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Long Sleeves

Long Sleeves

– Fierce Fiction by Cathy Hird –

I glance at my watch. You’re fifteen minutes late even though it was your idea to beat the noon rush. We’ve been friends for long enough that I didn’t expect anything else. I tug my sleeve back down over my wrist.

“More coffee?” the waitress asks.

“Please.” When I came in, I told her I’d wait for you to arrive before I ordered. Now I give you a deadline. Ten more minutes. I look up, and there you are dancing between the restaurant tables with a smile so bright it hurts.

“Sorry. My manager popped in, and I couldn’t put him off. I knew you wouldn’t mind.” You open your arms inviting me to stand. When I get up, you wrap me in a bear hug.

“Ouch.” The sound is out of my mouth before I can stop it.

You step back and tilt your head the way you do. “Did I hurt you?”

“It’s nothing you did.” I slide back into my place.

You hang your coat on the chair. “You shouldn’t do things that hurt your back. That’s what Jack is for.”

“Some things you don’t see coming. Jack wanted to move his desk, but what happened…”

The waitress appears. You look up at her, intent on hearing the specials. “I’ll have a mint tea. By the time you’re back, we’ll be ready to order.” You run your finger down the menu. “I’ve tried most of these. You’d like the spinach quiche.”

“I was thinking of the special, the lentil soup.” I hesitate for a moment. “I’ve been wanting to see you. Thanks for suggesting lunch. Just the two of us for a change.”

Frown lines crease your forehead. “You sound tired. That job is running you ragged.”

“I suppose. This was one of those days when no one could make a decision without me.”

You touch my hand lightly. “You give that hospital way too much of yourself. You need to be more like me. Always remember it’s just a job.”

“Today I don’t have to rush back. I took this afternoon off so we can talk.”

“I wish I could take time off.” You sigh. “I’ve so much wedding planning to get done.”

“You still have nine months.”

You tilt your water glass toward me. “I want to follow your example and have everything done a week ahead so I can enjoy the event.”

“Don’t make me your model. I missed some important pieces.” I twist my mug in my hands. I look up and meet your eyes, just as the waitress arrives with your tea.

You announce your order, then flash a smile at me. “The spinach quiche?”

“I’ll have the soup special.” I smile at you to make up for the correction.

“You remember that I spent the weekend in the city to work on The Event?” 

“Of course I remember. Your mom and sister went along. How did it go?”

“Thank you for asking.” You give a quick laugh. “I admit I am rather obsessed with the topic.”

“It happens. The wedding pushes everything else aside.”

“I’d have taken you along if Jack had set you free. In fact, I could have used your help to choose the centre pieces. I want them to be exactly like yours.”

“Thanks for the compliment, I guess.”

You list off the things you managed to find and how many of each you picked up. You pause when the waitress brings our lunch, then dive right back in. “I got the beads to go in the glass bowls on sale. Candle colour was harder.” You give a mock frown. “They won’t be exactly like yours. I couldn’t go with aqua for a fall wedding.”

“So you chose….?”

“Gold. A better fit for October. They’ll match the bridesmaids’ flowers, too.”

My cell phone rings. I glance at who is calling and flip it over.

“You can answer that. I don’t mind.”

“I didn’t want to interrupt your train of thought.”

“An important call is not an interruption. Besides, this is a line of thinking I can’t lose track of.”

“It was just Jack. He’ll be home when I get there. You, I want to talk with…. about Jack.”

You take a bite of your lasagna. “It’s so sweet he calls you in the middle of the day.”

Because you don’t look up, you don’t see me shake my head.

“Richard never calls me,” you complain.

“He’s a teacher, on duty from first bell to last.”

“Even on Saturday, he didn’t pick up when I called.” You wave your hand at me. “He’s leaving all the decisions up to me.”

“You had the right people with you.”

“I sent him two pictures to help me chose the boxes for the guests’ favours.”

“You really expected him to have an opinion on that?”

You point your fork at me. “Don’t take his side.”

“He knows you have a plan, and he’s giving you space to carry it out. He’s a gem.”

“Do you still have some of the bowls you used for your centre pieces?”

“A couple I think, in a box covered with a year and a half of dust. They’ll be in my parents’ closet.”

“I think I got enough, but they weren’t cheap, so I didn’t get extra. And our guest list keeps expanding. Richard has such a big family, and I have to invite all my friends. If I end up short, I’ll know where I can get some to fill in.”

“You are welcome to have them. They are no use to me.”

“Oh, I’d make sure they got back to you.”

“Please don’t.”

You place your hand on your heart. “I will not carry away even one of your treasured keepsakes.”

“Well, it would be silly to say, ‘The woman with the nearest birthday to today can take the centre piece, except at tables 4 and 5. Those have to go back to my matron of honour.’ I won’t miss them.”

You shake your head. “Come on. You know I’d arrange things better than that.”

“I mean it. You end up with so much useless stuff after the wedding.”

“You sound like an old married woman.” You put your hand on mine. “Don’t get jaded, or I’ll have to choose a different matron of honour. And I don’t want to do that. I’m working hard to live up to the standard you and Jack set.”

“I’m not sure I am a good model. The event itself was a bit of a blur. And since then…. There are just so many things you can’t control, and some you miss.”

“That’s what lists are for,” you say.

“Some things you don’t think of putting on the list.”

“Well, you are next on my list. Your appointment with the dress maker. This Saturday would be perfect.”

“I have to work Saturday. That’s how I got this afternoon off. And…you know Jack. He needs to know three weeks in advance what my plans are.”

“In three weeks then.”

I hesitate. “I might be able to manage that. I’ll have to check.”

You put your hands on the table and try to look apologetic. “I hate to mention it, but is the style of dress going to work? Will it still fit in nine months?”

“What?” I am confused.

“You know, the plan for a baby.”

“There’s no such plan. We can’t afford a child. And I don’t think it would sit well with Jack.”

“But he told me he is longing for a baby. I saw the sparkle in his eye when he said it.”

“He’d say whatever he thought you wanted to hear.” I shake my head. “Getting pregnant is not on the agenda, so don’t worry about the dress.”

The waitress lays down separate bills, and you flash her a smile. “I hate to run off on you, but I have to put the finishing touches on a presentation for this afternoon.” You notice my eyes are glistening. You sigh. “Weddings are so romantic even talking about one can bring a tear to the eye.” You stand up, then lean over to give me a peck on the cheek. “Take care of that back. Tell Jack I told him to get one of his buddies to help move stuff next time.”

“I’ll try.” After you turn away, I wipe away the tears that escape from my eyes. If you had had just a little more time, I might have pulled up my sleeve to show you the bruises.

About the Author – Cathy Hird
Cathy Hird

Cathy Hird lives on the shore of Georgian Bay in the traditional territory of the Saugeen Ojibway. A recently retired United Church minister, Cathy writes YA fantasy, short stories, and creative non-fiction that reflects on spirituality, relationships, and our place in community and creation. She weaves tapestries and scarves and tells stories that pull together threads of ancient myth and modern questions. 

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