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Wednesday, July 01, 2009

A Room With Walls

I walk the corridors of the private clinic. I know of B's fears of hospital environments, and although I notice it is beautifully decorated, it seems an uncomfortable integration, unable to hide the fact that people come here at less than beautiful times in their lives.

The doors are all uniform, all closed. I move past them, trying to ignore the slow squeak of my soles on its expensive linoleum. All shoes seem to give off the same sound whether it's on cheap or expensive lino. It seems to keep a beat with the bland Muzak infiltrating the mechanically purified air through inconspicuous speakers.

A god-dam Greek hell hole, B had called it a few minutes before, and I understood why this clinical beauty would irritate my friend. It wasn't real.

It was an attempt to make you forget the thing it stood for, but was instead its biggest reminder.

I stop. Room 201.

Knock then you idiot. My hand freezes. I look at the metallic gold numbers that brand the pearl white tint of the door. I go over the numbers in my head as though they are some cryptic code I must unlock. Room Two-O-One.

Should it mean something?

I get the urge to break the door down, grab B and run away. To take her to eat dinner by the shore, to sit in her office and joke about the old times, to do all the simple things we thought we'd be doing for the rest of our lives, before...

Before nothing. Just before.

All I do is knock.

"You want a printed invitation?" I hear B call out from behind the door. "Come in already!"

I smile. Thank you B.

I push the door to open inwards, as I stand in the doorway. The room itself goes unnoticed; I just notice B, standing there looking at me.

Her hair is gone. Her dark, luxurious, beautiful hair is gone.

B speaks first. "If you say anything like it's what's inside that counts, I'll hit you."

"I was actually going to say you look like Bruce Willis, only prettier."

She rushes to hug me. Her hold is feeble, and I hug her back gently.

"I hate being here. I hate it. I missed you mister, " she says.

"And I you missy," I reply, moving to hold her at arm's length so I can take a good look at her. Like her hair, B's long eyelashes that framed her dark eyes have gone, too. I crush the recurring urge to sling her over my shoulder and run away.

She smiles at me. "Sorry I kept you waiting."

"You did? I didn't notice."

"I couldn't decide whether to cover-" her voice falters, a hand goes instinctively to her head.

"You know me a lot better than that, B. Now sit down. Don't you need to conserve your strength or something?"

"What I need is to talk with you. What have you been up to in England?"

I give an involuntary sigh. "This and that, honey B."

"Are you sorry you left Cyprus? Have you see your parents yet?"

"Now why do you ask that? No and no. I saw them in Istanbul when I went there in May for Mother's Day. But I am glad to be back."

"Why didn't you let me know you were going? I could have joined you there."

"It was a last minute surprise. I didn't think. I wish I had done now."

"Who am I kidding? I probably couldn't have come anyway..."

"But I could've called. I never call."

"How were you meant to know? You're the worst mind reader ever." B takes hold of my hand and gives it a squeeze. "How are the girls at Bella Italia?"

Momentarily confused I stare at her. "The girls?"

"You know! When I was down in England at Christmas."

"Oh. Right. Those girls. I don't know."

"What do you mean you don't know?"

"They've gone."

"Gone? Gone where?"

"From what I've been told they're thinking of closing the place down. They're knocking a lot of places down to make houses for the large influx of Polish people we've had coming in to town."

"I bet Northampton's changed so much, so as you hardly recognise it any more."

"It's all change, missy. Change everywhere." I kiss her on the forehead. "Change is the name of the game," I say, but somehow this time I don't sound as if I mean it.

"It's a shame about Bella Italia. They made a mean brownie."

"They're not the only Bella Italia in England, but that they did. Talking of brownies..." I look around the room.

B grins, and points at a small table next to a large window. "I got Mr X's daughter to bring them from that small place in Kyrenia for us."

"Oh, so you're to blame for that."

"What happened?"

"Not much. I still have the skin on my back."

B tries for a loud laugh, "I told you to stay in your hotel room!"

I raise an eyebrow, and say, "I'm not a mind reader, remember? But she has changed."

"She's been hit hard, by a lot of things." B shuffles over and sits down on one of the chairs placed near the table. "Like you said, things change. People change. We talk about you a lot."

"That doesn't make me very glad, B."

"Come sit down. Pour the coffee. Let's look out at the sea."

I stare at B for a moment, but her eyes are as unfathomable as the old man sea. "Is that why you chose to come here? To be near the shore?"

"I didn't choose to come here. Dad made me. But the sea calms me. At least that doesn't change."

I sit down opposite her. "It may have all the time in the world, but I'm sure it does you know. Just the changes are slower, or underneath, where we can't see."

"Now why am I not surprised you said that? You're always for change aren't you mister?"

"Life is change, honey B. It's not a matter to be for it, it just is."

B gives the table a sudden, half-hearted bang with her right hand. "I hate change. I hate it."

I place a hand over her fist, and pick up a fork. I cut one corner of the brownie on my plate with the edge of my fork, then prong it. Offering her the piece, I say, "Use your mouth to eat if you have nothing better to say, honey B."

"No. No silences between us mister. I want us to talk and talk."

I wave the fork in the air. "You need your strength. For that you need to eat, and not talk so much."

"I'm not hungry." B sticks out her tongue, and makes a face at me, which makes me want to run around the table and kiss her.

"What am I going to do with you?"

"Well, I have a plan if you'll stop waving that fork in my face and listen."

I shrug and placing the rejected brownie into my own mouth, I begin to chew. I indicate with my free hand. Tell me. I'm all ears.

B takes a deep breath. "I want you to kidnap me."

I swallow too quickly, and the brownie doesn't go down too well. "Pardon me," I splutter. "Did you say kidnap?"

B's face doesn't change its demeanour. "You heard me mister."

"Yes. I did."

"So?"

"So, no. How about that?"

"Maybe I didn't say it right. You will kidnap me."

I put the fork down, and look down at my brownie with more than a slight expression of woe. "Exactly where am I meant to be taking you?"

"Home."

"B, if you ask your father I'm sure-"

"Dad?" B interrupts me bitterly, "Dad thinks this place will keep me alive. It's killing me."

My mind races to think of reasons why B's proposal is such a very, very bad idea, whilst trying to forget that I've been battling with the very same feelings. "We couldn't possibly get away with it."

"Where's the boy that used to climb up my balcony in the dead of the night, ignoring the threat of my dad's shotgun? You've gone old on me."

"No, just realistic. You don't the strength for it."

"Stop saying I don't have the strength!" B stands up, speaking quickly; her words are flowing. "I only need strength enough to walk out of this door, to go home, to go to Kyrenia and have us sit at our table and look at the sea, to have dinner, to do all the things we used to do. That's what will make me feel alive."

I watch her body language, it is as determined as her voice, but weak.

B, weak... I never thought I'd ever see my friend weak. The president of Cyprus, possibly. Weak? Never.

I cross my hands over my chest. "So, what do you want me to do?"

Now she smiles. Her eyes light up. I swear it feels as though the sun has just broken through a canopy of cloud to join us at the window. "Listen. I've got a plan. Just do as I say."

I do as I'm told; I listen obediently, smiling at her smiling face. It is infectious; it is hope. For as long as B smiles, then B is B, and all is right with the changing world.

Main Index | Part one | Part two | End of part three | Part four | Part five

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