Home > Big Little Lies(14)

Big Little Lies(14)
Liane Moriarty

She put the phone down on the bedside table with a bang, suddenly exhausted, and tried her best to restrain the little eruption of fury behind her eyes.

Feel so blessed . . . A beautiful experience.

This from a fourteen-year-old who whined if she was asked to set the table. Her daughter was starting to sound just like Bonnie.

“Bleh,” she said out loud.

Bonnie had arranged for the whole family to volunteer at a homeless shelter on Christmas morning. “I just hate all that crass commercialism of Christmas, don’t you?” she’d told Madeline last week, when they’d run into each other in the shops. Madeline had been doing Christmas shopping, and her wrists were looped with dozens of plastic shopping bags. Fred and Chloe were both eating lollipops, their lips a garish red. Meanwhile Bonnie was carrying a tiny bonsai tree in a pot, and Skye was walking along next to her eating a pear. (“A f**king pear,” Madeline had told Celeste later. For some reason she couldn’t get over the pear.)

How in the world had Bonnie managed to get Madeline’s ex-husband out of bed at that time of morning to go to work in a homeless shelter? Nathan wouldn’t get up before eight a.m. in the ten years they’d been together. Bonnie must give him organic blow jobs.

“Abigail is having a ‘beautiful experience’ with Bonnie at the homeless shelter,” Madeline said to Ed.

Ed took his pillow off his face.

“That’s revolting,” he said.

“I know,” said Madeline. This is why she loved him.

“Coffee,” he said sympathetically. “I’ll get you coffee.”

“PRESENTS!” shouted Chloe and Fred from down the hallway.

Chloe and Fred couldn’t get enough of the crass commercialism of Christmas.

Harper: Can you imagine how strange it must have been for Madeline to have her ex-husband’s child in the same kindergarten class as her own child? I remember Renata and I talked about it over brunch. We were quite concerned how it would affect the classroom dynamics. Of course, Bonnie loved to pretend it was all so nice and amicable. “Oh, we all have Christmas lunch together.” Spare me. I saw them at the trivia night. I saw Bonnie throw her drink all over Madeline!


It was just becoming light when Celeste woke up on Christmas morning. Perry was sound asleep, and there was no sound from the adjoining room where the boys were sleeping. They’d been almost demented with excitement about Santa Claus finding them in Canada (letters had been sent to Santa informing him of the change of address), and with their body clocks all confused, she and Perry had had terrible trouble getting them off to sleep. The boys were sharing a king-size bed, and they’d kept wrestling in that hysterical way they sometimes did, where laughter skidded into tears and then back again into laughter, and Perry had shouted from the next room, “Go to sleep, boys!” and all of a sudden there was silence, and when Celeste had checked in a few seconds later they were both lying flat on their backs, arms and legs spread, as if exhaustion had simultaneously knocked them out cold.

“Come and look at this,” she’d said to Perry, and he’d come in and stood next to her, and they’d watched them sleep for a few minutes before grinning at each other and tiptoeing out to have a drink to celebrate Christmas Eve.

Now Celeste slid out from underneath the feathery quilt and walked to the window overlooking the frozen lake. She put her hand flat against the glass. It felt cold, but the room was warm. There was a giant Christmas tree in the center of the lake, glowing with red and green lights. Snowflakes fell softly. It was all so beautiful she felt like she could taste it. When she looked back on this holiday, she’d remember its flavor: full and fruity, like the mulled wine they’d had earlier.

Today, after the boys had opened their presents and they’d eaten a room service breakfast (pancakes with maple syrup!), they’d go out to play in the snow. They’d build a snowman. Perry had booked them a sleigh ride. Perry would post pictures of them all frolicking in the snow on Facebook. He’d write something like: The boys have their first white Christmas! He loved Facebook. Everyone teased him about it. Big, successful banker posting photos on Facebook, writing cheery comments about his wife’s friends’ recipe posts.

Celeste looked back at the bed where Perry was sleeping. He always slept with a tiny perplexed frown, as if his dreams puzzled him.

As soon as he woke he’d be desperate to give Celeste his gift. He loved giving presents. The first time she knew she wanted to marry him was when she saw the anticipation on his face, watching his mother open a birthday present he’d bought for her. “Do you like it?” he’d burst out as soon she tore the paper, and his family had all laughed at him for sounding like a big kid.

She wouldn’t need to fake her pleasure. Whatever he chose would be perfect. She’d always prided herself on her ability to choose thoughtful gifts, but Perry outdid her. On his last overseas trip he’d found the most ridiculously tizzy pink crystal champagne stopper. “I took one look and thought Madeline,” he’d said. Madeline had loved it of course.

Today would be perfect in every way. The Facebook photos wouldn’t lie. So much joy. Her life had so much joy. That was an actual verifiable fact.

There really was no need to leave him until the boys finished high school.

That would be the right time to leave. On the day they finished their last exams. “Put down your pens,” the exam supervisors would say. That’s when Celeste would put down her marriage.

Perry opened his eyes.

“Merry Christmas!” smiled Celeste.

Gabrielle: Everyone thinks Celeste and Perry have the perfect marriage, but I’m not sure about that. I walked by them, sitting in their car parked on the side of the road on the trivia night. Celeste looked gorgeous, of course. I’ve personally witnessed her eating carbs like there’s no tomorrow, so don’t tell me there’s any justice in this world. They were both staring straight ahead, not looking at each other, all dressed up in their costumes, not saying a word.


Jane woke to the sound of people shouting “Happy Christmas!” from the street below her apartment window. She sat up in bed and tugged at her T-shirt; it was damp with sweat. She’d been dreaming. A bad one. She’d been lying flat on her back while Ziggy stood next to her, in his shortie pajamas, smiling down at her, one foot on her throat.

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