Skip to main content



Mrs. Perfect

Chapter One

Zooming into the country club parking lot, I snag a spot close to the club pool. Okay, technically it's not a spot, but there's nothing else close and I'm late.

Nathan says I run late often, and yes, sometimes I do, but not always. It's just that my schedule all summer has been ungodly. I've always been busy, but in the past year I have taken on way too much, sat on far too many committees, agreed to assist too many organizations.

The problem is, everyone needs help, and I hate inefficiency, I really do, which is how I got to be on so many committees in the first place.

I know how to get things done. I've always known how to get things done, and for me, it's relatively easy organizing functions and raising money. And as we all know, everything these days is about raising money. As well as improving the quality of life for the kids.

It really is about the kids, isn't it?

I sign in quickly at the poolhouse's front desk and wave at a passing mother ––– never do remember her name, though ––– and emerge into the late afternoon light that already streaks the pool.

Scanning the area for my girls, I tug my top over the waist of my white tennis skirt. I wish I'd showered and changed before heading to the pool, but I was afraid of being even later. It's Friday, Labor Day weekend, and my nanny hoped to leave early today to go camping with her boyfriend.

I feel bad that Annika, our Finnish nanny, didn't get to leave at three- thirty as requested (it's nearly five now), but today was hellacious. Morning Pilates, two- hour auction committee meeting, afternoon on the tennis court before quick grocery shop. Then it was a rush home to get the salmon steaks into the bourbon marinade for dinner before another rush out to pick up the girls from the club.

Pulling my sunglasses off, I spot the girls. Tori's in the baby pool, Brooke's lying on her towel on the lawn, and my eldest, ten- year- old Jemma, swims in the deep end with her friends. Annika sits in the shade near the baby pool, her purse on her lap. She's ready to go, which annoys me.

I don't like being disapproving, but I do resent being made to rush and then feel guilty. It's Labor Day weekend. She has Monday off. It's not as if she won't have three full days of vacation.

Annika spots me. I lift a hand, letting her know she can go. She leans down, kisses Tori, and, with a nod at me, leaves. Quickly.


It's Patti calling my name. I turn, spot her and a cluster of women at one of the pool's round tables, and indicate that I'll join them in just a moment. First, I have to get something cold to drink.

Something preferably with alcohol.

A few minutes later, I collapse in the poolside chair with my gin and tonic. Nice. Sliding my sunglasses on top of my head, I sip my drink appreciatively. Day's almost over. I'm almost free.

Suddenly Annika reappears on the pool deck, dashes to a table near the baby pool, and rifles through the stack of beach towels they brought earlier. She's looking for something, and it's got to be her car keys or her cell phone? she couldn't survive without either.

It's her cell phone.

I'm not surprised. What twenty-two-year-old girl doesn't live on her cell?

Annika leaves again, and I watch her dash back out. She's worked for me for over a year now, and we almost never talk. I leave her to- do lists, and when she goes home at night she leaves the lists behind, everything done, all the chores checked off.

Sometimes I feel a little guilty for not ever having a proper chat, but what would we talk about? My girls? My house? My laundry? No, thank you. I have enough on my mind without having to discuss the above with a foreign teenager.

What a day. Not bad, just long and busy. Pilates nearly killed me, I killed my opponent in tennis, and the committee meeting . . . well, that went so much better than I expected.

"Have you been here long?" I ask the group at large, dropping my sunglasses back onto my nose.

"An hour," Patti answers.

Monica grimaces. "Since two."

"Noon," Kate adds.

Noon? I make a face. I can't imagine sitting here for five hours. My God, doesn't she have anything else to do?

"You should have gotten a sitter," I say, glancing at my children, praying they'll be content for another half hour at least, an hour if I buy them an ice cream. Tonight I would buy them ice cream, too, if it meant I could just leave my feet up for a while and relax.

Kate sees my grimace. "I couldn't get a sitter," she explains. "Labor Day weekend. Everyone's going away."

