As I sit across from my gabbing friend, I realize I go through life with such ease. How did I not realize sooner? Here I am, bored out of my mind at the conversation at hand, but Rachel is none the wiser. Why is it that this is so second nature? I know that most people my age would not have half to patience I do to listen to her drama with her ghastly mom (which is partly why I am the only person who is willing to meet with Rachel) – and yet, I nod along at all the right marks and say the desired, sympathetic comment on time, every time. 

She has a terrible sore on the corner of her mouth that she seems to have attempted to cover with concealer – it must hurt to talk as fervently as she is. Her waning tone that she’s reaching a break in her rant soon.

“She was crying. Crying!” I gasp a little here and let her continue. “The way she was clinging to me… I feel so guilty every time, but I’ve got my own life too! Even getting out today was hard.” She sighs intentionally before looking up into my eyes – pleading for affirmation.

“Ray Ray –” I start in a reassuring voice, using the nickname she made for herself. “It’s healthy for both of you to have some space. And there’s nothing to feel guilty about! Her nurse is on shift right now, right?” 

I can see the flicker of delight in her eyes before she quickly reverts to the ‘good daughter.’ Typical.

“I mean – yes, but I know my mom feels anxious with the nurse, even though she’s known her so long. I don’t know. Maybe I should have given her some more notice.” 

She wants more, so I’ll give her more.

“I guess that wouldn’t hurt but don’t forget you’re an adult now. It’s not like we need to give two weeks’ notice to go to a slumber party anymore.” 

The comment predictably eases the tension as Rachel gratefully laughs. I give a light-hearted smile before taking a sip of my iced tea. 

“Okay, okay – you’re right, Bunny,” she smiles as she calls me the nickname I never agreed to. “By the way, my mom wanted to invite you over again. For this Thursday? I-I promise that we’ll have made up by then, so don’t worry about any awkwardness.” 

Without missing a beat, I chuckle and pick up my phone.

“Of course! She is always so sweet to me,” I lie. 

Would a normal person try to find a way to get out of this? Perhaps they would if they were not as confident that their skills would have things play out smoothly – if they were used to disappointing encounters. “Let me just check my calendar really quick.” 

I glance at Rachel before opening up my calendar app. You should see the way she’s beaming now with the concealer around her mouth wrinkling; she is so much more alive now since we first met up this afternoon. I did that – and without even thinking before speaking! Perhaps it’s a molecular thing. I’m not much of a science person, but I rarely meet someone who navigates through conversations without a single hitch. And there’s never been an inkling of a chance that anyone has read my expressions as easily as I read theirs.

“I am free for a couple of hours in the morning that day. I’ll bring the doughnuts?” 

Jessie Nguyen is a Vietnamese, first-generation Canadian, born and raised in Vancouver, Canada. Based off her personal taste, she largely writes slice-of-life, character driven pieces – oftentimes about childhood. Jessie is ever twinkle-eyed looking toward a future of writing games/visual-novels, TV scripts, book series and children’s picture books. She lives with her family and baby tortoise, Juniper, often employing the pitter-patter of VanCity rain as accompaniment to her attempts in creativity.

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