Fandom: When Harry Met Sally
Rating: PG-13, warning for character death
Summary: Five moments in Sally and Marie’s friendship.
Notes: This has been knocking around in my head all day. And I'm sorry.
“The day you have to give the eulogy at your mother’s funeral, you have a perfectly good reason not to wear mascara.”
This was Marie’s sage advice to a quivering-lipped Sally, as they stood in Sally’s childhood bedroom, trying to get dressed for said funeral.
They hadn’t been friends very long, but had taken to each other, struggling Midwestern transplants in the big city, having utterly opposing tastes in movies and music but finding common ground over annual re-readings of Anne of Green Gables. Yes, even as adults, said Marie with chin stuck slightly up and out, a defensive countenance meant to offset her stature. Sally laughed, and that’s where it started.
Sally could have, and would have, come west alone for the funeral. Marie hadn’t ever met Sally’s mother, had no reason whatsoever to be there, except that she knew the steel in Sally’s spine was for show, that she would need someone to bar the door and shake a stick or worse at intruders. That was the kind of thing Marie knew about Sally from the first few moments of their acquaintance. So when Sally called to ask Marie to water her plants, Marie brought Alice to Sally’s apartment to get the key, and one look at Marie’s packed suitcase made tears well in Sally’s eyes.
“Ready?” said Marie now, as Sally ran her brush through her hair one more time and took a deep, shaky breath.
“Yes,” replied she, and Marie opened the door, letting Sally take the lead from there.
“He’s a political consultant, you said.”
A frown. “I’m not sure, now I think about it. Probably he’s a Democrat, like us, I mean, like me.”
Marie didn’t like to pick sides. She was unaffiliated. Officially.
With a wink.
“Probably. You should find out.”
“Marie, it was drinks. We hadn’t seen each other in six years. I’m not…”
A raised eyebrow.
“Okay, fine. He’s a friend. So you don’t want to know the political opinions of your friends?”
“I’ll ask. I’ll tell you. Okay? Great. Now, can we get back to Scrabble? I have a triple word score waiting to destroy you.”
They both grinned wide. Sally lay down that triple word score, though Marie was far from out of the game.
“I almost forgot, I meant to tell you. I found…”
“In his briefcase?”
“No, no. His wallet.”
“What if he walked in and found you looking through his wallet?”
“Wait, wait, I have to tell you what it was…”
“So tell me why you have separate phone lines again?”
Marie huffed, impatient. “Jess needs it for work. And Sally, yes, okay, yes, my father doesn’t know we’ve moved in together and I don’t want him leaping to conclusions.”
Sally smirked. “You want him to pay for the wedding.”
Marie returned that with a glare.
They walked out of the kitchen together and watched the guys unpacking Jess’ books, a huge collection that dwarfed even Marie’s. They’d gone through already and gotten rid of duplicates, the knowledge of which had prompted Harry to scoff and Sally to smile, only a little watery. It was serious, then.
Harry was being unusually quiet, and Marie raised a quirked eyebrow at Sally, who shrugged and asked about the Chagall print Marie was planning to hang in the bedroom. Marie wasn’t diverted in the least, but she knew better than to press it. Jess was now going on about how fortunate he felt in finding Marie, a subject he didn’t lower his voice for ever, and Harry’s brow collected more clouds than the Midwest sky in a muggy May.
So when the coffee table became the topic of conversation, and the happy couple’s coupleness became so sickeningly sweet to behold, even over that eyesore, and Harry exploded – well, Marie was taken aback, but not truly surprised.
With an apologetic face, Sally went after him, and Jess looked down at Marie. She told him she would never want the coffee table, and after a beat, his face relaxed and he laughed.
“It means that much to you?”
It didn’t, all of a sudden, it really didn’t. Marie was staring at the door, an unbidden vision of Jess storming out in a similar fashion years down the road in her mind. She didn’t give a shit about the wagon wheel coffee table.
Jess nudged her. The look on his face as she turned to him said that he knew what she was thinking, and that on some level, he had reached a similar conclusion.
It was completely symbolic. But Jess got rid of the table, amidst Marie’s protests that maybe they could find a use for it.
Sally and Harry came in, Harry sheepish about what had happened, and Marie and Sally walked back into the kitchen to get drinks.
“Is everything okay?”
Sally nodded. Her cheeks were flushed.
Marie, not for the first time, was more than a little concerned for her friend, who really didn’t seem to know.
“Will you be my matron of honor?”
As if there had been any doubt.
New York City in the fall was gorgeous, to the romantics who could find beauty in concrete and noise, in the daily chaos and the changing weather. It was probably true most anywhere, of course, because Sally could remember thinking that no city could possibly rival Chicago, when she was an undergrad and walking through the University of Chicago campus, dreaming of her career and future.
She was just cynical enough to think far less fondly on Chicago winters, of course.
She believed herself free of some bias, in thinking New York singular in October, and she described it to Marie as the best October yet, the smell of apple pie lingering around the bakeries and the leaves in Central Park particularly brilliant red, yellow and orange, just enough lingering green to remind you what spring would hold.
She told Marie about the Mets game the week before. Sally in her determined youth had no taste for baseball, but you couldn’t be married to Harry Burns and not absorb his passions. She was an avid Mets fan now, and could easily hold forth about base hits and ground balls and Tommy John surgery with even Jess.
Or rather, she did, once. Jess would have loved this season, this particular October. Sally said as much to Marie, because that alone would impress upon her friend what it had been like, and she almost regretted saying his name, lest it bring fresh pain, five years after his own heart attack.
Sally sat in Marie’s hospital room, a deceptively bright place, holding her friend’s hand and telling her about all the things she was missing.
Marie was drowsy from drugs and needles and surgery, but she was awake, for all that she had said nothing and let Sally speak.
Jess’ name, though, roused a reaction. She gestured feebly for Sally to lean close, and whispered something that made Sally recoil internally. But she put on a face for Marie, or as close to one as she was going to get.
“So, I shouldn’t wear mascara for a few days.”
Marie shook her head.
Sally laid her head on her friend’s shoulder, and wept.-.