256 Words

Between Friends

M. Stanley Bubien

"See you later," Mike, my best friend and last to leave, intoned with extended hand.

I took it---a chance to come clean---and looked him in the eye, exactly as I had earlier.

"Hey!" Mike had greeted then, "how's it goin'?"

My face darkened. Several "church friends" mulled about for a meeting, many within earshot. I suppressed a frown, forcing a neutral expression, and as I met his grip firmly, I did the thing I wanted to avoid---I looked into his eyes. It was reflex; I always did it when shaking hands with friends, for it connected us, made us momentarily vulnerable.


My fingers tightened around Mike's. Had I thought of it, I would have coughed or sneezed---anything to deflect his question. But I'm no good under the gun. I simply plowed ahead with an answer.

"It's going fine," I lied without averting my gaze.

Two hours had passed since, and now was my chance to come clean, for everyone had left and again we were locked hand-in-hand as if in mortal combat, faces unflinching, each regarding the other.

Eyes, as hands, locked, I inhaled. Mouth open, I exhaled. Lips pursed, I formed words.

But the truth, it hung between us like a barrier only I could see---for it knew I had looked my best friend straight in the eye and lied.


Breath humming in my throat, I spoke. "Yeah, see you later." And, as Mike stepped off the porch, I slid the door closed to obscure his retreating back.

Copyright ©1998 M. Stanley Bubien. All Rights Reserved.

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May, 1998
Issue #25

256 Words