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A couple of days before the big day, late in the evening, Lindsay sat in the swing on Claire's porch, lingering after Jill and Cindy had already said their goodbyes.
"I don't want to throw you out," Claire said gently, "But unlike you, I need to be at work at seven AM tomorrow. You're all packed up?"
"Oh. Sure." Lindsay all but jumped to her feet. "I'm sorry. I'll call you tomorrow."
"Wait. I didn't mean you couldn't finish that beer. Relax a little. You've got a wonderful vacation ahead."
"Yeah." Lindsay sighed, causing Claire to give her a quizzical look. Claire sat next to her, and they were silent for a moment.
"Okay. What's going on? It's all been cleared with Tom, and you've got a route figured out. Last time I checked, you two were really excited to hit the road. I know Cindy is." There was a hint of worry to her voice.
"She is. I am. You know... I really like Cindy. A lot." That wasn't hard to admit, but actually it was part of the problem.
"I figured that much," Claire said teasingly.
"It's just that..." Lindsay broke off, frustrated, because there didn't seem to be words to do her worries justice. "We're friends. I'm also used to having my space," even if that made her sound selfish, "And Cindy, she can be intense."
"Okay." Claire didn't object. "It's also part of what you like so much about her."
Lindsay didn't comment on that, but the seemingly innocent assessment was making her face burn. "What if we don't get along at all? There are couples who get into big fights on a one-week vacation. Hell, Tom and I did." If there was a Freudian slip somewhere in there, she didn't care and Claire certainly didn't mind.
"When did you take a one-week vacation?" Her friend seemed honestly baffled.
"Which is not the point. The point is... This friendship is important to me."
"You think that Cindy doesn't know what she's in for? I think she knows it pretty well. Of course, you can't read the future," Claire said reasonably. "But this might be the only time you get the chance to do anything like that. You do know that there are people who would kill for four weeks off-time?"
They both laughed, then Lindsay set down her bottle with another heartfelt sigh. "You know... I just really want this to work."
"I know, Sweetie. And you won't find out until you try."
Lindsay got up, at the more moderate pace this time. She should leave her friend to a good night's sleep now, because there were aspects to this story that she wasn't ready to share yet. Because they required that kind of look deep inside herself she wasn't ready to take. Not now. Those weeks with Cindy would make a difference, one way or another.
"Thanks for the beer and sage advice. Good night, Claire."
"Good night." Claire got up, too, and embraced her. "You stay safe and take good care of Cindy."
The smile on her face was instant, and probably revealing. "I'll do my best," Lindsay promised.
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