I sighed softly and buried my head deep in my pillow as something lightly tickled my cheek. I refused to open my eyes, knowing that that would men giving up the blissful haven of my quilt and give an official start to my day. Only after a few seconds of semi comatose thoughts, and an abnormally loud maaaaawwww did I realise that my feline companion, the unacknowledged Lord of the Manor, required my urgent attention in presenting him with breakfast.
"Coming..." I mumbled, and sought comfort under the covers, noting with disgusted resignation that what had been tickling my cheek had been a wet nose. The cat's patience span rarely conceded more than ten seconds, and we both knew it. Sure enough, the pattern continued with the subsequent clawing at my mattress.
I flung a pillow at him, trying to establish some kind of power on my side, but he just avoided it and padded softly to the kitchen, where he knew that, obviously, I was about to follow him. The house was pitch dark, and the cold was enough to promptly dissolve any lingering sleepiness. I made my way blindly to the cupboard and with an effort to fight of nausea, I opened the overpriced, overrated, cat food which my opportunistically affectionate pet seemed to appreciate, if given in the right doses and at calculated intervals.
"There you go," I announced as I put the plate down, only to be ignored. It could have been a whiff of the vile food, or it could have been my sudden awareness of being awake, but I suddenly felt sick.
It was the day...
There was nothing else I could do. There was no way I was going to deal with this alone, so I rushed to my bedroom and picked up the phone, only glancing at the clock when Chris answered.
"'lllo...whosit?" slurred Chris on the other side.
Six am in Malta, five am in England. God, I was so sorry...really I was. I have been accused throughout my life of taking friends for granted, but it was in reality only a mistaken assumption of my character. What I took for granted was not them but the fact that they would be prepared to do for me what I would gladly and immediately do for them. Was there a difference? Well---
"HELLO????? WHO THE HELL IS THIS?"
God, I sure did analyse the crap out of everything.
"Chris, it's me."
"What?? It's friggin 5 o'clock!! You're crazy?"
I was so perfectly aware of the time difference between the two countries, but I guessed, correctly, that this wasn't really the right time to point that out. "I'm sorry," I replied trying to keep my voice steady. "Chris it's the 21st."
I took a deep breath but did not say one word. At least, Chris had understood.
"Give me two minutes, meet you online."
The click on the other side of the line indicated that she had dashed off to switch on her computer. Christine and I never really communicated on the phone. We got along fine whenever we met, and throughout the years I had known her, and her family, this had been pretty often, but any real conversations were left to internet. It was much easier to type out words, and wait for the monitor to answer. It was like feeding input and getting output. And it didn't matter much when you couldn't even read the words through the tears, as no one would realise and care anyway. The little smiley faces presumed to show one's real state of mind, not knowing that, more often than not, they were granted the far less gratifying role of liars.
Any other psychobabble in my mind was interrupted by the flashing light that indicated that Chris had, indeed rushed, to her PC and connected.
clanger: hey ...
jaded: hey...did you have to wake up Don?
Clanger: I don't think so...he didn't complain. He wouldn't dare!
Jaded: no...he wouldn't.
Don was Chris' longtime, devoted boyfriend. Getting a complaint out of that guy was as hard as getting Celine Dion to sing a cheery tune.
clanger: asking how you are seems pretty stupid...
jaded: let's say i've been better...
clanger: can't you try not to think about it?
Clanger: you have to dry dammit! You're becoming a mental case, you stupid freak! :(
That's why I loved speaking to Chris, there were no half measures with her. And tact wasn't her number one priority either.
Jaded: don't you think I tried to forget all about it? I can't!
Clanger: you want me to be honest?
Clanger: I don't think you're trying hard enough...admit it, you've been obsessing about this day for months now right?
I threw a guilty glance to the circled date on the calendar.
Jaded: don't be silly!
Clanger: you're crying aren't you?
My hands instinctively wiped away the tears that were effortlessly streaming down my cheeks.
Clanger: don't give me bs...not so early in the morning!
Jaded: Damn you.
Clanger: listen to me...just this once...please?
Jaded: I'm listening.
