“Betty?.... Kate?” Gladys called out cautiously as she knocked and stepped into the foyer of the small two-bedroom house. She held her breath and waited for a response from within the quiet home.
“In here!” Betty’s voice called out from the kitchen.
“Oh lovely, the kitchen again,” Gladys muttered, slinking her way towards the back of the house.
With one hand to open the swinging door and the other to cover her eyes, she timidly stepped into the room. Betty was sitting at the kitchen table with a newspaper stretched opened in front of her and a cup of steaming coffee sitting on the table beside her.
“Oh good, you’re dressed,” Gladys sighed with relief, peeping through her fingers.
“Of course I’m dressed,” Betty snorted from behind the paper. “It’s four in the afternoon. What kind of cad do you think I am?”
“Right, because only cads wouldn’t be dressed at this hour.”
After a beat of silence, Betty pulled the corner of her newspaper down to see Gladys standing nervously in the middle of the room, ringing her hands awkwardly in front of her, a stance she wasn’t use to seeing the heiresses hold.
“You want some coffee to go along with those jitters?” Betty said with an amused smile.
“What? Oh,” Gladys laughed anxiously, turning to see the kettle on the stove. “No, I better not. I wont sleep a wink otherwise.”
“Suit yourself then,” Betty shrugged, going back to the newspaper.
“So what are you doing?”
“Playing checkers,” Betty teased from the other side of her newspaper. “What does it look like I’m doing?”
“No, you goof, I mean today,” Gladys laughed genuinely this time, beginning to relax a little. “What are you doing today?”
“Just taking it easy. You know how Sunday afternoons go. Lazy today, overtime tomorrow.”
“Oh, sure. And how’s our little starlet settling in?”
“Nicely, I would say. I’m just trying to make things as enjoyable as I can while she’s here.”
“I bet you are,” Gladys snorted.
The corner of the newspaper lowered again as Betty looked over it with a raised eyebrow.
“Maybe I will have that cup of Joe. Who needs sleep these days?” Gladys sputtered, turning away from the questioning look to reach for a cup out of the cabinet above the stove.
“So Princess, what brings you to our neck of the woods today?” Betty questioned, folding the newspaper up and placing it on the table beside her.
“Nothing, a girl can come visit her two best friends, can’t she?” Gladys answered with a hint of annoyance creeping into her tone. When she turned back, she looked around the room. “…Wait, where is Kate?”
“Rehearsals. As always, real life follows close behind.”
“When does the tour start back up?”
“The train pulls out Thursday afternoon,” Betty sighed out, her shoulders slumped at the idea.
“Well, in that case, we should make the time count while we still can. We could go out tonight, maybe go to the Sandy Shores, we haven’t been there in ages.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Betty tried, straightening the newspaper on the table. “I think Kate and I were hoping for a quiet night in. Maybe cook a nice dinner and call it an early night.”
“Again? That’s all she’s done since she arrived a week ago,” Gladys replied sharply, letting the cup of coffee land heavily on the table.
“She’s been on the road for the past 7 months. She only gets two weeks off, lets cut her some slack if she wants a little peace and quiet while she can get it.”
“Oh, I’m sure she’s getting plenty of that here.”
“Alright, that’s it,” Betty’s arms were now folded as she matched Gladys’ annoyed glare. “You’ve obviously either rolled your hair too tightly last night or you’ve got something going on in that pretty little head of yours, so out with it already.”
“It’s just … I know about you and Kate!” Gladys blurted out in one breath. “And… and I just think you could share her a little with others while she’s home. She only has two weeks off and the other people in her life might like to see her too, you know! So stop being such a Kate hog!”
Betty stared at her with a slack jaw. Silence fell between them as Gladys’ outburst sunk in. Suddenly, they both felt the wave of awkwardness roll in.
“You know about me and Kate?” Betty croaked out, blinking at her in surprise.
Gladys nodded as she perched her lips and pulled out a kitchen chair for herself. “Last Sunday afternoon, I came by to see if Kate wanted to do something since she’d been MIA since arriving two days before. I tried knocking on the front door, but nobody came. I knew you were both home, I could hear the radio inside, so I came around to the back door, I just figured you were both in the kitchen and couldn’t hear me…”
“…Last Sunday?” Betty whispered as her eyes began to widen with realization.
