A short story
Thalia balanced the heavy bags in her hands. Doing the groceries while she was visiting home was the least she could do to help her mother. She was starting on her way home when a woman stood in front of her and beamed a smile: „Hi, do you remember me?“
Thalia stopped and looked at the stranger, who was not a stranger after all. Sandy blond hair cut in a pageboy fashion and blue eyes, upturned nose. The developing triple chin was news, but a memory still bubbled up. „Kati?“ she tried.
„I thought you wouldn’t recognize me at all, it’s been many years, after all,“ the woman replied. If she tried to smile any wider, Thalia thought, her face would rip across. Yes, of course, Kati. A schoolmate from grammar school. Never been much of a friend to her. In fact, Thalia didn’t have many friends as a child. She would have been called an outsider, if such words had been in use back then.
„You visiting? Whatcha doing now?“
„I live abroad, in France,“ Thalia started reluctantly. „I’m at the university, writing my doctoral thesis.“
„Oh, wow, still studying?“ Thalia just nodded. She didn’t feel like explaining the difference between being a student and an aspiring academic. Kati seemed satisfied. „So no husband or kids yet?“
„No, thank you. I’m just enjoying life as it is, and my freedom.“
The flash of pity that shot through Kati’s eyes was too well known to Thalia. It was the customary reaction when she told people that at her age her ambitions were aimed at freedom and a career and not at domestic bliss. It was as if time had stopped a long time ago in this part of the world and a „spinster“ was still a part of people’s mental vocabulary, although no one would use it in speech nowadays.
„You’re a nurse, aren’t you?“ Thalia tried to remember scraps of information she knew about her former mates.
„Yes, although now I’m on maternity leave,“ Kati puffed up her buxom chest. „We moved back to my mum’s house. Why don’t you come for coffee sometime?“
„Uh-uh. You’ve got ... how many children? Two, is that right?“ Thalia asked, trying to change topics.
„Yes, yea, it’s three, actually.“
„Three?“ Oh gosh, three children. That’s one chin for each child, Thalia thought to herself.
„Yes. I married after high-school and I couldn’t conceive for five years, so we were really desperate. We even tried artificial insemination but it didn’t work.“ The words poured from Kati’s mouth like a spring shower and Thalia wondered why she was being fed so much private information she wasn’t interested in. Probably there was no reason at all, she just happened to be someone who still didn’t know the facts of Kati’s exciting life.
Her former mate went on without a break. She got pregnant after five years, went on to have a second and a third child and now she has been on maternity leave for years and still has got one and half left.
Kati was 33 now, like Thalia. She used to be a moderately pretty girl with the great advantage of early budding breasts and straight, honey-blond hair. As Thalia remembered, she had one peculiar skill: because of her extremely long tongue she could touch the underneath part of her chin (she only had one back then) and the joke went she could also pick her nose. She was the most popular girl in the class.
Kati‘s breasts were still large, larger even than in her girlhood, swollen and stretched from maternal delights. The fat that usually hugs female bottoms and hips seemed to have crawled upwards to her belly and created a comfortable pillow for her slightly sagging bosom. The result was hips still relatively narrow and a figure tapering downwards, which didn’t look flattering at all, combined with the increased bulk of her upper body. The fashionable tight jeans and open leather jacket accentuated this upturned conical shape even more. Thalia snapped out of her thoughts. Her companion had been asking her something.
„I’m sorry, can you repeat that?“
Kati blinked several times and then fixed her gaze. Her eyes were still bright blue. „So...I have plenty of time. My mum helps me out with the kids so um...won’t you come for coffee sometime?“
Thalia groaned inwardly. While she was sorting some of her old school time doodles earlier, she has found a drawing of Kati, who was depicted wearing a fashionable ponytail, with her head turned haughtily upwards. One of her legs, which was stretched forward, was being kissed by another girl. A pair of girls were drawn next to them, whispering to each other with a frightened look on their faces, preparing to be next to prostrate themselves in front of their friend-slash-boss. Kati, the queen of school. Or of their class, anyway. She was pointing to a lone figure: Thalia drew herself standing aside with arms crossed on her chest and a bubble attached to her mouth, containig a single word: „No.“
Thalia remembered this scene and smiled. „Well, perhaps next week. I’m staying here until next week-end.“
„Then it’s settled. Please come, I insist.“
„Yes, I’ll try,“ she said evasively. „I don’t know when though.“
„Oh it doesn’t matter which day, just drop in some afternoon, just for a coffee, ok?“
„Yes, I will do that, next week.“ Thalia shifted her weight from one leg to the other and faked another smile. „I’ll be on my way now. It was nice to meet you, Kati.“
„It was so nice to chat with you,“ she answered and crushed her in a hug that Thalia couldn’t return, her hands full of groceries, although it didn’t seem to disturb Kati. „See you soon.“
„See you,“ Thalia replied.
As she walked away, Kati called out to her once again: „Just come for a coffee, ok?“