I had introduced them to each other figuring that two high-profilers with a penchant for tanning and drinking sangria would really get along. It was uncanny how they hit it off instantly and we became a happy trio.
Jenna could be reserved at times and her other friends were a bunch of snobby professionals who were dating or engaged to some well-to-do bachelors. Mia-Simone was a savvy entrepreneur whose father had financed her successful catering and event planning business. She was the ultimate sophisticate and coolly independent. She and I had met at a Christmas party thrown by the PR company where Jenna worked. I had met Jenna a couple months prior when she was assigned to work on our company’s account. Jenna wasn’t there the evening of the party, so I arranged for a group of us to meet up at Christopher’s, a popular Kingston watering hole, for drinks the following week.
“Your hair is gorgeous”, I remember Jenna gushed when she met Mia-Simone and saw her luxurious black tresses tumbling down her back. “Who does your hair?” They swapped salon stories, raved about the new Audi convertibles on the market and confessed that they had both watched “Ocean’s Eleven” twelve times, just for the eye-candy. We had a roaring good time and I was thrilled that we got along so well. Afterall, I’d started to feel it was impossible to make good friends after high school.
The three of us single, twilight-twenties, independent “hotties” started hanging out on weekends looking for fun. We’d hop from Red Bones to various party spots on Friday evenings and either flirt outrageously or spend the night fending off inebriated lechers with lascivious stares and cheesy pick-up lines. Some Saturdays, disillusioned with the party scene, we’d hang out at Mia-Simone’s and order Indian food, sip red wine and dissect our exes or crucify our bosses. Mia-Simone always had some hilarious stories about her clients. Sometimes we would invite a few guys over for a game of kalooki and drinks but Mia-Simone but was very choosy about who could ‘cross her threshold’ so those occasions were few. Sundays were reserved for brunch outings or preferably tanning at the beach complete with fried fish and grilled lobster.
In retrospect, our friendship was a little too good and easy to be true. It lasted exactly six months and changed the day that Jenna decided that she’d had enough of her megalomaniac menopausal manager and quit suddenly. Her disposable income vanished overnight like the bottles of Chianti we used to guzzle during our get-togethers and, with our lifestyle, she hadn’t exactly been saving. In fact, I wasn’t either so both Mia-Simone and I were quite sympathetic. Mia-Simone hooked her up with a few free-lance assignments and I gave a couple people her resume.
After a month we cut back on the dining out and started hanging at Mia-Simone’s more. She and I always ended up splitting the take-out bills, so we sprung for slightly cheaper options like pizza or Chinese. Truly, Jenna had never looked better. I think she was just enjoying her freedom from cubicle hell and couldn’t give two hoots about finding another job in a hurry. Soon, she gave up her apartment and moved in temporarily with Mia-Simone who owned a spacious two-bedroom. To be honest, she had asked me first, but we’d have suffocated in my tiny rented studio.
I still remember that day when Mia-Simone called me at work. “Lina, are you free for lunch?”
“What’s up?” I asked typing furiously. My report was way overdue, and my boss was breathing down my neck, besides, Mia-Simone was rarely free at lunchtime.
“Nothing really. Just thought I’d catch a breather”.
“Okay, where are you guys going?” I relented quickly since the cafeteria was serving oxtail, stew peas, or chicken foot soup, none of which was very appealing to me. The thought of having a laugh with Jenna and Mia-Simone was infinitely more enticing.
“Oh, Jenna’s not coming.” Mia-Simone said quickly. “Let’s meet at Cuddyz at 12:30”.
“I’ll be there. Bye.” I hung up and tried to finish my report so that I wouldn’t be late.
Mia-Simone was sitting at a table in the corner when I rushed in at 12:36pm smiling and a little amused at being greeted “Empress” by a robed Rastafarian exiting the eatery. “Hey girl” I bounced up to her relieved to be out of the office.
“Hey”. She smiled but her eyes were strained. “Let’s order now”. The waitress, whose jeans were threatening to cut off her circulation, hovered indifferently at our table.
Mia-Simone disappeared to the ladies’ room until the food came. Shoving hot fries in my mouth when I had the chance, I started telling her about a guy who had been calling every day to ask me out. “I swear he’s bad news. More baggage than Caribbean Airlines can carry. And he thinks he is such a catch”.
Shaking her head, Mia-Simone tapped her manicured nails on the table, “Such a loser”.
“Anyway, who died?” I had to find out what was wrong with her. She had barely picked at her barbecued chicken and seemed distant.
