8. Georgia

Georgia parked outside the train station and the back door opened. First Tricia’s bags, then Tricia herself, were flung into the back seat. She slammed the door behind her and started rooting around the biggest of her bags, shivering. After pulling out a towel and wrapping it round her drenched self, she finally sat back in her seat and clutched her legs to her chest, trying to stay warm and get dry.
         “I am going to abso-bloody-lutely murder Clive,” was the first thing she said out loud.
         “And hello to you too, babe,” Georgia resisted the urge to chuckle.
         “Hey, Tricia!” came a chorus of voices from the car’s dashboard. It was then that Tricia realised that the speakerphone was on and she had just expressed her anger to people in three different counties.
         “We should probably hop off now,” said Joe’s voice, “Our pizza and should be here in a couple of minutes anyway.”
         “And cheesecake!” Lucy added almost gleefully.
         “Yeah, exactly,” said Joe, “It’s pizza and cake time down here. Who knows, if we’re feeling adventurous we might even have something healthy.” Everybody laughed and the voices of Lucy, Joe and Steve all said goodbye, with a lot of emotional thanking on Lucy’s part and more than the usual amount of “I love you”s from everyone. Then there was a swift, “Gotta go too, love you, bye!” from Claire’s voice when the sound of the door to her flat opening and Jill’s voice crowing “We’re baa-aack” came through the phone. Georgia hung up the phone, checked if Neil was still okay and then turned to the soggy girl in the back seat.
         “So what exactly happened?” she asked the scowling-slightly-less-than-before Tricia.
         “Clive promised he would pick me up and he never did. He rang me after I had already left the station to say that something had come up and he couldn’t make it but he would pay for my taxi. So, I couldn’t get back into the station, there are no taxis because it’s Sunday evening, my bags are super heavy and it started to rain after about two minutes.”
         “Is that when you rang me?”
         “No, I rang you just before the heavens opened. When I was still slightly happy and had a little dignity left. Did you know that people in cities just drive past and stare at you when you’re drenched outside a train station?”
         “In London, they drive past and laugh. Or ignore you altogether.”
         “I miss my village.”
         The two girls and Neil spent the drive back to the house comparing country folk, city folk and London folk, whom Georgia maintained were altogether an entirely different species. Every time he laughed Neil groaned in pain, which only made the girls laugh harder. They passed their favourite cafĂ© on the way and Tricia said, “Wow, do you know what I really fancy? A sandwich. Neil, do you have any suggestions? I think prawn and taramasalata sounds pretty good right about now.” This caused Georgia to laugh so much she had to pull over to the side of the road to avoid having an accident. Neil, on the other hand, did not find it so amusing. Then, Georgia stopped laughing abruptly and gasped. She pointed out of the car to an umbrella sheltering two figures with their arms wrapped around each other.
         “What?” asked Tricia confusedly, looking in the direction Georgia was showing but only seeing the umbrella, “Gee, do you need a new umbrella or something?”
         “No, look!” Georgia nearly yelled. Tricia looked. She saw the umbrella adjust slightly, just enough so that she could see the faces of the people beneath it. Georgia didn’t even have enough time to cry, “Trish, wait!” before Tricia had flung open the car door, thrown herself out onto the street and planted her feet firmly on the pavement in front of the couple under the umbrella. It was still pouring.
         For Clive, time stood still. Or at least, it slowed down so much that it seemed as if it as standing still for a moment. He looked up from under his umbrella and saw Tricia, face like thunder, tongue like lightning, drenched with rain. A storm of a girl he did not want to face. Then, within the same millisecond he became acutely aware of the fact that he was strolling leisurely down the street with his arm wrapped tenderly around the waist of someone he should not be seen in that position with, especially not by Tricia and especially not by Tricia when she was in this condition. Then, time started up again but still felt like it was going all too slowly as he tried to disentangle his arm from his companion’s body and put a respectable amount of distance between them. By the time he had finished doing this, Storm-Tricia was being joined by Confused-Yet-Sympathetic-Georgia, who had acquired an umbrella from the back seat of her car, which he now realised was parked right next to them. Georgia sheltered her already-soaking friend. Time sped right back up to normal when Tricia started shouting at him.
         “So this is what you leave me stranded for? So that you can go and hang out with Thomas, who broke my heart? I was cold, soaked, tired, miserable, unhappy and alone and you were just about town with my ex, like you were the best of friends?” she screamed at him. Clive was lost for words. He wasn’t sure whether it was that he couldn’t respond, that he didn’t know how, or that he didn’t want to. As the silence grew, though, so did the anger inside Tricia, who continued to scream, “Do you seriously have nothing to say for yourself? Nothing? Seriously?” while Georgia attempted to calm her down. Finally, Georgia gave up trying to be the calming influence and chose to shout over her instead.
         “Tricia for goodness’ sake we understand that you’re angry but isn’t there something else about this situation that seems like an important thing to ask about?” she yelled, grabbing Tricia by the shoulders (as well as she could whilst holding an umbrella) and turning her so that they were facing each other, before turning her back towards Clive and Thomas. Tricia looked confused, she had been too blinded by her own fury to notice what Georgia had, and what Clive had been the most afraid of her noticing.
       “Clive, Thomas. Are you two on a date?”

