If any of her friends were asked to describe Maria Thompson, they would have declared she was a woman who carried a soft heart (probably too softhearted for the world around her) and yet she managed to stave off haters, accept life’s realities and enjoyed meaningful friendships with a few close trusted individuals of both sexes. An intelligent well-read woman, equally talented as an artist in painting portraits, landscapes and animals, her artwork was sought after and without a manager, she’d have quite probably given them away.
They might have called her beautiful, but in truth, the best she could boost if so inclined, was exceedingly pretty bordering on beautiful but falling just shy of that mark, and truthfully she really didn’t care. She’d always claimed beauty was in the eye of the beholder, fickle at best and fading with age. She’d observed that while some people used their looks to gain an advantage, others desired it to the point of near self-mutilation and it was an impossible ideal that even the so-called beautiful people were given to debunking on Instagram and the like often presenting the world with the real person as opposed to the glam shots taken after make-up artists had skillfully used their paints and brushes. On an emotional level, if it was what you built your world around, you would be short-changed in the long run. If looks were the center of your world, it was a shallow world all too often spawning disputes, jealousy and insecurity.
Maria had long since accepted and dealt with her outer image and come to terms with her less than statuesque height at five feet, her vibrantly red curly hair (thanks mom) she’d been born with and her cheeky grin.
If she were to write her autobiography, she’d explain that she willing gave everyone she met a pass, eager to learn about them as individuals, what made them tick. She had a long fuse that rarely burned out because she understood herself and wasn’t blind to the follies and foibles of others as well. When she loved, she loved with her whole heart, no holds barred. It was only if and when someone touched their toes in the dark murky waters of negativity such as back-stabbing, meanness or proved they were only along for the ride and what they could get out of it, that she cut them loose. When she severed that rope, she never looked back because she didn’t believe in throwing her pearls before the swine. She’d learned through experience that once the die was cast, and there was a payoff in their behaviour, they weren’t about to change; as long as their subterfuge worked, they’d continue in that vein.
Cloyingly sweet, butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth Amanda Finley learned that lesson after attempting to break into Maria’s world through disingenuous means. She’d taken her time, worming her way into the lives and hearts of Maria’s friends until she’d been included in the inner circle such as it was.
Then, once in, began sewing the seeds of discontent, little hints here and there, light jabs at first against one then another of her friends until everyone was looking sideways in concern wondering what had happened to their previously fun-loving crowd.
Maria had happened upon the culprit purely by chance. She’d been in another room in a local tea house but sitting close to a wall of lattice and ivy that acted as a divider when she overheard a conversation in which Amanda Finley was spewing negative and damaging jabs at a couple of her friends to a woman she knew but wasn’t close to. After observing her leave, Maria walked around the divider and asked the other woman if she could chat for a minute. The woman seemed surprised and her face pinked up.
Maria asked leading questions regarding what she’d overheard and learned that Amanda met regularly with her and others and the theme of her conversation was always the same. June said she was uncomfortable and didn’t appreciate it but wasn’t sure how to handle what was happening. Shamefaced she admitted she wanted to talk with Maria about it but because they weren’t close, hadn’t taken the opportunity, unsure about how she’d react since June realized that all too often, it was the messenger that took the flak for their disclosure. Maria then asked June if she knew of others Amanda had spoken to and she’d hesitantly offered up three she knew of since they’d spoken to her personally about what the woman was saying, asking if there was any truth in what she was intimating. After obtaining the names of the other woman Maria warmly thanked June and explained she appreciated her candour and honesty.
After discussions with several of her friends, they decided to meet the following evening and call Amanda on what she’d learned and each would give an accounting of what had been said.
Since it was a lovely cool summer evening, they’d opted to sit outside on the veranda and once tea coffee and goodies were prettily presented, sat and awaited Amanda’s arrival. They ate and chatted companionably and then each woman, in turn, began by remarking, “I heard the oddest thing the other day….” giving a full accounting of a story they’d heard and asked if anyone knew where it had stemmed from? All five women mentioned incidents in which they’d been cast in a negative light in an eerily similar manner.
As they spoke Amanda Finley’s face grew pinker until her face nearly glowed. Finally, Maria spoke, her face a mask of irritation bordering on fury. “I checked into each incident, Amanda and learned you were at the center of each incident, in fact, you were the instigator the culprit. We took you into our hearts, into our group, included you in every part of our lives. You pulled the wool collectively over our eyes and the time for reckoning is here. I don’t suffer fools gladly and I won’t tolerate anyone bad-mouthing my friends and family and it seems you’ve done little else. At this point, I don’t even want or care for an explanation. You are forthwith, persona non grata. You’ve been given every courtesy, included in all our lives, in every event we had attended but that stops here and now. Please leave. Do not attempt to contact any of us, because we won’t welcome your calls. You made your bed, now you can lay in it.”
Her other friends were stunned at first, but overall proud and honoured that Maria would take such a verbal stand on their behalf.
Amanda Finley stood, head still bowed and didn’t know where to look. She looked finally into their faces, from one to the next, attempted to speak then simply turned and left.
“I apologize ladies, for ever agreeing to include this shallow woman into our midst. We deserve better, and hopefully, she will learn a valuable lesson about how she treats those open and willing enough to call her a friend.”
“It’s not on you, Maria, we were all seduced by her kind words and actions. All of which were a sham from the start. We apologize to you as well.”
“Of course, this may make the situation worse for a time, as I’m sure we may endure further and more vicious attacks from her, but rest assured, that should you hear anything, it won’t have come from me.” They all agreed and stated the obvious. The evening carried on, the air heavy with sadness as they lamented the intrusion and hurtful actions of this would-be friend.