Read The Boys' Club Online

Authors: Wendy Squires

The Boys' Club

W
ENDY
S
QUIRES
has been a newspaper and magazine journalist and
editor for more than twenty years. She started her career at News
Ltd, covering everything from crime, finance, courts and politics
to entertainment, real estate, health and women's issues, before
specialising in reporting on the television industry.

Over the years Wendy has written for newspapers including
The
Australian, The Daily Mirror, The Daily Telegraph
and
The Sunday
Telegraph
, and magazines such as
The Bulletin, Cosmopolitan, The
Australian Women's Weekly, Woman's Day, Madison, Mode, ELLE
,
Shop Til You Drop
and
Who Weekly
. She has also edited
Cleo
and
Australian Style
and worked in senior roles on numerous other
publications.

In 2003, she moved to television as a publicity executive, leaving a
year later without renewing her contract.

Wendy is currently associate editor at
The Australian Women's
Weekly
and lives in Sydney's eastern suburbs with her puppy, Iggy.

The Boys' Club

Wendy Squires

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including printing, photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions provisions of the
Australian Copyright Act 1968
), recording, scanning or by any information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random House Australia. Any unauthorised distribution or use of this text may be a direct infringement of the author's and publisher's rights and those responsible may be liable in law accordingly.

 

The Boys' Club

ePub ISBN 9781864714302
Kindle ISBN
9781864716641

A Bantam book
Published by Random House Australia Pty Ltd
Level 3, 100 Pacific Highway, North Sydney NSW 2060
www.randomhouse.com.au

First published by Bantam in 2009

Copyright © Wendy Squires 2009

The moral right of the author has been asserted.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted by any person
or entity, including internet search engines or retailers, in any form or by any means,
electronic or mechanical, including photocopying (except under the statutory exceptions
provisions of the Australian Copyright Act 1968), recording, scanning or by any
information storage and retrieval system without the prior written permission of Random
House Australia.

Addresses for companies within the Random House Group can be found at
www.randomhouse.com.au/offices

National Library of Australia
Cataloguing-in-Publication Entry

Squires, Wendy.
The boys' club.

ISBN: 9781863256490

A823.4

Cover illustration and design by
www.blacksheep-uk.com
Typeset in Adobe Garamond Pro 12/14.4pt by Post Pre-press Group, Queensland
Printed and bound by Griffin Press, South Australia

For my brother, Robert

Television in Australia is notorious for its tough commercial
environment. While inspiration for this story may emanate from
this fact, this story is entirely fictional and no character described
in this book bears any resemblance to any real person and any
possible similarity is therefore purely coincidental.

PART I
CHAPTER 1

'Mummy, there's meat on the toilet!'

Rosie felt the tug at her arm and tried, in vain, to believe she was
still asleep. The nightmare smell of vomit reached her nostrils, then
registered with her foggy brain, triggering instant nausea.

'Shh, honey. Mummy has a headache and needs to sleep,' Rosie
said, rolling over and noticing a damp patch on the sheet which she
also tried to ignore.

'But I got to pee and there is meat on the toilet,' Leon pleaded,
tugging at her arm once more before revving into tantrum mode.
'Mummy, I got to pee. Now! Get up!'

When Rosie couldn't ignore her son's tears any longer she slowly
opened one ouchy eye and took her first glimpse at this morning's
chaos. First, she had to recognise that, yes, the screaming child at
the end of her bed was in fact her son, Leon, a boisterous four-year-old
who, she now noticed, had a stream of urine dampening the
crumpled left leg of his Spiderman pyjamas.

'Leon, no!' Rosie barked. 'Quickly, sweetheart, to the toilet.'

'BUT THERE IS MEAT IN THERE!' The boy was hysterical.

Pulling back the bedcovers, Rosie grimaced at the tiny pieces
of disgorged food wedged in the cotton weave of her blanket. She
wanted it all to go away. This was not the way to start her day, the one
that had to be better than the day before. At least that's what Rosie
had prayed when she finally crashed into bed last night.

'In the toilet. Now! Come on!' she said in that tone she knew made all
men wince but that she couldn't control when drained of all patience.

She picked up the now crying boy by the back of his jim-jams and
slung him towards the bathroom. Leon let out one of those high-pitched
squeals Rosie dubbed 'the spirit breaker', the kind that came
on in crowded shopping aisles on a Saturday morning and made her
contemplate leaving her child in the deep freeze section and catching
a plane to Mexico.

