I’d never had the privilege of being one, nor the pleasure of having one.
As a child, I was pawned off, and passed along, one family after another, like a dreaded Christmas fruitcake. Consequently, I made very few friends. In any case, the position of best friend was always already filled. Years later, it ceased to matter to me, and I resigned myself socially to existing solely on casual acquaintances. I’d started life as a foundling, so it stood to reason that I should finish as a foundling, of sorts, as well.
Until Matilda. Fellow aspiring scribbler, and drinker of black coffee. Matilda, in her fashionable hobble skirt, who’d minced her way over to my table and asked to borrow a pencil. By chance we’d both decided to visit the same café, to work on our novels while sustaining ourselves with cup after cup of a rich Jamaican brew. She saw me, hand poised above a stack of paper, and assumed me to be what I hoped to be seen as. A writer. Matilda, with her stunning gray Grecian hair, and an ever so gently lined face that belied her 62 years. Matilda, who wore the heady Quelques Fleurs and winked at distinguished old men. She was a beacon of light at the end of the tunnel. The partner in crime I’d been longing for my whole life.
The bell on my Stromberg-Carlson jangles me back to the present moment. That must be Matilda! I struggle laboriously to my feet as quickly as my ancient skeleton will allow, feeling the familiar pinch of age run through my hip, slowing my steps. I really ought to get rid of my soft chair and replace it with a hard one. Better for the bones. But there is no need, though, to hurry to pick up the receiver. Matilda is patient. She accepts me in all of my faltering glory, like best friends do. Hello? Matilda! Fifteen minutes? That’s fine! I’ll pack some cookies to have with our coffee.
Matilda’s tomato red, 1910 Atlas Model H pulls into view, thirty-two minutes later. I had a bear of a time getting this beast started! Matilda’s voice is breathy with excitement. Forgetting the twinge in my hip, I pull my sheared beaver stole closer to my face, and climb into the passenger seat. In a matter of minutes, when we are nearly at the café, we encounter a swarm of people. Naturally, our curiosity is piqued, and Matilda articulates what I was just about to ask. Mind if we take a quick detour and see what all the fuss is about? We mutually agree that our novels can wait, for we seem to have stumbled upon an émeute. The assembled protesters, mostly female, are in high spirits, charging the atmosphere with an electric energy. The unease among the males who have dared to venture close enough to observe, is palpable. Women should not be allowed to behave like this.
Move along, granny! A red cheeked constable in blue and brass takes Matilda firmly by the elbow, steering her away from the crowd. I hear a huff of indignation, and I can hardly believe what Matilda does next. She plucks the young man’s truncheon from his belt, and roundly swats the top of his helmet!
I am left with little choice. I am, after all, her best friend.
I take the truncheon away from Matilda.
And swat him again.