‘Well someone had fun last night.’
Karen smiled enigmatically and glanced at the three women who were now giving her their full attention.
‘Mark was out on the course this morning and came across an empty bottle of champagne in one of the bunkers…’
She paused, aware of the eagerness with which her audience hung on her words,
‘…and a pair of knickers.’
Tricia clapped her hands,
‘Oh my god!’
The friends were clearly lapping up this unexpectedly salacious sliver of gossip.
‘Just think where the sand could go!’
Karen sat back and sipped her coffee, watching as the group dissected her tale from every possible angle.
‘I wonder who it was. Did you spot anyone slip out?’
They asked each other the same questions, over and over, in every possible way. Names were bandied around, possibly related incidents from the past shared and discussed. Hanging in the air was the unspoken question of whose marriage would be the next to fall apart.
Karen did not enjoy the big night’s out but felt obliged to make an effort when her children’s school was involved. The Summer Ball was a major fundraiser. The golf club could only seat around eighty couples but as this roughly equated to the number of parents who could afford the exorbitant ticket prices it worked out well enough. She suspected that those who attended each year liked the fact that only their chosen acquaintances would be there.
The evening itself wouldn’t have been so bad if it weren’t for the expected build up: the group shopping for new dresses; the pre event grooming; the excessive drinking. Karen was not a big drinker but the same could not be said for her friends. Looking at them now, washed out and hung over, she wondered why she had attached herself to these people in the first place, and why she continued to socialise with them.
Of course it’s not always so easy to choose friends. They had all met for the first time when their children had started at the village preschool, drifting towards each other as they waited for their offspring to emerge at the school gate. Play dates had led to evening get-togethers, made so much easier for everyone as their children could be brought along and put to bed upstairs while the adults partied the night away down below. Karen had never chosen to do this preferring to employ a babysitter, a useful excuse to return home early. She would not entrust her precious children to the care of drunken adults who always believed the tattle tales diligently reported by their own irritating sprogs over any remonstrations from a visiting child.
She had not yet told these ladies that this had been her last Summer Ball. Mark had finally been persuaded that the village school did not suit their little girls and they would be moving to a better place at the end of the year. Perhaps it was her satisfaction at this little secret that had caused her to tell the story that was now so delighting her three companions. Quashing the discomfort she felt at behaving in a way that she could not approve she sipped her coffee and continued her observations.
Tricia’s head was throbbing despite the painkillers and copious amounts of coffee. She had expected her friends to take her mind off her discomfort, not anticipating the bombshell that Karen would drop and the subsequent effort required to act normally so that no one would realise that anything was amiss. She had had her suspicions of course. David’s claim that he had fallen asleep on the terrace just didn’t ring true. She angrily wondered who he had been with, feeling sick at the thought of what they had done out there under cover of darkness and the still, starry sky.
Opening the front door she heard the shrieks and complaints of her children fighting over a toy in the playroom. As soon as they spotted her they ran out and started their tirades, the volume rising as each attempted to be heard over the other.
‘Where is Daddy?’ she asked them, ignoring the elaborate tales being concocted to elicit sympathy for themselves and blame for the other.
‘He’s still in bed’ her daughter replied morosely before retreating with a sigh, aware that her mother had once again failed to deliver justice for the many wrongs she was expected to endure from her hated younger sibling.
Tricia walked through the debris of their partied out home and climbed the stairs. Closing the door of their bedroom she took in the sleeping form of her husband before hurling her bag at his head, her pent up impotence and rage finally finding a release.
‘What the hell!’ he exclaimed as the missile bounced off the pillow and onto the floor, lipsticks and coins scattering like confetti around him.
‘Who were you with last night? Which little slut did you share our champagne with?’ his wife yelled.
Swinging his legs slowly out of bed he observed her angry stance with resignation, ‘What are you talking about?’
Even more riled she continued, spitting out the words with venom,
‘Don’t try to deny it, Mark found her knickers! My god David, could you not even find a bed? Anyone could have seen you.’
‘I have no idea what you are talking about’ he answered resignedly. ‘What do you think I have done this time?’
David stood and stretched, provoking Tricia even more with his apparent insouciance.
‘You know exactly what I’m talking about. Last night, when you slipped off leaving me to cope by myself, having to make excuses for your absence when I had no idea where you were. So much for sleeping on the terrace. I couldn’t find you because you were shagging some little bitch in a bunker! Who was she? Was it Maggie?’
Sighing he crossed the room,
‘Oh, here we go again. I was not with Maggie or anyone else. Look, I don’t know what you have been told but I have done nothing worse than drink more than I should and you can hardly have a go at me for that. I’m going to take a shower.’
Tricia watched as he closed the bathroom door before flinging herself onto the bed and dissolving in a puddle of self pitying tears.
Liz was not surprised when Tricia appeared at her door a couple of hours later. Her friend had been sharing her suspicions for several months now, although recently she had been convinced it was someone from work who had caught her husband’s eye. Before that she had accused one of their mutual friends which had caused a lot of bad feeling in the group. David had always denied that anything had gone on with anyone.
Tricia nursed her coffee cup and stared across the room.
‘I can’t go on like this but what am I to do? I couldn’t afford to keep the house on my own and we owe so much there’d be no deposit for another one if it was sold.’
Liz smiled sympathetically, ‘What does David say?’
Her friend swallowed hard, stifling a sob.
‘He denies anything went on, that’s all he ever does. I know though, I know there is someone else. If he’d just tell me who she is! She’ll be enjoying herself today won’t she? Thinking that she’s so much better than me. What was he thinking? I mean, sex in a golf bunker at an event run for our children’s school. He must have known that everyone would find out, it is so degrading. How could he do this to me?’
Liz could do no more than listen. Whatever had or hadn’t gone on it was clear how upset Tricia was. These suspicions had driven a wedge between her and David. Who knew if the damage inflicted could ever be rectified.
The ‘For Sale’ sign was the first anyone in the village knew of Karen and Mark’s plans to move. Michelle bumped into Karen at the gym and suggested a coffee afterwards, an obvious attempt to get the gossip but a not unwelcome catch up between the occasional friends.
Karen explained that they were moving house because the girls were moving schools, that it had been on the cards for quite some time. Of course they could keep in touch although she expected to be very busy sorting out the new house and getting the girls settled. Everyone knew how sensitive her beautiful little girls were.
Having found out all about it Michelle felt obliged to offer a little snippet of gossip of her own. Had Karen heard about the couple from the Summer Ball who had had sex in one of the bunkers? Knickers and a bottle of champagne had been found the next day by a golfer. The club was not amused.
‘That didn’t happen’ she said, smiling at Michelle’s confusion.
‘I invented that story to see how long it would take before someone passed it on to me. You know, testing the village gossip network.’
Naturally Michelle was affronted but Karen was past caring. She would be glad to see the back of this place and the petty minded self interest of the women with too much time on their hands. She would make new friends when her children started at their new school. The parents there would be more like her.