This story is by Kimberly Pankonin and was part of our 2022 Fall Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
My friend, who my children call Auntie Cat, is a bore. I call her a clinging vine because she doesn’t know when it’s time to go. She’s probably lonely, so I try to keep her busy. Yesterday, I left my girls with her so I could relax. I had plans. I was invited into an exclusive event, the Diana Club. Great fans of Princess Diana, they arranged tea parties with all the best people. Well, actually, it was loads of champagne. We should dress the part and preferably sport a tiara. I was ready apart from one thing: childcare.
Cat was eager enough to watch the girls, being unable to have her own and she certainly wouldn’t have enjoyed the party. The girls had fun with her. They usually played and sang and danced.
She went overboard childproofing. They were fine at our house and I haven’t changed my habits since I had kids. Children adapt. I work from home, so there are tools and supplies lying around so I can create when the mood strikes me. Neither seems to be worse for the wear. Well, there was that one time the oldest hit herself in the head with the hammer. Really, it barely made a mark! I still can’t understand why Cat made such a fuss.
Maybe it’s because we made her the godmother. Everyone has a godmother. There was nothing special about her. We didn’t mean that she was responsible for bringing up the girls. Get over yourself, I thought. Jesus, we are capable of that. She is big-headed.
Once, she stopped by. We had friends over the night before, a late night, so to speak. I hadn’t gotten around to clearing up. When she came in, the baby was in the corner. Cat noticed she had wine down the front of her onesie and was playing with cigarette butts. She dashed over and rushed her off to the bathroom before I had found us some coffee and lit my cigarette.
What a fussbucket! Kids get into things. What’s new?
We went to the clubs before I had kids. It was good for my business to get out and socialize. Cat and her husband kept my husband entertained while I worked in the room.
One night, I remember, I was chatting with the manager of the club. I tried for years to sign him as a client, but they used a big firm in the city. I was pitching an idea, and he cut me off. “Is that your friend on the dance floor?” he asked. “She can move. Does she work with you?”
What a spectacle she made of herself! I wouldn’t dare be spotted flailing about like that. Later, I scolded her for how she embarrassed me in front of my soon-to- be client. She needed to keep her drunk dancing in the privacy of her own home. Please! No one needs to see that.
I said the manager commented too. That got her thinking.
Mother called Cat, her ‘daughter-in-reserve’. She insisted that she come to family functions. Mother would say to me, after a few drinks, that I should be more like Cat. Father conspired in the corner with Cat, about excessive zucchini yields. My brother, who didn’t have the time of day for me, was constantly doing favors for Cat. My uncle even gave her a job while I was busting my ass freelancing. Can you believe that?
With young kids and a mortgage, we entertained mostly at home. We often invited Cat and her husband. Well really, by that time, we had stopped accepting invitations to their house. She was a horrible cook. You could see it on her. Almost skin and bones, both of them. She once served some “fancy” chicken dish with red wine. Who wastes wine in chicken? Served with some weird vegetables I had never heard of and not nearly enough wine. My husband drank an entire bottle before the appetizers appeared. He had to! Not enough food, but even worse, it was all so “healthy”. Who does she think she is? Nigella fucking Lawson?
No, we stopped going there for dinner years ago. It was hard pretending to eat what I was served. I perfected taking a bite and slyly spitting it out in the napkin. If I jumped up to clear the plates, I could toss the napkin full of food away and no one was the wiser. She noticed once and asked if everything was okay. Of course, I raved about how delicious it was. No reason to make a scene. When I went out to smoke, I would grab a chocolate bar from my purse and gulp it down before I went in again. That would tide me over until I got home. Who eats all those vegetables? Gross!
We used the girls as a reason to meet at our house. Anyway, I’m a much better cook.
I am so sick of her! Been avoiding her calls for weeks, maybe months. Can’t she take a hint? Honestly, I have had little use for this friendship since we got a nanny. Sure, the girls loved Cat, but after she got that new job, she was too busy to be of any good to me. The baby will get used to the nanny and on the upside, I won’t have to listen to Cat droning on about her boring life. Snooze!
It floored me when I heard they were leaving. Her husband accepted a post out of the country for a few years. How could she not tell me?
I heard she was going to a concert on her last night in town. It was her favorite artist, if I recall. What? No party? She couldn’t leave me without saying goodbye. By God! She was my best friend. My kids’ godmother. She couldn’t just leave! So, I planned the perfect surprise party. We used the ruse of the concert to get her in the door. She will never forget that night.
I sorted through my photo albums. So many memories. I looked so good! Cat, well, she always looked the same in photos. Eyes closed, mouth half open, or some weird gesture, always lame. You can’t blame me. The girl is not photogenic. I took the best pictures I could find and put together a beautiful scrapbook. The girls drew pictures, I found momentos, and hand-lettered “My best friend Cat” on the cover. It was perfect.
At the party, I gave a touching speech and presented the book. What a success! Oh, how they all laughed at how idiotic she looked in the pictures. Everyone commented on how great it was of me to do this for her. It’s not my fault the tickets were non-refundable. She just doesn’t understand how lucky she is to have me as a friend.
I’m a keeper!
I always said to her when we parted, “Call me.” and she always did until she didn’t.
How rude! My children are constantly bombarding me with questions, “When is Auntie Cat coming over?” or “When can we visit?”. I can’t answer them because I don’t know if she is coming back. I don’t even know where she is. This is humiliating.
We had spent so much time together. Everyone asks me about her and I don’t know what to say. She is so damn selfish and inconsiderate! Did she even consider how this would make me look?
Screw her! If anyone asks me, I’ll say she had a breakdown. She must have! To leave like that? That’s not normal. She told me once her father had committed suicide. She is clearly just as nuts as he was.
Good riddance! I’ll say I am thrilled to have that leech off my back. Crazy bitch! Yes! She won’t have a friend left! That will teach her.
On and on, they drone. Auntie Cat taught me the kitty-cat song. Auntie Cat taught me to swim. She made the best chocolate cake. She smelled like lavender. She always had time to read me a story. Blah, blah blah.
The memories haunt me. We haven’t spoken in ten years. Not a single week goes by that I’m not reminded of her. Something funny the girls remember or I find a gift from her in the back of the drawer. Pictures from a holiday we celebrated together, or most often an acquaintance asking about her. They said we were like sisters. I thought she would always be there for me.
They have long since moved back to town. My children walk past their house on the way to school every day. She must see how cruel that is. Why couldn’t she have the decency to live further away or just not come back at all?
I guess I have to be the bigger person and just forgive her.
Who knows? Maybe I had a small part in our friendship falling apart.