Fiction Friday | 'Sex, Lies Declassified' by Eva Mazza
In 2019, Eva Mazza's Sex, Lies & Stellenbosch took the SA publishing world by storm. The sizzling novel, centred on the seemingly upstanding lives of Stellenbosch's elite, has remained in the Top 100 since publication.
Now Sex, Lies Declassified, the much-anticipated sequel, is about to land and whet the appetites of thousands of readers obsessed with what happens next in the steamy lives of the winelands aristocracy.
At the end the first book, Jen, the main protagonist, receives a mysterious WhatsApp, which sets book two in motion.
The sequel masterfully tracks the next stage of the lives of the characters readers got to love and hate. There is Jen's ex-husband, John, bent on a path of self-destruction; her ex-best friend, Frankie, who betrayed Jen in more ways than one; and the sultry Patty, who works at the Cape Town sex club secretly attended by the small town's elite, who now finds herself in New York.
Is Lee still alive? And who is Captain Stranger?
Sharon sat opposite Jen at Willoughby’s in the V&A Waterfront. It was Monday lunch and Jen knew Sharon didn’t have much time, but Jen had been anxious to chat to her.
“I’ve made a mental note to make these escapes a priority,” Sharon said. “But you know that being a workaholic is difficult to undo, especially on the first day of the working week.”
“I know,” Jen perused the menu. “Thanks for meeting me. I promise I wouldn’t have called you and Claudy if I didn’t think it was urgent.” Jen’s hair had grown in the last year and now cascaded around her shoulders. She tucked a strand behind her ear as she spoke. Sharon noticed her friend’s glow since she and Myron had become an item.
“You are looking quite beautiful, my friend. The change! I remember exactly how you looked when I first encountered you in my office after you’d found out about John and Frankie,” she smiled, “and his other sexual misdemeanours.”
Jen noticed Sharon’s eyes shift to her vibrating phone which she had placed face-down on the table to deter distraction.
“Do you need to check it?” Jen asked.
Sharon resisted the temptation by hailing a waiter. A young man of about nineteen who introduced himself as Derrick was by her side in no time. “I’m in a little bit of a rush,” Sharon told him. “So we’re going to order everything together, if possible.” She looked at Jen, “What are you going to drink, J?”
“I’ll have a spritzer. Claudy said to go ahead and order without her, she's going to be late."
"To hell with it!" Sharon said to herself more than to Jen, "I have to get back to work, but a little alcohol at midday on a Monday never killed anyone. Make that two, please," she instructed Derrick. "We'll share a bomb and edamame beans. Okay with you?"
Jen nodded. It was their usual order.
"What's so urgent?" Sharon asked after Derrick had left.
"The strangest thing happened to me on Sunday morning after the party, and I can't stop thinking about it," she said, leaning her elbows on the table and clasping her hands.
Sharon's interest piqued. For a moment she almost forgot the piles of files she had to go through in preparation for tomorrow's mediation.
"I was woken up by my phone constantly vibrating." Sharon looked down at her own phone which hadn't stopped since she'd got there, "And, when I finally checked my messages, one in particular caught my attention."
Derrick was back, faffing at their table. The two halted their conversation. A large carafe of white wine glistened invitingly. Jen poured the ice-cold contents into Sharon's wine glass and topped up the rest with soda. He had left the beans and an empty bowl for the shells in the centre of the table before heading off to another group of customers. She watched him leave before she continued.
Then she leaned in closer, lowered her voice when she spoke. "One message was from an unfamiliar number. It read something like, 'Happy birthday from beyond the grave'."
The wine didn't make it down Sharon's throat.
Jen milked the drama, taking time to pour her wine, then clinked her glass up against Sharon's. "Serves you right for drinking before clinking!"
"So, is there more?"
"Yes," Jen said.
Sharon's head tilted sideways as it always did in therapy sessions. Her friend took a huge glug of wine and swallowed before she went on.
"I struggled to bloody open it. Maybe if I had opened it sooner it wouldn't have been deleted."
"It was deleted?" Sharon slouched back in her chair. Jen nodded. "I did manage to read most of it, I think."
Sharon grabbed a bean and immersed it in soya sauce. She broke the shell between her teeth and sucked on it. "Well, what did it say, for God's sake, J?"
Jen dipped hers in and out of the soya sauce. "It said 'I hope you'll be dancing beyond fifty'. No, 'tangoing after you're fifty'. Something like that." She sucked off the salt and sauce before breaking it with her teeth and liberating the beans from their shell.
Sharon did the same then said, "But you still have the number, right?"
"Yes," Jen answered as Derrick arrived carrying a portion of Willoughby's speciality dish, the bomb, a sliced tempura prawn and seared tuna roll covered with delectable chilli-mayo sauce. They acknowledged their waiter and grabbed their chopsticks, simultaneously splitting them into two.
Jen shoved a roll into her mouth and watched as Sharon did the same.
"So, did you text back?" Jen shook her head no. "Try phone back?" Again, no.
"No! Why?" Sharon asked.
Jen didn't know why. Maybe because Myron had woken up and they had had morning sex. Twice!
"You haven't told Myron?"
Sharon looked relieved.
"Is this a good thing? Do you think I should have said something to him?" Jen second-guessed herself.
"What should you have said to who?" Claudia had finally joined them, and plonked herself in one of the free chairs at the table. Sharon was about to answer when Derrick interrupted, "Is everything okay here? Can I get you a menu, ma'am?" he asked Claudia.
"All good here," Sharon answered without even looking at him.
"I'll have what they're drinking," Claudia said, then popped a bean into her mouth. "You going to fill me in or am I supposed to guess?"
Sharon filled in the details while Jen shoved another bomb in her mouth. "So I asked why she hadn't texted or phoned the number," Sharon concluded.
Claudia turned to Jen. "You didn't? Why?"
Jen grabbed her hair and lifted it in a pony above her head; menopause or the heat, probably anxiety. "To tell you the truth, I didn't think to." She dropped her hair back down. "But I do have the number."
Sharon grabbed Jen's phone from the table and scrolled down. "Is this it?"
"Yes," Jen said.
Sharon spoke the words out loud as she texted, "Who are you?" She turned the screen to show her friends, "Hasn't gone through."
She then dialled the number.
"The number doesn't exist," she said, tossing the phone back onto the table.
A brief silence settled. Sharon sipped on her spritzer while Jen gulped hers down. Claudia's wine had arrived and she poured the contents of the carafe into her glass.
Sharon broke the silence. "I need to get out of here soon, ladies. Loads of work to do. You finish my food, Claudia. I'm too preoccupied to eat."
Claudia picked up a bomb in her one hand and the phone in the other. After negotiating the roll into her mouth, she pressed redial on Jen's phone, then dropped the call, confirming the number indeed did not exist.
"God, Jen. Who do you think it is?"
"Someone playing a sick joke on me," Jen opened her bag to retrieve her purse and signalled to Derrick to bring the bill.
"John?" Sharon and Claudia asked in chorus.
"Yes. Probably," said Jen.
"But why?" Sharon wondered.
- Extract provided by NB Publishers