'You know how to use the bathroom,' Rosie yelled, scaring herself
once again. 'Why are you doing this? Actually, why are you here? Aren't
you supposed to be at your father's? What the fuck is going on?'

'Mummy, you swore!' Leon said sternly, attempting to wriggle out
of his mother's grasp.

Rosie was in no mood to give in, once more grabbing the child by
his arm and leading him down the hall towards the bathroom.

'There is meat in there!
Nooooooo!
' he screamed, lashing wildly at
his mother.

Rosie stopped at the bathroom door. Now she really wanted to be
sick. Facing her was a splash of rancid-smelling chunks that looked as
if all the young boy's innards had exited via an exhaust fan.

'I told Daddy I didn't feel well,' Leon sobbed, looking up at her
with eyes so full of beseeching they may as well have been asking
why she had killed his puppy.

'Come on, help me clean this up. Grab some towels.'

'It's not meat, Mummy. I've been sick,' Leon confessed, sheepishly
lifting his limp arms in search of Rosie's embrace. She picked him up
and allowed his head to flop over her shoulder, all the while noticing
just how heavy her baby boy was now.

'Sweetpea,' she said, patting down the damp hair on his forehead
and noting the unmistakable heat of fever. 'Tell Mummy what
happened. Were you sick at Daddy's? Did you eat something bad?
When did he drop you home? Daddy's supposed to be looking after
you, that's why Mummy's mad.'

'Daddy said you would know what to do,' Leon said innocently.
'He said mummies know that stuff.'

'Daddy was right,' Rosie said, her jaw tightening. 'It seems mummies
are the only ones capable of looking after sick children, even though
Daddy, at his age, should be a grown-up who can manage some
modicum of rational, functioning human behaviour.'

'Don't be mean to Daddy,' Leon snapped. 'You're always mean to
him. He says so.'

That was enough. Rosie put down her son and locked eyes with
him. 'Leon, I'm sorry, I know you love Daddy very much but I have
to tell you that Daddy is sometimes naughty and mean too, and
makes Mummy cry.'

Leon's face was a mix of anger and frustration. 'Daddy says he
would still be here with us if you weren't so mean and working all
the time.'

Rosie was aware of the tears now welling in her red crusty eyes but
couldn't feel their warm trickle; it was as if her intestines had been
removed by force. She breathed, remembering to adopt a rhythm –
'Inhale deeply . . . two, three, four . . . exhale deeply . . . two, three,
four' – as her yoga instructor had taught her. If she caught herself
early, she could sometimes breathe her way out of what she feared
might come next.

'Not in front of the child,' she began to hum under her breath,
in lieu of a more uplifting mantra. 'Not . . . in . . . front . . . of . . .
Leon.'

Rosie knew the easiest way to trigger a panic attack was to, well,
panic. She was also aware that she should let go of the knot of
anxiety she was trying to breathe back down, or she might never
surface, retreating to a blubbering foetal ball in the corner. But at
the moment, a complete nervous breakdown would have to wait.
After the Kennedys there might be a window, but now it was simply
impossible.

'What did you eat, champ? Where are you feeling sick?'

Rosie realised that bastard Jeff had probably fed Leon some crap
takeaway then dumped the kid back at her place this morning when
the vomit hit the fan, not even bothering to call. He was a piece of
work.
Breathe. Slowly.

'I feel sick here.' Leon pointed at his tummy while pulling at his
wet pyjama leg.

'Let's clean you up and then that nasty mess, my man,' Rosie said,
peeling off the sodden flannelette before escorting him past the toilet
scene from hell and into the shower.

As Rosie threw the bath towels down over the gruesome splatter
and wiped wildly with her feet, she stopped to think just how insane
her life had become. Something, she knew, had to give. It could well
be her sanity.

'
Soooo
glamorous,' she laughed to herself, thinking how her
mothers' group no doubt viewed her life as a TV executive, then
tossed the fetid towels at the hamper in the corner.
Oh yes . . . the joys
of having it all. La de fucking da
.

She managed to shower herself and began the daily dilemma of
staring at her wardrobe, then the clock, then the wardrobe again.
Rosie noted that without exception, the less time she had to get ready,
the harder it was to dress and get out the door. And for some reason,
at times such as this she chose to experiment with new combinations,
tugging at plastic-draped coathangers only to discover that the
garment in question was wrong on so many levels she must have
been certifiable when she bought it. There was always something just
not right with every item she owned: not long enough, too short, no
matching shoes, too cold, showed her arms, showed her bum, too
much cleavage, and every other possible reason a garment might be
deemed unworthy.

