In an ex­clu­sive ex­tract from her new book Nine Per­fect Strangers, best-sell­ing au­thor Liane Mo­ri­arty takes us in­side the world of health re­treats – could 10 days of well­ness re­ally change your life for­ever?

VOGUE Australia - - VOGUE BEAUTY -

Ten years later Frances

On a hot, cloud­less Jan­uary day, Frances Welty, the for­merly best-sell­ing ro­man­tic novelist, drove alone through scrubby bush­land six hours north-west of her Syd­ney home.

The black rib­bon of high­way un­rolled hyp­not­i­cally ahead of her as the air-con­di­tion­ing vents roared arc­tic air full-blast at her face. The sky was a gi­ant deep blue dome sur­round­ing her tiny soli­tary car. There was far too much sky for her lik­ing.

She smiled be­cause she re­minded her­self of one of those peev­ish Tri­pAd­vi­sor re­view­ers: So I called re­cep­tion and asked for a lower, cloudier, more com­fort­able sky. A wo­man with a strong for­eign ac­cent said there were no other skies avail­able! She was very rude about it too! NEVER AGAIN. DON’T WASTE YOUR MONEY.

It oc­curred to Frances that she was pos­si­bly quite close to los­ing her mind.

No, she wasn’t. She was fine. Per­fectly sane. Re­ally and truly.

She flexed her hands around the steer­ing wheel, blinked dry eyes be­hind her sun­glasses and yawned so hugely her jaw clicked. “Ow,” she said, although it didn’t hurt.

She sighed, look­ing out the win­dow for some­thing to break the monotony of the land­scape. It would be so harsh and un­for­giv­ing out there. She could just imag­ine it: the drone of blowflies, the mourn­ful cry of crows, and all that glar­ing white-hot light. Wide brown land in­deed.

Come on. Give me a cow, a crop, a shed. I spy with my lit­tle eye some­thing be­gin­ning with …

N. Noth­ing.

She shifted in her seat, and her lower back re­warded her with a jolt of pain so vi­o­lent and per­sonal it brought tears to her eyes.

“For God’s sake,” she said piti­fully.

The back pain had be­gun two weeks ago, on the day she fi­nally ac­cepted that Paul Drab­ble had dis­ap­peared. She was di­alling the num­ber for the po­lice and try­ing to work out how to re­fer to Paul – her part­ner, boyfriend, lover, her ‘spe­cial friend’? – when she felt the first twinge. It was the most ob­vi­ous ex­am­ple of psy­cho­so­matic pain ever, ex­cept know­ing it was psy­cho­so­matic didn’t make it hurt any less.

It was strange to look in the mir­ror each night and see the re­flec­tion of her lower back look­ing as soft, white and gen­tly plump as it al­ways had. She ex­pected to see some­thing dread­ful, like a gnarled mass of tree roots.

She checked the time on the dash­board: 2.57pm. The turn-off should be com­ing up any minute. She’d told the reservations peo­ple at Tran­quil­lum House that she’d be there around 3.30 to 4pm and she hadn’t made any un­sched­uled stops.

Tran­quil­lum House was a ‘bou­tique health and well­ness re­sort’. Her friend Ellen had sug­gested it. “You need to heal,” she’d told Frances af­ter their third cock­tail (an ex­cel­lent white peach Bellini) at lunch last week. “You look like shit.”

Ellen had done a ‘cleanse’ at Tran­quil­lum House three years ago when she, too, had been ‘burnt out’ and ‘run-down’ and ‘out of con­di­tion’ and – “Yes, yes, I get it,” Frances had said.

“It’s quite … un­usual, this place,” Ellen had told Frances. “Their ap­proach is kind of un­con­ven­tional. Life-chang­ing.”

“How ex­actly did your life change?” Frances had asked, rea­son­ably, but she’d never got a clear an­swer to that ques­tion. In the end, it all seemed to come down to the whites of Ellen’s eyes, which had be­come re­ally white,

like, freak­ily white! Also, she lost three ki­los! Although Tran­quil­lum House wasn’t about weight loss – Ellen was at great pains to point that out. It was about well­ness, but, you know, what wo­man com­plains about los­ing three ki­los? Not Ellen, that’s for sure. Not Frances ei­ther.

