As soon as I walked into Jacob’s pub, he tilted his head and gave me the message that he had something interesting to tell me.
Jacob was my high school mate. We weren’t that close at the time and we lost contact after graduation. Five years ago, he took over the ownership of my favourite pub and since then I see him almost every day after work.
“Remember my high school girlfriend Alice?”
“What about her?”
“Her best friend Danielle is over there. You took a shine to her, didn’t you?”
“Nah, teenage boys take a shine to any female. How is she?”
“She’s a fruitcake.”
“What did she do?”
“She went on and on about some crazy stuff about Alice. Go and talk to her, tell me what you make of it later. I better get my arse into gear.”
I took my icy cold Victoria Bitter and walked to the corner that Jacob had pointed at with his chin.
A middle-aged woman was on her own. The other three tables were occupied by groups.
Danielle wasn’t a great beauty as far as I could remember but she didn’t have a face like the back of a truck either. Really? At the age of 34, she should still be young and vibrant. Not overweight with sagging upper arms and dry, fuzzy and thinning hair. She definitely should not be a middle-aged woman.
I stopped in between the tables and softly called out: “Danielle?”
The middle-aged looking woman lifted up her head: “Yes!”
It was Danielle. I remember the mole between her eyes.
She looked at me with puzzlement in her eyes.
Hey, I was still the same as always. Maybe a little thicker around the waist, that came from years of drinking Victoria Bitter.
Maybe too many drinks had affected her memory. I kindly reminded her who I was.
“Oh yes, I remember now. You’ve changed so much! I hardly recognised you.”
She should look at herself. I didn’t believe that she was the same age as me. I had surely not aged as badly as her. I didn’t look like a middle-aged man. No! That’s not me!
Bitch! Jacob was right, she was a fruitcake.
“How ya doing?”
“I had a good job as an accountant. Today I got laid off with 30 other staff.”
Aha, that explained why she was so bitchy. She had had a rough time out there.
“You can say that again. You give the best 10 years of your life to the company, work your guts out and what do you get for your loyalty? Once they face a financial crisis, they kick you out. You know why? Because you are nobody, you’re just a number in the payroll. They cross your number out when times are tough.”
“If you were facing a financial crisis, you would do the same thing, wouldn’t you?”
“Time hasn’t matured you, has it? You’re still as abrupt as when you were at school.”
I knew it, I hadn’t changed much, even she said so!
“How about you?”
“Ah, I’m doing ok. How’s your mate Alice? Is she ok?”
“I am glad that you asked. I am going to tell you what is going on. You won’t believe what I am going to tell you. I told Jacob. He couldn’t believe it from the beginning, he was dumbfounded when I finished.”
If only she knew.
“You know who James Wilson is?”
“That’s the one. Do you know who Mrs. Wilson is?”
“She’s the one who the press refers to as one of the most beautiful women in the country?”
“That is Alice!”
“Ha ha, she wishes. Really?”
“Really! None of you could recognise her on the television or in the newspaper, could you?”
“Wow, she is doing well, isn’t she?”
“The price she paid was not worth it.
It all started after she came back from a cruise, the cruise she took with her sister the first year we started working.
She came to my place, acting like a lunatic.
I had to calm her down, I couldn’t hear a word she was saying.
She told me that she had found her sunshine, that all darkness in her life was banished. She could see her path clearly and she was enlightened within.
I could see a happy event had occurred during the cruise that had affected her emotional state.
Yes, oh yes, I was right. Alice told me that my best friend – that means Alice – was in love.
Well, she did look fabulous. I thought maybe she had had a good rest on the ship. I didn’t expect that she had got herself a fellow.
She told me that she couldn’t believe it herself, especially since he was not an ordinary 9 to 5 man. He was a businessman who worked for himself. Alice thought he was a clever man.
She told me about it all from the very beginning – how the two met, where they met, when she knew he was interested in her. She didn’t leave out a thing.
She knew he was interested in her from the very first sight.
Wow, imagine love at first sight, how romantic.
Well, she was at the pool, chatting with people and swimming every now and then. Suddenly she heard someone say “Champagne cocktail, personal delivery”. She thought, she didn’t order a cocktail? Then she turned around. She saw a distinguished man holding two glasses of a pink cocktail in his hands and smiling at her.
The man said to her that that was her favourite cocktail.
She was speechless, a total stranger knew it was her favourite cocktail?
She looked at him. He was tall, strong, fit and surprisingly did not have a beer gut.
Wow! I was impressed and wondered where did he come from? Was he rich?
Alice guessed so. All his clothes were of good quality and his skin looked smooth, pink and healthy.
Then I wondered where her sister was while this man was trying to chat her up?
She said Tracy had met a guy the night before at the bar. They were talking somewhere near the pool.
