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Authors: Brian Gallagher

2000 - The Feng-Shui Junkie

BOOK: 2000 - The Feng-Shui Junkie
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Brian Gallagher

The Feng-Shui junkie

2000

Julie and Ronan are the perfect married couple: with two incomes, and both personal and professional success, theirs is a lifestyle to envy. That is, until the day Julie comes home unexpectedly early from a week away to find a yellow wonderbra hanging from the doorknob. It seems that in the age-old style it has all gone terribly wrong – Ronan is having an affair. Fuelled by anger, despair and whiskey, Julie embarks on a campaign of detection. Revenge may not be sweet, but it is most definitely worth it…

Thursday, 16 June, afternoon
1

…you see, he thinks I’m touchy by nature, a bit moody, mercurial, cantankerous (is that spelt right?), unbalanced even…but I don’t know.

I mean, you don’t get to where I’ve got in life by being congenitally irritable. You don’t get to being a venerated legal professional in a power suit, with an MGF 1.8i convertible, by surrendering to biorhythms and breaking down at magic-mood roundabouts when everyone else is full speed ahead. In a world which treats a woman like a lollipop for the eyeballs, I think I am a model of self-restraint, forbearance and dignity. I am good-natured. No, in fact, I think I’m a saint. After all, have I not up to now been a positive, moderating and pacifying influence on the rotten piece of whale-shit that is my husband Ronan? And does all this not imply a certain balance of mind on my part? A certain equanimity, a degree of sanity? You don’t think so?

But.

No one’s perfect. There are exceptions. Like when I return home two days early from holiday to discover another woman’s lemon-yellow Wonderbra hanging from the inside knob of our hall door and the place smelling like a Cantonese bidet – ignore me if I begin to lose it. Temper, principles, dignity, cool. Everything.

I slam the front door behind me and glare at the offending yellow undergarment as if it recently hatched from a snake egg and might at any time spring up and bite. There’s something outrageous about it. Defiant.
Conscious
. As if it’s been hung there to ward off evil spirits.

I take a breath.

“Ronan?”

It’s more a command than a question.

There’s no response. Just silence. A silence with a peculiar buzz, not to be confused with the faint purring of the fridge or the happy gurgling of the aquarium in our living-room. No, it’s a guilty silence. It’s as if Ronan and his hump piece have been sweating guilt into the fresh air of our apartment and it’s clung to the walls like paint.

“Ronan!”

Again, nothing.

He must be out. Of course, he’s not expecting me back from my holiday until Saturday.

I sniff into space.

It’s a strangely sweet, bitter smell. If not perfume, then some kind of aromatherapeutic ointment or herbal infusion, around which Ronan would not be seen dead. It lingers in the sunless hallway. It is warm and moist. It seems to be coming from the bathroom.

Lemon, that’s what it is.

There is a trollop in the air. A trollop who divests my husband of his marriage vows, then attempts to cleanse her damned soul in the fruity balm of lemon. A trollop hung up on lemon-yellow Wonderbras. What’s wrong with plain ordinary white?

Who
is
this person?

I turn up the label. Size 36D. Now I’m the first to praise generously where praise is due, especially if I’m flattened by the competition. But when it’s a proven fact that generous breasts are one of Ronan’s most important life priorities it’s not so easy.

In fact, I want to take a knife and slash everything in sight.

Lemon.

Calm down, Julie!

There may be no need to panic. Having a size 36D silken lemon-yellow brassiere disgrace our front doorknob should not necessarily worry me. In and of itself.

After all, it could be, for instance…what if it’s Ronan’s sister?

Except.

I know it’s not his flaming sister. Ronan has been warned to keep her away from this apartment. She’s thirty and brings her cat, Ginger, with her everywhere she goes. I love life. I hate cats. Ginger moults like a hair factory during a Hoover recession. This annoys me so intensely that I have offered to- stir-fry her guts in our new wok if she ever again steps into our apartment. In soya oil.

Do I sound horrible yet?

