Since we published the first story at the beginning of January last year, I think this probably qualifies Eden Baylee and me as being in the home stretch of a series which we’ve called the
Prompt: Your mother lied to you. That’s the truth.
Title and Parts 1 & 3 Eden
Parts 2 & 4 Bill
Given the disparity between our ages, the choice of a title gave rise to a very brief online discussion but we’re confident that enough of you will be familiar with the expression we’ve agreed on so this is…
Kathy said things in a direct manner, never minced words. She sat back in her chair and flicked her head of blonde curls before delivering the blow. “Your mother lied to you. That’s the truth.”
Mary fired back. “How do you know?”
“I was there when it happened.”
The room spun; Mary felt like she might faint. She gripped the table top to steady herself.
What was supposed to be a fun evening of catching up was turning into something ugly. The last time they saw one another was before Kathy left for Europe six months ago. As usual when her friend called, Mary dropped what she was doing to accommodate her. Her husband was rightfully annoyed she broke off movie night with him and the kids, but she’d make it up to them. With Kathy, she just never knew when she might get a chance to see her again.
Now, as the conversation turned to that dreaded day from her childhood, Mary wondered why they were even friends. “You are so mean spirited, you know that?”
Kathy took a sip and set down her martini glass. “I’m just being honest. God, Mary, it happened years ago. Get over it!”
The words were spoken with a wave of her hand as if they had no significance. Mary gave a shake of her head. She’d always been semi-jealous of Kathy’s composure, her ability to take whatever came along and embrace it with passionless calm, but the careless, throwaway manner in which she was treating that long ago confrontation with her mother felt cruel, uncaring. Yes, Kathy had been there, witnessed it, been part of it, but this dismissal of it just seemed particularly spiteful.
“Get over it?” she echoed, just managing to suppress her anger. “It was you she was talking about as well, you know. You were wearing the same gear. ”
Kathy spread her arms and shrugged, as if to suggest that Mary was simply proving her point.
“Oh, come on, honey. It was nothing,” she said. “A mother disapproving of what her wee girlie and her friend were wearing to the school disco. How many million times a year d’you think that happens?”
Mary was silent for a while. When she did speak, her voice was low, her rage was under control.
“I’ve got my own ‘wee girlie’ now, Kathy. “And I’d die before I said anything like that to her.”
When Mary got in, her husband was putting away the dishes. Steve seemed surprised to see her.
“Kids asleep?” she said.
“Yep, finally … after reading them five stories!”
“You’re a pushover.”
She sat at the dining table and her husband joined her. He poured them both a glass of wine. “How’s Kathy and her fabulous life?”
“Why do you say it like that?”
Steve shrugged. “Because that’s Kathy, you always return with stories about her adventures, her love life, her next trip. Sometimes I wonder if you wished your life was more like hers.”
Her husband suddenly seemed more intuitive than she gave him credit for. “Interesting you should say that.”
“Because I don’t want Kathy’s life. As a matter of fact, I’m home early because I ended our friendship tonight.”
Steve cocked his head to one side. “No way.”
She nodded slowly, took several sips of water. “Yes, I finally got to see her for what she is.”
“And what’s that?”
“A narcissist,” she said without hesitation. “We’ve had nothing in common for years, so she brought up something from my past. It was stupid but hurtful. Not once did she ask me about how I’m doing now.”
Steve shook his head and turned away. Mary suspected he was smiling but she couldn’t be sure. He’d never understood the complexity of her childhood friendships, especially the one with Kathy.
“Kate still keeps asking why none of the people in the children’s stories ever go to the lavatory,” he said.
Mary laughed and, gradually, mutual recollections of their youngest’s obsession with excretory functions seemed to banish the memory of the Kathy incident.
In the end, Steve got up and, saying he had an early start, gave Mary a peck on the cheek, took the empty glasses through to the kitchen and went up to bed.
Mary just sat and, in the silence, the residue of fury from her argument began to burn in her again.
At last, she stood up, put on her coat and drove, much faster than she should, back across town to Kathy’s flat.
She rang the bell. The door opened almost at once, as if Kathy had been waiting just inside it. No words were spoken. Mary stepped inside and let her coat fall from her shoulders. There were tears in their eyes as they hugged and kissed like the lovers they had always been.