316. Farewell

A black cloud had paused
High overhead. Waiting.
Wind was gathering
To push it by.

At the window,
Riah felt it all:
Heart in mouth,
She recalled precisely
How Louise’s hair blew
That first day she’d teased,
And Riah’d asked her in.
Didn’t think then,
No more than a flea,
Thought Riah: I saw her,
And jumped.
Riah leaned now,
Both hands on the glass.

Then she started–
That noise–was that it?
Car?
Don’t let it be–
Not yet, not yet–
Too soon–
Louise had said
Might be afternoon.
But the racket ground on,
Clanking louder, winding closer.
It was them.
Car braked on the road.
Louise swung down.

She’d said, no goodbyes,
Long goodbyes,
Best is fast–
Don’t drag it out
Until the last dog dies.

Riah could not help
But to admire:
Up the path, Louise, stride
Resolute, purse
Swaying, thumb through strap–
Fancy, shabby dress, as Riah
Left the window,
Stepped out of the house,
And down the stairs.

Louise stopped
A couple yards away.
Riah met her gaze
Full in the face.

She was shocked.
Not what she’d thought:
Shadows
Underneath Louise’s eyes.
Make-up ran
In traces down her cheeks.
She stood sturdy,
But her fingers shook.

Louise shot off:
“Well?
What do you say?”
The dare failed:
Her voice,
A dismal child’s.

Eyes intent,
Riah made no move.
Then she put her hand out.
She smiled.
Slowly, as if
She surprised
Herself, face alight:
She said, “I say,
Look out, California.”

They held to each other.
Riah smelled the perfume,
Old familiar scent–she’d
Never asked its name!
Louise tore her body
Quick away, walking,
Running, to her car.
Then the motor started.
She was gone.

Riah stood,
Fists clenched.
Her head, thrown back
Straight up to the sky,
Eyes shut
In the clench of pain.
Too fast!
It’s too fast!
I meant to say….
Now I’m crying,
Crying….
Water veined her cheeks,
Her neck,
Her dress.

Crying, she thought.
But then:
No.
I’m not.

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