"Six hearts," said Martha.
"Anyone want another chardonnay?" asked Bruce.
"There's still some red in that bottle," said Mike. "I'll have that."
"Seven diamonds, and I'd prefer a savvy," put in Brenda.
"I think you should have asked me before you did that," said Mike, her husband.
"I don't have to ask you before I have another wine," said Brenda. "It's your turn to drive."
"I didn't mean that," said Mike. "I meant your bid."
Bruce and Martha exchanged glances. They had seen the way this could go. One of Brenda's reckless bids, and the weekly card game could turn to marital war. Bruce decided to take the initiative.
"We were wondering," he cleared his throat, "whether you'd made any plans for your special anniversary next year."
"I'd like to take a trip," said Brenda. "Somewhere warm. And exotic. Somewhere I've never been."
"But not too expensive," Mike quickly interjected. "Not the way my Kiwisaver's been going over the last couple of years."
"Gold Coast? Pacific somewhere?" asked Bruce, thankful to have changed the subject as he played the bower that Brenda really should have had in her hand before she'd made that bid. "See, it's Martha's... Ah, significant birthday too, and we could make it an event. For the four of us."
"Oh, in that case I think we can do a little bit more exciting than the Gold Coast or the islands," offered Martha. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity."
"Not really," said Mike. "Brenda did have a silver wedding with Darryl before he fell off the perch and she met me."
Martha understood that all her diplomatic skills were being called on, and she pretended not to notice that she could have trumped Brenda's rather tawdry diamond with the queen she was holding, and laid down a middle-sized spade.
"I think we should all make the effort to have one glorious spend-up while we can still enjoy it. What about... I don't know, Venice? I'd love to see the South of France."
"Venice is in Italy," Bruce told her. "But I think you're on the right track. Although I'm not too sure about Europe and that foreign food and none of us speak the language."
"We could always go on a cruise." Brenda was getting into the swing of the holiday idea, if not the card game.
"Or a bus tour." Mike was getting interested in the idea in spite of himself.
"You've just reminded me," Martha said, getting up and carefully knocking the cards to the floor before Bruce had a chance to tot up Brenda's failed bid. "There was a piece in the Travel section the other day. Lonely Planet rated the 10 hottest places to visit next year. We should take their advice. They know far more than us about where's a great place to visit."
She bustled about the lounge until she found the magazine rack behind the sofa. "Here we are," she said.
"So where are we off to for our big trip?"
Three expectant, mature, excited would-be faces, each calculating their Visa balances, looked to her, clutching the newspaper.
"Umm," said Martha. "Well," she continued, scanning the story as if the headline, photo and introduction might be overturned by some breaking news in the 33rd paragraph, "according to Lonely Planet, the hottest place in the world to go on holiday in the next year is Hobart. Or Christchurch."
"I thought you said they knew what they were talking about," said Brenda. "I mean, who'd go to Tasmania instead of Vegas? Why would you choose a fortnight in Christchurch when we could have Paris?"
"I still fancy the Gold Coast," said Mike. "Or maybe Rarotonga. At least it's warm."
TO BE CONTINUED