3rd Place – October 2018

Chloe and Sam

Bonnie Bird
Chloe opened the door to her apartment and whispered into the rays of sunshine streaming through the bay windows, “There’s no place like home!”
Before her suitcase hit the floor, Sam, her dearest friend and neighbor, burst through the door, “Welcome home, Chloe! I missed you so much! How was the cruise? Did you meet any cute guys? Did you get seasick?”
Sam was a tall, wiry twenty something, who mostly bounced from place to place rather than walk. She and Chloe had been friends since grade school, attended the same college, and landed jobs as computer analysts at the same company. Finding Chicago rentals way too much for their fledgling budgets, both rented apartments across the hall from each other in an old Victoria house in the suburbs.
If Chloe was the tortoise, Sam was the hare. Chloe was methodical in demeanor, measured in manner, and mindful in thought.  Sam, on the other hand, was like a flea on a hot skillet, often jumping from one subject to the other and sometimes in the same sentence. Despite the imbalance of their personalities, they somehow found a way to form the perfect friendship. Reaching out for a hug, Chloe answered, “Oh, it was perfect! The warm sun during the day and cool breezes at night kept my psyche in perfect balance. You really should come with me the next time, Sam.”
The thought of living life in slow motion sent Sam scurrying into the kitchen, shouting over her shoulder, “You can unpack later. I’ll pour the wine and you start talking, and don’t leave anything out.”
Chloe smiled and headed for the bedroom with her luggage knowing it would be useless to even think about unpacking until Sam’s curiosity was satisfied.
“I’ll be out in a minute, Sam, I need to pee.”
Chloe heard the opening and closing of several cabinet doors, then came, “Where did you hide the wine glasses?” Sam shouted from the kitchen.
“They’re where they’ve always been. I didn’t think I had been gone that long,” Chloe laughed.
When Chloe came out of the bedroom, she found Sam standing in the middle of the living room.
“What’s wrong, Sam,” asked Chloe. “Where’s our wine?”
“When did you do all this?” stammered Sam.
“Do all of what?” replied Chloe.
“Redecorate your apartment!”
“What are you talking about, Sam? I hung a different picture over the couch before I left, but I’d hardly call that redecorating,” Chloe laughed.
“Look around, Chloe! This is your apartment, but these are not your things! That couch belongs in a home on a Georgia plantation. And, those curtains look like petticoats on a curtain rod!  Seriously, wallpaper? Who does wallpaper anymore? Everything in this room is covered in flowers and dizzying stripes! When did you do all this? Better question is ‘why?”
Chloe put her arm around Sam’s shoulder and gently guided her toward the couch, “Wait here, Sam. I’ll pour some wine and be right back.” Chloe knew there was definitely something wrong, and it wasn’t her furnishings.
When Chloe returned, she looked Sam in the eyes and calmly asked, “Sam, what’s going on here? Are you feeling O.K.?”
Sam stared into Chloe’s eyes as if she was trying to penetrate her mind. “Come on, Chloe, look at that armchair. Are you telling me you don’t see a big, overstuffed chair that looks like a paint pallet exploded? That’s not you and that’s not your chair!”
Without a hint of exasperation, Chloe replied, “Sam, that chair was my first adventure into the world of contemporary décor. In fact, you were with me when I bought that chair, don’t you remember?”
Becoming increasingly anxious about Chloe’s obvious denial of the room’s decor, Sam decided Chloe was in full denial and decided to change tactics. Direct questioning sure wasn’t working. “So, Chloe, “tell me about your trip. What villages did you visit? Did any of them practice voodoo or offer exotic drinks? I hear those island voodoo priests can put spells on people without them ever knowing till they get home and then–bam!–things get crazy!”
With great restraint, Chloe answered, “No, I didn’t drink any exotic potions, fall under anyone’s spell, and, no, I didn’t sleep with a witch doctor, if that’s your next question!”
