4. Claire

“Where’s my toothbrush?” Claire shouted, throwing clothes from her wardrobe into one of her giant overnight bags. Margaret walked into her room, toothbrush in hand.
         “In the bathroom, where you put it every time you brush your teeth,” she said. “How do you always manage to be this rushed?”
         “Because she’s Claire, she’s always late for everything!” came Jill’s voice from the living room, where she was lying upside down on the sofa reading a book.
         “You could be a bit helpful instead of just lying there pointing out the obvious and getting a headache!” Claire yelled from her room. Jill swung herself upright and put her book down.
         “Alright, don’t get all stressy. What do you need me to do?”
         “If you’re all packed and ready, can you help me find my dress? I had it yesterday when I brought it home but I’ve lost it now.”
         “Oh I borrowed it for my party last night, it’s in my room. I’ll go get it for you!” she added, sounding like she felt put out by the effort of the gesture. Margaret put her hand on Claire’s arm to try and stop her from getting angry. Jill walked back in, “You guys should have come last night, it was so hilarious and, like, awesome!”
         “We weren’t invited,” Margaret reminded her, “It was all the people from your drama course and you said we’d be out of place if we went.” Claire made a noise that sounded like a growl and tried to pass it off as a cough. Jill continued, oblivious to her angry audience, “Oh of course, but still it was so funny ‘cause you know Luke? He got so drunk and started doing one of the exercises from class and then Stephen and Mikey just didn’t stop staring at my chest!”
         “Maybe that was because you were wearing my dress and it was too small for you.” Claire offered through semi-gritted teeth.
         “No, you bum, it fitted me! We’re the same size, remember?” Jill laughed. Claire, who had always been slim (more so now from living off a student income) smiled wryly at Jill, who had been spending her student income on cheap junk food and alcohol and had, as Claire liked to put it, ‘blossomed’ over the past two years. Despite this, she had always insisted that she was the same size as all of her friends when there was quite a difference between her and everyone else. She strolled into Claire’s room with the dress swinging from her fingertips. Claire resisted the urge to snatch it angrily from her and laid it down on the bed to inspect it. Margaret recoiled as it was unfolded and sniffed the air. She turned to Jill and demanded, “Did you smoke in that dress last night?” Claire, who had now smelt the odour for herself, turned to Jill with her hands on her hips. Jill was shifting uncomfortably on her feet.
         “I only had one, I told you I was trying to quit and I am.” Claire grimaced and strained to keep the anger inside herself.
         “That’s not the point, Jill,” she said, “I couldn’t care less if you smoke or not, you're the one who wants to die young.”
         “So what’s the problem?” asked Jill, sounding genuinely confused.
         “You borrowed my new dress without asking and then made it reek of smoke before I’d even worn it once and I can see that you’ve stretched it at the seams!” Claire burst out, losing her composure for a moment. Jill looked shocked, as did Margaret. Neither had seen her really lose her cool for some time.
         “Whoa, Hun, are you ok? Are you, you know, like, on your period?” Jill ventured. Claire looked at her, trying to control her expression into less of a death stare than she thought Jill deserved.
         “No.” she said simply. Margaret, attempting to ease the huge tension levels, suggested that Jill go and read again while she and Claire finished packing Claire’s bag ready to leave.
       “You know what they say,” she added, glancing nervously at a seething Claire, “Too many cooks and all that.” Jill left, not because she had taken the hint or noticed that she was herself the cause of Claire’s extreme mood swing, but because she was always eager not to help where possible.

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