Laura stood in front of the mirror; she was ready. All she had to do was put on her shoes and take her bag. The woman could not stop looking sadly at her reflection. Although she hated black, it did not matter today. Laura was wearing a black dress and black tights, and she had a black jacket on top. Her dark hair was pulled up into a tight ponytail, and there was hardly any makeup on her face. Laura held sunglasses in her hands, with which she intended to hide her tearful eyes. Today, Laura was going to see her best friend off to her last journey. Oh, it was so unfair because Grace was still so young. It should not be like this for people to die at the age of 30. She was not ill. Why did her heart suddenly stop? Or maybe she was seriously ill and was hiding it?
Laura took a deep breath, trying not to cry. She put on her glasses, grabbed her bag, and left the house. There were so many people in the cemetery that Laura was confused. She knew almost no one. The only relative Grace had was her aunt, but she hadn’t come. Laura didn’t know much about Grace’s past. She knew that she had grown up in a small village. Her parents had died long ago, leaving her a small house in that village, but Laura had never been there. Though they had been best friends since college, life had separated them for many years.
Laura saw only one familiar person; it was Grace’s cousin, Ivy. Laura said hello to her and mumbled, turning to Ivy that she had no idea that Grace had so many friends. But the woman quietly replied that Grace had very few friends, and that these people were her colleagues, employees, and neighbors. Only two people were really grieving here – Laura and Ivy – and maybe a couple of co-workers. Everyone else just came to formally fulfill a duty. Laura thought for a moment while outside she could hear the clatter of the falling clods of earth hitting the coffin lid, and then she could not take her eyes off the nimble workers deftly wielding shovels.
When it was all over, Laura felt a shiver. She thought she was going to faint, but she didn’t. Laura knew the pain of losing her friend would never subside. When she was about to go home, Ivy stopped her and handed her a white envelope without any inscriptions. Laura turned it in her hands in bewilderment, examining it from all sides. Ivy said that three months ago, Grace had asked her to give it to Laura in case she died. Then Grace’s cousin wiped away her tears and said goodbye.
Laura looked at the envelope and wanted to open it right now but held back. If it was Grace’s last letter, she should read it at home so she wouldn’t burst into tears right here in front of all these strangers. A couple of hours later, Laura was home. She did not even undress, threw her bag on the threshold, and sitting on the sofa, slowly opened the envelope. Inside were two pieces of paper. Laura immediately recognized the neat handwriting of her best friend, and tears instantly appeared in her eyes. She sighed sorrowfully, trying to calm down, and then began to read the letter.
After each line she read, her face grew paler and paler. When she reached the end of the letter, she could no longer hold back her tears. How could it be? Why had Grace sacrificed herself for her? Laura cried for a long time. Her face was filled with a whole range of feelings: anger, resentment, confusion, and decision. Anger again, bitterness, and again confusion. In the end, her face was set with determination. She already knew what she had to do. Only how will Nathan react to this? After all, all this concerns even more him than her. How will she tell him about everything?
Laura and Grace had met during their first year at college and lived in the same room at the dormitory. Laura was only 18, and Grace was 20. In spite of the fact that Grace was a country girl and Laura grew up in the capital, they quickly became best friends. Both were good students and spent almost all their free time studying.
One day, Grace was walking in the park and happened to meet a young man. Her feelings flared up between them, and Grace fell head over heels in love. She thought it was mutual, and only a month later, she told her best friend about him. Laura was even a little offended at Grace for hiding such an event from her for so long, but she was very happy for her friend. After a couple of minutes, she had already completely overwhelmed Grace with thousands of questions about this young man.