Frances had gone home and looked up the web­site. She’d never been a fan of self-de­nial, never been on a diet, rarely said no if she felt like say­ing yes or yes if she felt like say­ing no. Ac­cord­ing to her mother, Frances’s first greedy word was “more”. She al­ways wanted more.

Yet the pho­tos of Tran­quil­lum House had filled her with a strange, un­ex­pected yearn­ing. They were golden-hued, all taken at sun­set or sun­rise, or else fil­tered to make it look that way. Pleas­antly mid­dle-aged peo­ple did war­rior poses in a gar­den of white roses next to a beau­ti­ful coun­try house. A cou­ple sat in one of the ‘nat­u­ral hot springs’ that sur­rounded the prop­erty. Their eyes were closed, heads tipped back, and they were smil­ing ec­stat­i­cally as wa­ter bub­bled around them. An­other photo showed a wo­man en­joy­ing a ‘hot stone mas­sage’ on a deckchair next to an aqua­ma­rine swim­ming pool. Frances had imag­ined those hot stones placed with de­light­ful sym­me­try down her own spine, their mag­i­cal heat melt­ing away her pain.

As she dreamed of hot springs and gen­tle yoga, a mes­sage flashed ur­gently on her screen: Only one place re­main­ing for the ex­clu­sive TenDay Mind and Body To­tal Trans­for­ma­tion Re­treat! It had made her feel stupidly com­pet­i­tive and she clicked ‘book now’, even though she didn’t re­ally be­lieve there was only one place re­main­ing. Still, she keyed in her credit card de­tails pretty damned fast, just in case.

It seemed that in a mere 10 days she would be ‘trans­formed’ in ways she ‘never thought pos­si­ble’. There would be fast­ing, med­i­ta­tion, yoga, creative ‘emo­tional re­lease ex­er­cises’. There would be no al­co­hol, sugar, caf­feine, gluten or dairy – but as she’d just had the de­gus­ta­tion menu at the Four Sea­sons, she was stuffed full of al­co­hol, sugar, caf­feine, gluten and dairy, and the thought of giv­ing them up didn’t seem that big a deal. Meals would be ‘per­son­alised’ to her ‘unique needs’.

Be­fore her book­ing was ‘ac­cepted’, she had to an­swer a very long, rather in­va­sive on­line ques­tion­naire about her re­la­tion­ship sta­tus, diet, med­i­cal his­tory, al­co­hol con­sump­tion in the pre­vi­ous week, and so on. She cheer­fully lied her way through it. It was re­ally none of their busi­ness. She even had to up­load a photo taken in the last two weeks. She sent one of her­self from her lunch with Ellen at the Four Sea­sons, hold­ing up a Bellini.

There were boxes to tick for what she hoped to achieve dur­ing her 10 days: ev­ery­thing from ‘in­ten­sive cou­ples coun­selling’ to ‘sig­nif­i­cant weight loss’. Frances ticked only the nice-sound­ing boxes, like ‘spir­i­tual nour­ish­ment’.

Like so many things in life, it had seemed like an ex­cel­lent idea at the time.

The Tri­pAd­vi­sor re­views for Tran­quil­lum House, which she’d looked at af­ter she’d paid her non-re­fund­able fee, had been no­tice­ably mixed. It was ei­ther the best, most in­cred­i­ble ex­pe­ri­ence peo­ple had ever had, they wished they could give it more than five stars, they were evan­gel­i­cal about the food, the hot springs, the staff, or it was the worst ex­pe­ri­ence of their en­tire lives, there was talk of le­gal ac­tion, post­trau­matic stress and dire warn­ings of ‘en­ter at your own peril’.

Frances looked again at the dash­board, hop­ing to catch the clock tick over to three.

Stop it. Fo­cus. Eyes on the road, Frances. You’re the one in charge of this car.

Some­thing flick­ered in her pe­riph­eral vi­sion and she flinched, ready for the mas­sive thud of a kan­ga­roo smash­ing her wind­screen.

It was noth­ing. These imag­i­nary wildlife col­li­sions were all in her head. If it hap­pened, it hap­pened. There prob­a­bly wouldn’t be time to re­act.

She re­mem­bered a long-ago road trip with a boyfriend. They’d come across a dy­ing emu that had been hit by a car in the mid­dle of a high­way. Frances had stayed in the pas­sen­ger seat, a pas­sive princess, while her boyfriend got out and killed the poor emu with a rock. One sharp blow to the head. When he re­turned to the driver’s seat he was sweaty and ex­hil­a­rated, a city boy thrilled with his own hu­mane prag­ma­tism. Frances never quite for­gave him for the sweaty ex­hil­a­ra­tion. He’d liked killing the emu.

