"Kaitlin, my dear, can you get me a drink?" Sarah asked me. From where she was sitting beside me it would have actually been easier for her to get them herself.
I resisted my urge to sigh and got up. I had noticed myself sighing more and more the longer we had been together. It was probably a bad sign, but there were other bad signs to, and it was hardly the worst of them.
James rolled onto the couch and from there vaulted off her hands to land heavily beside me. "Maybe I need more practice," the girl commented as she followed me into the kitchen.
"Unlikely," Amy called after her.
James smiled and thought that I didn't notice.
Even just a week ago I would have teased James about that, I always enjoyed teasing the girl, she always fought back. But Sarah was barely subtle. I had had almost no issue with her a week ago and so could have defended myself easily. It was not so this week.
I pulled the tea and coffee from the cupboard while she filled the kettle.
"What do you lot want to drink?" I called into the lounge.
One request for tea and one for coffee. Anya didn't ask for anything, but she was probably busy texting her boyfriend, or even calling him. I didn't mind at all, nor did anyone else. They had been like this for almost five years. They had been going out for five years two weeks ago and the celebrations had been lavish and tiring from all accounts.
I had introduced the pair. They were the only straight people that I knew, and both single, so it seemed appropriate. It was mostly a joke that I was playing on Matt, who I had known for a while already, but it worked out.
"You need to stand up, my friend," James told me, turning the kettle on.
I raised an eyebrow at her. She pushed herself up onto the counter beside me and leans over. "You are aware that she isn't good for you?" she asked me.
I sighed, again. "It is becoming more clear," I replied. "You should ask Amy out."
She smiles at that. "But… you know?" she said.
I did know, everyone knew, even Amy.
"Surely she would break up with Andy if you asked her," I pointed out quietly.
She shrugged. "But you aren't getting out of this," James said. "You either have to stand up for yourself or break up with her."
"But… you know," I told her.
Something else that everyone knew.
It was her turn to sigh, everyone had had to do it at some point. I had just been the last.
The kettle clicked, saving me from any more discussion of the subject. At least any more at that point. It wasn't a discussion that was often left alone among my friends.
I poured the drinks and took two of the mugs, James took the other two.
The story of her nickname isn't very interesting.
I gave Sarah a mug and sat down beside her, perhaps not quite as close as before.
"Again?" Anya asked loudly, on the phone. She wasn't talking into her phone.
There came a reply.
"Yes… obviously… I'll talk to you later," Anya told Matt over the phone.
She closed the phone and stood up.
"You bitch," she said, right into Sarah's face.
I had sort of been hoping to avoid such incident today, but I hadn't really been expecting it. Anya was probably my best friend and she was rather protective and quite outspoken. I gathered she was standing up for me at this point.
"What?" Sarah asked, not even bothering to look innocent. She may not have known what it was this time, but for the most part she was good at being able to tell when she was pissing people off. She had noticed that she was pissing my other friends off.
"I have sat here for three hours watching you order my friend around," Anya said. "And not once have you thanked her for a single thing she did."
That threw her off. Sarah wasn't one to think small scale, presumably she was thinking that Matt had told her what had been done to him. But Matt and Anya shared everything, it wasn't actually a big deal to either of them.
"I…" Sarah started to talk. She didn't defend herself, but she tended to be good at either deflecting or convincing people she wasn't at fault. Anya cut her off.
"I don't care what you have to say, friend," Anya told her. "You are going to apologise" – and that was where she lost, you can't order Sarah to do things – "and then you are going to thank her for all the things you have ordered her to do and not thanked her for."
And then is when Sarah showcased her amazing ability to be a bitch.
"You are completely correct, my dear," she said, and when she switched to such manner of speech you knew what was coming. She took Anya's hand. "I apologise if I have offended you."
Anya stopped, her expression changed instantly from one of anger to one of sadness.
"You did not just do that," I told Sarah, well aware that it was a lie.
She tried to look sheepish and failed. "I may have," she told me. "You know I'm no good with orders."
Anya took a deep breath in through her nose and cleared her throat.
"It's not really worth it, is it?" she asked Sarah.
We all looked at the girl with surprise, no one had ever recovered so fast before. Of course I couldn't really think of any problems that Anya was having, and that was how it worked. Anya took another deep breath and lashed out.
I don't think anyone but Sarah saw it as unreasonable, and as such she was the minority.
Sarah fell over the arm of the couch and I was very happy that she had put her tea down on the table. She sprawled on the floor with a hand pressed to her cheek. I had never seen Anya slap anyone before, but I knew from experience that when she got angry enough she tended to be quite strong.
"Kaitlin…" Sarah trailed off at the look she received from Anya.
"Get out," Anya said.
"This isn't your house," Sarah's voice was shaking. I'd never seen anyone hit her before, maybe it was a new experience for her.
I slid to the other side of the couch so I could look down at her, a perspective I enjoyed.
"Get out Sarah," I told her.
She actually gaped at me.
"You cannot do that to my friend and expect me to not be angry," I said.
Sarah continued to stare.
"Well?" Anya asked expectantly.
Sarah got to her feet, brushed herself off, and walked out my front door. If only that had been my fault, I thought. But it was good enough that she was gone.
"Apologies for the spectacle," Anya said, digging her phone out.
"No, thank you for that," I said.
She grinned at me as she dialled the phone. "I promise not to spend much more time on my phone," she told me. "But I have to conclude my dealings with Matt for the day."
