Natasha kept looking at the woman who was sitting only a few tables away from her. This was her favourite restaurant, the warm colours and bookcases never failed to sooth her and the place reminded her of her childhood home. That was the main reason why she came her often and of course the food wasn't bad either.
But she had never seen her here before. She was shocked at what she saw. She was dressed in grey trousers, a black top and a black cardigan that only enhanced how pale her face was. The woman's was paler than she'd ever seen it. Her cheeks were hollow and her eyes lay deep in her skull. Her hair was listless and hung flat over her head. The thing that shocked Natasha most was how thin the woman was. Her ribs were sticking out and her skin was pulled tight around all her bones.
This was the woman that had saved her life when they had been teenagers, her name as beautiful as she had once been; Rose. They had met when Natasha had needed it the most and this wonderful person had pulled her out of the darkness, which had consisted of depression, self harm and borderline bulimia. They had been best friends until Rose went off to college. Even though they had tried to stay in contact it had been doomed to fail from the start and eventually they had together decided to make it a clean break. It had been the best option for the both of them.
Natasha's feelings for Rose had eventually faded but she still loved the woman like a sister and seeing her like this made tears well in her eyes. What had happened to this wonderful and confident person that she had once known like the back of her own hand? What had happened to make her turn so ill? Who had done this to her and why had nobody helped her?
She sat there for almost ten minutes, staring at the woman that meant the world to her and that had saved her life. What was she going to do? She couldn't just leave now, she knew she needed to talk to her, the question was; How? This was going to be an awkward reunion and she didn't want to pressure Rose or scare her away.
Just as she was contemplating this Rose's head turned towards Natasha and her eyes focussed on her. Shock came over her face and she quickly stood up from her chair. She was even thinner than Natasha had originally thought and she was very unsteady on her feet. Before Natasha could react Rose was heading towards the door at a quick pace, trying to get away.
Fortunately for Natasha her physical state had made her weak and a few feet outside of the door she caught up with Rose. She gently put her hand on the brittle shoulder and urged her to stop. Rose refused to turn around and look at her so Natasha walked around her and took her in a tight embrace, all the while fearing she'd break Rose her bones. But she held on, and slowly Rose's shoulders relaxed and she started to sob. It was heartbreaking for Natasha and she too started crying.
After a little while Natasha took Rose her hand and guided her through the streets of Amsterdam to her apartment. She didn't live far from here and she wanted to comfort Rose in an inviting environment, not on the streets. Besides the poor thing was shaking with cold, she was in need of a good cup of tea.
They arrived at her doorstep five minutes later. Natasha opened the door and directed Rose to the concrete stairs, letting her go in front because she feared that Rose might fall down on the way up. She was still shaking and still refused to look into Natasha's eyes but the sobs had lessened and she had allowed Natasha to bring her here, which one could consider progress.
Natasha's apartment was on the second floor and always welcomed her with open arms. It wasn't big but it was perfect for her. It was rectangular, about three meters wide and ten long. There was dark red carpet on the floor and the walls where dark grey. On the left end was a small kitchen, with dark wooden cupboards and an black fridge. In the centre, underneath a big window, stood a dining table, also made of dark wood, with four black chairs around it. But the right side was her absolute favourite side. There was a big, king-sized, fluffy bed in the corner shaped like a sofa. She had stuffed it with all her cherished pillows and blankets. On the wall opposite the couch/bed was a big bookcase which ran from the corner to the windowsill. Over the years she had collected hundreds of books and everywhere space what left, she had put collectibles, which actually went for the entire apartment. It was a warm and cosy place where she felt truly at home, she hoped Rose would feel the same.
Natasha sat Rose down on a chair at the table and went to the kitchen to make tea. The task kept her busy as she thought over what she was going to say. She chose some herbs that she knew had a calming effect; St John's Wort, chamomile, valerian root and some lavender for the smell. Rose could use all the soothing at hand and Natasha never said no to tea, especially not on days the darkness came back. And this day was heading rapidly in that direction.
There was no delaying it any longer, the pot of tea was made and Natasha doubted Rose would eat anything she was offered. She put two cups on the table and poured some tea in both of them, after which she put the pot down as well. She sat down across from Rose who was staring intently at a dark spot in the wood. "Funny story, that spot" Natasha said "I was trying to make a Celtic pentacle using wood and fire but I failed miserably and that's been there ever since". Natasha grinned at the memory of it. But she realized that she was procrastinating and she needed to get this over with. She took a deep breath and inhaled the smell of the tea. She'd never been good at talking about emotional stuff but this was necessary and besides, this wasn't about her. She asked the question that was sure to stir up a lot of emotions but she was ready, and she wasn't going to let Rose leave without giving an answer:
"So how have you been?"
Silence was all that followed. It was only one a clock in the afternoon and already Natasha knew this was going to be a long day. She didn't know what to say, how to continue. Rose had always been the one that was good with emotions. The only thing she could do now was try her absolute best and hope that it'd work. She decided to talk about herself and the path that had led her here. Maybe she'd regain some of Rose's trust that way.
