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Contemporary Fiction Funny

I inserted a pounding purple heart, followed by a thumbs up emoji, into the test message, then pressed "send". This was the standard way to accept an invitation to coffee from a member of the Lismore Ladies Who Lunch Club.

The Queen Bee of our group, Melissa, had just sent me a personal invitation to an urgent coffee meeting in half an hour and I was beyond excited. It would be just the two of us to have a great conversation and, as a bonus, I could get out of the house.

Two years ago, together with my husband Callum, I had relocated away from the frosty Melbourne winters to the balmy environs of Lismore, a small regional city just inland from the world-famous surf beaches of Byron Bay. Although on the social scale Lismore was not on par with Byron, as towns go, Byron Bay and Lismore enjoy a happy relationship. The denizens of Byron descend on us when in need of hospitals, the university, car yards, mega-sized hardware stores, churches for old-fashioned weddings or funerals, and shops selling anything besides floaty linen clothing and cruelty-free cosmetics. We residents of Lismore are in turn able to enjoy Byron's beaches without paying the ridiculous prices demanded for a small slice of Byron real estate.

The LLL Club had no agenda or constitution, but there were unspoken rules for those aspiring to membership. You must be in a relationship. Noone wanted a loose cannon single female going after a perfectly good, if second-hand, husband. Of course, it was important to actually be free for regular lunch or coffee mornings. Having no full-time career yourself while in possession of a husband who was, for example, a successful doctor, lawyer, architect, or even an accountant, was one of the unspoken rules. Melissa's husband Stan was a stockbroker.

It was made clear to me that I was lucky to be accepted into the ground as my husband was a tradesman. I had bought a rundown house which I successfully remodelled as a mid-Century modern classic. Then I bought another one and did the same. On the real-estate made Eastern seaboard of Australia, in the eyes of club members, successful house "flipping" was up there with the ability to do open-heart surgery. It helped that my husband Callum was not only handy at wielding a power drill but was, in Melissa's words, "a golden-haired Adonis".

Callum, for his part, disapproved of my joining what he called "The Lismore Ladies Muckraking Club" referring to our propensity to discuss local events and happenings which he regarded as gossip. Still, he was pleased that I had found friends here after our move. "Happy wife happy life" was his motto.

Melissa met me at the cafe, air-kissed both cheeks, and ushered me to a booth hidden at the back. Was something wrong? Usually, we Ladies like to sit at the large table in front, in full public view. Mel was dressed in her athletic wear - dusty pink high waisted leggings and a top which looked like a bra but wasn't. She like to say her superpower was self-improvement. Six days a week, she did weights and cardio at the gym, for two hours each day. Mel combined this with a passion for plastic surgery, resulting in an eye-catching teenager's waist, a prominent posterior, toned legs and arms worthy of a bantamweight boxer. Sitting prominently on her chest were two perfectly round, firm melons, the curved border between her implants and her taut skin being quite noticeable.

Mel was happy to share her philosophy on cosmetic surgery with the club.

"The surgeon urged me to choose rather dreary, squishy tear-shaped implants, which he said looked more natural. I told him 'Darling, if I wanted natural, I wouldn't be paying you upwards of ten thousand dollars."

"I just love these puppies," She added.

For her face, she had chosen apple-round cheek implants to match. Together with all the fillers and Botox, they gave her face the puffy look of a Cabbage Patch doll. Her regular expression, however, was that of a perpetually cranky school teacher who had long forgotten how to smile

.

Despite the somewhat static face, her lips seemed to have a life of their own. The original cupid's bow had been inflated beyond recognition by numerous injections of filler along the entire length of her top lip. When she spoke I couldn't help but think of a cartoon duck. Still, she was undeniably glamorous and so much fun to be with.

The Ladies never, in fact, ordered coffee. We sat down and ordered the usual herbal teas with hot water on the side. Five dollars seemed a lot for hot water and a tea bag, but the LLLC members were mostly interested in each other's company and not in putting on weight.

Mel adopted, in as much as her face permitted, a serious expression.

"You know me, I never gossip. I value friends above all else. I've thought this through and feel it's important that I let you know, I think you would do the same for me. If it happened to me I'd want to know. In fact, I'd be very unhappy if I wasn't told It's something we women should do for each other, always be honest, even if it's painful.

I was starting to feel nervous. I wished she'd get to the point and stop beating about the bush. Was I about to be evicted from the LLLC? Was she going to tell me I'm getting fat and should join her at the gym? That I had hideously bad breath?

"Ok, I'll rip the Bandaid off. Your husband is having an affair."

"What? How? No, I'd know, no."

"Oh darling, wives are always the last to know." She touched my hand sympathetically.

I started to feel numb and gestured to the waitress.

"I'd like to change my order please. I'll have a full-fat latter. And a side of hash browns. With bacon."

I don't know why my reaction was to want to eat, My stomach felt like it was turning somersaults in my belly.

"I'm just finding it hard to believe." My heart was now lurching in time with my stomach.

