Sarah sat on her own in a crowd of people. She finally understood loneliness, how a person could feel lost amidst a large group. A girl on the other side of the campfire caught her eye and smiled. Sarah nodded slightly in her direction; she stared at the flames.
‘Hi, I’m Amy.’
It was the girl who’d just smiled at her. She must’ve sprinted over to her.
‘Sarah,’ she responded.
‘Mind if I join you?’
Sarah wriggled over a few centimetres. She knocked into the burly guy to her right, who turned his face to scowl at her. Nice bloke.
‘They’re a bunch of esoteric wankers, don’t ya think?’ Amy offered.
Sarah continued to stare at the flames.
‘What brings you here, Sarah?’ Amy asked.
Sarah let the silence sit between them. She knew she could stay quiet longer than Amy. From under her lashes, she saw Amy fidgeting with her fingers, crossing and uncrossing her legs.
‘I only ask because I came to make new friends. You know, you get to a certain age and it’s hard to meet people. Seinfeld said it all those years ago – once you hit your 20s your group is it. But I wasn’t happy with that. So here you find me. But I think it’s a mistake. They all know each other, and no one is talking to me.’
Not even you, was the unspoken ending to Amy’s monologue, Sarah thought wryly.
‘Has anyone spoken to you?’ Amy continued. ‘Besides me?’
‘You know, all this time I thought church people were open. Didn’t you?’ Amy didn’t wait for Sarah’s input. ‘I’ve seen the signs on the board out the front. I’ve driven past here for, like, ten or so years. And finally, I decide to walk in. One Sunday, I join the service, and no one even smiles at me. Or sits beside me. Or even fucking smiles at me. After the service, the minister approaches me and invites me to stay for morning tea. He introduces me to a few people. One gets me a coffee. We stand in a group and they, like, they just talk to each other about God and the bible and no one breaks it down for me. And I still think that I’m doing the right thing. So, when someone tells me about this, the campfire, I light up inside, and think, yeah, well, it’ll all fall into place once I’m here.’
Sarah noticed Amy was in tears.
‘And I can’t even leave, coz I got a ride with Bert over there.’ Amy pointed to a tall, skinny man whose nose resembled a beak. He seemed to be the leader of the group.
‘I’ve got my car,’ Sarah mumbled. ‘You wanna take off?’
‘Fuck! Yes! Let’s get out of here.’
They both stood, gathered their backpacks and left the campfire.
‘Look,’ said Sarah, staring back at the group from the driver’s seat in her car. ‘No one’s even noticed we’ve gone.’