I had taken special care of my appearance, but even so a trickle of nervous sweat made me wish I’d spent more time on aromatics. Some perfume would have been helpful. I hoped my antiperspirant was enough to mask my natural musk.
It was a big night. I was child free, though not without some reservations. It was the first time I had left Layla with a babysitter. As it happened, Caroline’s mother in law was staying with her and she was able to release her Nanny, Kristen, to babysit for me. A bubbly, socially conscious exchange student from the USA, she was taking a year off from doing her law degree and living as an au pair with Caroline’s family. When I had made a feeble excuse about not coming to Girls Night, Caroline instantly offered her services to me.
Caroline had briefed me on the evening’s likely proceedings. I was beginning to feel a little bit like her robot. The more I got my bearings, the more I realised that in many ways she was as much on the outer as me. She was just more doggedly persistent in making her presence known. I felt, despite her perfect façade and oft ascerbic remarks, that she was a kindred spirit of sorts. I’m sure she would prefer that I describe her as a crisp glass of Bollinger, but underneath I sensed that she had a moderately priced beer running through her veins. On balance, I liked her immensely and enjoyed her company, and she was the best friend I had in Snobsville. Probably the only friend.
We met outside. Caroline had decided we should present a united front on arrival. I wondered if that was why she was always late – to make sure there was someone there in her corner.
She air kissed both my cheeks with a loud “Mwah” noise, then sighed heavily, her breathe saturated with drama.
“It’s been a rough day. Maddy’s favourite tea shop has closed down and we had planned a high tea after school. She was devastated.”
“Oh. That’s a shame.” While I couldn’t relate to the high tea conundrum I sensed that the issue was more about bonding with Maddy, who could be a bit of a handful at times.
“It worked out okay. I bought her a dress.” The Snobsville solution to any drama.
“This isn’t one of those really smoky bars is it? My hayfever has been terrible since moving to Snobsville.” In truth I didn’t want to destroy my brand new white capris with the stench of cigaraette smoke. But if there is one thing I have learned it’s that a Snobsville Mum is never concerned for the life span of her clothes. A red wine stain is merely an opportunity for a shopping trip.
“Darling no one smokes in Snobsville. It ages the skin terribly. If you need something to take the edge of just order a double cocktail instead of single. Or open a second bottle if you’re at home.” She was always a bit testy before we met up with her ‘friends.’
We entered into a semi lit room with tables full of tapas and cocktails. The ‘Girls’ were seated around a huge round ottoman, nibbling carefully on Spanish bites and guzzling colourful cocktails. They were in hysterics about something or other when we arrived. Linda was holding court.
“Really! I told her, darling, if you haven’t got his name down by now he’s got no chance of getting into that school! He’s almost a year old! And you know he’s definitely not a legacy. I’m not sure where her husband went to school but I assume it wasn’t around here!”
We ordered cocktails and sat squeezed alongside Brita who was once again kind enough to make room.
“So how is everyone girls?” Caroline interjected. They all smiled politely, (except Linda).
“Oh good. Marley how are you dear? Did you manage to find a sitter for tonight?”
“Yes thank you.”
“Lovely. Spanish meatball?” I looked down at my white pants and sensed a trap.
“No thank you Linda. This drink is devine! What is it?” I asked Caroline. Elizabeth was first to respond.
“It’s an Island breeze – have you never had one in Fiji?”
“No. I’ve never been.”
“Oh you must visit darling. It’s the only place I will take the children on holiday until they are older. When we go to the continent we leave them with our au pair.”
I smiled quietly to myself. I didn’t want to tell her I didn’t even have a passport and hadn’t even considered getting one for the kids.
The banter continued and I soaked up more Snobsville culture. We began talking about how Elizabeth and her family would have to ‘make do’ while her cleaners went home to Korea to visit family. Linda suggested her Nanny pick up the slack. But as the drinks got more potent, the snippets became juicier.
Sarah talks a lot about her pool despite the fact that it’s almost winter. She knows a surprising amount about pool chemicals for a Snobsville Mum. And a suspicious amount about her pool cleaner, Braiden. My mind rattled with the possibilities. Braiden certainly sounded rougher around the edges than Sarah’s husband, but she made several remarks about how his body was similar to a water polo player she dated at university. Could it be I had stumbled upon a secret Snobsville affair?
Caroline livened up the conversation, as usual. She was captivating in the way she told stories. She was briefly interrupted by a text from Ashley which made her face turn a whiter shade of pale.
“What is it?” I hoped it wasn’t one of the kids.
“I lost my keys this morning. I had to use a spare pare.”
The group was titillated now. “So?” Linda inquired.
The colour was returning to Caroline’s face and I sensed a story was coming.
She handed me the phone and I read the text conversation out loud;
Mum found your keys on your top drawer.
Oh my God, Next to the lube?
A series of emoticons followed, but by now the group was in stitches.
“I bet the expression on her face was priceless! It probably looked as if she had swallowed a sour lemon whole. Her lips were probably so pursed I could sell them to Chanel! That will teach her to go looking around in my top drawer.”
I could tell the other girls thoroughly enjoyed her story but at the same time it set her apart from them. Drunk, sober or anywhere in between, these women held their cards very close to their perfectly enhanced bosoms, telling just enough to be entertaining and stimulate the gossip well but not enough let their guards down. It meant nothing to me – I liked Caroline all the more for it. And I had a spectacular evening because of her, despite having to wear heels instead of a snug pair of ugg boots.
As we walked back to the car I considered asking Caroline a personal question. I hadn’t yet peeled back the layers of her many coats, but the lubrication from the night’s festivities did some of the work for me. Pardon the pun.
“Caroline, why do you care so much what those women think? They are huge clichés.” It was a brazen commentary, but I was buoyed by the mirth of the evenings proceedings.
She smiled crookedly and responded somewhat more wistfully than I had anticipated. “Honey, I’ve had two c sections so my figure wouldn’t be destroyed at Snobsville Private where my OB sent in a massage therapist each day to help me recover. I have highlights, a live in nanny and a black SUV Lexus Hybrid. If it wasn’t for the fact that I haven’t had any work done, I’d be a walking cliché. I am one of them now. They are my people.”
I didn’t really believe her. I must have looked sceptical.
She rolled her eyes impatiently. “Botox doesn’t count.”