Definitely NOT Monica

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Chapter Twenty

The next morning, Jenny lay in her bed staring at the ceiling and thinking about the night before. What a train wreck. Maybe I’m just not cut out for dating, maybe I should just give up for a bit. I really need to change my support group goal to something a bit more achievable. Like what though…sitting in a chair without having to spray the crap out of it?

Jenny sighed, and looked at her watch. 7.30am. She had planned to get some work done this morning, editing a marketing document for a local business. Time to face the day.

Jenny was dressed and drinking a coffee when her mobile rang. She checked caller ID. Bridgette.

‘Hi Bridge.’

‘Hi Mon. How are you?’

Jenny closed her eyes and rubbed her eyelids with her knuckles. ‘That’s not my name, Bridge.’

‘Jeeeesus,’ Jenny could imagine Bridgette rolling her eyes at the other end of the line. ‘You still got your knickers in a knot then?’

‘Actually, I’m fine Bridge. You’re up early.’

‘Oh, I’m at work, on an early shift. The thing is,’ Bridgette paused and Jenny took a sip of coffee while she waited, ‘are you coming to dinner at Mum and Dad’s tonight?’

Jenny took a deep breath. ‘No. Not tonight Bridge. Not yet.’

‘For God’s sake! Are you sure? Can you not just get over it? It’s been a few weeks.’

’Yes, I’m very sure - and no, I can’t just get over it. Why should I just get over it, when my own family judge and bully me every time I see them? What’s the big deal anyway? I would’ve thought you’d enjoy having centre stage all to yourself, and Mum and Dad must be delighted not to have me there, scrubbing my hands and freaking them out.’

’Well, it’s just that Mum… she’s gone all weird. I have to help out in the kitchen, and I can’t get out of going when you’re not there, and God forbid I’m a few minutes late. And mum keeps trying to have deep and meaningful chats with me. And Dad keeps frowning at me, like it’s my fault you’re not there. Anyway, I’m just looking forward to you getting over your tanty so we can get back to normal, that’s all. Well, so we can get back to normal, and you can get back to being, um, you...’ Bridgette giggled on the other end of the line.

Jenny shook her head and took another deep breath. ‘Bridge, you’re just going to have to tough it out. I’m not ready to come back. In fact, I don’t think I’ll be ready to come back for ages. You can tell Mum I won’t be there tonight. Or next Sunday. And probably quite a few Sundays after that.’

‘Could you just give her a call, tell her yourself? Pleeeease.’

Jenny heard the desperate plea in Bridgette’s voice, and for a moment considered giving in and calling her parents. ‘No, Bridge. I don’t think so.’

‘Okay, fine, whatever.’ Bridgette’s voice brightened, ‘so, have I told you about this guy at…’

Jenny interrupted her. ‘Actually, Bridge, I’ve got to go. And I think it’s best if you don’t ring me for a while either.’

Hanging up the phone before Bridgette could reply, Jenny felt a flash of guilt for cutting her sister off so sharply, which quickly turned to elation. At least I don’t have to listen to another one of Bridgette’s dating stories for a while. Score!

Finishing the last of her coffee and placing her cup down on the kitchen bench, she walked into her office to turn on her laptop. She had just switched on the power button and sat down, when a thought occurred to her. She stood up, walked back to the kitchen and looked at the bench. There was her empty coffee cup. Still sitting where she had left it, un-rinsed. Not in the dishwasher. She stared at it for a few moments, before closing her eyes and counting to ten. Opening her eyes again, she looked back at the bench.

Holy shit! I just left my coffee cup on the bench and walked away. My dirty coffee cup.

‘I just left my dirty coffee cup on the bench and walked away. Just walked away. Me. I did that.’ Jenny’s voice was loud in her quiet apartment.

Clapping her hands, Jenny walked back to her office to sit down at her laptop, a big smile on her face. Waiting for a connection to the Internet to be established, she started to drum her fingers on her desk. As the drumming got louder and louder, one of her legs started to twitch. Trying to concentrate, Jenny clicked on her email account and scanned her inbox. Soon both her legs were twitching, and Jenny felt her heart start to beat just a fraction faster. She clenched and unclenched her hands, which had become incredibly clammy. No! Jennifer Sullivan, don’t do it! Fight the urge. Just leave it where it is.

