Sometimes things happen in life that force me to reflect. Reflection isn’t always easy…. just like looking in the mirror and acknowledging the cumulative effects of years in shades of gray and crevices along once-porcelain skin, reflection sheds light on ingrained patterns that led to some of my darkest days.
My weakest moments have shown me that faith is hope, and love is the way. Not romantic love. Instead, the love that is friendship and genuine caring for others; the kind of love that prompts me to do something just to make someone else smile. Because, when I can’t find the strength to smile myself, seeing someone else smile is enough.
Love is the guide.
This weekend, I visited friends that I haven’t seen in a few years. I can think of many excuses reasons, but all of them are selfish. I showed up on their doorstep unannounced, Easter Lily in hand, and they welcomed me without any hard feelings whatsoever. We visited for hours, she shared some chocolate cake and hugs and we will go to lunch next month when I’m in town again.
This last year has shown me that when the passing idea to do something kind happens, don’t ignore it. When the thought turns into an urging that keeps resurfacing, I should definitely do something. With faith giving me strength and love as my guide, I’m ready to embrace the lessons that life has for me.
Good friends can often see our blind spots. It takes courage to tell us stuff we don’t want to hear, but they are there to comfort us when life is rough.
Recently a friend shared an observation which she’d kept to herself for years. What she said kind of hurt, but I wish she’d spoken up sooner. As I thought about obsessed over it more, I cycled through the possible motivations for silence and sharing. It could be a desire to not sway my choices (though decisions made on inaccurate observations are inherently flawed.) It could be that she doubted the strength of our friendship (sometimes when told something we don’t want to acknowledge, we lash out.) Maybe she kept her silence until she thought I could handle the truth. It could be a combination of these, and other factors. I try not to dwell on the reasons I cannot know, and instead, appreciate the fact she finally did speak up.
Sometimes life feels like a corn maze. The greater design of my life is a mystery to me. I’m so focused on the day-to-day that I can’t see anything beyond the space my feet occupy. Actually, I tend to see what I want to and rationalize the rest. That’s where a good friend can be invaluable.
Offering superficial approval, passive agreement, and placating compliments is easy. Being a good friend is hard.
My hope is that we can all have a good friend- and be a good friend to someone.
Mackenzie Walters stood in the center of the large ballroom, soaking in the rays streaming in from the windows that made up the better part of three walls. For several minutes, she stood, transfixed by the lush gardens surrounding the banquet hall. The resort had touted itself as an oasis in the desert and she had to agree – nowhere else in Phoenix could she be transported to the tropics. She almost forgot it hadn’t rained in fifty-three days.
“Are you okay, Mackie?”
She glanced over her shoulder and saw her best friend, Heather, lingering in the doorway. She shrugged. “Yeah, I think so.” She turned to a nearby table and tugged at one of the white napkins to give it a taller peak. A flicker of memory made her smile; something her mom would say about busy hands and idle minds.
“I’m not so sure.”
“I appreciate your concern, but this is exactly what I want to do.”
“I think you’re in shock,” Heather said. “I mean, your parents died only four weeks ago and immediately you started planning this extravaganza.” She made a sweeping motion with her left arm.
Mackenzie nodded. “Yeah, there wasn’t much time to pull it together, but I think the place looks nice.”
“It should, for what you’re paying for it.”
She closed her eyes and inhaled. “Do you smell that?” She didn’t wait for an answer. “It’s chicken piccata, pasta and fresh green beans, but it might as well be filet mignon and caviar.” She nudged a glass to line it up with the knife at another place setting. “It’s not about the money, it’s about the experience.”
Paulina struggled to untangle herself from the satin sheet. Perspiration beaded along her hairline as she gulped air and flailed her limbs.
Her neighbor freed her legs and she tumbled from the bed, landing in a heap on the floor. “Did you have another nightmare?”
After several minutes, her labored breathing slowed enough for her to talk. “It wasn’t a dream. Robbie was here.”
