Good morning! In this installment of The Foreign Language of Friends, we learn more about one of Julia’s dilemmas (she will have PLENTY more by the time this story is over!). It may seem like a problem we would all like to have, but for someone with Julia’s big heart and extroverted nature, it’s a tough one. Some of you like Julia best, so I hope you enjoy this chapter! If you like the story, remember that it’s just $1.99 on Amazon Kindle software, so tell all your friends! Muchas gracias.
Have a great weekend! Next week I’ll tell you all about our evening with Michael Pollan (along with 1,100 of our closest friends). I’m also going to share a book on Tuesday that has meant a lot to me…and I was reminded yesterday yet again as to why it’s worth talking about. There might be a freebie involved, too, so come on over to see what’s going on! Thanks for visiting me, and see you next week!
CHAPTER SEVEN – JUNE 27
With a swing of her racket, Julia slammed a shot in the corner of Geri’s court. “Game, set, and match!” she called.
“Honestly, I don’t know why I even try,” Geri said, laughing. “You’ve gotten too good at this.”
“It’s all the practice,” Julia said. “I’m here almost every day.”
“Shall we get a bite?” Geri asked. “No dessert today, though. Ron and I are going out tonight, and so I need to stick to a salad.”
“You’ll have wine, though, right?” Julia asked.
“Absolutely. Wine is health food, you know. And we must hydrate, right?”
They laughed and took a table on the patio, which the club kept cool by blowing air conditioning outside so its patrons could enjoy the outdoors in the summertime without sweating away their glamour. Each woman ordered a salad with dressing on the side, and they ordered a bottle of wine to share.
Geri and Julia had met at the club ten years before. They were the same age and both had husbands who traveled routinely. They even had similar builds: short and muscled, but curvy and feminine at the same time. Both wore their hair in a similar short style, easy to manage. Their main difference was that Geri had vast experience as a mother. She had four children spaced well apart. Julia found herself envying Geri whenever they got together, longing for the chaos and noise of a big family.
“Thank God for first grade,” Geri said often. “And nannies. I’d never get any tennis in without them.”
Julia laughed. Geri, unlike Julia and Larry, had lived with money her entire life, and she made no apologies for it.
“So, when is Larry coming home this time?” Geri asked, as a waiter refilled their wine glasses.
Geri always seemed to know what lurked under the surface, less because she cared and more because she sought gossip like a heat-seeking missile. “I’m not sure,” Julia said. “He may even be another month this time.”
“Stuck for a month in Paris,” Geri said, running her hands through her wind-tousled hair. “Now there’s a problem. Why don’t you go hang with him?”
“I’ve thought about it, but I don’t know. He’s always working when I’m over there, and a girl can only do so much shopping in a day.”
“Wow, are you not feeling well? Julia isn’t in the mood for shopping? Weren’t you the one that told me there weren’t enough shopping hours in a day?”
Julia took a sip of her wine. “That’s a nice chardonnay,” she said. “I don’t know. I guess. Something’s happening to me, Geri. I don’t know exactly what it is, but I’m changing. I’ve always been happy, even with Larry gone. I have my friends, and shopping, and tennis, and I always manage to keep busy, but I’m starting to feel like maybe there’s more to life.” She hoped she wouldn’t regret her disclosure. They normally didn’t get to deeper subjects. Must be the wine talking.
Geri, who didn’t seem to mind, smiled and patted her friend’s hand. “Listen, when someone like you starts complaining about her life, we’ve got real problems in the world.”
“That’s just it,” Julia said, sitting back in her chair. With a light haze of alcohol descending over her, she said, “What the hell,” and flagged down the waiter for a slice of chocolate cake.
Geri raised her eyebrows. “How many hours of tennis are you playing today?”
“It’s just one piece of cake,” Julia said. “I get so sick of dieting all the time. But you’re right, I don’t have any problems, and lots of people do. I don’t know, maybe I should do some volunteer work or something.”
“But you’re always involved with the fundraisers that we have at the club. Everyone knows that you’re the one to contact when it’s time to organize the next event. You can shake the loose change out of anyone’s pockets.”
“I know, but I was thinking of something a little more hands-on. You know I started taking this Spanish class, and there’s a young lady in it who’s been on all these missionary and volunteer trips. That’s why she’s in the class. And here I am, just trying to communicate with the lawn guys.”
“Nothing wrong with that,” Geri said, holding up her glass for a refill. “Remember the old days when our fathers did the lawn, at least until the boys became teenagers? Well, my Bruce wouldn’t know how to start a mower, and whenever I try to give Jay any kind of chore he just laughs at me. Now we hire people to do the work, but if we need something special done we need a Spanish dictionary.”
“Well, anyway, here’s this young girl who’s thinking about other people, about the rest of the world, and I just don’t. I think about how the spa’s going to be in the resort we’re staying at, or whether to order dessert. I’m in a classroom full of people of all different income levels, and it’s just making me think, that’s all.”
Geri shook her head. “You’re never going to be able to make friends there, not like you can here,” she said. “The envy always gets in the way. As soon as people find out you have money, they act differently toward you.”
“That’s a bit harsh, don’t you think? I mean, what happened to looking at what we are on the inside, and not what we drive or where we live?”
“You’re kidding, right? Oh, Julia,” Geri said. She started to laugh, and then the laughter took over her whole body. Julia watched and waited in amazement.
“Hold on, give me a minute.” Geri paused, giggling until little tears appeared at the corners of her eyes, which she quickly wiped away. “Oh, Jules, you’re so naïve sometimes about the world we live in. That would be great, but it’s not how things work, especially these days. No, seriously. I mean it, and you know it, too. You don’t wear your diamonds to class, do you?”
Julia looked down at her hands, perfectly manicured and glittering with precious stones. These were the small rings, the ones she wore when playing tennis. “It’s true,” she said, “I just wear a plain wedding band to class, and I dress down quite a bit. I accidentally wore the good rings to our study group, and they noticed. I guess I was adapting without even realizing it.”
“It works the other way, too,” Geri said, her voice dropping to a conspiratorial whisper. “Try going into some little boutique one day, someplace you don’t normally go. Wear something really casual, like some simple shorts and a t-shirt, no makeup, no jewelry. Watch how they treat you when they don’t think you can buy out their inventory.”
Julia finished her wine and stared thoughtfully into the distance. Thoughts churned through her mind. She wanted to tell Geri she was wrong, that it didn’t matter. Instead, she said, “Well, so what good does that do us? Are you saying I can’t make friends in this class?”
“Not really, no,” Geri said. “I’m just saying that once they figure out you’re one of the ladies who lunch, they will find ways to avoid you.”
“Well, there’s an attorney in our group, and I’m sure she’s well off.” Julia felt more and more defensive.
“Yeah, and she’ll dismiss you because you don’t have a career. I’m telling you, you should have hired a tutor if you wanted to learn Spanish.” Geri looked at her watch. “Oh, my I have to go. I’ve got some clothes to pick up for the kids this afternoon. Yesterday I was late picking Baby up, and she decided I’d forgotten about her. Can you imagine? She cried for two hours.”
The two “ladies who lunched” air-kissed good-bye, and Julia zipped away in her cherry red Mercedes Cabriolet convertible, aware of the new car smell and the admiring glances of the men on the road. She and Geri had never agreed on everything. That was part of the fun of their friendship. She didn’t want to agree with her now, and she hoped Geri was wrong. I can make friends with anyone, she reminded herself. A vision of Claire’s haughty face appeared in her mind’s eye, but Julia held firm. Anyone.