Frances wasn’t sure if she could kill a dy­ing an­i­mal, even now when she was 52 years old, fi­nan­cially se­cure and too old to be a princess. “You could kill the emu,” she said out loud. “Cer­tainly you could.” Good­ness. She’d just re­mem­bered that the boyfriend was dead. Wait, was he? Yes, def­i­nitely dead. She’d heard it on the grapevine a few years back. Com­pli­ca­tions from pneu­mo­nia, sup­pos­edly. Gary al­ways did suf­fer ter­ri­bly from colds. Frances had never been es­pe­cially sym­pa­thetic.

At that very mo­ment her nose dripped like a tap. Per­fect tim­ing. She held the steer­ing wheel with one hand and wiped her nose with the back of her other hand. Dis­gust­ing. It was prob­a­bly Gary vin­dic­tively mak­ing her nose drip from the af­ter­life. Fair enough too. They’d once been on road trips and pro­fessed their love and now she couldn’t even be both­ered to re­mem­ber he was dead.

She apol­o­gised to Gary, although, re­ally, if he was able to ac­cess her thoughts then he should know that it wasn’t her fault; if he’d made it to this age he’d know how ex­traor­di­nar­ily vague and for­get­ful one be­came. Not all the time. Just some­times.

Some­times I’m as sharp as a tack, Gary.

She sniffed again. It seemed like she’d had this truly hor­ren­dous head cold even longer than the back pain. Hadn’t she been snif­fling the day she de­liv­ered her man­u­script? Three weeks ago. Her nine­teenth novel. She was still wait­ing to hear what her pub­lisher thought. Once upon a time, back in the late 90s, her ‘hey­day’, her edi­tor would have sent cham­pagne and flow­ers within two days of de­liv­ery, to­gether with a hand­writ­ten note. An­other mas­ter­piece!

She un­der­stood she was no longer in her hey­day, but she was still a solid, mid-level per­former. An ef­fu­sive email would be nice.

Or just a friendly one.

Even a brisk one-liner: Sorry, haven’t got to it yet but can’t wait! That would have been po­lite.

A fear she re­fused to ac­knowl­edge tried to worm its way up from her sub­con­scious. No. No. Ab­so­lutely not.

She clutched the steer­ing wheel and tried to calm her breath­ing. She’d been throw­ing back cold and flu tablets to try to clear her nose and the pseu­doephedrine was mak­ing her heart race, as if some­thing won­der­ful or ter­ri­ble was about to hap­pen. It re­minded her of the feel­ing of walk­ing down the aisle on both her wed­ding days.

She was prob­a­bly ad­dicted to the cold and flu tablets. She was eas­ily ad­dicted. Men. Food. Wine. In fact, she felt like a glass of wine right now and the sun was still high in the sky. Lately, she’d been drink­ing, maybe not ex­ces­sively, but cer­tainly more en­thu­si­as­ti­cally than usual. She was on that slip­pery slope, hurtling to­wards drug and al­co­hol ad­dic­tion! Ex­cit­ing to know she could still change in sig­nif­i­cant ways.

Back home there was a half-empty bot­tle of pinot noir sit­ting brazenly on her writ­ing desk for any­one (only the clean­ing lady) to see. She was Ernest frig­ging Hem­ing­way. Didn’t he have a bad back too? They had so much in com­mon.

Ex­cept that Frances had a weak­ness for ad­jec­tives and ad­verbs. Ap­par­ently she scat­tered them about her nov­els like throw cush­ions. What was that Mark Twain quote Sol used to mur­mur to him­self, just loud enough for her to hear, while read­ing her manuscripts? When you catch an adjective, kill it.

Sol was a real man who didn’t like ad­jec­tives or throw cush­ions. She had an im­age of Sol, in bed, on top of her, swear­ing com­i­cally as he pulled out yet an­other cush­ion from be­hind her head, chuck­ing it across the room while she gig­gled. She shook her head as if to shake off the me­mory. Fond sex­ual mem­o­ries felt like a point for her first hus­band. When ev­ery­thing was good in Frances’s life she wished both her ex-hus­bands noth­ing but hap­pi­ness and ex­cel­lent erec­tile func­tion. Right now, she wished plagues of lo­custs to rain down upon their sil­very heads.