So no, I don’t think it’s his sister.

I fling my black leather Giorgio Armani bag against the banana-coloured couch on the right: my only token of defiance against the minimalist luxury of our apartment.

I take a left into the kitchen, a sniffer dog baying for blood…And when I see what lies here on the floor I stop dead, gripping the counter top beside me.

You are strong. You can cope. There is an explanation. Ronan loves you. Stop being stupid. Be calm. You’re a lawyer, goddamnit. Relax. Let’s not make a meal out of this
.

I mean, just because there’s a shitload of women’s garments lying scattered all over our kitchen floor is no reason to hit the roof.

In and of itself.

2

O
kay, Julie, simmer down now.

Think dignity. Think respectability. You’ve got neighbours. You’ve got a reputation to maintain. You’ve got self-respect. You’ve got pride. You may well have blood pressure.

Ever so silently, therefore, I hyperventilate.

You see, it’s not just the cream-coloured high heels perched on the kitchen table like a museum piece, one poised defiantly on its heel and the other lying defeated on its side next to a half-full bowl of nachos and a crudely mauled pair of croissants and three empty bottles of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and two of our sparkling wedding-ware Duiske glasses.

Nor is it just the elegant cream ladies’ jacket hanging from the back of one of the chairs, its accompanying cream blouse and skirt lying in a light clump beneath the kitchen table.

Nor is it the light-tone tights in the fruit bowl, sitting in a puffy ball alongside two oranges, three apples and one overripe mango.

This alone demands immediate compensation. But it gets worse: a pair of Ronan’s boxer shorts snuggling across the electric kettle like an art nouveau tea cosy; a pair of black trousers and a black polo-neck sweater bunched up near the door like a pile of dirty washing; Ronan’s black leather belt, lying snake-shaped on the floor beside the fridge, the pin from the thick metal buckle sticking straight up into the air like something I’m too polite to mention; Ronan’s wine-coloured jacket dropped right in the middle of the floor two feet away from where I’m standing, its silken magenta insides spilling out like something else I’m too polite to mention.

My body is shaking uncontrollably, as if a pneumatic drill has got to work on my backbone. My mind is racing like it’s on the Matterhorn ski slope and there’s a thousand-foot drop coming up any second now. Voices from deep inside me are spewing out quite the most dirty-mouthed abuse I have ever heard, including vocabulary I’ve never heard in my life.

I am speaking in tongues. Four-letter words, juicy and foul, are spouting from my gullet. And several vile six- and seven-letter words too. The walls around me seem to quiver and quake and shrink in fear. I am a fire-spitting bitch-ape who craps on etiquette, screaming strings of filth into our homely kitchen…

…don’t go away.

Just see it as slight turbulence in a sea of sanity.

This is a nightmare. It’s like something out of a horror film. Except that horror films – however hard they try – don’t generally lift off the screen and punch you hard in the smacker.

Well clearly, they lunched together. Now I happen to believe that extramarital friendships are healthy: they prove that marriages can still work. Even in kitchens.

But instead of shaking hands nicely and parting as friends, Ronan faltered (as men do) and ripped off his acquaintance’s garments before they’d even emptied the bowl of nachos. And relied on Newton’s laws of gravitation to do the rest.

But the Wonderbra on the doorknob? What objective meaning, what absolute aesthetic significance can be assigned to that? And what about her knickers? Where are they?

His sister!

He’s been seeing some slut behind my back.

Where are the kitchen scissors? Call me gruesome, but I want to sever Ronan’s balls from their sockets and make them both watch at scissor-point while I stamp his testicles on the floor and she, gasping, helplessly ogles future generations of herself and my husband being scrunched mercilessly by my metal heel against the hard ground.

This doesn’t mean, I want to stress, that I’m not essentially a placid person by nature.

I slink out to the hall and through the doorway to the right leading to the bedrooms. I enter ours: the thin blinds on the large window are drawn, casting a sharp rectangle of shuttered light on to the spacious pine floor.