“Well,” Gladys sputtered on, pointing towards the window behind them. “…She was… and you were…” Her hands flailed around trying to describe what she couldn’t put into words, but suddenly she stopped and looked at them. “Oh, goodness, the hands…” Gladys finished covering her eyes in embarrassment.
“What the hell, Witham! What were you doing sneaking around in the damn bushes?!” Betty asked incredulously, her face burning bright red.
“Hey, Picasso, don’t even try to paint it that way! There was no sneaking. After the shock to the system, I ruined a perfectly lovely pair of stockings trying to get away, so how about closing your damn curtains from time to time! Besides, it’s not like I was hoping to discover that dexterity is your forte!”
“Okay, see, hearing that again won’t help the forgetting process,” Gladys quipped, pressing her lips together to keep from laughing.
Betty covered her mouth half in embarrassment, half in the effort to keep from laughing.
“I can’t believe you saw that. Our friendship has taken a turn.”
“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me about you and Kate. You know I’m over the moon for you both. When did it happen?”
Betty bit her lip as if she were debating her options. Finally, she blew out a nervous breath and gave Gladys a small smile. “Remember two months ago when I took the train to visit Kate in Ottawa?”
“Two months ago??” Gladys scoffed with a light shove to Betty’s shoulder. “You dingo, it happened two months ago and you didn’t tell me?!”
“When have I ever given you the impression that I was the kind of gal to gab about this kind of thing?”
“Hmmm, true, Kate has always been the one I go to for my girl talk, which is why I miss her so.”
Betty watched as the pair of eyes across from her dimmed.
“You really think I’m being a Kate hog?”
“It’s not like you don’t have good reason for it, I guess. It’s just, I miss her… and you… and us. We haven’t been just an ‘us’ in a very long time and that’s a bloody shame. Does that make any sense?”
“Princess, I stopped trying to make sense of you long ago,” Betty smiled; thankful they were falling back to their usual retort.
“She was the first friend I made at VicMu, the first person who gave me a chance. And in time, we became a unit, the three of us, I mean. Before she went off on tour and I went to Europe and you went to that place no one ever talks about anymore… we use to be so close, you know?”
“Yeah, I do,” Betty smiled softly. After a moment of relaxed silence, she added, “You do know we can never speak of this little story of yours ever again, especially to Kate, right?”
“Oh, heck, no. I’d rather swallow rocks than have that conversation with sweet angelic Kate.”
As if on cue, they heard the front door open and close.
“Betty, I’m home!” Kate called out as she made her way through the house. “Boy, could I ever get use to that statement.”
She had an arm full of grocery bags and paused in the doorway when she saw both Betty and Gladys sitting at the kitchen table.
“Oh, Gladys,” She smiled. “What a lovely surprise. What are you doing here?”
“Just trading stories of recent adventures,” Betty answered for her, smirking at Gladys knowingly. “She’ll be staying for dinner.”
“I am?” Gladys asked in surprise.
“Yeah, of course, how else are we supposed to catch up?” Betty simply shrugged. “We’re a unit, right?”
Gladys’ smile lit up the room while Kate placed the bags down on the counter behind her.
“Good, it’s settle then!” Kate said excitedly, pulling Gladys up by the hand. “Come on, you can fill me in on all your adventures while we start dinner.”
As Kate pulled Gladys towards her, Betty watched the two friends fall back into place. Sighing happily, she reached over and snapped the newspaper opened again, content as the sounds of her two friends laughter filled the room.
“Tonight, dinner. Tomorrow, curtains shopping,” Betty announced cheekily from behind her newspaper. “…Apparently, Vera isn’t completely wrong, good curtains do make the home.”
Gladys could only laugh as Kate looked between both with a curious smile.
The three friends couldn’t go back to how things use to be, before the war and life intervened, but then again, they couldn’t leave it completely behind either. That night they found their way back to each other again.