‘Crap!’ she said out loud, as she stood from her chair and walked quickly into her kitchen. Crappity, crappity, crap. Stuff it anyway. Jenny felt her breath come in little gasps as she picked up the dirty coffee cup with her sweaty hands, rinsed it under the tap, and quickly stacked it neatly in her dishwasher. Phew. Jenny sagged against the bench as she closed the dishwasher door and relief flooded through her.

Shortly after the sense of relief came the shame.

And shortly after the shame, Jenny’s cheeks burned with anger. Why am I such a freak? It’s just a flippin’ coffee cup. Why. Couldn’t. I. Just. Leave. It?

Several hours later, Jenny was staring at the screen of her laptop, putting the finishing touches on the document she was working on, when her mobile beeped.

I bet that’s Bridgette, trying to convince me to come to the family dinner tonight. Well, she can just f-off.

Jenny picked up her mobile and stared at the screen. It was a message from Ellen.

Ellen Stuart

Hi Jen & Petra, how are you both? I’m just following up on having dinner at my place. We haven’t got our support group meeting this week, how about you come round on Tuesday?

Jenny felt a nervous flutter in her stomach. She couldn’t remember the last time she had visited someone’s house, aside from family dinners at her parents’ place. She had refused to visit Bridgette’s apartment, which housed two male flatmates, after she had found a pubic hair on the toilet seat (Bridgette had nearly wet herself laughing, while Jenny had nearly wet herself in terror). And visits to Amber’s house, which was ruled by two very yappy drooling Cockapoo dogs, had been so awkward that they had both agreed to meet at Jenny’s going forward. It wasn’t that she disliked dogs, in theory, she just wasn’t fond of dog hair and drool and the way they sniffed each other’s butts and then tried to insert their butt-smeared noses into her hands or crotch. Amber had tried locking them in another room, but they had barked non-stop and scratched at the door to be let back in. In the end, the only house that was tolerable to visit was her parents’, and that was under quite a bit of duress. And now here she was, making plans to visit the house of a known sex addict. The irony wasn’t lost on her, but as well as nerves she definitely felt a flicker of excitement at the prospect.

Jenny Sullivan

That sounds great Ellen. Well, it actually sounds terrifying, but kind of, um, exciting I suppose. Is that weird? I haven’t been to anyone else’s house in a long time. A really long time. Tuesday suits me, if that suits Petra. What can I bring?

Ellen Stuart

I cannot even imagine how terrifying all these new experiences must be Jen, but I think you are really brave. Perhaps you’d like to bring your own cutlery? Just bring whatever makes you feel more comfortable.

Jenny smiled at her friend’s thoughtfulness.

Jenny Sullivan

Ok Ellen, thanks

Petra McDonald

Tuesday evening suits me - it’s not like I have anything else to do. That fucking bastard I’m married to still won’t let me see my kids.

Jenny winced inwardly, unsure whether she should reply or ignore Petra’s comment completely. Before she could decide, Ellen had sent another message. And Ellen had decided, apparently, that ignoring it was the best course of action.

Ellen Stuart

Okay, great. Tuesday night it is. Come around 7pm. My address is 125c River Road. The white house with the grey porch.

Petra McDonald

Okay. And thanks, Ellen. For the invite. I really don’t have anything else to do, not since I can’t see my kids. I’d only be staring at the TV.

You and me both, Jenny thought to herself with a frown.

Ellen Stuart

You’re welcome Petra, it will be great to have you both over.

Jen, what sort of food is best for, well, you know. Do you have preferences? What should I avoid?

Jenny Sullivan

If you don’t mind, can you make it something hot?

Ellen Stuart

Done. See you Tuesday x

Jenny stared at the ‘x’, and found herself smiling. A few months ago I would’ve been disgusted at a sex addict sending me kisses in a message. Now I’m.. what am I? Delighted? Putting down her mobile, Jenny turned back to her laptop and got back to work.