True. We were going away, too, and then Nathan begged off at the last minute, said all he wanted to do was stay home, enjoy the girls, and maybe get in a round of golf.

"Actually," Kate continues, crossing her legs, tugging down her straight twill skirt that looks like Eddie Bauer but I know is Ralph Lauren, "I feel like I got off easy. The kids really wanted to go to Wild Waves, but I convinced them they'd be better off just spending the day here and saving the money."

Saving money? Kate?

I struggle to keep a straight face. Kate Finch is loaded, one of the area's old money, and then she married Microsoft money ––– and not one of the little Microsoft millionaires who pop up everywhere, but Bill Finch, head of the games division ––– so the Finches are set for life.

"How did you convince the kids to do that?" Patti asks, leaning forward to get out of the sun's rays. Petite and brunette, Patti Wickham has endless energy, a vivacious personality, and the inability to take no for an answer.

"Bribed them." Kate sniffs. "Told them I'd give them the cost of the admission ticket and what I would have spent on gas if we could just come here. Worked like a charm."

Thank God for money.

Hate to admit it, but I'd do the exact same thing. Who'd want to make the drive from Bellevue to Federal Way ––– what is that, forty minutes each way? ––– and then spend hours worrying about the kids getting lost or abducted before driving back home in rush-hour traffic? No, Kate's right. Far better to take advantage of the Points Country Club pool before it closes for the summer.

My youngest daughter, Tori, who has just recently turned four, remembers I'm at the pool and comes running over to give me a wet hug. "Mama, Mama, Mama! I missed you!"

I hug and kiss her back. "Having fun?" I ask, rubbing her bare tummy.

She nods, her blond curly ponytails like piggy corkscrews in the sky. "I'm hungry."

"We're having dinner soon."

"Can I have some French fries?"

"We're going home in twenty minutes ––– "

"I want French fries."


"I'm starving." Her lower lip thrusts out. "Starving."

Oh, why not? It's Friday. Labor Day weekend. I'm tired and don't want to get up. If French fries will keep her happy, let her have them. "Tell Brooke to go with you to order. She's right there, in the shallow end."



Tori runs off in her pink two- piece, her still chubby thighs making little slapping noises. "Is that bad?" I ask, looking at my friends. "French fries right before dinner?"

"It's the end of summer," Patti answers with a shrug.

Exactly. Kids will be back in school in just days, and it'll only get harder, what with homework and sports and meetings. Being a mother is a full-time job. I couldn't work outside the home even if I wanted to.

"Mom! Mom! Taylor Young!" My middle daughter, Brooke, shouts at me from the pool, resorting to using my name when I take too long to answer.

I put a finger to my lips, indicating she's too loud. "Come here if you want to talk to me," I stage-whisper. "Don't shout across the pool."

With a sigh, Brooke drags herself out of the pool and splashes her way to our table. "Did you tell Tori I had to go order her French fries?"

"She's hungry." I'm not in the mood to deal with Brooke's attitude now. For a middle child, Brooke is extremely strong- willed. "You can share her fries."

"I don't want fries."

"What do you want?"

"Ben and Jerry's ice- cream bar."

"No ––– "

"You said." She gives me her "I'm seven and going into first grade" look. "You did, Mom."

"What about a Popsicle?"

"Why does Tori get fries and I have to have a Popsicle? Why does she always get everything she wants? Because she's the baby? When I was her age I could order my own fries ––– "

"Fine. Get your ice cream." I give up. I just can't do this today. Not without another drink. "Help Tori and get what you want."

She flounces away, and I see the face she makes at me. I don't call her on it, though. I'm too tired, and as the parenting experts all say, you have to pick your battles. I want them to get good grades, so I suppose I've picked mine. Besides, they're not as lippy with Nathan. They wouldn't be. He doesn't put up with it, not like I do.

"Good meeting today, Taylor," Patti says as Brooke grabs Tori by the shoulder to haul her into line at the snack bar.

Patti is co-chair with me for the Points Elementary School auction, and we held our first meeting of the year this morning at Tully's on Points Drive.

