This is the continuation of an ongoing fiction work I started years ago. If you want to read from the beginning, click “Kissing Frogs so Far” on the tab above the header.
Tracey got into her car, and smiled as she saw Joey’s truck parked at the far end of the parking lot, as if it was unsure of its role there. There was a brief resistance against her efforts to put the Jaguar in first gear, which served as a reminder that she may look like she belonged, but she was just her daddy’s guest, driving his cast off vehicle. The tears trickled down her cheeks and she wiped them away, angry at herself and angry at her circumstances.
Joanna was still at fight club, so Tracey decided to swing by the office to get some work done before facing her oldest, dearest, and much maligned friend. The building was quiet, and the sun was shining, and all of Tracey’s good intentions still found her banging a pencil eraser against a book manuscript as she re-read the same sentence for a fourth time. As Tracey bounced down the stairs, phone in hand, she said, out of habit, “Joanna, I’m going across the street for coffee.” The empty desk didn’t answer her.
Tracey discarded promotional e-mails and checked off her to-do list as she ordered her low-fat, sugar free, high octane mocha.
“Tracey”, she answered, without looking up. They would spell it wrong. They always did.
Joanna’s walk-up apartment always made Tracey feel slightly guilty. She was pretty sure she knew how much Joanna made, and she was pretty sure she could afford better, and for some reason that made Tracey feel . . .inadequate. She’d never had a name for it, but that was it. The opulence of Joanna’s simplicity made Tracey feel as if her home was compensating for a moral inferiority. She knocked anyway, and the grocery bag swung awkwardly from her elbow as she did.
“Come in, Tracey,” came the muffled reply from inside. Tracey steeled herself, then pushed open the solid metal door and breezed into Joanna’s little kitchen.
“Hi, Joanna. I brought you a steak for your bruises.” Tracey had barely set the bag down when Joanna whipped around the corner, grabbed the bag, and disappeared again.
“Hey. I was kidding. That’s an expensive steak.” Tracey stuttered to her friend’s disappearing back. She rounded the corner herself in to the living room to see Joanna, clutching the red meat to her face.
“But it was a gift, so use it as you see fit,” she trailed off, and then burst out, “Are you seriously holding that rib eye to a black eye? What happened?”
Joanna looked up at her oldest friend, and said, “Someone kicked a door.”
There was silence for a moment before Tracey responded, “You are trained in three forms of martial arts. You’re telling me you were taken out by a door?”
Joanna nodded, and the deep red of her exposed face was not entirely due to the red meat she was holding there. The two women looked at each other, and began to giggle. Soon neither of them could stand, they were laughing so hard.
When things settled down a little, Tracey took a deep breath and said what she had come to say.
“I’m sorry I was such a coward that I would rather alienate you than tell my boyfriend that you work for my dad.”
Joanna leaned back into her couch, the steak hiding her face and she said, “It’s O.K. We’re bigger than that.”
“But the thing is, we shouldn’t have to be. You don’t do these things to me, but I have been doing them to you since the ninth grade when I was too embarrassed to let anyone know I was living in your basement and you just let me walk three blocks and take a different bus. I’m sorry. I don’t know why you put up with me.”
Joanna laughed behind the steak.
“One day I will do something terrible. It is the nature of relationships. And then you’ll be the one on this side, being okay and forgiving me. Besides, I totally could have taken Faulkner.”
Tracey looked sideways at her friend and quipped, “Apparently not if he kicked a door.”
Both of the women burst out laughing again.