That’s a bit of convenient right? Well, she didn’t take much notice of it, then I asked what did she say to him?
She said she didn’t say anything. He passed her the drink and said that this was a nice cocktail and if she’d have dinner with him, he’d buy her a different one. He would like to know her opinion of that cocktail.
Well, he was a very direct man.
They had dinner. He knew all the dishes on the menu. He told her how those dishes were cooked and what the ingredients were. She thought he was so smart. She had never known anyone so intelligent and he was a real gentleman too. He didn’t try to touch her or say anything seductive; he was so properly behaved the whole time.
He sounded like an old man to me.
Alice guessed that he was in his early 40s.
To me that was really old. Old men are much gentler than the young ones but she was only 23. I didn’t understand how she could not mind! I thought that was like dating her own father!
No, she didn’t think so. She said her father swears a lot, this man doesn’t swear at all. Her father’s always drunk, he doesn’t drink much. She thought she drank more than him.
She told me that he’s not like the others. He likes to ask a lot of questions.
To find out about her of course!
He asked her if a fairy godmother appeared and was going to grant her a wish, what would it be?
I thought it was such a childish question, Alice thought it was so charming. I guess outsiders never feel the same as those involved.
She told him that she wanted to look like Michelle Pfeiffer.
I thought that’s why he liked her, they were both so childish.
Michelle Pfeiffer was the hottest babe on the screen when we graduated from uni. Alice is the kind of girl who loves to be in the spotlight. Even if she had Michelle Pfeiffer’s looks, it doesn’t mean she could get noticed and have a life like Michelle Pfeiffer’s.
She told me she knows that, but she believed if she looked like Michelle Pfeiffer, she would have a better life.
When she told him that she knew it was a dream, there’s no fairy godmother. He told her that if she played her cards right, a fairy godmother may appear before her.
At the time, when she told me about him, I thought what crap, he just wanted to take her to bed.
Not at all, they spent all their time together talking. Their interactions were sincere and full of tenderness.
Then I thought, maybe he was not able to, you know some men have the problem…
She didn’t care one way or the other, she was sick of guys who only have one thing on their mind. He was different to everyone she had ever dated. She liked the harmony and warmth that he brought to her, it made her heart feel warm and passionate. When she was with him, she could feel the tenderness and sweet atmosphere in the air. She was enjoying the process of continuing to find out more about him.
Alice was truly in love!
She was over the moon. She stopped talking to men when we were working out in the gym, she was not interested in chatting with men when we were having a drink in the pub. If she wasn’t talking, she was daydreaming. I thought she was looking for a father figure, to replace her useless father.
About one month later, Hunter made his move. Well, if you asked me, I would say Hunter was not his real name but he was not my boyfriend or sugar daddy, whatever you call it. I thought he was a snake.
Nevertheless, it was an enviable state to be in.
She just rolled with it, see where her ramblings took her; the ride was such fun for her!
I warned her that whatever she did she must try not to invest too much of herself emotionally. It was too good to be true.
She knew I was sceptical so she told me that sometimes she felt like that too.
Things had changed so much in one and a half months.
To be honest, I thought it wouldn’t last because of the age difference between them two.
I thought he couldn’t… I admired his self-control; that attracted her more than anything.
How wrong I was.
The most fascinating thing was he was always able to make her feel noticed and comfortable; she felt she have known him all her life.
When I asked what his place was like, I found out that she had never been to his place. I thought that was really odd.
She asked him why he spent money on a hotel when they could go to his place. He said it was a temporary arrangement. He had a plan, he’d tell her all about it later.
I asked, why couldn’t they go to her place? Her sister had met him on the cruise, right?
He said he liked to spend quality time with her alone. Wow, that’s really romantic.
As for Tracy, the guy never called her. When they parted on the ship, she got the feeling that was it. That’s a pity, I thought a cruise is the place to meet guys.
It did occur to me that maybe it was a set up by Hunter. He had someone distract Alice’s sister so he could work on her without any obstacles.
You know what I mean about a snake now, don’t you?
Three or four weeks later, Alice was busy flat hunting around the Richmond, Hawthorn and Kew areas.
Hunter told her to find a place to rent and not to worry if the rent was high, as long as she liked it.
I thought this was a big step, living together meant they were going to get married one day.
Yeah, Alice said she hoped so.
I thought she was brave.
She said he was her dream come true, although she didn’t know him well enough.
She found it hard to determine what he really thought or how he really felt most of the time but she thought a little mystery could be sexy.
It seemed the two were moving too fast. I was really worried about her. What did her sister think?
Tracy was more worried about how to pay the rent on her own instead of Alice’s affairs.
Who could blame Tracy? When you are not able to pay the rent, you are going to get kicked out of the place.