I was worried about the meeting, but I needn't have been. Our committee of seven is amazing. We've got the best parents this year, the best moms hands down.

"I heard so many great ideas during our brainstorm session," I say, squeezing the rest of my lime wedge into my gin and tonic. "I have a hunch that this year's auction is going to just blow everyone out of the water."

And it will with what we're planning.

We've got some spectacular live-auction items already lined up, including a trip to Paris ––– first-class on Air France ––– and a week on Paul Allen's private yacht . . . in Greece, no less. I suppress a shiver of excitement. Corny as it is, I get goose bumps just thinking about it. "Patti, we can make this happen."

"We are making it happen," Patti corrects. She might be tiny and pretty, but she's a workhorse. "We've already got chairs for each committee, and everyone's experienced ––– "

"On the ball," I add.

"And as we know, experience makes all the difference."

Isn't that the truth? I just love Patti. We're on the same wavelength. It's not just that we're friends, but we've served on practically every school committee possible, and there's no way I would have tackled the school auction if Patti hadn't suggested we co-chair it together.

The school auction is Points Elementary's biggest annual fund-raiser. The phone-a-thon, walk-a-thon, and wrapping paper sales all bring in money, but they don't come close to generating the kind of money the auction does.

A strong auction nets a quarter million dollars. A fabulous auction nets a hundred thousand more.

Patti and I think we can hit four hundred thousand this year. At least that's our goal.

"Anything juicy happen at the meeting?" Kate asks, pulling up another white chair to stretch her legs on. Her legs are thin and tan, but they're always tan. Kate plays a lot of golf, and she and Bill routinely sneak off to Cabo.

Patti and I look at each other, try to think. There wasn't a lot of chitchat. We were pretty organized, and the auction meeting isn't the place for gossip. It would look bad. Unprofessional.

"I know something juicy," Monica chimes in eagerly.

I shoot Patti a "here we go again" look. Monica Tallman irritates me. She isn't poor, and she's not unattractive, but she's pathetically insecure and compensates for her feelings of inferiority by trying too hard.

The truth is, Monica needs a life. And she needs to stop copying my hairstyle.

Monica throws a hand into her hair, showing off her most recent highlights, which are nearly identical to mine. "The Wellsleys separated this summer," she announces loudly.

"The Wellsleys?" Kate gasps.

Monica nods, sips her wine cooler, pleased to be the bearer of horrible news. "Apparently Lucy was having an affair."

"What?" We all turn, shocked, to stare at Monica.

Patti frowns, a deep furrow between dark eyebrows. At least I know she doesn't do Botox. "I don't believe it," she says. "I can't believe it. Lucy would never do that. I've known her for years ––– "

"She's on the altar guild at St. Thomas," Kate adds.

Monica shrugs, lips curving. "Jesus loves a sinner."

Unbelievable. I drain the rest of my gin and tonic and immediately crave another. Too bad I can't send one of my girls for the drink, but they don't sell liquor to minors here.

Monica gives her wine cooler a twirl. "Pete's going after custody."

"No." Now this is going too far. It really is. I know Lucy, too, and she's a great mother, a good wife, and it would destroy her not to have the kids. Kids need to be with their mother, too.

Well, unless their mother's a nutcase.

Like mine was.

"Pete thinks he's got a case." Monica sounds smug.

I hate it when she's so smug. I really think she needs to work out with her personal trainer a bit less and volunteer a lot more.

"You can't take children from their mother," I defend. "Courts don't do that. I know it for a fact. Are you sure she's having an affair?"

"I imagine it's over now that Pete found out, but Pete's embarrassed. He paid for her lipo, the implants, the tummy tuck, the eye job, the laser skin treatments, and now he finds out it wasn't even for him? Fifty thousand later he feels a little cheated."

Patti's outraged. "Lucy didn't even need the work. She did it for him. He's never been happy, especially with her."