Oh wow, I had said Frasier Crane's most famous line. In other circumstances I would have been ecstatic. Hell, I'm easy to please.
Clanger: please...please try to start living again. This is not healthy for you...just react to all that is happening, can't you do this?
Apparently not, I thought to myself, but of course I knew that Chris was right. However, falling into the self-pity trap was pretty much easier than crawling out of it.
Jaded: easy for you to say...
Clanger: yeah pity yourself...as if that brought you comfort till now.
Jaded: I'm sorry...oh god, I just don't know what to do
Clanger: be honest now...you know what to do. It's time to start afresh, bounce up, start a new life...hell you know what I mean!!
Jaded: Yeah...but there is a last thing I need to do before bouncing up
Clanger: no...no! don't you dare!
Jaded: I do
Clanger: It's not right...it's just not right what you are going to do!
Jaded: oh come on, always doing "right" has brought me to pay half my salary in taxes every month...:P
Clanger: I'm not joking L
Jaded: I know you're not...I need to do it, Chris I do...only then I can just say goodbye and move on!
Clanger: Bull! I know your reasons for doing this, and I won't let you
get hurt again! You know it's a no win situation, you know it much better than
Jaded: why can't you understand?
Clanger: it's because I know and understand you so well that I'm not going to let you do it!
Jaded: have to go...I'll speak to you tonight...when I get back
Clanger: damn you...you know what? I've always sympathised with your pain up till now, but when you come crying tonight...you would have brought it on you yourself. You understand?
Jaded: perfectly. Bye
Clanger: please don't do it...
I disconnected and switched off the computer without waiting for it to shut down. What I was going to do was crazy, but I needed closure, I just needed to be sure, and this was the only way.
In my worn jeans, and casual sweater, I stood out like a lit beacon. In all fairness, I don't even know why that should have surprised me. It wasn't really a place or event one went to wearing running shoes. However, dressing smartly to pretend to be a guest seemed to me more of an affront than sneaking in on the sly. Besides, "comfort first" had always been my policy, and while we were together, it had been his too.
Trying to appear inconspicuous, I silently made my way to the darkest side of the church, where I could look at all his side of the guest list, without being noticed. Row after row of familiar faces, all adorned with impeccable clothes, stared eagerly at the altar, each face decorated with a happy smile. I sighed softly when my eyes rested on his mother, as she nervously pulled at the hem of her skirt which, to my surprise, did not even reach her knees. I knew his mother well enough to assume that the length of that skirt had not been her idea. Hell, I had gone shopping with her many times in those three years and it had taken all my persuasive skills to actually convince her to buy a pair of trousers. One of my aims in life had been to see her in denim jeans, but I never had the chance. After our third anniversary, it had all ended.
He dumped you, you mean! cried a voice inside my head, before I told it to bugger off. It was true though -- he had dumped me, very gently, and if I had to quote Jane Austen, I would probably add "in a very gentleman like manner", but it still hurt like hell, and it did for a long time. It was ironic though; in three years, all I had managed to achieve was to be left with the promise of "remaining friends" while in six months, she had managed to marry him, or at least was in the process of doing so.
It was really very sudden however, and it kind of struck me as strange. Instinctively, I planted my eyes on her, the bride...all dressed in white, and I narrowed them to focus solely on one part...maybe...
I snapped out of it quickly, and actually had the decency to be mad at myself. I was not going to look out for tell tale bumps! The idea of her being pregnant was mean... low...disrespectful...
...And utterly false, apparently. Her stomach was completely flat, and with a gleeful grin, I realised that so was everywhere else. She was as curvy as a road in Ancient Rome, I thought with satisfaction, making use of one of my twisted similes. Automatically, my ultra sensitive conscience gave me a rather painful prick.
I can't believe you're being bitchy in church, and during Mass too?! You're not yet twenty five, but if you ask me, you've already turned into a bitter old hag...
Isn't the conscience supposed to be the voice of God? Can't He be a bit more tactful??