"It wasn't easy you know" She started "After you left. I always depended on you. Don't get me wrong, you made me better in so many ways, but you were still one of my closets' friends. But I got by and graduated high school without too many problems. After some thinking I realized I wanted to study English so I came here. It took me three years and a lot of hard work but I finally graduated and I made the decision to write. So that's what I've been doing ever since. I got extremely lucky and found a publisher that was willing to publish so my first book came out last week. Every now and then I visit Catherine. She's incredibly busy and still disorganized but she's happy. She's got a girlfriend and a degree in science."
Cat had been her other best friend (actually she preferred not to use that term cause she didn't have one best friend) who had also helped her through so much. They had kept in contact after school for the main reason that they couldn't life without each other, even if the periods without one another were really long.
"My love life has had its ups and downs. I've had some boyfriends, some girlfriends but I'm single now and happy. Life's been treating me well."
As soon as Natasha had said it she regretted it. Here she was rubbing in how good she'd been doing while Rose had obviously been doing so bad. She was an idiot. How could she have been so stupid?! She was just about to apologize when Rose's mouth opened and words started pouring out. Her voice was weak and a mere reflection of what it had once been. She had been an amazing singer but all the power had been drained from her voice.
"We were standing outside the counsellors office. I was getting more nervous as the minutes past. Rose noticed and grabbed my hand, squeezing it in hers "It's going to be alright sweetheart, you're doing the right thing. You need more help than Cat or I can give you. You need the help of an adult, a professional. I'll be there for you every step of the way. It's going to be alright."
Natasha's was deeply touched. Her heart welled over with love and sadness. Her book hadn't been out for more than a week and already Rose knew part of it by heart. This meant so much to her, words could not express. I'm so..." Before she could finish her sentence however, Rose started talking frantically.
"Oh, life's been so good for you huh. Well guess what, it's been hell for me! You think you're the only one that left me? You're not. Yve decided for the both of us that we were better off apart and moved to Germany cause she fell in love with a German. And Jake. Jake didn't really leave, but he is busy building a life in America and believes I'm doing just fine without him. Cat completely forgot about me and I have no one left"
Rose stood up from her chair and started pacing up and down the room. Her hands pulling her hair out. Natasha couldn't stand the sight yet she also couldn't look away. But Rose wasn't done yet and she continued her rampage on an even louder level.
"Everybody left me. I guess I deserved it, it was my own choice to move to England. But I made a mistake. A year after I'd started they took away my college fund and I went bankrupt trying to pay my tuition. They kicked me out and I had to go home to live with my parents. Two months after I moved in with them my dad had a car accident that killed him."
The tears were now running freely over her cheeks but she didn't seem to notice them, the rage kept her going. Natasha was crying as well, Rose had gone through so much. She felt so guilty, but still the story wasn't finished and Rose carried on.
"I stayed with my mom for a few more months so I could support her but when I was certain she could cope on her own I took all my belongings and moved to Amsterdam for I thought I would be accepted here. My dad had left me some money and I was able to rent a nice apartment. I got a job and for a while I was doing well but then things changed. I fell in love with a guy, and I thought he loved me too. Turns out he didn't love me all that much. He separated me from the few friends that I had and made me feel worthless and miserable. He hit me. He told me I was fat so I stopped eating, he told me that I was lucky he kept me around and that nobody else would ever love me. One day when he came home he got in a rage. I had burned his dinner accidentally but he wouldn't listen to reason. He threw me out onto the streets. I begged him to let me back in, told him I was sorry and I would be more careful next time but he didn't care. Eventually I started wandering through the city hoping to find some shelter. I wanted to take my own life, because you know what? He was the only one that loved me and even though he hit me I can't live without him."
Rose started sobbing uncontrollably and collapsed onto the floor. Natasha hurried over and took her in a tight hug against her chest, trying to put all the things she couldn't say and all her love into the embrace. She held her and refused to let go, even though Rose tried to push her of.
Eventually when Rose'd stopped fighting Natasha helped her up and guided her towards the bed. They laid down together and Rose cradled against Natasha's chest. They lay exactly how they had lain so many times before, when Natasha had cried. She started rubbing soothing circles on Rose's back, because she knew how comforting that felt, all the while holding her
They both cried a thousand tears for what seemed to be hours. Natasha scraped together all her courage and told Rose the one thing that had always helped her.
"I'm here now, I'm not going anywhere. I'm strong enough to help you all because you helped me. Don't you dare underestimate me. I'm going to help you through this because I love you more than anyone else in this world. You are my world. Do you understand me? I'm not going anywhere. And neither will Cat when she finds out. You are loved and you're going to be alright"
With this being said the exhaustion of the emotions came over them and they both fell asleep in each other's arms. Having found their true love once more, even after all this time.