Title: Housewife Chronicles
Author: Jennifer Snow
Genre: Dark Comedy/Women's Fiction
Release Date: January 12, 2021
Finding out her husband was cheating on her two weeks before his death should have been the worst thing to happen to Beth Cartwright that year. But being a widowed, single mom in a community of upper-class housewives is proving to be far more difficult.
Living next door to her husband's mistress-Gina Thompson, a hot yoga instructor, has Beth wanting to pack up her teenage kids and get the hell out of the neighborhood. But when she becomes a suspect in her husband's death, she needs to rely on the other neighborhood housewives and her husband's mistress to prove she is innocent.
Housewife Chronicles is a dark comedy with a hint of mystery and a focus on unlikely female friendships.
Upper-middle class was a special version of hell.
Expensive homes with crippling mortgages, perfectly manicured lawns, and luxurious cars in the driveways could mask all kinds of sins. I like to think the secrets happening within the walls of my own split by-level weren’t the worst ones in the neighborhood. As I jog through the streets, my feet pounding the pavement in the same footsteps every morning for fifteen years, I fantasize about the lives I’m not living.
My husband’s death should have been the worst thing to happen to me this month, but as it turns out, there are worse things a husband can do to a wife than simply die.
Being the single widowed mom in a community of housewives was nowhere on my life plan. That thing we all fill out before high school graduation–our hopes and dreams, our roadmap to our future.
So optimistic. So ultimately full of shit.
I stop in front of the white picket fence of a three-story house and stare at the red-painted door. Red is supposed to be inviting. Apparently, everyone in the neighborhood had gotten the memo–except me. Our door is still white.
Would painting it now stop the neighbors from giving me those suspicious looks?
Oh good, Beth finally painted the door. She’s one of us now.
Or would it be,
Beth finally painted the door. What is she hiding now?
I keep saying I'm going to stop coming to this weekly coffee, but after twelve years, I wouldn't know how to quit. It’s my routine. So far ingrained in my social calendar as though part of my DNA. Can one ever fully escape the cult that is upper class housewives? Howard's death could have at least given me that much.
I finish stretching, not in a rush to go inside, but the garbage pick-up truck inches closer, and I want to avoid the feel of male eyes on my ass or worse, the embarrassment of not warranting their attention. I climb the stairs, turn the knob on the front door, and enter the house.
Instead of freeing me from this obligation, Howard's death had somehow become the new reason I need these women. The same ones who brought his affair to light two weeks before he died. The ones who'd picked up the scent of an extramarital vibe around my husband at a neighborhood barbeque and followed the trail right to the house next door to mine where the divorced yoga instructor lives.
My yoga instructor.
My Fitbit Heart Rate Monitor starts beeping.
Deep breath in. Deep breath out.
Howard is dead… Karma already did what I'd been tempted to.
An almost shrill, soprano voice drifts down a spiraling marble staircase as I close the door behind me. “Elizabeth, is that you?”
No. It's Beth. Just Beth, but we've already had this conversation a dozen times, and Grace refuses to believe my parents actually named me Beth. Nicknames weren't acceptable to her.
I jog up the stairs to the third floor. “Where are you guys?
“My bedroom,” Grace says.
As I approach the Master bedroom at the end of the hall, that a small child could go missing in-if children were allowed inside the home-I hear them talking about me. They know I can hear them. They don’t care.
“Why are we always waiting on her?”
“She doesn't work, yet she's always late.”
“I’m never late when coffee is at my house,” I say, entering the room. “What are we...?”
I stop at the sight of Sophia sitting on Grace’s bed–topless. Grace has her hand on Sophia’s left breast, but bruising and a faint scar around the nipple are visible on the other.
“Feel. Just like the real thing,” Sophia tells me.
A month ago, she’d said the same thing about her new platinum blonde hair extensions.
“No thanks. I have my own.” Not nearly as impressive as the double D’s I can’t look away from. Nothing these women do ever surprises me anymore. I never know what I’m going to walk into…maybe that’s the real reason I still come to coffee.
“Come on. Everyone else has,” Grace says.
The other woman in the room, Holly, is on her cell phone near the window, but she nods her agreement.
Well, if Holly did it.
I step forward and poke one. Sophia grabs my hands and presses one to each breast. I’m held captive. They feel nothing like I assumed they would. Only days after surgery, and they do feel real. Like mine did before two children, gravity, and a lack of giving a shit turned my breasts into a place to balance my plate when I ate dinner at my pottery wheel. Which was every day lately.
