The following Thursday afternoon, Jenny was busy editing a press release for a client’s new product when her mobile beeped. Glancing at the screen, she saw a new Whatsapp message had popped up.
How is everyone? We have been quiet on the messaging front this week. Anyone up to anything interesting? Jenny, how are you? It was lovely to see you on Monday.
Jenny smiled as she read Ellen’s message, and only paused briefly before typing a reply.
I’m good Ellen. You must have scared Bridgette off because I haven’t heard a peep from her all week! Thanks for coming over.
Almost immediately, another message popped up on her screen.
Hi guys, how r u all?
I’m doing ok, cracked out a couple of 3 k’er runs this week would u believe? And when I say cracked out, I mean it. My shorts have gotten a bit loose on me (I’m going 2 donate them 2 charity 2 use as a tent for the homeless), it was nearly illegal how much butt I had on display. A mother actually covered her kid’s eyes as I ran by. Honestly. I’d better invest in some new ones, esp b4 I meet Ellen at the gym 2morrow!
Jenny – who’s Bridgette?
Jenny laughed out loud to herself.
Hi Phil. Bridgette is my twin sister, my identical twin actually. She’s a bit, um… challenged when it comes to manners. Well done on your running, and on joining the gym!
It wasn’t long before a flurry of messages arrived.
Awesome work on your running Phil! Wish I had your dedication. All quiet for me this week. Been down at the job centre most days, but no-one’s hiring recovering alcoholics at the moment.
Jonty, u shld come 2 the gym with me and E tomorw. Honestly. U won’t feel any more out of place than us – I’ll b the fat git in spandex, E will b the nude bird in the sauna (no offence E).
Haha, no offence taken Phil. Jonty, please come and join us. 10am tomorrow morning. We would love to see you.
Felt like I should join the email trail, seeing as you’re talking about nude birds in the sauna.. Wish they would let me back in the gym so I could see that! Nothing new to report from me. Oh, except there was a bit of an incident at work last week. My psychiatrist says I had an “episode”. That’s what we’re calling them now.
What happnd m8? U ok?
I sold a rather large property on Ruakiwi Road last week. Largest house on our agency books in the past year actually.
Sounds more like congratulations are in order?
Yeah, you’d think. Except the thing is, I kind of took a few things from the house during an open day that I had organised. Just trinkets you know, a couple of forks and a paperweight. That sort of thing. They wouldn’t have noticed, if it weren’t for all the security cameras they’ve got installed around the place. Long story short = real estate agent steals from property, property owner refuses to pay commission when house sells, real estate agent’s boss threatens job loss.
I am really sorry to hear that Anthony. I know first-hand what it’s like when your addiction gets in the way of your job and your livelihood. Maybe we should talk about this in our meeting on Tuesday?
Yeah, maybe. Anyway, best get on with my day. Have a good weekend everyone, see you on Tuesday.
Yes, I had better go too. I have an appointment with my personal trainer in an hour – Mario. I have asked him to show me how to perfect my “squats”…
Jenny – good luck for Sunday.
Jenny grinned to herself, before glancing at her watch. ‘Shiiiit!’ Jenny immediately turned back to her laptop. I’d better get back to this press release. Who knew having friends would take up so much of my work time. Jenny blinked in surprise, as she considered this. ARE they my friends now? I suppose so, in a way. Jenny put her mobile on silent, and got back to work.
Three days later, Jenny arrived at her parent’s house for Sunday dinner. Bridgette hadn’t arrived yet, and Jenny pulled her car into the driveway – being careful to park on the far left hand side, leaving enough room for her sister to park beside her.
Knocking on the door, Jenny heard muffled conversation inside and then a grunt as her father pulled himself out of his chair.
‘Mon, come on in,’ Trevor said with a smile, before turning around and walking back down the hallway.
‘Dad, that’s not my name,’ Jenny said after his retreating back.
’Sorry, sorry. Jennifer.’ Trevor sat back down in his chair, in front of what looked like an American basketball game on TV. ‘When did you start hating your nickname anyway?’