The next two days flew by, and Jenny was getting ready to go to Ellen’s house when her mobile rang. She checker caller ID before answering.

‘Ams! Hi.’

‘Hi Jen. How are you?’

‘I’m good, you?’

‘Good. No, great.’ Cue big contented sigh. ‘So great.’

Jenny laughed. ‘Things going well with Mr Dreamy then?’

’He is dreamy, isn’t he?’ Amber laughed herself, and then her voice became serious. ‘I’m sorry I haven’t rung you sooner. I meant to ring you on Sunday. Are you okay? You know, after Saturday night?’

‘Ams, I’m fine. Honestly.’ Jenny checked her reflection in the mirror at her front door, and nodded to herself encouragingly. I am fine. Definitely fine. Kind of fine. As good as fine… Well, I’m not suicidal.

‘Me and Jack, we’re both sorry it turned out like that Jen. That Troy turned out like that. I’ve been giving Jack hell for the past few days.’

‘Ams, don’t be too hard on him. It’s not his fault. Troy was, well, Troy was…’

‘A knob end? Dickhead? A giant tosser?’

Jenny laughed again. ‘Yes, he really was all those things. I just can’t believe he was the same guy from the supermarket. And that he honestly,’ Jenny shuddered, ‘thought I was going to go home with him. As if.’

‘He should be so lucky!’ Amber scoffed. ‘Anyway, I’d like to make it up to you. I know it’s late notice, but I was wondering if I could bring a DVD around tonight? Maybe a bottle of wine?’

‘That would’ve been really nice, Ams. But, er, I’ve got plans already.’

Amber was silent for a second. ‘Oh, of course, it’s Tuesday. Have you got your support group meeting tonight?’

‘Actually no,’ Jenny smiled at her reflection in the mirror, ‘that’s next week. Different plans.’

‘Fucking hell, you’ve got a date? With someone from Tinder?’

‘No way!’ Jenny’s voice was emphatic. ‘I’ve taken my profile offline, actually. I took it off this morning. I’ve seen enough dicks and balls to last me a lifetime.’

Amber laughed, and then stopped suddenly. ‘It’s Phil, isn’t it?’

‘What’s Phil?’

‘Your date tonight, you’re going out with Phil? From your support group. I knew it! I told Jack, after that speed dating night, that there was something going on between you two.’

Jenny blinked in surprise. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about Ams. But no, it’s not Phil. It’s not even a date. I’m going round to Ellen’s house, for dinner.’

‘Oh, sorry, I just thought… This is Ellen the sex addict? You’re going round to her house?’

‘Well, yes. Another woman is coming from our group too, Petra.’

‘Oh, right. Wow. That’s really great Jen.’

‘Ams, are you okay? You sound weird.’

‘I’m fine hun, fine. I just…’

Jenny knew what she was going to say, and interrupted her before she could say it. ‘Maybe I could, er, try coming round to your place again. You know, for coffee or something, one weekend?’

‘Oh, Jen, that would be fantastic! I’ll get Jack to come around too. Not that I need to ask, he practically lives at my place these days. He really enjoyed meeting you, you know. He thought you were hilarious.’

‘Really?’ Jenny was surprised. ’He thought I was funny? Funny in the head maybe.’ Jenny looked at her watch. ‘Shit, Ams, I’ve got to get going. I’ll talk to you soon, and we can make a date for me to come over.’

‘Sounds awesome. Bye hun, have a great night.’

Jenny put her mobile in her bag, grabbed her keys and a plastic bag with a set of her own disinfected cutlery, and left her apartment. Getting in her car and clicking shut her safety belt, she started to back out of her parking space when she had a thought. Did I clean my hands after I locked my front door? She looked at her hands. They looked the same as they always did. I don’t remember. I actually don’t remember. Does that mean I did? Or didn’t? She shrugged to herself, and a smile spread across her face. OCD - Nil. Jenny Sullivan - One.

