by Rae Cod
‘What do you mean you lost the baby?’ asked Alicia, her wide eyes begging Charmaine to get to the punchline.
‘I popped it down right there,’ shrugged Charmaine, pointing at a spot on an oversized sofa, ‘while I ordered a smoothie, by the time I’d turned around it was gone.’ She took a slurp of her drink and eyed Alicia warily.
‘Well, it’s not like it could’ve wandered off on its own, is it?!’ cried Alicia.
Charmaine suddenly found something interesting on the toe of her shoe.
‘Ohmygodohmygodohmygod…we lost a baby, we are in SO MUCH TROUBLE!’
Charmaine patted Alicia’s shoulder consolingly.
‘It’ll turn up, probably just some idiot’s idea of a prank. Smoothie?’ she proffered the cardboard cup towards Alicia but lowered it gingerly as Alicia’s carefully manicured eyebrows hit her hairline.
‘How can you be so calm about this, Charmaine?’ she asked, wringing her hands, ‘I think I’m going to be sick.’
‘Yeah, course, but it’s not like…’
Alicia glared at her and Charmaine stopped that train of thought mid tracks, doing her best to look contrite, but she was having a hard time taking this seriously. Her mind began to wander as she slurped her smoothie, wondering what her Mum was cooking for dinner later.
Alicia was doing the rounds in the café, frantically looking under every chair and table. Charmaine flopped down on the sofa to finish her smoothie.
‘Does this belong to anyone?’ asked a man walking into the cafe. A little brown dog with scruffy fur trotted along behind him, looking chastened and forlorn. In his right hand, the man held aloft what sounded like an extremely unhappy baby, its piercing cries reverberating around the café.
‘Us!’ shouted Alicia scrambled to her feet so fast she nearly knocked herself out on a table.
‘Sorry love, my dog grabbed it and ran off down the street, only just managed to get it back.’ He looked at it uncomfortably, unsure what to do with it, before passing it to Alicia, who took it as gently as if it were made of china and cradled it, swaying and cooing until the cries subsided.
‘Bit old to be playing with dolls, aren’t you girls?’ he asked, eying their blazers and ties.
‘It’s not a doll,’ said Alicia, ‘it’s a baby simulator. For our childcare class. It was very expensive. Thank you for returning it. Maybe keep a better eye on your dog next time so he doesn’t run off with people’s babies.’
The man raised his eyebrows and muttered something under his breath as he gathered his dog and left.
Alicia rounded angrily on Charmaine.
‘You were no help!’
Charmaine didn’t rise to the bait, casually sipping her drink, which only served to enrage Alicia, her fists balled and her left eye began to twitch ever so slightly like it did around exam time.
‘I’ve had it with you, Charmaine! You never take anything seriously. If we’d lost this doll, we’d be getting an F, not to mention how much we’d have to fork out to replace it!’
‘I thought it was a baby simulator, not a doll.’
‘That’s it!’ shouted Alicia, her voice coming out in a strangled screech as she remembered all those times she’d helped Charmaine with her homework so she wouldn’t get detention, covered for her when she was meeting up with some boy, lent her makeup and clothes which she never got back, the list totted up like a supermarket sweep till roll.
‘We’re done, Charmaine! You’re so laid back that I’m surprised you can stand upright and I’m fed up of being the one who props you up all the time. I can’t be friends with you anymore.’
And with that, Alicia clasped the baby simulator to her chest and strode out of the café with as much dignity as she could muster.
Charmaine, meanwhile, continued to slurp on her smoothie.
‘Geez,’ she muttered to herself, as she remembered all the times Alicia had got mad with her before; when she’d insisted Charmaine copy her homework so she wouldn’t get told off in class then expected her to be eternally grateful, the times she’d covered for her (unasked) when she was going out with Daniel then acted like she deserved the best friend of the year award, and all those cast-off clothes and makeup she’d given her like she was some kind of charity case, now she was ending their so-called friendship over a stupid doll.
‘Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater,’ muttered Charmaine, and went to order another smoothie.