Supper Club by Lara Williams Read Online (FREE)
Originally published: July 4, 2019
Author: Lara Williams
Genre: Coming-of-Age Fiction
The Fearful Are Caught
Eat me. Eat me up like cream pudding.
Take me in.
—ANNE SEXTON, “ANNA WHO WAS MAD”
Lina was the first. We met her in a café with cloudy gray furnishings and a needless accumulation of potted plants. The tables were piled with magazines that had titles like Wheatsheaf and Gardenia, their covers featuring tanned girls with ribbony limbs, all pigtails and peasant dresses. One by one, Stevie turned them upside down. Lina messaged us from outside, and we watched her do it, crinkling her nose at the beginnings of rain.
Shall I come inside?
I mean, shall I meet you inside?
Where are you sat?
Sorry, I just hate not knowing where to sit.
Are you near the back window? I think I can see you.
Okay, I can see you. I’m heading in now.
Lina had blond hair knotted over her shoulder. She wore a navy cord suit and a white silk shirt. Her bulky trainers were incongruous to her outfit. She explained she wears them to and from work but in the office is required to wear heels.
She worked as an office manager at an expensive hotel. It was reasonably paid; she’d get a discounted Caesar salad in the hotel bistro for lunch, plus use of the steam room and sauna. But she worked a fifty-hour week and once got docked pay for having chipped her nail varnish on the tram. And watching all the rooms being used for affairs and, worse, for ordering sex workers, had made her paranoid about her husband’s fidelity.
“At first it was the middle-aged couples leering over the counter. Drunk and conspicuous, like we couldn’t believe their audacity.”
She wore a thin gold bracelet, which she rolled between her fingers. Spinning it in circles against her skin until it left a faint red mark.
“Then it was the younger ones. Women asking which lift would take them to Room Thirty-three. Their eyes never really leaving the floor. Walking out of the hotel still adjusting their clothes.”
Stevie and I made notes: me scribbling into a notepad, Stevie tapping at her phone. We didn’t know what we were collating at that point, but the data felt urgent and indispensable. Lina’s round face turning pink.
“But it was the sex workers who got to me. And the men who use them. These completely ordinary-looking men.”
Lina’s obsession began with the women: eyeing the sizes of their waists, scrutinizing their faces—wondering whether he might find them attractive. She’d think about the way they dressed, whether her husband might want her to dress like that. The women, of course, mostly weren’t sex workers, but to her they might as well all have been. These other women, with their lipstick and their lacquered hair. All offering something else, something new, something she never could—being in possession of just the one human body—and trying to make a penny off it, too. She wondered whether she hated these women or if she was afraid of them. Whether there was a difference.