Driving down River Road ten minutes later, Jenny examined the houses as she drove past. One of the more desirable streets in Hamilton, with views of the Waikato River, most of the houses were huge. Enormous even. Pulling up outside a letterbox with 125C written across it in gold lettering, Jenny grabbed her mobile and checked her messages to ensure she had the right address. Yep, this is the one. Ellen had described her house as white, with a grey front porch - which it was. But she had left out a few details, one of which being the fact that it was obscenely huge. It’s a mansion! Jenny thought to herself in surprise. From Ellen’s basic description she had expected some sort of villa, or a cute little cottage, but not this. Mind you, as if she was going to say “I live in the giant white mansion with the huge section of manicured gardens out the front.”

Jenny was just getting out of her car, when she noticed that Petra had pulled up across the road. Petra turned off her engine, looked at Ellen’s house for a few seconds and then raised her eyebrows at Jenny.

‘What the fuck?’ she mouthed through her car window.

Jenny giggled, and motioned for Petra to hurry up. Petra locked her car and walked across the road, to join Jenny on the footpath outside Ellen’s house.

‘Holy shit, did you know she lived here?’

Jenny shook her head. ‘Nope, no idea.’

‘Well,’ Petra crossed her arms and smiled at Jenny, ’if this is what being addicted to sex can get you, lead me straight to the penises. I have definitely got the wrong addiction.’

Jenny laughed. ‘I don’t think she earns money from the sex. That would make her, er, a…’

‘A prostitute?’

‘Well, yeah. She’s a lawyer, remember. Presumably a high profile one, looking at her house.’

‘That’s right,’ Petra nodded thoughtfully, ‘I forgot she has a career. I kind of just think of everyone in our group according to their addictions and not what they do. Like, Jonty’s the alcoholic…’

‘That’s actually all he is though,’ Jenny interrupted. Feeling bad for saying it, she added, ‘I mean, he doesn’t have a job.’

‘Right, bad example. I won’t use Suzanne either, then. So, Anthony’s the klepto, Gray’s the gambler, Phil’s the overeater, and you’re…’ Petra fell silent.

‘I’m?’ Jenny prompted.

‘You’re the clean freak.’ Petra smiled apologetically. ‘Sorry.’

’No, it’s fine, you’re absolutely right. I am the clean freak. I find myself thinking of everyone in the group like that too. Well, we’d better actually go in.’

Petra and Jenny walked through a large white gate, and down a pebbled pathway lined with neatly clipped box hedging. Walking up the steps to the grey porch, they could hear music coming from inside the house. Petra was about to knock on the front door, when it swung open from the inside. A gust of warm air rushed out of the house, carrying all sorts of delicious smells with it. Ellen smiled broadly at the two of them.

‘Hi!’ She swung an arm to motion them inside. ‘In you come, out of the cold.’

Jenny and Petra obeyed, walking into a brightly lit foyer. Jenny glanced up at the chandelier hanging from the ceiling, and then over at a sweeping staircase leading upstairs. ‘Wow, Ellen, your house is amazing!’

‘Unreal Ellen. Puts my bedsit to absolute shame.’

Ellen blushed. ‘Oh. Well, thanks.’ She motioned to a row of coat hooks. ‘You can leave your coats and bags here.’ She winked at Jenny, ‘there’s some hand sanitiser over there on the hall table.’

Jenny smiled gratefully, and pumped a few generous sprays on her hands. ‘Funnily enough, I left my house today without washing my hands. Which is the first time in,’ Jenny thought for a moment, ‘the first time in forever I guess.’

‘Well done Jen,’ Ellen smiled at her, and then started walking down the hallway motioning for them to follow. ‘I wish I could say I was doing as well.’

‘Why, what the fuck’s happened?’ Petra asked, as she and Jenny walked behind her.

Ellen led them into the biggest kitchen Jenny had ever seen. There was a lovely mix of marble, spotless brushed stainless steel and rustic wooden features as far as the eye could see. Opening the fridge door, Ellen grabbed a bottle of wine and walked to the kitchen bench. Petra sat down on one of the white leather barstools, lined up along one side of the kitchen counter. Jenny hesitated, then took a disinfectant wipe out of her bag and gave one of the stools a quick clean before sitting down herself. Jenny glanced at her two friends to see if they were watching her, but neither Ellen nor Petra were paying her any attention whatsoever.

