“Is that what you meant to do?”
Stacy, who was sprawled on the ground, looked up at her friend and rolled her eyes. She remembered her stumbling climb to the top of the ladder… and then an unceremonious tumble off the top – instead of going gracefully down. “Clearly you’ve been hanging around me too much. You’re becoming a sarcastic…”
“Snitch, grab the snitch!” A young boy yelled to his friend as they ran by.
Tina turned to watch them and marveled at the wonderful simplicity of play. Even though her job involved looking after children she was never bored of seeing children play. The two boys ran around with broomsticks between their legs and clutching at nothing in the sky. Somehow their collective imagination worked well in concert. She watched as one of them declared that he’d caught the imaginary snitch and the other didn’t dispute it.
“Little help here,” Stacy said.
“Oh.” Tina reached down and pulled Stacy back to her feet. “You ok?”
“Yeah.” Stacy brushed off her jeans. “Hopefully I haven’t bruised my butt too much.”
The two of them headed up the steps back to the lake to walk round it in an anti-clockwise direction. Walking round the lake took about half an hour at a brisk pace but rather longer at the meandering pace they went.
It was early September and still rather warm. Stacy still wore her red leather jacket as a matter of habit. Standing next to each other there was quite a contrast between the two friends. Stacy was taller, by about twenty centimetres, with red hair and pale white skin. Tina was a little rounder, though not particularly overweight, with bushy black hair and tanned skin. When they had played games together, at break time in primary School, Tina had always been the sidekick, or victim to be rescued, by Stacy’s superhero. This dynamic never bothered Tina. She was by her nature meek and never had any desire to be the centre of attention.
“How did you manage it anyway?” Tina asked.
“I’m not as young as I used to be,” Stacy said.
This time it was Tina who rolled her eyes. “Other people have birthdays. Why are we we treating yours like a funeral?”
“Do you think that quoting Star Trek is going to turn my frown around?”
“It’s either that or knock you out and suspend you from the climbing frame,” Tina said. “Come on, Stacy what’s up?”
Stacy didn’t respond right away and instead looked at the swans moving about on the lake. Then one of them came into land in a mad flapping of wings – as if the bird wasn’t quite sure whether its body was capable of doing this. She knew that Tina was not going to let this be a reason to change the subject. “It’s just… I have doubts about the future.”
“Yeah,” Stacy said. “And I’m unsure about everything. I thought that Jake and I were going to be together forever but… and all my futures were with him. So it’s a bit…”
“Scary?” Tina supplied as she and Stacy stepped aside to allow two women with prams to pass them. “And what do you mean all your futures?”
“Well sometimes I’s think we’d always be in Cardiff; sometimes I think I might be travelling the world and writing as I go; sometimes maybe living in California; but in all variations he was at my side.”
“It’s very rare for people to meet their, for lack of a better word, soul mate in primary school.”
“I know,” Stacy said. “And I don’t need logic right now.”
“Oh,” Tina said. “I’m sorry. You’re right its the end of the world. It’s about time you started to buy many cats!”
“Damn straight,” Stacy said. “I can throw them at my enemies – muahahaha.”
“That’s the spirit!” Tina said. “Do you think that you and Jake will be friends again?”
Stacy looked at Tina quite seriously. “I think so. It wasn’t that bad.”
“Good,” Tina said. “Though it seems a shame not to have the trio together.”
“That’s what you called us?”
“In my diary yes,” Tina said. “Although sometimes I called you two Mr and Mrs Bicker.”
“Yeah.” Stacy smiled broadly. “Good times.”
“You know you can have a good relationship without the bickering?”
“And where would the fun be in that?” They had come round the corner now and were almost at the boats. A larger group of geese were gathered around some children who were throwing bread at their feet. The geese fought over the bread struggling with it. “I guess they don’t know how bad bread is for them.”
“It takes a while for information to filter through to people,” Tina said.
“I meant the birds.” A little further along and they came to the boat house. “Shall we take a boat out?” Stacy asked but she was already moving towards joining the queue.
“I’m not the best rower,” Tina said.
