“I’m already in town Stephie. I’ve an hour before I have to meet Dan and Bill.”
“OK Jules, see you at Starbucks in 10 minutes.”
Julie gathered the various carrier bags and took a slow walk along the pedestrianized high street. She stopped to look at the new releases in the window of W. H. Smith then made her way to Starbucks. Her friend was already seated, looking at the coffee menu. She looked up as Julie came in then looked at the bags.
“Hello Jules. It’s not Christmas come early is it?”
Julie placed the bags around her chair, smiling.
“Bill’s birthday next week.”
“Where is he, with Dan?”
“Yeah. They’re taking a walk along the beach. Bill loves the sea.” She shivered. It didn’t go unnoticed.
“Have you tried talking to anyone Jules, apart from Dan I mean?”
She shook her head.
“I think it’s time you thought about it. You can’t go through life with this fear that stops you doing something you always liked before. Cappuccino?”
“Stephie got up and ordered two coffees, leaving Julie staring at the black plastic table. A minute or so later she returned, coffees in hand.
“Four years have passed; you’ve got to move on Jules.”
“I will. I will. I’m just not ready for that last step, to air it out in public. Not at the moment.”
“What does Dan say about it.”
“That he understands. He can’t though. How could he?”
“Well, no one apart from you can really understand, it’s impossible.”
“At least, as a woman, you can understand me more.”
Stephie stirred in the sugar slowly, contemplating this last comment. She looked up into her friend’s eyes, which were starting to glisten.
“You can see a psychologist Jules. Professional secrecy and all that.”
“The psychologist will still know though.”
“Yeah, but you won’t have to go back there. I’m sure it’ll do you good, you can start to enjoy walking with Billy again.”
“All Billy’s ever known is that I’m scared of the water, that I can’t bear the sight of it. How will explain the sudden change, if indeed I do change?”
“That you did it for him.”
“And how am I going to tell a psychologist?”
Stephie looked into her friend’s face. Her eyes were still glistening. They were more than glistening. Her eyes wrinkled around the edges. She pinched her mouth shut to control herself, but she couldn’t hold it back and sprayed coffee over her jeans. Customers looked round as Stephie howled with laughter.
“It’s like this, Doctor. I was sunbathing on a beach when a bloody big crab came along and nipped my tit.”