“I’m healing,” I said easing myself into an upright chair.
“I wish I had been here,” she said pouring cups of tea. “At least Caroline and the girls were right down the street so you weren’t alone.”
My eyebrows lifted.
“What?” she asked, her voice terse.
“Caroline disappeared as soon as she learned I needed surgery,” I replied.
“What?!” she shrieked. “Something happened to her?”
“No,” I shook my head. “As far as I know she’s fine. Her car is there.”
Jenna’s brow furrowed, “So what happened?”
“I called her from work the day my gynecologist decided she had to open me up,” I said, then sipped the delicate Lapsang Suchong brew.
“Tell me,” Jenna insisted.
“She told me to call her when I had a date and then didn’t answer her phone; didn’t return my messages” I explained.
“Did you stop by?”
“Yes,” I nodded. “But she was always away.” I shrugged. “After a week, I gave up.”
“Oh Mel,” Jenna cried, rushed to my side and hugged my shoulders.
“Ooh,” Jenna shied. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”
“Oh no,” I shook my head. “I just reached up too high.”
“What did you do?” Jenna asked as she returned to her seat.
“What could I do?” I shrugged again, “I filled my spaghetti pot with water and left it on the stove, bought frozen entrees and stuff that was already cooked, and cooked vacuum sealed packets until I could open and close the oven.
“I paid our part-timer to collect me from the hospital and come and buy groceries for me. She was the only person I saw for a week.”
“Caroline didn’t check in at all?” Jenna asked. “Not at all?”
I shook my head.
“What treachery!” Jenna cried. “You’ve done so much for her. I can’t believe she did that.”
“She was afraid I had cancer,” I said shrugging.
“What if you did?!” Jenna demanded. “You’d need her even more.”
“She’s afraid of illness,” I replied.
“That’s no excuse for treachery,” Jenna said.
“No,” I agreed. “But that’s why she did it.”
Jenna traced a pattern in her place mat with the tip of her teaspoon as we sipped our tea.
“You know,” she mused. “You should call and tell her… Oh, I don’t know… Tell her something.”
I shook my head, “No. I’m not going to call her.”
Jenna opened her mouth. I interrupted before she spoke.
“I’ve been Caroline’s friend,” I said. “But she’s never been mine. This…” I stopped for a minute, “treachery — that’s a good word — I don’t need it in my life.”
“No,” Jenna agreed.
“So that’s that,” I said.
“And the girls?”
“Perhaps I’ll see them in the neighbourhood,” I shrugged. “But I can’t ask them to choose between me and their mother.”
My eyes smarted. I blinked a tear away.
“It’s bloody awful,” Jenna said.
“Yes,” I nodded.