Rosie grabbed a khaki shirtdress, feeling it only appropriate to
be wearing a combat colour for a day at the network. After all, it
was known as Stalag Six. And every day there was war. Then she
rummaged through her stockings drawer and found a pair of fine
fishnets she willed herself to put on without laddering. She had one
leg on and the other tangled when the sound of the phone drove her
adrenalin level right up and made her stomach burp with bile.

'Fuck!' Rosie knew it would be Big Keith, and that he'd be eating
his breakfast while he spoke. She pictured his porcine features
greased with bacon fat, tomato sauce sliding down his ruddy jowls as
he waited for her to answer.

'You said fuck again,' Leon yelled from afar. 'That's naughty.'

'I'll say what's naughty or not!' Rosie barked back, stepping into
the hall so her son could catch a good glimpse of her cranky face.
'You get back into bed. Now! I have to find someone to look after
you. Where is Daddy, honey? Is he coming back to get you?'

'Mummy, your phone is still ringing. It will be that man you don't
like, the oxyron feef.'

'It's oxygen thief, my darling, and that's the funny name only
Mummy and your godmother Aunty Lou use for Mummy's boss,
okay?'

'It's stopped ringing now, Mummy.'

No! I missed it!

'I tell you what, if you promise never to say that name again, we'll ask
Aunty Lou over to dinner tomorrow. You'd like that, wouldn't you?'

'Yeah! I want Aunty Lou!'

'Okay, I can go one better even. You get Lou
and pizza
if you help
me find the phone.'

Out of bed five minutes and I'm already bribing the kid. I should put
myself on the naughty step as punishment . . .

Rosie tapped her boy's bare bum and watched him spring back to
health as he darted around her bedroom, checking every spot where
his forgetful mum left things.

'It's there, Mummy!' Leon yelled, pointing wildly at a tumble of
clothes under her bed.

Rosie saw the handle of her bag protruding from under the valance
and tugged at it with all the force she could muster, busting the
double-stitched leather strap as she did so. '
Noooo!
' she cried. Picking
it up, she saw that the silver plate inscribed with the Prada logo bore
a dollop of freshly disgorged vomit. She was sure Jennifer Lopez's
handbags were spared such treatment.

Spilling its contents roughly onto the bed, Rosie saw her phone
hit the floor with a clunk and bent down to retrieve it. After groping
blindly through the jumble beside the bed, she dropped to her knees
and spotted her slimline Razor half submerged and vibrating angrily
in a urine-sodden shoebox.

Leon's bloody cat again. That dirty little whizbag minx!

The box was now the bright purple of old ladies' hair, thanks to the
leaching of dye from her lilac suede pumps.

'Sorry, Sergio,' she apologised to their maker as she fished into the
mess. As she did, the annoying carousel ringtone began again . . .
and then there was suddenly silence.
Oh no
, Rosie thought, her
stomach now a taut tangle of nerves.
That was only a half-ring! That's
not fair! No one hangs up before the second bar
. No one but Big Keith,
that is. He would be furious. Rosie could feel tears welling again.

'Don't cry, Mummy,' Leon said, running towards her. 'I'm sorry I
was sick. I feel better now.'

Rosie reached down and Leon's arms curled tightly around her
neck. She lifted him up and buried her head in his damp hair,
allowing herself a second to smell the deliciousness of her beautiful
baby's scent.

'Mummy is fine,' Rosie said, wiping her eyes and tickling Leon on
the tummy.

The boy tried hard to smile but their moment was shattered by
that infernal noise yet again.
Why the hell did I have to pick that
insidious carousel sound
, Rosie thought. The once joyous tune that
had reminded her of good times as a child now evoked images not
of Luna Park, but of John Wayne Gacy–type pedophiles who paint
clowns in jail.

Rosie dropped Leon back down, mouthed the words, 'Get dressed,
now,' and gestured to his room, but before she could even open her
phone to take the call, Leon was back, with a note in his hand. 'From
Daddy,' he said, running out of the room.

Rosie scanned the slip of paper, stunned:

Surf good so dropped boy off early. He was feeling crook. Knew
you' d know what to do – seeing you know everything.

PS: Going away for long weekend. Don't bitch. I have a
life too.

Jeff

Rosie wanted the world to close up and engulf her and be done with
it. But there was no time for tears or wistful thoughts of suicide. Big
Keith was on the phone.

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