"Hey Cara, you've got an email from Anna." Ali looked over the top of my laptop that she was using while hers was being fixed.
"I don't want to deal with her right now." I groaned, running my hands through my hair in an effort to look presentable.
"Want me to tell her to buzz off?"
"Sure. At least until I've decided I want to talk to her again."
"Okay, I'll tell her not to contact you then."
"Great. How do I look?"
"But not like I'm trying to impress?"
"Not at all."
"Seriously though, why?"
"Well I don't want Sam to think I expect anything from this... whatever it is."
"She invited us all."
"I know but... I don't know I just... I want to look good but I don't want her to think I did it for her. I'm going slow, trying to be a good friend to her at first."
"At first huh?"
"I can't lie and say I don't want her back. But I'm going at her speed. And she was happy to invite us all to the gallery, so I want to go and see her newest show."
"UGH. You're making me get dressed up when I'm huge."
"You're not as huge as you'll be when you're in your last months."
"Don't even talk to me about that."
I laughed and put the finishing touches to my outfit by slipping in to a black blazer. Then, when the others were ready, we headed out and started to walk down the street.
"You going to be okay tonight Cara?" Liam asked as we walked side by side.
"Sure. I mean, the worst is over. We're actually talking. It's still a little... tentative? But it's friendly."
"Do you think she wants to get back together?"
"I don't know. No? Yes. We had a moment in the flat, but I didn't want to push her. And she's been so good since then... I feel like maybe she is testing the waters in case she wants to get back together. But I'm leaving it up to her. I mean, it's her business."
"And what about Anna?"
"What about her?" I frowned.
"Well, she didn't do any harm, so maybe you should forgive her?"
I sighed and shook my head.
"I do kind of want to. But every time I think about responding to her all I can think of is that she'll take that as permission to do this in the future, even if I say no. Because she thinks she can figure it out. She has to learn, and I think maybe ignoring her for a while might actually make her think, the next time she tries to do something as fucked up as that."
"And you don't think it's been long enough? I mean, it's been over a week."
"She can stretch to two weeks, and then I'll think about it."
Liam rolled his eyes, but grinned in spite of himself and threw his arm around my shoulder.
"Well maybe if this evening goes well, you'll be in a good enough mood to forgive her sooner."
"Nothing is going to happen. Slow and steady wins the race Liam. It's on her, remember?"
"Ah yes, how could I forget?" He mocked, and ducked away when I swiped at him. I looked up and realised we were at Piece's. Liam opened the door and ushered me in, so I had next to no time to prepare.
The walls were covered in black and white photographs, which made me smile. Sam knew I loved black and white photography, more than any other form, and it suddenly made sense that she would have invited me to this particular show. It was not as random as it seemed then. I took one of the non-alcoholic drinks and began making my way around the room with Liam; Jak, Ali, Callum and Lily following behind us.
"I like this one." Liam said, pointing at a photograph of two children playing with a dog, underneath a brick archway of a railway bridge.
"It's sweet. The innocence underneath the imposing."
"Very astute." A man with shaggy brown hair and big, black, square framed glasses said, to my left. "That's what I was going for."
"You're the photographer?" I asked, turning to get a better view of him. He had a slight hipster vibe to him, and grinned at me.
"That I am." He reached out his hand to shake mine. "Anthony Harwick."
"Cara Gramms. This is Liam, Jak, Ali, Callum and Lily."
"Nice to meet you all. So let me guess, art student? Or photography?"
"Really?" He seemed intrigued. "I mean I suppose it overlaps with art but I wouldn't have expected it."
"That's because you're always sure you know people before you've even spoken to them." Sam had appeared, and as ever my whole body tingled when she came close. "It's good to see you all." She glanced around the group, but her eyes lingered, ever so slightly, on me.
"Hey." I murmured. "The show is excellent."
"Yes, well done Anthony. You've out done yourself." Sam was in full business mode, but that didn't stop her throwing another glance at me as she spoke to her artist. "I'm glad I encouraged you to show it."
"Oh, you encouraged me huh?" He laughed. "I see."
"Well, I did. Once the slot opened up."
"Yes. I can't believe you let Myra go somewhere else."
"It was... necessary." I could feel the discomfort radiating from Sam's body as she said it, and it met the waves of awkwardness from my own. Sam cleared her throat. "Anyway, I have to get back to the people. You're selling well."
"Of course I am." He scoffed. "People just eat up a little photography after an endless supply of paintings."
"If you're head gets any bigger..." Sam shook her head, chuckling, and then turned to face me. "I hope you enjoy the rest of the show."
"I'm sure I will."