‘I’ll pass, thanks.’
The voice is sharp, cutting. Jackie glances up, shocked. The woman’s eyes are dark, her jaw clenched. Somehow, Jackie has offended her.
‘Of course,’ Jackie responds. She gives the woman a smile and begins to move on.
‘To be honest,’ the woman continues. ‘I think you’re wrong even hosting this. In these times, there should be no socialising at all.’
Jackie feels her cheeks burn. ‘And yet you still came?’ she retorts before walking away with the cheese platter.
She approaches Tom, who’s standing with Clara and Becky. ‘Who is that woman?’
‘Which woman?’ Tom asks, with a quizzical gaze.
‘Over there. Dressed in black.’
Clara and Becky help themselves cheese and crackers. ‘Oh,’ Becky says. ‘That’s Mary-Lou. She’s our neighbour.’ Becky speaks as she’s chewing, a habit that Jackie despises. Such bad manners. A tiny portion of the cracker sits on her bottom lip.
‘Becks,’ Jackie says, offering a napkin. ‘Wipe your mouth.’
‘Oh,’ she giggles as she wipes her lips with the napkin.
‘So, did you invite Mary-Lou?’
‘Yeah, with everyone stuck at home, looking within…it just gets a bit much, you know?’ Becky’s voice rises at the end of her sentence. ‘Clare and I thought it would be nice for her to get out of the house.’ Becky smiles at Clare.
‘Why?’ asks Clare.
‘She just burned me because I’m hosting a function.’ Jackie says. ‘If she’s so opposed to being out, she shouldn’t have come along. I don’t know her at all. It’s rude of her to speak to me like that.’
Tom nods. ‘Crazy times. I’ll ask her to leave, yeah?’
Tom walks over, as Jackie stands with her friends. Jackie places the platter on the table, as they chat and sip their drinks.
Jackie feels a heat behind her. She turns, Mary-Lou is standing close. Her face is flushed and her eyes pierce into Jackie’s.
‘You’re throwing me out?’ Mary-Lou spits, through clenched teeth. ‘You shouldn’t even be hosting this.’
Jackie opens her mouth to retort back, but changes her mind. Closes her mouth, and smirks.
‘You’re going to be sorry,’ Mary-Lou hisses. She storms out of Jackie and Tom’s home.
Tom and Jackie, Becky and Clare all watch her leave. They’re each astounded at the disgrace shown by a guest.
‘Sorry, Jax. We won’t make that mistake again,’ Clare whispers.
‘Forget it. It’s done,’ Jackie says, rubbing her friend’s shoulder. ‘Let’s just enjoy this time together.’