Naomi braces herself as she awaits an answer from whoever is calling. Her pulse throbs in her ears and her knuckles whiten around the glass she is holding. The silence stretches out and she hears heavy breathing.
"Hello?" she tries again, a little more force in her voice.
"Oh shit. Hi, sorry girl. I didn't hear you answer there," Naomi's legs weaken slightly as the relief washes over her in a wave.
"Hi Nicola, what's up?"
"It's been forever since we hung out, wanna go to the gym?"
Smiling, Naomi takes a long swallow of her juice as she considers an answer.
"Mmmm maybe. When you thinking of going? This time I am not going shooting after."
"Fine. Come on, I'm ready now, I can come pick you up in... Twenty minutes."
Sighing, she gives in. "Ok, I gotta let Loopy out and then I'll get showered and changed."
"Yippee!" the screech almost bursts Naomi's ear drum.
Saying her goodbyes, Naomi lets Loopy out into her yard and watches as she runs around, sniffing this, pissing on that and crapping on everything else. Loopy comes back after doing her business and with a groan, Naomi heads off towards the bathroom for a shower.
Nicola bangs on the front door as Naomi finishes pulling on her gym clothes, then walks to the door, opening it quickly and allowing her friend in.
"Ready?" she asks.
"Almost..." Naomi replies, she quickly finds the medicine cabinet and pops out a few painkillers, throws them in her mouth before washing them down with a glass of water. "Let's go then."
Locking the door after her friend steps out, Naomi plasters a strained smile across her face and turns towards Nicola's car.
"Did you have a date last night? I tried calling,"
"What?" Naomi looks at her friend.
"The lights are on but nobody's home, huh?" Nicola chuckles as she starts the engine and pulls away from the sidewalk. "... I asked if you had a date last night? I couldn't get through, you know that switching your phone off is like the universal sock on the doorknob?"
Naomi can't help but shudder as the memory of the previous night threatens to unhinge her tenuous grip on her emotions, her friend misses the reaction as she concentrates on the road ahead.
"No, nothing like that, just an early night. Long day an' all."
"So you can finally say "yes" to that hottie at the gym then? No more excuses as to why you won't go out with him."
Rolling her eyes in reply Naomi doesn't answer at first, and just stares out the window at the cornfields rolling by. Knowing Nicola likes Mark, the guy in question, and despite her encouragement, Naomi will not cross that line. No guy being worth losing or hurting a friend over.
"No, you should just ask him out. I'm not interested and doesn't matter how single I am. He just isn't my "type."
"That man is everyone's type."
"Just let it go, please Nikki. Ask him out for yourself but leave me the fuck out of it," Naomi snaps and instantly regrets the outburst.
They continue the journey in silence and Naomi feels the car close in around her as the silence and isolation it brings, threatens to shrink her world some more. Fighting the loneliness she feels, Naomi reaches out and gently touches Nicola's arm.
"I'm sorry, you just weren't hearing what I was saying," she sighs, struggling to bridge a gap that may as well have been a mile wide. "I have too much on my plate, the last thing I need is to drag some poor guy into it and you like him, so you go for it."
Her friend nods and squeezes Naomi's hand to show all is forgiven. A tear slips down Naomi's face as she feels the boundaries of her existence expand just a little, she hooks it away before her friend can see and press for answers to some awkward questions.
Questions that Naomi has no wish to hear or to answer.
The car pulls into the gym parking lot and Nicola kills the engine. They both climb out and make for the entrance. Nicola puts her arm around Naomi's shoulder and a little bit of happiness creeps its way back into her mind, pushing out some of the dread. Just a little more of that and I can start to live again. Proving that even a little bit of hope can be a dangerous thing.