She sucked on the tiny, vi­cious pa­per cut on the tip of her right thumb. Ev­ery now and then it throbbed to re­mind her that it might be the small­est of her ail­ments but it could still ruin her day.

Her car veered to the bumpy side of the road and she re­moved her thumb from her mouth and clung to the steer­ing wheel. “Whoopsa-daisy.”

She had quite short legs, so she had to move the driver’s seat close to the steer­ing wheel. Henry used to say she looked like she was driv­ing a dodgem car. He said it was cute. But af­ter five years or so he stopped find­ing it cute and swore ev­ery time he got in the car and had to slide the seat back.

She found his sleep-talk­ing charm­ing for about five years or so too. Fo­cus!

The coun­try­side flew by. At last a sign: Wel­come to the town of Jar­ri­bong. We’re proud to be a TIDY TOWN.

She slowed down to the speed limit of 50, which felt al­most ab­surdly slow.

Her head swiv­elled from side to side as she stud­ied the town. A Chi­nese restau­rant with a faded red and gold dragon on the door. A ser­vice sta­tion that looked closed. A red-brick post of­fice. A driv­ethrough bot­tle shop that looked open. A po­lice sta­tion that seemed en­tirely un­nec­es­sary. Not a per­son in sight. It might have been tidy but it felt post-apoc­a­lyp­tic. She thought of her lat­est man­u­script. It was set in a small town. This was the gritty, bleak re­al­ity of small towns! Not the charm­ing vil­lage she’d cre­ated, nes­tled in the moun­tains, with a warm, bustling cafe that smelled of cin­na­mon and, most fan­ci­ful of all, a book­store sup­pos­edly mak­ing a profit. The re­view­ers would rightly call it ‘twee’, but it prob­a­bly wouldn’t get re­viewed and she never read her re­views any­way.

So that was it for poor old Jar­ri­bong. Good­bye, sad lit­tle tidy town. She put her foot on the ac­cel­er­a­tor and watched her speed slide back up to 100. The web­site had said that the turn-off was 20 min­utes out­side of Jar­ri­bong.

There was a sign ahead. She nar­rowed her eyes, hunched over the wheel to read it: Tran­quil­lum House next turn on the left. Her heart lifted. She’d done it. She’d driven six hours with­out quite los­ing her mind. Then her heart sank, be­cause now she was go­ing to have to go through with this thing. “Turn left in one kilo­me­tre,” or­dered her GPS.

“I don’t want to turn left in one kilo­me­tre,” said Frances dole­fully. She wasn’t even meant to be here, in this sea­son or hemi­sphere. She was meant to be with her ‘spe­cial friend’ Paul Drab­ble in Santa Bar­bara, the Cal­i­for­nian win­ter sun warm upon their faces as they vis­ited winer­ies, res­tau­rants and mu­se­ums. She was meant to be spend­ing long lin­ger­ing after­noons get­ting to know Paul’s 12-year-old son, Ari, hear­ing his dry lit­tle chuckle as he taught her how to play some vi­o­lent PlayS­ta­tion game he loved. Frances’s friends with kids had laughed and scoffed over that, but she’d been look­ing for­ward to learn­ing the game; the sto­ry­lines sounded re­ally quite rich and com­plex.

An im­age came to her of that de­tec­tive’s earnest young face. He had freck­les left over from child­hood and he wrote down ev­ery­thing she said in la­bo­ri­ous long­hand us­ing a scratchy blue ball­point. His spell­ing was atro­cious. He spelled ‘to­mor­row’ with two m’s. He couldn’t meet her eye.

A sud­den rush of in­tense heat en­veloped her body at the me­mory. Hu­mil­i­a­tion? Prob­a­bly.

Her head swam. She shiv­ered and shook. Her hands were in­stantly slip­pery on the steer­ing wheel.

Pull over, she told her­self. You need to pull over right now.

She in­di­cated, even though there was no-one be­hind her, and came to a stop on the side of the road. She had the sense to switch on her haz­ard lights. Sweat poured from her face. Within sec­onds her shirt was drenched. She pulled at the fab­ric and smeared back strands of wet hair from her fore­head. A cold chill made her shake.

