“Friends and Lovers”….chapter 22

The school term proceeded as it always did, and Meg half expected she would begin to feel motivated as soon as lessons really got underway. But as the weeks passed she still felt herself struggling to be inspired. And each morning she had to mentally fortify herself to face the challenge each day. The uneasy shadow of the last term of the previous year seemed to follow her, all the discord and upheaval echoed in the heaviness she felt. The after hours preparation time never seemed to leave her with enough time or energy for her writing anymore, which only added to her frustration.

Her only reprieve was the time she spent with Jo and Max, and now with Jonah also. She thought of nothing else when she was with them. It had become a regular Friday night fixture at Jo’s, beginning with a long relaxed dinner and drinks, that always went well into the evening. Then on Saturday night they would all go out for dinner, and then maybe a movie or some live music. Meg celebrated her good fortune, to have such friends, wondering how she ever lived without their company and support. It was these times she recognized how much she had changed, wondering how she had relinquished her happiness for all those years with Sam. Then one Friday night, Jonah asked her if she would like to go out with him the following evening.

“We’re all going to the pictures aren’t we?” Meg said, unaware of the subtle change in his demeanour.

“No, I meant just you and me,” he explained, smiling at the surprise on her face. “Surely you’re not that surprised that I asked?” he said with a gentle good humor.

Meg shifted shyly in her seat. “No…I mean ,…yes. I mean, yes, I’d love to,” she answered finally, feeling herself blush.

“Good,” said Jonah, and they both gradually settled back into their usual easy companionship, although they caught eachother in covert glances now and then through the evening. That night Meg went to bed with the fluttering of a fledgeling hope and contentment deep inside, that was so new she didn’t quite know how to respond to it. 

The following evening they had intended to take in a movie after dinner, but dinner went overtime, lost to conversation, laughter, even tears. They had dined by the bay, not far from the inner city, and walked along the esplanade, taking in the beauty of the city lights on the water. Jonah held her close to his side, his arm around her shoulder, and it felt natural to Meg to slip her arm around his waist. She felt protected, and strangely innocent, cradled against his large warm frame. Their was a sense of quietude she had never experienced with Sam, or even Luke; a deep stirring that was beyond just the physical. Meg didn’t want to spoil the growing bond between them by embarking upon a physical relationship, but the thought of it was a spreading warmth beginning in the pit of her stomach, radiating to the tips of her fingers and toes. Both of them were happy to warm themselves at this slow burning fire, enjoying the simmering desire. At the end of the evening , Jonah turned her in his arms, and kissed her cheek softly before wishing her a goodnight.

Each weekend they spent one night with Jo and Max, and the other on their own, and Meg relished the gentle escalation of her attachment. With Luke it had been a craving that seared the flesh, and denied her any peace. But the warmth she felt when she was with Jonah, could wait for the right time, for a lifetime, yet not diminish. This feeling didn’t eat her very soul, but only nourished it; a peaceful passion that seemed to offer her a certainty she’d never known, and didn’t want to hurry.

The end of the first term at school was drawing near, but as the happiness in her private life grew, so did her dissatisfaction with her job. Meg found she was looking forward to the break with a mounting frustration that she knew she would have to address sooner or later. She inevitably shared her growing restlessness and concern with her friend.

“It just doesn’t feel the same anymore Jo,” Meg confided. “I’m at a crossroad, and I don’t know how to resolve it,” she said, feeling her peace slowly retreating, and a distant panic advancing. “It feels like the last vestige of my old life chafing me,” she said with a frown.

Jo clasped Meg’s hands, and looked in earnest at her friend. “What do you WANT to do Meg?” she asked. “Not what you think you should do, but what you really would do if you had no other considerations,” she added, encouraging Meg with a smile.

Meg held Jo’s gaze for a long moment, and knew with an inner assurance exactly what she wanted. “I want to write Jo. I want to write my stories,” she answered. She felt an instant sense of relief, just from the act of sharing her dream; a dream she always felt unworthy of, and dared not hope for. “But… it’s impossible,” Meg continued, feeling the dream begin its inevitable retreat.

“Why Meg?!” Jo asked indignantly. “Why should it be impossible? You’re a very gifted writer.”

Meg smiled at Jo’s unfailing support. “I need to make a living Jo,” she said, the discouragement evident in her voice. “Rent, bills; it’s hard on your own,” she added. “Oh, listen to me, I sound pathetic! It’s just that I’m not happy at work Jo, and it’s sapping all inspiration, or motivation I might have. And I just don’t have the time,” she concluded, the anger growing at her own feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.

