Posts tagged ‘friendship’

All in Moderation

by: Rebecca Taylor

“All the news ever talks about is fat free this and organic that,” complained Monica Moulton to her friends. It was Friday night and they were having their monthly get together, this time at Simone Vien’s house.

“I know, sometimes you just don’t know what you should and shouldn’t be eating. Researchers are always changing their minds, one day you should be drinking milk and then a few days later there is something bad for you in it,” replied Carmen Philips.

“Funny that we’re talking about this now, at our monthly pig out,” teased Simone.

“I think we can all agree that chips, pretzels, and fudge brownies are not something you should be having every day, but once in a while isn’t going to kill you,” retorted Carmen.

“All that talk about putting the nutrition content on the menu and the calorie count, who wants that? If I go out for a meal at a restaurant once in a while, I’m going to choose something that I want to eat, not the item with the lowest amount of calories in it,” said Simone.

“I can make an edible spinach salad at home but I’m no good with those fancy pasta dishes. Macaroni and cheese is about as fancy as I get,” said Monica.

“Well you’re a single mom working two jobs, it isn’t like you have the time to cook, and I’ve had supper at your place before, you manage the four food groups,” replied Carmen taking a handful of pretzels from the bowl on the coffee table.

“Yeah, bagged salad and pizza,” retorted Monica laughing, “some cook I am.”

“Pizza has all four food groups, you probably wouldn’t want to eat it every night, but it’ll do.”

“I hate packing lunches for my kids and I’m home all day and have the time to cook,” said Carmen. “I never know what to make and so many things contain traces of peanuts which aren’t allowed because of the possible food allergies. I’m so glad some companies are starting to put the peanut free symbol on their boxes, it makes shopping so much faster.”

“These get togethers are great because it gives us all a chance to relax and have fun once a month but what we should be doing is getting together and making meals that we can freeze, then our lives would all be so much less stressful,” said Simone.

“It would make things faster wouldn’t it but how much would we cook?”

“We could make enough to last a few weeks, and some nights we could throw things together like we are now,” said Monica.

“Some of those cooking shows say meal planning is the way to go,” answered Carmen pouring herself another glass of wine.

“I don’t know how much more planning I want to do in my life, I seem to be living from my agenda with coordinating all my work shifts, babysitters, soccer practices and piano lessons, to have to plan meals on top of it all,” replied Monica sighing.

“We could get our kids involved and maybe Carmen and I could get our husbands involved too. We could all get together and make the plans and then us ladies could go grocery shopping and then we could cook together and on the nights we aren’t using our meals maybe the kids and husbands could help out.”

“It’s worth a try. It’ll help us all have healthier lifestyles and then maybe the kids will be able to apply it throughout their lives and it won’t be so hard for them when they’re our ages,” answered Carmen.

“We can’t cut out all the foods that are supposedly not good for us because eating should be fun, not all calorie counted, measured portions,” replied Monica between bites of her brownie.

“We can do this, none of us will give up our favourite foods, and I don’t think any of us are going to go overboard and become tofu eating vegans,” replied Simone her blue eyes twinkling.

“To each their own,” teased Monica, “I guess the tofu eaters are entitled to their own opinions.”

“Like my little Charlie’s love for peanut butter and mayonnaise sandwiches. I understand peanut butter and jelly, the thought of PB & mayo isn’t appetizing to me but if he’ll eat it,” laughed Simone.

“Hopefully we can find a way to get my two to stop being such picky eaters. With the little bit of time I have to cook and the fact that they hate any kind of vegetable that isn’t a French fry,” answered Monica.

“We’ll hide the veggies, don’t you worry, and as long as you bake the French fries they’re vegetables,” answered Carmen.

“We can do this, we’ll get it all figured out and we’ll all be eating the things we like in moderation. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the taste of junk food occasionally.”

