tobu ishi

Good Neighbors

The day was a lovely one for a walk, glorious and sunny, but Pinako was not surprised to find her young neighbor indoors, humming to herself as she ran a hot iron efficiently over the folds of a heavily wrinkled purple cotton dress.

"Getting some ironing in, dear?" the old woman asked, and Trisha looked up in surprise to see her guest in the open doorway, barely casting a shadow in the sunlight that streamed in around her.

"Oh, hello, Pinako," she said, reaching up to push her cascades of brown hair out of her face. "Yes, I had a little housework to catch up on, and since the boys are out playing with Winry..."

Pinako chuckled. "I suppose you have to snatch time when you can, with those two to take care of," she mused, trotting over to the ironing board and giving the dress a look. "That's quite wrinkled," she observed, raising an eyebrow.

Trisha ducked her head, letting the curtain of hair fall again as she pressed the iron slowly down a length of skirt. "Yes, well..."

"I heard you fell asleep in it," Pinako said, a faint frown crossing her wrinkled brow. "Your boys told Winry they had to shake you awake before dinner. That's not like you, Trisha."

The younger woman was silent for a moment, carefully aligning the folds of a sleeve before pressing the iron to it and holding it there as it steamed. "I've been...a bit tired lately," she said, cautiously. "It's nothing to worry about, really. Probably a touch of the flu."

Pinako hadn't lived as long and as fully as she had without learning how to spot white lies. This one had a tinge of something darker at its edges. Hesitantly, she put a hand on her neighbor's arm.

"Trisha, know we consider you and the boys family, don't you?"

A pleased blush flowed across Trisha's cheeks, showing up oddly bright, and Pinako wondered when she had gotten so pale. "Thank you," she said, setting aside the iron for a moment to clasp her hand. "You've always been so kind to us, even after my husband had to leave. I've never taken that kindness for granted, Pinako. You're a wonderful friend."

Pinako nodded. "I'm glad to hear it, dear. If you ever feel like it...please think about repaying that kindness with a bit of the truth, someday."

Her old eyes were penetrating, but Trisha met them without embarrassment. Her smile was as sweet and serene as ever, but there was an undercurrent of sadness to it that made Pinako feel suddenly ill.

"You'll know everything, one of these days," Trisha said, gently, as if she was the one with cause to worry over her friend. "I promise you that." She hesitated, then added, "If anything ever...happened, you'd make sure Edward and Alphonse were taken care of, wouldn't you?"

"As if they were my own grandchildren," Pinako said without pause for thought. She'd meant it when she called them family. Pinako had always approved of her old friend's wife; frankly, she thought that Trisha and her sons were more than that fool deserved.

Trisha smiled with tangible relief at that, as if a weight had been lifted from her slim shoulders. "Dear old Pinako," she said fondly, and squeezed her hand. Then she reached for the iron, every inch the capable young housewife again. "I really must finish up my ironing, now," she said. "Would you like some pie while you wait? There's some fresh from this morning in the kitchen."

"No thank you, dear," Pinako told her. "I have work of my own to do. Just dropped by to see how you were getting along."

"Well, please come again sometime soon," Trisha said warmly. "Our door is always open, you know."

"I know," Pinako said, waving her goodbye from the doorway and heading out into the sunshine again.

Somehow, she ruminated as she took the short walk back to her own front door, even the brilliant summer weather wasn't doing much to shrink the shadow growing in her old heart.