Jo was looking at her intently, and Meg could almost hear the cogs turning. She smiled at her obvious concern. “It’s not your problem Jo,” Meg said quietly. “I’m sorry to dump all that on you.” Meg was surprised to see the anger flash across Jo’s eyes.

“Of course it’s my problem Meg!” she said firmly. “You’re my friend, and I love you.” Jo held Meg at arms length. “Now, I’m going to say a few things, and I just want you to listen and think about it,” she said, taking a deep breath before she began. “Since Luke’s been gone, that studio has been standing empty. It’s self-contained, and very comfortable,” she said, as if ticking off a list. “It’s yours for as long as you want it….rent free of course.”

Jo paused as if expecting Meg to interrupt, but she merely stared in disbelief, so Jo continued. “The tea room in the shop has increased trade more than I could have hoped for, but it has eaten into the time I used to spend going out to source new stock, and do the books,” she said with a little frown. “You’d be only working part time; a few days a week, but it would keep you while you pursued your writing,” she concluded, looking expectantly at Meg, who still looked unable to process all she was hearing.

“This isn’t charity Meg. It’s something I want to do for a friend. You would be helping me too…. you’re wonderful in the shop, and I trust you implicitly,” Jo continued. “You’ve got to admit, it’s a great idea?” she said with a smile, the old optimistic, enthusiastic Jo returning with a vengeance.

Meg began to feel the excitement take hold, the possibility of all Jo was offering gradually taking root in her imagination. “Do you really think it could work Jo? Are you sure about all this?” Meg asked with a tentative excitement.

“Yes Meg! Look at it, a job, a place to live, no monetary pressures, and the time to write. It’s a perfect solution!” she enthused, grasping Meg’s hand tightly.

Meg instinctively went in search of the negative, but was surprised at the strength of her own determination not to give in to her old thought patterns. “It is, isn’t it? Oh Jo, I can hardly believe it. It’s all too simple, too easy. I’m scared and excited all at once!” Meg replied breathlessly.

The laughter bubbled to the surface, as if they had just discovered a pot of gold in an all too obvious place, and the two women danced with unharnessed joy around the living room. Meg felt nervous as she shared her plan with Jonah, worried he might discover the obvious flaw that she must have overlooked.

“We’ve talked about it a lot,” said Meg. “And me being….well, me,….I’ve even decided to use a bit of a safety net, and take the long service leave I’m owed before I actually resign,” she concluded, confident she had not burnt any bridges.

“I think it’s brilliant,” said Jonah immediately, his light blue eyes shining with admiration and affection. “Life’s too short, too precious, to waste it not doing what you love,” he said, and took her in a gentle bear hug, Meg lost in the broad expanse of his chest. “Go for it Meg,” he whispered into her hair. She looked up at him, and in that instant she believed in complete happiness.

“I feel very brave!” she said, with a shy smile.

“My intrepid lady,” he said quietly, his blue eyes full of passionate intent. Meg quivered, feeling the restrained power of his arms as he held her. That night they gave eachother permission to kiss as they never had before, and the slow desire that had warmed her from the inside, made its way inexorably to the surface. He left her with that kiss, and her body glowing with a warmth and a promise she feared she may never learn to live without. She also realized the reticence was not just on her part. Jonah was holding back also, not willing to cross that line yet, although leaving her with the distinct impression of so much more to come.

Meg finished up at school and moved into the studio after giving a few weeks notice, the belief she had made the right decision evident from the moment she took the first steps. Jonah and Max helped her shift, storing a lot of her furniture in her mother’s garage. Joan was inevitably displeased with Meg’s decision.

“Rash and immature,” she had called it. “Writers never make any money!” she had spat when she was unable to change Meg’s mind. Still determined to show her disapproval, Joan barely uttered a clipped hello when Meg introduced Max and Jonah.

“Which is the single one?” she asked with abrasive abruptness. Meg glared at her mother in embarrassed disbelief.

“That would be me,” said Jonah, a glint of humor in his eyes, and kissed Meg soundly just to prove it. Joan gasped in horror, then turned on her heel and marched back into the house.

“Looks like a damn viking!” she muttered in shocked disapproval.

Meg punched Jonah in mock affront, until she was unable to hold back a smile, then all three of them tried in vain to stifle their laughter. That night Meg was overtired, unable to fall asleep in her new bed, her thoughts full of Jonah, wondering what it would feel like to sleep in his arms.

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