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General

-L-


There’s a man sitting across me, his left hand wrapped in a green striped dishcloth, soaked with blood. I gag. Next to him, his wife, presumably, seems unconcerned by his injury. She roughly flips through a faded copy of People magazine. The man glances up at her from time to time looking sheepish, but she’s determinedly avoiding eye contact.


I look away from the happy couple and turn to my friend, D, next to me.


“Hey, do you think we should ask them for an update?” I ask worriedly.


D also has an old copy of People magazine open in front of him. “It’s only been 20 minutes,” he replies not taking his eyes off the page.


“Yeah but a lot can happen in that time in a hospital,” I say anxiously. “Have you never watched television?”


He frowns, but doesn’t say anything, eyes still glued to the page.


“What is so interesting?” I ask impatiently, moving closer to him and lowering his arm to get a look at the magazine. I roll my eyes and shift back into my seat.


“What?” he asks sheepishly. “Did you know that Brad and Jen were having problems as early as,” he flips to the cover, “2004?”


I stare at him in irritation . “I think I’m going to get a snack or something.” I say standing up quickly. “Do you want anything?”


He looks up at me and shakes his head no. I grab my handbag and turn to walk away.


“Hey L,” D says suddenly catching my arm. I turn.


“It’s going to be okay, yeah?” he says quietly, with a small, reassuring smile. I inhale slowly and nod.


He releases me, and I walk away from the waiting area hurriedly, looking down to hide my emotion.


-D-


I watch L’s back as she takes off and wonder if she believed me when I told her that it was going to be okay. I wish I believed me.


I stare at her until she’s out of sight and then my gaze falls onto the unhappy couple in front of me, the man with the bloody hand and his wife, are now having a tense and angry whisper argument.


I look away from them and back at the People magazine on my lap. There’s nothing to distract me from my own anxiety. I think about how we ended up in the emergency room in the first place.


For the past 10 years, it’s always been the three of us, me L and S, living together. So how is it that we know so little about one another, I wonder. We started keeping secrets, sneaking around and hiding life-changing things. And S was, as usual, struggling to keep us together in spite of it all.


I close the magazine, toss it onto the table in front of me impatiently and stand up. I walk towards the nurses’ station and try to get someone’s attention.


“Excuse me?” I ask quietly. A nurse looks up at me from a stack of papers and then looks down again.


“Yes?”


“Could I have an update on my friend please?” I ask politely.


“Name?” she asks. I tell her. She sifts through some papers.


“Concussion? They’re still doing tests, we’ll let you know when we know something sir,” she goes back to her paperwork and continues without looking up, “Please take a seat in the waiting area.”


I stare at her irritably for a minute, say 'thank you' and walk away. I need a cigarette.


-S-


A woman is holding my arm and a man is asking me what my name is. I tell him.


“Do you know where you are?” he asks. My vision comes into focus and I stare at him.


“Hospital?” I ask tentatively.


“Good. Do you know what year it is?”


“2019.”


“You’re doing well. Can you tell us what happened to you?”


I look at him and then I look at the woman. They’re both staring at me, waiting. I mumble something about a party and something about falling. I see them give each other a look.


“Okay sir, we’re going to need to take you up to get a scan, alright?” the woman, a nurse, says kindly. I nod and lie back.


“You’re going to have to stay awake for me, okay?” she says turning the bed into a gurney like a Transformer.


“Looks like you have a bit of a concussion sir, but there doesn’t seem to be any serious damage. Let’s get that test done to make sure, alright?” the doctor speaks, quickly. He gives me a polite smile and disappears into the hum.


The nurse wheels the bed out of its parking spot slowly. “Oh wait!” I say suddenly. She pauses. “My friends are waiting for me…” my voice trails off. Do L and D even want to see me?


“You’ll see your friends after the scan, sir. We’ll give them an update,” the nurse replies, pushing the gurney.


I nod numbly as she wheels me away.


-L-


I press the buttons on the vending machine a little too firmly and end up shaking the whole contraption. Two packets of candy fall into the slot at the bottom and I scramble to grab them before someone notices.


I walk away from the machine to a small table near the window and sit down wearily. I open a packet of candy and tip it directly over my mouth. It hits the back of my throat and I cough. I look out the window as my eyes tear up and I blink rapidly.


Just a couple metres away, D’s familiar shape comes into focus. He’s smoking a cigarette, inhaling deeply, the orange tip burning brightly.


He always looks so calm and steady, like a lighthouse on the edge of the sea. D was always the best of us: the one who had things figured out, the one who knew what he was doing. I’ve always admired and hated his ability to keep it together when things were falling apart.


I look away from the window, eyes getting wet again. It’s not like I meant for something to happen between us. Maybe that’s why I was so scared to tell him I was pregnant.


-D-


I inhale the tobacco into my lungs and cough slightly. My mouth opens, releasing smoke into the air, so chilly that it holds onto the vapours for a moment. 


