This is a prompt story using the title as the theme-won runner up in an on-line contest
"Hello there!" a voice called from the end of the produce aisle. "I thought I recognized you."
Annie turned her head, cocking it toward the vaguely familiar note to the woman's voice. Marcie, she thought. Oh God, don't let it be Marcie. The woman soon caught up to Annie, who had turned and walked swiftly to another aisle, pretending to be checking the prices on pasta.
”I just knew it had to be you," Marcie said, loudly enough to draw questioning stares from other shoppers. "Let me give you a big hug."
Annie flinched, but couldn't dodge Marcie's exuberance. She forced a smile.
"How are you, Marcie? It's been so long that I didn't recognize you."
"Too long, to my mind. I've missed you, Annie. You were really the only friend I had back in school. We need to get back together again. I'm back in town for the summer, settling my parent's estate. You must have heard they died?"
Annie shook her head but offered no condolences. No, we don't need to get back together, she thought. Wasn't taking her first love away from her and marrying him enough. What torture did Marcie have in store for her now? Marcie steered Annie over to the coffee shop at the end of the store, talking non-stop all the way. Some things never changed.
"Really, Marcie, this has been nice running into each other but I need to rush off and pick up my kids."
All throughout school, from first grade on, when Marcie moved into the neighborhood and right through college, Marcie was the one who controlled their relationship. Her needs and desires so overwhelmed Annie that she gave into her instead of fighting her demands, it was happening again.
"One quick Latte and I'll be off, Marcie promised.
Annie, feeling beaten down as she had for most of their long friendship, conceded, hated herself for it. The small coffee shop was crowded and as they waited, Marcie chatted on about her own life since they'd last seen each other--a scene that was unpleasant to say the least, and she skillfully avoided mentioning it. Annie only half listened, as her thoughts drifted back to the awful night when Brad had told her he needed some space. Little did she know at that time that space included being in Marcie's arms, not hers. Annie hadn't fought for Brad; that wasn't her style. Like a wounded dog, she whimpered and went off to lick the wounds to her broken heart. Later, when she saw Brad walking the campus grounds with Marcie, huddled together as lovers, Annie found a new strength, strode up to them, slapped Marcie in the face and walked away. It was two weeks until graduation so avoiding them after that wasn't too difficult.
Annie got herself so sick with grief that she contracted pneumonia and nearly missed her graduation ceremony. It held no joy for her--nothing did as she pined away the summer months thinking her heart would never heal.
Marcie's shrill voice broke her reverie.
" . . .and in retrospect, I can't think what I ever saw in Brad."
What she saw was that I had someone and she wanted him , Annie thought, watching her go on with this charade.
"He was just too, too immature for me. Why our marriage was over almost before it began. I'm so grateful there were no kids to fight over. You should be grateful I took him off your hands, Annie."
" Oh yes, well "in retrospect" I suppose I am" There was nothing left to say.
"No, Marcie, thanks. I really need to pick up my girls from preschool."
Annie thought of Jack, who she'd met during her internship as a nurse. He was just starting up his practice as a pediatrician. Jack taught her the meaning of true adult love and she couldn't imagine her life without him and their two girls. She'd grown too, and was now a confident woman who no longer allowed others to run her life.
"Listen, Annie," Marcie barging into her thoughts again, "let's get together for dinner some time soon. I'd love to meet your husband and daughters. It'll be just like old times. Here, take my cell number and give me a call soon. great seeing you again. let's keep in touch."
And off she went, eyeing the muscular checkout guy up and down.
Annie sighed, this time with relief. She couldn't wait to pick up her girls and hug Jack. As for Marcie, alone now with no one to love, no children,only her ego to keep her warm on cold nights. . . .Annie would insure that they sta completely out of touch.