“That’s impossible.” He stretched across the bed and rubbed her shoulder as she huddled on the ground. “Didn’t you say she died of anaphylaxis years ago?”
“She was my best friend. It was my fault,” she whispered. Whether awake or asleep, guilt always managed to worm its way into her psyche.
“You had no way of knowing the gravy contained nuts. No one could’ve guessed.”
“I need to go for a run.” Paulina scrambled to her feet and headed to the closet, her bare feet slapping on the hardwood floor. Her nightie dropped to her ankles and she pulled a sports bra over her head.
“Why don’t you come back to bed and try a different workout?”
She glanced over her shoulder. Though tempted by his teasing smile, she held firm. “I’m suffocating. I need fresh air.”
“I’ll wait right here.”
She pulled on jogging shorts and grabbed her running shoes and socks. “Maybe you should go home.” She kissed his forehead. “See ya.”
After fifteen minutes, Paulina slowed to a stroll. She fought to catch her breath. Is this how Robbie felt?
Paulina stopped and looked over her shoulder for the source of the voice. The only people around congregated near a group of children playing soccer. No one paid her any mind. She shook her head and continued to a park bench to rest.
Once seated, she leaned over and dropped her head between her knees. Her heart thudded against her breastbone with such ferocity, she half-expected the bone to crack. She tried to soothe her panic, but once again, her thoughts drifted to Robbie. Did her heart feel like it would explode?
“It hurt worse than knowing your best friend betrayed you.”
Paulina’s eyes widened.
“You pay me back in kind and reap just what you sow.”
“R-R-Robbie?” Paulina’s stomach churned and nausea crept upward. “It can’t be.” The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground. A prickling sensation inched up her left arm.
“I’ve waited six years, six months and six days. The man-beast promised the time would come. I’d begun to doubt and thought I’d been betrayed again, but indeed, he planted the seed of guilt and fed it until it flourished.”
“I-I couldn’t go through with our plan. It didn’t feel right.”
“We almost had it all. We could’ve had it all.”
“Robbie, I’m sorry. I feared you’d go through with it anyway, so I added crushed cashews to the gravy. It was an impulsive move that I regret.” Paulina covered her face with her hands to hide her tears. “I miss you so much!”
The sun shone through the clouds again. Paulina felt her guilt ease into a peace she hadn’t felt in years. She rested her back on the bench, lightheaded- almost giddy. She felt a pinch on her arm, followed by an intense burning sensation coursing through her veins. Her throat tightened and panic rose.
“I forgive you, but I made a deal that can’t be undone.”
Paulina tried to form words.
“Her lips are blue!” A shrill voice shouted. “Call 9-1-1!”
She felt breath slide down her throat and compressions on her chest. The sun’s brightness became more intense. For an amount of time she couldn’t gauge, she basked in the radiating heat. Then, she heard a man’s voice announce, “time of death: 8:53 AM; anaphylaxis.”
This is my response to the Speakeasy weekly prompt, which is to write a piece in 750 words or less (mine is 644) (1) using “The clouds shifted, casting an ominous shadow on the ground.” anywhere in the piece, AND (2) making some kind of reference to the music prompt, which is Adele’s Rolling in the Deep. Oh, and as an added challenge, it’s the last week of “family-free” writing, which means no family relationships.
The challenge is open to anyone, so if you’re curious, click the badge below to check out the guidelines and link your own story!
This is my response to the Gargleblaster weekly prompt, which is to write a 42 word answer to this question: Do you see her much?
While my response is fiction, I am sometimes reminded of friends no longer part of my life. I know some friendships are just for a season, but they do cross my mind once in a while. I also owned a “Best Friends” necklace, but it was gold. I think it’s an ‘eighties’ thing 🙂
This challenge is open to anyone, but you have to think (and link) fast – the challenge closes once there are 42 responses linked. Click here to post your own link!