Saturday, 31 March 2007

SAYING GOODBYE TO A FRIEND

WARNING: SOME STORIES MAY CONTAIN DISTURBING SCENES

Enid Barnes had a tear in her eye. At seventy years of age, she wasn't normally emotional; she was part of the old school, who kept their emotions in check with a sniff. But this day was different, and she had felt it welling up for an hour now. Indeed, she knew that if she let it run down her cheek, the dam would burst and a torrent would inevitably follow.
Margaret sat in her living room, opposite her, a look of determination on her face. 'You really must accept the inevitable Enid,' she said.
'Must I?' replied Enid.
Margaret sat forward. 'Look, I'm all packed and ready to go. You've had two months to get used to it.' Her face relented, momentarily. 'And anyway,' she continued, 'I'm only moving a couple of miles away. We'll still see each other often.'
Which in a way was true. But it would be different. Enid knew that; and so did Margaret.
They had been neighbours for nearly fifty years. Enid remembered those years as they flashed before her. Both had married about the same time and moved to live next to each other. Total strangers at first, a friendship seemed to grow straight away. And over the years their lives had seemed to advance in parallel. First child, second child, their husbands having similar jobs, THEY having similar interests. Their children had left about the same time, and even their husbands had passed away within weeks of each other. To Enid, the only constant in all this had been her friendship with Margaret. Indeed, it seemed to her that Margaret had really been the only real reason for her existence.
But now, it was over. Her children had decided the house was too big, and Margaret was going to live in a sheltered bungalow.
'Will we really see each other often?' asked Enid.Margaret smiled at this. A ray of hope in her gloom.
'Of course we will,' she said.
'But it will be so different. No popping next door. It will be getting prepared; an event rather than a close friendship.'
'Yes, but is that so bad?'
Enid had already decided it was. 'It would be terrible,' she said, her voice beginning to waver.
Hurriedly, she stood up, hiding her face. That damned tear was going to flow. I need an excuse, she thought. 'I'll put the kettle on. Make a cup of tea.'
Margaret said: 'I've already had one, Enid. There's no time.' But it was no use. Enid had already gone into the kitchen.
Margaret checked her watch. Oh well, she thought, there'll be another bus soon. Another cup of tea. I can give her that.
Indeed she could. Enid deserved it. She had been a good friend. And she was as upset as Enid, if the truth were told. Maybe she should have stood up to her children more. Stayed put. Even moved in with Enid. Would that have been nice? Yes, it would. But too late now. Decisions have been made. Arrangements finalised. No going back.
Enid returned with the cup of tea. Put it down in front of Margaret. Walked, momentarily, about the room behind her.
Margaret said: 'It will be alright, you know. We'll see each other far more often than you think.'
'I'm sure we will,' said Enid as she moved closer to Margaret's back.
'Maybe we'll see each other every day.'
Enid could only agree as she raised the knife, placed it delicately by Margaret's neck and plunged it in.
'Everyday,' said Enid as she sat down. 'Now, Margaret,' she added, 'drink your tea.'

© Anthony North, May 2002

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