Somehow, this world was not right. Lou knew there was something wrong, but putting her finger on that wrong was difficult. It was as though the closer Lou got to whatever it was that was wrong, the further away it appeared to get. Each time she stopped, looked around and saw that this world was not quite right, she could see something in the periphery of her vision that maybe could explain it. If only she could reach it, but each time her mind tried reaching for this thing, it evaded her, fading out, disappearing, shifting and changing.
The world itself looked normal. If anything, it looked too normal to Lou. She had the impression it was pretending to be itself, rather than being itself. Lou knew how that would sound to anyone she told, so she kept it to herself. Her friends – the few of them that she would call her friends, rather than just people she knew – all thought Lou was a bit weird anyway.
‘Away with the fairies,’ Sue said.
‘What?’ Lou focussed on her friend across the table, trying to focus on her and drown out the rest of the sounds of the bar.
‘You, away with the fairies again.’ Sue smiled at her over the rim of her glass. She took a mouthful of the red wine. She nodded down at Lou’s untouched glass. ‘What’s the matter?’
‘Oh, nothing.’ Lou forced herself to pick up her glass and take a sip. Was wine supposed to taste like that? She’d never thought about it before. The way Sue was glancing around the Friday night crowd in the bar, what was she looking for?
‘You seem distracted.’ Sue reached across and touched the back of Lou’s hand. He fingers felt cold. ‘What’s wrong.’
‘I… I don’t know. It is just….’ Lou shrugged. She caught something out of the corner of her eye and turned. But it was just a Friday night crowd being a Friday night crowd.
‘I don’t know. Nothing seems the same anymore. ‘Lou shrugged.
‘You are getting old.’
Lou laughed and shook her head. ‘No, not that.’
Lou looked down at her hand, holding the stem of her wine glass. Did she like wine? She did not know. She knew that it was her hand, but everything beyond that, the cool smoothness of the glass, the polished table, even Sue sitting there looking at her with an expression that did not know whether to laugh or wrinkle her brow with concern, none of that seemed right.
‘It’s like….’ Lou shrugged. ‘Yes, like I’m away with the fairies, or kidnapped by aliens or something.’ It felt like a relief to say it, but only for a moment.
‘What are you saying? You’ve always been an odd one. I remember what you were like at school, staring off at the stars instead of giggling over the boys.’ Sue shook her head. ‘There’s one, a bloke over at the bar, giving you the eye.’
‘Oh, that’s the last thing I want, not now.’
‘I dunno,’ Sue glanced across towards the bar again. ‘I wouldn’t say no.’
‘You never would.’ Lou risked a smile.
‘Hey, you.’ Sue smiled back. ‘That’s more like it. I was beginning to think I’d lost you again.’
‘Well, yes. That’s why we are here tonight isn’t it?’ Sue said. ‘After all, where have you been for the last five years, disappearing off the face of the earth without a word like that?’
‘What do you mean? I’ve been here, I haven’t been anywhere.’ Lou glanced around if only to confirm she was where she thought she was.
‘No,’ Sue shook her head. ‘You’ve been gone five years, then this morning I get the call from you about going out tonight, like we did every Friday before you disappeared, as if you’d not been gone at all.’