Diane’s ankle twisted as the heel of her shoe caught in between two cobbles. She steadied herself on a parked car and gave her foot a tentative turn to determine if there was any serious damage. A light pain jabbed through her ankle but it was nothing unbearable.
She continued her walk to the clubhouse at a more careful pace. She was already late, but being one minute less late wasn’t worth ending up in a wheelchair for. The bloody high heels were a couple of inches taller than Diane was used to wearing. But they matched her maroon evening gown so well, or so the lady in the shop had told her, rightly seeing her as easy prey.
She climbed the steps to the main entrance and hurried towards the cloakroom.
“Good evening, Mrs Thompson,” the attendant greeted her.
“Has the presentation started yet?” Diane asked as she took off her coat and handed it over.
“I’m afraid it has.” The girl smiled apologetically.
Diane made her way to the clubhouse’s main function area. She could already hear the booming voice of the club’s president. She reached the room and slipped in at the back.
The sofas and armchairs that usually clustered around the elegant coffee tables had been pushed to the side. Behind them the large bay windows overlooked the putting green and eighteenth hole, now shrouded in dusk. Several elaborate flower arrangements adorned the ledge in front of the windows. The decorating committee had obviously spared no expense for the event.
Diane craned her neck to try and see the front of the room, where Stephen, the Royal Tynebury Golf Club’s president, was giving his speech to open the new season and introduce the new members, but even her higher heels didn’t make Diane tall enough to see above the heads in front of her.
“In conclusion, I wish you all the best season you’ve ever had,” Stephen’s voice came over the speakers, “and without further ado, please enjoy the wonderful food and drinks we have lined up for you tonight.”
The crowd erupted in applause and, on cue, waiters brought out trays of Champagne from the large oak bar.
Diane made her way through the crowd, greeting people and making small talk as she progressed. She kept her eyes peeled for her ex-husband and spotted him towards the front of the room, his arm around the shoulders of Debbie. In Diane’s mind that name always came out in a childish tone, probably because Debbie was about the same age as Diane’s own son.
“I think her boobs look bigger, she must have had them done over the winter,” a familiar voice whispered in Diane’s ear from behind.
Diane smiled as she turned around to face her friend, Isabelle. “Not what I was looking at, but now that you mention it.” Diane opened her arms and embraced Isabelle. “It’s so good to see you. When did you get back from Florida?”
“Two days ago,” Isabelle replied. “I would have called you, but the transition from Floridian sunshine to British drizzle was rough.” She shivered. “Anyway, catch me up on the gossip. Did anything juicy happen while I was away?”
Diane laughed. “I’m afraid I have to disappoint you. I haven’t been here much, what with the course being closed a lot because of the weather.”
Isabelle squinted at Diane. “Your absence wouldn’t have anything to do with the fact that young Debbie there has been taking lessons and visiting the driving range more often—probably to prove she’s worthy of her new member status?”
“Let’s just say that it didn’t help my motivation to spend time at the driving range.”
A waiter stopped in front of them. “Mrs Thompson, Mrs Avery, can I offer you a glass of Champagne?”
Both women eagerly grabbed a glass.
“Speaking of new members,” Diane said, “where are Rob and Matthew? I only got here at the end of the speech so didn’t get to see Matthew being introduced.”
Isabelle shook her head. “He wasn’t accepted. They’re not here tonight.”
“What?” Diane exclaimed. “Why? What happened?”
Isabelle sighed. “They weren’t given a reason. I haven’t been able to corner our dear president yet to grill him about it, but trust me, I’ll get to him before the night is over.”
“Would you like me to make some enquiries?” Diane asked. “I know at least one other person on the admissions committee.”
“No, not yet,” Isabelle answered. “I want to see what pretext he gives me first. Of course, he won’t tell me openly that this place is still so stuck in the fifties that the same-sex spouse of one of their lifelong members is less acceptable than the classless bimbo your ex now calls his wife. No offence.”
“Oh, none taken.” Diane smiled at her friend. She knew Isabelle was probably much more affected by her son-in-law’s rejection than she was willing to let on tonight. “It’s so good to have you back. Let’s set up a date this week to play a round. I need to get back in shape before the Ladies’ trip next month. You can show me again how wintering in the Florida sun does wonders for your game.”
“Diane.” A male voice came from behind her.
Diane cringed and turned around to face her ex-husband. “Lawrence.” She offered a cheek for him to peck, grateful at least that he’d had the courtesy to come and greet her alone. “How are you?” She had to admit he still looked quite dashing, especially in his tuxedo.
“Jolly good, my dear. And yourself?”
Diane tried to keep her tone neutral as she replied, “I’m very well, thanks.”
An awkward silence followed. Diane and Lawrence’s divorce had been finalised five years ago, but they had not yet reached the stage where small talk came easily.
Diane hoped Isabelle would say something to break the tension, but when she turned her head to give her a pointed look, she found her friend had scarpered off somewhere, abandoning her to face Lawrence alone.
Diane turned back towards him. “Have you seen Timothy recently?” At least their son should be a safe topic.
“He and Lucy came over for dinner the other night. Debbie made shepherd’s pie. You know that’s still his favourite.”
Diane fought to suppress an eye-roll. “How lovely.” No way did Debbie cook a shepherd’s pie as good as hers. “I hear Debbie is now a full member of the club. You must be delighted.”
“Ah, yes,” Lawrence beamed. “Very happy, quite right. She’s been working hard, trying to get certified so she can start playing on the course.”
Diane could see Debbie moving through the crowd, making her way towards Lawrence. “Excuse me, would you? I need to powder my nose before we get ushered into the dining room.” She turned around and walked towards the exit into the hall. Attempting a civil conversation with her ex was one thing, but having to be polite to his new wife was not on the cards yet.
On her way out, Diane deposited her empty glass on the tray of a passing waiter and grabbed a new one. More bubbles were required to fight back the bad taste she got in her mouth every time she saw Lawrence and Debbie together.
She took her glass into the ladies’ changing room, hoping to find a quiet spot to gather herself before having to sit down for the dinner, which was bound to last too long. It was the same thing every year.
She sat on a stool in front of a vanity unit and checked her make-up in the mirror. She rifled through her small evening purse to find her lipstick.
The door to the dressing room opened. A short-haired woman Diane didn’t know walked in and looked around uncertainly. She must be one of the new members.
“Are you looking for the bathroom?” Diane asked. “It’s past those lockers on the right, then through the first door.”
“Thank you,” the woman replied with a smile. “I haven’t quite got the lay of the land yet.” She walked in the direction Diane had indicated and disappeared into the bathroom.
Diane turned back to face her image in the mirror. She applied a new coat of lipstick, checked her eyeliner was still as it should be, and stood. The pain in her ankle had all but disappeared—probably thanks to the two glasses of Champagne she’d consumed. She took one last look in the full-length mirror—her shoes did indeed match her gown perfectly, she couldn’t take issue with the salesgirl’s taste. Debbie might have almost thirty years on her, but youth could never make up for elegance. At least that was the mantra Diane was going to stick to tonight.
She pulled back her shoulders and headed out towards the function room as the bell was rung to call people to dinner.