I stare into the blackness of the night and take another drag. We should have said no to the party, I think. When S suggested it, I knew it was a bad idea. I scoff aloud. Well now I know why he wanted it. For his big announcement. We were standing outside the bathroom wondering why he was shouting. And L….


I place my fingers over my eyes and inhale the night air. She should have just told me she was pregnant when she found out. S should have told me about Australia too, I think. Why was I always the last to know?


I take a last drag and toss the cigarette butt onto the ground, stepping on it roughly to put it out.


-S-


The metal machine rolls me out like a piece of luggage at the airport. I blink to adjust to the light, my head pounding from the brightness.


“Okay, you’re all done,” the technician says smoothly, helping me onto the gurney. I’m starting to feel better and worse at the same time and I regret the mix of alcohol I bravely consumed just hours ago.


“Can I see my friends now,” I ask in a child-like voice.


“We’re just going to check your scans and then take you into the ward,” the technician says scribbling on a clipboard. “Then you’ll be able to see your visitors.”


Visitors is a good way of putting it, I muse.


They probably hate me for keeping Australia from them, but I didn’t have a choice. Things were so tense and messy between the three of us already, I knew that if I told them, everything would fall apart.


“Sir?” the nurse asks.


“Huh?” I say, startled back into reality.


“I asked if there’s anything you need while you wait for the doctor?” she asks again, patiently.


“Oh, well,” I say, slightly embarrassed now, “Could I please have some water? I’ve been drinking…” I trail off.


She smiles and nods.


“Thanks,” I mumble, embarrassed. My head aches under the tightly-wound bandages. I slouch into the pillows and close my eyes.


I hid Australia from them. L hid her pregnancy from us. D hid his feelings for L from me. They both snuck around thinking I didn’t know. And on and on it went for months.


We were so close, and so scared of each other. Maybe it was time to grow up.


-D-


“Why did I ever agree to this?” I ask L, tossing a stack of empty plastic cups into a bin bag.


“Because you’re a good friend,” she says patting my cheek and pouting. She looks drunk, but I know she isn’t.


“Yeah well, think it’s time I start looking for other friends,” I say irritably.


“Don’t say that, come on now,” she says, taking my hand. She puts her cup into it. “Here, drink this, you look like you need it more than I do.”


I make a face at her, but take it nevertheless, and tip it into my mouth. My throat burns and my eyes water as the liquid slides down.


“What the hell is in this?” I splutter, wiping my mouth with my hand.


L shrugs. “No idea. Strong stuff though.”


“Yeah,” I say uncomfortably, as it settles inside my stomach.


I look around for S and see him chatting up some girl. I roll my eyes. The smell of smoke and sweat sticks onto my skin. Next to me, L leans against the wall, looking distracted.


She’s been acting weird all night, I think. She’s been acting weird for a long time.


“Are you alright?” I ask her.


She looks up at me startled. “Yeah,” she smiles unconvincingly.


“Want some more of this horrible poison?” I ask holding out the cup to her awkwardly. I do it too quickly, and some of it spills out onto her t-shirt.


I swear. “Sorry, L, let me get you a napkin!” I look behind me to find a paper towel, but when I turn back to L she’s pale and sweaty.


“L? are you alright?”


She looks up at me nervously and shakes her head, clamping both hands onto her mouth.


“Are you going to throw up?” I shout in panic.


She nods and takes off running across the room. I swear again and slam the cup onto the counter, before going after her.


-L-


I spit into the toilet bowl and flush before lifting myself off the ground. Well, you couldn’t have been more obvious, I think.


I open the tap and rinse my mouth with sweet water. I stare at my sweaty, pale face in the mirror.


Suddenly, there’s a hard banging on the door.


“L?” a muffled voice calls. “It’s me.”


Of course I know who it is, I’ve known that voice for 10 years. And lately, I’ve both dreaded and adored that voice.


I hold onto the sink and stare at the door, wondering if I should let D in. And just tell him everything.


Impulsively, I move sideways and grab the handle quickly, turning it and opening the door. D slides in and shuts it behind him as I take a step back and sit on the edge of the bathtub.


“You alright?” he asks out of breath and concerned. His eyes are worried and sweaty.


I open my mouth and close it a few times, nothing coming out.


“You, uh, wanna throw up again?” he asks tentatively glancing at the toilet and then back at me.


“I-”


“You want some water?” D asks moving awkwardly, finding an empty cup near the sink and filling it.


“D-” I say breathing heavily. I feel like I might pass out.


“Here,” he says turning around and pushing the cup in my face. I lean back and hold up my hand.


“In a minute,” I say shaking my head. “D I have to tell you something.”


“Okay,” he says. He takes a sip of water from the cup.


“I found out that I- I mean a couple weeks ago, I found out that-” I sigh and gulp. “I’m pregnant,” I say looking directly into his face.