“Okay, now my nipples are getting hard.”
I drop my hands.
“Just kidding, the surgery eliminated almost all nipple sensitivity,” Sophia says, reaching for a tan, surgical bra and her discarded shirt draped across the bed.
Grace hands me a card, and I read “Dr. River Onyx-Top Breast Augmentation Surgeon in L.A.”
So, I'm not the only one to notice my saggy, lifeless breasts.
“You really should call him. Gina recommended him to me and–” Sophia stops short.
The women all exchange looks.
“We can say her name.” Gina and her rocking body are not going anywhere, anytime soon, and despite the trash-talk about her, I know they’re all still attending her yoga classes. Everyone could claim to blame Gina for the affair, but we all still wanted a body like hers.
I glance at the card again. “Can I keep this?”
“Tell him I referred you,” Sophia says.
I slide the business card into the pocket of my sweatpants. I’d never book an appointment with a cosmetic surgeon while in my right state of mind, but in case there’s an even lower point for me to reach… “Is coffee made?”
“I’ve got something better than coffee,” Grace says. “Follow me.” She leaves the room, her expensive perfume–a mix of honey and daffodils–lingers like a cloud behind her, but I love the smell, so I breathe it in. She refuses to tell any of us what brand it is, like it’s her signature scent, and she can’t be unique and envied without it.
I watch Sophia on the stairs, staring at her new chest, but the breasts don’t move as she descends. No bounce, no sag. They stay perfectly put.
It would be nice to have one thing in my life that under control.
Holly follows behind the group, her cell phone still plastered to her ear, talking quietly in an authoritative tone, her short, graying, jet-black bob covers her left eye and cheek. I’m not sure I’d even recognize her if I saw her full face.
We reach the lower level, and unlike the delicious scent of Grace’s perfume, a rancid smell fills my nostrils as I enter the kitchen. “What is that?” I ask, trying not to breathe too deeply.
“Durian tea,” Grace says, as a timer sounds on the counter.
“Ohhh, I read about this in Cosmo last month.” Holly has finally put her cell phone away. She leans over a pot boiling on the stove.
At our age we are still reading Cosmo? Must be the doctor’s office copies. Wouldn’t we get carded if we actually tried to buy one?
Sorry, ma’am, but the amount of wrinkles on your face suggests you are too far gone for these pearls of wisdom to be of any benefit. It would be unethical to allow you to waste your money.
“This stuff is supposed to be the ‘king of fruit,’” Sophia says, reading a text message on her cell phone. Her crazy long, mint green nails fly over the keyboard as she responds.
“Then why does it smell so bad?” I ask.
“Give it a chance,” Grace says. “It’s really good for you. It’s even an aphrodisiac.”
“Not exactly what I need right now.”
Grace pours four mugs of the hot, clear liquid and places one in front of me anyway. I open the fridge for a bottle of water instead. As I go to sit on a stool at the counter, Grace stops me. She scans the kitchen, grabs a plastic step stool, and gives it to me to sit on. “You don’t mind. I just had them redone, and you’re all sweaty from your run.”
I sit on the newly reupholstered stool. She can kiss my slightly sweaty ass.
Grace doesn’t argue. She doesn’t believe in conflict. It’s one of the things that intrigues me most about her. She’s so calm and even-tempered. For my own sense of self-worth, I have to envision her screaming in her massive walk-in closet when no one is around. She puts the stool back and addresses the group.
“Okay, so I'm thinking we should add a book club element to these weekly coffees.” She picks up a book on the counter.
Love and Rumors, by Grace Lee.
Grace is a fiction author. Her new book is based on her latest divorce from Hollywood movie star, Brent Jackson. Her third failed marriage. Like an older version of a certain young popstar, Grace has learned to turn her heartache and drama into profit and live a very nice lifestyle from the settlements.
“Advanced reader copies. I have one for each of you,” she says, as she hands them out.
Holly hands hers back. “No. This hour every week is the only time I get to relax. I'm not studying for it.” She’s typing an email with one hand as she says this. Answering six work-related emails during this hour is probably relaxing to her.
“It's reading…not studying,” Grace says, unoffended.
“It’s not happening.”