‘So… what happened?’ Petra asked again.

‘Yeah, Ellen, what’s going on? Are you okay?’

‘Hmm, yeah, I’m alright. Is white okay?’ Ellen asked, holding up the bottle in her hand. Petra and Jenny nodded. Ellen filled two glasses with wine, and put a third empty glass on the counter. ‘Okay, I’ll tell you. But first, Jen, do you want to pour your own wine?’

Jenny nodded, hopping off her barstool to grab the wineglass and bottle, which she gave a quick clean with wipes, and then poured herself a glass. Settling back down on her stool, she took a sip and focused her attention on Ellen, who was already talking.

‘The thing is, I was going really well. As in, I’d almost gone four, no, five days without sex. I was avoiding the situations that led to sex, and I was beginning to feel like I might be getting on top of things.’ Ellen winked at them both. ‘Or not getting on top of things, so to speak.’

Jenny and Petra laughed, before making encouraging noises for Ellen to continue.

‘So, I got this phone call from the gym last week. You know, the gym I joined a while back, to stop myself from having sex. Only it didn’t work out that way, and kind of had the opposite effect.’ Ellen looked at Jenny and Petra questioningly, and they both nodded that they remembered.

‘Anytime Fitness, right?’ Jenny asked, thinking with a shudder about her date with Troy.

‘Yes, that’s right.’ Ellen took a sip of her wine. ‘Anyway, it turns out they had found something of mine.’ Ellen blushed, and lowered her voice to almost a whisper. ‘A vi-bra-tor.’

‘Say what now?’ Petra asked.

‘A vibrator,’ Ellen repeated. ‘You know, a plastic sex toy shaped like a penis that…’

‘I know what a fucking vibrator is!’ Petra snapped. ’I just thought I must have heard you wrong. A pair of knickers, some gym shorts, a sweat towel maybe. But you left a vibrator at the gym?’

‘Why did you have a vibrator at the gym, anyway?’ Jenny asked, her face incredulous. Ellen looked at her and shrugged.

‘I think a more pressing question,’ Petra looked thoughtful, ’is how did they know it was yours?’

‘Okay, this will sound weird, but I have my sex toys made to order.’ Ellen turned away from them briefly to open the lid of a pot and stir the contents a few times. The smell was amazing. ‘So, the company I buy them from, they also offer free engraving.’

Jenny shook her head in disbelief, and took a large sip of her wine. The very idea of sex toys sounded incredibly germ-laden to her, but the additional thought of taking one to a gym filled with sweaty bodies to actually use it, was just mind blowing.

‘Didn’t you finish at that gym ages ago?’ Jenny asked, and Ellen nodded at her. ‘So why the call now? I mean, what’s been happening to your, er, toy in the meantime?’

Ellen pondered this. ‘Good question. I didn’t even think about that. I don’t know, maybe it’s been in the lost property box or something.’

Petra looked at the grimace on Jenny’s face, and snorted with laughter. Jenny smiled, despite herself.

’Right, so, you left a vibrator at the gym, and they called you to collect it? Doesn’t seem so bad.’ Petra looked at Ellen, who was turning down the temperature gage on her oven. ‘It’s awkward, but I thought you were going to say you ended up having a fucking orgy at the gym or something.’

Ellen’s back stiffened slightly, and she turned around to face them. ‘It wasn’t an orgy, as such. The guy who called me, from the gym, he’s an instructor. He said he’d meet me in the downstairs basement, if I came by to collect my, um, stuff.’ Ellen finished the remains of her wine glass, and poured herself another one. She held the bottle up to Jenny and Petra, who shook their heads. ‘Long story short, I stopped in at the gym, met this guy in the basement, and there was sex. Lots of sex. And when I looked over his shoulder, there were a couple of guys standing there watching.’

Both Jenny and Petra gasped.

‘The thing is,’ Ellen paused, ‘it was like I’d been set up. I felt, kind of violated. I’ve never felt like that before. I’ve always been the instigator, made my own choices.’

Petra clicked her tongue sympathetically. ‘I’m sorry, Ellen.’

