One day I found her on my doorstep. It was early in the morning, and the only concern in my head was if my newspaper had arrived yet. I opened the door of my apartment, my body wrapped in an old bathrobe, that I had never washed in my life. I opened the door, and she was right there. I hadn't recognized her at first. Her body sat like a rag doll, across my apartment door. Her eyes were closed, and her hair was dirty and tangled. There was only one window in the small hallway, through which the fresh sunlight trickled in, landing on the top of her head.
I took three small steps forward, only remembering the creaking floorboard after I stepped on it. A loud, whining, high pitched creek thundered through the hallway. Her head shot back, her eyes staring straight into mine, bewildered, shocked, a tiny gasp escaping her lips. I did not see who she was until I had stared at her face for a few frozen seconds. Then I sat down in front of her.
'Are you ok?' I put my hand on hers. Her hand was cold, and her eyes looked at me with a blank stare, as if she was looking right through me. She didn't look like her, she was like a face that passes you by on the street, after which you will never see it again in your life, and you won't remember it, and the face will most certainly never remember you. Then she blinked and looked at me. She smiled then, and leaped forward to embrace me in a tight hug, her hands clinging to the back of the bathrobe.
'We haven't had a fun day together for way too long.' She spoke. Her voice sounded cheerful, and I felt like I was holding the old her again.
We had always been friends. Since our parents moved in next to each other I would climb across the fence between our gardens each day, to come and visit her. As we got older, we saw each other less, but when we did it felt as if we were back in time, careless children, just happy to be where we were at that moment in time.
We were watching cartoons together. Her legs rested on my lap, as she was stretched out over the old leather sofa. She had taken her shoes and socks of, and tossed them across the room, just to hit the radiator and slide back to the floor. Her feet smelled slightly, which was not too surprising since her socks had looked like they had never met water, or washing powder for that matter. Sometimes she would giggle. The warm and soft sunlight seeped into the room as the sun was rising outside the apartment.
We had a fight. She spoke, out of nowhere.
Are you ok? I asked, and she nodded as she stared at the cartoons.
Im ok. I just wanted to get out of the house for a bit. She smiled, but it wasnt a very happy smile. I reached out my hand to hers, leaning across her legs.
You are always welcome here. You know that right? Again she nodded, with a smile that was a little happier on her lips.
She stayed until very late that evening, and I was glad that she did. We watched our favourite movies, the ones we knew from start to finish, knew every exclamation, knew every sigh, and every hidden laugh behind the actors eyes. After that it was late, and pushing away wrappers and packaging, we got up from the mess that had been my sofa.
Are you ready to go home? I asked her, holding her hands. She nodded, while chewing her lip and looking down to the floor.
I could walk you home if youd feel better that way. I squeezed her hands slightly.
Yes, she said, that would be great.
We stood together in front of their house. She was holding my arm, standing next to me under my big black umbrella. She looked up at the house. The house was quite dark, there was nothing but the light of the television behind the curtain of the living room, apart from that the house was black, and quiet. The streetlight outside their house had been broken since the day they moved there, and had still not been fixed, even after a number of polite, irritated, and angry letters. It would burn for a few seconds, then flicker for a few seconds, go off, and then flick back on.
I cant see you again. She said, without taking her eyes of the house. I turned my head to her. The words had a surreal thing about them, they sounded like they came from far away, from the lips of a stranger, but they came from hers.
But why? Was all I could really say. I looked at her, and she turned to me, holding my hands in hers.
He doesnt want me to. And he is my husband. She glanced at the house from the corner of her eyes.
It felt like fear. The thought of not seeing her again, it seemed to terrify me. After my parents had died, she was the only thing left of my childhood. And she was leaving me. For him.
I hope you can understand. She held my hands a little tighter, and looked up at me with hope in her eyes.
I do. I said. I didnt.
Thank you. She said, as she flung herself forward and gave me a tight hug. Over her shoulder I saw the curtain of the living room move, and a face appearing behind the window.
I love you. I said, hoping this would change everything. She tugged me into the hug a little tighter.
I love you too. She replied, but she didnt understand.
She let go of me, and looked at my face. Her face was pale, but she smiled at me. Then she walked to the front door without looking back. I stood nailed to the ground. This was the last time I would be so close to her, and I couldnt leave the moment. I saw her walk to the living room, through the windows at the house. The walls of the house were not very thin, yet I heard him shouting, where have you been you fucking cunt. She turned his back on him and closed the curtains, smiling at me in front of the house, once more. The curtains had fallen, and he was still screaming. She screamed back at him, but instead of anger there was fear in her voice.
I stood in front of their house until the screaming stopped. I must have been there for hours. It was the end of something. It felt like an end. Im not sure if it was my childhood, or our friendship, or maybe what was our love. But something ended. I walked home in the rain.