Lily relaxed into the chair and let her glance move around the table. The remnants of a delicious meal had been pushed towards the centre, and Angie, Steph and Tash were talking animatedly about their children. This was an inevitable part of their increasingly rare get-togethers, and Lily let the words flow past her.

‘Bailey is such a sweetie. Last night he tried to give me a face massage. He said it would wipe the wrinkles off my forehead,’ Tash said.

There was a peal of laughter and Lily smiled slowly. She mightn’t have the multitude of joys that children brought her friends, but the mention of a massage reminded her of the surprise visit from Rob the previous evening. He’d given her a massage of quite a different kind. Lily’s smile widened at the thought.

‘And what about you, Lily? Are you seeing anyone?’ Ange asked.

Lily sat forward at the mention of her name. She looked around the table at the faces now turned her way. She gave them a wry grin. ‘No, not at the moment.’

Steph shook her head. ‘Don’t believe a word of it, girls. She’s got that self-satisfied look that only means one thing.’

Lily felt a quiver deep in her belly. She stood up, reaching for her phone. ‘Nothing to report, truly. It must be my round. Any special requests?’

Lily took her time at the bar, and when she made her way back to the table she was pleased to note that the conversation had moved on from her love life. It was often the way that her relationship status was a talking point on these occasional nights out, and if she wasn’t seeing someone, there was usually a suggestion for a blind date. She loved the girls, she really did, but it never ended well and it was getting harder to politely decline their offers. It was as though they didn’t believe that she could be happy if she wasn’t living a mirror image of their own lives.

As she handed round the drinks, there was a sudden lull in the conversation. When she passed Angie her drink, her friend grabbed it, drank half of it and smacked the glass down onto the table. Lily looked to Steph and Tash, but they both gave a small shake of their heads in warning. Lily sat down, the feeling of unease growing.

Ange let out a sob, covering her face with her hands. Lily gestured at Tash, but Tash shrugged her shoulders in reply. Lily softly tapped the table with her fingers in a staccato beat.

‘I just know that Rob’s seeing someone else. I mean, he denied it when I asked him straight out, but you would, wouldn’t you? He’s different, with us but not really there, disappearing at odd times. And he’s always tapping, tapping on the table or bench when I talk to him.’

Ange looked straight at Lily.

‘Tapping just like that.’

This piece was written to a prompt on the Writer’s Digest website. Holiday Tension: there’s some tension between guests at a holiday party.

Photo: circle of friends