I handed Caroline a fluffy tissue from the box next to me and gave her a couple more seconds to re-compose herself.
“I was pretty close to Lizzie when she was going out with Andy-”
“They were dating?!” I gasped, and turned back a page.
“They started going out six months before she disappeared. Josh didn’t mind, he and Andy were such good friends. Josh knew Andy would look after his sister. When she went missing he was so angry. They were both devastated… Andy less so, but, of course, that’s to be expected. Family will be more upset than just a boyfriend… But we thought that she was ‘The One’ for him. I guess true love never works… Take Josh and me, for instance: on-and-off since our late teens, and now… What is love that survives in our world?”
“Don’t say that! And you’re sure they stayed friends?”
“Of course! They didn’t want to destroy their friendship over, well, as the saying goes: ‘over a girl!’”
I looked down at my half-drunk, half-warm hot chocolate and suddenly I felt so sympathetic; I had never before had a proper friend and knew no deep loss. Shamefully, I supposed that Joshua was my greatest friend, and now I had even lost him.
“Because Josh was friends with Andy, therefore I was good friends with Lizzie,” continued Caroline, “my boyfriend’s best friend’s girlfriend. My boyfriend’s sister…” She mused this mainly to herself.
I left her to silence for a minute and glanced at the clock, which displayed in its neon type to me: 1:07am. I yawned and realised I should be getting back soon. Caroline turned her head and gazed at me, her eyes deep with loneliness.
“Yes, I miss her; she was the closest thing that I had to a best friend. After that it was just a string of boys I clung on to around Josh and the feeling of a drug-induced mind. I shouldn’t blame Lizzie for any of my mistakes, but both of them have left a hole in my heart.”
She covered her ruby red mouth with one of her soft, manicured hands and controlled a sob. I could see that by ‘both of them’ she was also referring to Joshua; he must have been the man she loved the most in the world. In my tired state, emotions came so quickly and I had to drink almost all of the (not so) hot chocolate in order not to join in with Caroline’s crying.
“I see you’ve finished your hot chocolate-” Caroline couldn’t want to talk about that sorrow anymore.
“Almost finished.” And I wasn’t going to push the subject anymore either.
“You should go; it’s getting really late, or too early,” she tried to laugh but ended trying not to sob again.
I drained the last of my warm beverage and stood up abruptly. Caroline stood too, smiling sadly and a little dazed. She walked me to the door and passed me my grey jumper, before saying, unexpectedly, “We’re friends, aren’t we Aggie?”
I turned to face her fully, one hand on the front door, the other covering hers, and said, “Of course I am,” and, honestly, truly believed it. I may be a liar, but right then, I wasn’t lying.
Out in the cold again a forgotten question hit me like the cold wind:
“Oh, Caroline… Question I forgot earlier: did Joshua like cucumbers?”
The young lady stepped out into the open, frowned, and promptly shook her head, “No…”
“What about yoghurt?”
“I don’t know. I suppose so…”
“Put them both together: cucumber yoghurt, would he have liked that?”
“No… Probably not.”
“Oh,” I said. This mystery was growing ever deeper.
“Well, thanks, I better be going,” I continued, then smiled and turned away to the chilling night and, possibly, a more frosty reception back home…