Home > The Party Crasher(9)

The Party Crasher(9)
Author: Sophie Kinsella

   What no one will believe is, I tried to give Krista a chance. I really did. That day we first met her at Greenoaks, I went along determined to be positive.

   OK, yes, I found it weird, watching a strange, glamorous woman tottering around Mimi’s kitchen in tight jeans and high heels. Running a manicured hand down Dad’s back. Calling him “Tone” and nestling up to him on the sofa like a teenager and roaring at some private joke, clearly involving sex. But I wasn’t “against her from the start,” which is what everyone seems to think.

       Bean said afterward we should have met first at some neutral venue, and I expect she’s right. It was always going to be hard, seeing another woman in Mimi’s place. In most families the mum stays in the family home, but as Mimi kept saying, it was Dad’s house long before she was on the scene. So Mimi insisted on moving out, and after what seemed about five minutes, Krista moved in.

   And that was never going to be easy. But hand on heart, I was prepared to tolerate and even like Krista. It wasn’t until the third time I met her that the alarm bells really started ringing. And that was the day when things first went badly wrong for Dad and me.

   Our relationship had already disintegrated a bit. For quite a while, after the announcement about their divorce, I couldn’t really talk to Dad or Mimi, because all I wanted to do was wail, Why? or How can you? or You’ve made a terrible mistake! and Bean said this wouldn’t be helpful. (Nor would she join in my short-lived plan to get Dad and Mimi back together by re-creating their first date and tricking them into going on it.)

   So it was hard. And we were all a bit unnerved by the way Dad had changed. He’d clearly tried to shape up for Krista by buying new clothes (bad jeans) and putting on fake tan (he denied it, but it was obvious) and buying cases of champagne the whole time. He and Krista didn’t ever seem to drink anything but champagne, which had always been a special-occasion thing before.

       They kept going for luxury mini-breaks and posting photos of themselves in bathrobes on Dad’s new Instagram account. And talking about buying a villa in Portugal, where Dad had never even been before—it was all Krista’s idea. He even bought her a diamond pendant for their “four-month-iversary,” and she talked about it constantly, showing off and playing with it. Mind my sparkler! Look at the light on my sparkler!

   It was as if a whole new, different Dad had emerged. But at least I was still talking to him. I still felt like he was on my side. Until that day.

   I’d gone to Greenoaks for lunch—just me. It was when Dad was on the phone that I wandered into the sitting room and found Krista taking a photo of the bureau. Then she murmured, “Bureau, six drawers, gold handles,” quietly into her phone, as if she was dictating. I was so startled, I couldn’t even move for a moment, then I tiptoed away.

   I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. All through lunch, I tried to think of an innocent explanation for what she was doing. But I just couldn’t. So I asked Dad if I could see him in the office about a “family thing,” and then spilled it all out.

   The conversation didn’t just go badly. It went terribly. I can’t remember exactly what he said, but I can remember his angry, defensive voice, telling me I shouldn’t snoop around, that I had to accept he was with Krista now, and I should be happy for him, not invent problems, and I must promise not to mention this to Gus or Bean, as it would turn them against Krista.

       I remember staring back at him, my face tingling. I was so shocked that he’d taken Krista’s side against me, I could barely stutter a reply before leaving as quickly as I could.

   I never did tell Gus or Bean about that day. I kept my promise to Dad. But I hadn’t promised not to start a feud with Krista, had I?

   So I did that instead.

   My first salvo was at Krista’s birthday. Dad had summoned us all to this gruesome lunch to “celebrate” Krista’s big day. She was turning “forty-one years young,” as she told us about a thousand times.

   Did we want to “celebrate” Krista’s birthday? No. Are we her proper family? No. Was it just a chance for her to get out all the expensive china and hire caterers and pop champagne bottles and show off? Yes.

   But Bean said we should make an effort and I should stop saying “celebrate” with snarky quote marks and maybe if we truly tried to be happy for Krista, we would start to bond with her.

   I sometimes give up on Bean.

   So I trooped along and gave Krista a gift-wrapped framed photo as her present. It was a gold-tinted picture of her. In a gold frame. And it had two comedy speech bubbles. One read, Look at my sparkler!!! and the other read, Ker-ching!!!

   OK, Ker-ching!!! might have been going a bit far. But I just couldn’t resist it.

   I was all ready to defend it vigorously as an innocent, playful gift—but I didn’t even need to. Krista stared at it for a few seconds, her face rigid, then said, “Super!” and shoved the photo straight in her bag before anyone else could see it.

       And then she threw her drink over me. The official version was that she accidentally “dropped” her drink over me. But she knows and I know: It was no accident. She chucked her kir royale over my new cream dress, then instantly played innocent by grabbing her dachshund, Bambi, and stroking his head, saying, “What did Mummy do, Bambi? Silly Mummy dropped her dwinkie on poor Effie!”

   So that was the day she and I tacitly declared war. And for a while we were in quite active battle. Our weapons were mostly passive-aggressive emails, backhanded compliments on Instagram, and insults dressed up as affection.

   It was almost fun, goading her and waiting to see how she would retaliate. It was a kind of game. I still went to family gatherings, bristling silently, watching Krista with a wary eye, but there was never anything I could actually object to. Until one evening two months ago. We all three arrived for supper at Greenoaks together—Gus drove us down—and I was actually in quite a good mood. Until Dad said on the doorstep, avoiding looking at us in the eye, “Oh, by the way, Krista’s repainted the kitchen. Don’t worry, I took some photos of it first, as souvenirs.”

   Just like that. I still can’t believe it. That he let Krista do it in the first place. That he told us so casually. That he didn’t understand how devastated we would all be.

   Gus just gasped as he walked in and saw the white-painted cupboards. Bean’s face kind of crumpled. As for me, I felt shell-shocked. I remember standing, feeling as though my whole childhood had been wiped out.

       The worst thing was, Krista was proud of her desecration. She kept telling us the paint was called “Wimborne White” and saying it looked so much fresher now. I was so dismayed at that point, I could barely speak, but when I heard the word fresher, I couldn’t help snapping, “You know, I’m sure the Mona Lisa would look ‘fresher’ if you plastered that with Farrow and Ball too. You should offer your services to the Louvre!”

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