The Gardiner

“He’s the new Parkland Landscape Consultant at the Ladies College. “

Sarah was barely hiding her new friends from us anymore, preferring to flaunt her extra marital activities like trophies.

“You mean the gardiner?”

“Heavens Marley, he’s far more than that! “ “Landscaper darling. Though I’m not sure I see the difference.” Caroline was palpitating at the thought of more salacious gossip, in part in anticipation of these gaggle sessions and in part because she could exercise her moral superiority for a few precious moments.

Sarah sighed heavily for effect. “The difference, darling, is about forty years and several hours a day of shifting large sandstone blocks. He has a twelve pack.”

“Well dear, he’s doing a marvellous job so far. The architectural work alone is just beautiful.”

“Now Brita, where did you learn a big word like that?” Linda’s cynicism was lost on Brita, who forged ahead with a rousing account of Chase’s handiwork.

“I’m on the formal committee. I should say, the Valedictory Ball committee. The ladies don’t like it when I use the word formal. Seems too common place. Anyway, Chase is sculpting the Parkland Landscape at the Gabana Hotel for the form…I mean ball. We’ve commissioned him to build a gazebo and a few water features. Just something simple and sophisticated. The garden theme will be Hampdens meets Federation. I don’t think it’s ever been attempted before.”

It was the most words I’d ever heard Brita string together at once, and I was beginning to wonder if she was playing a part. Maybe we all were.

“So white timber meets Sydney Sandstone? I suppose it could work.”

“Yes. Maybe with a splash of navy here and there for effect.”

“Hold on, is the hotel happy for you to do that?” The Gabana is one of the more exclusive (and exceedingly expensive) establishments in Snobsville. It was usually surrounded by stretch vehicles of various shapes, and was where elite business men and movie stars alike chose to stay when in Snobsville.

“Of course dear. The grounds just weren’t suitable for a Romeo and Juliet themed Ball. Besides, thanks to our hard earned fundraising dollars, they are getting a free Parkland makeover.” Brita replied.

“They have parklands?”

“The grounds are quite extensive dear.” I couldn’t picture Caroline at the Gabana, but I sensed she needed to be injected into the conversation somehow.

“You know Brita, you really should be proud of yourself. I saw the progress today. I’ve been to the Gabana many times and it’s never looked quite so beautiful.” It somehow didn’t surprise me that Sarah was familiar with the grounds of the local posh hotel.

“And why were you there today?” Linda knew the answer and the jibe had no effect. Sarah was wearing the scarlet letter with pride.

“Just visiting. Chase has a room there for use during the day. For when he takes a break.” Despite her brazen attitude, Sarah couldn’t resist dropping in a little innuendo. I wondered if she spoke this way with her husband, or if he even noticed the entendre.

“He gets a room? He’s a Landscaper!”

“Parkland consultant Caroline. And he gets very sweaty during the day. He needs to shower.” I could barely contain my eyes from rolling right out of my head.

“Did you notice the use of Snobsville white in the blooms throughout the garden?” They were beginning to lose me. I was an expert at causing the slow death of a potted plant. At best, I was able to keep a few well established hedges alive. My thumbs are a very murky brown.

It appeared that Linda agreed. “Okay ladies, this conversation is killing me. Sarah if you want to brag, do it on your mySpace page. I don’t really want to hear it. I have to pick up Kingston.” Linda stormed off leaving us all quite dumbfounded.

If Linda had wounded Sarah, her response didn’t show it. “You know, since her indiscretion on the beach, her façade had shown considerable cracks.”

“Yes. So has her forehead. I suppose she hasn’t found a new cosmetic enhancement specialist yet.” It was the opening Caroline had dreamed of for weeks. The shame of it was that Linda wasn’t actually around to hear it. None of us had broached the topic of her arrest with Linda. We were a little afraid of her response, but equally felt genuinely sorry for her. Elizabeth wasn’t talking and Caroline had only the smallest of tidbits, (which she readily shared over a Prosecco and fruit platter).

We were quiet for a while, then Brita spoke up. “You know, you ladies should go easier on Linda. Life is pretty stressful for her right now.” We stood in stunned silence, staring at Brita, who usually went along with the gaggle, or made a placating friendly remark – but who never spoke out of turn.

Though I hadn’t actively participated I had certainly enjoyed the exchange – openly – and suddenly felt a wave of guilt for the snide giggles behind French tipped fingers.

“Sorry Brita. You’re right.”

“Don’t listen to her Marley. Linda can handle herself. Besides, to what stress do you refer? Co-ordinating her army of nannies, or getting cosy with a washboard stomach and a Bacardi Breezer in her favourite pair of La Perlas?”

I was expecting Brita to say something inane and contrite, like “wasn’t it a vodka she was drinking?” but I was wrong.

“She’s working on a really important case at the moment. Pro Bono. Well, lots of cases, I’m sure, but one in particular that’s causing a whole lot of trouble.”

Sarah’s attention was peaked. “Really? Which one? I haven’t heard her talk about work for a while.”

“She’s the special legal consultant to the Bushlands Parade Street Naming Lobby. It’s a lot of work, and frankly I’m not sure she’ll win this one.” Frankly? I wondered whether Linda’s big words were rubbing off on Brita, or whether she had been fooling us all along with her non-threatening doe-eyed bimbo routine.

“Where’s Bushlands Parade? Is that in South Snobsville? Down the very bottom near the telephone tower? It’s not from around here.”

“No Sarah, it’s the new proposed name for Bogarn Place.”

Sarah smirked. “You mean Bogan Place?”

“It’s pronounced Bogarn. It’s Eastern European, named after a settler from Dubrovnik.”

“You know where Dubrovnik is?”

Brita either ignored Caroline or didn’t let on as she pushed further. “It affects the whole vibe of the street when people call it Bogan Place. I mean, it’s in Snobsvlle proper, not a Bogan to be seen! Anyway. I have to go. I must check that Chase has the plans for the new walkway in the front entrance to the hotel. Helen is suggesting we change the walkway to accommodate ten deep of parent photographers as the kids walk in. Instead of five. It’s a disaster.” She stormed off.

“Did she swallow a dictionary?”

“I don’t know. Why was she so upset about Bogan Place?”

“She grew up there Marley dear. Her parents still live in a quaint little four bedroom cottage overlooking the bush. Very sweet little street.”

It surprised me less and less that I was beginning to understand these conversations more and more. And as I considered how Brita must have felt about being from Bogan Place in one of the nicest streets in one of the nicest suburbs…well, anywhere…I inspected my newly manicured French Tips. Frowning, I noticed the tiniest of chips on the right index finger and vowed to venture into Snobsville proper for my next manicure.

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