Mel continued on without prompting. "Well, yesterday I was driving by that old motel by the river, the one that's been empty for years? It's like a ghost town, still exactly as it was when people stayed there - made up beds and whatnot. I saw your husband's ute pull up and then I saw May Nolan - that attractive real estate agent - and your husband get out of the ute. May opened up a unit and they went inside. I stopped and waited there for a good fifteen minutes and they didn't come out. Then I took a call on my phone and before you know it, fifty minutes had passed. They came out and May - well, she was adjusting her clothing, putting on her shoes. Frankly, she looked pleased with herself. They got back into the car and left."

"There must be some explanation." My voice was squeaky. When Callum came home yesterday he had told me he'd spent all day up to his ears in sewerage replacing a burst pipe, and then raced straight into the bathroom to shower.

"Well, there's no For Sale sign on the motel and when I rang the agency they said it wasn't for sale or lease. So I did check my facts."

"So sorry to be the bearer of bad news." She patted my hand again. "I've got an appointment with a new trainer. Must be off." She strutted out of the cafe, followed by disapproving tut-tutting glances from a few older women, as well as admiring gazes from all of the men.

When Callum came home that night, he bounced through the front door with his usual cheerful smile. He always sounds happy even before he gets to the door. He whistles and sings corny, happy songs.

"Oh no, what's up? Has somebody died? Why the face? What's wrong?

"Melissa saw you at that old motel with May Nolan. She thinks you're having an affair. Are you?"

His face was crestfallen. "Oh bugger. She's ruined the surprise."

"What sort of surprise is an an affair?" I started to cry.

"Oh no, no honey. It's just that you did so well with your houses, and I heard from May that the owner of that old motel was finally thinking of selling, so she thought maybe we could look at buying it. May swore me to secrecy, she didn't want anyone else to know it might be coming on the market. I'm really sorry, I should have let you know."

I blinked through tears. "You were in there a long time?"

"Of course. I had to check everything out. If it was in seriously bad shape I wouldn't want you getting your hopes up. May helped me move stuff around and got pretty grubby. Then was sat down and talked about making an offer."

His lips seemed to be sucking air in and out, like a fish out of water. I could tell he was upset. He finally spoke.

"Are you sure you want to be friends with those people? They're a little bit hypocritical."

"Is there something you're not telling me?" I asked. Callum's face was always an open book and it read "I've got another secret" in shouty capitals.

"Well, you know I did a job for Mel and Stan about four weeks ago. Just installing a new wardrobe in their bedroom. Mel gave me the key to get in during the day when they were out. When I got there, I knocked and called out but there was no answer. So I let myself in and charged straight into the bedroom.

Stan and the babysitter were at it like a couple of rabbits."

"Are you sure? The babysitter? And ugly old Stan?"

"I, er, um, well, got a really good look at her. She had reddish-blonde hair, right? I could see that the rug doesn't match the curtains. And remember Stand told us he has a tattoo of that charging bull which is outside the New York Stock exchange? We didn't believe him and thought he was just drunk and joking? Well, he does."

I looked at him expectantly. He was still holding back.

"Ok, there's something else. Last Wednesday I was at the pharmacy and saw Stan in the prescription aisle. I thought it was odd he was queuing to pick up a prescription and not sending his assistant or Mel. He was wearing sunglasses and a cap which made him look completely obvious. The chemist called out his name and the name of the prescription really loud. From my misspent youth - before I met you - I know it's something especially for venereal disease. Maybe that's something Mel should know."

Callum was never vindictive. If Stan had caught something, maybe Mel should know.

I sent the text to Mel, asking could we meet again for coffee, tomorrow, same place same time. A pounding purple heart came back.

We went to the same table and ordered herbal tea, hot water on the side.

"How is it going? Are you coping, you poor thing?" Mel patted my hand.

"Well, we're working through it and I think it's going to be ok. It made me realise just how lucky I am to have Callum and how I don't want to lose him. I just wanted to thank you for your concern, and maybe repay the favour. This is something we women have to do for each other, no matter how painful."

I hesitated. "It's about Stan."

"

September 29, 2022 05:40

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3 comments

Michał Przywara
02:20 Dec 29, 2022

Heh, this was fun :) The title alone set an expectation, and the story delivered. The description of Melissa was great, including her physical appearance, her mannerisms, and her abrupt departure. Like the club itself, superficially lovely. That the ending results in the same meeting with the sides reversed is neat. I wonder if Melissa had an ulterior motive for the initial meeting - if it was a power move of some sort - but it looks like it got flipped on her. Does she deserve it? Hard to say. Perhaps she's even already aware. I suspect s...

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Tommy Goround
01:32 Oct 06, 2022

Hahhhaah Please consider leading my church service. I love the way that you just took situations and themes that I do not gravitate towards... And you made them so lovely. I was bobbing along enjoying your story and realize, hey there's no conflict. Then you brought the conflicts about a paragraph later. Excellent timing. Seems like callum and Mel might have clashing stories in full. The narrator doesn't care. If her husband is throwing her in a New direction it still works. Like the woman says she is grateful for her marriage. (He's goi...

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Marilyn Filewood
21:14 Oct 06, 2022

Thankyou Tommy. I wasn't sure if some of it is too "Australian". Its intended as a satirical look at fake friends.

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