"I'm scared." I surprise myself. I don't think I have ever shown emotion to anyone before. Why do I trust her so much? We have been on and off for nearly a year now.
"Maureen?" Joanne sounds surprised. Almost as if she was asking if I had become ill all of a sudden. She started to smile as though I was joking. Then she realised I was serious. There's a still, heavy silence. I sit there in our flat, silent. Joanne sits silently. She's sat cross-legged at the other end of the sofa. She looks perfect despite her hair falling in odd angles from me playing with it. She is always perfect. However, I am not. I'm not the strong person everyone expects me to be. She knows about my eating disorder. But it's not a disorder as such… It's just a problem with food. I don't like food. Simple as that. She tells me not to starve myself, she tells me I won't throw up but sometimes I don't want to eat. That's not a disorder, that's just not hungry. She doesn't agree.
"I'm just… Erm… Well… I'm just scared that we might lose Mimi." This wasn't really what I wanted to say but put a more sombre look back on Joanne's face. She somehow knew I was lying. The sombre look faded fast as I glanced down at the table. Tears start to gently spill from my eyes. I don't like to cry. The only other time I've cried in front of people was at Angel's funeral… I didn't want to recreate that. That was acceptable. One of my best friends had just died. I think that's a fair reason to cry.
"Honey-bear, I know we've not been close recently but-"
"Pookie-" I interrupt her hoping to assure her that I'm fine.
"Hear me out? Baby, I can tell when you're upset. I need you to talk to me? Can you do that?" Joanne moves closer to me across the sofa. She shifts herself so that she's sat right in front of me. She cups my cheek and looks at me. I have no choice but to cave. She's got me under her thumb.
"But I'm fine, really Joanne, I just had a moment. I'm not scared. I'm upset that we nearly lost her. I'm okay." But my voice began to falter… I'm a fine actress, but a terrible liar. Joanne smiles softly at me. Her hand slips down from my face to my waist. She snakes her other hand round me and pulls me in to hug. Joanne's perfection makes me feel safe and at home. I am home, but it hasn't felt like home since we've been arguing. The protest was a bad idea.
Joanne's dark eyes stare straight into mine as she pulls out of the hug. She tilts her head slightly, pulls a sympathetic smile and leans in. I lean back slightly thinking she's going to kiss me. She doesn't.
"What's wrong baby?" she leans on her elbow against the sofa.
"I just… Don't want to be kissed right now…" my voice trails away trying not to offend her.
"I wasn't leaning in to kiss you! Oh Maureen, I wanted to see your eyes!" she looks as me with sheer innocence, and a slight hint of cheek. This was obviously a little funny to her.
"You… Oh? Right… Why?" What difference are my bloody eyes going to make? I look back at her confused wondering where she is planning to go with this. I look straight at her, none the less, to let her see my eyes.
"They're misty. Maureen, baby, what are you thinking?" her sympathetic look comes back as she begins to rub me knee for comfort. I grab her hand to stop her and hold on to it. Her hand is warm and soft. I feel her fingers between mine somehow soothing; I'm not just Maureen. The world is for us, not for Maureen or Joanne. It's for Maureen and Joanne.
"Do you really want to know?" I feel my face finally flush with embarrassment from the previous statement about the kiss and the concept of telling Joanne what is really in my head.
"Yes honey-bear, I really want to know." Joanne begins to rub my hand with her thumb, like a mother may do to sooth a child.
"Tonight… tonight I was scared to lose Mimi. After Angel it got a little too much…" I consider leaving it there but Joanne's eyes peer directly into mine as if to tell me to carry on. They seem to tell me its ok to talk. So I continue, "You know, ha, this is silly…"
"No, baby, its not. Carry on." She softly re-arranges me so that I'm closer to her, cuddling onto her. At least now I'm not peering at my fingers or avoiding her eye contact. It doesn't matter if I end up crying now. She can't see me.
"Okay," I continue, speaking out from her chest almost as she rests her arm softly around me, while I play with her other hand nervously. "See we lost Angel… and we nearly lost Mimi… How long is it till we lose Roger or Collins or I… Or I lose you?" I feel a tear swell up in my eye. I can't cry.
Joanne moved her arm from me, hoists me up so I'm almost sat on her knee.
"Maureen, you don't think you will ever lose me? Do you?" She looks almost shocked but sympathetic. As though she's never seen me fear before… I wince slightly as she moves in to stroke my hair. "Honey-bear, why are you so scared?" She rests her hand gently on my shoulder. I'm not sure I want it there right now but it's comforting to an extent so I leave it.
"I'm not scared… I just…" I glance down. My cheeks flush. I start to cry.
"Baby, you're terrified! Look, you're shaking." She takes hold of my hand. Joanne's soft fingers slip hold of mine. I am shaking. I only feel it when being held against her steady grip. I watch as a tear falls to splash on the back of her hand. I try to wipe it off but she won't let go of me.
"Pookie… Joanne, I'm scared of crying." I sit stunned. I can't quite believe I've told her.
"Maureen, why are you scared of crying? We all do it baby!" Joanne wipes away my tears gently.
"But… I don't cry. I never used to. I used to just pretend everything's fine. I had other ways of dealing with things. I knew what I wanted and I acted as though it's all fine as my way of dealing with it. But now I cry. I shouldn't cry and I don't want to cry. If you cry in public people ask 'what's wrong?' and what if I don't really want to tell them what's going through my head? If no one see's you cry… doesn't it have the effect of when a tree falls and no one hears it? Does anyone care if a tree falls over when there is no one there? There is no one to care. If no one see's me cry, there is no one to ask why I'm crying and then I don't need to tell anyone. I'm scared of crying because I'm scared to tell. I'm scared of being myself…" My face is bright red. I feel it hot and wet from tears. I can't see clearly anymore. Look… it's me… Maureen Johnson. Crying.