I nod my head in agreement. Lucy was really attractive, even before all the surgeries, and you know, you couldn't tell she had that much work done because it was subtle. We knew, because she'd told us, highly recommending her plastic surgeon to us. And in the plastic surgeon's defense, he was very, very good, and the only way I knew Lucy had done her eyes (before we knew about the plastic surgery) was because she just looked happier.

Apparently, she was happier.

She was getting laid by someone who wasn't her fat husband.

That's not a nice thought, and I shouldn't think thoughts like that, but Pete is big. He's gained at least thirty-five or forty pounds in the last year or so. Maybe more. When I saw him at brunch a couple of weeks ago, I almost didn't recognize him. Nathan, who never notices anything like that, leaned over to me and said Pete was a heart attack waiting to happen.

Did that stop Pete from filling up his plate at the buffet? No. In fact, he went back for seconds and thirds ––– piles of sausages, cream cheese Danishes, eggs Benedict, blueberry-and-sour-cream crepes, strawberries covered in whipped cream. You could hear his arteries hardening as he lumbered back to his table.

I can't blame Lucy if she didn't want to sleep with Pete. I wouldn't want to eat with him, much less do the down and dirty, but an affair . . . ?

I wonder if the sex was good.

God, I hope it was, especially if she's going to lose the kids.

Shaking my empty glass, I listen to the ice cubes rattle. I want another drink but can't make myself move. Not just because I'm tired (which I am), but because if I go get another drink, it's more calories.

I weigh the pros and cons of another drink, knowing that I'm in good shape, but it's something I work at. Image is important, and the closer I get to forty (oh God), the more I care about my appearance. It's not enough to be fit. You've got to look young, and that's some serious time and money.

Lately, I've been thinking about getting some work done. Nathan says he loves me as I am, thinks I'm perfect, and doesn't want any artificial bits of me, but if it'd make me better, wouldn't the pain be worth it?

I tune back in and realize they're still discussing Lucy and Peter.

" ––– says he feels like she humiliated him in front of the whole community."

"Well, I didn't know until now," Kate says.

Me either, and my fingers itch to take my phone and call Nathan and see if he's heard. He used to be in Rotary with Pete. They were both in the Friday morning group that met for breakfast at the golf course across town.

Patti's frowning. "She's like us, a stay- at- home mom. So who could she be sleeping with? A UW student? A pool boy? Who?"

"Someone's husband." Monica looks like a cat. She's so pleased with herself that even her ears and eyes are smiling. "Apparently Pete has told the wife, too, and so that's two families wrecked."


The very word conjures up horrible memories, and I suddenly touch my stomach, checking to see if it's flat. It is. I can feel my hipbones. Good.

The thing to know about me is that I hate fat almost as much as inefficiency, which is why I'm always hungry. I want to eat, but I don't. Nathan thinks I'm too thin, but he doesn't know what it's like always having women look at you, compare themselves with you.

"So where is Lucy now?" I ask.

"I think she's still in the house. Pete tried to kick her out ––– and she left for a couple nights ––– but she returned. Said she wouldn't leave, that it was her home, so Pete took the kids and left." Monica stretches, yawns. "God, it's a gorgeous day. Can you believe this beautiful weather?"

Kate and Patti exchange glances. "So where are Pete and the kids staying?" Kate persists.

"Their place in Sun River."

But they've got to be coming back soon. School starts on Tuesday, and Pete has to work.

Those poor kids. They must be so scared and confused.

I look around the pool for mine. My girls are just yummy. I really shouldn't brag, but all three are beautiful?you can tell they're sisters, they all have the same golden skin, long honey blond hair, and big blue eyes. People are always stopping me, telling me the girls should be models. Maybe they will be. I don't know. We're just so busy as it is.

"Mom! Mommy!" Tori wails tragically at the edge of the grass, her big beach towel bunched at her feet, her paper plate upside down in her hands. "I dropped my French fries!"

I sigh. My friends chuckle. They know what it's like, they know what I'm going through. "Go get some more," I call to her. "They'll remember you at the counter."

"Come with me," she pleads.

