We had been talking; I thought we might even have been rivals, but tonight she seemed to want to tell her story, and I didn't feel any animosity coming from her. I felt guilty for having turned it over in my mind. She had never had an unkindly word for me.

Just, somehow, I had felt there was competition, something strained, something unspoken that touched her the way it touched me.

But how could that be? She had never shown ill-will towards me. It was always reticence, silence, a withdrawal marked as if by the politest of motives. I had been unsure whether the deficiency was in myself.

So we had got to know each other quite well, oddly enough. I sensed she was as surprised as I was. We did not refer to the one topic, the one person, that could have come between us.

Tonight she was upset, and wanted to confide in me, in someone, in me, strip off a painful layer. I was flattered. I knew how much her reserve meant. Of all the people she might have unburdened to, I did not think she...

Light on the café table, light from the street window, incongruous light. Intimacy and that neon pink: softness of tone and gesture and advance, and a plastic tablecloth. I was encouraging her. I felt her drawing me out and, unable to help myself, admitting what she of all people should have been last to know.

Are we friends now? When she kissed me on the cheek, so lingeringly, but so gently, hanging around me and squeezing my shoulders, I felt I could trust her with anything. Until then she hadn't cried all night.

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