by Cappuccino Girl
It is the first day of rain in six weeks and Lynette stands at the pristine white front door of Bree’s house, waiting for her to respond to the doorbell. Lynette has spent the morning getting the twins out of the house and off to their new school. She dropped the other two children off at a babysitter for a few hours to allow her some time to herself. Once back at home, rather than attacking the mountains of ironing that waited for her in the laundry room or going for a run, she spent her time staring out of the window until she could stand it no longer. And now she is here, her hair going wet and curly on Bree’s doorstep.
It opens, and she lets out a feeble, “Hi. I wasn’t sure whether you were home.” Bree expresses some textbook apology and asks her in and the two women wander into Bree’s immaculate kitchen. Lynette repeats her “hi” again.
“Hello.” Lynette isn’t certain whether the smile that accompanies Bree’s welcome is genuine and for once, she doesn’t care. “Do have a seat,” Bree says with a brisk wave of her hand.
Lynette backs away into the dining room and paces a little, eventually returning to the kitchen again to grasp the back of one of the chairs. “Um. Not yet. I’m here because… I can’t bake or, well, anything like that really, so I brought coffee and biscotti.” She pops the brown paper bag she’s been clutching onto the table.
“You shouldn’t have.”
“Yes. I should. I’m sorry for asking you to lie to get the boys into Barcliff. It was completely overstepping the boundaries of our friendship, but thank you for doing it anyway.” She sighs deeply. “There. I’ve said what I wanted to say. How are you?”
“I’m doing wonderfully, and so are the children. Andrew received notification this morning that he’s earned himself a place on a very prestigious music program next year.”
Bree takes two blue cups out of the cabinet and flips the coffee maker to ‘on’. She stands to the side of it with her hands folded in front of her while the machine starts to make gurgling noises. Her eyes gaze at the spotless floor as she says, “Just look at me.”
Lynette stops eyeing the biscotti on the table for a moment. She sits there quietly, uncrosses her legs and leans back into the chair.
“I’m wearing socks,” Bree offers calmly. “And I chipped my nailpolish on the gate this morning and I’m terrible at using my left hand to put it back on again.”
“I never would have noticed,” Lynette says with a sympathetic smile, and it relieves Bree so much that she fetches a carton of milk out of the fridge three minutes before it is needed.
Bree pulls out a chair for herself and takes a seat opposite her friend. “How is your husband?” she asks with her smile firmly back in place once more.
“Away as usual. He had to go to Boston for a conference.” Lynette opens the paper bag she brought and removes two biscotti for herself and then passes the bag to Bree, who seems to conjure up two plates out of thin air before Lynette can even take a bite.
“Don’t the boys miss him?”
“I think they do, but they’re more used to it than I am.”
“How do you think they’re settling into their new school?”
The corners of Lynette’s mouth go up, a slight smirk. “I think they like it. Porter came home yesterday all excited about some painting he did in class, and Preston has finally found boys his own age with whom he doesn’t fight.”
Meanwhile, Bree is standing by the counter, fixing two cups of coffee, one with milk for Lynette, and one black with fake sweetener for herself. She keeps turning her head every few seconds or so, making just enough eye contact for her friend to feel as though she isn’t ignored.
“I think the teachers are better with them too,” Lynette continues. “They kept them together for the first few days so they could settle in a little, but now they’re in different classes. No fights this time.”
With the coffee finished, Bree takes her seat at the table again, saying, “I’m so glad they’re making friends. I would have hated to see you in the same situation all over again in a few months time.”
Lynette nods, sips her coffee and adds a little more milk. The coffee’s good, perfect actually, much better that the stilted conversation. They both eat their biscotti in silence, Bree nibbling it while holding her hand underneath it to avoid spilling crumbs.
Eventually, Bree places the last bite of her food down for a moment and leans forward. “I hate sharing my burdens with you, but I simply must tell someone.” She pulls her chair a little further under the table, and folds her napkin before talking any further. “I overheard a fight at Paul’s house the other day. I was standing out on the porch, and I heard them yelling louder than they usually do and then I knocked on the door. Zach opened it but he seemed a little strange.”
“As if I had caught him at a highly unfortunate moment.”
“Hello. They were fighting.”
“No. Not like that. As though he was ungrateful to see me.”
“Would you be pleased if I walked in on one of your family arguments?”
Bree breaks her gaze and stares at her one less-pink nail.
“I’m sorry,” Lynette says softly. “I didn’t mean to imply that…”
Bree nods, slowly, as if she’s taking her time to savor the truthfulness. She’s tired of being placated to when she’s honest about it. She really wants a fight with her husband, hopes that maybe she’ll get a genuine one rather than snide remarks before one of them takes the easy way out of the front door. She’d never tell anyone this, of course. “I don’t think his father is helping him,” she says while brushing a crease out of the tablecloth.
