“As disturbing as that is, I don’t want to talk about the damn ferrets,” Claire tells me. “Wait, she was serious about breeding ferrets?”
I nod my head. “You don’t even want to know where she got that idea. There’s something called Fur Fest that she and Drew want to attend and she thinks she needs to breed something exotic and furry in order to fit in. I Googled Fur Fest. I can never get back those five minutes. So anyway, things are running smoothly at the shop and I don’t foresee any issues with—”
Claire reaches over and presses her hand over my mouth.
“Stop. Talking. About. Work. I had a double mastectomy four weeks ago and a round of chemo that is kicking my ass and I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen you during all of this. I get it; it’s scary. What I don’t get is why you won’t even fucking talk about it with me.”
I move my face away from her hand and get up from the couch to pace around the room. I can’t sit still for this. I need to keep moving or I’m going to completely break down and that’s not what she needs right now.
“You need to accept the fact that this is happening. It’s real. You can’t keep pretending like everything is okay,” she tells me softly.
I stop pacing and make myself look in her general direction. It hurts too much to look right at her—my best friend, so small and tired and run down, sitting on the couch with blankets tucked around her as her beautiful brown hair is quickly disappearing. “I’m trying, Claire. I don’t want to talk about it all the time and keep reminding you about what’s happening.”
Claire throws her hands up in the air in irritation. “You don’t think I’m reminded of this fucking disease every damn time I take a breath or look in the mirror? Every time I open my eyes, every time I MOVE it’s there, trying to bring me down. It’s all I fucking think about and you pretending like it’s not real is what’s really killing me.”
Her words cut right through me and I can’t help but gasp.
“Jesus Christ, you just compared me to…”
“CANCER! Fucking say it, Liz. I compared you to cancer. I have cancer. You can’t even fucking say it!” Claire screams.
“NO! I can’t fucking say it because you’re right! I don’t want it to be real. I don’t want this to be happening right now. I don’t want you to be sick. I can’t stand the fact that there is absolutely NOTHING I can do to make this better!” I shout back.
She flings the blankets off of her and gets up from the couch, stalking over to me.
“You still don’t get it! This isn’t about YOU! You can’t fix it, you can’t make it better, you don’t know what to say, you don’t know what to do. YOU, YOU, YOU! This is happening to ME, Goddammit, and I just need my fucking friend! Why can’t you just be my friend? This is out of everyone’s control, especially yours. If you can’t deal with that then you need to get the fuck out of my house.”
We stand toe-to-toe, both of us wearing equal looks of anger. As much as I don’t have the right to be mad at her, I can’t help it. This was never supposed to happen. Our friendship was solid and I thought nothing could ever break it. She’s pissed at me for not being a good friend and I’m pissed at her for not understanding that I don’t know HOW to be a good friend if I’m not the one making things better. She knows I’m a control freak, how can she possibly expect me to not feel helpless about this?
“I’m sorry I’m not perfect!” I fire back. “My friend gets sick and I don’t know what the fuck to do, so sue me! I’m trying here and you’re not making it any easier. You want to talk, talk, talk about this horrible thing that’s happening and I can’t do that. I can’t just act like it’s the most natural thing in the world to talk about my best friend having breast cancer! I’m not a sappy, talk about my feelings kind of person and you should damn well know that by now. I got a fucking tattoo to show you I cared, I’m taking care of your shop so you can rest and I’m trying to take your mind off of things because I don’t know what else to do!”
Claire takes a step back and crosses her arms across her chest. “I never asked you to get a tattoo, nor did I ask you for help with the shop. All I needed was my best friend to tell me everything will be okay and you can’t even do that. I know it’s horseshit. I know we don’t know if everything will be okay, but I need YOU to believe that. How the hell am I supposed to believe it if you don’t? You can’t even LOOK at me!”
I realize I’ve been staring at a button on her shirt the entire time she spoke and quickly look up to meet her eyes. I don’t know what she sees on my face but it’s enough for her to shake her head at me.
“Just get out,” she tells me sadly.
I’m so pissed that she’s ordering me out of the house I don’t even think about the fact that this is the first real fight we’ve ever had in thirty years of friendship and I’m not sure if we’ll ever be able to recover from it.
“Fine! I’m out of here!” I scream back.
I walk away from my best friend and let the front door slam behind me. I get to my car and let the anger flow through me as I pull out of the driveway and head home. My anger festers and builds until I get inside my house, throw my purse across the kitchen and head to my bedroom. It all disappears as soon as I flop down on my bed and realize what just happened. I curl my legs up to my chest and, for the first time since Claire told us what was going on, I let myself cry. I cry so hard and for so long that I can’t breathe. I keep right on sobbing when I feel the bed dip behind me and Jim curls up against me, wrapping his arms around me and holding me close. He doesn’t say a word, he just lets me cry.