a short story by LINDA VISMAN
“I shouldn’t come here any more.” Barbara looked down. “Rhonda came today.”
My heart skipped a beat and I looked up. Barb was sitting across the table from me. Her dark hair fell across her forehead, partially covering her eyes. Strong fingers fiddled with her empty coffee mug, turning it round and round. Her voice was soft.
“She thinks our friendship isn’t a good idea, and we should only see each other at Bible study.”
I wanted to touch her hands, calm them, stroke their softness, hold them, but I couldn’t reach. Instead I spoke, more sharply than I intended.
“What’s Rhonda got to do with it? Why shouldn’t we be friends?”
Other people shouldn’t tell us how to live our lives. If the bible study group leader had her way, I wouldn’t be able to talk with Barb, discuss the lessons we’d attended every week, keep up with each other’s kids and their shared schools, sports and interests. The thought that I couldn’t even be with her was frightening.
The first day we’d met at the local bible group, I’d found myself attracted to Barb. I don’t even know what it was that drew me so strongly. She sought out my company too. We were relaxed together, able to talk about any subject. Our children were about the same ages and played soccer in the same competition, so we saw each other regularly. I wrote the game reports each week and dropped them in to her husband for publication in the local rag. He and I got on well too.
Over the last few months, we’d been seeing each other more and more often. Nothing hidden; dropping in at each other’s homes for a cuppa when our spouses were there, cheering on our kids at their games, chatting at school meetings. But lately, I was starting to recognise the feelings this woman had awakened within me; feelings I thought I would never know. Feelings I’d never had before, even though I’d been married for fifteen years. I knew I loved her with all my heart and I was sure she loved me just as much. Neither of us had yet spoken of our feelings – it was too dangerous.
Today, unusually, we were alone in my kitchen. Our spouses were absent and our children were at school. We’d hardly spoken as we drank our coffee. A Demis Roussos tape played softly in the background; I hadn’t been aware of the songs but Barb had. Suddenly she pushed the mug away and stood up, grabbing her chair as it threatened to fall backwards.
“I think Rhonda’s right. I’d better go.”
She turned and headed towards the door. For the first time I became aware of the words Demis Roussos was singing.
You ask me if I love you
and I choke on my reply
I’d rather hurt you honestly
than mislead you with a lie. *
I jumped up and took her hand before she could leave. When I spoke, my voice was hardly more than a whisper.
“Don’t go yet, Barb.”
“No, I have to! It’s wrong, especially for you. I have to go!”
“Listen, Barb. Listen to the song. It says just what I’m feeling. I think you feel the same. You do, don’t you?”
I reached over and turned up the volume. Then I joined in the words, my voice cracking and almost tuneless, but the words clear, their meaning without doubt.
At times I think we’re drifters
still searching for a friend
a brother or a sister
but then the passion flares again.
“We’re more than friends, Barb. I love you so much and want to be with you always.”
I could feel her shaking and put my arms around her. After a moment, her arms came up and encircled me. It felt so good. We stood cheek to cheek, as the song played out.
And sometimes when we touch
the honesty’s too much
and I have to close my eyes and hide.
I want to hold you till I die
till we both break down and cry
I want to hold you till the fear in me subsides.
I put my finger under her chin and raised her face a little. Lowering my head, I kissed her, ever so gently. I can’t explain what that kiss did; but it astounded me. As our lips met, the tension we’d been feeling just exploded. It was like a flash bulb went off. Then everything relaxed, and I knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that Barb and I would be together for life. Barb laughed a little shakily.
“Well, that’s done it! I can’t deny it now, can I?”
“And I don’t want to.” I grinned with relief. “This is it. I think your husband will accept it, my love, but we’re going to have the devil of a time with mine!”
© Linda Visman, 2018
* ‘Sometimes When We Touch’: Daniel Hill/Barry Mann; 1984 Fate Music