted to do this in person. Which dress should I wear tonight?”

I pulled out a shimmering silver dress, slinky and fitted. “This one is a bit of a showstopper. But this one -“ I reached into the bag for the second dress, a simple black frock which I was planning on accessorising.

“Hmmmm…the silver is a little too much for a dinner date dear.” Caroline’s brow

“Its not just a dinner date. Its the first time in months we’ve been out together.”

“That means one of two things.” I hadn’t seen Linda since her ordeal – a near death experience at the hands of her cosmetic enhancement specialist during a routine collagen procedure. She spoke quietly and less abruptly.

We turned to look at her. “What’s that?” I asked tentatively. I was nervous for a different reason now.

“Either he wants a divorce or its bonus time.”

“What? He doesn’t want a divorce. Why do you think that?”

“New nanny, fancy dinner…”

Caroline stepped in on my behalf. “Linda, don’t be ridiculous. For Jason to be doing the nanny, he would have to be home once in a while. It’s much more likely he’s having an affair with his secretary.”

“Oh, Caroline, we don’t say secretary anymore. They are executive assets.”

“Brita, do you mean assistants?”

“No. Assets. Linda, you told Elizabeth the other day, remember? Simon is always noticing his secretary’s assets.”

Linda turned red and winced a little, but I was still stuck on the very notion that Jason could possibly be embroiled in some secret affair. Especially if it wasn’t with me.

“Never mind dear, I’m sure its not that. Sharon and Kristen talk you know. Sounds like Jason is still completely in lust with you. But I suggest the silver just in case.”

“Yes Marley, I’m sure its just bonus time.”

“Of course! Bonus time. Well, if he is having an affair I’d push for something big and sparking.”

“What is bonus time?”

“Oh, that’s right. It’s your first end of financial year with…ah…disposable income. I feel like we should celebrate or something. Shouldn’t we?”

“Brita, we’re always celebrating something. Marley, have you not brought this up with Jason? You need to act fast. Tax time is just around the corner, he’ll want to get your bonus in before the end of June.” Caroline was all business and the supposed affair was forgotten. I sense that even if my friends thought my husband was having an affair, the topic of bonuses was far more important. Which says something about just how highly valued these bonuses are.

“We’ve had a big year this year. Ashley’s practice is doing well and Aiden has had a great start to the school year. There was the little incident last week with Luke, and the hospital bill will have to be accounted for, but Madison is my ace in the hole. Straight A’s and lead in last year’s Dance Academy recital. That one will earn me something lovely and shiny!”

“We have a sex clause built into ours.”

I stuffed the dresses into the bag as Brita began to talk, narrowly before Linda spat out half of her champagne all over my new puffa. The dresses would have to wait anyway.

“A sex clause?” Linda was so rarely shocked that I had never noticed the character in her face when it was full of expression. Probably because she had usually seen her specialist to smooth out those lines. I suppose she was in between specialists after her recent ordeal.

“What are you all talking about? What bonus?”

“Marley dear, you need to talk to Jason quickly. Don’t worry, we’ll come up with something now. Something to begin negotiations from.”

“Negotiations?” I was beginning to panic. It occurred to me that if Linda was right and a fancy night out meant either an affair or a bonus, I was in trouble either way.

“Yes. You should factor in your weight loss, the fact that you’ve born him a child this financial year, his extensive travels, your diligence to your carnal wifely duties and his loud appreciation of said diligence – so Kristen tells me…”

“Oh yes, well played Marley. Also, Luke won the sprints at the athletics carnival and he’s hasn’t been expelled yet from Grammar. That’s progress.” I think Linda was trying to be kind.

“Yes, and next time you should factor in a sex clause since you are so diligent. It means Jason will have to be in the country at least three or four times a year.”

“I agree Caroline. A sex clause is all well and good, but it takes careful planning. We need to do it one more time before I get my bonus.”

“That’s so demeaning! The very idea of getting a bonus for that-“

Caroline’s eyes narrowed as Linda spluttered. “Better than his secretary getting a bonus.”

“Jason doesn’t have a secretary. He has an executive assistant. And she gets a different kind of bonus. Based on her performance. As an assistant!”

“Well, just in case I’d be making sure his assistant is in her forties with a substantial middle age spread. And I’d go with the silver.” Linda smiled sadly. “Don’t worry about a bonus dear. Seeing you in that dress, I’m sure you’ll get anything you want from Jason.”

“Yes, but still, ask for cash not diamonds. You need to think sensibly about this darling.”

“No not cash. If you split up, cash can be divided between the two of you. Jewelry is a gift and is less likely to be considered amongst the common assets. Speaking from a purely legal point of view…”

As Linda continued on about bonuses and divorce settlements I realised how life had morphed into something of a caricature for my family. We used to go out for pizza in our jeans and talk about football, and camping trips and what our dream life would be like if we were ever lucky enough to move to a place like Snobsville.

A little voice told the girl inside from Neplebean Heights that I’d just encountered the world’s biggest first world problem, (aside from Elizabeth’s current outdoor renovations project which she started after realising her swimming pool was too big and threw out the proportions of her beautifully landscaped back yard.) I was moving further and further from Neplebean Heights as I struggled to find my niche here, and I suddenly, I was more Snobbie than I was the bogan next door.

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