Chris is standing with his sister, Lauren, resting against the wall of an ancient shed perched to the left of the backyard, under the shade of an enormous fig tree. The cracked concrete pathways complement the lopsided trees that flank them, making my journey to Chris perilous in these heels. Anya Blackshaw, a divorcee from school and sometime work colleague of Chris, rounds out the trio. She laughs a little too loudly at his jokes, stands a little too close to him and always seems to be jutting her perfect breasts in his direction. Up until recently I thought nothing of her extra attention, but now, it’s starting to irritate me more than pinching elastic on a G-string. Anya’s grip on Chris’ arm would certainly prevent her from falling over should an earthquake split the backyard.
She moves in closer to whisper something in his ear, the sight of which propels me into action. My approach probably resembles that of a daddy longlegs walking on scorching hot sand, but it’s the only way to reach her before she makes herself too comfortable in such close proximity to my husband. I stumble into the group, in-between Anya and Chris and blurt out, “Guess who?”
“I am guessing that would be my gorgeous, but time-challenged, wife,” Chris says, checking his watch.
Not exactly the most elegant of entrances, or the most eloquent of greetings, but the objective is achieved – Anya shoved out of the way of my husband, literally.
Anya looks down at the ground and appears to be suppressing a smirk, probably under the misapprehension that Chris is upset with me, but of course he’s not. Not yet, anyway. That will come later when he finds out about me working tonight. My headache is now spreading into my neck and jaw. It feels as though an invisible fist is clenched around my entire head, squeezing me like a stress ball.
“I’m glad you’re here though,” Chris says.
“Oh, that’s so sweet. Thanks Chris.” Violins start playing romantic music in the background.
“Because that means Rob owes me a twenty,” he laughs.
“What?” The violins come to an abrupt halt.
“He bet me twenty dollars that you wouldn’t show.”
The silence is replaced by the sound of crickets.
“And, it goes without saying, that I’m just glad to see you as well,” he says.
Anya smirks and snorts as though she’s so superior, which she’s not. She’s probably relied on her looks to open doors her entire life. She’s no better than me. For a thirty three year old mother of two I look pretty bloody fab – with a lot of help from various facials, injections to inflate my lips, injections to paralyse wrinkles, regular mani/pedis, a hairdresser I use more often than my femme cup and a waxing therapist who doesn’t even have to look at my face to know it’s me. My hair is the perfect blend of three shades of blonde and almost looks natural, except for when those pesky roots appear. My jade eyes take on a brilliant emerald colour when my contacts are in and my boobs are natural – silicone is a derivative of silicon, a natural element commonly found in the Earth’s crust.
What’s so great about her? Just because she looks like a Victoria’s Secret model crossed with a goddess of the enchanted fairy kingdom and isn’t full of polymers, collagen and toxins derived from botulism. Who bloody cares if she wouldn’t melt by standing too close to a flame or glow iridescently if accidentally set on fire? Natural beauty is so overrated.
“There’s no way I’d miss Anna’s sixth birthday party, it’s such a special family day,” I say turning and smiling directly at Anya as my arms throw themselves around Chris. His arm encircles my hips, drawing our bodies together and his warmth spreads through me, slowing my breathing rate to yogic proportions.
“Juliette, you remember Anya don’t you, Molly’s mum?”Lauren asks.
“Yes, of course I remember Anya,” desperate divorcee who has the hots for my husband. “Lovely to see you again, how are you?” The PR smile and poker face are a true asset at times like this, although my facial muscles are about to spasm.
“Well, thanks, Juliette. I haven’t seen you in ages, you’re never at school.” She tilts her head on the side and smiles as though she is stating an innocent observation, rather than making a cutting remark about my level of participation in my children’s lives.
“No, work is keeping me very busy right now.” Which is the truth. “Being in two places at once would be handy, but I was absent the day they taught astral travelling at university,” I say.
“I understand completely, Juliette. Your business is very important to you. Chris has told me all about it,” she says, touching Chris on the arm.
Of course he has, seeing as how close the two of you seem to be. He’s probably told you that he’s forbidden me from eating pea and ham soup too, because it makes me fart like a draught horse. My head feels as though a thunderstorm is raging on inside it. I really need a paracetamol.
“Are you alright, Jules?” Lauren asks. “You look a bit pale.”
“Yes, thanks. I’m fine. Just a bit of a headache, that’s all. I don’t suppose you have a headache tablet?” I ask.
“No, sorry,” says Lauren as she moves around behind me and begins to massage my temples. “But I can ease it using pressure point massage. How’s that?”
“It’s heavenly. It’s almost worth having a headache just for the massage,” I say.
“Here you go,” says Anya, shoving two pills under my nose. “I’m literally a walking pharmacy since having Molly. You’ve got to be prepared for anything when you’re a Mum.” She looks me directly in the eyes and something passes between us – a sense of knowing exactly what the other is thinking. I know, without doubt, that she wants my husband. And now she knows that I know it too.
‘Hindsight’ will be released by Escape Publishing on the 1st of July, with pre orders available from the 1st of June. I will post links closer to the date.