The terrace door sighed as it opened. Meredith looked up from her work and blinked. Cecily grinned at her and slid the door closed behind her back.
“You climbed the building.” Disbelief warred with shock in Meredith’s voice.
“Well, you weren’t answering your door,” Cecily replied with an easy shrug of her shoulders.
Meredith walked to the terrace and looked out at the threatening sky and the eight story drop. “It could have rained.”
“Which would have sucked.” Cecily walked to the flat’s small kitchen and filled the electric tea kettle with water.
“You could have fallen to your death.” Meredith turned to watch Cecily making herself at home in the kitchen. “What are you doing here?”
“Making tea and cookies.”
Meredith did not know why she was standing at the door to her terrace. She didn’t have it in her to move. She should probably move. That seemed like the thing you should do when your friend broke into your apartment. “Why?”
“Because you need them.” Cecily glanced over. She’d taken chocolate chips, eggs, and butter out of the fridge and was letting them warm up as she gathered the rest of the ingredients for chocolate chip cookies.
“I don’t need tea and cookies.” Meredith drifted over to the breakfast bar and sat slowly on one of the stools.
“You don’t answer your phone, you’ve avoided having any online presence, you don’t answer email, and you didn’t open your door.” Cecily shot her a pointed look and thumped the bag of flour onto the counter decisively. “Cookies.”
Meredith rested her elbows on the counter and rested her head on her hands. She took a deep breath. “I’m going to be fine. I just need some time to sort things out. I’ve… It’s just been a rough week-”
“Meredith,” Cecily considered reaching over the counter, then walked around it and sat next to her friend. “It’s been a rough month and more.”
Meredith glanced over at her friend. Cecily met blue eyes with her brown ones and moved her left hand to her friend’s shoulder. Meredith exhaled and let her shoulders relax at the touch.
“I know what my problems are; I just don’t know what to do about them.” She dropped her eyes to the countertop. “I’ve been following everyone’s advice and none of it seems to be working. I mean, what do you do when you’ve done everything right and nothing comes of it? Does it come from me? Am I just not strong enough to handle it?”
“Life’s hard.” Cecily gave Meredith’s should a quick rub then brought her hand back to her lap. “But you know what you don’t want, that’s a start.”
“I’ve never been good at negative space. I always see both images. Right now I can’t I don’t even know what I’m looking for anymore.” Meredith sighed. “I got so tired of questions and introductions. Everyone starts with the question, what are you doing now? What are your plans? What do you want to do? And I just got sick of answering – I don’t know I don’t know all the time. It trips people up. How do you get to know someone if they don’t know where they’re going? And the people I know are just as bad. They ask if there’s change and get so confused when the answer is no and I start feeling like the dead end friend who drifts out and no one talks to because they have nothing to say.”
The kettle whistled with steam and Cecily rose. “First, I don’t know is a perfectly good answer, though not an easy one.” She selected mugs from the rack and placed them on the counter. “Second, if someone doesn’t know where they’re going, you ask about where they’ve been. Then you ask why they aren’t traveling those paths it should tell you just as much.” She took out two bags of jasmine and plopped them in the mugs. “And thirdly,” she said as she grabbed the kettle and poured. “Why do you have to know?”
Meredith tilted her head in confusion and Cecily clarified.
“Why do you have to know exactly where you’ll end up?”
“Because I don’t even have a general direction! If I could even find one single idea to fix on and carry through and make mine I could do this. I believe I could do this. All these other people walk around and they get masters degrees and friends and husbands and wives and a house on a quiet street and they get the things they want and deal with how to get there. None of my skills lead me to the ability to get there! Simply loving people, my people, does not get me any closer to paying my rent without help or hating my simple boring rote job. What’s the purpose? What am I doing? What the hell do I want?” Meredith blinked back tears.
Cecily set the mug of steeping tea in front of her friend. “You know what you want; it’s just a lot harder than you thought it would be.”
Meredith wrapped her hands around her mug and let the heat travel from her palms, through her arms, and into her heart. She closed her eyes and listened as Cecily shifted bags and started creaming the sugar and butter for chocolate chip cookies. Rain began a percussive accompaniment to the crack of eggs and the shush of flour.
“I always thought I would be good at life,” Meredith said into her tea mug.
“Finding life difficult and challenging does not make you bad at it.”
“Why are you making me cookies?”
“Because I can’t fix life for you, but I can fix you tea and cookies.”
Meredith looked up and Cecily upended a bag of chocolate chips into the bowl.
“I can tell you to think back at what made you happy before, I can tell you to visualize things that make you happy, but things are only going to change when you find the strength to face them.” Cecily ditched the spoon and dug her hands into the cookie dough for the final mix. “I am always more able to face problems with the help of a friend.” She looked down at her hands. “And being bolstered by sugar and fat has never hurt.”
Meredith finally laughed. She stood up and grabbed the spatula to scrape cookie dough off her friends hands. “You’re a nut, Cecily.”
Cecily smiled. “I’d give you a hug, but my hands are covered in cookie dough.”
“Hugs later, cookies now.”
“I’ll prep if you get the baking sheets.”
Cecily turned back to the bowl of dough.
“Oh, and Cecily?”
“Where’d you learn to free climb apartment buildings?”
“My college played massive games of Humans vs. Zombies. Corridors weren’t safe. I’m a touch competitive.”
“I’d never have guessed.”