The Hypnotist's Love Story(12)


by Liane Moriarty

Julia believed there were solutions to everything.

“He says he’s been to the police,” began Ellen, but then she stopped and didn’t bother to go into further detail. She wasn’t entirely convinced that Patrick had told her the whole story about why he hadn’t gone ahead with the restraining order.

“Anyway, the silly woman just needs to pull herself together,” said Julia, as if it was up to Ellen to pass on this instruction.

“Yes.”

They lay there in silence for a few moments. Ellen was planning what she’d cook Patrick for dinner that night. He’d already cooked once for her, on a night when Jack was staying at a friend’s place. It had been a very nice plain roast dinner, nothing too fancy, which was good, because she’d been out with men who fancied themselves gourmet cooks. It seemed like such an asset in the beginning, but then they were always so vain about it, hovering around the kitchen criticizing the way she chopped the garlic.

Maybe she should do something with pork, seeing as he’d ordered the pork belly. Some nice tender pork medallions.

“Do you remember Eddie Masters?” said Julia.

“The butcher’s apprentice,” said Ellen, remembering a skinny, long-haired boy in a blue-and-white-striped butcher’s apron. Julia had gone out with him when they were in their teens. Yes, pork. She would stop by at that expensive butcher in the arcade on the way home from the pool.

“He went out with Cheryl from the chemist after me,” said Julia.

“The scary-looking girl. Actually, I think I just thought she was scary because she had her ears pierced twice.”

“Yes. Well, after Eddie dumped me I used to ring her house all the time. If she answered I’d just sit there, not saying anything, until she hung up. She’d scream all this abuse at me, and I’d just sit there, breathing. Not heavy breathing. Just breathing, so she knew I was there.”

“Julia Margaret Robertson!” Ellen sat up quickly, half pretending and half genuinely shocked. She looked at her friend, who was still lying with her hands clasped on her front. Julia had been school captain of the snooty private girls’ school they’d both attended. She’d been slumming it with the butcher.

Julia didn’t open her eyes. She smiled devilishly.

“I was thinking about your stalker and I remembered it,” she said. “I hadn’t thought about it for ages.”

“But it’s so unlike you!”

“I know, but I was shattered when he dumped me. I couldn’t stop thinking about her, about why he chose her over me. I felt as if I didn’t exist anymore. Ringing her up somehow made me exist. It was like an addiction. I hated myself afterward, and I’d think, I’m never doing that again, but then next thing I’d find myself dialing her number.”

“How did you stop?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just got over him.”

Julia paused and said, “You know what? Eddie the butcher was a beautiful kisser.”

“Didn’t he have a goatee?” said Ellen. “A really wispy one? Like a bit of fairy floss hanging off his chin?”

“Yes, and do you remember how he kept his packet of cigarettes stuffed into the sleeve of his T-shirt?”

“It looked like a growth on his arm.”

“I thought it was unbearably sexy.”

They didn’t say anything for a few seconds, and then they both dissolved into the sort of helpless, wheezing laughter unique to women who had spent their school days together.

“You should look Eddie up on Facebook,” said Ellen when they’d stopped laughing. “He probably has his own butcher shop by now.”

“Oh, God, I’m not that desperate,” said Julia. “Anyway, I am perfectly happy being single.”

You’re lying, my dear friend, thought Ellen, covertly observing Julia’s body language: clenched hands, compressed lips. It had been two years since Julia’s ex-husband had upgraded to the brunette.

Julia lifted her head suddenly. “You didn’t just make up that whole story about the stalker, did you? Is it a fable you’ve made up and the subliminal message is that I’m like the crazy stalker and I need to move on and start dating?”

“What are you talking about?” But Ellen knew exactly what she was talking about.

“I remember you told me once about that famous hypnotist, your hero or whatever, the guy who wore the purple cape.”

“Milton Erickson,” sighed Ellen. “Gosh, you’ve got a good memory.”

People were always underestimating Julia. It was because she was so beautiful, and also because she had the sense of humor of a fourteen-year-old boy.

“You said he used to treat patients by telling stories,” continued Julia.

“He used therapeutic metaphors,” murmured Ellen.

“Well, I’ve noticed that ever since William left me you’ve been casually telling me these little motivational stories about people overcoming obstacles, finding happiness after heartbreak.”

“I have not,” said Ellen. She had.

“Mmmm,” said Julia.

She lifted her chin and smiled at Ellen; Ellen grinned sheepishly back at her.

“So Patrick’s stalker isn’t a therapeutic metaphor?”

“She is not,” said Ellen.

They lay in silence for a few seconds.

“So this Patrick has a crazy ex-girlfriend and a dead ex-wife,” said Julia. “Sounds like a real catch. No complications whatsoever.”

“It doesn’t feel complicated,” said Ellen.

“Yet,” said Julia.

“Thanks for your enthusiastic support,” said Ellen.

“Just saying.”

Julia sat up and took her towel off her head and dabbed it against her pink, shiny cheeks.

“I bet you love the fact that he’s a widower, don’t you?” she said. “It makes him seem like a romantic tragic figure. It’s just like Miles.”

“Miles?”

“Miles. That one-legged boy you fell in love with in high school.”

“Giles,” said Ellen. “And we all fell in love with the one-legged boy. He was gorgeous.”

This was the problem with being friends with someone who knew you when you were a teenager. They never quite take you seriously because they always see you as your stupid teenage self.