8. Claire

The girls flopped down on their plush sofa and Margaret pulled out the remote from under a cushion. They had just begun flicking through the channels and discussing what they could be bothered to do for dinner when Claire’s phone rang. Picking it up, she saw it was Steve so she muted it. She didn’t want to talk to him. They had narrowed down the choices to pizza, Chinese, Indian, Thai or a different pizza place when Claire’s phone rang again, Steve’s number on the screen once more. Pressing ‘ignore’ this time, the girls managed to narrow down their viewing options to between 2 films, a documentary, a reality show, 2 dramas or a comedy before Claire’s phone rang, yet again. But this time it was Joe’s number on the screen. Claire sighed and picked it up.
         “Hi Joe, how’s it going?” she asked lightly.
         “Claire, it’s Steve. Don’t hang up.”
         “Oh.” She had been about to.
         “Why wouldn’t you answer your phone when I called?” Claire heard a faint, “Not important!” from Joe in the background, followed by, “Fine! I’m doing it!” in response from Steve.
         “What’s going on, Steve?” she asked, apathetically. Steve sighed and explained as much as he knew. Claire gasped, “Holy moly!” and there was a muffled silence as she covered the phone in order to explain what had happened to Margaret and Jill. As she took her hand away, Steve overheard Jill saying “…yet again. Literally, it’s like she can’t, like, hang on to a man, you know?” Claire put the phone back to her face.
         “Not the time Jill, shut up.” Surprisingly, Jill did so. “Steve, I want to talk to Lucy.”
         “Yeah of course hang on; I need to add in Georgia and Neil.” She heard a door opening and buttons on Joe’s phone being pressed, then Georgia’s voice, then Joe’s.
         “Everybody present?” asked Joe.
         “Yeah, yeah, yeah, we’re all here. Now tell us what happened!” Georgia nearly shouted. Steve cleared his throat and pointed out that he had already told them all what happened.
         “Yeah but we want the actual sequence of events from the actual person they happened to,” said Claire, trying not to sound too contemptuous of Steve, “Luce, what happened? This is so out of the blue! Or is another one of those times where everybody knew except me?” asked Claire.
         “No worries, babe, nobody had any idea. Not even Neil. At least I don’t think he did,” Georgia assured her, “he’s asleep – he got sick from eating stupid food. Prawns and taramasalata.” Lucy, Joe and Steve laughed at this.
         “Ooh pink vomit. He’s made that exact mistake before.” They heard a groan from Neil. Claire laughed now, and diverted the conversation back to the original topic. Unfortunately, Jill could hear everything that was going on as Claire and Margaret had the phone on speaker and this meant she kept feeling the need to input derisive comments and snotty remarks. Claire got fed up with this after about two minutes and tried to send Jill to go and get the food. Even more unfortunately, Jill decided she was ‘too tired’ and therefore either someone had to go with her or they would just have to order in. Margaret volunteered to go with her, not wanting to force Claire to leave a crucial conversation. Claire paused the conversation until they had left and then returned, finding renewed appreciation for her friends, both old and new, and the support they had always given to each other, and would continue to give for as long as they could.