“Look Lina, I don’t quite know how to ask you this”. Mia-Simone was hesitant.
I remained silent and let her think it through, whatever it was.
“How well do you think you know Jenna?” she asked finally.
I sat back and exhaled. Jenna had been at Mia-Simone’s for six weeks and I’d felt the tension last weekend but figured that someone’s PMS was raging and it would blow over. “What’s going on Mia?” I asked, realising something had definitely blown.
“Well, I don’t know if we are friends really.” Mia-Simone offered lamely.
“What do you mean?” My mind was racing. I didn’t relish the thought of backstabbing Jenna and orchestrating her eviction, which now seemed imminent.
“I mean, we’ve been hanging out for almost a year but I’m not sure that we’re friends really” Mia-Simone looked me dead in the eye. Her gaze suddenly seemed hard.
“Okay. Define we. Me and you or you and Jenna?” I was confused but at the same time I wasn’t. The fries felt huge and soggy in my mouth and I had to sip some water to help them slide down my constricting throat.
She sighed and looked at the carcass in front of her. When she looked up at me I felt chilled. “This trio deal is just not me Lina. We’ve had loads of fun and you guys were great company at a time in my life when I would otherwise have been swallowed by trying to grow my business but I don’t need this anymore…”
For a moment I tuned out, it was all kind of weird. It was feeling like a break up and I’d never ended a friendship with a girlfriend unless we’d had a fight over clothes, money or a man.
“…asked Jenna to leave by this weekend. She’s pissed off and I don’t blame her. I’m going to back off this association and establish my space. Maybe I need to be with people who are on my page right now. I’m a driven businesswoman. You guys have always been in dead-end jobs that you are griping about all the time and doing the dating rounds with losers.”
She was growing horns. I couldn’t believe my ears, she had called our friendship “an association”. I cut her off. It didn’t need to be quite this nasty. “Mia-Simone, it’s okay. You don’t have to say anything more.” She fell silent as I got to my feet and pulled some bills from my purse and put them on the table next to my unfinished meal.
I brushed back a stray lock from my forehead. “I have a few things for you at my place. I’ll leave them with the security guard at your complex. Just leave my boots and MAC lipstick you borrowed last week with him. I’ll pick them up over the weekend.”
I was furious and my throat was tight. All I could manage next was “Goodbye”. She didn’t say a word. Her eyes were cold when she glanced up at me, then she looked away and started wiping her fingers on her napkin.
I rushed outside into the brilliant sunshine, groping for my cell phone which was perennially off. I felt lost and displaced. We were supposed to see a play on Friday night. I’d received two complimentary tickets so Mia-Simone and I had agreed to sponsor Jenna. I opened the door of my blue Honda Civic, which was parked right behind Mia-Simone’s brand-new champagne-colored Mitsubishi Pajero. My car was like a furnace and I wound down the windows immediately. I started driving while I dialed Mia-Simone’s home number in an effort to reach Jenna.
“Hello”, Jenna answered breathlessly.
“Jenna. It’s Lina.” My voice was flat.
“Lina. Where have you been? I’m moving from Mia-Simone’s tonight. My brother will lend me his pick-up, can you come over and help?” Her words ran into each other.
“Sure. Where are you going?” I knew she would rather beg on the street than move back in with her parents.
“To my cousin’s place in Mona”. She paused. “Have you talked to Mia-Simone?”
“Yes”. I didn’t want to talk about it so I quickly moved on. “Girl you know I hate talking on the cell when I am driving. I’ll just come by at 6:30 this evening.”
“Okay see you then.”
In the weeks that followed I felt as if I was in recovery. Jenna and I didn’t go out anymore and I was back to hanging out with my old high-school friends who asked if I had finished profiling and was finally back to normal. I ignored their jibes. When we did link up, Jenna and I would look back on all the stuff we had done together, remembering the laughter and trying to figure out how Mia-Simone changed so radically. Or had she always been like that? Had we really known each other?
Soon Jenna found a new job that took her to Spanish Town, and we drifted apart. When we saw each other, our smiles were bright and our laughter a little forced. Mia-Simone never called either of us again. I saw her in Sovereign supermarket a couple months later and she pushed her supermarket trolley right past me. I had forgotten the phenomenon of malice.
Christmas rolled around again. I changed departments at work and was busier than ever. My tamed social life now included one of the “losers” whom Mia-Simone had scorned. He told me one day that friends are with us for a season, a reason or a lifetime.
I’m learning to celebrate the seasons and let go when they end.
© Arlene Amitirigala 2020. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.