But that is exactly what is going to happen, I think to myself. They’ll be all smiles while I sit there in pain, toasting their happiness and pretending everything is fine, just fine.
Cat glances at me sideways. “You have pride? Now I’ve seen everything.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demand.
Cat looks into the distance. “You’ve got an embarrassingly loud laugh and a wide load to match it. You surround yourself with people who are just as embarrassing and messed up as you, so there’s little chance of you being rejected or excluded. You’re a coward and that’s nothing to be proud of.”
My jaw drops. “Where is this coming from? I can’t believe you said that. I thought we were friends. Think of all the times I’ve help you, let you take a shower at my place, bought you lunches. And this is what you think of me? The embarrassing basket case?” As I speak, we approach a shop with a rack of items just outside the door, making even less space on the sidewalk. I skirt around the street side of a post box because of the traffic jam the racks are causing. “I’m not a coward,” I add just as I stumble into Cat and knock her into the streetâ€”and into the path of an oncoming bus.
The bus driver slams on his brakes and blasts the horn. Cat like her namesake, springs out of the way with an agility which betrays her age. “Are you okay?” I ask breathless from the near-miss.
“Why wouldn’t I be? My friend tries to kill me. Iâ€™m fine,” she says, straightening her dirty cap.
“Sorry,” I murmur. “No, Iâ€™m not sorry. What you said hurts my feelings.” Nothing like a crazy, alcoholic homeless woman to make you feel badly about yourself.
Cat nods thoughtfully. “I guess this means you won’t buy me a cup of coffee?”
I open mouth to give Cat a good tongue lashing just as a dark-haired man comes around the corner, heading straight for us. It is Wesley. He’s on the phone, gesticulating wildly and talking in a very loud voice as if to prove he is important. He doesn’t so much walk as strut.
The words stick in my throat. It’s only been a week since our date and all the memories of the tragedy rush in like flood. The last thing I want is for him to cause another scene, one which will be punctuated with texts to Michelle the ex-girlfriend. “Gotta go,” I blurt and dash into the nearest shop. I don’t see its name but do notice a sign on the door which says, “Grand Opening.”
I peer between two mannequins in the window display. Cat stares at me like I’ve gone mad and shuffles away. I don’t feel badly deserting her like that, not after what she said. All that matters is avoiding that bastard.