8. Lucy

Lucy and Steve exchanged looks. Steve knew from Lucy’s look what she was about to do and she knew from his that he was going to get out of her way. Just as he went to get up and leave, though, Joe quite literally came tumbling down the stairs and landed at the bottom with a great thud.
         “Oh my goodness gracious!” cried Lucy, nearly spilling her tea as she jerked upwards in shock. She set it down quickly and clambered over Carter the human barrier to Joe, “What happened? Are you okay? Holy blooming wow!” Joe rolled over and groaned slightly.
         “I’m fine, pretty much. Someone left a pair of shoes at the top of the stairs and I didn’t see them until it was too late,” he explained.
         “Whose shoes were they?” asked Steve.
         “I don’t know,” Joe told him, “but they were brown, ugly and apparently evil as well.”
         “Those might be mine,” piped up Carter, “I was about to put them in Lucy’s room when I… forgot and went to make tea.” Everyone stared at him. You were so eager to interrupt any contact I had with Steve that you left them at the top of the stairs, you mean, thought Lucy. Steve got up and helped Lucy move Joe to the other sofa. Carter stayed where he was, watching them. Lucy looked over, saw this and sighed inwardly.
         “I’ll go and move your shoes then,” she said to Carter.
         “I’ll help you,” he volunteered, prompting scoffs from Steve and Joe who were trying to check for any injuries Joe might have sustained. Carter jumped up and went upstairs in front of Lucy, who looked back at Steve to let him know what she was about to do. Now? He mouthed, trying to convey how unsure he was about the timing. Or never, Lucy mouthed back. She had a determined look on her face that Steve had only seen a few times, and only for situations like this.
         Upstairs, the shoes were gone and Carter had turned the light on in Lucy’s room even though it was still mostly light outside. He clearly thought they were going to be in there for a while. Lucy walked in and saw him sitting on the bed, totally at home. He beamed at her like a child being given a new toy as she sat next to his outstretched body.
         “You know I like your friends, my sweetheart, but sometimes they just get a bit much. I’d much rather it be just us alone, the two of us, forever, with nothing to distract us but our l-“
         “Yes, my sweet?”
         “We need to talk.”
         “Is there something you need to get off your chest?” he asked, seemingly oblivious to the shift in mood that Lucy had thought was obvious.
         She looked at him seriously and sighed in a manner that she hoped would show him this was a grave situation. He clearly thought that she was going to say something that he had been waiting to hear for weeks. As the true nature of what she was saying hit him, though, his buoyant expression fell gradually. He sat up and paid attention. As she spoke she watched his face move through several emotions. The first was confusion as he tried to understand why this was happening. Then, all too briefly, there was sadness, though not any hurt. The last emotion took her by surprise, though. Anger. He stood up from the bed and looked down at her. She stopped talking but she was shocked by what he said to her. All the time she had spent thinking that he was sweet and kind, the time she had spent worrying about hurting him seemed wasted. His words were shocking, a mixture of nonsensical, pathetic and just downright cruel. She stood up. He walked towards the door, picking up his shoes in silence and avoiding her eyes. He went straight through the door and down the stairs, pausing slightly at the bottom but continuing straight on and out, never once turning back or looking up.
         Lucy considered going downstairs but she decided against it, instead choosing to curl up on her bed and try not to cry. After about a minute, Joe and Steve came in. Lucy looked up and, seeing their concerned expressions, tears filled her eyes. Joe seized control of the situation, going into G-mode.
         “Steven, go and call for pizza, cheesecake, Claire and Georgia.” Steve went to object but Joe cut him off, “Is now the time, Steven? Call her.”
         Steve was grateful to be able to leave. Emotion was not his strong point, especially when it was Lucy being upset. It made him want to get very angry and do stupid things. He was protective, he thought of her like his little sister after everything they had helped each other through. He listened at the door while Joe was talking to Lucy.
         “I can’t believe he would say those things to me!” she was crying, curled up in a ball with Joe’s arms around her.
         “Oh my poor little chipmunk, if he was secretly that spiteful then he really isn’t the sort of person you want to be with.” Lucy looked up at Joe’s comforting face.
         “Do you remember when we were five and the big boys wouldn’t let you on the trampoline so I pulled you up to sit with me and threatened to stand on their private parts?” she asked.
         “You told me that you’d look after me now and I’d have to make it up to you by being your best friend.”
         “I think you’ve made it up to me about a thousand times by now,” Lucy said, “Thank you, Joey.” But Joe didn’t reply, he just hugged her harder and they sat listening to Steve on the phone. The only time they spoke was when they heard Steve pause for a while after ordering cheesecake.
         “Do it, for Pete’s sake!” Joe yelled. And Steve did it.