At forty-six, Holly is the oldest in the group, and that, by default, prevents any of us from disagreeing with her. She’s the “housewife” in the group I like best. Especially, today. Of course, I'll tell Grace I read her book. Honesty isn’t as important to this group as ego-stroking.
“You all owe me twenty-seven, fifty. Pay whenever you can,” Grace says.
“Can we get onto the subject of the day?” Holly asks. The subject of the day was her idea. If we only had an hour of girl talk a week, it should be focused on a topic, so as not to waste time with idle chitchat. It was the host’s job to come up with it each week.
Grace stares straight at me. “Yes. This week’s topic is Elizabeth.”
“Me?” Since that isn’t my name, I can’t be sure.
“Let’s be more specific,” Sophia says, blowing on the hot liquid in her cup.
So, there’s more than one thing they’d like to discuss about me. When did I become so fascinating?
“Okay, her love life or sex life, I guess,” Grace says.
Holly nods while responding to another message on her phone. “I agree, this should be discussed.”
“I was waiting for someone to bring it up,” Sophia says, her cell phone blowing up with new text messages from her husband, Bob.
“I’ve been widowed all of five minutes.”
“But you’ve been separated for weeks, and let’s be honest, Howard wasn’t lying when he said your marriage was over a long time ago,” Holly says, sipping her tea. Her teal-rimmed, oval glasses steam up, blocking the look of judgment in her eyes.
“I don’t necessarily agree with that.” Howard’s perception of our marriage had been completely different from mine. We’d been comfortable. We had a routine. Suddenly that meant the death of a marriage?
“Before he died, when was the last time the two of you had sex?” Sophia asks, as she replies to her husband’s texts.
I want to answer, but I don’t know. Of course, Howard was screwing Gina for months, so his interest in me had waned.
“Okay, then. So, we need a plan to get Elizabeth ‘back in the saddle.’ Anyone have any single male friends we can set her up with? Rebounds. Not good guys, they will come later. Right now, we just need hot and available,” Grace says. She picks up her phone and scrolls through her contacts list.
She better not recommend one of her own rebound boy toys. That’s a line I refuse to cross.
The others think. And think.
Grace frowns. “There’s gotta be someone,” she mutters.
I get up from the stool. “You know what, get back to me. I have a client coming to pick up some pieces, so I have to go.”
“Do you want to take your tea?” Grace asks, reaching for an eco-friendly, disposable to-go cup from a stack on the counter.
“No, thank you. Someone else can enjoy mine.” Someone who had a penis lying around they could use in case that aphrodisiac side effect kicked in.
“Okay…,” Grace says in a tone that suggests I’ve turned down the opportunity to drink from the fountain of youth, and I really can’t afford to.
“Oh, and Beth?” Holly says, as I go to leave. “Now that you’re on your own, you may want to get your lawn mowed.”
Seriously? “Are you trying to imply that I may have been at fault for Howard cheating? Cause I’ll have you know, my ‘lawn’ is very well maintained–”
Holly turns to Grace. “What the hell is she talking about?”
Grace nods toward my crotch.
“I think she thought you meant...” Sophia has no problem showing her bare breasts to the world, but she’s embarrassed by the word vagina.
“I actually meant your real lawn,” Holly says, as her cell phone rings, and she checks the call display. “The grass has grown well above neighborhood standards, and we’ve let it slide because you’re grieving, but you’ll need to take care of it.”
Right. “I’ll do it today.” Embarrassed, I hurry out of the kitchen. The sound of their laughter follows me even after I leave the house.
I really, really have to stop coming to weekly coffee.
Jennifer Snow is an award winning, USA Today Bestselling author of over 35 romance and thriller novels. Publishing with Grand Central, Harlequin, Berkley and Thomas & Mercer, she has over ten years of experience crafting stories that connect with readers worldwide. Her books have been translated into five different languages and have been optioned for film and television. She has won the Booksellers’ Best Award and has received Starred Reviews from Publishers’ Weekly.
Jennifer is the writer of the Mistletoe series of screenplays. She is known for her romantic comedies and female-driven dramas for TV and film. In 2014, she was a finalist in the New York Screenplay Contest for her work “Mistletoe Fever”. She’s also written true-crime and thriller screenplays as work-for-hire assignments for various production companies.
Her film work is represented by Alexia Melocchi at Little Studio Films and her literary work is represented by Jill Marsal at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. More info can be found on her website: www.jennifersnowauthor.com