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‘To high seas and mermaids!’
Helena held out her glass while Dylan, Bette and Tina all gently clinked theirs against it. ‘To high seas and mermaids!’ they echoed, with puzzled smiles.
‘My uncle Harry was a sailor,’ Helena explained. ‘And it sounds right for a table like ours, doesn’t it?’
The irony, of course, was that when this grand old dining table was made the idea of four women sitting down to a meal, two of them married to each other, two of them divorced from each other, all of them raising children without men, pursuing careers and making money, even eating vegetarian food – all of that would have been unthinkable. So they were joyous, even festive, as they began passing round serving dishes full of colourful, mouth-watering food. There was roasted cauliflower with fennel, eggplant with almonds and pomegranate, butternut squash risotto, salads, sambals, and Bette’s best approximation of Waddy’s legendary bruschetta . . .
‘Well, well . . .’
‘Mmm . . .’
‘Smells amazing . . .’
‘I could eat a horse.’
Bette glanced at Helena. ‘Note to self: put lock on stable doors when getting a horse around here.’
Helena smiled, then said, ‘I have eaten it, actually.’
‘Oh. In France?’
‘Did you know you were ordering it?’
‘Of course,’ Bette said. ‘I was twenty. I thought I was edgy.’ She winked at Tina.
‘I’d have loved to have seen you back then,’ Helena said, gazing at Bette.
‘She has photos,’ Tina said, licking olive oil off her fingers.
‘Don’t we all, darling,’ Helena said. ‘We’ll get them out one night and you can see what Dylan looked like with a perm . . .’
They laughed, with Dylan looking obligingly shocked, and then the conversation moved on to weekend plans. It was Friday night and the Porter-Kennards had arrived around five. Angie was eating at Rocco’s house but would be back in time for a nightcap on the patio around ten. Tomorrow, Bette and Tina were going to go explore a little on bikes, maybe take a picnic and look at the plot of land their purchase had added to the vineyard.
‘We thought we’d go after breakfast,’ Tina said.
‘Lovely,’ Helena said. ‘Take care with the sun, though.’