Grace thoughtfully twirled a lock of long blonde hair in her hands and confusedly answered, “He’s wonderful. I think he loves me a lot, and yes, we were already very close. Wait, I’ll introduce you soon, and then you’ll see him for yourself.” Grace never mentioned the guy’s name or age. She didn’t even have a single picture of him. Time passed, but the meeting never took place. Laura began to notice that Grace was often sad and thoughtful, and one evening, she came crying and told that she had broken up with her boyfriend. He said he didn’t love me anymore because he met another girl who captured his heart. He would like to be with me, but the heart cannot choose. I love him madly. Why is life so unfair?
Laura really wanted to support her friend, and she said, “Forget about him. If he doesn’t love you, then let him go to someone else. It’s good that nothing serious has happened yet. Don’t cry. You’re lucky it turned out this way. It’s better to break up now than to be cheated on later. And you’re sure to meet a good guy who will carry you in his arms, whom you’ll marry and give him a lot of children.”
Every day, Laura tried to cheer her friend up. After a month, Grace seemed to have recovered a little from the hard breakup. And then Laura confessed to her that she had wanted to tell her for a long time that she had met a guy too, and she thought he was the one. They had known each other for two months but had only started dating a month ago. For a whole month, he waited; many times, they saw each other in mutual company. He looked but didn’t dare. Now they were dating, and he had already said he wanted to be with Laura forever. He even hinted that he wanted to marry her.
Grace watched her best friend with a sad smile. What an irony of fate. Grace had just broken up with her boyfriend a month before, and Laura had met her love at the same time. Everything in this world was relative.
Then one day, Laura suggested a meeting near the college. Grace agreed, but if she had known how this acquaintance would turn out and what emotions she would experience, she would have packed her bags and left right away.
So Laura and Grace were sitting on a bench in the park after their classes and chatting merrily. Suddenly, Laura called out loudly to someone, and when Grace turned around, she thought she was in some kind of slow motion. Laura kissed on the cheek to the young man who approached, and then quickly introduced Grace and Nathan to each other.
Grace and Nathan were staring at each other in silence, and Laura was the only one who could not understand what was wrong with them. Why was everyone so strange? Did they really know each other before? Nathan opened his mouth to answer, but Grace preceded him, “Of course not. We don’t know each other at all. It’s so nice to meet you. Laura has told me so much about you that I feel like I’ve known you for a long time.”
Nathan mumbled that he was pleased to finally meet Laura’s best friend too. He wanted to say something else, but Grace abruptly interrupted, “Oh, I just remembered that I have to go to the dean’s office. And how could I forget? Well, Nathan, I’ll tell you one thing. Don’t hurt my friend. I’m ready for anything for her well-being. I will destroy anybody who will hurt her, even by a word. I am very glad that you make Laura happy, and she is glowing with happiness. You guys are really good for each other. That’s it; I’m running away. I have to go.”
When Laura returned to the dormitory, Grace wasn’t there. Laura found only a note telling that something had happened to her aunt, and she had to urgently go back to her village. Laura was able to get in touch with her friend only a couple of weeks later. Grace said that she had taken an academic leave for a year for family reasons because her aunt had suddenly fallen ill, and she would take care of her. No matter how strongly Laura insisted on coming to help her, she categorically refused and would not even give her an address. In general, the friends had not seen each other for five years.
Grace never went back to college. They sometimes called each other, but on the whole, their communication was not that close during those five years. Laura got married to Nathan; she graduated from college with honors, had a good job, loving husband; everything was wonderful, except that Laura could not get pregnant. After a long examination, the woman was diagnosed with a rare pathology that made it impossible to carry a child. No matter how much Nathan comforted her, Laura could not take the news calmly. She had a nervous breakdown after which she decided to divorce him, thinking that he deserved a better woman who could give birth to his children.
Nathan tried to calm Laura down, but she stood her ground, and soon their family life was over. Nathan left for another city almost immediately after their separation. Laura called Grace and told her everything, and three days later, her friend was already at her place. After such a long separation, Laura hardly recognized her. She had changed so much, had become so mature as if she had been through a serious ordeal. But it was Grace who somehow managed to pull Laura out of the worst condition, and she was able to start a new life without her beloved Nathan and without any children.