Ellen took a sip from her refilled glass, and was about to change the subject when Jenny interrupted her. ‘Ellen? This instructor, the one who set you up, what was his name?’

Ellen seemed to ponder this for a few seconds. ‘Troy. Why’s that?’

At Jenny’s sharp intake of breath, the other two women looked at her in alarm.

‘What?’ Petra asked.

Jenny ignored Petra’s question. ‘Ellen, when did this happen?’

Ellen drummed her fingernails on the countertop in thought. ‘Saturday morning. Why?’

Jenny took a huge gulp of wine, burning her throat and causing her to cough a few times. Petra and Ellen waited for her to gain control, and when she looked at them she could see their eyes were filled with concern.

‘Sorry, sorry about that,’ Jenny said, her face red from the coughing. ‘It’s just, you know how I went out on that date Saturday night?’

‘Of course, that’s right!’ Ellen’s eyes were shining. ‘How was it? Tell us everything.’

‘Um, it was a disaster, an unmitigated disaster. But before I tell you about it, do you remember that night we went to the supermarket?’ Ellen and Petra both nodded. ‘Well, I actually had this awful incident that night where I bumped into a guy with bananas in his trolley and I kind of tried to chat him up.’

‘Really?’ Ellen looked at her quizzically. ‘You never said.’

‘I know. No-one else saw, except Phil, and I was so embarrassed I didn’t want to tell you.’

‘So what happened with the guy you tried to chat up?’ Petra asked, holding her glass of wine out to Ellen for a refill.

‘Um, well, he looked at me and my trolley full of rubber gloves and lube like I was crazy, and then his girlfriend walked up to him.’

‘Whaaat?’ Petra’s voice was shocked. ‘Oh Jen, you should have said.’

‘Oh, it doesn’t matter, honestly. Phil helped me laugh it off. Anyway, I’m telling you this now, because it turns out that very same guy was my blind date on Saturday night. And he had no clue who I was!’

The other two women shook their heads in amazement. ‘And that’s not the craziest part,’ Jenny continued. ‘The guy from the supermarket, who was also my blind date, well he was a gym instructor. From Anytime Fitness.’ Jenny paused dramatically. ‘And his name was Troy.’

The other two stared at her with open mouths. Petra was the first to recover. ‘Could it be a different Troy?’ She looked at Ellen. ‘Are there two instructors at your gym called Troy?’

Ellen shook her head, and glanced at Jenny. ‘Oh my God, I’m mortified.’ A gurgle escaped Jenny’s throat and she lowered her head, her shoulders starting to shake. ‘Oh, Jen, please don’t cry. I’m so so sorry. I didn’t know!’

Jenny raised her head, and looked at Ellen and Petra.

Seeing the concern on their faces she couldn’t hold back another gurgle, which turned into a snort, which soon erupted into hysterical laughter. Ellen and Petra looked at each other. Is she having a break down? Petra mouthed to Ellen. What should we do?

The panic on Petra’s face only set Jenny off more, and soon she was holding her stomach she was laughing so hard. ‘It’s so… hahaha… ridiculous… hahaha… the guy’s a fucking idiot… hahaha… I’m so-so-sorry Ellen… hahaha… I’m not laughing at you… hahaha… giant tosser…’

Petra smirked, Ellen’s mouth twitched, and soon the three of them were laughing together. It was a full five minutes before they gained enough control to talk.

Jenny recovered first. ‘Ellen, I’m so sorry to laugh. I just can’t believe it’s the same guy. I despise him for setting you up like that, and then coming out on a date with me. He tried to get me to go home with him that night. Ugh.’

‘It’s okay, Jen, honestly.’ Ellen smiled at her. ‘I needed a good laugh.’

‘This is so fucked up.’ Petra wiped a tear away from her eye. ‘It’s such a small world.’

‘I know, right?’ Jenny had one last chuckle, and then took a few deep breaths. ‘If it hadn’t happened to us, I never would have believed it.’

‘Would our group believe it?’ Petra asked, wide eyed.

