French Kissing: Episode One
Copyright © Harper Bliss 2014
“What were you thinking?” Nadia tried to ignore Juliette’s question. She’d been expecting it all evening, but they hadn’t had a moment alone. “You couldn’t have picked a less compatible person for Claire. You know what she’s like.”
“Honey.” Nadia turned around, back against the sink. “When will you get it out of your head that the only type of woman Claire will fall for is someone exactly like you?” She painted a tight smile on her face. “People change. Tastes evolve. You may have an excellent business relationship these days, but, from what you’ve told me, back in the day when you were dating, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, was it?”
Nadia witnessed how Juliette’s jaw dropped.
“There are so many things wrong with all of what you just said.” Juliette shook her head, no sign of kindness or amusement in her eyes. “I’m going back in there, but this conversation is far from over.” She spun on her heels and left the kitchen, but, just before rounding the corner, faced Nadia once more. “Claire has been my best friend for more than twenty years. I believe I know a thing or two about her.” And she was gone.
Nadia, once again, wondered when they’d stopped seeing eye to eye on most matters. It used to be so easy. Now they were seriously discussing threesomes—something that would never happen, if Nadia had any say in the matter, and she had—to save what was left of their relationship.
She opened the fridge and took out the chocolate cake she’d bought rather than made herself. Another strike against her.
“Everything under control?” Steph’s voice startled her.
Nadia nodded, drew her lips into a wide smile and pushed her troubles to the back of her mind. “I’ll be right out with dessert.”
“The doctor’s nice.” Steph said it with that inflection in her voice Nadia had heard so many times. Great. “Are you trying to set her up with Claire? Because I’m not sure that’s going to work out. But you know me, always willing to pick up the slack.”
“What is it with you people? You spend two hours in someone’s company and your mind’s made up? Has anyone even asked Claire what she thinks?” Nadia only realised after she’d uttered the words that the volume of her voice was not adjusted to the fact that the kitchen was right next to the dining room.
“Did you call for me?” Claire, all groomed to perfection, appeared in the doorway.
Still with the chocolate cake in her hands, Nadia sighed. “No.”
“Oh. Sorry.” She shot Nadia a quick wink and disappeared with Steph hot on her heels.
Nadia straightened her back, lifted her chin, and carried the cake into the living room. “No need for applause, I didn’t bake it myself.”
“But you took the time to pick it up for us,” Claire said.
“Looks great, honey.” Juliette’s voice had that now almost familiar undercurrent of disdain and Nadia spotted the quick exchange of glances between her and Claire.
“I’ll do the cutting,” Margot, the—frankly—hot surgeon Nadia had invited to dinner with her friends, offered. “It’s my job after all.” It was true that, unlike most French people—and Juliette especially—Margot was not in love with the sound of her own voice and didn’t produce an endless stream of meaningless words just to hear it non-stop. These days, Nadia much preferred a quick, quiet lunch with Margot to one of Juliette’s laboured-over suppers. Not because of romantic motivations, but mainly because Juliette, although very careful not to criticise too directly, didn’t seem to have that many good things to say about Nadia anymore.
Nadia sat down and regarded her friends and partner of ten years. She usually didn’t feel so deflated in their company. This was time off work, time to relax, but, in all honesty, Nadia didn’t mind working overtime if this was all she had to come home to.
Steph had adopted her usual pose, incapable of sitting in a chair like an adult, with one leg drawn up under her. Claire’s blonde fringe was cut so it nearly did but just didn’t fall into her eyes—eyes that Nadia had seen wander to Margot in unguarded moments, no matter what the others thought. Margot was her calm self, trained to remain level-headed in every situation. Maybe it worked against her a little bit in social situations, but if it hadn’t been for her co-worker’s lunch time advice over the past few weeks, Nadia wasn’t sure she’d still be sitting at this table.
Then there was Juliette. She’d slipped out of her business suit for the evening and looked relaxed in jeans and t-shirt. How looks could be deceiving. Juliette Barbier, the love of her life, who couldn’t feel more removed from her now than if she’d been on a mission to the North Pole.
And maybe she shouldn’t, but Nadia did what she had to do to numb that feeling of dread spreading in her chest. The premonition that this could not last, that the setting was false, the people present mere actors playing well-rehearsed parts. She poured herself another glass of wine.
TO BE CONTINUED TOMORROW…