The party across the road was making a terrible din.
Sarita tossed and turned in the bed; the sheet, damp from sweat, twisted around her legs and created a makeshift trap.
‘Aaargh,’ she yelled in frustration. 2AM. She had every right to call the police. But she wasn’t going to. No way did she want to be the Debbie Downer of the neighbourhood.
The air was thick, humid. Sarita felt her strength wane even as she lay prone on the bed. The fan was useless, pushing the sticky air around the room. Untwisting her legs from the sheet, she pulled herself upright and walked to the window.
The sky was inky black. Not a solitary star in sight. Sarita opened the window, hoping for a zephyr to cool the room. Under the streetlight, a group gathered. Their cigarettes lit up individual faces. Sarita’s breath caught in her throat when she recognised Bill. She quickly stepped away from the curtain, at the same time as Charlie looked directly at her window.
Had he seen her? Her back was pressed against the wall, her heart pumping against her ribs. Fear rose from her toes to the tip of her head.
Footsteps. A knock at the door.
‘Sarita. I know it’s you. Someone told me you lived here. You’re awake. I just saw you in the window. Open up.’
‘Go away, Charlie.’
‘Come on!’ He banged on the door. The sound splintered through the night’s still air and she realised then that the party’s doof doof beat had ceased. She had no idea when; the dread of seeing those two after all these years had filled her soul, blocking out all her senses.
‘Sarita,’ Charlie said, this time quietly. ‘Let me in, please.’
Reluctantly, Sarita moved from her bedroom to the front door. Once opened, it revealed Charlie leaning on the brick wall, arms crossed with his trademark lop-sided grin.
‘Hey,’ he said. Every word after that was lost to Sarita as she melted into the past.
The three of them had been best friends at high school. Inseparable. Teachers audibly groaned at the start of each year to see the trio in their class and stormed straight to the principal’s office to have one or all of them redistributed. It didn’t matter to Sarita, Bill and Charlie though, they always found their way to each other.
It was only after high school ended that the cracks began to appear. Charlie and Sarita were off to the same uni, but Bill had secured a job in his dad’s PR firm. He had no need for a degree with a guaranteed trajectory straight to the top of the chain. Charlie and Sarita grew closer. Bill became jealous and stopped seeing the two of them. Charlie couldn’t deal with the thought of life sans Bill and dropped out of uni. Before long, Sarita had found new friends, but they’d never been able to patch the hole left by Bill and Charlie.
It was years later that she learned Bill and Charlie were an item. Sarita was pleased for them, truly, but didn’t understand why the friendship had had to suffer. It had been at least a decade since she’d seen them, and now here they were in her street.
Charlie stepped inside. ‘Shall I get Bill?’ He was already tapping out a text.
Sarita nodded. Not as if she was asleep anyway.
‘We’ve missed you Sarz. No idea why we drifted apart, now that I look back. You?’
Sarita shook her head, the familiarity of the nickname the two boys used made her feel safe and known.
‘Christ, it’s hot. Got an AC in this joint?’
‘Down the back,’ she lifted her hand to indicate the hallway. Bill was on her doorstep, waiting to be invited inside. By the time Sarita and Bill joined Charlie in her living room, Charlie had used the remote to switch on the air conditioner.
‘Let’s get a drink and catch up,’ he said, taking charge.
Now that she thought about it, he always did that. She chuckled, pleased to see her oldest friends in her home.
‘I’ll get us a drink,’ she said smiling.