Home > Big Little Lies(9)

Big Little Lies(9)
Liane Moriarty

“She does not,” said Celeste.

“She does!”

“What about dads?” Jane opened a packet of chewing gum and slipped another piece into her mouth like illegal contraband. She appeared to be obsessed with gum, although you couldn’t really see her chewing it. She didn’t quite meet Madeline’s eye as she asked the question. Was she hoping to meet a single dad perhaps?

“Well, I’ve heard on the grapevine we’ve got at least one stay-at-home dad in kindergarten this year,” said Madeline. “His wife is some hotshot in the corporate world. Jackie Somebody. She’s the CEO of a bank, I think.”

“Not Jackie Montgomery,” said Celeste.

“That’s it.”

“Goodness,” murmured Celeste.

“We’ll probably never see her. It’s hard for the mums working full-time. Who else works full-time? Oh. Renata. Renata is in one of those finance jobs—equities or, I don’t know, stock options? Is that a thing? Or maybe she’s an analyst. I think that’s it. She analyzes stuff. Every time I ask her to explain her job, I forget to listen. Her children are geniuses too. Obviously.”

“So Renata is a Blond Bob?” said Jane.

“No, no. She’s a career woman. She has a full-time nanny. I think she just imported a new one from France. She likes European stuff. Renata doesn’t have time to help at the school. She has board meetings to attend. Whenever you talk to her she’s just been to a board meeting, or she’s on her way back from a board meeting, or she’s preparing for a board meeting. I mean, how often do these boards have to meet?”

“Well, it depends on—” began Celeste.

“It was a rhetorical question,” interrupted Madeline. “My point is she can’t go more than five minutes before she mentions a board meeting, just like Thea Cunningham can’t go more than five minutes without mentioning she has four children. She’s a kindergarten mother too, by the way. She has four children. She can’t get over it. Um, do I sound bitchy?”

“Yes,” said Celeste.

“Sorry,” said Madeline. She did feel a bit guilty. “I was trying to be entertaining. Blame my ankle. Quite seriously, it’s a very lovely school and everyone is very lovely and we’re all going to have a lovely, lovely time and make lovely, lovely new friends.”

Jane chortled and did her discreet gum-chewing thing. She seemed to be drinking coffee and chewing gum at the same time. It was peculiar.

“So, these ‘gifted and talented’ children,” asked Jane. “Are the children tested or something?”

“There’s a whole identification process,” said Madeline. “And they get special programs and ‘opportunities.’ They stay in the same class, but they’re given more difficult assignments, I guess, and sometimes they’re pulled out for separate sessions with a specialist teacher. Look, obviously you don’t want your child being bored in class, waiting for everyone else to catch up. I do understand that. I just get a little . . . well, for example, last year I had a little conflict with Renata.”

“Madeline loves conflict,” said Celeste to Jane.

“Renata somehow found time in between board meetings to ask the teachers to organize an exclusive little excursion just for the gifted kids. It was to see a play. Well, come on now, you don’t have to be bloody gifted to enjoy theater. I’m the marketing manager at the Pirriwee Peninsula Theatre, you see, so that’s how I got wind of it.”

“She won of course,” grinned Celeste.

“Of course I won,” said Madeline. “I got a special group discount and all the kids went and I got half-price champagne at interval for all the parents and we had a great time.”

“Oh! Speaking of which!” said Celeste. “I nearly forgot to give you your champagne! Did I— Oh, yes, here it is.” She rummaged through her voluminous straw basket in her typically breathless way and handed over a bottle of Bollinger. “Can’t give you champagne glasses without champagne.”

“Let’s have some now!” Madeline lifted the bottle by the neck, suddenly inspired.

“No, no,” said Celeste. “Are you crazy? It’s too early for drinking. We have to pick the kids up in two hours. And it’s not chilled.”

“Champagne breakfast!” said Madeline. “It’s all in the way you package it. We’ll have champagne and orange juice. Half a glass each! Over two hours. Jane? Are you in?”

“I guess I could have a sip,” said Jane. “I’m a cheap drunk.”

“I bet you are, because you weigh about ten kilos,” said Madeline. “We’ll get on well. I love cheap drunks. More for me.”

“Madeline,” said Celeste. “Keep it for another time.”

“But it’s the Festival of Madeline,” said Madeline sadly. “And I’m injured.”

Celeste rolled her eyes. “Pass me a glass.”

Thea: Jane was tipsy when she picked up Ziggy from orientation. So, you know, it just paints a certain type of picture, doesn’t it? Young single mother drinking first thing in the morning. Chewing gum too. Not a good first impression. That’s all I’m saying.

Bonnie: For heaven’s sake, nobody was drunk! They had a champagne breakfast at Blue Blues for Madeline’s fortieth. They were just a little giggly. That’s what I heard, anyway; we actually couldn’t make orientation day because we were doing a family healing retreat in Byron Bay. It was an incredible spiritual experience. Would you like the website address?

Harper: You knew from the very first day that Madeline, Celeste, and Jane were a little threesome. They arrived with their arms around one another like twelve-year-olds. Renata and I didn’t get invited to their little soiree, even though we’d known Madeline since all our boys were in kindergarten together, but as I said to Renata that night, when we were having the most divine degustation menu at Remy’s (that was before the rest of Sydney discovered it by the way), I really didn’t care less.

Samantha: I was working. Stu took Lily to orientation. He mentioned some of the mothers had just come from a champagne breakfast. I said, “Right. What are their names? They sound like my sort of people.”

Jonathan: I missed all that. Stu and I were talking about cricket.

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