“Big girls don’t cry, eh?” Marti said, looking sideways at her best friend, Tara, who was sitting still as a statue and quivering.
Tara glanced back at Marti and angrily dashed a tear off her face. Tara spent a great deal of time concerned with appearances. Not necessarily the details related to make-up, coordinated clothing and perfectly manicured nails, but the ones related to performance and success and what Marti thought of as the British “stiff upper lip” her great-grandmother had referred to with nauseatingly regularity during Marti’s tumultuous teen years.
“Well, and who says that, I ask you? I think big girls do cry. A lot.” Marti quirked an eyebrow at Tara. “I certainly do. None the worse for wear,” she added cheerfully. A small muscle was jumping like a tick on hot concrete in Tara’s cheek. Well, good, Marti thought – maybe I am getting through to her.
“You know, I read the other day that tears are a natural cleansing system for tear ducts, raw nerves, stress reduction . . . and I swear it leads to weight loss. Who knew how much tears could weigh?” Marti was just slightly plump, comfortable with her weight. She knew Tara constantly agonized over the fit of her favorite pair of jeans, although her friend was quite slender.
“How much tears weigh?” Tara whispered softly. “How much they weigh?” She looked at Marti. “Is that what the problem is? Do you suppose they have somehow frozen solid into a lump of ice inside me? Do you know what Dan said? He told me I was cold, frigid, an ‘Ice Queen’ – he left because I don’t show him enough emotion! For God’s sake, Marti – just last year he told me I showed too much emotion and he was going to leave me then, too!”
Marti laid a hand softly on her best friend’s shoulder. “Tara,” she said gently. “Dan will always find a reason to criticize or mock you. Let go of your pipe dream that you can make him happy by dancing to the tune he sets for you. You are wonderful, just the way you are. You deserve someone who loves you for you.”
Marti sighed and wondered for hundredth time just what it was about Dan that kept Tara so firmly tied to his side. He didn’t physically hurt Tara in any way, and he didn’t control her through fear or rages. It was far more insidious . . . and as far as Marti was concerned, far more damaging. A bruise or something broken would be physical evidence. This internal damage to Tara’s psyche could not be held up and apart as proof that the man was really no good for Tara.
Tara gave a small gasp and abruptly stood up. “I have to go,” she said, frantically reaching for her coat and handbag. “If I can just get to him before he finishes packing, I can make it right. I can’t lose him, Marti, I can’t. He’s everything to me.” Tara looked at Marti, and Marti had a sudden vision of someone drowning, looking up through rapidly thickening ice. Marti swallowed convulsively and shook her head.
“Tara,” she said, “let it be. He’s just trying to create reasons to leave on his terms, and pin the fault on you. Let it be.” Marti held her hand out to Tara, who suddenly smiled brilliantly through the brimming tears.
“You are the best friend in the entire world, Marti,” Tara said, holding Marti’s hand briefly in her own. “You always listen and love me, no matter what.” Tara grasped her purse and coat tightly under her left arm, only the sudden showing of finger and knuckle bones against tightly drawn flesh betraying her tension and anxiety.
“I’ll call you tomorrow. Love you,” Tara added and hurried from the room.
“Well,” Marti mused as she watched her friend walk off, with perfect posture and hair swinging over her shoulders. “Big girls really don’t cry. And if that’s the result, I’m glad to be such a cry-baby.” Marti picked up her gardening trowel and started loosening soil around her spent irises. The afternoon was ahead, filled with what she liked to do best – even if it led to less than perfect nails.