 “I am so confused, maybe even a little afraid, Chloe,” Sam softly murmured with unusual tenderness. “Seriously, when you look around this room, what do you see?”
“I see my home just the way I left it, just the way it’s always been.” Chloe replied. “What do you see, Sam?
“Well, I see rooms straight out of a Southern Living magazine.” Sam replied. “It’s like walking into Paul Dean’s home, uninvited. I might add.”
After a painfully prolonged silence between them, Chloe chirped, “You know, I would like to start this day all over again……tomorrow. Right now, I am going to soak in the tub for about two hours, drink a lot more wine and fall into bed.  Can we meet for breakfast?”
“Good idea,” Sam said, her steps bouncing toward the door. Turning the doorknob to leave, she turned around and said, “Uh, Chloe, can we meet at my place?”
“Very funny, Sam! Sleep tight!” said Chloe, dismissing Sam with a wave of her hand.
Getting ready for bed, Chloe couldn’t let go of what just happened. She knew what the problem was, but had hoped denial would give her a night’s rest before having to deal with it.  But, even denial has its limits. Finally, she put on her robe, walked across the hall and knocked on Sam’s door. “Sam, it’s me.”
“Morning already?” Sam laughed and opened the door.
“Sam, I know you don’t like it when I bug you about your medicine, but tonight was pretty crazy, so I have to ask. Did you take your meds while I was gone?”
“Here we go!” grumped Sam. “Of course, I did, what do you think, I’m crazy? Don’t you dare answer that.”
“Come on, Sam,” Chloe chided, “It’s always the same thing. You have an episode, I ask about your meds, then you get mad. But you do forget, Sam, and you know it.”
“Follow me,” Sam said, leading the way to the medicine cabinet in the bathroom. “See,” she said pointing to the note taped to the mirror, “I even wrote myself a note to make sure I wouldn’t forget while you were gone.”
Chloe opened the cabinet door and found several bottles promising relief for everything from allergies to anxiety. Not finding what she was looking for, she started shuffling the plethora of medicine bottles. Finally, she saw it. Tucked behind the Rolaids bottle was the anchor to Sam’s sanity, Risperidone.
Ten years ago, Chloe’s long-time friendship with Sam morphed into caregiving. Sam was diagnosed as bipolar, and Chloe immediately committed her life to caring for Sam.
“That’s what friends do, they look out for each other,” Chloe told her mother.  But her mother didn’t comprehend the unselfish love that provided such a commitment.  She only saw her daughter’s future fade into Sam’s life.
Chloe had checked the prescription bottle before leaving on her trip, making sure there were enough tablets for Sam while she was gone. Mindful of tonight’s conversation, Chloe was not surprised to see the bottle still filled to the top.
“Look, Sam, the bottle is full!” Chloe said, revealing some exasperation.
“But, I took one every day, just like it says, I swear,” she said.
“Pulling a different bottle from the cabinet, Sam handed it to Chloe and said, “This is the right one.” Shaking it so that only a few tablets rattled around inside, she removed the lid and said, “See, there’s only two pills left! Told you so!”
Chloe took the bottle out of Sam’s hand and saw that it was the same size and also had a red lid as the prescription bottle, this one was labeled ‘Vitamin C’”. Always in a hurry, Sam had apparently grabbed the first bottle she saw that looked like her prescription, and the mistake had been repeated each day until now.
After Chloe explained to Sam what she believed had happened, she handed her a glass of water with the correct tablet.
Exhausted from her trip, Chloe decided it was way too late in the day to admonish Sam for not checking the labels on her medicine bottles. That would come later. It always did.
Arm in arm they headed for the front door. “I love you Chloe. You are the best friend in the whole world,” Sam said. As she opened the door, she followed with “I honestly don’t know what I would do without you.”
Walking toward her apartment, Chloe softly whispered to herself, “I don’t know either.”
From behind her closed apartment door, Sam teasingly shouted, “By the way, Chloe, I still don’t like what you did with your apartment!”

Writers’ workshop and writing group