OLD FRIENDS
Valerie Woods

Tania often wondered or rather found it strange, that after all these years people were still so surprised to see her. They all knew she existed and yet when she showed up, more often than not, she was met with open surprise. At other times, often the surprise turned to anger, like how dare she show up now, of all times. She had no patience with such reactions, or any emotion, on these occasions, unless curiosity was an emotion. Because she was, still, intrigued by it all.

Tania’s work took her all over the world. She felt especially at home in older cultures. Her presence didn’t seem so outlandish. People in such places weren’t much surprised by anything, as the more ancient the culture, the more they had seen.  Tania was definitely what you’d call an old soul.

Today she was covering her territory in Los Angeles. Definitely not and old culture. In fact, old was a dirty word here. Somehow, they didn’t realize that getting old was as a popular meme stated: “a privilege denied to many.” Maybe, if Angelenos recognized that, but so many didn’t. They’d forgotten the agreements. Tania supposed they had to forget in order to live productively. But it didn’t make her job any easier.

Tania’s oldest friend is Vivian. The two of them often traveled together. To Tania’s never-ending incredulity, most people were thrilled to see Vivian – parties were given, gifts exchanged, tears of joy, “Oh, here’s Vivian!” “She’s adorable!” “Let’s give her a hug.” Not that Tania was bitter about the enthusiasm her friend received. But didn’t they remember that wherever Vivian was, for the majority of the time, there would always be some kind of drama? And even though it was Tania’s job to resolve some of that drama, even then, people weren’t all that jazzed to see her.

Yet there were occasions when people welcomed a close tie with Tania – sometimes for the peace she offered, and sometimes, in desperation, they just got sick and tired of Vivian’s random drama. Because let’s face it, for all her excitement and vivaciousness, Vivian could be ruthless. But even then, she was still desired over Tania. However, there were some who, though swearing to love Vivian would outright flirt with Tania. They were such a tease – until Tania proved the more powerful draw.

At the moment, though, Vivian was having a great day. One of those days when life was like one big celebration. Even working with Tania that morning was one of those times when they were both satisfied with the assignment. They’d had a meeting at the hospital with an old friend, who though he loved Vivian, he was also quite happy to see Tania, as well. Vivian couldn’t stay long; she had a very busy day ahead but knew everything was as it should be. And when Tania took the man’s frail hand and held it to her heart, Vivian quietly left the room. Her mind already moving to her next job, Vivian couldn’t resist heading down to obstetrics. Though she had a wedding in twenty minutes, she just wanted to take a look around. Vivian loved babies – so new to the world, with so much of life ahead. It made her just a little giddy. She laughed at herself, blessed the babies laboring to be born as well as those sleeping peacefully in their cribs. But then she had to hustle to get to the wedding on time. 

She hadn’t mentioned this assignment to Tania, who was definitely not on the invitation list. Much as she considered Tania a close friend, no one wanted to see her at the chapel. Tania had been known to crash a wedding or two – Vivian hated that. But, well such things happen.

It was a close call, but despite an accident on the I-5. It slowed Vivian down, but she pulled through and made it in time for the “I do’s.’ The bride was stunning, the groom slightly drunk, but the love for their new life together was strong.  Vivian couldn’t help the tears of joy she shared with the mother of the bride. It was a good match.  The couple danced their way down the aisle, and Vivian joined them at the reception line doing a little jig of her own. These were the kind of assignments Vivian loved. But not better than the baby shower she had to attend that afternoon. And then there was the birthday dinner.

Yes, Vivian loved her job, except when she hated it. And then life got messy – with all kinds of repercussions. But usually things worked out, and there were days like to today.  The expectant mother was ecstatic. This was her first, and her family and friends were close and just as excited. They’d already started with the gifts when Vivian caught a movement just outside the window. Cautious, she stepped out to the patio. Tania was leaning against the gate.

“Oh, come on. Why’d you have to come here?” Vivian moaned.

“Don’t blame me. You know I only go where I’m assigned,” Tania retorted.

“She doesn’t want to see you,” said Vivian. “And neither do I. Not now.”

They both looked toward the house as the screams began.

“Please… please go, Tania. Leave now, please.” Vivian was in tears. But Tania was unmoved, as always. She started through the gate, but Vivian grabbed her by the shoulders, shoving her aside.

“Don’t fight with me, Vivian. I hate when you do this.”

“You’re not going to win this time.”

“Really?” Tania replied. She paced around Vivian, much like a martial artist sizing up her challenger.

“Yes, really.” Vivian slipped off her heels and took a fighter’s stance. Amidst the screams and on-coming sirens, they fought like warriors. Tania drew first blood.

Vivian stood, dazed for a moment seeing the red rivulets streaming along her legs, but only for a moment before she launched again into battle. Vivian fought on and fought well. Despite the loss of blood, she landed kicks and uppercuts.  Tania was still unmoved, her strikes sure and steady.

“Just leave it, Vivian. It’s done.”

Gasping, bloody, weak, Vivian tried a final lunge, but Tania simply wrapped her hand around Vivian’s fist and held it to her heart. The screaming stopped. The weeping began.

As Vivian lay, spent and defeated, a figure walked onto the patio. Though it was the height of a young child, its bearing was timeless. Though the features were defined, there was a softness around its person that gave the illusion of fluidity. The figure approached Vivian, kneeled and stroked her face.

“I wasn’t ready for you, Vivian. Besides, my mother and I had an agreement.” As the figure stroked Vivian’s face, the bruises and blood from the fight began to fade. “She’s forgotten about it, but I hope she’ll learn what she wanted to know.”

The figure rose and took Tania’s hand. As they walked across the patio, Tania turned back to see Vivian, now vibrant as ever, a hint of wistful melancholy darkening her eyes.

“It was a good fight, Vivian. See you next time.”  Hand-in-hand, Tania and the Timeless Being walked through the gate. 

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VALERIE C. WOODS is a writer/producer in television and film, and is also a publisher, editor and author. Valerie is currently Adjunct Faculty for the Stephens College Low Residency MFA Television & Screenwriting program and was appointed Creative Director for Syd Field – The Art of Visual Storytelling. Old Friends is currently being developed as a screenplay.