My thoughts were interrupted by the voice of the priest. It was time for the actual ceremony, the exchange of the rings, the vows, and all that a wedding really entailed. Focusing on the bride and the groom gave my mind a bit of space in which to reflect, and for the first time since I entered the church, I actually asked myself what on earth, really was I doing there. In weddings-slash-predivorce ceremonies shown in American sitcoms, before the minister, or justice of the peace, or whoever, started everything off, he usually pronounced the fatal "speak now or forever hold your peace" words, which often ended up in a jilted ex lover ruining the whole farce. I hadn't been to a Catholic wedding in a long while, so I wasn't sure whether this option was just ignored, or if I had missed it due to one of my mental exchanges. Whatever the reason, I seemed to have ruined my only opportunity to make my great entrance and earn my moment of glory.
In a matter of seconds, it was over. He was pronounced the husband of someone else, just like that. I tried to make myself think that it should have been me there, standing in front of God and being made happy, but in truth, I couldn't. From where I stood, I could just see his face, his wonderful brown eyes that I had loved completely for three years, and I knew that it could have never been me there, beside him. She had made him happy, happier than he had ever been with me, though God knows I had tried with all my heart. I lost, and she had won. And with conceding defeat, I also sighed a sigh of relief, and my heart felt lighter than it had done for a very long time.
Knowing that the ceremony would be over soon, I slowly made my way to the church portal, all the while staring curiously at the woman who had managed to take away from me that which I held most dear. There was nothing remarkable about her, except for her lovely blonde hair, which fell in long locks down her back. That's how he always liked hair...long and blonde, I thought as I careless fingered my careless ponytail. Maybe it was time for me to get a haircut; I never really liked long hair on myself, and perhaps dye it back to its natural dark colour. I had been a false blonde far too long now.
Before I left the Church, I stopped in front of a statue of Jesus Christ, and took off the ring I wore in my left hand, a present he had given me on my twenty first birthday. I silently pushed it into the charity box, knowing that its sale would bring about some money for some poor soul who needed it. Feeling rather good with myself, I flashed Jesus a grin and gave him a wink before sauntering out of the door.
What the heck...minus the long hair and the beard, and with the addition of an Italian suit, Jesus would have probably been exactly my type!
I walked quickly to my old Panda, and sat back for a minute before starting it. That was it...it was over, completely over. To my surprise, it hadn't been as bad as I thought it would be. The fact that he was now married meant that there was no way I could hope for him to return to me; he had his decision, and I respected him too much not to accept it.
Life did bloody go on after all...
With a tight smile I hooked up the seatbelt, crunched the gear into first, and drove off, the sound of my car stereo drowning that of the ringing bells.
Clanger is now online.
Jaded: he's married...that's it. Finito.
Clanger: u ok?
I smiled to myself and glanced at the mirror on the opposite wall. My face was framed by dark, short hair which barely arrived below my ear. It wasn't bad...actually, I looked good, pretty, really.
Clanger: I wish I could think of something smart to tell you...but I promise you...I'll make sure you forget about all this next month!
Jaded: tickets and passport are set, I'm pretty eager to come up again I can tell you!
Clanger: that's great! It will do you good to meet new ppl...speaking of which...
I rolled my eyes and steeled myself for the worst.
Clanger: there is this guy, Matt, he's a friend of Don...really cute...
A pale Brit...lovely. But anyway...what the hell!!!
Jaded: tell me more! What's he like?
Clanger: tallish, blondish...quite nice really...
His brown eyes flashed before me for a second. It didn't hurt, at least not as much as I thought it would.
Jaded: blue's fine, perfect actually.
From the corner of my eye, I could see the cat stirring in his sleep. Lucky beast, he spent most of his life sleeping, and totally oblivious of what was going on around him.
Jaded: Chris could I ask u something weird?
Jaded: how many lives do cats have? 7 or 9?
Jaded: 7 or 9??
Clanger: dunno...9? Why?
Jaded: nuffin...no reason
Nine lives. Having nine lives must be pretty convenient, and there is no reason why it should be limited only to cats. Let's say, while using the oldest clichés in the book, that I decided to turn a new leaf, to let go of my old life, to start afresh, to look ahead, and what have you, it would be a case of one down, eight to go, right? Not bad...it was actually comforting. Eight lives are quite a lot...
When I'm down to three, I could start economizing.
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