Afternoon Tea

“Tom and I … we broke up,” Frieda said.

“You didn’t?” Denise squeezed her friend’s hand to comfort her.

The two women, both in their early thirties, sat at a table in the Ponce de Leon, a small natural foods cafe. The girl behind the counter had her ipod turned down low, playing Oasis’ “Live Forever”.

“It’s so damned frustrating. Tom seemed to think he’s going to go on forever.”

“I know how it can be. Jeff and I have been together five years, and not once has he had a checkup.”

“It started over the CoQ10.” Another sip of green tea made Frieda feel better. “I told him it would add twenty years to his life.”

“All Jeff says is that he doesn’t want to live forever.” Denise slowly drank a little more of her tea. She loved the taste of the peppermint.

“He wanted to know if it was made from some CoQ10 animal they squeezed for the juice.” Frieda said. “Imagine that.”

“He didn’t?” Denise laughed.

“It took some work. A bit of bribery, you know,” Frieda winked suggestively to Denise, “and he came around. But it was the fish oil that did it.”

The music changed to Joan Baez singing Dylan’s “Forever Young”.

“Fish oil?”

“Heart disease runs in his family. But he insisted he wasn’t about to drink any fish juice.”

“Fish oil comes in pills too.”

“He definitely wasn’t taking ‘horse pills’. His exact words. We had a blowout, then it was over.”

“Over fish oil?” Denise was surprised at the other woman’s courage. After all, Tom and Frieda had been a couple for almost five years. That was a lot to invest in one fellow without any return.

Frieda drained her cup, then said, “I’m not about to stay with a guy that won’t take care of himself.”

“I guess I love Jeff way too much to put that kind of ultimatum on him.”

“Pretty soon you’ll be having unhealthy kids. Unhealthy because you’re with an unhealthy guy. How can you put yourself through that?”

“I can’t see myself without him.” Then Denise offered to get two more cups of tea.

When she returned to the table, she passed a cup over to her friend. Kenny G’s “Theme from Dying Young” played from the ipod.

“I miss him,” Frieda said, “but there’s no going back.”

“Why not? You don’t think he doesn’t miss you as much as you miss him?”

Frieda nodded toward her cell phone. “No. He won’t even take my calls.”

“My God, I’m sorry.” Denise reached over and hugged her.

“It’s okay,” Frieda said, holding in her grief. Then a long pause. “Maybe, just maybe.”

“Maybe what?” Denise eased back into her chair.

“Naw … it was just a thought.” The warm smell of the tea wafted up to Frieda’s face and eased her sadness. A smile came to her face. “Oops, there goes another rubber tree plant,” she sang. Then she laughed, harder than she had laughed in quite some time.

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