In Truly Madly Guilty, Liane Moriarty takes on the foundations of our lives: marriage, sex, parenthood, and friendship.She shows how guilt can expose the fault lines in the most seemingly strong relationships, how what we don’t say can be more powerful than what we do, and how sometimes it is the most innocent of moments that can do the greatest harm.Erika could hear the distant gentle clatter of cups and saucers being set up for the morning tea now. Erika considered the possibility of discreetly edging her way around the side of the room and zipping over to adjust the microphone. She imagined Clementine shooting her a grateful smile.She held her flimsy raffle ticket for the lucky door prize safe on her lap. The lady who sat directly in front of Erika had her gray, curly-haired head tipped to one side in a sympathetic, engaged manner, as if she were ready to agree with everything Clementine had to say. "Thank God you did that," she would say afterwards, while they had coffee.She couldn't be bothered putting it in her bag and then having to find it when they drew the raffle. "You really saved the day."Except that Clementine didn't really want Erika there today. They were, well, they were friends of friends." She looked down at the lectern as if she'd lost her place. It was odd seeing Clementine "onstage," so to speak, without her cello.Erika hadn't missed the horrified expression that flashed across her face when Erika had suggested she'd like to come along to hear her speak, although Clementine had quickly recovered herself and said it was fine, lovely, how nice, they could have coffee in the local food court afterwards."It was a last-minute invitation," said Clementine. She'd carried a little pile of handwritten palm-sized index cards with her when she walked up to the lectern. She looked so conventional, in her blue jeans and "nice" floral top. Clementine's legs were too short for jeans, and they looked even shorter with flat ballet shoes like she was wearing today. She had looked almost — even though it seemed so disloyal to use the word in relation to Clementine — frumpy, when she'd walked up to the lectern. Her psychologist was exceptional, worth every cent, but for God's sake, as if you could float when there was no room, no space anywhere, above, below, when you couldn't take a step without feeling the spongy give of rotting stuff beneath your feet."I saw the most interesting woman speak today," they wanted to tell their children and grandchildren. Erika wanted to tell him that it was, in point of fact, idiotic."It was just an ordinary Sunday afternoon," said Clementine. They "developed their own narratives." And so, when Clementine remembered the barbecue, she remembered a cold, gloomy day. Erika remembered (she remembered; she was absolutely not constructing) how on the morning of the barbecue, Vid had bent down to lean into her car window. Or it may have been "glorious."But it was a word with positive connotations.
She crossed her legs, tucked one foot behind her ankle, and sniffed. Erika sat in the middle of the back row of the audience in the event room that adjoined this smartly renovated local library in a suburb forty-five minutes out of the city, not thirty minutes, thank you very much, as suggested by the person at the cab company, who you would think would have some sort of expertise in the matter.
There was something heartbreaking about those cards, as if Clementine had remembered that little tip from their oratory lessons at school. When she performed, she put her hair up and wore heels and all black: long skirts made out of floaty material, wide enough so she could fit the cello between her knees. She could smell her childhood, so thick and real in her nostrils: damp and mold and shame."Don't fight the panic. She stood, pulling at her skirt, which had gotten stuck to the backs of her legs.
Seeing Clementine sit with her head bowed tenderly, passionately toward her cello, as if she were embracing it, one long tendril of hair falling just short of the strings, her arm bent at that strange, geometric angle, was always so sensual, so exotic, so other to Erika. The guy with the bar code glanced over his shoulder at her.
A single look between them can convey an entire conversation.
But theirs is a complicated relationship, so when Erika mentions a last-minute invitation to a barbecue with her neighbors, Tiffany and Vid, Clementine and Sam don’t hesitate.