Monica, Simone, and Carmen got themselves organized, they got together more often and planned and cooked together. They got their families involved and learned how to make some fun new dishes like a grilled veggie and pasta dish, rice and meat wrapped in grape leaves cooked in a tomato sauce and a quick and easy stew recipe. They learned how to manage their time, their menus, and their lifestyles while still enjoying their favourite foods. The three friends still got together once a month to pig out and have fun together, sometimes they just talked or watched a movie but more and more they were sharing new recipes, ideas and takes on cooking. They learned how to cook and have fun all in moderation.

Decision

He had never liked me, I know that now. I had tried so hard to be his friend and I thought that it would work out with Rob.

But he had his own mind and he didn’t like me.

All the questions and all the extra hard work to try to get him to be my friend hadn’t worked. I would never be one of his friends. He might be nice to me but he would never hang out with me unless he had to.

I remember the day I asked him if he wanted to hang out. He didn’t outright reject me, he simply turned the conversation away from that topic or made a joke so as to avoid the question.

I was over it now and he wasn’t worth it. I wasn’t sure if it was worth trying to make friends with people, it was always so difficult.

A loud drawer closing pulled me out of my reverie. I was at work, one of those office jobs that most people hate. But I sort of liked it because of the people.

“Jamie, how’s it going?” asked the new hire, Trevor. I didn’t know Trevor very well but hoped he wasn’t like Rob.

I smiled. “Good, just another day in the life.”

He said, “Yeah, I don’t really know anyone here.”

I made a decision right then. I made the decision to not let the rejection of some random guy change my life view or hinder me as I went along to make new friends. I said I could show him a good place for lunch, if he wanted.

It was his turn to smile and he accepted my invite.

Maybe the other guy just wasn’t worth it and I could move on. I probably wouldn’t forget it, but I could still move on.

 

 

It’s in the Blood

Summer 1952

“I noticed you weren’t at the barn dance last night.” Douglas prompted.

Robin hurried down her front steps, her heavy suitcase forcing her to walk lopsidedly. He followed.

“You going next week?” A flop of unruly dirty blonde hair hung in front one of his eyes. “I… I miss seeing you there, that’s all.”

“I don’t think I can make next week ether.” Robin’s words sounded cold even to her ears. She dared not look at the wounded look on his face. She sighed. How long was he going to follow her? She had never kept a secret from him before. They’d been friends since Douglas moved to Oak Grove, South Carolina, which was ten years ago. At only sixteen, that was definitely the longest friendship Robin had ever had. Still, she couldn’t tell him why she was leaving Oak Grove. The less he knew right now, the better.

They neared the end of her dirt driveway, where it met with the gravel of the ever straight road. In one direction lay the town of Orangeville, and the other lead towards answers – also known as Columbia, South Carolina.

“You’re carrying your suitcase.”

It wasn’t phrased as a question, but Robin knew it was. “If my parents ask, you never saw me, okay?” Her dad was at work until late evening. Mom would be home from her quilting bee in a couple hours, but Robin had told her she’d be at a friend’s until her curfew – dinner time. Robin had almost six hours before anyone else knew she was gone. That was all she needed to get to Columbia, visit Rusty’s Diner, and find a nice hotel. With one hand, she fingered the dollar bills in the pocket of her cardigan. Hopefully it’d be enough. With enough luck, she planned on eventually renting an apartment – something permanent. She glanced at Douglas, who was still walking beside her. She had braced herself earlier for this goodbye. It didn’t make the lying easier. “I’m just going for a walk.” With my suitcase. You mean you don’t do that?

“Going anywhere specific? I can give a ride in my truck.”

“Thanks, but I’m enjoying the sun. I’m looking to improve my tan.” And I need to be alone, she thought.

Douglas understood she was omitting the truth, but he didn’t press her for the details. He stayed at her side. “You’ll be back in time to fish, right? It’s Friday, you know.” He paused, musing. “I hope we catch more than last week.”

Robin closed her eyes for an exasperating moment. The only way she would get him to leave her alone was to lie again. “I’ve got far better things to do, Douglas,” she snapped, “ I’ve never enjoyed fishing. I didn’t think I needed to spell it all out for you.”

