The door rang. 
The giant red door swayed open. John twists his head, relaxing his jaw as he sees me. 
” Why the man himself ! come here Peter?”
We conjoin as brothers.
 ” I’ve missed you man” John breathes on my blue suit. 

I reply 
” I missed you too, you douche”
We step back from each other, our arms do not dare to let go. 
I look at John Bradley’s face. An old stamp in my scurrying mind. 
The same old smile, the same hair and face. 

Just more married that’s all. 
I almost hug the old bastard again, before his captor comes to my aid.
“If I didn’t know you, I coud’ve sworn you’ve come for my daughter”
Cassie guarded the big house door, holding the frame with small ringed fingers.
Just like the old days, Cassie was a stack of fire and wit, nothing from that woman’s mouth couldn’t rub you the wrong way, and you’d still thank her for it.  
I open my arms to recieve the old menace. 
As I hug her “You still buy that discount scent of the week”

“I might use Cardamon next time. ”

She slaps my chest then pinches my cheek. 
She cranes her neck to her husband. 
” Let’s get the man inside, shall we?”

” I started to think it was a barbaque invitation”
The jolly three entered the house laughing. 
I slid my small box on the reception round table. 
Cassie cordially protested:”Peter you shouldn’t really”. 

” Nonsense!. What a beautiful house you got.”
I turn to John smiling, with my hands shoved in my pockets. 
” You were right John, slacking off your way does get you ahead” 

” Only if everyone else went the other direction” 
John smirked, scratching his chin
Cassie goaded my arm

 ” My husband means he’s unconventional, so he just burrowed one million from his father instead of two. ”
We arrive at the balcony, everything belonged to some subliminal theme of cream white and pink. 
A personal recluse of some sort. 
Cassie stopped my silent inspecting

” Coffee Peter?”
“Oh yes thanks”
I sit down pulling back my blue trousers. 

John looms over me like a judging archangel “So tell us what you’be been up to old dreamer”
” Nothing much, still pushing the old pencil, cruising life the way I like”
Cassie burst the bubble

“No one at the passenger seat ?”

“No, sorry, still solo”. 

“Lucky fella…” John’s last remark was followed by a faint chill. 
Cassie cleared her throat, her hands hovering with my cup and saucer. 
“I hear your daughter’s still looking for colleges “. 
The ice sheet cracked a thin fissure. 
John soon sealed it up ” More like figuring out her gender…or whatever angsty crisis come next”

Cassie eyes slid to John ” Sorry Peter, John is not feeling well these days, business and all”
I snort ” It’s ok, I think your daughter will be fine”

 I hide behind the rim of my cup, slurping my coffee. 
” I’m sorry peter, I’m not usually this stage of asshole  before 10 pm”
Cassie jumped in ” You mean when you hit the 4 glass mark”
John raised the side of his mouth
“Don’t worry honey, I wouldn’t claim all the credit”. 
Cassie hands started to turn white, her cheeks blushed.

“So I make you drink now?!”. 
“Not always honey, only when it’s your shift”
Cassie’s eyes started to flow. 
My throat freezes up. I am speechless. 

Should I be watching all of this?.

Cassie stands up and collects her words. 
“Sorry Peter, I remembered some urgent errings to attend”
John was about to taint the next sacred moment of silence, when Cassie blunted his efforts by throwing a plate on the ground. 
John jumped to his feet. 
I rush to cassie,

 “Are you ok?” 

John rushes to his wife, she squirms in his arms, then she succumbs to sobs. 

For so many years I had seen these two in love, and to see them now shattered apart,  makes me question the futility of my friendship. 

How helpless I was to see my old friends, friends I had always thought of as the model dream couple. 
Now consumed pain, in a realistic, bare, cold clutch of aching, throbbing pain.
I had the untarnished view to see it all. 

I see their past scars. 

This cycle of hostility and forgiveness, self perpetuating endlessly, breeding more despair. 

Clouding them in a shroud of unhappiness and I was invited to bare witness to all that. Their pain had to be uttered by words or at least by theatrics. 

I watch the ordeal unfold then ebb away.

I ask How long had this been going

The evening continued to be plastic, cordial and polite. 

I excuse myself from their vast cold home.

 As I stomp on the gravel path out towards the gate. 

I meet an old lady walking her spaniel.

“What a wonderful evening” She smiled amicably. 

I reciprocated the observation, ” Do you know the Bradleys?” 

“Oh yes I’ve known them for years, till they broke up, that’s for sure”

I then enquire further

” They broke  up?”.

The kind old woman indulged in spilling out the details.

” Why it has always been Mr. Bradley by himself for the least five years now”

I hiss just below a soft whisper.
So I just saw the final act.

“What about the daughter, doesn’t she visit?”
“The daughter???

I excuse myself from the old neighbor.

 My mind was babbling with all possible reasons for them to put up such a veil in front of me.
Etched smiles, powdered wounds, cries concealed behind raucous laughs. 

I sit in my car, looking back at the big house.

For how many years did I loathe their memory. 

I remember the gift I offered them. The specially seasoned pastries. 
My plan was executed perfectly, only the objective had now shifted. 
My offering had just turned from punishment to mercy. 

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