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An excerpt from Kate Maher’s debut novel The Lies That Got Us Here

 

Ava

He leant in seemingly from nowhere, his lips touching mine with desire and force, his hands snaking their way around my waist, hasty yet deliberate. I leant back, casually breaking the bond that had formed between us. He looked sheepishly down at me, his dishevelled blond hair covering his face in the beguiling and charismatic way that made all the girls swoon.

Pulling his head in close to mine, and gazing into his scintillating blue eyes, I whispered in his ear, “You’ve GOT to be kidding me!”

Then I let it rip, slapping him repeatedly across the cheek, drawing the attention of the diners in the Doltone House Ballroom at tables five, seven and eight. He soon learnt (you couldn’t accuse him of being slow), and began to duck my assault.

“Easy there, tiger, you’re making a scene,” he said breathlessly, grabbing a silver platter off the neighbouring table and holding it out in front of him in defence.

Flushing, I responded by grabbing a tall, sleek, crystal vase off our table. Three white tulips and a small amount of water poured from the opening as I held it up in the air sideways. I looked like a quarterback. He dared to smirk, amused by my reaction. This maddened me more.

“I’ll show you a scene!” I bellowed, chasing after him and yelling abuse.

In response, he ran at full speed out of the ballroom, dodging open-mouthed latecomers who looked us up and down, shaking their heads in disapproval. Then I heard the sound of laughter drifting back towards me from somewhere out in front.

I couldn’t believe my ears. He was laughing at me as he ran down the black and gold sweeping staircase into the foyer and out through the glass front entry doors.

A small group of elderly entrepreneurs loitered outside the building. I could see them conversing in a circle and smoking cigars. Their conversations were put temporarily on hold as Daniel dashed through the middle of the group, awkwardly bumping one of the businessmen and knocking the cigar from his hand into his companion’s drink. The men shot Daniel contemptuous looks as they fished the cigar from the glass of brandy and shook their fists at him in gentlemanly wrath.

The word ‘sorry’ was just audible as the kissing bandit acquired newfound speed and gained suitable distance, darting across bustling Elizabeth Street and onto the footpath on the other side.

Following, I stopped at the front entry doors glaring at him across the road.

God, Daniel knows how to push my buttons, I thought irritably, casting him one last tempestuous look as I made the decision to give up the fight. He always outran me. As if in response to my unspoken thoughts, I saw him turn and wink cheekily in my direction.  He dodged a mother and her pram and hoisted himself up and over a large shrub, his entry into Hyde Park, before fleeing into the night.

For a minute I was in awe of his athleticism, then glancing down at the vase-cum-weapon in my hand I began to question his motives. The nerve…the embarrassment…what was he thinking? We’ve been friends for WAY too long…this will definitely make things weird between us…I stood pondering the depth of our relationship for the first time.

But that was just it…there was no depth where Dan and I were concerned. We were best mates, clear and simple. His little scene tonight was surely nothing more than a prank, something light-hearted yet irritating, to pass the time at this incredibly boring gala ball that I practically forced him to come along to. I mean…I didn’t want to look like a loser if I couldn’t fill my plus-one ticket, and nothing infuriates my parents more than Daniel and me hanging out.

A full five minutes elapsed before my anger and confusion gradually subsided.

Still standing in the lobby entranceway, and now that I could focus on something other than throttling Daniel, I noticed objects, people and colours (other than red) and I could put names to faces.

Mr and Mrs Nichols (Father’s friends) were standing opposite me in the lobby, staring and whispering derisively.

The Nichols were renowned for gossiping in their social circles and would no doubt be thinking that the little scene they had just witnessed was typical of the unrefined and wayward Ava Hamilton. They had me categorised from the moment we met, three years ago, and since then, they’ve enjoyed nothing more than hearing and spreading Ava Hamilton gossip…she failed her driver’s licence…she got a tattoo…you name it, they spread it.

Before they could turn to avoid me with the ‘I know her but I don’t want to be seen with her’ dodge, I walked straight over and gave them both a loud and public embrace.

“Oh Mrs and Mrs Nichols,” I cooed, “it’s so wonderful to see you both again, how’s your business travelling these days, I trust it’s going well?” I was the picture of politeness.

Mrs Nichols looked horrified to be seen with me and didn’t answer my question, choosing instead to look down at her feet and cast her husband wide-eyed, pleading glances. Mr Nichols busied himself with small-talk about his business and how all forecasts for the next financial year looked promising.

He wasn’t very perceptive but after about five minutes he picked up on his wife’s insistent glares, ending the conversation with, “Anyway, we should go now, Ava. I’ve got a speech to prepare. Business Acumen in the 21st Century: Intrusive vs Conducive. We all need to question just how far we are willing to go to earn the big bucks.”

I raised my eyebrows and started nodding, feigning interest, while on the inside I was hoping that the venue was serving raspberry jelly for dessert.

I tuned back into the conversation just as Mr Nicholas informed me that he’d been practising for most of the day and was sorry to leave so abruptly, to which Mrs Nichols added, “Yes Ava, it’s such a shame.”

She turned on her pristine Jimmy Choo heels, relishing in their overdue departure.

Before she could get too far away, I moved stealthily in front of her, blocking her path.

Not wanting to let her get away with being a nosy so-and-so, I farewelled them with, “Oh okay, no worries guys. But before you go, can you take this back into the dinner hall for me?”

I held the crystal vase from earlier out in front of Mrs Nichols.

“Make sure you return it to my table, it’s as heavy as shit and I need to maintain my strength for the big car park brawl that I’m due to be involved in later tonight.”

Mrs Nichols’ mouth was agape.

“Oh, and if anyone asks if I threw the vase at him in the end, you be sure to tell them the truth, won’t you, lord knows you got a good enough look…Ta.”

I finished by pushing the vase roughly into Mrs Nichols’ chest and turning on my much more affordable and comfortable $170 Marc Jacobs gold heels.

People were staring at her from every corner of the lobby. Mission accomplished! Oh, the lifestyles of the rich and famous are so predictable and such fun to mess with.

 

Want to read on?  The Lies That Got Us Here is available for purchase above.

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Ava Hamilton

I didn’t like feeling boxed in, or stereotyped by my inherited station in life. I was 23 and eager to live life on my own terms. The problem was that Mother often found ‘my terms’ hard to handle.

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Sean Gregson

“My full rank and name is Lieutenant-Colonel Sean Matthew Gregson. I’m a Taurus and my dog’s name is Buck. Hopefully now you have all of the important facts.”

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Blake Wilkensen

He had never failed to impress a girl in this machine. He wondered if tonight would be the exception, or if Ava was a fan of fast cars.

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Victoria Hamilton

Even in a casual environment like around the house, in the scorching summer heat, my mother was a vision of perfection.

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Luke Hamilton

Luke Hamilton’s presence demanded respect. He walked over to the fireplace and shook hands with Blake, sizing him up for a few seconds before he spoke.

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Colonel Phillips

Left alone, the colonel looked into his mirror for guidance. His jaw locked three times in a row and his twitch was back.
“No!” he admonished himself. “Focus, focus, focus!”

CHARACTER REVEAL – Meet Daniel Williams

Daniel did his best to support his mother and sister but he was only 23 after all.  I could tell that sometimes, being the man of the house wore thin.

 

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