His steps hesitated, and then stopped. “Well, fine.” Robin could hear his angry voice fading behind her. “For the record, I have things to do too. Like right now, I’m going to go drink sweet tea with my mother.”

Robin never stopped walking. While she hadn’t planned on ripping Douglas’s heart to shreds, it was the only way. She couldn’t risk telling him the truth. Her one aim was to visit her brother. The brother that she shared blood with, the one who used to take her on joy rides in his convertible. The brother she didn’t know was still alive until this morning. Robin had always been told that he’d joined the army eight years ago, and then was killed in action shortly after. Yet he was very much alive. He lived nine miles away, in the loft above a restaurant called Rusty’s. The details were poured out over a breakfast of Crispy Flakes cereal.

Mom’s hand flew to her mouth. “Dean, you need to read this.” She handed the daily paper across the table.

Dad’s eyes traveled back and forth across the page. “I never thought…” He struggled to form a sentence. “It’s been so long since… He’s actually…”

Robin frowned in confusion, watching the exchange. She peered over the edge of the paper, catching a few headlines. “Stray kitten walked into gas station, scaring customers.” Her father was allergic; why would he be so intrigued by a cat? Robin shook her head. She followed his gaze to another headline: “Local boy is new owner of Rusty’s in downtown Columbia.”

“What’s so exciting about that?” Robin swallowed the last bite of delicious bran flakes. Both parents appeared shell-shocked by the article. “What is it?”

Dad jumped up enthusiastically, and slapped the article face down on the table. “Looks like I’m late for work.” He downed the rest of his coffee, gave his wife a kiss on the head, and escaped out the front door.

“It’s just an article,” Mom answered, a wavering smile on her face. “You know how much I enjoy the paper. Sometimes I become too involved in the news.”

“I’ve never seen you so involved before. What was dad talking about?”

“It’s nothing.”

Robin sat, feeling betrayed. Waiting for answers. After several moments of prodding and waiting, someone finally spoke.

“There are some things you don’t know.”

Her brother and childhood hero had been dishonorably discharged from the army a few months after he was deployed to Germany. His parents didn’t want to advertise the delinquent son, and so they told all that he had died in the line of duty. It’s not like he had wanted to return home, anyways. He was perfectly happy living a lifestyle of whiskey and bar fights to care about his sister or his parents. Or at least that’s what Mom had told Robin. She’d also been told not to contact Troy. He was nothing but trouble. It was best for her. Robin had sweetly smiled. As soon as Mom had left for her quilting club that morning, she picked up and left. With her hard earned babysitting money in her pocket, and all the clothes she could stuff into the leather suitcase, she strode towards the truth. She had to know why Troy had never returned. Once she that was all sorted out, she would find an apartment and live beside her brother. Anger rose inside her heart as she thought of how she’d been betrayed by the lies. She’d thought Troy – the one other person that she shared DNA and blood with – was dead. Buried in the veteran cemetery. Now it didn’t matter what he might have done before; it only mattered that she could be with him.

Those thoughts fuelled her energy for the next nine miles. Her feet ached. The humid air forced her brunette wisps to stick to her moist skin. She had plenty of time to think of what she’d say when she saw him. “You’re alive. I’ve missed you. Where’ve you been? It doesn’t matter. I’m going to stay around here for a while. Think I can stay with you?” Nothing seemed worthy of the first words she’d say to him.

Several hours later, she passed the welcome sign for Columbia. A lump formed in her throat. She stopped in a gas station and asked for directions to the restaurant. She stepped out a moment later, an address scrawled on receipt paper.

After lugging around the suitcase for three more blocks, she stood before her destination. Rusty’s Diner and Bar. The building had a log-cabin look, and the parking lot was in a need of a good litter pick-up. Spotting the front door with a broken spring, she walked forward. She almost thought she was going to be sick from the nervous flutters in the stomach, but she pushed the door open despite it all. The air was dimly lit. A wrinkle faced man sat in a table in the corner, cigar smoke rose in wisps around him. He was the only customer. He didn’t even bother to look up at her. Instead he stared into the beer mug in front of him.

