Molly was possibly the only person looking forward to Esmerelda Pilkington’s party. This was in no small part due to the fact she had finally scored an appointment at the salon and had party-ready hair for the first time in six months.
When she first started getting grey hairs, she’d ignored them, treating them like highlights in her chestnut and mahogany mane. Now she was the ‘wrong’ side of 40 it was a question of dye and deny. She was too old for grey to look cool, and too young for it to look acceptable in the sort of social circles where beauty budgets were vast and failing to keep up appearances would have raised eyebrows if people could have lifted them.
She had entered the limbo of a body getting ready to welcome middle age, and a brain telling it where to go.
She felt that with twin daughters, on the cusp of their teenage years, it was important not to appear too vain. ‘Life is not just about looks’ she’d said, sternly, when Lila went through a phase of trying to wear foundation for school and Lottie had begged her for a padded bra.
It wasn’t that she didn’t understand their desire to grow up. She had been the same. But just as Christmas ceased to be so exciting when you stopped believing in Santa, make up and adult underwear were a point of no return. It was one thing playing at dressing up inside the house, another to parade the effects, and see how people reacted.
Molly had trained enough pets to understand the principles of positive reinforcement. If the girls went out in all the trappings of womanhood now, and got a reaction, they would find it hard to stop. It would be nail varnish one day, nose jobs and butt implants the next. She had dreams of her daughters studying at Oxbridge, not becoming reality TV ‘stars’.
Getting dressed for Esmerelda’s party was easy. She had one ‘going out dress’, a black shift, that had enjoyed nearly as many soirées as her. At the time, she had berated the fact it cost nearly as much as a new pair of riding boots, and she would only get a tiny fraction of the wear. But it had served her well and still suited her slim figure.
She gave herself a big spritz of Chanel No.5, a perennial gift from Henry, and wafted down to the sitting room. Her husband lay sprawled across the couch, beer in one hand, remote control in the other, an empty packet of crisps beside him. In his pale blue shirt and dark jeans, he still had the vibe of a schoolboy on exeat, decades after getting a permanent pass out. He also had the guilty look of a man who had sat down to watch the rugby but ended up tuned in to Housewives of Wherever instead.
Molly caught a flash of tanned legs on the screen as Henry tried to change channels. “Recognise anyone?” she asked.
Henry chuckled. It wasn’t like the show was banned, just, rather frowned upon. Molly was so easy going about some things, yet so strict in other senses.
“Those new clients. You know, the ones we had dinner with that time. They were in the background at some event.”
“Really? I wouldn’t have thought it was their style. He seemed too discrete, or put it the other way, looked like he’d have things he’d rather hide.”
“Well, let’s just say it looked like there was free Champagne. And a girl with big knockers on a jet ski. I’m surprised she managed to get a lifejacket on over her bikini. Anyway, we did all the KYC on F and he was clean.”
Molly picked up her coat and made for the door. She hated jet skis nearly as much as she loathed fake boobs, each noisy and flashy in their own way.
“Nice dress.” Henry said. “Is that new?”
Molly smiled. Henry was as original with compliments as he was with Christmas presents.
“Are the girls ready? We should walk them over to your mother before the taxi arrives.”
Henry’s mother lived in a pretty cottage a short distance from their own farmhouse, which meant there was usually a lot of back and forth between the properties, their gardens an open-air corridor.
Molly was fond of Marie and worried she had gone downhill during the lockdown. Just a year before she had been out most days, seeing friends for tea or popping to the garden centre for a browse. It was like Covid had robbed her of the last time she had left to be active. Her granddaughters, on the other hand, seemed perfectly content to stay in their bedrooms, glued to a screen.
Molly wasn’t sure what the school project was that seemed to require hours at the computer. The girls had suddenly become rather secretive. All she knew, was it used a lot of bandwidth.
Lila and Lottie, twins before tweens. Delilah and Charlotte in their passports, D589t98c9 and C795f32k1 online.
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.