by Lissa Muir

“Is this okay?” I asked. We were going to meet my husband’s boss and his wife for dinner at their private members club. As luck would have it, my body had undergone a transformation recently, and an old designer silk dress—bought when the expense of children and aging past forty hadn’t yet wreaked havoc—fit.

Tom nodded absently. He didn’t like his boss, had taken the job out of necessity rather than want, and was perhaps even less excited than I was about the upcoming evening.

“At least we’ll get to see what the fuss is all about,” I said, referring to the exclusive venue. I turned and gestured to my back, where the zipper of my dress was drawn halfway. Tom pulled it to the top and hooked the tiny clasp that kept the zipper in place before resting his head on my shoulder and sighing. I reached behind and patted his head, and he let out a soft woof before standing tall. I laughed.

“Uber’s here,” he said, checking his phone. Taking one final look in the mirror, I shrugged. Was this appropriate attire for dinner at an exclusive club? Hell if I knew.


The gleaming cherrywood staircase led to a lounge carpeted in grey Berber overlain with faded Oriental rugs that evoked decades of bespoke leather shoes having trod across their surfaces. Dave, Tom’s boss, was seated on a white low-slung sofa, and he rose when we arrived. He shook Tom’s hand, doing that left forearm grip popular with politicians, before leaning towards me and performing a double kiss. I wished, not for the first time, that I didn’t have to endure this particular social nicety.

“So lovely to meet you,” he said. I smiled, said likewise, and we sat—he and Tom on the white sofa, and me on an adjacent chair. It was mauve velvet, elegant, with a stiff ninety-degree angle that forced good posture.

We chatted about the weather, then the men briefly discussed something that had happened at work earlier that day before turning their attention back to me. Dave’s wife, Althea, was running late and possibly wouldn’t be able to make it; he suggested we have a drink to give her some time before we moved to the dining room for dinner.

A waitress approached—young, makeup-free, with glowing skin and bright eyes. Her mahogany hair was pulled into a prim but flattering ballet bun at her nape. Dave ordered a Dalmore, neat, whatever that was, and Tom and I both ordered vodka sodas. We floundered when the young woman asked us which vodka and which soda we preferred, but Dave stepped in and ordered something that sounded Russian and suggested it would pair well with Fever Tree soda.

“Thank you. It’s been a minute since we’ve been out for a drink,” I said. Dave gave me a magnanimous smile, and I felt like the town peasant.

“The staff here is phenomenal, and their retention is truly impressive. Katie, for example, has been serving us for five years since she graduated with a BSc in bioinformatics from U of T. She’s currently completing her PhD.” We nodded, impressed by the waitress’ CV, which already included more education than mine and Tom’s combined.


“Sir.” The waiter held out the bottle of wine, swaddled in white cloth, as though presenting a newborn baby. Dave said “lovely” with—I could have imagined this—a vaguely British accent. The waiter poured a small amount of wine into a glass which Dave picked up, swirled, sniffed, and finally sipped. He closed his eyes and nodded. Turned to us and smiled.

“You’ll love this.” As we were accustomed to spending under twenty dollars on whatever was on sale at the LCBO, I didn’t doubt that we would.

There were no prices on the menu—presumably if you have to ask, you can’t afford it—but I tried to commit the wine label to memory so I could Google it later. The waiter decanted the bottle into a glass vessel that looked like a giant lab flask and sat it atop a device that rocked it continually. When Tom asked, the waiter explained it was to keep the wine aerated. It reminded me of the SNOO bassinet that rocked our children as newborns, and I lifted my napkin to hide my smile.


Althea breezed in between appetizers, kissed her husband’s cheek, and snagged one of his garlicy snails before taking her seat between Tom and Dave, across from me. Thirty-two to our forty-four and forty-seven—and her husband’s fifty-six—she exuded a calm but perky energy, like a cheerleader for a really posh team. She looked towards the window and patted her hair before turning to us with a smile.

“I’m so glad I made it,” she said, and we said we were happy she did as well. The waiter came over with a second serving of snails and placed them in front of her.

She speared a gastropod with her tiny fork, placed it between her teeth and leaned towards my husband. “Did you see the Trudeau in the corner?” she asked, her hand partially covering her mouth. Tom went to turn around, and she placed her hand on his forearm to stop him.