Robin squinted towards the front counter. One lone employee stood, slowly wiping off counters with a ragged cloth. Even from the distance, somehow she knew. Her shoes made definite clicks against the wood floor. He glanced up, did a double take, and frowned. He went back to scrubbing at the counter. He definitely had the brunette hair and two light freckles on one cheek, a trademark of the Hughes family. Robin rested her suitcase on the ground, massaging her tired hand for a moment. Her eyes never left his face. Would he recognize her? What to say?

“We don’t serve minors anymore.” His flat voice caught her off guard.

“Troy?”

“You’re speaking to him. What can I get for you, young lady? Soda? A burger?”

She managed a hesitant smile. “I’m Robin. Robin Hughes. Your sister.”

Silence over stayed its welcome. “It can’t be.”

Her grin widened. “I finally found you. All this time, I didn’t think you were alive. Now Mom and Dad told me that say you’d wanted to leave, and wanted to stay away. I didn’t believe that.” He was shaking his head. Robin’s hopes were confirmed. He wasn’t really a bad man and he had wanted to come back. He was about to tell her his reasons.

“No,” he said. “this can’t be happening.” He started backing away from the counter. Robin sat rigidly still in confusion. “It wasn’t supposed to be like this,” he groaned, his voice rising in resentment. “I was supposed to disappear. Or at least disappear from Oak Grove.” He laughed, as if it was truly funny. “Does it still have only one gas station and no movie theatre? I needed to get away. Build a life for myself.”

All the things had Robin had been told about her brother that morning rang in her ears. She had to hear him refute it. “So you became an alcoholic?”

“It – It wasn’t like that,” he sputtered. Mom and Dad just didn’t approve of anything I did. I was the failed kid. But you – ” He glanced anxiously at his customer in the corner and lowered his voice. He leaned closer to Robin as if he would tell her a secret. “You can’t come around here. Ever. It’s not like I’d ever come back with you, if that’s what you think. Thank you for reminding me of my painful past.” He spat out painful like a bug had flew in his mouth. “I don’t want to think about what’s behind me – like my strict father and the dead town. That clear? Now scat.” As he twisted on his heel and disappeared into the back, another man appeared from the back of the restaurant.

“What’s the commotion about?” The burly man asked Troy. He received no answer and turned to Robin. “You alright, miss?”

She couldn’t answer. How had everything turned out so differently?

“Can I call someone for you – maybe a cab?”

She found herself shaking her head. Reality was setting in. She didn’t have enough money for a cab, and certainly not for an apartment.

“There’s a phone in the parking lot if you change your mind.”

Robin picked up the leather suitcase and winced. Her hands sported red welts from the handle digging into her skin on the journey there. She trudged out the restaurant door, replaying every second in her head. “You can’t come around here. Now scat.” His hazel eyes had been completely frozen. There was not a gram of feeling in them at all. How was it was possible that she shared DNA with someone like that?

She knew there was only one thing to do. She may not have money for a cab, but she had enough change for the pay phone. She dialed the only number she’d fully memorized. Standing at the phone booth in the parking lot of Rusty’s Diner and Bar, she’d never felt so alone. The other end of the line rang once. She willed someone pick up. He had to pick up. They’d been there for each other all those other times. He defended her horrible haircut in fifth grade. Second ring. He warded off Terrifying Tony, the bully in sixth grade. He even took a black eye for her. Third ring. During her first breakup, he’d let her cry and rant while her parents had only said “there are other fish in the sea.” Last year, when he’d gotten bronchitis, Robin had brought over chicken noodle soup every morning. Most recently, they had helped each other through grueling chemistry class. Fourth ring.

“Hello?”

She took a deep breath and tried to maintain her composure. Someday, she would be able process what had just happened in that bar. Today wasn’t it. One thing she didn’t need to process. Blood had never held as much value as she’d thought. “Douglas, it’s me. I’m sorry I lied before. I’d love to catch sunfish tonight.”

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