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by IE
Rated: E · Short Story · Holiday · #2316226
Bridget needs to make a choice. Writer's Cramp Entry - Honorable Mention
Bridget’s friend Nora just left for home, two doors down but a lifetime of difference between the two houses and the families within.

As Bridget enters the house from the front stoop, Nora’s parting words bang insistently in Bridget’s head: “You must wear green tomorrow. For St Patrick’s Day.”

Bridget finds her Mam, hard at work in the kitchen. She slides into a chair, automatically picking up the knife and bowl of potatoes to be peeled for tonight’s meal.

“Mam?” She asks.

Her mother looks up from the task of kneading dough. “There ya are, lamb. Did Nora leave?”

“Yes, Mam. She left a few minutes ago. But she told me I had to wear green tomorrow.” Bridget looks at her Mam. She knows that’s wrong. There’s not one thing green in this house.

Mam stops kneading and wipes her forehead with a cloth before sitting down at the table. “We don’t wear green, Bridget. You know that. Nora’s family is Roman Catholic. We’re not.” Pridefully Protestant, Lena sits tall in her chair, spine stiff with the resolve of generations before her.

“It might be time for you to cut your childhood ties with Nora if she’s insistin’ on this, child.”

Bridget looks into her mother’s eyes. “No,” she says adamantly, “Nora is my friend!”

“Yes, and?” her mother replies. “We don’t need her family looking down their noses at us. Billy and what’s his name, the big lug brother? We don’t need any trouble from them. Not the R.Cs.”

Bridget kicks her heels against the legs of the wooden chair. “Billy and Clarence, you mean.” Despite the gravity of the conversation, Bridget has a soft spot for Nora’s two brothers. “They like me, Mam. They won’t cause any trouble.”

Bridget’s mother shrugs, then rises. “The bread won’t bake itself, and your Granny will chew my ear off if it’s not done for her tea.”

She resumes kneading. “You’ll wear orange tomorrow. And proudly. And forever, Bridget. Understood?”

Bridget nods slowly. “Yes Mam.” Loyalties run deep here. And loyalty counts.

The next day, Bridget and Nora meet to walk to their respective schools. Nora proudly displays a green sash across her uniform. Looking Bridget up and down, her face falls. “Where’s your green, Bridget?”

Slowly Bridget pulls back her coat to reveal a belt made of orange satin. “Mam gave me this to wear today. It’s not green, but green is for you. Orange is for me.” She smiles bravely, hoping for acceptance.

Nora’s eyes fill with tears. “We’ll never be friends again, will we?”

Bridget bursts out crying. “We’re friends! We just wear different colors, don’t you see? Friends are forever, not just because of some stupid color!” She’s breathing heavily, trying to make Nora see reason.

With a quick touch of her hand on the girl’s arm, Nora walks away. Bridget watches her go, then walks slowly in the same direction to her own school.

The kids there wear a mix of colors today. Some display their orange proudly. Others, the children too poor to attend the convent school that Nora goes to, grimly stick to their traditional uniform colors. While Roman Catholic Ireland celebrates St Patrick’s Day exuberantly, the mood here is more somber.

School finished for the day, Bridget is fair to bursting to get home. Running down the street with her books leashed into their strap swinging by her side, she runs bang into Nora’s brothers, Billy and Clarence. Books flying, Nora falls to the ground with a yelp.

Clarence helps her up. Billy retrieves her books. They walk her home quietly. Once at the front gate, they all stop together.

“Nora told us you’re not wearing the green?” Billy looks into Bridget’s eyes questioningly.

Mindful of Mam’s fears, Nora hesitates for a moment, then unbuttons her coat to show the two boys her belt. “We wear t’orange in our home. It doesn’t mean anything. Just that we believe differently.” She’s desperate for them to understand beyond the closed minds of her people.

Billy and Clarence nod to each other. This jibes with what their sister told them.

“The old, they think old ways are the best,” Clarence says.

“We want no trouble. Not with you and Nora being friends,” Billy continues. “But you have to understand we’ll need to keep it low. Away from those closed minds,” he adds, looking around as if his Mam and Da were hiding in the shrubbery, eager to box their ears for such scandalous words.

Bridget nods, her heart in her throat. She was right. They want no trouble, just as she told her Mam.

Nora appears suddenly, from behind that same shrubbery Billy was just peering at. “We’ll walk together tomorrow, Bridget.”

So there’s one day of the year Bridget and Nora will pretend not to be friends. Bridget can live with that.

Word count: 811
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