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The Silver Lining

The Silver Lining
The small community hall was filled with pink party balloons. They crowded the ceiling and bobbed around with the movement of the cooling night air that wafted through the open doors. Briley sighed as she tied the last rubber end into a knot and fastened a matching curling ribbon to its tail. She watched the balloon float up to the ceiling and quickly merge with the rest of them. How she wanted to be one of those balloons right now. To not have to feel, or talk, or do anything…

With the last of the daylight dying outside the window, Briley caught her image in the glass, framed by the flaming sunset. Her long, dark hair, normally tied back, had been left loose, and it flowed down her back, setting off her green eyes like emeralds. She should have been happy. It was, after all, the night of her best friend’s birthday. But the lack of sparkle and the lines around her eyes told a different story. It was hard to smile while the remnants of last night’s argument clung to her. The bitter words she had exchanged with her husband echoed in her head like they had been spoken only moments ago. “Snap out of it,” Libby said from behind her. Her green taffeta skirt rustled and her heels clicked on the wooden floor boards as she dropped platefuls of chips and peanuts onto the glitter-laden tables.

“I’m trying,” she answered. The corners of her mouth curled up as she wiped a smudge of mascara from under her eye, but it was apparently not enough to convince her best friend’s mother she was okay.

The older woman sighed and gave her a look of sympathy. “Juliana will be here soon, and if you look like that, she’ll be miserable too.”

Briley gave a genuine smile. She knew Libby’s harsh words were meant with the best of intentions. “Yes, mother. We wouldn’t want to upset Juliana now, would we?”

Libby gave her arm a quick squeeze as she passed. “Honey, I’m sure you and Mark will work things out. You always do.” Briley watched her disappear back into the tiny practical kitchen. You always do. The words stung more than she thought they would. That was the problem. Everybody knew they fought, it was simple common knowledge. They always fought. They always had. Her friends were a mixed bunch of single, dating or married, but they had one thing in common. They were all content. Briley couldn’t remember the last time thinking of Mark had made her feel that way.

“Libby, do you really think so?” She walked back to the kitchen with the scissors and dropped them into a wide drawer full of old utensils in varying states of disrepair.

Libby gave her a look of concern, her eyes rimmed with lines of wisdom and experience. “Oh, dear, you don’t sound so sure yourself. Are things with Mark really that bad?” She took a large stainless steel bowl out of an old scarred cupboard and put it on the bench. Briley reached for a bottle of cream and popped the lid, anticipating Libby’s next move. She poured the thick liquid into the bowl and picked up the beater.

“If it wasn’t for Sam, I think I’d be long gone,” she confessed. Libby made a disapproving clucking sound with her pursed mouth. “That’s not a good enough reason to stay in a marriage, Briley. That daughter of yours will be just as happy seeing her father at the weekends.” She pointed a bony, ringed finger. “Better than to have the two of you fighting all the time. Look at you – you’re miserable and it shows. You’d be a better mother to Samantha if you were a happy one.”

Briley shrugged. “I guess.”

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