Modern Charm


ROSALYN, 53, three times divorcee.

MAYA, 19, daughter of Rosalyn.

SIERRA, 32, recently divorced next-door neighbour.



A cool July evening is just beginning. Two women sit in a dining room at their grand, walnut-wood table. Unpolished silverware lies next to wine glasses and serviettes, and the light from the chandelier dances across their faces and the off-cream walls. The rest of the room holds what real estate agents call “a modern charm.” The ceiling is high, the wooden floor creaks when the women wear heels and through the fraying, baby-pink curtains, red pines are visible.  Somewhere out of sight, quiet piano music plays.


A breeze brushes the pines and the red silk scarf around SIERRA’s shoulders. She pauses a moment to tuck coarse brown curls back under her beaded headband, then she knocks. The door opens to reveal a dimly lit hallway and a young woman, MAYA, wearing faded jeans and a long sleeved, pale pink shirt. The women smile at each other.

MAYA: Aw, Sierra, you look lovely! Red is definitely your colour. Come on in.

[MAYA closes the door after SIERRA and they walk to the dining room, the sound of SIERRA’s heels echoing through the home. SIERRA and ROSALYN hug briefly.]

SIERRA: I brought wine.  

[With a smile, SIERRA holds up the bottle, which contrasts with her space grey acrylic nails. All three women know that is exactly why it was purchased.]

ROSALYN: Lately I’ve been drinking that more than water.

[They laugh and as the laughs turn uncertain, they independently realise how much Rosalyn’s statement applies to each of them. This discomfort causes them to sit. The mahogany chairs, the sides of which depict roses carved by ROSALYN’s first (and favourite) husband, creak gently.]

SIERRA: This looks beautiful.

[On the table is takeout food from all different cuisines. ROSALYN says a quick prayer and the women squeeze hands. Just as they are about to start serving, their phones buzz. MAYA is first to check.]

SIERRA: Something interesting?

MAYA: [laughs] I wish. Nah, just Tinder. Another prick asking if I want his –

ROSALYN: [coughs]

MAYA: Sorry, Mum.

ROSALYN: I just don’t understand why you need Tinder. [She pauses to decide which route to take with her lecture.] You’re a beautiful young woman. Why don’t you meet someone out in the real world?

MAYA: Mum, you’ve got Tinder.

SIERRA: [sighs loudly, elaborately tugging on a curl. The women look at her.]


SIERRA: I have it too.

ROSALYN: Ain’t that something?

SIERRA: After John left, I thought… You know…

ROSALYN [offstage]:  Oh, yes, we all know…

SIERRA: It’s been… well… difficult. [Her face scrunches like a fallen child who is unsure whether crying would be appropriate. After a moment, she smiles with visibly pearly teeth.] But enough of that. You invited me over to have a nice time, not to talk about the way John left me. [The sound of high heels is replaced with the clink of her nails against the silver cutlery as she eats.]

MAYA: So, have you been on any dates then, from Tinder? Maybe have a ‘best date’ story to share with us? [She ignores the warning glance her mother gives her.]

[Scene fades. We see SIERRA sitting in a deep purple velvet armchair with a man across from her. His hairline is receded and his hair is greying. He has the kind of body that grey suits and scotches are made for. He appears to be between thirty-seven and forty-five. They do not talk. They simply drink Earl Grey Tea, the only tea SIERRA’s father ever loved. In the corner of the room, a stocky man plays a beautiful tune on the piano.]

[We come back to the dinner table.]

SIERRA: John’s first date with me was the best I ever experienced.

MAYA: Uh, alright, but you guys didn’t meet on Tinder. Have you met anyone from Tinder?

SIERRA: Oh, I’m sorry. Alright, Tinder men, yes, I’ve met a few. [MAYA and ROSALYN share a look. Time seems to slow.]

[We move from moment to moment as SIERRA remembers them. Some men are short, some are tall. All men, whether by the cool cut of their suits, the over-polished boots, the harsh rectangular glasses or the strict lines of their jaw as they turn their face away, resemble John. SIERRA remembers three men in particular.]

SIERRA: One man, George, called me his ‘chocolate’ lover when the waiter asked if we wanted dessert.

[The lights dim, and outside it appears that the sun has set at last. The dining room feels colder. The piano music turns ominous.]

ROSALYN: Excuse me?

SIERRA: He wasn’t even the worst.

MAYA: The worst?

[A dimly lit room. Highly polished wood, free of dust, footprints and all other visible signs of life. Dark and heavy furniture that appears to have come straight out of a Victorian museum. A vampire’s den, fit with a tall, skeleton of a man whose fingers reach out to Sierra, fingernails long and white. His face is hidden in the shadows and no matter how hard she tries, Sierra can never quite picture his face. She can, however, imagine the drug he’d gently slipped into her peach and plum cocktail when she’d gone to the bathroom. She can definitely picture, as though looking from above, the way her body curved as she slid to the ground, eyes fluttering, reaching for John but instead grabbing Him.]

SIERRA: There have been worse.

[They sit in silence for a moment. MAYA remembers the man who’d told her she was lucky that he respected women, because she ‘looked delicious’. She remembers his lingering touches and the pounding of her heart. She wipes her sweaty palms on her jeans and reaches for a spring roll, and then ROSALYN’s phone buzzes. She frowns and squints, holding it away from her face as she attempts to read it.]

ROSALYN: Hi, baby. Sit on my face and I’ll – oh. And he’s 20. How did this happen? Maya?

[In her photos, ROSALYN has fading blonde hair, tired eyes and a smile that suggests she would rather not be smiling at all. Offline, her hair has gone ashy grey and is not neatly tucked into a bun and the lines on her forehead seem harsher. She has the air of a woman who has divorced three men and raised three children herself, while also looking after two dogs and a cat. A Busy Woman. In the dining room, the lights become warmer. SIERRA and MAYA feel relieved that the grim mood has passed.]

MAYA: Mum, you’ve changed your settings and forgotten to go back again. Can you please stop trying to find me on Tinder? It’ll never work.

[MAYA’s phone goes off several times in a row. She returns ROSALYN’s and checks her own. The good mood dies out again.]

MAYA: Two peach emoji’s, one eggplant and three lewd comments about sex. Why do men treat me like an object? And I don’t even know how to respond! Is this normal? I’m sick of-

[ROSALYN coughs, and MAYA goes quiet. For a while, the only noise is the gentle melody of the piano. The women think. SIERRA thinks of John and the way his knuckles seemed to bleach against the rest of his fist when his hands were clenched. ROSALYN wonders why her daughter talks so much about boys when she should be focusing on studying. She wonders if it is because she, herself, has gone from man to man her whole life, and if perhaps the women at university were right when they gossiped about her behind her back. MAYA wishes she could talk about sex with her mother without being silenced, and she wishes men would respect her when she says she isn’t interested.]

The piano tune comes to an end.

ACT ONE fades out.

Daniela Koulikov

The author Daniela Koulikov

Leave a Response