La Sauce operated on a strictly reservation-only rule, and enjoyed a brisk lunchtime trade of mainly suited business exec's, mixed in with a Ladies-Who-Lunch set. The third and most recent restaurant acquisition of the celebrated T.V. chef, Monsieur Gicquel, Ellie heard it rumoured securing a table there generally required a week or two's prior notice, together with a hefty up-front, non-refundable deposit.
Seated there, it certainly looked to be a gastronomic step up from the usual pub-lunch of sausage, egg and chips she occasionally enjoyed, down at the Old Slug & Lettuce.
Suzanne delicately picked at her starter of terrine of veal and pork, as Julie continued prodding her chicken liver parfait around the plate. Ellie, having already wolfed down her entire fois gras salad in less than three fork-fulls, buttered a second roll of rustic bread, and tried to clarify. "Hang on, who's Pookie? I thought you said Gerrard was your husband?"
Julie dabs a napkin to her lip, "Mnnn, yes, of course he is - Gerrard is both my husband and my reality. Pookie however, is my delicious little drop of sunshine, bless him, and it's all only just a silly bit of fun, that's all."
"Oh. But, doesn't it get, um, well - complicated? I mean, what if Gerrard were to find out?
Suzanne, food barely touched, rests her knife and fork together, "Gerrard loves her, but his train set ran out of steam years ago. Well, after all is said and done, he is more than twice her age, I mean, what can you expect?"
"Certainly not. He chooses not to, and as his wife, I totally respect his wishes."
"And what about "Pookie", does he also have a wife.?"
"A queen bitch, treats him abysmally. And don't go all judgemental on me here, do you know she even refuses to bear him children"
"Crikey, didn't they think to discuss all that before marriage?"
"Okay, it's possible she didn't know she was barren at the time, but still.. she had ONE round of IVF, and then totally gave up, flatly refused any more treatment, nada, nothing - can you believe it?"
"You know, the test-tube route, artificial insemination."
A waiter clears the plates, as another lays up cutlery for the next course. Julie enquires of them where the ladies room is, and clutching her handbag, excuses herself.
Watching her retreating back, Suzanne allows the waiting staff to clear before shooting Ellie a conspiratorial wink, "She's off to powder her nose - well, up it, to be more precise - feel free to join her if you like, she won't mind."
"Do a line?"
"WHAT? Oh. Oh, thanks, no, I don't - " shrugging, "I left all that behind me years back, not since the kids, and I was never really all that into it, in the first place. What about you, do you still..?"
"Heavens no, hardly ever now, no, not since the nose job, my surgeon would kill me."
"The damage that stuff wreaks to the cartilage is criminal.." She pauses, "Don't take everything Julie says as gospel, 'tween you and me, I fear she's quite smitten with this new man of hers. I'm actually rather worried it may well end in tears."
"Why? You think it's more than a fling?"
"Mn-hnm. I hope she doesn't get careless. Gerrard's good at turning a blind eye, but he's not a one to have his nose rubbed in it. I wouldn't mind, but she's always so cautious as a rule - I've certainly never had to cover for her before - it's compromising, I don't like it."
They sip their wine.
"Is she happy? With Gerrard?"
"Happy? Of course. She can never leave him, he gives her everything, he absolutely adores her. Besides, there's the two girls to consider. She had Geraldine, her eldest, less than a week before I had Simon - now they both go to the same nursery together, "Flutter-bye's", do you know it?"
Yes, Ellie knew of it. Despite charging a veritable kings-ransom per term, apparently it still held a two-year waiting list for enrolment there. They greet Julie as she returns and re-seats herself.
Three waiters arrive to the table, each carrying an elaborate, silver-domed dish. Placing one down before each of them, they synchronise together to simultaneously lift the polished covers up, and theatrically reveal the individually crafted masterpieces hidden beneath.
Suzanne raises a glass, "Bon appetite, everyone."
Ellie happily notes the fillet mignon aux oignons with gratin dauphinois, is little more than a rather poshly dressed pork and onion, served up with a creamy-type of spud. Thus relieved, she sets forth with gusto, and adds a healthy dollop of the side-serving of creamed spinach to her plate.
"Suzanne tells me it was at the gym that you two met up again, have you been a member there for long?"
Ellie makes herself a mental note to skip pudding. "Not really, I only joined up this month - "
The conversation moves to diet and baby-bellies, and of which Spa Ellie would really benefit the most from. By the time the bill rolls round to be split, Ellie finds she's only gone and accepted a dinner-invitation to Julie and Gerrard's up-coming annual charity May Ball.
Being hardly a one for this type of social scene, she rather doubts Peter will dress accordingly and play nice there, but then-again, she could always try blackmailing Paige in to joining her..?