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By Moriarty, Liane
HarperCollins PublishersISBN: 0060586125
You could argue that it started thirty-four years ago when twenty-year-old Frank Kettle, a tall, fair, hyperactive ex-altar boy, fell madly in lust with Maxine Leonard, a long-legged languid redhead just a few days short of her nineteenth birthday.
He was pumping with fresh testosterone. She knew better but did it anyway. In the backseat of Frank's dad's Holden. Twice. The first time involved a lot of head-bumping and grunting and breathless shifts of position, while Johnny O'Keefe bellowed at them from the car radio. The second time was slower and gentler and rather nice. Elvis soothingly suggested they love him tender. In each case, however, the terrible result was the same. One of Frank's exuberant little sperm cells slammed head-on with one of Maxine's rather less thrilled eggs, interrupting what should have been an uneventful journey to nonexistence.
Over the following days, while Maxine was chastely dating more suitable boys and Frank was pursuing a curvy brunette, two freshly fertilized eggs were busily bumping their way along Maxine's fallopian tubes toward the haven of her horrified young uterus.
At the exact moment Maxine allowed the very suitable Charlie Edwards to hold back her long red hair while she puffed out her cheeks and blew out nineteen candles, one egg fizzed with so much friction it split right in two. The other single egg burrowed its way comfortably in between the two new identical eggs.
Guests at Maxine's birthday party thought they'd never seen her look so beautiful -- slender, glowing, almost incandescent! Who could have guessed she'd been impregnated with some Catholic boy's triplets?
Frank and Maxine were married, of course. In their wedding photos, they both have the blank-eyed, sedated look of recent trauma victims.
Seven months later, their triplet daughters came kicking and howling into the world. Maxine, who had never even held a baby before, was presented with three; it was the most despair-filled moment of her young life.
Well, that would be Gemma's preference for how it started. Cat would argue that if she was going to begin with their conception, then why not go back through their entire family tree? Why not go back to the apes? Why not start with the Big Bang? I guess I did really, Gemma would chortle, Mum and Dad's big bang. Oh funn-y, Cat would say. Let's look at it logically, Lyn would interrupt. Quite clearly, it started the night of the spaghetti.
And Lyn, quite naturally, would be right.
It was a Wednesday night six weeks before Christmas. A nothing sort of night. An unassuming midweek night that should have vanished from their memories by Friday. "What did we do Wednesday?" "I don't know. Watch TV?"
That's what they were doing. They were eating spaghetti and drinking red wine in front of the television. Cat was sitting crosslegged on the floor, with her back up against the sofa, her plate on her lap. Her husband, Dan, was sitting on the edge of the sofa, hunched over his dinner on the coffee table. It was the way they always ate dinner.
Dan had cooked the spaghetti, so it was hearty and bland. Cat was the more accomplished cook. Dan's approach to cooking was somehow too functional. He stirred his ingredients like concrete mix, one arm wrapped around the bowl, the other stirring the gluggy mix so vigorously you could see his biceps working. "So what? Gets the job done."
That Wednesday night Cat was feeling no specific emotion; not especially happy, not especially sad. It was strange afterward, remembering how she sat there, shoveling Dan's pasta into her mouth, so foolishly trusting of her life. She wanted to yell back at herself through time, Concentrate!
They were watching a show called Med School. It was a soap about a group of very beautiful young medical students with shiny white teeth and complex love lives. Each episode featured a lot of blood and sex and anguish.
Cat and Dan shared a mild addiction to Med School. Whenever the plot took a new twist, they responded with loud enthusiasm, yelling at the television like children watching a pantomime: "Bastard!" "Dump him!" "It's the wrong medication!"
This week Ellie (blond, cutesy, cropped T-shirt) was in a state. She didn't know whether to tell her boyfriend, Pete (dark, brooding, abnormal abs), about her drunken infidelity with a guest-starring troublemaker.
"Tell him, Ellie!" said Cat to the television. "Pete will forgive you. He'll understand!"
The ad break came on, and a manic man in a yellow jacket bounced around a department store pointing an incredulous finger at the Christmas specials.
"I booked that health and beauty thing today," said Cat, using Dan's knee as a lever to help her reach over him for the pepper. "The woman had one of those gooey, spiritual voices. I felt like I was getting a massage just making a booking."
For Christmas, she was giving her sisters (and herself) a weekend away at a health retreat in the Blue Mountains. The three of them would share an "exquisite experience" of "indulgent pampering." They would be wrapped in seaweed, dunked in mud, and slathered in vitamin-enriched creams. It would be extremely amusing.
She was pleased with herself for thinking of it. "What a clever idea!" everyone would say on Christmas Day. Lyn definitely needed the stress relief. Gemma didn't need it but she'd be right into pretending that she did. Cat herself wasn't especially stressed either, but perhaps she was, because she wasn't pregnant and she'd been off the Pill now for nearly a year. "Don't get stressed about it," everybody said wisely, as if they were the first to pass on that hot little tip. Apparently, the moment your ovaries noticed you were worried about becoming pregnant, they refused to cooperate. Oh well, if you're going to get all huffy about it, we'll just close down ...Continues...
Excerpted from Three Wishes by Moriarty, Liane Excerpted by permission.
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