Conversations with Friends

They sit on sagging sofas saying nothing. Each glance an accusation. One adjusts her position, straightens. Another, clears her throat, sound echoes off bare floor boards—polished to perfection yet stark and uncomforting. The third, leans forward, elbows rest on knees which ache after yesterday’s rain. The clock on the mantlepiece ticks each second like an ultimatum. No words pass between them, although adamant thoughts settle in the minds of those present. It should be her, thinks one. It won’t be me, thinks another. And the third thinks of happier times before conversation became confrontation.

A thin chime sounds from the clock. Its solitary note signals one in the afternoon. The three share a startled twitch, not quite a jump, they are long passed that, but a movement of shoulders followed by a prick of adrenaline at the sudden sound. How ludicrous this is, fumes one. I have things to do, lies another. And the third sighs, before resting back against the once-plump cushion which now fits the shape of her back like a passing hug from a loved one. Then, a chink of light breaks through the cloud-laden sky and shoots a butter-hued beam through the centre of the room. Dust particles dance in its wake before settling into the darkness below.

There was a time their voices overlapped. Each desperate to share news or gossip with the others. No offence taken at interruption, merely gasps of excitement or nods of acknowledgement along with words of encouragement to go on. Time would jump forward as if someone sneaked in and tampered with the clocks (there were several all around the house). They would say, look at the time! But none cared or felt hurried to cut short their precious meeting. Now, time stands still. The clocks still tick, the chimes still chime but they are suspended in this stand-off.

I should leave, thinks one. There’s no point being here, thinks another. And the third wishes she could reach out and shake sense into them all. Communicate what they could not, remind them of what they had lost and endured. But no sense could be shaken today. They knew what was lost and are still enduring the pain. This was the problem. Then, the clouds close ranks to repair the breach in their grey-gloom and any warmth in the room is extinguished. It is as if someone has flicked a light-switch. Shadows spread out and swallow the centre of the room. A splash of rain appears on the windowpane and trickles down like a single tear.

I should have brought an umbrella, thinks one. I knew it would rain, thinks another. And the third thinks this can’t go on despite knowing it could and probably would. How many years has it been since these three shared anything other than a grudge? Why had she believed an hour in this room would be enough to repair the damage? The shower outside becomes a deluge. The view from the window, an impressionist painting and the trees and flowers a melting pot of colour. At least the silence is broken. The pattering of raindrops dash against glass and various objects in the garden. It is soothing. All three feel its calming meditation. Muscles relax, jaws unclench, fingers uncurl. Eyes meet. Then tears trickle down cheeks as the rain did only moments before. They increase in intensity and create their own downpour. Sobs heave in chests, escape mouths once guarded now ready to speak.

But no words are required. Hands are grasped, fingers entwine and in that moment, another break in the storm clouds allows sunlight to illuminate and envelop all in such relief. A combined exhalation breathes life into friendships. I miss you, thinks one. I love you, thinks another. And the third thinks only of how lonely life would be if they did not have each other, through the good times and the bad.

~The H Word~

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Wendy Pratt

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