Jenny rolled her eyes at the back of his head. What would you do if I leant over placed a giant sloppy kiss on the top of your shiny bald head? Have a heart attack maybe? Or a brain aneurism? What if I jumped over your chair right now, and karate chopped the TV right in the middle of the screen? And then just walked away, real slow…
‘I’ve always hated that nickname, Dad.’
Jenny walked through to the kitchen, where she could hear her mother banging about as usual. ‘Hi mum.’
‘Jennifer, you’re early. The roast has hardly been in the oven. Here,’ she motioned to a bag of potatoes, ‘you can start peeling those while I take a drink in to your father.’
Jenny dutifully scrubbed her hands, and then grabbed the disinfectant spray from under the sink and quickly cleaned the bench top. Gritting her teeth, she used a wipe from a packet in her bag to open the cutlery drawer, and gingerly withdrew the peeler. As she was tentatively pulling it out with the tip of her forefinger and her thumb, her mother walked back in.
Ona sighed impatiently. ‘For heaven’s sake Jennifer, it’s just a peeler. It’s been through the dishwasher.’
‘I know, I just…’
The sound of knocking on the front door cut her off midsentence. ‘That must be your sister,’ Ona said excitedly as she bustled out of the kitchen and down the hallway, to open the front door.
‘Where’s Mon?’ Jenny heard Bridgette ask their mother, after greetings were made.
‘She’s in the kitchen, peeling potatoes. You go on down to the lounge and sit down with Daddy. I’m sure he’s dying to hear about your day. He’s watching a Lakers game, or something like that. I’ll bring you a drink. Gin and tonic?’
‘Yes please, thanks Mum. You’re an angel.’ Jenny heard the sound of a wet kiss, and her mother’s giggle. The last time Jenny had voluntarily kissed either of her parents was probably when she was around ten years of age. And even then, she remembered washing her lips afterward and being terrified that she’d caught an infectious disease. Sighing, she got back to peeling the potatoes.
When Ona had returned to the kitchen and fixed Bridgette’s drink, she turned to Jenny at the sink. ‘Do you want juice, or water?’
‘Have you got any wine Mum?’
Ona stopped in her tracks. ‘Excuse me? I thought you said wine. Did you say wine?’
‘Uh yes, I did. I fancy a glass of wine. Have you got any?’
Ona blinked, and then smiled broadly. ‘Of course. Absolutely. White or red?’
Jenny wracked her brains to remember the bottle of wine she had bought. Reshling? Treasling? No, Riesling. That’s it. ’Have you got a Riesling?
‘Let me check,’ Ona opened the door of the fridge and looked inside. ‘You’re in luck. I normally buy Sauvignon, but I thought I’d give this one a go. Since when did you start drinking wine?’
‘Oh, just recently.’ Jenny watched her mother take the wine out of the fridge and a glass from the cupboard, and noticed how happy she looked to receive such a “normal” request from her daughter. The smile died away when Jenny took the glass from her hand, ‘I’ll just give this a quick clean first.’ Her mother pursed her lips, and watched as Jenny used dishwashing detergent and a paper towel to clean her glass.
‘Have you had any more of your meetings?’ Ona asked, as she poured wine into Jenny’s glass.
‘Not last week, but I’ve got one on Tuesday this coming week.’
‘Right. And are you finding them useful?’
Jenny finished peeling the last potato in the bag, and rinsed it off while she considered her mother’s question. ‘I think so, mum. I feel like I…’
‘Muuummm, where’s my drink?’ Bridgette’s loud voice carried through from the lounge. ‘I’m DYING of thirst in here. Literally dying.’
‘Coming darling,’ Ona called out, as she picked up the drink she had prepared for Bridgette, and walked out of the kitchen.