“Not Mr. Subtle, is her?” She directed this at me, and I was relieved she hadn’t caught me looking, too.

She turned to get the waiter’s attention and, when he made his way to the table, gestured for him to lean down. She whispered something in his ear before he nodded, said, “Yes, miss,” and left as silently as he’d arrived.

“Now,” she said, tapping Tom’s arm. He started before understanding, and we both turned to look behind him to see the brother of the current Prime Minister, son of the former Prime minister, dining with an older couple. The waiter that Althea had called over had their attention.

“Wonder who he’s eating with,” I said, and felt foolish when all three of them told me it was the current Minister of Finance and his wife.

“Guess you’re the beauty of the operation,” Dave said.

“Kate is very smart,” Tom protested. “Actually, I’m the brawn,” I interrupted and was rewarded with their laughter.

We ate our halibut and steaks and niçoise salads, drank the coddled wine as well as another bottle, this one white and placed on a disk of marble that we were warned not to touch, lest our skin stick to its dry-ice cooled surface.

“So, I shouldn’t do this,” I said, leaning towards the disk with my tongue out. Dave looked confused, Althea mortified. Tom laughed. “Guess Tom and I were the only ones whose mums had to tell us not to lick the light poles in winter.”

“You’re hilarious,” Althea said, staring out the window again. I peered out to see what she was looking at, expecting to see subway riders walking from the station located next to the club. I had to close my eyes to stop them from rolling when all I saw reflected back at me was my own image. Althea had been staring out the window all evening and, while I’d thought she’d been lost in thought or pondering life or, I don’t know, pitying the plebes as they trudged by, she’d been looking at herself the whole time.

“You too,” I said. As I watched the smile dawn across her smooth skin, so did she.

As we waited for our coats to be retrieved from the coat check, we talked about the club. It was everything I had thought it would be—lots of polished wood and important-looking art amid hushed décor. The members skewed older, upper millennials to well-preserved boomers, exclusively attired in the kind of low-saturation apparel that was pricey but didn’t want you to know it. The staff was unerringly polite, soft-spoken, young, and attractive. I told Dave how impressive it was, and he said, “Of course.”

“Ah, I was worried you ran off with my Cuccinelli,” Dave said as two staff members—the aforementioned Katie and maître d’ Xavier—returned bearing our outerwear. Xavier laughed and winked at Althea as he handed Dave his coat. He held mine up so that I could slip my arms in the Banana Republic cashmere I’d found at the factory outlet. Thankful I’d snipped the tag long ago, I pulled it on and wrapped the belt around my waist. Katie handed Tom the Cotopaxi I’d bought him the previous Christmas, then held Althea’s pristine cream-coloured, ankle-length coat out for her. I tried and failed to read the label.

“Xavier and Katie, as always, thank you for putting up with us tonight.” Althea beamed at the pair, who each affected a tiny nod and smiled back.

“This was nothing for these old pros, was it?” Dave patted Katie on the shoulder, and a tiny ripple went through her.

“Of course not, Mr. Stanton,” Xavier said.

“The club has no set closing time,” Dave told us, and Tom and I made appropriately amazed faces. “That’s right. They stay open as long as we need them. There’ve been more than a few times none of us have made it home before the sun came up.” Althea rubbed her husband’s arm and smiled up at him.

“Didn’t know you were such a partyer,” Tom said. Dave wagged his finger, and Tom mimed zipping his lips. “Knew I hired you for a reason,” Dave said, and we all laughed.


We walked home, Tom and I, because it was a nice night for November and the babysitter wasn’t slated to go home for another hour. Five minutes passed in silence, long enough for it to be impossible that Dave and Althea would overhear our debrief. The night had been less uncomfortable than either of us had anticipated, with small talk—not my forte but easy for Tom—accompanied by delicious food and wine. An excuse to hire a babysitter and go out after the streetlights had turned on. We joked about working on our membership application and brainstormed ways to earn the fifty million dollars it was rumoured you had to be worth before you were considered. Not for the first time, Tom suggested an OnlyFans site for my feet—I do have great feet—and I laughed.

Lissa Muir

Lissa Muir is a Toronto-based writer whose short stories have appeared in After Dinner Conversation and Grande Dame Literary. When not writing, she goes on increasingly slow walks with her fourteen-year-old Newfoundland dog, Molly.