‘She’s always had a flair for, um…I don’t know how to put it,’ my voice peters off.
Pam and I are talking about Margie, our friend. Margie flies to Spain every July and spends two months there. When she’s home in Melbourne again, she is wonderfully generous, hosting parties and dinner for her friends. But there is always an element of entitlement, of being better than us.
‘She’s ostentatious,’ Pam quips, after I can’t finish my sentence.
‘Well, yes. I guess you could put it that way,’ I chuckle.
‘I mean, I love her. I’m grateful that she’s my friend. But jeez, she can be hard work.’
‘Yeah,’ I agree. ‘Those two months when she’s in Spain feel lighter, don’t you reckon?’
‘Definitely. It’s like we can relax and be ourselves.’
I nod. My mind wanders to last July, before Margie went overseas. I was in a dark space, broke and broken. Margie dropped by, letting herself in with her key. She found me curled in a ball in the shower, hot water and steam misting the small room.
‘Karen,’ Margie said, alarmed. ‘What are you doing in there?’
I didn’t answer.
Margie opened the shower screen door and turned off the water. ‘Come on out. Here, I’ve got a towel for you.’
I obeyed her. Stood up, and stepped out into the towel she held open for me. She wrapped it around me, held me while I cried on her shoulder. Eventually, I disclosed my situation to Margie. She led me into my room, helped my into a clean set of pyjamas, and put me to bed. She sat at my dressing table and pulled her cheque book.
‘I’ve left this for you. It’s signed, and blank, so you can write in whatever amount will tide you over.’
I groaned my dissent.
‘Let me be clear, Karen. You’re in a bad way. I am your friend and I have the means to help you. It would be remiss of me to ignore that.’
‘It will take me ages to pay you back.’
‘It’s not a loan, Karen. There is no need to pay me back.’ She paused at my bedroom door. ‘I’m off to Spain tomorrow, so I’ll see you in September. Get some sleep.’
Now, I stare at Pam. Guilt pounds with each heart beat. ‘I feel bad Pam. We shouldn’t be talking about her like this.’
‘Oh come on. Don’t get soft on me.’ Pam frowns.
‘I’m serious. Who among us doesn’t have annoying habits?’
Pam’s eyes darken. Her brow uncreases. ‘You’re right,’ she says. She walks to my fridge and pull out a bottle of prosecco.
‘Let’s drink to Margie!’ she calls as the cork pops.