Events transpired against them and another five days passed before they were eventually able to meet up outside of the hospital. The summer was coming in fast now and the evenings drawing out. They arranged to meet at one of their local haunts which had a beer garden and a view of the park in case the evening was warm enough. As it turned out there was a cold wind and so Sharon waited in the lounge bar. As she watched her friend weaving through the rapidly filling room she was shocked to notice how skinny she looked out of the loose hospital uniform. She really didn’t look at all well.
“I got you a white wine. Okay.”
“Thanks.” Fiona flopped heavily into the window seat.
“Look, Fi. I’m not going to beat about the bush here. I think we’ve known each other long enough now to be frank, okay. I know that something is bothering you. You look awful, I don’t think you’ve had any sleep for days and every little thing makes you jump out of your skin. Tell me to mind my own business if you like but I just want to say that I’m your friend, I love you and if you want to talk you can tell me anything.” To her horror the other woman gasped out a sob and a waterfall of tears flooded her cheeks. She leaned over grasping the shaking hand in hers. “Fi, you can’t go on like this. Has something else happened at the house? What is it?”
Fiona raised her agonised face and simply stared in silence across the table. Her mouth worked as it seemed that the ability to speak eluded her. Eventually she coughed, cleared her throat. Sharon had to lean closer to catch the whisper. “There’s a rose.”
“A rose, what do you mean a rose? Where is there a rose?” Suddenly the atmosphere was electric with tension, it felt as though she was dealing with a terrified animal, a deer or an injured dog and that at any moment her friend would up and run. “Where is the rose Fi? I don’t understand.”
Her friend raised eyes staring for a moment into a distance unreachable, she shook her head slightly, a nervous movement, brought herself back. The tears were now dripping unheeded onto the dark wood of the table top. Insisting on a drink Sharon had decided that it was time to try to have things out in the open but had never for one moment anticipated such a distressed reaction.
“Can I really tell you anything? Do you really believe that, that I can tell you anything and that you will just sit there with your glass of wine and listen to me? No matter what it is you will just listen and then go home to Simon and say “”Well, you’ll never guess what Fiona told me tonight””. Sharon was unnerved this was so much more than she had expected and looking at the tear-stained face opposite to her she wondered if she had in fact overstepped some invisible line, gone too far and taken too much for granted. She believed that they had a valuable and honest friendship but this, this was so unlooked-for, so totally out of character.
“Fi, what on earth is the matter. Tell me, I promise that if you don’t want me to I won’t tell anyone and maybe you’ll feel better.”
“Better, maybe I’ll feel better. You have no idea how much I want that. How much I would like to feel better and how I would like to tell you but if I do, if I tell you then it will be over. You’ll never want to see me again and you’ll have to make decisions that I don’t want you to have to make.”
“Fiona, you’re really scaring me now. Look, have a drink of your wine, take a deep breath and just tell me. Things are not right with you I can see that. What is it, what about this rose, what rose. Come on just tell me.”
“The night after you stayed I woke up and there was rose on the table downstairs. I thought I dreamt it. Then the next night it happened again and again and again every night since. Now I can’t go to sleep, I can’t go to bed. I can’t leave the room because when I do, in the dark it comes back. It’s there on the table, the rose.”
“But, where is it coming from?”
“It’s dead you see. It dead and black and then when I try to lift it, it just disintegrates in my hand.”
“Have you called the police?”
“Hah, that would be so easy. No Sharon I haven’t called the police.”
“But, why not? Heavens Fiona if someone is breaking into your house and leaving dead roses then you have to call the police.”
“Did I say someone was breaking in, did I?” By now Fiona’s voice was hissing through her stiff lips, her hands were clenching and unclenching one against her thigh and the other painfully kneading Sharon’s fingers. Her frantic eyes darted back and forth around the room, searching and scanning. She had rapidly become unravelled, like a stopped up drain that suddenly clears and all the water floods out gushing and violent.
“I’m worried about you Fi. I think you should leave your drink and come back with me, come to my house. Simon’s on lates he won’t be there. I think we should go home, come with me to where it’s quiet and you can tell me about it there.” As she tried to pull her hand away she found her fingers painfully trapped.
“Yes, and can I stay with you Sharon, just for now. I can’t go back, I don’t think I can spend another night there.”
“Of course you can stay silly but first of all you’re going to have to tell me about it.”
“Tell you about it. How can I tell you, some things Sharon are so big, so awful that we don’t have the words, ordinary words are not enough. We need a whole new vocabulary of words, some things don’t fit into ordinary words.”
Now, it was beginning to seem that even going home wasn’t the answer, she was ranting like someone delusional maybe she needed some medical care. Could she risk just taking her home? God, how had this got so out of hand? How had a quiet drink at the pub turned into this nightmare and what on earth could be behind it all? She had seen how tired Fiona seemed and nervy but had no inkling that there had been this panic subdued just below the surface.
She stood up. Still holding onto the other woman’s hand and grabbing both handbags she shuffled round the table and led her friend from the pub. She ignored the puzzled looks of the other customers concentrating only on leading Fiona to the car and strapping her into the passenger seat as she sobbed and gasped through the storm so suddenly released which threatened to engulf her completely.