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Contemporary Fiction Friendship

I need someone to proofread my essay on how to take care of lilacs but Barry takes ages to pore over a sentence. He begins at the first word and breaks into hysterical sneezes against the margin. And he has yet to return my disposable camera. We are NOT friends at the moment. I can correct this myself at the Downtown Cafe. 

I wanna enter this songwriting contest but Therese is my songwriter and she judges everything with a frown. Every fancy word I write is misspelled and every other line is “trite” or “pedestrian”. I don't know what either of those words mean but I know we are NOT on good terms right now. I could write this song with my eyes closed at the Downtown Cafe. 

This is the worst possible time for a parade. My essay is due at midnight and band members and dancers groove to some top-40 nonsense down the bridge. My ride-sharing driver bounces up and down to the music because traffic crawls to a halt. He rolls his window down and dances with a fresh cigarette in his mouth. I fold my arms and I melt into the seat with a casual head bop knowing this could have been avoided if Barry wasn’t petty. 

This is fantastic. I should have taken my bike instead of driving because a parade blocks the whole bridge up. Can’t weave in and out of traffic like I want but at least the music is okay and the dancers are pretty. I would be at home working on the song if Therese wasn’t a jerk. Guess all I can do is bop my head and wait for traffic to clear up. 

I cannot do this any longer. The music is painful and the parade is obnoxious. I swing open the driver’s door and he whips around to me. 

“I’m walking the rest of the way,” I tell the driver halfway out of the car and he dumps ash in sync with the band’s music. 

“I get paid anyway,” he responds with a shrug and continues to swerve from side to side. 

I shut his door and stroll down the bridge between the edge and the cars that haven’t moved an inch. 

I stick my head out the window and spot someone with a laptop bag jogging down the bridge. 

“She is out of her mind,” I shake my head and tap the steering wheel to the beat. 

But the traffic hasn’t moved an inch since the parade started. And she IS the only person going anywhere. I need to ask my phone about something. 

“Windi, what’s the penalty for driving into a parade in Astria?” I speak into my phone. 

“5 years in jail and two years of community service.” 

Guess that isn’t an option. I could use the walk. My car would be towed off the bridge and impounded but this songwriting contest ends tomorrow. And the Downtown Cafe is only two miles away. I push out of the car and take off until I rush back in because no one is gonna steal my ride. 

Thank God I left the driver and traffic behind because I’m in an empty Downtown Cafe. How convenient but I won’t complain. 

“Welcome to Downtown Cafe,” the barista smiles and drags from one coffee maker to another. 

“Everyone’s behind the parade?” I ask and open my laptop on a table that faces a similar empty street. 

“Pretty much,” she giggles and holds out a coffee. 

“But I didn’t pay for it,” I utter and walk toward the counter anyway. 

“Okay. What’s your name?” 

“Therese.” 

She scribbles “Theresa” on it and hands it to me. We chuckle and I sip it on the way back to my laptop. Who needs Barry? I stare at the essay for a minute and realize I do. But I refuse to call him first. 

I pull out my phone and open an empty document. The vibrant sounds of the parade pound in my ears and throw off my concentration. I need to reach the Downtown Cafe. 

“And maybe I need Therese’s help but she’s unreasonable,” I exclaim as I leave the car and sprint down the bridge past the parade and everyone else. 

I scroll through my contacts and find her name but I refuse to call first. I do if I’m in the wrong but that’s not the case here. 

“This comma doesn’t need to be here or this semicolon. I don’t know,” I frown and sip coffee in front of the essay. 

No corrections are made. Nothing is altered. It’s me and silence and a barista in the back of the cafe speaking to someone. And this screen of 3,500 words. 

I make it to the Downtown Cafe at last- and the streets are empty. Everyone is stuck behind that parade. My car is gonna get stolen but I’m here. I push into the cafe and discover… 

“Barry,” I gasp. 

“Therese?” I stare in disbelief. 

“I need help,” we start and stop. 

I can’t believe Barry. He steals my camera and then my place to focus? 

“But you need to return my disposable camera,” I grunt and turn back to my laptop. 

Therese nitpicks my work and accuses me of stealing her camera? AND claims my writing spot for herself? 

“And you need to quit judging everything I do,” I grunt back and sit two tables away from her. 

She is NOT gonna have the last word. 

“I gave you back your disposable camera,” I growl and shift to a closer table. 

He is NOT gonna have the last word. 

“I give you constructive criticism,” I flip down my laptop and glare at him. “You are impossible, Barry.” 

“You are unbelievable, Therese.” 

Here’s your damn camera by the way. 

“Here’s your damn camera by the way. Thanks for the nostalgic kick,” I toss it at her in a sour face. 

I catch the camera and cross my arms. 

“You are welcome and your work is not that bad. You need more confidence in your innate ability to construct a melody,” I bark at him and notice the barista standing there. 

“How long have you been there?” We ask her at the same time. 

“Since you both started arguing. You’ve got a funny way of apologizing,” she snickers and makes a coffee for Barry before she disappears into the back again. 

“I guess I’m sorry and I need you,” I blurt out to him. 

“I guess I’m sorry and I need you too,” I choke out to her while I pick up the coffee. 

I bring the laptop over to Barry’s table and show him the essay. 

I sit and hand Therese my phone where she types words into the empty document. 

“Lilacs?” I chuckle and begin to proofread her essay. 

“Lilacs,” I grin and shove him before another sip of coffee. 

May 21, 2021 13:58

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