Caroline arrived early and brought with her a box full of coloured spirits and a canvas bag full of groceries with Kristen in tow. She brimmed with excitement.
“We’re going with a Mexican theme!” We had a theme? I had bought some chips and stocked the fridge with beer but I could see it wasn’t necessary. Kristen got to work in the kitchen producing tiny tacos, quesidillas and mini nachos in little noodle bowls. Caroline was unpacking the spirits.
She looked around, confused. “Kristen, where is the blender?”
I answered on her behalf as Kristen stared at her blankly. (Sometimes I wondered how Kristen managed to deal with the whirling dervish that is Caroline). “It’s under the bench in the cupboard in front of you.”
“Oh yes. I forgot you don’t have help. Now. Margheritas – every flavour under the tequila sunrise!” She got to work mixing, blending and chopping and I had to admit the effect was far more impressive than the beer I had in the fridge. She was not impressed at our selection of glassware which distinctly lacked anything appropriate for housing cocktails, especially the kind with little umbrellas and lime wedges. We chatted more about ‘the Sarah situation’ as Caroline put it and munched on corn chips. Well, I munched, Caroline nibbled.
As Caroline had so gleefully informed me, Sarah had been caught receiving lewd messages from her pool cleaner. “Such a cliché.” Caroline had an excited lilt in her voice as she had told me. “So her husband has hired a new guy. And, well, word is he’s very nice to look at but…well. She’s just not his type.”
“Yes! As two men holding hands on Oxford Street.”
“So no more sordid texts?”
“No.” Caroline looked off into the distance dreamily. “You know, Elizabeth has a gay brother.” She almost sounded wistful now. “It’s so in vogue right now to have a homosexual family member.”
At 5pm the spread was set and the cocktails were ready to serve. At 5.30 the girls began dribbling in, perfect round glasses atop their neatly pulled back hair, decorative scarfs around their delicate decollitages. Caroline had asked Kristen to prepare a separate spread for the kids, who munched on organic bean salad, tortillas and grain fed chicken enchiladas.
As the afternoon gradually melded into early evening via a spectacular sunrise, the drinks kept flowing. We set up a DVD for the kids to watch and sat on the deck enjoying the unseasonably warm winter weather.
Linda had barely spoken, but a few drinks in she began unleashing some of her trademark veiled insults, most of them directed at myself and Caroline.
“So Marley, dear, where is your pool? Is there a side yard?”
“Oh. We don’t have one.”
“You don’t have a pool?” She was genuinely incredulous, though I sense her question was designed more to keep Sarah on her toes than me.
“No. The upkeep is expensive, and…”I trailed off as I noticed the blinking eyes again. “…and it’s difficult to keep clean.”
Sarah was blushing wildly and I regretted it as soon as I said it. While the others revelled in her discomfort, I felt guilty at my part in it and promptly changed tack.
“I’m thinking of getting Luke a pet.” I blurted it out more loudly than I had anticipated – clearly I was out of practice at imbibing in these types of festivities.
Elizabeth was quick to respond. “Oh, don’t darling. It’s heartbreak right from the start!”
“Why?” I asked, secretly hoping I hadn’t put my foot in my mouth again.
“We bought a new kitten last week and picked him up from the breeder today. I’m devastated.”
Linda sniffed an opportunity. “Is the poor thing unattractive? Or fat? Is it fat?” Her insults were getting a little less subtle and a lot less sophisticated with every melon marghurita.
“No, no dear, nothing that drastic!” I hoped she was joking, but I sensed Elizabeth was utterly serious. “No, it’s just, it was meant to be a girl, so I bought all pink toys and a little pink cat sweater. But we picked it up and – it’s a boy! He can’t play with girl toys! So we had a mad dash to the pet boutique again today to pick up some more appropriately hued entertainment devices for him. Such a long day. Complete disaster.”
I noticed Sarah getting a few texts under the table and wondered if she was still in contact with her pool man. Had they actually had an affair, or just engaged in not-so-harmless flirtation? Or could this be the new pool man? Had Sarah’s husband made a gross miscalculation in hiring the new pool cleaner? I was annoyed at myself, I was not normally prone to gossip. Maybe it was the tequila sunrise that was surprisingly less sunrise than tequila – but I found the gossip titillating as it unfolded in living colour right in front of me.
“Who are you texting dear?” Asked Linda pointedly.
“Oh it’s nothing. It’s my tennis coach. He was just cancelling tomorrow’s lesson on account of the long weekend.” She smiled a knowing smile, the kind that happy, guilty people smile, and it did not go unnoticed by the gaggle.
As the evening wore on I wondered if anyone’s husbands were at home waiting for them. Probably not. Most of them seem to travel interstate or work the same hours as Jason – or worse. I longed for the comfort of my favourite pyjama pants, my cosy well-worn ugg boots and a good documentary on the history channel. Or some real housewives. Either way.
Eventually the children began to fall asleep in front of the television and the gaggle began to disperse. Kristen was long gone, presumably having far more interesting things to do on a Friday night than pander to a group of middle aged women and their precocious children, and I began to clean up the mess.
“When does your cleaner come dear – does she come on weekends? Can we leave it in the sink for her?
“I don’t have a cleaner Caroline.”
“Really? Who does it then? You don’t have a nanny either!”
“I do it.”
“Oh, I see. Well…do you want any help?” She clearly wanted me to say no so I did.
“No. Jason has promised to take tomorrow off and wake up with Luke. I’ll sleep in then tidy up.”
“Oh! A sleep in. What a luxury! Good for you.” She paused. “So. Sarah’s tennis coach. I wonder if he also has a camera phone!” Caroline winked as she walked away.
I had to admit I was eagerly awaiting the next instalment of the Real Housewives of Snobsville.