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Mary finally opened her eyes as dawn was slowly breaking. There was no point trying to sleep anymore. Not that she had slept, most of the night had been spent turning from left to right trying to stay cool. She would have been less tired if she stayed up all night. Swinging her heavy legs over the side of the bed she felt her lower back twinge and her knees click as her feet hit the floor to take her weight, she sighed. The beginning of a new day, at least she was still here to see it, not like poor Joyce. Joyce was Mary’s best friend and she finally succumbed to her various ailments a few months ago. Mary did not like to dwell on the past, but she missed her friend.

Making her way to the bathroom, Mary looked in the mirror and surveyed the dishevelled purple tips in her hair. She’d never had the courage to do anything outrageous with her hair before and she loved it, almost as much as her hairdresser who was positively gushing when Mary approached her with new look ideas. Mary might creak a bit and her twinkling eyes may be fading but there was life in her yet. She smiled and splashed her face with cold water. 

Fully dressed and breakfasted Mary sat by the window sipping tea. It was still early, quiet and peaceful in truth her favourite time of the day. Jonah would be here soon. Jonah was the son Joyce was forced to give up for adoption when she was sixteen. Joyce was guilt-ridden, but never gave up hope of finding her son one day. As her illnesses took hold, Joyce stepped up her efforts and Mary joined forces with her eager to make her last wish come true. They finally caught a break, when they discovered Jonah was also looking for Joyce.

Mary remembered the first time Jonah came to visit. Joyce was beside herself with joy and dosed up to the eyeballs on painkillers so she could walk unaided. Joyce’s house was teeming with activity; hairdresser, manicurist, caterer and florist everything good enough for a royal visit. Mary was not particularly flashy, Joyce was the glamour puss. However, in support of her friend Mary traded her usual comfy leggings and boots for a dress, even she had to admit it was a nice change. The waiting was torturous, it got later and later with no word. Mary’s thoughts grew into murderous while she watched the light in her dear friend fade. The weather turned and darkness drew in quickly so the knock at the door startled them both. 

Joyce opened the door to greet a man whose aura enveloped the entire room. Joyce burst into tears and Mary’s resolve disarmed in seconds as Jonah, equally emotional but calmer carefully explained about his car breaking down and apologised for his lateness. Mary dismissed the tightness in her stomach as hunger, relieved to see her friend’s face shining brightly despite the physical pain she must be in by now after such a long day. Mary knew then, that Joyce would die at peace.   

Jonah showed no obvious signs of animosity towards Joyce, but Mary noted there was something lost about him. He travelled a lot and Mary wondered if he left a part of himself behind somewhere. Jonah visited often after that and Mary always stayed away to give them privacy, but somehow she never missed seeing him however briefly when he was around. When Joyce’s condition worsened Jonah rented a place nearby determined to spend as much time with his maternal mother as he could. In her final days, Joyce made Mary promise to ‘see after’ Jonah and make sure he was all right. Mary agreed, of course, she could not refuse her friend a dying wish. In reality, Mary was struggling with her own sadness and did not feel able to accommodate anyone else’s, especially not Jonah’s. 

After Joyce’s death, Mary was inconsolable and retreated into the comfort of her home. Jonah was sad, but stoic, unexpectedly staying on to finalise his mother’s affairs. Mary suspected that he wanted to finish everything before he left so he would not have to return. But it turned out, Joyce also made Jonah promise to look after Mary and whilst he gave her space to grieve he checked in on her regularly. The combination of grief, loss and loneliness took its toll on both of them, Mary doubted she would ever find solace again. But slowly, her pain eased and the will to face her future without her dear friend returned.

Mary smiled as she drew her thoughts back to the present. She sensed a change in the air, Jonah would be here soon. She could almost hear the tutting behind all the twitching curtains in her usually quiet street. The neighbours could tattle and snide all they liked, but there was no way Mary was going to give up Jonah. He was the best shag she’d ever had!



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