Best Kind of Pain Ch. 01

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Elly wished she’d bought a nicer outfit to wear. Not that she could afford it. Wearing all black seemed overly dramatic. Wearing some nylons might have helped. A pair of women wearing floor length dresses in sensible shades of navy and gray walked up the steps and passed by with a sweep of their eyes going over Elly. Taking a deep breath, she tugged down her creased knee length skirt that she’d unearthed from the depths of her closet, walked through the banded wooden doors and into the small church.

She was immediately hit by the musty smell of the old chapel, and the many huddled bodies crammed into it. There were a few faces that could be relatives of Joan’s, but no one else she recognized from their support group, which didn’t really matter since she wasn’t interested in making small talk with anyone. She made her way through the crowd and quickly found a seat on the pew in the very back of the room, with no one else seated in the row so she could be left alone until the service began. Elly would pay her respects and then get the hell out of there.

Music began quietly playing from a speaker and the rest of the attendees started to sit down. The rows nearest the front filled up rapidly, cascading more people to the outlying seats. Elly scooted further down to the end of her pew, closer to the windows, to allow more people to sit. Trying to retain as much space as possible between her and the others, she placed her folded up umbrella right beside her on the seat of the pew, saying nothing as the row filled up with chattier people.

The music stopped and a man came up to the lectern and started to speak. Elly was trying to calm herself, trying to ignore the occasional sniffles she was hearing, trying to ignore the man who glanced over his shoulder at her with a skeptical gaze. Just as a choir started to sing, and Elly was internally praising herself for managing to keep the spot beside her empty, a woman’s voice whispered lowly to her.

“May I take this seat?” she asked with a smooth accent, gesturing to the space reserved by the umbrella.

Elly nodded her head, grabbing her umbrella and the woman deftly slid past her and sat down right beside her. So much for having space to herself. The woman was dressed in a trim black suit that was paired with tall high heels. Elly admired the expensive looking heels in a glossy black with a bright red sole as the woman crossed her long legs. She picked up the hymn book as the rest of the parishioners did, sending a waft of some musky perfume into the air as she moved. Elly tried not to be annoyed by the closeness of another human being, and instead be distracted by the features of her new seat mate.

The song ended and the pastor or priest or whatever he was called started speaking again, lecturing everyone about love and forgiveness and how God would show you his will. Elly was thinking how ironically God showed you his will- make a good friend, establish a bond, and then they get kicked off the planet by fucking cancer. Elly was tired of God’s cruel and arbitrary will, and for some reason Joan’s sassy voice popped in her head quoting a sarcastic comment she’d have probably said during the long winded oration. And for some other strange reason, Elly laughed. Just a quiet chuckle to herself, something she did when things got too uncomfortable, a strange tickle in her soul at beylikdüzü escort the hint of despair.

The woman beside her noticed, turning her head ever so slightly. Elly put her hands over her mouth, finding the laughter inside her wasn’t going to stop. Making it worse the pastor/priest guy was yelling an emphatic and showy ‘hallelujah’ which cracked her up even more.

Elly quickly got up from the pew, trying to keep her hand over her mouth, and dropped her umbrella on the floor with a clatter. She darted out of the wooden doors and stumbled out on the stone steps trying to stifle her inappropriate giggling. The gray sky was sending down a sobering drizzle when she escaped, a soothing misery in the cool air. Still attempting to calm herself with deep breaths, Elly was nudged forward when the door behind her opened up. The scent of her perfume emerged first, warm cinnamon and berries followed by the woman who’d taken her umbrella’s place.

The woman smiled politely at Elly, her high cheekbones dimpling in attractively. “You dropped your umbrella.”

She extended the pink and purple patterned monstrosity that belonged to Elly with a perfectly manicured hand tipped with dark red nails that were a shapely length but not ridiculously long. A gorgeous ring with a stone of clear blue adorned one of the fingers in the most tasteful way. Looking up to reply, Elly had never seen a woman so completely polished and put together who wasn’t in a magazine.

“Thanks,” she replied, taking the umbrella.

The woman studied Elly for a moment, her soft brown eyes curious. “It was a rather…pompous service, wasn’t it?”

“Yes,” Elly exhaled with relief. “It was kind of unbearable.”

“Joan would not have enjoyed it,” the woman remarked with her crimson smile.

“Oh she totally would have made fun of him,” Elly added.

“My name is Vivian,” the woman said, extending her red tipped fingers to shake. “Joan was a very dear friend of mine.”

“I’m Elly,” she replied, trying to shake as elegantly as the woman did. “I knew Joan from a… support group we both belonged to.”

Vivian nodded politely, “She was always at her best helping others.”

Elly had been about to reply when the rainy drizzle suddenly turned into a downpour. She clumsily opened up her umbrella, nearly hitting Vivian in the head with it. Instead of annoyance or panic at the rain, Vivian laughed in a tinkling way that was almost surreal. Vivian gazed out at the street watching the other pedestrians scramble for cover, then turned to Elly.

“Would you perhaps be interested in going for a coffee, or tea, to remember our Joan in a more, fitting way?”

Elly was nervous to expose her incredibly un-cultured lower Bronx self to someone as cultured and clearly in a higher income tax bracket as Vivian, but she also didn’t want to go back to her depressing apartment and even more depressing husband yet.


Vivian hailed a cab for them, in the most refined way possible, and directed the cabbie to take them to a nicely understated café a few blocks north. Elly ordered decaf, already feeling anxious enough without caffeine, while Vivian ordered a black tea with cream on the side.

