Gayle’s sms had me feeling uneasy.
“Hope you’re home, driving through from the city. Coming for a visit!”
“5 minutes away.”
We were gathered around our new Travertine bench top before our morning walk and I wasn’t sure whether to usher the gaggle out the back door or cut my losses and accept I would have to make an introduction.
“Yes, we’re home. You can meet the girls.”
I bit my lip and tapped my manicured fingernails quietly on the benchtop. I’ve never actually had a manicure before and conservatively chose French tips. Mostly because I had no idea which colour to choose. As I watched the nails drum against the new benchtop, I listened to the chatter around me.
“Marley, it’s so beautiful! I had no idea you had such good taste.” I could feel Caroline’s victorious grin boring into me.
“Hmmm. Caroline helped pick it out.”
“Nanny must be thrilled!”
“Still no nanny Brita.”
“Oh. Well, it’s beautiful anyway. And so easy for the cleaners to –“
“I’m going to save you some trouble dear,” Caroline interjected imperiously. ”Marley doesn’t believe in accepting help.”
“No, I just don’t believe in paying for help. Not when I am here to do the work myself.”
“Do you even cook yourself?”
“Yes. Well, mostly. Sometimes we have takeaway.” Brita and Elizabeth draw sharp breaths.
The doorbell chimed and the moment of truth was here. I could see Gayle’s silhouette through the frosted glass at the entrance. Her black cotton leggings and signature oversize shirt waited impatiently for me to open the door.
With a deep inhale, I pulled at the door and let caution to the wind.
“Hi hi!!” Gayle was eternally positive and good natured.
“Hello. How are you?”
“Great!” She stood politely on the stoop as we made small talk. Until she didn’t.
“So are you going to let me in to see this palace or not?”
I sighed. “Yes. Come on in.” We wondered through to the kitchen where the gaggle were probably listening expectantly to our conversation. “Gayle this is Caroline, Brita and Elizabeth.”
“Hello dear. And who are you?”
“Oh, Marley and I go way back. I could probably tell you some terrible stories!” The girls exchanged delighted looks, and I knew I had to move fast.
“So. Can I get you anything? A cocktail? Some fruit?”
“Nah, I’m fine darl. Too early for that. And I work in a bar!”
“What brings you to Snobsville? South Snobsville, I mean.” Elizabeth smirked as she said it so it seemed like a good natured ribbing. I’m not sure if it was the grain of truth she knew she was exposing or my own insecurities that irked me more.
“Just passing through. Thought I should see Marl’s new hood.” Brita and Caroline looked at each other with knowing smiles as Elizabeth gave Gayle the once over.
“We were just talking about fences.” “Huh?”
“Yes. Nanny was telling me-“
“You mean Kristen?” I asked.
“Yes, Kristen. My nanny Kristen.” Rolled eyes. “Anyway, nanny was telling me that she ran into Brad the tradesman, Sarah’s fencer, at the chemist. She was buying Panadol for Aiden, he was buying – I don’t know, something.”
“Is this the new guy?”
“The new fencer?”
“No, I mean – yes I know he’s the new fencer, but the new ah –“
“It’s not his shoulder she’s interested in, I assure you.” Muffled laughter.
Gayle looked at us with confusion. “What exactly is she interested in – and who the hell is Sarah?”
“Just a friend dear.” Caroline answered dismissively before turning back to the group.
“And she has a new fencer?”
Irritated, Caroline elaborated. “Yes. She had a new pool fence installed last year but decided she doesn’t like the colour anymore so she’s thinking of getting it replaced.”
“I think they should just move the pool. It’s so dark in that quadrant of the garden. Granted it’s not a huge garden, but still, plenty of room to shift the pool.”
Gayle’s expression reflected mine on my first visit to Elizabeth’s at Charlton’s party. She listened, wide eyed for a few minutes to the idlest of chatter.
“Yes I agree. There’s the tennis court, she can’t move that, though it does need resurfacing. But she could move the clubhouse and put the pool in the sun there. Then shift the club house to the other side of the tennis court.”
“Oh, yes, I agree. I mean, she’s put in a new entertainment deck, she may as well go the whole way. And she’s right about the pool fence too. Black aluminium is really a last summer look.”
Finally a flabbergasted Gayle chimed in. “Sounds like she needs some perspective. Not a fencer.”
Brita’s brow furrowed, “Perspective? Is that the new glass fencing? I love the look of the frameless perspective.”
It was my turn to share a glance with Gayle. And maybe a little smile.
“Yes frameless glass would be perfect!” Despite observing it, Caroline was ignoring my exchange with Gayle. She shot me a look though, to remind me where my loyalties should lie. “Anyway, like I said. This is all unfounded gossip. I’m pretty sure she’s not moving her pool. But have you seen the fencer? I heard her tennis coach has been away at a few tournaments. Maybe she’s not interested in a new fence at all!”
Ever practical, Gayle answered with a straight bat. “Why would she need a fencer then?”
“Yes Caroline, I’m confused. How else would she get that new perspective stuff Gayle was talking about?”
“Yes dear, you are confused,” Caroline shot back at Brita.
Gayle was increasingly more amused at the conversation. “Oh, I don’t need any perspective. We don’t have a pool.”
“You don’t?” Elizabeth was genuinely incredulous. “What do you do to break up the garden a bit in your yard? Do you have a water feature?”
“Well, there was one time when Jason had a few too many drinks and –“
“Gayle, I think it’s time for our walk. Will you join us?” I knew she would say no. Despite her casual attire Gayle was not much for exercise. It was my way out.
Gayle turned to me and smiled triumphantly. “No thanks darl. I’m not really dressed for it.” She was looking at our pink outfits with amusement.
“What are you dressed for?” I suppose that was too difficult for Elizabeth to resist.
“I should be going. Nice to meet you all ladies. And nice trackies!”
As I walked Gayle to the door I heard them all whispering. “When she said trackies, was she referring to our exercise couture? Does she know how much these cost?”
“No dear. I don’t think she does judging by her own couture.” And the noise of a giggling gaggle.
I don’t know if I felt protective of my friends, proud of Gayle’s cutting honesty or just awkward.
“Thanks for stopping in.”
“Marley, are you happy here?”
“What do you mean? Of course! Look at this place, its beautiful!”
“Yes it is.” She turned to walk away. “I’ll see you later.”
“And by the way thank you.”
Gayle stopped in her tracks and looked me dead in the eye, puzzled. “What on earth for?”
“For coming out of your way to see me. And for not being too shocked at my friends. And most importantly-“
“Oh yes. Not finishing the water fountain story.”
“Yes. And for leaving out the part about me peeing in the bushes with Jason.”
“It all seems a long time ago.”
I smiled at her. “Not so long ago. See you soon Gayle.”
She smiled back. “See you soon Marley.”