She sneezed, and the act of sneez­ing caused her back to spasm. The pain was of such truly bib­li­cal pro­por­tions that she be­gan to laugh as tears streamed down her face. Oh yes, she was los­ing her mind. She cer­tainly was.

A great wave of un­fo­cused pri­mal rage swept over her.

She banged her fist against her car horn over and over, closed her eyes, threw back her head and screamed in uni­son with the horn, be­cause she had this cold and this back pain and this bro­ken bloody heart and –


She opened her eyes and jumped back in her seat.

A man crouched next to her car win­dow, rap­ping hard on the glass. She saw what must be his car pulled up on the op­po­site side of the road, with its haz­ard lights also on.

“You okay?” he shouted. “Do you need help?”

For God’s sake. This was meant to be a pri­vate mo­ment of de­spair. How deeply em­bar­rass­ing. She pressed the but­ton to lower the win­dow.

A very large, un­pleas­ant, un­kempt, un­shaven man peered in at her. He wore a T-shirt with the faded em­blem of some an­cient band over a proud, solid beer belly and low-slung blue jeans. He was prob­a­bly one of those out­back se­rial killers. Even though this wasn’t tech­ni­cally the out­back. He was prob­a­bly on hol­i­day from the out­back.

“Got car trou­ble?” he asked.

“No,” said Frances. She sat up straighter and tried to smile.

She ran a hand through her damp hair. “Thank you. I’m fine. The car is fine. Ev­ery­thing is fine.”

“Are you sick?” said the man. He looked faintly dis­gusted.

“She banged her fist against her car horn over and over, closed her eyes, threw back her head and screamed in uni­son with the horn, be­cause she had this cold and this back pain and this bro­ken bloody heart”

“No,” said Frances. “Not re­ally. Just a bad cold.”

“Maybe you’ve got the proper flu. You look re­ally sick,” said the man. He frowned, and his eyes moved to the back of her car. “And you were scream­ing and sound­ing your horn like you … were in trou­ble.”

“Yes,” said Frances. “Well. I thought I was alone in the mid­dle of nowhere. I was just … hav­ing a bad mo­ment.” She tried to keep the re­sent­ment from her voice. He was a good cit­i­zen who had done the right thing. He’d done what any­one would do.

“Thank you for stop­ping but I’m fine,” she said nicely, with her sweet­est, most pla­ca­tory smile. One must pla­cate large strange men in the mid­dle of nowhere.

“Okay then.” The man straight­ened with a groan of ef­fort, his hands on his thighs to give him­self lever­age, but then he rapped the top of her car with his knuck­les and bent down again, sud­denly de­ci­sive. I’m a man, I know what’s what. “Look, are you too sick to drive? Be­cause if you’re not safe to drive, if you’re a dan­ger to other driv­ers on the road, I re­ally can’t in good con­science let you –”

Frances sat up straight. For heaven’s sake. “I just had a hot flash,” she snapped.

The man blanched. “Oh!” He stud­ied her. Paused. “I al­ways thought it was a hot flush,” he said.

“I be­lieve both terms are used,” said Frances. This was her third one. She’d done a lot of read­ing, spo­ken to ev­ery wo­man she knew over the age of 45, and had a dou­ble ap­point­ment with her GP, where she had cried: “But no-one ever said it was like this!” For now they were mon­i­tor­ing things. She was tak­ing sup­ple­ments, cut­ting back on al­co­hol and spicy foods. Ha ha.

“So you’re okay,” said the man. He looked up and down the high­way as if for help.

“I re­ally am per­fectly fine,” said Frances. Her back gave a friendly lit­tle spasm and she tried not to flinch.

“I didn’t re­alise that hot flashes – flushes – were so …” “Dra­matic? Well, they’re not for every­one. Just a lucky few.” “Isn’t there … what’s it called? Hor­mone re­place­ment ther­apy?” Oh my Lord.

“Can you pre­scribe me some­thing?” asked Frances brightly.

The man took a lit­tle step back from the car, hands up in sur­ren­der. “Sorry. It’s just, I think that was what my wife … Any­way, none of my busi­ness. If ev­ery­thing is okay, I’ll just be on my way.”

“Great,” said Frances. “Thank you for stop­ping.”

“No wor­ries.”

