Book Extract - Fait Accompli
So I'm sitting on the sofa, with my hair in a warm towel covering the coconut deep-heat hair infusion, into my sixth- of a twenty-five-minute treatment, when my mobile goes. My toes are separated with strange pink foam torture-contraptions and I have painted four of my ten toenails very dark purple. Glancing at the phone, I see it's my Mum, so I let her go straight to voicemail.
Immediately, my landline rings. No-one in my family really believes in leaving a message, they just keep phoning all your numbers till they get hold of you.
I pick up the phone.
"Talia, how did you know it was me?"
"Oh, just good psychic powers today."
"Oh, er, good. How are you?" My mother never asks after my well-being without an ulterior motive.
"Fine, I - "
She interrupts me. No-one in my family has finished a sentence in three generations.
"Good. Right. Listen, Marlene just called me". She obviously means I should listen, as she never does. Marlene is one of her Leeds bridge friends who sees herself as a beta-test Mother, always trying out her strange adult-child-related behaviour on me, and perceiving herself as also contractually obliged to find me a husband.
"Anyway, she'd been at a coffee morning." Does anyone outside of Leeds and the WI still go to coffee mornings? "Met a woman there, Sylvia Levin-Straus, do you know her?"
A purely rhetorical question, as she's probably not that interested in whether I know her or not, and either way she's going to tell me a potted family history going back to Poland in the Middle Ages.
"She was a Krasner, you know, Liverpool family. Married very well. The Lighting Levins. He died. Terrible. Cancer." She actually mouths cancer, as it's too scary to say out loud, but as she always refers to cancer this way, I recognise the breathy pause. More of a visual gag, really; doesn't work on the phone. "Then she met Straus." My mother often refers to people in her stories by family names, to save time. "Straus, I don't remember what he does. Multi, though." Multi is an abbreviation for multi-millionaire. Until I was fifteen I thought it was a real word, possibly related to being in the multi-story car park business. "But she loved Levin, that's why she kept his name. Unusual, don't you think?"
Rhetorical again. Before I get a chance to draw breath, she launches into the rest of the tale.
"Sylvia has a son." What a surprise. "In London."
I should have seen this coming, but I was in partial relaxation mode and neither steeled nor prepared to do battle on the proto-husband front.
"He's a lovely boy." They always are. Are there any other kind? "He's a director - "
I grasp my chance to interrupt her for a change. It's tough as I've been on a lot of active listening courses at work and have, unbelievably, changed the habits of a lifetime.
" - " she grunts to indicate that she's not interested in taking questions.
I try again.
"What kind of director is he? Managing Director? Marketing Director? Photocopy Paper Procurement Director?" I can give as good as I get, if I have to.
But she doesn't think my jokes are funny.
"I don't know." Said with emphasis on the KNOW - and on my stupidity in asking such a banal question, when what really counts is his genes and his availability. "But he's very successful. They're very proud of him. He's just doubled… er, doubled…"
She fades away, bereft of data.
"Whatever he does, he's doubled it. He's very good. At whatever he does. Very successful."
"Doubled sales? Turnover? Complaints?"
"Stop being so clever. Anyway, it's all arranged, he's going to call you."
I really don't want this guy to call me but it seems like a fait accompli and the path of least resistance beckons. Also I need to rinse the conditioner out of my hair.
"What's his name?"
"I don't know. Levin. Straus. Something like that. Anyway, he'll call".
The phone clicks dead. Never good at saying goodbye, my Mother.