I love having lunch with my friend Audrey. She always has the best gossip.
I always dreamed of having a life like this. Where I am free in the middle of the day to have lunch with a friend at one of the most expensive restaurants in the city. Sometimes I want to pinch myself to make sure it’s not a dream.
And then there are other times when I am with Douglas and he is sapping every last bit of my strength. Sometimes I want to pinch him.
Audrey looks like she’s busting with some great gossip. She’s married to a man who is quite wealthy (and quite a bit older than she is) but he’s not as rich as Douglas is. She could never afford a penthouse like the one we have.
“So guess what,” Audrey tells me as she dabs at her raspberry-colored lips. That is always the start of some amazing gossip. I don’t know how she hears all this stuff—I would never tell her any secrets about myself. “Ginger Howell’s divorce went through.”
“Ooh,” I say. “That was a rough one.”
Ginger’s husband Carter is the opposite of Douglas. He is this super possessive guy who never took his eyes off Ginger whenever we were at parties. Whenever she went out with us, she always had to tell him exactly when she was leaving, what she would be doing, and when she would be back. I’m sure it was exhausting for her, but there was also something about the way her husband commanded her that was sexy to me. Carter is also devastatingly handsome and keeps himself quite fit, unlike my husband.
“Well.” Audrey nibbles on a lettuce leaf. “She had help from Millie.” “Millie? Who is that?”
Audrey looks at me in astonishment, and my cheeks flush. Is Millie somebody important in our social circle that I have somehow forgotten about? But then Audrey says, “She’s a cleaning woman.”
“But she has a reputation…” Audrey lowers her voice a notch, which means she’s about to tell me some really good gossip. “For women having issues with their husbands, she helps them out. Takes care of it for them.”
In my brain, I tick off the laundry list of Douglas’s bad habits. When he uses the toilet, he always uses up half the toilet paper roll. He eats food directly out of the containers in the refrigerator, even though I have repeatedly asked him not to. When we go to a fancy restaurant, he can’t be bothered to learn which fork to use at the proper time, and even when I point it out to him at the beginning of the meal, he still gets it wrong half the time, which makes me think he’s just guessing.
I used to think I could change Douglas. That with my help, he could become a better person, like I did. But it seems like he’s only getting worse. “Bad issues,” Audrey clarifies. “Like, Ginger’s husband was abusive.
He was smacking her around—even broke her arm.”
“Oh!” I gasp. I can’t claim that’s an issue I have. Douglas would never lay a finger on me. He’d be horrified at the idea of it. “How awful.”
She nods soberly. “So this Millie woman, she helps you out. Tells you what to say and do. Gets you the right resources. She found Ginger a great lawyer. And I’ve even heard that she’s helped a few women disappear when that was the only option.”
“That’s not all.” Audrey crunches on one of her lettuce leaves, then dabs her lips with her napkin. “I’ve heard in a couple of situations when there was no way out, Millie… you know, took the guy out.”
I cover my mouth. “No…”
“Yes!” Audrey looks delighted to be sharing this revelation. “She’s hardcore, believe me—she’s dangerous. If she thinks a guy is hurting a woman, she will do pretty much anything to make it stop. She went to prison for wailing on some guy who was trying to rape her friend. She killed him.”
Audrey takes another bite of her salad then pushes away. “I am just so full,” she announces, even though she has barely eaten half of it, and it was a small garden salad to begin with. “Wendy, are you sure you don’t want anything to eat?”
I take a sip of my mimosa. “I had a massive breakfast.”
She narrows her eyes at me, possibly because I have not ordered any food during our last three lunches together. But I always have a drink.
“I guess you’re not having any luck on the baby front,” she says.
I curse the fact that a few months ago, I happened to mention that Douglas was excited to get pregnant soon. It just slipped out. We have been trying for a baby for about a year now. It hasn’t been going well—meaning, I’m not pregnant.
“Not yet,” I say.
“I know of a fabulous fertility specialist,” Audrey says. “Laura went to him, and look at her now.”
Our friend Laura now has twin baby boys, who wouldn’t stop screaming the last time I ran into her on the street. I cringe. “That’s okay. We prefer to try the old-fashioned way.”
“Yes, but you’re not getting any younger,” she reminds me. “Tick-tock, Wendy.”
“Fine. Give me the name of the fertility doctor.”
I program the number into my phone, though I have no intention of calling. But if Douglas asks me about it, at least I can pretend I’m doing something.