It was the lipstick that made her know.
Julie had only thought until then that her husband, Tony, might be having an affair, for somehow he just seemed different lately. She knew about the pressures he was under at work, most technical designers had some tight deadlines to meet for the really lucrative contracts, and for a while she had been convinced it might be that. Now she was not so sure.
Julie knew that money was not the problem, she herself only had a part time job, and it was her that had pleaded with Tony to let her take it, simply because she wanted to make new friends. They were not in need of money, so that was not the problem either.
All her new found doubts originated, she knew, from the article in the magazine that Sara had shown her. From then on she became suspicious about her husband.
But it was the lipstick that made her really know.
Or rather, it was the lipstick on the mouthwash lid. This Julie took as clear evidence that another woman had been in the house - she herself always put her lipstick on after using the mouthwash. What was more, Julie actually recognised the make of the lipstick, due to its unusual shade. It was exactly the same as hers! It was her one indulgence - designer makeup, very expensive and very exclusive - and yet this same make and shade had appeared on her mouthwash lid.
Julie had not said a word of her suspicion to anyone. But tonight she was convinced she was going to find the guilty woman - for tonight, Julie and Tony were hosting a party.
She set about her preparations with a certain amount of automation. Understandably her mind was preoccupied with things other than sausage rolls, quiches and crisps.
There were three main problems with her plan of catching the woman out tonight.
The first problem was that Julie was well aware that lipstick could look very different when worn by different people. There was a simply way to overcome this problem however, and that was to give each woman a clean glass and have a look at the lipstick marks after they had taken a drink.
The second problem was slightly more complicated. What happened if the woman was not wearing that particular lipstick tonight. Julie decided that after she had taken a look at all the glasses, if there was no sign of the evidence she was looking for, she would have to start up some conversations about make-up, "Do you like my lipstick? I got it from my usual range." That sort of thing.
It was the last unknown that made her anxious. How would she react when she found the culprit? Well that was a question that could only be answered in time.
Everything was all but ready. The food was all cooked, the glasses all cleaned, the house dusted and vacuumed. But Julie could not relax. She started titivating, moving the furniture slightly, adjusting the curtains. Tony should have been home by now.
At that moment she heard him burst through the front door.
"Sorry I'm late," he called. "I wanted to finish that drawing before I left - can't stand having things left half finished." He looked about him as he walked towards the bedroom. "Oh honey you've done great. Everything is ready. You must be exhausted already."
Julie gave him a half smile. "You need a bath?"
"If there's time."
He had just finished buttoning his shirt when the doorbell rang - the first of the guests had arrived. Julie went to answer the door.
The woman on the other side of the door bore a striking resemblance to Julie, and with good reason. Kate was Julies younger sister. Young, beautiful and single, Kate was very confident and extremely eligible. Though Julie trusted her sister implicitly and tried to prevent herself, she simply could not stop herself from glancing at Kates lipstick. To her relief it was clearly not the same as her own.
As Kate made herself a drink, clearly at home in her sisters house, the other guests started to arrive. Within an hour everyone expected had arrived - four couples in total, with the only single person being Kate.
Tony was enjoying himself. The drinks were flowing easily, as was the conversation. What was even better was the fact that the conversation was not entirely centered around technical design, a miracle considering that all five men worked for the same firm.
And yet as far as Julie was concerned, things were going badly. Plan 'a' had not worked at all. None of the women had her type of lipstick on. Plan 'b' was not exactly going smoothly either, as the conversation kept veering off course. Julie kept trying to go back to make-up, but by now the other wives must be wondering if she had anything else to talk about apart from make-up.
She retired to the kitchen, which for once was not the centre of the party. She shut the door, sealing herself off from the noise, and poured herself a stiff drink. As host she would not normally drink too much, but now...
And then the fourth problem hit her. Why had she not thought of this before? Tony would not even invite his mistress. Julie had been searching for a person who was not even here!
As she took a large swallow from her glass, the door opened and Kate came in.
"Not joining in your own party?" She asked.
Julie glanced down at her glass, and as if for the first time ever, noticed the lipstick mark it left. Suddenly, roughly, she wiped her hand across her mouth to remove what was left on her lips. "I've gone off the lipstick all of a sudden," she said.
"Really?" Her sister asked, surprised. "I think it suits you." She paused, taking a drink from her own glass. "Mind you, it doesn't look so good on me."
Julies head whipped up. "I beg your pardon."
"I know, I know. I should have mentioned it earlier, but I felt a little guilty."
Julie was speechless, her mouth opening and closing like a fish.
"When Tony and you were out the other night I let myself in with your spare key. I had a date and needed the loo. I borrowed your lipstick I'm afraid."
"Did, er, did you happen to use the mouthwash too?" Julie stammered.
"Look I am ever so sorry. I promise I'll never again let myself in without asking first. Please don't be too angry."
Julie, tears rolling down her face, smiled at her sister. "Oh Kate. I'm not angry at you. In fact I'm very glad you let yourself in. Believe me - I'm very happy!"