The Social Women's Committee gets together

Let's not be immature, ladies,'' Rhonda tuts playfully, raising her voice above the infectious giggles.

''It's the last thing we want at our age.''

This only causes another bubble of laughter.

Rhonda smiles too. The words are ridiculous, coming from her of all people.

She is the very image of non-conformity, her hair a vibrant orange.

Immature and Rhonda go together as well as apple pie and cream, or gin and tonic perhaps.

''And how is that boyfriend of yours, Nancy?''

A teasing wink is directed across the room at one of Rhonda's best friends.

Nancy flushes but still smiles.

''Man friend, June,'' she corrects gently, taking a chocolate finger from one of the many platters on the table.

''Just a friend, really.''

Rhonda leans in close to Nancy when she thinks the others are safely distracted.

''Which is why you were walking down the street the other day - holding hands,'' she breathes lightly, raising her eyebrows suggestively.

Nancy shakes her head.

''You never miss anything, do you?''

Her tone is neither accusing, nor surprised.

It's true.

Rhonda never misses a beat, especially when scandal is involved, or a best friend, or both.

''Very good man friend then,'' she chuckles, but there is tenderness in her eyes as she says it.

The table is heavily laden with sugary delicacies.

Rhonda's never been one for diets so you might as well forget calories if you pop around for a visit.

The event?

It's the first meeting of the Social Women's Committee, formed to ''work to maintain friendships and contravene social expectations''.

Really, it's just a good excuse for the girls to get together for a giggle.

The old girls are:Josephine: Quite the heart throb in her time, but a real sweet heart too.

She was good friends at high school with Rhonda, though Rhonda was continually outshone by her presence.

Tizzy: In the good old days, she was Rhonda's most frequent partner in crime.

She still laughs at the time they dropped a gecko down the front of Boris Heckler's trousers - that wasn't the worst of it either.

Marge: Outgoing and dominant.

You wouldn't want to get on her wrong side, although Rhonda's dared on a couple of occasions.

And Victoria, Fay and Jay. Rhonda watches them all with affection, immersed in their moment of happiness.

It's time for the meeting to come to an end.

There's shuffling, hugs, a clattering of plates and snatches of conversation.

''Thanks Rhonda. A great start - Fay's next time ...''

Rhonda sees them out.

Nancy is last. She's lingering.

She's got something to say but is hesitating.

''How about we visit Gabby tomorrow?''

Her eyes, milky with age, show concern.

''How long has it been now? A week?'' Rhonda asks.

''She always said she'd never end up in a home. It was Cavel Street for her until the day she died.''

Nancy nods.

''But then, she just went quietly after John,'' murmurs Rhonda.

Their eyes meet.

''I'll pick you up tomorrow at 10,'' says Rhonda.

Nancy's answer comes sincerely.

''Take care.''

They clasp hands briefly, then Nancy leaves.

Rhonda watches her go up the drive.

She watches as a protective mother, trying to fight the inevitable.

She watches as a little girl, seeing her friend leave after an afternoon of careless fun.

She watches as an old woman.

Drizzle speckles her vision.

She watches Nancy reach her car, then goes inside, locking the door and the bitter world beyond it behind her.


• By Anna-Marie Mirfin, Year 12, Kavanagh College


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