She muttered something but I felt that it probably wasn't meant for me.
I sat back on the couch and stared up at my ceiling. The couch shifted as James rolled up beside me, Amy sat down on the other side shortly thereafter. They each put an arm over my shoulders and leaned on me.
I hadn't realised I was upset.
"Needs a little work," James said. "But I think you won."
"Did I just kick my girlfriend out?" I asked her.
She grinned and nodded.
"I think Anya may have helped," I point out. "I wouldn't even have said anything if she hadn't stood up for me first."
James leaned back into my couch. "That seemed to be where you were," she said. "Anya is a good person to have standing up for you."
I just nodded.
"You know that you will have to talk to her without anyone else present, right?" Amy asked me.
I leaned back, pulling her with me.
"Don't bring the mood down," James warned. "She will deflect."
"Can you do me a favour Amy?" I asked the girl, who nodded. "Can you take our Jen…"
James clapped a hand over my mouth. "Now is hardly the time, my dear," she told me. "We are talking about you."
"We are talking," I told James when she removed her hand. "But it will need to happen at some point."
James leaned right in to whisper something in my ear.
"You should have told us so earlier," I informed her enthusiastically. "I may not have started to ask a favour of Amy if I had known this."
"It is a secret, alight," James said.
Anya hung up the phone. "The twins are going too," she told me. "It isn't much of a secret."
"You got in?" Amy sounded almost incredulous and easily as enthusiastic as I had. "Congratulations."
"It's a shame that we don't have any wine," I said. "Or any alcohol, but that is a little irrelevant."
"I could probably do something about that," Amy pointed out.
"Anya, you're closest, would you please open the window?" James asked.
Anya sat up and opened the window. And was thanked for the small amount of effort.
James rolled over the back of the couch. "I'll get you another coffee," she told Amy, who smiled after her.
Amy took a deep breath and suddenly my ears popped.
She was holding a bottle of scotch.
"It seemed appropriate for a celebration," she told me. "I didn't want to get champagne all over your carpet."
"Hey, James, can you get us some glasses while you're there?" I called into the kitchen. "Please."
James shortly re-emerged with a cup of coffee and some glasses for us.
Anya got up and, closing the window, came over to sit on the coffee table. Amy took the coffee gratefully from James and lay back in the couch with it. She had already finished the first one she had been given.
"Scotch," James noted. "Fancy."
"Jennifer," Amy said. We all looked at her, for the most part none of us used James's real name unless we were angry with her. "Where did your nickname come from?"
"The simple or complicated story?" James asked.
"Complicated, preferably," Amy replied.
I leaned over to the coffee table and poured everyone drinks. "But first, a toast to James getting her dream job," I said.
Everyone grabbed a glass. "To a one year trial job," James said. We all drained our glasses and grimaced somewhat.
"Story," Amy said.
"Simple," James said. "Did you ever meet my brother?"
"His name is James, and when we were quite young we looked almost identical," James told us. "We still look pretty much the same. He is a cross dresser, and so decided to call himself Jennifer, with my permission of course. Since I usually dress like a boy and am interested in women, he decided to call me James."
"That sounds like a simple enough story," Amy said. "What is the complicated version?"
"I don't much want to talk about it," James said. "I may tell you one day, but the story I have told you is true, so just pretend that that is all there is."
Amy drank some of her coffee and nodded.
"How are you going to deal with Sarah, my dear?" Anya asked me.
"Punching her seems to work," James pointed out. Amy cuffed her. "It does." James protested.
"I'm not really the violent type," I told James. "I don't really know how to deal with Sarah, if I did then I would have by now."
"Then you have to have a plan," Amy said.
I sat there for a little while, staring at my ceiling with Anya invading my field of vision a little.
I felt a smile on face, I don't think it was a good smile.
"I remember that smile," Anya said.
She hugged me.
It was convenient that I had a café across the road from my house.
"My dear, we need to talk."
It was less convenient that Sarah was sitting there when I came out in the morning to get breakfast.
"We certainly do," I replied. "You ever have one of those headaches where you can't see straight? I'll be right back."
She watched me go into the shop, I know this because she has never been once for subtlety.
I ordered a bunch of donuts and a long black, something I only drink when I feel like otherwise I might die. I felt that was that morning, it wasn't just that in the end most of the first bottle of scotch had gone to me, there were other things wrong with the world that day.
I sat down across the table from Sarah, with my coffee and donuts in tow.
"It's not working out Sarah," I told her. "We need to not only break up but also get some space."
Her mind boggled, and I watched it while I drank my coffee.
"I wasn't expecting that from you," she told me. "At least not so directly."
"Still can't quite see straight," I told her.
"The thing is…" she looked almost pained, but it wasn't what I had said. "I am sorry for the way I have been since… you know. And I am going away for at most of the next year, so space won't hard at all."
My eyebrows raised and somehow it made my brain hurt. I'd heard her apologise once before, but it had been quite a while ago now, and it hadn't been to me.
"I want to say that that makes things easier," she said after we were both silent for a while. "But easier isn't really the right word."
"Easier is the right word for me," I told her. "It will make it easy to move on, we will have no choice."
"Long distance?" she said.
"We are breaking up," I told her with as much finality as I could manage. "Moving away will make it easier."
"I guess," she replied.
"I'm sorry that I was so blunt about it," I tell her, standing. "But by this point you deserved it."
She just looked down at her hands as I walked away, I almost didn't hear what she said.