As the words are halfway out of my mouth, I notice his hands shaking a little. I look down at them and then up at him, confused.


He stares back me, breathing heavily. “I know,” he replies.


-S-


“Your place is so nice,” Tara says leaning close to me, touching my arm and smiling.


“Isn’t it?” I reply, leaning closer to her.


She laughs even though I haven’t said anything funny and I know now’s a good time to show her my room. I glance towards the kitchen, where L and D are standing. Is this the last time we’re going to be together like this?


“Hey!” Tara says tapping me on the shoulder, “I said do you wanna show me your room?” She's slurring her words.


I pause for a minute and sigh sadly. “You know what, Tara?”


“It’s Sarah,” she says blinking rapidly.


“Sorry, Sarah,” I say smiling. “Could you give me minute?”


“Whatever,” she says, turning around, her hair whipping my face.


I cringe. I need to talk to L and D right now, I think. I look at where my friends are just in time to see L walking away from D quickly, her hands over her eyes. D slams down a cup and chases after her.


What’s that about then? I inhale. She must have told him about being pregnant.


“Hey Sarah,” I say turning to my companion. But she’s already moved on, quite literally, with her hand on some other guy’s arm.


I shake my head and down my drink. I toss the cup into a nearby bin bag and square my shoulders. I have to tell them, it’s now or never.


I push my way through people, which is difficult because everyone keeps stopping me, high-fiving and shouting loudly into my face. I try my best to brush them off politely and make my way towards the bathroom.


I stand in front of the door and press my ear against it. Obviously, I can’t hear a thing.


I turn the handle and shout, “Guys, it’s me! I’m coming in, alright? I have to tell you something. I took a job okay-” It’s all coming out of me in a panic.


I swing open the door, still talking, “I’m moving to Australia,” I say.


As I step inside, I hear the unfamiliar scream of a woman I don’t know and look into the face of a man who is clearly not D.


“Hey!” he shouts angrily.


There’s a split second of confusion, before his fist comes flying at me, punching me in the nose. The woman is still yelling as I'm knocked backward and trip on an empty plastic cup on the floor.


As I fall, my head hits the side of the tub hard, before I smack onto the floor.


The man swears, the woman yells. The last thing I see is D running into the bathroom, pushing the man roughly. I feel L kneeling next to me lifting my head.


And then everything goes black.


-Epilogue-


“You should have just told us you were pregnant,” S says holding L’s hand tightly. He beams up at her.


She looks at him and then at D. “I was so scared. Especially, because, well us-“ she points to D and then to herself.


“Yeah it’s been weird hasn’t it,” D says cringing a little.


“So weird!” S and L say in unison. They chuckle quietly.


“How did you guys find out?” L asks shifting closer to S.


“You left your results on the kitchen table, L. What did you think would happen?” D says impatiently.


L groans.


S turns to her. “It doesn’t really matter does it? Because we’re both going to be there for you. Well…D will,” he trails off.


“You should have told us about the job,” D says pointing at S accusatorily.


“I was scared too, you know,” S looks at D smiling sadly. “I thought it was my fault the two of you were acting weird. I just wanted you to come out and tell me already.”


“Yeah well, maybe we’re all to blame,” L says widening her eyes and sighing.


“How did you know about Australia?” S asks looking at his friends.


L and D exchange a look.


“We read one of your emails,” L says slowly.


S splutters indignantly.


“You left your laptop open on the table!” L exclaims defensively.


“But also, we saw the subject line, and “job offer” in capital letters really caught our attention,” D says shrugging apologetically.


“Well,” S says nodding in astonishment. “I think we know what this group’s problem is then.”


“What’s that?” D asks moving closer to the bed.


“We’re obviously too close to keep things from each other,” S says triumphantly.


“Yeah…or maybe it’s that we have no boundaries and don’t respect each other’s privacy?” L says sarcastically. She giggles and S laughs.


“Either way,” D says, reaching out to put his hand on theirs. “It means that, no matter who found out what and how they found out, we’re all going to be okay.”


They smile.


May 06, 2020 11:49

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2 comments

Peace Nakiyemba
22:30 May 14, 2020

This is a lovely story. I think you wrote about their friendship so well. I like that they go through the motions and realise that the distance/secrets they all thought could be overcome with conversation. And that you refer to them by a single initial. I don't think it was necessary to write the epilogue as an 'epilogue'. Maybe it could have been told from one perspective. But that's just me. It was hard to tell when we are thrown into the flashback of the party in question. Perhaps a little indicator so that it doesn't seem like the sto...

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D J
04:35 May 15, 2020

Thank you so much! I appreciate your feedback. I see what you mean with the party flashback, could've been clearer about the change of setting, so that's something to consider in future. I suppose with the epilogue I was hoping to close the distance between the characters you speak of. But I will think about perspectives more as I write. Thank you again!

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