Kike could feel the panic shooting through her. She’d seen it one too many times not to recognise it even when Valerie was fighting hard to suppress it. “Hey, what are you doing with that bottle?” She said lightly. “Give it here.” Gently taking the bottle from her. “Allow us Pros to do the opening.” She winked, deftly unscrewing the bottle and picking up a wine glass to pour the wine.
Wines poured and passed, she waited silently for the next part of their usual ritual.
Valerie huffed out a deep breath in an attempt to calm her fraying nerves. She could feel the tears brimming in her eyes but she defiantly refused to let them fall. Instead she lifted them to meet Kike’s calm patient ones. “You know I don’t know why you keep coming back. Year in year out, it’s same depressing ritual for the last ten years and… I don’t get why you keep coming back.” She watched Kike with brimming light brown eyes.
“Maybe because I’m officially your best friend forever… and a sucker for depressing Valentine’s Day rituals.”
She swallowed hard, smiling through tear filled eyes. “You are the best, you know that?”
Kike grinned. “That’s cos I hang with the best.”
She nodded. Bit her lips hard. “I’m done, Kike.” Though he voice quivered slightly, her tone was firm. “I’m done crying, wailing, moaning, cursing God. I’m done shutting myself up from the world. I’m done blaming myself.”
Something in Kike soared. Love and pride shone brightly through her eyes.
Valerie saw the look, and drew courage from it. “They are gone. They’ve been gone for twenty years…” She brusquely wiped away the tears that threatened to fall. “And no matter how much I cry and wish… they are never coming back. No matter how much I miss… and I really do, they are never going to be here again. So I’m finally listening to you, to Mama Bee… and I am just going to live again. I’m putting this behind me and moving on.”
Kike took her hands, sniffing back tears. “Girl, I am so proud of you. And I know they will be too, hearing you say this.”
She looked at her and sighed. “Yeah, I guess they will be.” Her eyes stared into a distance, seeing them all again, seeing their laughing eyes, then she shook her head and grimaced. “It’s not going to be easy, you know. I’m probably going to freak out and waver and fall.”
“No you are not.” Kike disagreed firmly. “You know why? Because you are a strong woman. I don’t know that many people who survive losing their entire family in one fell swoop and still end up a beautiful successful woman.”
“Beauty is from God, my mama used to tell me. And the rest wouldn’t have been without you and Mama Bee.”
Kike shook her head. “Nothing is without our own personal will.”
“Maybe.” Valerie smiled. Then raising her glass of wine, she toasted. “To best friends and great people who never let you know.”
“To best friends and amazing strong women.” Kike pronounced.
Their glasses clicked and grinning widely they sipped.
Kike raised her glass again. “Here’s to you finally hitting the big scary three O. From now on the constant question would be – ‘when do we get to meet him’.”
“Yay! Lucky me.” Valerie grinned a humorous light flickering in her eyes. But the light dimmed as her thoughts drifted to the him she’d met earlier.