Here’s another instalment from my unfinished story, The Button. Clare has moved to Easthope where she unexpectedly bumps into someone she was at school with, someone who bullied her mercilessly. The woman, Jenny-Lee recognises her but for some reason mistakes her for another girl called Clare who was Jenny’s best friend. Jenny and her husband Darius are restoring an old watermill.
The Lunch Club
It was a chance encounter in the Umbrella Museum café, called Brolly and Gamps, then a shared coffee in Tansy’s Tearoom, and an unexpected encounter on the footbridge over the River Hope which led to a stroll together along the beach and then an invitation to join the luncheon club.
“Just come along to see if you might like to join us!” Livia had said. Clare thought that if the other people were as pleasant and fun as Livia, then yes, she might like to join them.
Coming to a new place was exciting but things which had in the past been taken for granted, now didn’t happen. With no circle of friends it meant going to the cinema alone, dining alone, going for walks alone… and bumping into Livia and then walking along the beach with her, chatting about nothing in particular was not only pleasant, but… but what? Stimulating! New books recommended, suggestions for local places to visit, stories about past travels… not only pleasant but the beginnings of a friendship, and maybe the luncheon club, like the book club would introduce her to new people.
It seemed that the luncheon club tried to choose different and perhaps unusual places to dine; the fall back was at each other’s homes, but today they were meeting at a restaurant in the newly converted lighthouse… A lighthouse! This sounded very novel and exciting. Livia was on antibiotics and wouldn’t be drinking and she offered Clare a lift ‘so you won’t walk in on the gang on your own!‘ Livia added.
There was a single track leading up to the carpark of lighthouse, which wasn’t painted with red and white stripes as Clare hoped, and there were passing places for vehicles coming down. They followed an old Alfa Romeo, driven by Pat, another club member, and Livia pulled in beside her. Pat was a rather statuesque elderly lady but with a lively manner who greeted Clare warmly.
“I’m the grandma of the gang!” she exclaimed, shaking Clare’s hand. She introduced her to Jackie, another of the ‘gang’, a very elegant black woman with a friendly smile and extraordinary earrings and necklaces, big ceramic and wooden beads and metal hoops. Jackie was a jeweller and she was wearing her own creations.
They went in through the stout door with a porthole, as Jackie told Clare there was another jeweller in the club, Dora who worked in silver. The circular room they entered was a small lounge bar and there was an open staircase with a rope rail leading up to the next floor which was set out as a dining room. This however was not where they were going to eat, and they ascended again to a smaller room with a circular table.
There were a couple of women already here, sitting in a window seat looking out across the sparkling sea to Farholm Island. It seemed that the luncheon club was all women, by accident not design; perhaps, someone said they would have a male recruitment drive next time there was a vacancy. A young woman took their drinks order and there were introductions and explanations and three more women came up the staircase to join them, one of whom was the other jeweller, a blond woman wearing copper.
“Not many rules to this club,” a silver-haired woman told Clare. “”It’s pretty much what happens here stays here, no talk of husbands/wives/partners family while we’re eating, no bitching and no boring!”
Seemed fair enough Clare thought as she wandered to the window, a nice glass of New Zealand white in her hand. It was a bright, clear day and there was a bright, clear view almost all around. She could see along the coast in both directions, across Camel Wood to the east, across the sea to the island and then down the coast towards Strand which could be glimpsed in the distance.
“Come along last but not least!” someone exclaimed as a late arrival clattered up the stairs.
Even before looking round, Clare had a sudden rush of precognition, and turning she saw Jenny-Lee arrive at the top of the stair. Livia was standing nearest to the newcomer and for a second her face was still and inscrutable before she smiled in welcome.
“Clare, oh my God! Hey, everyone, Clare is my oldest and dearest friend!” Jenny screeched, holding her arms out across the table.
There was a micro-second of silence and then the babble of talk arose and Jenny began to make her way round towards Clare. Livia was watching her and Clare wanted to say ‘actually everyone, I am not her oldest friend, I am not even a friend; this woman made two years of my life a misery…‘
She wanted to say it though of course she didn’t, but glancing at Livia, she thought the woman had read her thoughts perfectly. Livia gave a slight nod, a sympathetic nod it seemed…
Well, this is going to be an interesting luncheon club that’s for sure!