Maria had a stuffed bear full of change perched high on her pillows, and Erin had been scrounging in its belly for change when Maria surprised her by coming home to find her sitting on her bed, Erin’s hand deep in its fake fur.
“What are you doing?”
It was a relationship ender, even though Maria was a psych major and purported to understand. Erin moved back home at the end of the year. She couldn’t even remember that incident for the longest time.
Of course she’d long ago paid Maria back, but she was sure that that story was lodged in the minds of many of her former classmates. Erin Smith, a thief. Just one of the many deep humiliations of her illness, but it was one she was sure had not been forgiven. Maria had married a quiet, kind man she worked with, and they’d had a daughter, not as old as Martin but older than Pete. They had arranged a playdate or two with the children, but it hadn’t worked out. Julia was a mild and well-mannered child, very likely to be run over in the ferocity of Erin’s sons’ play. Soon enough, Erin and Maria, when they met, had lunch together without including the children, and the lunches tended to happen less and less frequently.
Erin told herself that she was being paranoid about Maria’s motives for continuing their relationship. Most people have friends from high school, don’t they? Maria was perhaps the one person who could qualify for Erin, since she’d gone to her reunion and had failed to connect. There were a few people she liked moderately, but not enough to do more than sustain social media “friendships.”
She wondered what they thought was going to become of her, if they ever stopped to give it a thought. She had dreams for herself, but she doubted that when Maria did her annual check in it was to see whether Erin’s dreams had materialized in any way. It felt as though she wanted to see how far Erin had fallen this year. Where had her relationships with men taken her? How despondent had she become about Martin’s mental health? Maria’s interest never felt like a healthy one, especially since it always came with those reminders that she would be seeing people from Erin’s past, and that, no, Erin was not invited to see them.
At first, Erin ha d been naïve and had assumed that when Maria mentioned parties with people from high school, she meant to include Erin in the future. She even asked whether she could come sometime.
Maria just got a confused look on her face. “Oh no. I don’t think so,” she said.
After that, Erin had assumed that she would stop mentioning going to these parties. Like your mother teaches you when you’re a little kid, don’t talk to the girl or boy who’s not invited about the party you’re going to. But somehow, that message had never gotten through to Maria, or perhaps this was her revenge on Erin for all of the things that Erin had gotten wrong over the years.
End of Part 2 #Writers