“How is your vanilla slice, Lucie?”
Evangeline tried hard not to sneer, as she tucked into her fruit salad with a dainty fork. It wasn’t as though Lucie had scope to be eating a cream cake…she was at least four pounds heavy in the hips!
“Oh, it’s wonderful, Evie!” Lucie declared with genuine enthusiasm, blissfully oblivious to the sly glances and smirks that passed between her companions. “Simply delicious! You girls really ought to treat yourselves now and again!”
“Oh, I couldn’t,” Evangeline smiled, though there was nothing pleasant about it. “I’m watching my figure…image is everything these days, isn’t it? And I wouldn’t want to show Daniel up at the next charity ball by looking a porker in my gown, now would I?!”
Jessica snickered at the thinly veiled insult, but Lucie seemed yet to be ignorant.
“I don’t eat dairy…” Jessica smirked, in an effort to confound Evie’s subtle nastiness. “It plays havoc with your skin tone…and, apparently, foreigners can smell you if you’ve consumed anything containing milk proteins! Stinks to high heaven, so they say! Just imagine…if Matthew’s overseas clients could smell me at dinner?! I would simply die of shame!”
“Smell you?!” Lucie looked thoroughly amused and entirely sceptical. “Jess, that’s ridiculous! It’s like thinking all French people smell of garlic!” Lucie’s delight in the notion’s absurdity bubbled over, and she gave a hearty chuckle. The other women around the lunch table grimaced notably at Lucie’s frivolous, tinkling tones – her laugh was too loud, too crass…and it illustrated just one more way that she didn’t fit in to their world.
Lucie had married Richard last year…and everyone had been against it. There was simply no denying, the woman was from the wrong side of town!
Richard had clearly been smitten from day one…brainwashed, some might say… Lucie was so incredibly real, he’d asserted when he met her, suddenly strangely enthusiastic, his gusto rivalling that of a teenage boy. She was free – and totally unlike anyone he’d met before. Lucie did just as she pleased…was totally honest, and never apologised for being herself…
But everyone else could see, the marriage had obviously benefited Lucie far more than it aided Richard – he had got himself a shameful wife…a genuine disgrace, who wore inappropriate, short dresses at every occasion and never had the right thing to say. Lucie had earned herself a small fortune overnight…not to mention that gigantic country house in Hampshire! Oh yes…Lucie was very ‘new money’…and goodness, it showed!
Lunch, to Lucie, was about ordering the most expensive cream cakes, and drinking too much champagne.
“Let your hair down, girls!” she’d say, and have Evangeline and Jessica cringing, as she talked too loudly, ate too much food, and had the whole restaurant looking their way. Lucie simply couldn’t see that class and decorum were about less, not more…but less, in the most…well…respectable way possible. For the money Lucie paid for champagne and cream fancies, Evie and Jess could drink a £40 bottle of Appalachian spring water and eat organic rocket and crayfish salads – with no dressing, of course. Now that was classy…
With Lucie’s laughter reaching a crescendo, the women made their usual, untrue excuses, and left the Wednesday lunch in various executive models of Range Rover.
As she tottered to her own Barbie-pink version, on too-high Jimmy Choos, and watched Evie and Jess climb into matching, sleek-black examples, Lucie felt her diamond-studded Blackberry vibrating in the pocket of her designer jeans. As she worked the device out of the tight denim on her hip, she wondered which department store bathroom Evie and Jess would stop at on their way home, to purge what little lunch they had eaten.
Although Lucie knew how they felt about her…rude and loud, an embarrassment…she couldn’t help but feel sorry for these women. Evie and Jess were raised in this world, where nothing was expected of them but decorum, beauty and unconditional support for their husbands…so long as they were rich and successful, of course. Evie and Jess had never had the chance to know who they really were or what they liked.
Lucie read the message on her Blackberry. It was Matthew…again. It seemed Richard’s business partner was developing something of a liking for her. Poor Jess… Lucie wondered if she ever suspected her husband spent his lunch hour propositioning other men’s wives?!
Part of Lucie wanted to return Matthew’s message…something naughty and encouraging…as revenge for Jess’s suggestion that she smelled! But then, Lucie couldn’t do that to Richard…and she really wouldn’t want to.
Lucie smiled at just the thought of her husband, and wondered if he’d be finished with meetings early today. She’d bought steak for dinner. Climbing into her pink Range Rover, she threw the Blackberry on the passenger seat. Lucie stroked the pink leather gear-stick as she turned the key in the ignition, and slipped on her flamboyant sunglasses.
You might not be able to buy class, Lucie thought…or taste…but you can’t buy love or happiness either. Everything I need is free… she grinned to herself, still unable to believe her new life… and for everything I want, there’s a credit card!