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 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?”
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.