Celeste stares in the mirror. First, she leans in close. Really gets a good look at her pores. Big, open. She makes a mental note to book an appointment with her beautician. Meryl is brilliant. Her products even better.
She moves away from the mirror, surveys her symmetrical face with her chin jutted high. Years of keeping out of the sun, coupled with a strict cleansing and moisturising routine, is paying dividends. At 68, she has the skin of a woman half her age. Wrinkle-free, not a blemish in sight. Not even a freckle.
‘You’re stunning, Celeste,’ she says aloud. Blows herself a kiss. Adds a wink for good measure. She raises her right arm over her head, performs her regular self-examination on the right breast, then repeats for the left side.
Content that her girls seem fine, lump-free, she begins to apply her makeup.
Keeping herself fit and youthful has been a challenge at times. Bill, her first husband walked out, convinced she spent too much time caring for herself and not enough for him. Celeste wasn’t too bothered; he was useless anyway. Expected her to make him a cup of tea, even. Unfortunately, their son, Nick, turned out just like him. Now 42, and still living at home, still unable to lift a finger. Doesn’t wash up, not even a spoon in the dishwasher, for goodness sake.
Her second husband, Michael, was wonderful. Rich, caring, supportive. Their two children, Milly 33, and Henry 28, are the joys of her life. Milly married, with her first child on the way. Henry living with his best mate Charlie. They miss their father, and of course Celeste does too. Horrid disease, that cancer. Just awful how it rips away loved ones and leaves the shitty people alive.
The doorbell rings. Celeste wraps herself in her silk kimono and pads to the front entrance.
‘Hello, Bill.’ Speaking of shitty people. Nick’s father. ‘Is it your weekend already?’
‘Don’t be a bitch, Celeste.’
Celeste chuckles. These two. So co-dependent. So hopeless. Bill’s never been able to move out of the fortnightly weekend arrangements that the family court instigated after their divorce, when Nick was three. ‘He’s not under court orders anymore, Bill. He’s an adult.’
She notices Bill’s gaze is lingering on the gaping edge of her kimono, at her cleavage. He opens his mouth, probably to throw a biting retort, but Nick comes bounding down the stairs, overnight bag in his hand.
‘Hey, Dad!’ They pump hands then move into a manly hug, the kind where they slap each other on the back. ‘Let’s head off, yeah?’
‘Of course. Got a great weekend planned for us, Nick-o-boy.’
Celeste smirks. All these years, it still astonishes her. ‘Nick! Wait!’
He turns, at the edge of the verandah. ‘Yeah? What is it?’
‘Be a good boy for your daddy, won’t you?’
Bill glowers. Nick scowls.
Celeste closes the front door. She’s got the weekend to herself. She finishes her makeup, dresses in her favourite white tailored pants and floral shirt. Slips into her pink Manolo heels. Places her fortnightly call to the escort service, pours herself a scotch, and waits for Edward to arrive.