He lifted a hand, went to say some­thing else, ev­i­dently changed his mind and walked back to­wards his car. There were sweat marks on the back of his T-shirt. A moun­tain of a man. Lucky he de­cided she wasn’t worth killing and rap­ing. He prob­a­bly pre­ferred his vic­tims less sweaty.

She watched him start his car and pull out onto the high­way. He tipped one fin­ger to his fore­head as he drove off.

She waited un­til his car was a tiny speck in her rear-view mir­ror and then she reached over for the change of clothes she had wait­ing on the pas­sen­ger seat ready for this ex­act sit­u­a­tion.

“Menopause?” her 80-year-old mother had said vaguely, on the phone from the other side of the world, where she now lived bliss­fully in the south of France. “Oh, I don’t think it gave me too much trou­ble, dar­ling. I got it all over and done with in a week­end, as I re­call. I’m sure you’ll be the same. I never had those hot flushes. I think they’re a myth, to be hon­est.”

Hmmph, thought Frances as she used a towel to wipe away her myth­i­cal sweat.

She thought of tex­ting a photo of her tomato-red face to her group of school­friends, some of whom she’d known since kin­der­garten. Now when they went out to din­ner they dis­cussed menopause symp­toms with the same avid hor­ror with which they’d once dis­cussed their first pe­ri­ods. No­body else was get­ting these over-the-top hot flushes like Frances, so she was tak­ing it for the team. Like ev­ery­thing in life, their re­ac­tions to menopause were driven by their per­son­al­i­ties: Di said she was in a per­ma­nent state of rage and if her gy­nae­col­o­gist didn’t agree to a hys­terec­tomy soon she was go­ing to grab the lit­tle fucker by the col­lar and slam him up against the wall, Mon­ica was em­brac­ing the “beau­ti­ful in­ten­sity” of her emo­tions and Na­talie was won­der­ing anx­iously if it was con­tribut­ing to her anx­i­ety. They all agreed it was to­tally typ­i­cal of their friend Gil­lian to die so she could get out of menopause and then they cried into their pros­ecco.

No, she wouldn’t text her school­friends, be­cause she sud­denly re­mem­bered how at that last din­ner she’d looked up from her menu to catch an ex­change of glances that most def­i­nitely meant: ‘Poor Frances’. She could not bear pity. That par­tic­u­lar group of solidly mar­ried friends was meant to envy her, or they’d pre­tended to envy her any­way, for all these years, but it seemed that be­ing child­less and sin­gle in your 30s was very dif­fer­ent from be­ing child­less and sin­gle in your 50s. No longer glam­orous. Now kind of tragic.

I’m only tem­po­rar­ily tragic, she told her­self as she pulled on a clean blouse that showed a lot of cleav­age. She tossed the sweaty shirt into the back seat, restarted the car, looked over her shoul­der and pulled out onto the high­way. Tem­po­rar­ily Tragic. It could be the name of a band.

There was a sign. She squinted. Tran­quil­lum House, it said. “Left turn ahead,” said her GPS.

“Yes, I know, I see it.”

She met her own eyes in the rear-view mir­ror and tried to give her­self a wry ‘isn’t life in­ter­est­ing!’ look.

Frances had al­ways en­joyed the idea of par­al­lel uni­verses in which mul­ti­ple ver­sions of her­self tried out dif­fer­ent lives – one where she was a CEO in­stead of an au­thor; one where she was a mother of two or four or six kids in­stead of none; one where she hadn’t di­vorced Sol and one where she hadn’t di­vorced Henry – but for the most part she’d al­ways felt sat­is­fied or at least ac­cept­ing of the uni­verse in which she found her­self … ex­cept for right now, be­cause right now it felt like there had been some sort of cat­a­clysmic quan­tum physics ad­min­is­tra­tive er­ror. She’d slipped uni­verses. She was meant to be high on lust and love in Amer­ica, not pain-rid­den and grief-stricken in Aus­tralia. It was just wrong. Un­ac­cept­able.

And yet here she was. There was noth­ing else to do, nowhere else to turn.

“God­damn it,” she said, and turned left. Nine Per­fect Strangers by Liane Mo­ri­arty

(Macmil­lan Aus­tralia, $32.99) is out now.

“No, she wouldn’t text her school­friends, be­cause she sud­denly re­mem­bered how at that last din­ner she’d looked up from her menu to catch an ex­change of glances that most def­i­nitely meant: ‘ Poor Frances’”

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