115. Sewing Club: Aftermath

She’d come home
Pleased.
She had salvaged
One of Tom’s old shirts:
Now for James, it
Draped across her arm.
Too thick for this
Weather, big for James–but
At the front door
She touched it with
Joy.

Once inside–who
Was it? Oh,
Louise? Yes,
At the table, sitting,
Filing nails–sound
Scraped the air.
Louise at first
Seemed to take no notice.
After a few
Moments, she said,
“Well?”
Trouble: Riah
Braced. “Hello.”
In reply,
Louise eyed her
Thumbnails one by one.
Face impassive,
Louise took her time.
“Well,” she drawled,
“Sure wish I’da
Heard the conversation,
After my chic
Exit there today.”
Riah walked
Around her, sat
Across: “What do you
Mean?”

She had learned to
Watch Louise with
Caution, alert
To the veerings
Of the vagrant mind,
Toward the paths of
Fancy, malice, jokes.
Veerings Riah
Saw now made her frown.
“I mean–” Louise
Started, much too hushed–
“As you’re fond of
Saying, times are hard.
No small chore to
Find a little fun.
Not these days.
So when someone–
Peddler, let’s pretend, or
Salesgirl–
Gets kicked on her
Ass out of the door,
And to boot she
Loses her best order–why,
One expects some
Comment. A few jokes.
Tell me–” Louise
Filed a fingernail, “for
Starters,
How you and your
Friends discussed my
Clothes?”

Riah’s face grew
Warm. “Well….
Nobody said
Nothing.” Ventured:
“Dress was fine, I thought.”
Louise stared at
Riah’s faded skirt: “I’m
Sure you did.” Then
Back to fingernails.

Riah looked on,
Stymied. The nails
Had been filed till
Raw pink showed.
“Riah–” Louise
Dropped her emery board,
Sounding calm,
Resigned: “Riah,
You’re a liar.”
Riah reddened.
Louise leaned in
Close. “Oh, I know
Perfectly,
You and your friends
Got no use for
Me. You all would
Chain me if you
Could, a rabid dog.
Yes!”–she hushed
Riah’s protest,
“That’s how far
Below, a dog to humans!
Don’t give me that
Look! No, you were
There!” she shouted,
Eyes glass-green.
“Thrown out! And those
Holier-than-thou’s,
And you there to
Chew me over good!”
At Riah’s
Bewilderment, she laughed.
Louise taunted:
“What’s wrong? Aren’t you
Scared? Scared that
They might drive by,
Find me here, your
Friends?”
Riah, sitting
Rigid. Stiffly:
“You’re my friend.”

Louise stared,
Dismayed: face fell.
Then she glanced,
Uneasy, at the table.
She scratched at
The tablecloth, a stain.
When she spoke at
Last, her words were
Tired. “Look.
You’d be doing
Me a great big
Favor. Tell me
What you really
Think. Of me!”
Riah answered,
With no pause:
“I like you.”

Louise held her
Aching head. She
Answered low:
“No. An honest
Answer.” She sighed.
“I’m so sick of
Lies. Do me one
Favor, will you:
Tell the truth.”
“Yes. Truth is, I
Like you.” Eager,
Riah watched her,
Sensing that her
Baffling rage had
Passed.
Louise propped her
Cheek against her fist.
She gazed off.
“If it’s true, then
Why don’t I
Believe you?”

Riah thought. She shrugged.
Louise, her voice
Snapping–“Do you
Swear–” her fury
Rising–
“After I had
Left, you never
Laughed?”
“I swear.”
“On the Bible?”
Riah wondered
If that were allowed.
“Yes, I swear.”
“On your mother’s
Grave?”: Louise,
Testing Riah–
Would she let
Louise say this, be
Mean?
“Yes, I swear.”
“You swear on your
Mother’s and your
Father’s grave–
You swear I’m your
Friend?” Riah
Met her eyes:
“I swear.”

Louise pushed her
Chair back. Her hand
Made a fist. She
Banged the table: “Well.
I don’t know–”
Shoving back,
She pulled a strand of
Hair. She threatened:
“Riah, you do
Realize, I hope,
You’ll go straight to
Hell now, if you
Lied.”
Vexed, Louise
Shook her head.
“Well, we’ll
See. Yes,
We’ll just
See,” she said.

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