Squashed

Josephine sat across from me on the other side of the bistro table. She opened the lid of her compact mirror and said, “Just because they play French music in the background, it doesn’t mean they’re serving French cuisine. And don’t order anything with Parmesan cheese. You know how it reminds me of vomit.”

She appeared to be well-preserved, even at thirty-eight. She went to the beauty parlour every week. I always believed beautifying was supposed to be more about inner wellness than outer beauty. I wondered how healthy her insides must be after she’d been poked, prodded and experimented on for the past ten years.

“You still doing yoga every morning?” I asked.

I caught her in the middle of putting lipstick on. Again. Always touching-up. She held her mouth open, shaped in an oval, teeth hidden behind her fleshy lips. Natural. No botox. So she told me.

Picking up a clean serviette, she folded it in half and stuck it between her lips, leaving the stain of her mouth on its surface.

“Every morning, darling. Without fail.”

“And are you still jogging after lunch?”

Josephine’s frowns were more like pouts. “Alas, I have been too busy lately.”

We used to work together. That’s how we met. She’d wear a turquoise thong under thin white pants. Everyday, she’d bring her own lunch, packed in a lingerie store shopping bag. Talk about knowing how to advertise. My husband had sniffed her out at our Christmas party, but had promptly given up the hunt when I had grafted my arm to his elbow for the remainder of the evening.

I folded up my menu. “Are you ready to order yet?”

“Something sinful…I want to be bad.”

“Order cheese cake,” I said.

“Have you ever been here before?” Josephine asked, looking down at the menu she held between her hands.

“Nope.” I’d known the restaurant owner since high school, a twice-divorced and now recently widowed woman who had truly loved her third husband. “Why did you want to talk to me?” I asked.

Just as Josephine looked up, I felt a tapping on my shoulder. “Excuse me ladies, but I have an important message for one of you.”

The waiter looked directly at me, holding a small piece of paper in his hand. The note said,
I’ve already put the laxative in a bowl of today’s special -- the squash soup. Make sure she finishes every drop.

I looked up at the woman who’d become known to almost all of the local women married to handsome middle-aged men.

“You’ve got to try the soup of the day.”