Home > Big Little Lies(17)

Big Little Lies(17)
Liane Moriarty

“You need a haircut,” she said.

Fred wrinkled his freckled nose in disgust. “I don’t!”

“I’ll call Ziggy’s mum,” said Madeline to Chloe, “and arrange a playdate.”

She’d actually been meaning to call Jane since before Christmas, but work had gotten busy, and they’d been away up the coast in between Christmas and New Year’s. Poor Jane didn’t know anyone in the area, and she’d seemed so devastated that day after that awful incident at orientation.

“Madeline, are you sure that’s a good idea?” said Ed quietly. “He sounds like he might be a bit rough.”

“Well, we don’t know for sure,” said Madeline.

“But you said Amabella Klein pointed him out in a lineup.”

“Innocent people have been picked out of police lineups before,” said Madeline to Ed.

“If that kid lays a finger on Chloe—” began Ed.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake,” said Madeline. “Chloe can look after herself!” She looked at Abigail’s plate. “Why aren’t you eating?”

“We like Renata and Geoff,” said Ed. “So if their daughter says this kid, this Ziggy, hurt her, then we should be supportive. What sort of a name is Ziggy, anyway?”

“We don’t like Renata and Geoff that much,” said Madeline. “Abigail, eat!”

“Don’t we?” said Ed. “I thought I liked Geoff.”

“You tolerate him,” said Madeline. “He’s the bird-watcher, Ed, not the golfer.”

“Is he?” Ed looked disappointed. “Are you sure?”

“You’re thinking of Gareth Hajek.”

“Am I?” Ed frowned.

“Yep,” said Madeline. “Chloe, stop waving your fork around. Fred nearly lost an eye just then. Are you sick, Abigail? Is that why you’re not eating?”

Abigail laid down her knife and fork. “I think I’m going vegan,” she said grandly.

Bonnie was a vegan.

“Over my dead body you are,” said Madeline.

Or over somebody’s dead body, anyway.

Thea: You know that Madeline has a fourteen-year-old daughter, Abigail, from her previous marriage? I feel so sorry for children from broken homes, don’t you? I’m just so glad I can offer my children a stable environment. I’m sure Madeline and Bonnie were fighting about Abigail at the trivia night.

Harper: I actually heard Madeline say, “I’m going to kill someone before the night is out.” I assumed it was something to do with Bonnie. Not that I’m pointing fingers, of course.

Bonnie: Yes, Abigail is my stepdaughter, and it’s absolutely true that Abigail had a few, well, issues, just typical teenage girl issues, but Madeline and I were working together as a team to help her. Can you smell lemon myrtle? I’m trying this new incense for the first time. It’s good for stress. Take a deep breath. That’s it. You look like you need a little stress relief, if you don’t mind my saying.

13.

It was one of those days. It had been a while. Not since well before Christmas. Celeste’s mouth was dry and hollow. Her head throbbed gently. She followed the boys and Perry through the school yard with her body held stiffly, carefully, as if she were a tall fragile glass in danger of spilling.

She was hyperaware of everything: the warm air against her bare arms, the straps of her sandals in between her toes, the edges of the leaves of the Moreton Bay Fig tree, each sharply delineated against the blue of the sky. It was similar to that intense way you felt when you were newly in love, or newly pregnant, or driving a car on your own for the very first time. Everything felt significant.

“Do you and Ed fight?” she’d asked Madeline once.

“Like cats and dogs,” Madeline had said cheerfully.

Celeste could somehow tell she was talking about something else entirely.

“Can we show Daddy the monkey bars first?” cried Max.

School started back in two weeks, but the uniform shop was open for two hours this morning so parents could get what they needed for the new year. Perry had the day off, and after they picked up the boys’ uniforms they were going around the point to take the boys snorkeling.

“Sure,” said Celeste to Max. He ran off, and as she watched him go she realized it wasn’t Max. It was Josh. She was losing her grip. She thought she was concentrating too hard when she wasn’t concentrating enough.

Perry ran his fingertip down her arm and she shivered.

“You OK?” he asked. He lifted his sunglasses so she could see his eyes. The whites were very white. Her eyes were always bloodshot the morning after an argument, but Perry’s eyes were always clear and shining.

“Fine.” She smiled at him.

He smiled back and pulled her to him. “You look beautiful in that dress,” he said in her ear.

This was the way they always behaved with each other the day after: tender and tremulous, as if they’d been through something terrible together, like a natural disaster, as if they’d barely escaped with their lives.

“Daddy!” shrieked Josh. “Come and watch us!”

“Coming!” cried Perry. He banged his fists against his chest like a gorilla and ran after them with his back hunched and his arms swinging, making gorilla noises. The boys went crazy with delighted terror and ran off.

It was just a bad fight, she told herself. All couples fight.

The previous night the boys had stayed overnight at Perry’s mother’s place. “Have a romantic dinner without these little ruffians,” she’d said.

It had started over the computer.

She’d been double-checking the opening times for the uniform shop when the computer said something about a “catastrophic error.” “Perry!” she’d called from the office, “there’s something wrong with the computer!” and a tiny part of her warned: No, don’t tell him. What if he can’t fix it?

Stupid, stupid, stupid. She should have known better. But it was too late. He came into the office, smiling.

“Step aside, woman,” he’d said.

He was the one who was good with computers. He liked being able to solve problems for her, and if he could have fixed it then, everything would have been fine.

But he couldn’t fix it.

The minutes passed. She could see by the set of his shoulders that it wasn’t going well.

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