“I am.” Stacy raised her fists in the air.
Tina rolled her eyes. “You really wore the pants with Jake didn’t you?”
“Yeah,” Stacy said. “You should see Jake in a skirt.”
They reached the front of the queue, paid, and headed down to the water. Stacy stepped into the boat with ease but Tina needed a little help from the attendant. “Thank you,” she said.
Taking up the oars Stacy started to row them out into the lake. She had always liked boats. In one of her more wild dreams of the future she had lived on a narrow boat with Jake. That had been a more idyllic dream. Living on a boat was cheap and she had made her money as a journalist while Jake painted scenes of the canal – in reality Jake hadn’t, to her knowledge, ever willingly used a paintbrush in his life.
Tina was quiet as Stacy rowed. Unlike her friend Tina didn’t like water very much. She enjoyed an ocean vista but being on water with nothing but two glorified sticks for propulsion was not her idea of fun. “Are you actually planning on telling me what caused the… kerfuffle between you and Jake?”
Stacy considered the question for a moment and then became very interested in a duck a few metres away from them. “No.”
“You know you’re going to tell me eventually, Stay,” Tina said.
“What makes you think that?” Stacy said.
“Because we have no secrets,” Tina beamed.
“No…no…no,” Stacy said. “I’m the one who can use my cute smile. To get stuff – or get out of stuff:”
Tina rolled her eyes and then, in one swift motion, reached forward and grabbed the oars from Stacy.
“We’re going to sit here till you tell me what is going on!”
“When did you get to be so bolshie?”
“A combination of you, your cousin Lara, and Amy Pond.”
“Oh.” Stacy looked down at the wooden slats of the boat. “So, in other words, I brought this on myself?”
“Yeah,” Tina said. “You want me to be less of a pushover and be assertive.”
“I didn’t mean with me.” Stacy folded her arms. “And for the record I have never called you a pushover.”
“You know,” Tina said. “Given how anal you can be, I wouldn’t be surprised if you did actually keep a record of our conversations somewhere.”
“Not quite,” Stacy said. “Though my mum and I seem to misunderstand each other we have, at times, left conversations with completely different ideas of what was said. I have sometimes wondered if I…never mind are you going to give me back those ores?”
“You know my price.”
“Oh come on,” Stacy said. “We are allowed to have secrets from each other.”
“If you thought I had a secret,” Tina said, “You would probably pin me down till I told you. I have been and forever shall be your friend…”
“All right! I can’t argue with you if you quote Spock at me. Jake and I… well… he… he said the Millennium Falcon was cooler than the Enterprise!”
Tina let go the oars and started to laugh. Her body even shook a little. “That’s it!” Tina’s laugh came out like a cackle.
“Well I…” Stacy began to say but stopped as she looked at her friend. “It’s not that funny!”
Tina tried to stop laughing but managed it for only a few seconds.
She passed the oars back to Stacy. She wiped her eyes. “Well frog me.”
Stacy smiled a broad smile and looked at her friend. “I guess you’re probably right.”
“Hay!” Stacy said. “Jake and I may have been ‘together’ since primary school, with a few hiccups along the way; but before I started school Dad would sit me down and we watched Star Trek. The Enterprise is like my first crush. That and Mr Spock. Jake needs to understand that.”
Tina rolled her eyes. “Yeah I think that this means the relationship is completely unsalvageable!”
“Could you put a little more sarcasm into your voice? It wasn’t very clear!”
“Come on, Stay,” Tina said. “Let’s get back to dry land and go see Jake. You guys can talk.”
“Not yet,” Stacy said. “I’ve got to get my money’s worth.”
“Ever the mercenary.”
“Darn tootin,” Stacy said.
“You’re a good friend.”
“I know,” Tina said.
They both laughed again as Stacy rowed them a little further into the small lake. “Don’t worry, T. We’ll get the group back together. You can all ways be our third wheel.”
“Thanks.” Tina smiled wryly.
They laughed again as Stacy rowed and soon there was just the sound of the ducks whoes’s quacks sounded more then ever like laughter.