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Dougie McHale

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The Flight of the Dragonfly

Grace is looking at a mannequin in a shop window. It is wearing a dress she has admired for over a week now. Each morning, she stops and admires the cut of the dress, and the way in which the fabric hugs the curves of the mannequin. It’s a statement. Yes, that’s what it is. Waring such a dress, Grace thinks, is a measure of one’s own confidence in who one is, it defines who you are.

She is not ready to be clothed in such refinery. It is too soon. There was a time, she would have bought the dress the minute she laid eyes on it, but not now. Back then, she was indomitable: fiercely independent, driven and resourceful. She had a propense determination to be optimistic, positive… she turns away from the shop window and sighs under her breath.

‘Grace, I thought it was you.’

Grace spins around. ‘Oh. Hello, Monica.’

Monica touches Grace’s arm. ‘Have you got time for a coffee?’

Grace checks her watch. ‘I suppose so.’

‘Good. I’m glad I bumped into you.’

Monica is in her late fifties and well presented. Her face is taught, and her skin has a polished sheen to it, a waxed complexion that reminds Grace, Monica is not averse to the surgeon’s knife. They sit outside under the shade of a parasol. The café is popular with the locals which means that the beverages and food are of a good quality.

‘Have you settled in now?’ Monica asks as she takes her smartphone from her bag and lays it on the table. She looks at it and frowns. ‘I’m expecting a call… you don’t mind I hope?’

‘Grace shakes her head. ‘No. Not at all.’

‘So, the apartment is up to scratch?’

‘Yes, I’m so lucky. There’s a few bits and bobs that need my attention, but apart from that it’s perfect.’

‘I’m glad. There’s nothing worse than moving to a place you haven’t seen. I know it’s just brick and mortar, but it’s more than that, don’t you think? It’s important to feel a sense of belonging, I feel.’

‘Yes, you’re absolutely right.  I feel an attached to it already, even though it’s just been a few weeks.’

‘Time flies, don’t you think?’

‘This past year has, that’s for sure.’

‘At least you’re rid of him.’ Monica smiles and then looks embarrassed. She glances at her phone.

Grace wonders if she is willing it to ring.  ‘Oh! thanks for the kettle.’

‘You’re welcome. I was glad to get rid of it. It was just taking up room. I had two sitting in the cupboard. God knows how I managed to acquire all those kettles. You don’t want another one, do you?’ Monica laughs.

A waiter approaches them, and they order two coffees.

‘Would you like a cake or a pastry?’ Monika asks as she scans the menu.

‘I wouldn’t know what to get. Why don’t you order for the both of us?’

Monica sets her mouth. ‘Mm… I think we’ll have a slice of Melopita and let me see… a Baklava.’

The waiter nods his head in approval before leaving them.

You’re not on a diet, I hope?’

Grace smiles. ‘Not this week, anyway. What did you just order?’

‘The Melopita is part custard, part cheesecake, it’s a Honey Pie, you’ll love it. Now, the Baklava is a classic. It’s basically Greek pastry made with flaky dough and layered with a cinnamon-spiced nut filling and sweet syrup. It’s very decadent, but it tastes like heaven. You’ll love that too. We’ll have half of each.’

Once the coffee and cakes arrive, Monica cuts the cakes into four pieces.

‘Oh my God, that’s delicious.’ Grace dabs the side of her mouth with a napkin.

‘Better than an orgasm?’

‘What is that?’

‘Has it been that long?’

Grace suddenly feels guarded, but she can tell she has caught Monica’s curiosity. She hesitates before nodding.

Monica sighs. ‘And is it important?’

‘I’m enjoying my own company. I’m comfortable with how things are.’

Monica looks at her, as if weighing up the implications of Grace’s words, then, after a pause, Monica smiles and lifts her cup to her mouth. ‘Then that’s all that matters.’ There is an awkward silence. ‘So… you’ve settled in then, that’s good.’

‘I have. I’ve surprised myself.’

‘It took me awhile. I thought I’d never be happy here. The biggest mistake of my life, I kept telling myself. Eventually, I stopped missing London. I’d never go back now. This is home. It’s been eight years now.’

‘I didn’t realise it was as long as that.’

‘Yes. Arthur’s been dead three years now, but as you know, I’m not on my own. Georgios and I are… very fond of each other.’

Grace thinks it is quite an old-fashioned word for someone like Monica to use, especially when referring to Georgios.

‘I’ll need to ask you over for dinner, Georgios as well, of course.’

‘I’d like that.’

‘Me too.’ Monica’s presence has been a comfort to Grace, in fact, she doesn’t know how she would have coped if it hadn’t been for Monica’s continued support. ‘I can’t tell you how grateful I am.’

‘We stick together. Especially in times of crisis. We muck in. I wouldn’t have it any other way.’

‘You’ve been a great support, Monica. I wouldn’t have lasted five minutes here if it wasn’t for you.’

‘Nonsense, you don’t give yourself credit enough. I’ve watched you change. You’re not the woman you were when you first came here.’

‘I suppose not,’ Grace muses. She takes a sip of her coffee. ‘But there’s days when I just don’t want to get out of bed. The thought of facing another day… it’s like… well, it’s hard, you know.’

Monica takes Grace’s hand and locks her eyes on her.

‘You’re doing just fine, believe me. I could never have done what you have. I don’t think I’ve got the courage.’

‘I just don’t feel the person you’re describing.’

‘And that’s why you need to start having a higher opinion of yourself, Grace. Stop bringing yourself down all the time. You were like that as a child.’

‘I can’t help it. It’s in my DNA, I think.’ It is a statement that is instinctive, it is her default, but all the same, the familiarity sits uncomfortable on her tongue.

Monica rolls her eyes. ‘Well, that needs to change.’

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