Sitting across from each other at a small round table, Elly tried to very carefully drink her coffee from the wobbly table top while Vivian unbuttoned the black avcılar escort suit jacket dampened by rain. Her undoubtedly real silk blouse in a shade of dusky lavender sporadically revealed the lacy bra she wore underneath it, but rather than look tacky, she remained the picture of elegance as she stirred creamer into her coffee. Setting her spoon down on the table top, she looked at Elly, patiently waiting to see which of them would speak first. Elly took a shaky sip of her decaf, and hoped Vivian would take the lead.

“I met Joan, when I first came to this country, many years ago,” she started in her lush accent, “she and I were both working in the same field, and both of us being dissatisfied with the way we were treated- and paid- went on to other careers.”

“Joan had a salon, or was it two? I thought she co-owned another one with her daughter,” Elly wondered aloud. “What did she do before she was a hair stylist?”

“Modeling,” Vivian answered. Suddenly the impeccable outfit, perfectly coiffed hair, paired with her face like a painting all made sense.

“You were both models?” Elly asked, and Vivian answered with a nod. “I had no idea Joan was…but she totally could have been. She had this great smile, even when she was trying to not to lose her shi-“

Elly stopped herself from swearing, trying to be a tad classier. Vivian however, looked amused at her verbal faux pas.

“She did indeed have a beautiful smile, even when she was angry or as you said, losing her shit,” she added with a little smirk. If Elly didn’t want to seem tacky, Vivian didn’t want to seem stuffy.

“What do you do now?” Elly asked.

“Photography,” she answered, pushing a strand of her deep black hair over an ear. “I have a studio uptown.”

“Oh cool,” Elly remarked.

“It is a very fulfilling profession but I regret that Joan’s passing came just in our busiest season, and I missed the last chance to see her before she died,” she stated, her dark lashes looking down at the table.

“I didn’t see her either,” Elly admitted. “I talked to her on the phone, but I just couldn’t stomach going and see her…not be her.”

Vivian gazed at her sympathetically. “You were at least honest to the reason. Instead of my very convenient excuse.”

Elly chuckled mirthlessly. “Nobody wants to see death in the flesh. Even when it’s our friend.”

Vivian was studying her again, her brown eyes making Elly feel a little warm in the mostly empty café. “How did you meet our Joan then, at this support group?”

Elly took a deep breath, chuckling anxiously. “It’s a funny thing, kind of, depending on what you think is funny.”

She went into recounting the story of meeting Joan, trying to abridge it when it warranted it, while Vivian listened patiently with what seemed genuine interest.

Elly had been told by her therapist to try a support group. She thought Elly would get catharsis talking with fellow survivors, and after finally summoning the courage to actually go, Elly immediately cringed the moment she sat down. A circle of women sitting in a banal white room, each of them a member of a not-very exclusive club. Each meeting ended with mixed results. Sometimes Elly got to speak and felt affirmed by the stoic faces nodding at her silently in agreement, while other times she had to watch another woman mournfully retell the excruciating details.

One esenyurt escort night she went to the bathroom during the group meeting, vigorously slamming the door to the stall closed when she heard another woman sigh loudly. When Elly emerged she locked eyes with a black woman washing her hands at the sink.

“Kind of makes you want to slit your throat listening to it,” she flatly joked with a drawling voice.

“Uh, yeah,” Elly snorted.

“It’s always the young ones that need to rehash it, get it all out. But lord it’s hard to sit through.”

“According to therapeutic authorities, isn’t that what we need?” Elly said as she scrubbed her hands.

“I only have so much time in a day for my own misery,” the woman quipped sarcastically.

“Yes, but at least this misery comes free of charge, unlike my therapist,” Elly replied, garnering a knowing chuckle from the woman.

“I’m Joan,” she said offering her just toweled off hand to Elly. “Survivor of pervert uncle and one asshole of an ex-husband.”

“I’m Elly, survivor of charming boy no one suspected. Nice to meet you,” she replied with a shake.

Joan gave her a knowing smile. “It’s always the frickin’ cute ones.”

They quickly became friends, able to joke and crack each other up when things got too maudlin with the other woman in the group, until eventually they just met privately outside of group to talk and share. Joan was probably a few decades older than Elly and had worlds of experience with abusive men. She’d left her brutish ex-husband in the middle of the night and lived in her car, picking herself up from the ashes without help from anyone else. Joan started her own business and raised three kids on her own. She told Elly to not apologize for herself so much, and gave her the best advice that no group therapy had ever provided.

When Joan revealed to Elly she was starting chemo treatments for breast cancer, she joked her boobies were too perfect, and god wanted them back. Ten months after Elly’s wedding to Tony, Joan lost her battle with cancer. Elly had cried all night after seeing the post on social media announcing her death. It wasn’t even the closest friendship Elly had ever held, but she had never felt so understood and seen by someone that epitomized the type of person she’d like to be: generous, brave, honest. A woman that had lived her life true to herself.

Vivian listened silently, moved enough to take a deep, shuddering breath when Elly finished.

“I really miss her jokes, and her laugh,” Elly said with a contained sniffle.

“She had a most splendid laugh,” Vivian agreed, gazing across the room before a quiet chirp from her phone brought her back to the present.

“I apologize I must be going or I will miss an appointment,” she said putting her well-tailored black suit jacket back on, “But I should like to reminisce more, perhaps another time?”

Elly stood up as well, trying not to spill her faux coffee. “Uh sure, we can reminisce or not reminisce.”

Vivian gave her another broad smile, her brown eyes twinkling in their own dazzling way. “I would like that.”

She handed Elly a business card, “It was very good to meet you Elly, and to remember our Joan.”

“Same here,” Elly quipped, watching as Vivian stepped away from the table.

She moved across the room in mysterious affect, walking slowly in the ridiculously high heels, her black skirt clinging to her shapely hips. The moment she left the café, Elly felt like she’d gone back to her usual reality of boring, ugly people- including herself.

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