Nine: The Next Day (Conversations)

The phone had been ringing on and off for the last half an hour. Of course, Andrea was not to know that, and she dived for it the moment she had finishing wrestling with the front door of her new home.

“Hello? Andrea speaking.”

“Andrea!” It was Alexis. “I’ve been ringing for ages!”

“What?” Andrea baffled, “I’ve been on my way home, and you saw me only an hour and a bit ago. You could have texted!”

“Well, I didn’t know when you were coming home, did I?”

Suddenly, the cardboard shapes that were floating around in Andrea’s mind slotted together.
“Alexis…what do you want? Really?”

“N-not much. You know, work stuff. Um… I think you left a folder in my office…”
“You wanted to see how I was here with Keith, didn’t you?” Andrea rolled her eyes, and teasingly folded her arms across her chest, before realising that Alexis could not see her actions.

She slid down onto the sofa, as Alexis said, indignantly:

“Actually, it was birthday planning that I wanted to talk to you about…”

“And…you wanted to check up on me at the new home.”

“Well, yeah,” the other lady admitted, “So, how is it? You seemed really moody at lunch. I hope Keith is not being a pain. Urg, men; sometimes they can’t be understood.”

Andrea’s head snapped up.

“No, it’s not that at all! Keith and I are fine!” She noticed her tone of voice, and slid it down a few decibels before continuing. “’Lex, it’s been a busy week; I’m just a bit stressed that’s all, what with my birthday, and moving- and I’m behind on those evaluations for Mark…”

Mark was Andrea and Alexis’ boss, and it was obvious that there was some romantic involvement between the two of them. Not that Alexis had ever thought of settling down.

“Right. Um…” (Now that had thrown Alexis’ train off its tracks). “Anyway, do you want a cake? I know a baker who makes the perfect oddly-shaped ones. Or, I could bring in streamers for the shared office, and brighten the place up a bit. Wait, I could do both! I don’t mind! And-”

“Alexis, I’m not in the mood for birthday planning at the moment,” Andrea cut across her, rather icily.

“Oh, come on!” the voice on the other end of the line said, shrilly, “It’s only one week and one day away. We must have something fun planned.”

“Well, I’m coming into work,” replied Andrea, “Is that satisfactory?”
”Nope. Andrea, we must do something; have a few drinks somewhere special (I know that you don’t go out to enough nightclubs) with your boyfriend.”

Andrea stared down into the phone, finally losing herself to anger, pain and- once again- guilt. She bit at a broken nail subconsciously.

“Andrea? Hello?” Alexis’ voice brought the lady back to the present.

“I don’t know. Really, I don’t want much.”

“But-”

“Sorry, Alexis,” Andrea sighed, her voice filling up with weariness.

“Right, I’ll leave you to think about it. Think!”

The resounding click of the phone indicated that Alexis had ended their conversation without even saying ‘goodbye’. But it didn’t matter; Andrea knew of her friend’s impulsive nature. It was Alexis’ determination that made Andrea frown.

Sitting down, she found that she could concentrate on nothing. Andrea thought it weird that the people whom she would have, happily, asked for help two months ago, Keith and Alexis, she now wished not to see at all. There was that numb desire growing that Andrea could not deny. She felt angry at herself for losing it at Lucas, and suddenly found herself thinking that had hated her. That, in turn, flicked on the fires of her hurt to burn, ruthlessly, through to her mind. She clenched and unclenched her fists, so hateful of herself, and resisting the temptation to beat the sofa, until tears were falling in their strong rivers down her cheeks.

Finally, Andrea could see that nothing was her fault, and Lucas certainly wasn’t in the wrong. He would need time, he would need help, and, more than ever now, he would need her friendship. Her fingers twitched, one, two, three…and pounced upon the mobile phone on the coffee table beside.

Before she explicitly, or consciously, knew it, she had typed the following message;

You’re an expert on birthday planning, aren’t you, Lucas? You said yourself that they are times to be enjoyed. Any ideas what I should do for mine?

And after that, quick as a flash, it was sent.

Thirty seconds later, and a green LED flashed to signal Lucas.

Go to a nightclub? Don’t worry, they’re not that scary places.

Lxxx

PS. Does this mean I’m forgiven?

Andrea let herself enjoy one moment of a smile, feeling only half of the pleasure as she read his message. As quick as a flash, there was the reply onscreen:

Forgiven? What for, Lucas?

She paused over the send button, then bit her lip and typed in:

We need to talk. I’m sorry about yesterday. Andrea.

Lucas did not disappoint.

So am I. Look, can’t talk right now- going to mass and then out with a friend. Actually, do you want to meet later?

Lxxx

Instantly, their texts became as a proper conversation might.

“We’ve got to stop arranging random outings!”

“Yeah…But they’re fun. *Sticks out tongue*”

“You are so immature!

Okay, I’ll see you. Text me when you’re free.”

She was laughing. And then she was crying again. What was a girl with a torn heart in her position to do?

The End

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