The sky was a dusky blue by the time I left Joshua’s house. The street lights casted soft shadows, their lights a dark shade of nothingness even though it was already 8:00. People were still out and about, going for a walk or simply dashing to the video store to grab a movie for Friday night. I nodded and smiled at Leigh Weilert and her boyfriend as she walked her dogs past Joshua’s house, and at Nyree Palmer and her mother who stopped across the street to visit the video store. Closing the gate to number 17 Winton Street, I glanced once again at Joshua’s house with its unkempt garden and peeling paint. I could see the lights in his living room, the flickering rays of his TV around his lone silhouette. Everybody was out tonight, or spending time with family and friends. It pained my heart to think of Joshua spending Friday night alone.
It was a tradition for me to have dinner with Joshua every Friday. Every Friday for the last four years we have had takeaway together, rotating our orders of Chinese food with Italian every second week. We have been such regulars that the man from the Golden Dragon remembered our order to a T, and the woman from San Remo could recognise Joshua’s voice as soon as he called up. I guess everything that happened on a Friday night with Josh became such a habit that nothing surprised me anymore. I was used to arriving at his door almost at the exact moment as the takeaway delivery, so used to sitting and listening to Josh’s memories of Mollie and then afterwards cleaning up our plates and cutleries. But the one thing that I never got used to was his goodbye kiss on the cheek. I moved my hand to my cheek then, still feeling the burning heat of his lips.
I walked down the grass-lined street and turned at the corner into Taylor Avenue. The lights in the cafe were still on bright. I guessed Charli was waiting for me after all, like she had done for the past four years. I pushed the glass door and stepped into the cafe, the sounds of jingling bells announcing my return. Charli was cleaning up the display cabinets, her messy hair pushed back with a bright blue headband. I stepped over to where she was and grabbed the remaining cleaning cloth. We scrubbed and wiped in unison, a silent dance that’s kind of like our secret handshake.
“How was it tonight, Jo?” Charli asked.
“Josh seemed cheerier than usual,” I replied, reaching my arm into the furthest corner to clean.
“What do you mean cheerier?” she asked, looking at me with eyes brimming with curiosity.
“Well, I guess the excitement of the fair caught up to him after all,” I said.
“Are you sure that’s it?” Charli probed.
“Well, what else would it be? We only mentioned Mollie five times tonight,” I said, “Sounds a lot, but it’s an improvement from having her name in every second sentence or so.”
“You sure it wasn’t you that made him happy?” Charli teased, winking at me, “You look lovely tonight.”
“So I don’t look lovely normally?” I retorted, stretching my face into a grin.
Charli was my sister, but being the gossip that she was, I didn’t want to tell her that I hoped what she said was true. That perhaps he did feel happier in my company. That perhaps he did notice that I put on the dress in his favourite colour and spent half an hour doing my hair just for him. That perhaps he looked at me as more than his best friend. I knew that it was horrible of me to think this way when Mollie’s still first and foremost in his mind, but I couldn’t help but hope.
Charli had already baked all the goods for our stand at the fair tomorrow. I went into the pantry to search out our store of boxes and ribbons as she packed the first of the savoury pastries into a tray. Tomorrow morning we would be taking the baked goods stand, with an array of pastries, cakes and sweets. I settled down the boxes and ribbons on the table next to Charli, and proceeded to pack our famous chocolate chip cookies. By the time we finished, we were surrounded by boxes with ribbons and trays full of pastries. I would pile the whole lot into my truck tomorrow, ready to be driven to the fair. It was 10:32 when we finally locked the kitchen door and climbed wearily up the stairs to our flat.
I changed into my PJs and pulled my curls up into a ponytail as Charli laid out her outfit for tomorrow. We brushed our teeth together in our cramp bathroom, and Charli went out to select our Friday night movie as I started to remove the makeup off my face.
“You feel like something light tonight?” she yelled to me from our living room.
“Yeah, I don’t mind. Whatever you want to watch,” I yelled back, still scrubbing hard at the stubborn spot on my forehead.
“OK. I’ll put Disney on then,” she said.
I finally managed to remove all the makeup off my face and rinsed my hands. Drying them on my pyjama bottoms, I stepped into the living room to plonk down on the bean bag next to Charli. She pointed the remote at the TV and pressed play. Charli had chosen “Tangled” to watch that night.
I personally loved that movie, for I was the type of girl who loved musicals and all things Disney. As we reached the part where Rapunzel and Eugene sat beneath the floating lanterns, I looked over to Charli. This was her favourite part, and I loved looking at how her eyes light up whenever she listens to that song. But that night, Charli was crying.