I walk away. She stands in the hall trembling. My eyes are cloudy and I can feel my heart smashing at my rib cage.
It has taken her seven years to speak up.
“Hey! Where do you keep your broom? Jim just dropped a bottle in the kitchen?” I am thrown out of my own brain for a minute and brought back to reality. I look at her and she walks away. “Hello?” a hand is waved in front of my eyes and in an instant she is gone. I turn to the source of the break in my reverie, “Uh, broom is in the laundry to the right.”
I walk back into the kitchen. My head swirling, I can barely feel my feet but I keep moving. “Hey honey!” a kiss is planted on my cheek, “Your sister wants to get a photo of us.” Claire leads me into the lounge room, the silver engagement banner reflecting the light across the busy room. Mum and dad are beaming, Claire looks stunning and the champagne is flowing but nothing feels right. My insides are clashing with the environment and I feel sick. “Get closer!” my sister yells through the camera lens. Claire pulls me in. As I jolt towards her my eyes search the room. “Ok smile!” for a moment I forget how, then I contort my face to match the others. Claire lets me go and she rushes off to greet the new arrivals. Standing in the centre of the crowded room I feel more alone than I have in years.
Seven years since she found out how I felt. She chose today to tell me she feels the same.
Suddenly the shock dissipates and is replaced by anger. How dare she? I told her all those years ago, I checked and checked and I waited. I ensured that there was never any chance, I let go because she told me to – she chose today to tell me she was wrong. Today, to show me how she felt.
My feet are working now. Storming around the house I search for her. The noise of the party is deafening, my blood boiling – I have to find her. I turned the corner from the kitchen into the laundry and crash straight into someone. Champagne instantly running down the front of my dress. “I’m so sorry!” we say in unison, my heart jumps – it’s her. I look up, the anger reaches fever pitch. I slam the door closed behind me, no one notices, the music is louder than ever.
With the door closed the party turns to a muffled chaos. She looks tiny. She was always smaller than me, but she seems even more fragile than usual. For a moment I am deterred from my rage mission. – only a moment.
“What the fuck Laura? You think it’s a good fucking idea to come to my fucking engagement party and kiss me? In the fucking hallway? Where the fuck do you get that idea from? You are unbelievable. First of all, I don’t hear from you for six months leading up to this, you don’t call, you don’t respond to my messages. I didn’t even think you were coming! Then you turn up, without a single word. Explain to me how you think that was a good thing to do? Go on, fucking explain.”
She is crying. I don’t care. “We were twenty-one when I told you how I felt. Twenty fucking one Laura!”
She looks up at me, I can see she is searching, “I…I don’t know. I just,” I cut her off, “oh you don’t know? Well that’s a fucking great answer Laura.” She puts her head in her hands and begins to sob. My hands are shaking, my stomach doing backflips, “I need a drink.”
I leave the laundry and head straight for the liquor cabinet. Bourbon, where is the bourbon? Finally my hand grasps a bottle of Jack Daniels that has been pushed to the back behind all the red wine and champagne gift bottles we had received. Grabbing ice and throwing it in a glass, I start to calm. I throw the Jack down my throat, and pour another. “Hey, what’s going on?” I turn around to meet Claire’s confused gaze. Something feels different, as if a piece of me is gone. The way I looked at her this morning is different to how I see her now. She is the same, I am not. “Nothing, just wanted a real drink.” She buys it, smiles and hugs me. “Oh someone said your friend Laura was leaving? I haven’t even met her yet?” I put down the bourbon and head straight to the laundry. Gone. No, she can’t go. I am not finished with her yet. “Honey?” Claire’s voice fades into the noise of the party as I again start searching.
I catch a glimpse of Laura heading for the front door. I push through the crowd of friends. The heat of their bodies making me anxious, I have to get outside, I have to catch her.
Bursting out the front door the winter air hits me like a freight train. The street is empty. She couldn’t have disappeared that quickly. I run across the lawn, well attempt to. I instantly sink a heel in the soggy ground, “Mother fucker!” I rip the shoes off and leave them behind. The cool grass between my toes makes me shiver, I race across to the pavement and look both ways up and down the street. The street light shines perfectly down on her, she sulks into the shadows again and I shout, “Laura!” she stops, but doesn’t turn. Her shoulders slump and she looks at her feet. I catch up to her and she spins on her heels.
“I’m sorry okay? I didn’t know what to do Tash! When you told me how you felt all those years ago, what I said was true. I didn’t feel the same. I didn’t think I did. I don’t know! All I know is I have spent years, fucking years, travelling this god damn planet to find something, anything. To feel something, to meet someone. There was nothing Tash. I was in Peru and I missed you. I was in Amsterdam, and I was wishing you were with me. On a fucking mountain, in fucking Nepal, I laughed thinking of something you said. It was always you and I never knew it. I never did. I genuinely did not know. Then you sent me the invite to this engagement. I burst into tears Tash…I just cried. I sat down, on the floor of my empty house and fucking cried. Jack came home and he didn’t know what to do with me and I didn’t know what to say. How do you explain to your boyfriend that you have suddenly had your heart broken? That when you opened a tiny piece of ivory card, your stomach dropped, your heart stopped, everything ended. That you couldn’t breathe? Tash, I am sorry okay? I am sorry. I love you, I do and now it’s too late.”
Finally she stopped for a breath. I looked at her, truly looked at her. I had broken her into pieces and I never even knew it. “It’s too late Laura. I have Claire now…things are…good.” looking at her feet she nodded, quietly she sighed “I know.” She turned and walked away. I watched as she moved down the street, she never looked back.