Excerpt: 'Love You, Mean It'

Ann: I was the first one to arrive. I sat at the downstairs bar and ordered a drink to steady my nerves. My main worry, as I watched the door, was that I was going to be the odd one out in the group, the fish out of water. I'd met Julia and Pattie, so I knew that they were city girls, just like Claudia. And here I was, fresh from the suburbs, a mom with three kids. I hadn't lived in the city for years. My life right now revolved around juggling a full-time job and raising my children by myself, keeping my broken family together, not trawling the bars of Manhattan. I was wondering if I was going to fit in. Why was I worrying? This wasn't like me. Or was it? It was hard to remember anymore. To my relief I looked up and recognized Pattie coming toward me, glasses on and hair pulled back, dressed all in black.

Pattie: I was the next one to arrive. At that time, I was barely going through the motions, staying functional; I wasn't allowing myself to operate beyond the immediate demands of get up, get dressed, go to work, come home. I recognized the pretty woman with the blond hair at the bar right away. Claudia had introduced us briefly a few weeks ago. I'd been at a bar with work colleagues and Claudia and Ann happened to be sitting next to us having drinks. "Hi, remember me?" I said to Ann. She pulled me in, kissed me on my cheek. "Of course!" Over the past ten months it had been so difficult for me to connect with new people. But with Ann, right away we had an easy rapport and I sensed a willingness in myself to be honest and vulnerable. Apart from anything else, I felt relieved not to have to answer the question "How are you doing?" I never knew how to answer it and Ann didn't ask. That night, I was wearing black, as usual, not because I was following any traditional guidelines for mourning but because for me, the lights had gone out.

Julia: I know I was nervous about coming to meet everyone. I was so unhappy at the time that I often worried about how I would react in social situations. This had never been a problem for me before. In fact, not so long ago, I had a reputation for being the karaoke-party-throwing girl, a big personality wrapped up in a small frame, always ready to have fun. Although I was anxious on my way to the bar, at the same time there was also this underlying numbness about me, because by this stage, I'd pretty much given up trying to feel better. It was like I was waving the white flag. I'd surrendered. I was in a "nothing to lose" state of mind. I saw Ann and Pattie at the bar, took a deep breath, and made my way over.

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