The white duvet of our low bed is pulled untidily across. Underneath one pillow lie Ronan’s neatly folded T-shirt and boxer shorts. Underneath the other is a skimpy yellow nightdress. Not mine, I wish to stress. Neatly, I replace the pillow.

Draped across the pine art-deco chair is a fluffy white angora polo-neck jumper. Also not mine. Sitting on the chair is a small light-brown night case. In it are a woman’s clothes and articles. No identifying features such as names or addresses.

No lemon-yellow knickers anywhere in sight.

I check the wardrobes. Next to his suits there hangs a long fawn dress and a smart mustard-coloured velvet jacket neither of which I have ever seen before.

On top of the chest of drawers is a blue bottle of factor fifteen suntan lotion. The exterior is smeared and greasy. On the floor at the foot of the bed is a pair of Ronan’s shoes. Something makes me go to the wardrobe again. His rubber flip-flops: they are missing. I check for his bathing togs. Missing. Also missing is the striped blue and green beach gown, which I almost brought on my holiday.

Now I’m peering out of the bedroom window down at the communal swimming pool. It is small and glistening blue like the earth seen through space, surrounded by a hedge and a wooden fence.

There they are.

Lying together in their shades by the pool, alone, like they own the place. Ronan is in his Adidas shorts, leaning over a newspaper stretched open on the ground, his left foot scratching his right calf. A blonde woman is lying on her back beside him on top of my sky-blue beach towel, her knees joined like twin peaks. Underneath her head is my rolled-up striped beach gown. She’s propping up a blockbuster novel: from here I can just about make out Jackie Collins splayed in spidery red lettering. She’s in a skimpy two-piece, this time in sunset yellow. She has a fantastic figure.

Has he no mercy?

Does he not care who might recognize him? This is where we live. This is where we swim. This is where we sunbathe. We are known, by sight. I am known, by sight: regularly I am spotted, returning home with my briefcase. With shopping bags. With Mother. My life is here. My home. My refuge, my shelter from a harsh world. My reputation, my pride, my dignity – if it is
anywhere
it is here.

And what does he do? He pastes his tight-thonged whore with a spatula on my neighbours’ faces.

Of course, even if he is recognized, the chances of me discovering the insult were never going to be great, in this dungeon of sociability and camaraderie that is our de luxe apartment block.

I tear out my cellphone and input his number. I wait. It bleeps in my ear. It rings simultaneously from the pool below. Ronan makes a sudden movement towards his canvas bag, takes out his phone, presses a button and shoves it back in his bag.


This is Ronan Fitzgerald. Please leave a message after the tone
.”

Scumbag, I crave to communicate, but I don’t. These things are better done in person.

“Hi, Ronan,” I articulate in this beautiful, sweet voice. “It’s Julie. Could you call me?”

I storm the bathroom. The Jacuzzi. She has contaminated our Jacuzzi. That sweet lemony scent. In here it is overpowering. The culprit is standing on the Jacuzzi ledge: Bergamot Essential Oil. I pick up the bottle and read the label, getting a good idea of the pleasant sensations this woman enjoyed in my bath: “This oil is expressed from the peel of the citrus fruit. It has an uplifting, sweet, fruity odour and can be used to make a pleasant and refreshing massage or bath oil.”

What to do?

I need a drink.

I rush back out through the hall and into the lounge. It’s so bright in here I have to blink. The room is rinsed in splashes of midsummer sunlight, flooding through four giant windows which combine into one large seascape canvas, framed by the dark-blue pelmet and curtains.

I fling open the french windows to let out their love stench and head straight to the drinks cabinet. Jameson’s: an essential ingredient in coping. I pour, staring the whole time at our coffee table. Where is our wedding photo?

Response: Ronan has hidden it. The bastard didn’t wish to stain the perfect romance.

My glass overflows and a whiskey puddle is now shimmering like jelly on the floor. I take a sip, then furiously kick at the puddle, flicking droplets around the room.

BOOK: 2000 - The Feng-Shui Junkie
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