Home > Big Little Lies(4)

Big Little Lies(4)
Liane Moriarty

A glittery girl. Older than Jane but definitely still glittery. All her life Jane had watched girls like that with scientific interest. Maybe a little awe. Maybe a little envy. They weren’t necessarily the prettiest, but they decorated themselves so affectionately, like Christmas trees, with dangling earrings, jangling bangles and delicate, pointless scarves. They touched your arm a lot when they spoke. Jane’s best friend at school had been a glittery girl. Jane had a weakness for them.

Then the woman fell, as if something had been pulled out from underneath her.

“Ouch,” said Jane, and she looked away fast to save the woman’s dignity.

“Did you hurt yourself, Mummy?” asked Ziggy from the backseat. He was always very worried about her hurting herself.

“No,” said Jane. “That lady over there hurt herself. She tripped.”

She waited for the woman to get up and get back in her car, but she was still on the ground. She’d tipped back her head to the sky, and her face had that compressed look of someone in great pain. The traffic light turned green, and a little blue Mitsubishi that had been in front of the SUV zoomed off with a squeal of tires.

Jane put her signal on to drive around the car. They were on their way to Ziggy’s orientation day at the new school, and she had no idea where she was going. She and Ziggy were both nervous and pretending not to be. She wanted to get there in plenty of time.

“Is the lady OK?” said Ziggy.

Jane felt that strange lurch she sometimes experienced when she got distracted by her life, and then something (it was often Ziggy) made her remember just in time the appropriate way for a nice, ordinary, well-mannered grown-up to behave.

If it weren’t for Ziggy she would have driven off. She would have been so focused on her goal of getting him to his kindergarten orientation that she would have left a woman sitting on the road, writhing in pain.

“I’ll just check on her,” said Jane, as if that were her intention all along. She flicked on her own hazard lights and opened the car door, aware as she did of a selfish sense of resistance. You are an inconvenience, glittery lady!

“Are you all right?” she called.

“I’m fine!” The woman tried to sit up straighter and whimpered, her hand on her ankle. “Ow. Shit. I’ve rolled my ankle, that’s all. I’m such an idiot. I got out of the car to go tell the girl in front of me to stop texting. Serves me right for behaving like a school prefect.”

Jane crouched down next to her. The woman had shoulder-length, well-cut dark hair and the faintest sprinkle of freckles across her nose. There was something aesthetically pleasing about those freckles, like a childhood memory of summer, and they were very nicely complemented by the fine lines around her eyes and the absurd swinging earrings.

Jane’s resistance vanished entirely.

She liked this woman. She wanted to help her.

(Although, what did that say? If the woman had been a toothless, warty-nosed crone she would have continued to feel resentful? The injustice of it. The cruelty of it. She was going to be nicer to this woman because she liked her freckles.)

The woman’s dress had an intricately embroidered cutout pattern of flowers all along the neckline. Jane could see tanned freckly skin through the petals.

“We need to get some ice on it straightaway,” said Jane. She knew about ankle injuries from her netball days and she could see this woman’s ankle was already beginning to swell. “And keep it elevated.” She chewed her lip and looked about hopefully for someone else. She had no idea how to handle the logistics of making this actually happen.

“It’s my birthday,” said the woman sadly. “My fortieth.”

“Happy birthday,” said Jane. It was sort of cute that a woman of forty would even bother to mention that it was her birthday.

She looked at the woman’s strappy shoes. Her toenails were painted a lustrous turquoise. The stiletto heels were as thin as toothpicks and perilously high.

“No wonder you did your ankle,” said Jane. “No one could walk in those shoes!”

“I know, but aren’t they gorgeous?” The woman turned her foot at an angle to admire them. “Ouch! Fuck, that hurts. Sorry. Excuse my language.”

“Mummy!” A little girl with dark curly hair, wearing a sparkling tiara, stuck her head out the window of the car. “What are you doing? Get up! We’ll be late!”

Glittery mother. Glittery daughter.

“Thanks for the sympathy, darling!” said the woman. She smiled ruefully at Jane. “We’re on our way to her kindergarten orientation. She’s very excited.”

“At Pirriwee Public?” said Jane. She was astonished. “But that’s where I’m going. My son, Ziggy, is starting school next year. We’re moving here in December.” It didn’t seem possible that she and this woman could have anything in common, or that their lives could intersect in any way.

“Ziggy! Like Ziggy Stardust? What a great name!” said the woman. “I’m Madeline, by the way. Madeline Martha Mackenzie. I always mention the Martha for some reason. Don’t ask me why.” She held out her hand.

“Jane,” said Jane. “Jane no-middle-name Chapman.”

Gabrielle: The school ended up split in two. It was, like, I don’t know, a civil war. You were either on Team Madeline or Team Renata.

Bonnie: No, no, that’s awful. That never happened. There were no sides. We’re a very close-knit community. There was too much alcohol. Also, it was a full moon. Everyone goes a little crazy when it’s a full moon. I’m serious. It’s an actual verifiable phenomenon.

Samantha: Was it a full moon? It was pouring rain, I know that. My hair was all boofy.

Mrs. Lipmann: That’s ridiculous and highly defamatory. I have no further comment.

Carol: I know I keep harping on about the Erotic Book Club, but I’m sure something happened at one of their little quote-unquote meetings.

Harper: Listen, I cried when we learned Emily was gifted. I thought, Here we go again! I’d been through it all before with Sophia, so I knew what I was in for! Renata was in the same boat. Two gifted children. Nobody understands the stress. Renata was worried about how Amabella would settle in at school, whether she’d get enough stimulation and so on. So when that child with the ridiculous name, that Ziggy, did what he did, and it was only the orientation morning! Well, she was understandably very distressed. That’s what started it all.

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