"You can do it. Besides, Brooke's still over there. Catch her before she leaves. Tell her Mommy said to ––– " But before I can finish, Tori's running past me.

"Daddy!" she screams, rushing toward Nathan, who has just appeared at the pool.

Smiling, I watch Nathan swing Tori into his arms. We've been married eleven years, twelve on Valentine's Day, and I still think I married the sexiest, greatest man. It's not just because he has money, either. We're happy. We have a great life together. I'm lucky. Blessed. Really and truly.

Nathan's a wonderful father and an amazing provider. You should see our home ––– as a little girl, I dreamed of someday living in a house like ours ––– and our three little girls are gorgeous, and Nathan spoils all of us. Constantly. So much so that I feel a little guilty sometimes.

"There's my beautiful wife," Nathan says, walking toward us with Tori still in his arms.

Nathan is a vice president for Walt McKee's personal holding company, McKee being the founder of satellite communications, and that's the name of the game here in Seattle: technology. Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Balmer, and Walt McKee are all practically neighbors and if not close friends, acquaintances. I'm not trying to name-drop, it's just that this is my world, the one I live in. I see the Gateses and McKees and the Balmers everywhere. Our kids play together on the same sports teams, dance at the same ballet studios, swim at the same country club pool, and sometimes attend the same school.

Nathan leans down and kisses me before turning to greet my friends. In the late afternoon light, he looks even more golden than usual, his brown hair sun streaked from swimming, surfing, and playing golf, his warm brown eyes almost bronze. I think he's more handsome now than when I first met him.

"Hello, honey," I answer, reaching out to capture his fingers. "How was your day?"

"Good." He shifts Tori to his other arm, oblivious that Tori's damp little body has left his shirt wet as well as stained with a splatter of ketchup.

Tipping my head back, I smile up at him. "I didn't think I'd see you for another hour or two."

"Escaped early." He puts Tori down, glances around. "I see Jemma. Where's Brooke?"

"Eating something somewhere," I answer.

He nods and pushes a hand through his thick hair ––– I'm so glad he still has his hair. "I'm going to get a beer. Anybody want anything?" he asks my friends. "Kate? Patti? Monica?"

They all shake their heads, but I can see their eyes feasting on him. I can't be jealous, either. Let's face it: Nathan's feastworthy. Six three, very broad shouldered, and with very nice abs. He works out daily, always has.

"How about you, darling girl?" he asks, turning to me. "Gin and tonic with lots of lime?"

I smile up at him. "I love you."

"I know you do."

I watch him walk away, thinking again that I'm so lucky that it sometimes makes me feel guilty, having so much. I certainly didn't have any of this growing up. Growing up . . .

Growing up was a nightmare.

I shudder, push the thought away, telling myself to focus on the here and now. Everything's good today. Everything's great. And it's not as if I just fell into this amazing life. I worked to get here, worked to make it happen. Now if only I could relax and enjoy it more.

"Oh, my God." Monica leans forward, grabs Kate's arm. "Lucy's here."


Monica nods across the pool. "She's just walked in, and she's got the kids."

Our heads all swivel toward the pool entrance, and Monica's right. Lucy Wellsley is walking around the deep end of the pool, a beach tote bag over her shoulder, a stack of colorful striped towels in her arms as her three kids, two boys ––– fraternal twins ––– and a little girl, all run ahead.

"Should we invite her to join us?" Patti asks, glancing at me.

"I don't know." I mean, I feel bad for her, but infidelity? Affairs? This is bad. Really bad.

"She's brave," Kate mutters. "I wouldn't show my face here."

"Well, I don't think we have to worry about extending an invitation," Monica practically purrs. "Because Lucy's on her way here now."

Excerpted from MRS. PERFECT © Copyright 2011 by Jane Porter. Reprinted with permission by 5 Spot. All rights reserved.

Mrs. Perfect
by by Jane Porter

  • Genres: Fiction
  • paperback: 419 pages
  • Publisher: 5 Spot
  • ISBN-10: 0446699241
  • ISBN-13: 9780446699242