It was a quiet Sunday afternoon. Adam was out on a walk with friends, and Harriet and Amanda were on the sofa. Radio Three was playing a classical concert in the background, Amanda was reading, and Harriet was doodling in her sketch book.
Harriet wasn’t actually sketching anything useful, she hadn’t done for a while now, but having her pencil and sketch pad was a reassuring comfort. And so the gentle scratch of graphite on paper continued unproductively, but less helpfully, to a Mozart symphony. It was a little mindless activity that should have been making Harriet feel better about doing nothing for a while but it was just making Harriet feel worse.
Amanda flicked over the next page in her book and muttered “Typo!” to herself. Proof reading as part of her job occasionally got in the way of just reading for fun but Adam, and now Harriet, had gotten used to ignoring Amanda’s occasional mutterings as she read.
“Who?” Amanda sat up a bit and flicked back a few pages in her book and speed read a few chapters.
“What’s up?” Harriet asked. It was an easy distraction from her aimless doodling.
“Oh, it’s just a character’s name must have been changed at some point in editing, and they missed one. So confusing when they do that! For a moment I had idea who they were talking about. So tempting to pencil in a correction but then I’ll never finish the book as I’ll have to correct all the other typos.”
“I guess getting a name wrong is more noticeable then other typos.” Harriet returned to her sketch book with a heavy sigh.
Amanda looked across at Harriet and put her bookmark in the page she was holding. “Your roots are showing.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Do you want to do anything about that?”
“Nah, they’re my roots, They can’t come quick enough.”
“OK, No more ‘blondie’ then.”
“Your grey will show!”
“Harriet, you ok?”
Harriet folded her sketchpad and put it on the arm of the sofa with a big deep sigh. “Who am I, Amanda? I mean who am I really?”
“Do you want an answer to that?”
“I’m trying to find one.”
“Ohhh kaaayyy…” Amanda put her book on her lap. “You are Harriet Board. A wonderful friend, an amazing woman. A survivor. A carpenter, a designer, a future business owner… You are funny, serious, sexy…”
“Oh fuck off!” Harriet giggled.
“…strong, tender, supportive…” Amanda continued “Imaginative, hard working, conscientious… What else? You have integrity, decency, honesty, a figure to die for…”
“What, at five foot three?” Harriet finally began to laugh. “I’m a short arse! Ok, aside from all that ‘What have the Romans ever done for us?’!”
Amanda laughed too, and then became serious and asked “Do you want to dye your hair? I don’t mean green, or pink, or something, I mean back to your natural colour? It might help, clear away more of the memories. Help you see the real you again. And you won’t have to wait for the blonde to grow out.”
“Hmmm, do you think it would help? Sorry, I’ve just been feeling a bit low again.”
“I know, and that ok. Anyway, it might help, and nothing lost if you don’t feel comfortable about it afterwards, we can always dye it again, green to go with… with… the lawn?”
“You daft lemon!” Harriet play slapped Amanda on the thigh. “Yeah, go on then. I’ll have to go and find the right shade, if I can remember what it is, or was, or should be, I could do that tomorrow.”
On Monday evening after dinner, while Daisy, Fran and Ingrid were still sitting around the kitchen table, there was a lull in the conversation. The three women looked at each other and all knew what was coming up. Ingrid looked at Daisy, and then Fran, “Someone should phone Jen…”.
“Draw straws?” Fran suggested, looking at the others.
“Nah, I’ll do it.” Daisy stood up and walked across to the kitchen window, tapping her phone. She felt that as it was her job that triggered Jen leaving she ought to be the one to phone her.
“Hi, Jen, it’s Daisy…
“Well, we thought we should call to check you’re ok.
“Look, I’m sorry you left…
“No, honestly, I am. But…
“Yeah, we’re all here…
“No, we’re not laughing at you!
“We were wondering if you were wanting to come back.
“OK, no, no, Jen! Jen! That’s fine, that your choice…
“Jen, there’s no need to be rude…
“Fine, OK. But listen. Where are you staying?
“No, we’re not being nosy, but you do have post. You can collect if you don’t want it forwarding.
“OK. Yeah, tomorrow, in the evening is fine, we’ll have it here for you, but don’t forget to set up a redirect, and let the agencies and people know where you are. And don’t forget to cancel your rent for next month…
“No, I’m not trying to treat you like a child…
“OK, see you then. Bye.”
“How is she?” Ingrid asked.
“She’ll be fine. She wants an apology though.”
“What for? The truth? For picking up after her?”
“From Fran, for calling her a slug.”
“I can do that. It was a bit harsh, but I bet she won’t apologise for the messy trail she leaves though.” Fran spread her hands out on the table and sighed. “But I can be grown up about it, even if she is older then me!”
“I’ll go and start cleaning her room.” Daisy bent down to get bin bags, rubber gloves, and cleaning stuff from under the sink. Ingrid joined her. Fran got up and followed.