Husband and I were busy gardening. We had not heard from Bella all weekend–now a regular thing.
The telephone rang.
Bella: ‘Can I come and see you, with my friend? Tell you what’s going on, what has been happening to me.’
‘Sure.’ I put the phone in its cradle, and stood still for a while, waited for my heart to reach its natural rhythm.
I told Husband of the strange request.
‘What now?’ Is all he said.
Her friend drove her car onto our drive. The passenger door opened, Bella got out, dressed in pyjamas. She looked thin, tired, and totally washed out.
Manners forced me to make coffee for her friend, the friend who dumped her furniture in Bella’s living room, whilst my heart was bleeding, whilst I could have fallen on my knees, and begged for Bella to be her former self.
Into the conservatory they went. I followed. Husband appeared, gardening gloves still on. ‘What’s the problem?’ he said to Bella. He ignored her friend.
‘Just, I’ve come with my friend to tell you what’s been happening with me.’
‘And what’s then?’ Irritation masked his fear.
‘I’ve been drinking.’
Husband said no more. He went to the garden to carry on digging–more productive– would be his way of thinking.
I hung on her every word, sat and listened to her weekend gone by in a blur. ‘Stop drinking,’ I said. As if it were as simple as that.
Her friend joined in. ‘I keep telling Bella, see needs to tell you the truth.’
‘What’s that then, the truth?’
‘Just about my drinking.’ Bella glared at her friend.
Bella stood, I hugged her. I could feel her thin frame. Too tight a squeeze, she would have broken in my arms.
‘Please stop drinking,’ I said, again.