'With Friends Like These' by Sarah Nicholson

Casually I look up from my filing to ask Helen about her birthday plans, even though I already know them.
Timidly she blushes behind her long fringe and thick spectacles.
“Just a meal with friends, you can come if you wish, it’s just that Howard is bringing Clare and I …”
The sentence is left to hang in the air like a silky ribbon and I know exactly how it ends.
“Curiosity and all that, I’d love to come,” I purr, all the while continuing to shape my claws into perfect points.
Two days later and I am preened to perfection. Extravagant birthday gift in hand I enter the restaurant fashionably late.
Introductions are made, “Howard you know of course…”
My smile is beaming as I quickly sit down and order the chicken. I am in the perfect spot to observe.
Clare’s physical features are all angular, sticky out elbows, sharp collarbones, pointed nose. She is a bird, picking at her food in the same manner as she picks at people. Extracting the juiciest morsels to play with, feathering her nest with woven gossip.
Howard and I always played this game, attributing animal characteristics to our friends behind their backs.Helen the mole, John the squid and Patricia the hyena.  Shy, slimy and annoying.
Howard my ex is laidback and crumpled, a cat who has seen too much in his past eight lives.
He has this knack of keeping Clare’s unfiltered criticism in check, playfully pouncing on her cruel words batting them away like a kitten with a ball.
It will never last I think as I stab the bird on my plate menacingly, licking my lips in anticipation!

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