Lynette runs her hand through her now wavy hair. “I think it’s safe to say that Paul has his hands full. He’s a weird man, but Zach’s a disturbed kid. He busted into your house and covered it with twinkle lights, for God’s sake.”
“He did nothing wrong.” Bree takes Lynette’s empty plate and places it on top of her own.
“Give me your hand,” Lynette asks before Bree has a chance to stand up to put the dishes into the dishwasher.
“The right one,” Lynette says, reaching across the table.
Bree places her cup down and obediently does as she is told, slides it across to the center before giving her best perplexed expression.
“It’s not that obvious. Have you got any nail-polish remover?”
“Of course you do,” Lynette sighs.
“And you are waiting for…”
The two women, much to Bree’s dismay, abandon their plates and cups in favor of going to the upstairs bathroom in search of nail-polish remover. Naturally, there is no genuine search of any kind, just Bree opening a perfectly organised cabinet and selecting the correct bottle. Bree sits on the dirty laundry basket in the corner of the room while Lynette unscrews the cap.
“This is weird then, huh?”
Bree nods. “Yes.” Then takes a cotton pad out of a box. Lynette grabs it from her and pours a fraction of the liquid onto the cotton, staining it blue. Then, sitting herself down on the toilet, Lynette proceeds to remove the pink from each of Bree’s fingernails.
For the first time in her memory, Bree sees Lynette as a mother, as the person who kisses a bruise better. She was there five days after Lynette’s two younger children were born, yet never had she seen her as a genuine caretaker. There was always a teenage ambivalence to her actions, and while it gave a casual air to her that Bree longed to have retained herself, she failed to see any devotion in her friend’s actions. Now, as Lynette holds each of her fingers in turn, she feels this overwhelming urge to brush the blonde hair out of those eyes and tell her that she would truly lie for the twins this time.
“There. That’s done it,” Lynette says with a smile. She screws the cap back onto the bottle and hops up from her place on the toilet. “Go wash your hands. Where’s the polish?”
Before standing up, Bree pulls her shoulders down to stretch them. They still hurt from yesterday’s visit to the gym, but she’d never admit it. The water runs ice cold over her hands. Lynette’s standing in the doorway, holding a hand towel. She holds it out in front of her like a peace flag, the remnants of a protest-filled youth. Bree dries her hands and pulls the jade sleeves of her sweater down before gliding past Lynette. The two women saunter down the hallway until they reach the bedroom.
In the far corner of the room, Bree takes a seat at her dresser. It’s filled with a neat row of old-fashioned looking perfume bottles, a small selection of exorbitant tubes of lipstick, and a black unmarked case which Lynette presumes is eye shadow. She glances around in search of somewhere to sit, and drags a trunk over so she can sit to the side of the table.
Bree has her hands folded in front of her. She’s been looking at herself in the mirror, overly critically, Lynette thinks. “Let me do it,” she offers.
“Really. Let me.” She runs her finger over the dozen or more bottles. “Which one?”
Bree’s hand trembles slightly as she selects a pale pink bottle with a gold lid. “This.”
Lynette unscrews the cap and takes Bree’s hand. “I haven’t done this since my baby sister was ten,” she muses as she wipes the excess off the brush before beginning.
“You did that?”
“Sure. It’s what older sisters are for.”
Bree watches as Lynette takes each finger in turn, dunks the brush in the bottle, wipes it off and with one clean stroke puts the color back onto her nail. Lynette is slow and precise; there’s no pink rim around the edges. Both are silent. Bree’s hand still shakes a little, no matter how deep a breath she takes.
Lynette lets Bree’s fingers fall onto the table. Both women sit up, Lynette putting the brush back in the bottle and placing it carefully back where it came from.
“You’ll need to let it dry a couple of minutes,” Lynette says and she doesn’t know why.
Outside, the new neighbour’s dog barks at a passing jogger, and the living room clock strikes noon through the floorboards.
Bree moves forward a little and brushes the hair out of Lynette’s eyes with her left hand, lets her index finger linger on her mouth for a moment and Lynette doesn’t seem to mind. She draws it away again, saying a ‘thank you’ that sounds like an apology and it seems inadequate for everything, so she leans in and touches Lynette’s lips with her own. Lynette doesn’t move away, accepts more than reciprocates, kisses Bree’s upper lip and stays there, just like that, for a moment before parting.
Lynette nods, looks down at Bree’s pale hand with the shiny pink nails and thinks of the wilted geraniums in her garden. They don’t say anything.
Lynette gets up and shifts the trunk back to its place at the foot of the bed and walks out of the room. Bree hears the front door close quietly and the latch click. She stays there at her mother’s old dresser, wiggling her fingers one at a time. Her engagement ring sparkles in the sunlight.
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