Rikki wore herself, her other self, with aplomb. Hers was an expression of polite detachment and of slight boredom with it all. And cloaked in this dignified isolation, rather than give rise to pity or protection, it drew others to her with its charismatic secret quality.
She had learned quickly, back in her dark days, that by adopting a quasi haughty defiance and disinterest she could keep those around her off kilter, allowing her the time to defend and protect herself against any future pain.
As she leaned lightly against the wall, elegantly smoking her cigarette, seemingly lost in thought, Sam was staring at her from across the room shielded (or so she thought) by a small crowd of partygoers and two large potted plants.
It had been the summer of 1984, a little over fifteen years ago, when she and Rikki had said good-bye in the parking lot behind the convenience store, sneaking their last cigarette together and promising they would never lose touch, never forget each other.
Rikki moved away that summer and Rikki and Sam’s life together, which had begun at age 4 in junior kindergarten, came to an abrupt end.
Sam couldn’t believe this glamorous woman before her eyes had once been her stick thin top to toe neon clad purple haired best friend. There was something hard about Rikki now under all her beauty. The easy smile was less flexible as she thanked the bartender for her drink. Her movements seemed less natural, more studied rehearsed. Nonetheless, she was doing a grand job of it as was confirmed by the men and women in the room who couldn’t take their eyes off her.
Sam couldn’t understand why she was hiding; why she was feeling shy and anxious. After all, no bad blood had passed between them. They had written and occasionally spoken on the phone for about six months after Rikki’s departure and then simply lost touch…It seemed to Sam that 1984 to now had effectively been reduced to a blurry minute as she now observed Rikki’s form near the bar.
Turning to pick up her purse for another cigarette Rikki wondered how long before, or even if, Sam would come over to say hello. How silly Sam was. As if Rikki wouldn’t notice her or recognize her even in a million years. Rikki’s insides had knotted up immediately upon first glimpsing Sam across the room. Damn her! she thought. What is she doing here?
In that brief moment, for Rikki, the guests and drinks the bartender and the loft and even New York itself was swallowed up, leaving only a white canvas with a curly red haired woman in a green dress and heels.
Sam had been joined by two other women and the trio was now deep in conversation. Rikki took the opportunity to consider her long lost friend…her long lost love; that amalgam of barely restrained pure energy.
The hair was shorter but still a mass of unruly curls, the face still fresh and open. Seemingly, life hadn’t whacked her down yet.
Sam was lightly touching the arm of one of her interlocutors and Rikki felt the old pang of jealousy followed by misplaced resentment and borderline hatred. She blushed with shame as she noted with vengeful satisfaction that no rings adorned her friend’s hands.
And then she heard Sam’s laugh. It was more contained now, but still the same wonderful bold blast of sound that had accompanied their days growing up.
Rikki had never experienced such betrayal sadness and confusion has when she had lost Sam. For years her life had been one wrong choice after another in a desperate attempt to forget and move on. She wanted Sam, had never wanted anything else and yet Sam had always seemingly remained oblivious. Even the few times that Rikki had boldly stepped ‘over the line’ Sam had reacted with fun loving abandon, never taking her seriously, never questioning a deeper meaning.
Rikki still loved Sam. No amount of time or distance had dulled it. It was still her truth.
With this thought surfacing and taking flight across the crowded room, fluttering dipping rising and eventually landing in Sam’s curls, Sam turned around and caught Rikki looking her squarely in the eyes.
Sam hesitated just long enough for her friend to feel deeply hurt. Then, gulping her drink she turned away from the others and slowly started to make her way across the room under Rikki’s unwavering gaze.
Title photo byKu00e1ssia Melo