Don’t mind the banging sounds. Nadine’s not hurt or injured. I just wanted a turn to speak, so I put her in a closet for a while. No, not that kind of closet, mind you, not that there’s anything wrong with that. I’ll let her out sooner or later. I just have a few things to get off my chest.
I’m Claire Malone, and I’m the official bitch in The Foreign Language of Friends. I’m the least favorite character for most readers, but Nadine is especially fond of me because she needed my energy to write the book. She found me entertaining. I make her laugh, she says. After today, she might change her mind, but oh, well. I’ve never cared much what people think.
I’m the one who came to her first in a sort of vision, after she went kayaking on the west side of Vancouver Island. Yes, I know, in The Foreign Language of Friends we’re kayaking in Costa Rica, but she had to move us. After all, we meet in a foreign language class, and there aren’t too many places to practice Spanish in British Columbia. I have to wonder about those visions, though. She and I both used to work in the energy industry. She wrote contracts and worked with lawyers like me. Now she’s a flaky novelist who just wants to hang out in her garden and watch rainbows. I don’t know what the hell to do about her. Hell, I bet she’s in that closet right now thinking about how she’s going to blog about this experience!
It was her idea to tip my kayak, mainly because she was so scared it would happen to her. She knew I could handle it, and she wanted to see what would happen. And you think I’m evil for throwing her in a closet for a while? Do you have any idea what it’s like to be upside-down in the water, trapped in one of those damned skirts that they put around you? Not to mention the mess that incident made of my hair.
She even gave me a heart attack, one that threatened to ruin my career. I’m 55, Nadine is 53, and her grandfather died of a heart attack at 56. You do the math.
I suppose she had a point, though. I was pretty hard-driving in those days, working too much and sleeping too little. Those jackasses at the office didn’t appreciate me. They keep calling me about consulting jobs, though. Ha! I guess that cute little Barbie doll lawyer they hired to replace me didn’t work out so well, after all. Serves ’em right. A few wrinkles and gray hair doesn’t mean I’m ready to be put out to pasture.
I wasn’t always so tough. Once upon a time I was on the mommy track with the perfect husband and two little girls. A drunk driving accident took care of that, though, and I had to take care of my children. I went back to school at night. Didn’t see them much for a while, but they turned out okay, with only a minimum of resentment.Anne, bless her heart, is just like me. Heather is the nice one. I guess she picked up some sort of recessive gene. I certainly didn’t raise her that way.
Did I mention that I’m going to be a grandma? No, that’s not in the book. That came later. Nadine doesn’t want me to talk about what happened next, but can you blame me for throwing that in? I may be a tough co-worker and boss, but I’m an old softie with my girls, and maybe Nadine will show that side of me in the next book. You just never get the full truth in the media, though. She may decide that’s not good for drama.
Some of you have been concerned about Julia, especially with the assault. Nadine didn’t want to write about it too much detail, and the verdict is mixed as to whether that was a good decision or not. She was afraid it would take the story in the wrong direction. I have to say, I think it was pretty clear that Julia wasn’t all right. She wasn’t sleeping well, and she didn’t want to talk to the rest of us about how much she was struggling. If it’s any consolation, she hasn’t gotten over it yet. She’s got a long way to go, in fact. I don’t think Nadine would mind my saying that. I also think Nadine has a sadistic streak. Julia’s a lot nicer than I am, and looked at all that Nadine heaped on her — and any woman who’s intimidated by those gorgeous, perfect little Parisian women.
Mickey? Ellen? We don’t keep in touch much these days. Julia’s the one who holds us all together, and I’m still not very good with the girlfriend thing. Ellen’s plenty strong, and Mickey — well, Mickey is a mess, but she’s the type of kid who ends up landing on her feet in spite of herself. I don’t worry about her. Much.
Nadine told our story because she was lonely. When she left her corporate job, her friends stopped making time for lunch with her. She started to think about all the ways that women get separated from their friendships — me with work, Ellen by taking care of her parents, and Mickey having her every move controlled by her parents. I confess that I didn’t care for Julia at first because she was one of those ladies who lunch. It never occurred to me that we would have anything in common, let alone become the best of friends. I guess even a cranky old lawyer like me can learn a thing or two. Don’t expect me to change too much, though. I won’t let Nadine do that to me. She’s the one in the closet, and I’m in charge now.
Happily, the people at the Next Generation Indie Book Awards thought we were interesting enough to give Nadine a finalist award in the Chick Lit category. I just have one problem with that. I’m not a chick, a girl, or your honey, sweetheart, or darling. I’ve had a great life and some success. I raised my daughters on my own and put myself through school. I’ve held my own with the toughest guys. I’ve earned every white hair on my head. I’m a woman. Got it?
Now, excuse me, I’ll go let Nadine out of the closet.