‘Of course,’ Jenny said, ‘Jonty would probably even know the official term for when your friend has sex with your blind date who you’ve actually met before.’

‘Fucking Google,’ Petra said, shaking her head. Which only set them off again.

It wasn’t until after they had finished eating their dinner, a delicious fish curry, and dessert was put in front of them, that the subject of Troy came back up. Petra was the first to mention the possibility of giving him a taste of his own medicine. Buoyed by wine and laughter, Ellen and Jenny quickly got on the bandwagon.

‘Maybe we could hire someone to beat him up?’ Petra said, licking chocolate pudding off her spoon. Ellen and Jenny looked at her in surprise.

‘Remind me never to get on your bad side Petra!’ Jenny shook her head.

Ellen was shaking her head too. ‘Absolutely not. I’m a criminal lawyer, Petra, not a bloody criminal.’

‘Right, right. Calm down. Just a suggestion.’ Petra took another mouthful of dessert, and then tapped her spoon on her upper lip. ‘Do something to him at the gym maybe? I know!’ Petra smiled at them both. ‘We’ll lace his drink bottle with Valium, right before he has to take a fitness class.’

Jenny and Ellen looked at each other and laughed nervously.

‘Petra,’ Ellen said, ‘Troy is a complete waste of space, but drugging him is taking it a bit too far. Who knows what other stuff he’s already on, steroids or whatever, and he might have an adverse reaction. We don’t want to end up in jail for assault, or worse.’

Petra rolled her eyes, but nodded. ‘Okay, point taken. I thought I was onto a good one.’

‘Well,’ Jenny said, as she swallowed a mouthful of chocolate dessert, ‘I think you’re on the right track. But maybe instead of Valium, we could, um, lace his water bottle with laxatives? Something that’s going to make him uncomfortable but, you know, won’t be suspicious?’

‘I like it.’ Ellen smiled at Jenny. ‘How about we arrange for a rendezvous in the basement, get him to drink the laxatives and undress himself…’

‘And then steal his clothes?’ Petra added, her eyes shining.

Ellen nodded enthusiastically, then held up both of her hands. ‘But then what? Just leave him in the basement?’

Jenny suddenly snorted with laughter. ‘I’ve got it.’ The other two looked at her. ‘We give him laxatives, get him nude, and then turn on the gym’s fire alarm!’

Ellen and Petra stared at her for a second, and Jenny wondered if she’d gone too far. Then they both clapped their hands. ‘Perfect!’

‘So, who’s going to arrange the rendezvous then?’ Petra asked, scraping the remains of dessert out of her bowl. Ellen and Jenny looked at each other.

‘I would, but I can’t.’ Ellen started to clear away their dessert dishes. ‘I made a wee bit of a scene after that basement set up with Troy, and I don’t think I could convince him to meet me there again.’

Jenny and Ellen both looked at Petra, the next most obvious choice. She shook her head at them. ‘Sorry guys, one of my daughter’s tutors is an instructor at that gym. I just can’t risk my girls, or my fucking bastard husband, hearing about it. I’m not allowed to see them as it is, right now.’ Petra suddenly blinked, hard, and the other two women coughed uncomfortably and looked away.

‘So, it’s up to me?’ Jenny asked, in a small voice. Shit! What am I getting myself into? There is no way I could do this. Could I?

Ellen and Petra both looked at her, and Ellen clicked her tongue sympathetically. ‘Hun, you don’t have to do anything. It’s just talk.’

‘That’s right, Jen. It’s a crazy plan, anyway. You don’t really want to do it, do you?’

Before Jenny was forced to answer one way or the other, Ellen interrupted. ‘Hey, what say we make these girly evenings a regular thing? It’s been so nice having you two over.’

Jenny smiled with relief. ‘Ellen, I’d love that. It’s been really great. So much better than I thought it was going to…’ Jenny trailed off, embarrassed.

Ellen laughed. ‘I know what you mean, Jen. And I’m glad you’ve enjoyed it.’ She looked at Petra. ‘You up for some regular girly catch ups?’

‘Definitely.’ Petra nodded, and then winked at Ellen. ‘It’s not like I’ve got anything better to fucking do.’

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