Taking Care

“I don’t know, what do you think?” Lisa turned, her eyes trained on the mirror and her hands clasping the shoulders of the dress against her chest. The hem of the dress bounced and swirled on her ankles and her feet side-stepped and spun. Annie rolled her eyes, but not so Lisa could see.

“I like it,” Annie said. “I think it looks great on you. You have to know what you think, though.”

Lisa looked over her shoulder, batted her eyelashes at Annie probably without meaning to. “You don’t think it’s too much?”

“No,” said Annie. “It suits you, really it does.”

“Then maybe Katie will like it, right?”

“Maybe.”

“Why are you always so indifferent? Don’t you ever just want to be encouraging?”

Annie sighed. “Sure, honey, maybe Katie will like it. I bet she will.” Lisa’s face cleared and she turned back to the mirror. Annie stifled another sigh, watching her friend’s gaze fixed in the mirror, apart from her. Lisa was always looking to Annie for something, and then ignoring it. Even in high school it was that way, even when Annie was too young to be taking care of anyone.

“Is it too long?” Lisa’s head dropped and she studied her feet.

“No, it’s perfect. It almost brushes the floor like that. Stop fussing.”

Lisa turned now to face Annie. “What’s wrong, sweetheart? Are you okay? Did I say something?”

“No, of course not.” Annie offered a smile. “It’s not you, I’m just tired. Really.”

“Are you sure?”

Annie nodded.

“Want a hug?” Lisa tossed the dress on a chair and held out her arms.

“Sure.” Annie stepped forward into the embrace and let herself sag against Lisa’s body for a moment. It felt familiar, but wistful. The strangeness of it caught in her throat. She couldn’t remember the last time Lisa had looked at her to see that she’d needed a hug. Finally they disentangled from one another and Lisa busied herself folding the dress. She tucked it into a bag, slung it over her shoulder, and rested her fingers on Annie’s shoulder for a brief touch of time before she turned to leave. As she stepped into the outside hallway, she waved to Annie, and then the door bounced shut behind her.

Annie sat and watched the flashes of her friend until the door settled closed. She called out too late, her voice wavering a little, “Goodbye?”

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