‘Right, okay, good chat.’ Jenny said to her mother’s retreating back. No surprises there. Maybe I should just throw myself out the kitchen window, at least then they wouldn’t have to pretend to be interested in me. Jenny eyed the kitchen window. It was an old house, and she didn’t think it was double glazed, so it would probably smash at the first go. But there was no guarantee that it would successfully kill her, most likely she’d end up maimed and in a wheelchair. And the thought of someone else being responsible for her daily ablutions and bodily fluids and what-not…
The rest of the evening passed in a similar manner to all of the other evenings before it. At dinner Bridgette either monopolised the conversation or directed it to ensure that she was the main topic. Jenny was used to it, but this evening she felt more content than usual just to sit at the table and listen. Perhaps that glass of wine was a good idea. In fact, she was feeling almost cheerful. Maybe I’ll have another one. She reached out to grab the bottle, which her mother had placed on the table hopefully, and wiped around the neck of it before pouring herself a second glass. Looking up, she saw three sets of eyes watching her.
‘What? It’s just a glass of wine, don’t look so shocked.’
‘It’s not the wine, Jennifer,’ her mother replied, ‘although that is a bit of a surprise. Did you not hear what Bridgette just said?’
Jenny felt a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. ‘Er, no, no I didn’t. But from your face I can guess I’m not going to like it.’ She turned to her sister. ‘What did you say Bridge?’
‘I said,’ Bridgette’s voice was louder than usual, ’that I walked in on you having a breakfast date with a woman called Ellen who said she was your special friend.’
Bridgette fell dramatically silent for a minute, and Jenny glanced across the table. While her mother looked to be beside herself with the excitement of it, her father’s face had gone frighteningly pale. He looked so uncomfortable that Jenny was fairly sure he’d pass out at any second.
‘So, Mon – are you a lezzer or what? I mean, that’s cool if you are, but it’s a bit hard to understand, you know. Given we have the same DNA and all.’ She looked thoughtful for a moment. ‘Actually, maybe I’m just in the closet, maybe I’m a lezzer too.’
‘Bridgette, please, you’re terrifying your father.’ Ona patted her husband’s arm, and then looked at Jenny thoughtfully. ‘Perhaps that would explain a few things, dear. Your Aunty Eileen was a gay, actually.’
Jenny looked around the table at the faces of her family, unsure whether to laugh, cry or storm out of the house. Who are these people? She briefly contemplated going along with it, but decided she’d never get away with the lie. Bridgette would start asking her all sorts of questions about what they did in the bedroom together, and she wouldn’t have a clue what to say. Instead, she settled on the truth.
‘Honestly, Bridge, where do you get off making up these stories?’
’I’m not making it up Mon, you had a woman in your apartment and she said she was your special friend. What am I supposed to think?’ Bridgette’s face was defiant.
Not for the first time Jenny wondered how their faces, which were basically made of the same DNA, could look so different.
‘Er, you’re supposed to think nothing. I had a friend over for coffee. What’s the big deal?’
’Jennifer, it is a big deal to us. Aside from Amber and Bridgette, we weren’t aware that you were inviting friends over.’ Ona’s mother looked hurt.
‘Look, you can stop worrying – or whatever it is you’re doing. Ellen’s just a friend.’ Jenny sent her sister a withering look. ‘Besides, Bridgette conveniently left out an important fact – I met her through my support group. And, I don’t see why I have to tell you every single little thing that happens in my life anyway.’
Ona looked crushed, and even Jenny’s Dad was giving her a warning look. Bridgette, who was smirking, didn’t even have the good grace to look apologetic.
‘Mon, don’t get your knickers in a twist. You’re so uptight. We’re just making conversation.’
Jenny bit her lip, and swallowed back the vicious swear words that were threatening to spill out of her mouth. ‘Fine, let’s just move on then can we?’
‘Mum,’ Bridgette said to Ona sweetly as she stood from her chair, ‘I’ll help you get dessert ready.’ She fixed Jenny with an intense stare. ‘Maybe you could clear the table Mon? Oh no, that’s right, you can’t bare to touch our dirty plates, can you? Seeing as we’re so germ-infested and disgusting.’
Jenny sighed heavily and warily, fighting the temptation to thump her head repeatedly on the dining table. If it was her table at home, she probably would have. But who knows what lurked beneath her mother’s table cloth. Instead, she closed her eyes and imagined a tsunami sweeping through the house, and washing the whole lot of them out to sea. The thought was very soothing.