Laura was taken out of her memories by a phone call from Ivy. She asked if Laura had read the letter. Laura closed her eyes and replied, “Yes, I did. Have you known all along?” Ivy replied, “Yes, Grace made us promise that we would never tell anyone. It was her choice, Laura.” Ivy asked, “You have to come; they need you. And not just you, will you tell him?” Laura frowned and said that she hadn’t decided about it yet but that she would definitely come to the village tomorrow.
She could not believe to the end that all this was really happening. In the morning, Laura got in the car, and in two hours, she was already standing at the gate of the village house where Grace had been born and lived for five years after leaving college. She stood an indecision for a few minutes, and then Grace’s aunt came out of the house and waved hello, inviting her to come in. Laura entered the house. A boy and a girl were sitting at the table; they looked intensely at Laura, greeted her all at once, and said that they knew she was Mom’s friend, and Mom had told them before she left that she would definitely come see them.
Laura looked at the children and was amazed at how much they resembled Nathan years ago when Laura had introduced her best friend to the man she loved. She did not know that it was Nathan who had left Grace for her. He had been honest with both girls. He didn’t want to deceive anyone, but he did not know that Grace was pregnant, and Grace herself found that out just before that meeting. Grace was going to call Nathan and tell him about the pregnancy, but finding out that he was Laura’s sweetheart, she dropped everything so as not to disturb her friend’s happiness and went to the village. Her aunt took her in and supported her, and later, Grace gave birth to twins. No one knew who the father of the children was, except her aunt and Grace herself.
When Laura married Nathan, she invited Grace to the wedding, but Grace did not go so as not to be hurt by the sight of a happily married couple. She loved her best friend, but she loved her husband too, and seeing them together was very hard for her. When Laura called her five years later and told her about her divorce, Grace immediately came to her aid. Of course, later she often visited Laura, but she never told her how she was living in the village. Laura only knew that she had several small stores in the neighboring town.
And then suddenly Grace began to feel ill, and soon the doctors gave Grace no more than six months. Instead of saving her life, Grace took care of her children, drew up her will, and wrote a letter to Laura where she finally told her everything.
Laura stood looking at the children who were waiting for her answer. “Yes, I finally came, but not just to meet you. I have come to take you with me and to introduce you to your father, if you want.” The boy and the girl looked at each other, and then the girl said, “They agreed.”
A week later, Laura was already home with the children. She took the most necessary of their belongings. The sister and brother behaved very cautiously; they were a little afraid of the moment when they would have to meet their father, and Laura didn’t know at all whether she would be able to find Nathan. He left for another city after their divorce, and they never called or met again. Maybe he even changed his phone number. Laura decided not to lose time and called her ex-husband.
He said hello, and Laura immediately asked without a greeting, “Why did you never say you’d met Grace? You know, I wanted to tell you right away the moment you introduced us back then, but Grace made it clear to me that she didn’t want me to tell you, and she didn’t say anything then either. If you’re asking this after all these years, it means you just found out about it.”
“Grace is gone,” Laura blurted out and cried while Nathan was speaking words of condolence. Nathan asked, “Gone? What do you mean?” Laura explained, “Grace passed away; she’s dead. And she left me a letter telling me everything. You must urgently come to me because I have to introduce you to someone.”
“Introduce me to whom? I don’t understand,” replied Nathan in confusion.
Laura said, “I have to introduce you to your children. Do you get it now?”
Two years passed. Nathan and Laura got married again. They could not overcome their feelings and continued to love each other as before. The children lived with them. Although at first, Nathan could not believe that Grace had hidden the truth from him, he was immensely grateful to her. After all these years, Grace gave Nathan and Laura a chance to be happy, just like the first time. The first time she simply stepped aside, allowing the loving hearts to be together, and the second time, she reunited them and entrusted them with her children, whom she loved more than anything.