Home > Big Little Lies(10)

Big Little Lies(10)
Liane Moriarty

Melissa: You didn’t hear this from me, but apparently Madeline Mackenzie got so drunk that morning, she fell over and sprained her ankle.

Graeme: I think you’re barking up the wrong tree there. I don’t see how an ill-advised champagne breakfast could have led to murder and mayhem, do you?

• • •

Champagne is never a mistake. That had always been Madeline’s mantra.

But afterward, Madeline did wonder if just this once it might have been a tiny error of judgment. Not because they were drunk. They weren’t. It was because when the three of them walked into the school, laughing together (Madeline had decided she didn’t want to stay in the car and miss seeing Chloe come out, so she hopped in, hanging on to their elbows), they trailed behind them the unmistakable scent of party.

People never like missing out on a party.

6.

Jane was not drunk when she arrived back at the school to pick up Ziggy. She had had three mouthfuls of that champagne at the most.

But she was feeling euphoric. There had been something about the pop of the champagne cork, the naughtiness of it, the unexpectedness of the whole morning, those beautiful long fragile glasses catching the sunlight, the surfy-looking barista bringing over three exquisite little cupcakes with candles, the smell of the ocean, the feeling that she was maybe making new friends with these women who were somehow so different from any of her other friends: older, wealthier, more sophisticated.

“You’ll make new friends when Ziggy starts school!” her mother had kept telling her, excitedly and irritatingly, and Jane had to make a big effort not to roll her eyes and behave like a sulky, nervous teenager starting at a new high school. Jane’s mother had three best friends whom she had met twenty-five years ago when Jane’s older brother, Dane, started kindergarten. They all went out for coffee on that first morning and had been inseparable ever since.

“I don’t need new friends,” Jane had told her mother.

“Yes you do. You need to be friends with other mothers,” her mother said. “You support one another! You understand what you’re going through.” But Jane had tried that with Mothers Group and failed. She just couldn’t relate to those bright, chatty women and their bubbly conversations about husbands who weren’t “stepping up” and renovations that weren’t finished before the baby was born and that hilarious time they were so busy and tired they left the house without putting on any makeup! (Jane, who was wearing no makeup at the time, and never wore makeup, had kept her face blank and benign, while she inwardly shouted: What the f**k?)

And yet, strangely, she related to Madeline and Celeste, even though they really had nothing in common except for the fact that their children were starting kindergarten, and even though Jane was pretty sure that Madeline would never leave the house without makeup either, but she felt already that she and Celeste (who also didn’t wear makeup; luckily, her beauty was shocking enough without improvement) could tease Madeline about this, and she’d laugh and tease them back, as if they were already established friends.

So Jane wasn’t ready for what happened.

She wasn’t on alert. She was too busy getting to know Pirriwee Public (everything so cute and compact; it made life seem so manageable), enjoying the sunshine and the still novel smell of the sea. Jane felt filled with pleasure at the thought of Ziggy’s school days. For the first time since he was born, the responsibility of being in charge of Ziggy’s childhood weighed lightly on her. Her new apartment was walking distance from the school. They would walk to school each day, past the beach and up the tree-lined hill.

At her own suburban primary school she’d had views of a six-lane highway and the scent of barbecued chicken from the shop next door. There had been no cleverly designed, shady little play areas with charming, colorful tile mosaics of grinning dolphins and whales. There were certainly no murals of underwater sea scenes or stone sculptures of tortoises in the middle of sandpits.

“This school is so cute,” she said to Madeline as she and Celeste helped Madeline hop along to a seat. “It’s magical.”

“I know. Last year’s school trivia night raised money to redo the school yard,” said Madeline. “The Blond Bobs know how to fund-raise. The theme was ‘dead celebrities.’ It was great fun. Hey, are you any good at trivia, Jane?”

“I’m excellent at trivia,” said Jane. “Trivia and jigsaws are my two areas of expertise.”

“Jigsaws?” said Madeline. “I’d rather stick pins in my eyes.”

She sat down on a blue painted wooden bench built around the tree trunk of a Moreton Bay Fig and put her ankle up. A crowd of other parents soon formed around them, and Madeline held court, introducing Jane and Celeste to the mothers with older children she already knew and telling everyone the story of how she twisted her ankle saving young lives.

“Typical Madeline,” a woman called Carol said to Jane. She was a soft-looking woman wearing a puffy-sleeved floral sundress and a big straw sun hat. She looked like she was off to a white clapboard church in Little House on the Prairie. (Carol? Wasn’t she the one Madeline said liked to clean? Clean Carol.)

“Madeline just loves a fight,” said Carol. “She’ll take on anyone. Our sons play soccer together, and last year she got in an argument with this giant dad. All the husbands were hiding, and Madeline was standing this close to him, poking her finger into his chest like this, not giving an inch. It’s a wonder she didn’t get herself killed.”

“Oh, him! The under-seven age coordinator.” Madeline spat the words “under-seven age coordinator” as if they were “serial killer.” “I shall loathe that man until the day I die!”

Meanwhile Celeste stood off slightly to the side, chatting in that ruffled, hesitant way of hers, which Jane was already beginning to recognize as characteristic of Celeste.

“What did you say your son’s name was again?” Carol asked Jane.

“Ziggy,” said Jane.

“Ziggy,” repeated Carol uncertainly. “Is that an ethnic sort of a name?”

“Hello, there, I’m Renata!” A woman with a crisp gray symmetrical haircut and intense brown eyes behind stylish black-framed spectacles appeared in front of Jane, hand outstretched. It was like being accosted by a politician. She said her name with strange emphasis, as if Jane had been expecting her.

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