Alice was all shook up by Hunter’s attention, gifts and the way he spent money when he was with her. She didn’t mind when others thought that he was her father.
She started to say that if he was too old to have children, she didn’t mind not having any. She said she didn’t like children anyway, they’re too dirty and noisy. I reminded her that we had promised to be each other’s children’s mother-in-law. She laughed and told me that she really loved Hunter.
Alice was in her wonderland for not that long. All the romantic feelings that she had in her head were shattered by an offer that Hunter made one day – that old snake!
She had been so happy, joyful and pleased with herself, then she became unhappy, gloomy and miserable.
She didn’t care what happened to her, her heart was broken. She didn’t want to see him anymore.
I told her to try not to jump to the ending too soon, try to take it calmly. Play the role of the negotiator rather than of the fighter as this would stand her in better stead for her future. Exercise flexibility and diplomacy which wouldn’t cost her anything and could be very useful to her.
It helped to be the third person with a clear head. It was easy for me to see clearly; I was not suffering as she was.
She thought she was lacking neither the ambition nor the drive to be successful; he was using that to bribe her.
I thought it was not just the facts themselves, it was the atmosphere and the experience too.
She was finding little satisfaction in thinking my way. I was trying to be philosophical and to make the most out of it.
The message of this association was clear; he had feelings for her. If he had no feelings for her, he wouldn’t have offered her that kind of opportunity.
What I mean by that was there would be lots of young women who would jump at his offer, but he chose Alice. What did that mean? Huh?
It was the time to take care of herself in the truest sense of the word. Like he said, if she played her cards right, her wish may come true.
I talked her back to her senses.
She thought that after a child arrived, he would want her to look after the kid, then it’s up to her what she wanted, and how she wanted it.
No, that Hunter was a snake, he knew what he wanted. He wouldn’t change it for anyone else, certainly not for Alice.
She blamed life for being so unfair, she was going crazy and couldn’t see a way out.
I stopped her from crying, she was stuck in the middle of an extraordinarily complex situation. Crying was not going to help her solve the situation. I told her to think, not cry, putting both our intuition together might help guide her to the answer.
She said it didn’t matter how much we thought, he was already married. He told her that he loved his wife, it was till death do their part. His wife knew all about his affair, in fact she was the one who encouraged him to have the affair because she was crippled. She couldn’t have a normal relationship with him so she wanted him to have other women.
Alice’s first wish was to marry him but she knew that was impossible. What was her next wish then? I helped her to plan her second wish.
To plan her second wish was not that simple, we had to go through his offer to her.
He said they were going to have a 3 year contract. He was going to pay the rent and her living expenses, including all the amenities. She didn’t have to spend a cent. He would give her double the amount of her wages so she didn’t have to work. The money would all belong to her, she could do whatever she liked. She could go out with her friends as long as they were not male. Going to the gym, he would pay for it. If she wanted to go to a show, musical or ballet, he would take her there and pay for all of them. After 3 years, they could renew the contract, if they both wanted. If she had a baby before the contract ended, he was willing to end it sooner. After the baby’s birth, he would pay her a quarter of a million dollars.
To make her wish come true? Well, he said every year he would pay for two major cosmetic surgeries, if that would make her happy.
She thought, why not? She couldn’t have him so she may as well make the most of the situation. Hopefully the cosmetic surgery could help her get whoever she liked.
She was aware that she might not want him after the surgery, with a perfect face and body, she might change her mind about him.
Three and half years later, a beautiful baby boy was born. His birth mother didn’t want to breast feed so they parted in the hospital. He went with his father to his adopted mother’s home where he was looked after by a nanny and treated like a prince. By the time he was born, his birth mother had already had a breast enlargement, a nose job, cheekbone implants, lip implants, a skin chemical peel and her eyes, eyebrows and lips tattooed.
Alice went to the UK for a few years for a change of scenery. Eventually we lost contact.
A few years ago, I saw her on television, that’s how I knew she had come back to Australia and was married to James Wilson. I understand why she doesn’t want to contact me, I would be her constant reminder of her past. I don’t think James Wilson would like to find out his beloved wife’s secret either.”
“Where’s the baby now?”
“Hunter took the family and left the country, who knows where they’ve gone to. That snake is a cunning creature. He would go to a place where Alice would never find the baby. Honestly, I think Alice couldn’t be happier that they are gone.”
I told Danielle I had to go home because my girlfriend was waiting for me. I couldn’t help but make up such a lie, maybe it was something to do with her not being able to recognise me. By the way, if you see her, you would understand why I lied so happily and shamelessly.
Jacob saw me leaving, he called me to his side: “What’d you reckon?”
“Yeah, James Wilson’s wife is Alice?”
“Give me a break, if Alice was one of the most beautiful woman in Australia, I’d had married her a long time ago.”
“Yeah, a bit strong.”