Air Hockey by johnpf on DeviantArt

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Now finished as part-time ballgirl for her sister’s informal tennis match, Holly leaves the two re-united friends in the café at Mettleham Sports & Leisure Centre chatting about old times. Even though she has some incredibly dull homework and is looking for reasons not to start it, she knows she can do much more interesting procrastination elsewhere, not sitting here in the café listening to her sister and sister’s friend reminisce about people and things Holly has no interest in.

Kate and Alice, not too concerned that Holly was finding their chat uninteresting and has now left, spend several hours catching up on what has happened in their lives over the past two years, and when they realize how long they have been there, they also decide it is time to leave. A lot has been caught up on and they make a promise to keep in contact more regularly and not let their friendship slide again.

On the way out, they pass an air-hockey table and Kate stops next to it, looking at Alice with raised eyebrows. “How about it? We used to play these things all day, remember?”

“Ha! Yes! I remember some of those crazy days when that was all we did!” Alice laughs. “I’m up for it if you are, Kate. I dunno how good I am these days but it’ll be fun all the same.”

Kate fishes about in her pockets for some coins. She pulls a few out and places them in the slot. “Never used to be this expensive for a game,” she mutters as she feeds the coins in.

After removing their outdoor jackets in preparation for some more exercise, the two women pick up their paddles and wait a few seconds for the table’s mechanism to release the puck and for the air-flow to start. They choose an end each and Kate picks up the puck that falls into the dispenser at her end. She places it on the table and moves around to the control panel. “One game? First to twenty?” she asks.

“Just like old times. Yeah, go for it!” Alice agrees and grins as she starts to recall the memories of all the good times she and Kate spent at one of these tables several years previous.

Kate programs in the game parameters and returns to her end of the table. “Do you remember our running score? It’s been so long now I can’t even remember who was in the lead.”

Alice shakes her head. “Nah, same here. I’d like to say it was me who was winning but… well… I’ll bet you’ll say you were winning, so let’s wipe the board clean and start again. Agreed?”

“Sounds like a good idea,” Kate nods in agreement. “I guess that means we’re going to be playing this regularly, then?” she asks with a big smile, finding the implication that she and Alice will be meeting up frequently quite delightful.

“I guess it does!” Alice says as she also realizes the implications of their playing a game that had such a prominent place in their past friendship. “Now stop messing about and hit that puck!”

Kate laughs and begins the game, sliding her paddle to strike the puck into Alice’s side of the table.

Quarter of an hour later, Kate lifts her arms in triumph as the puck enters Alice’s goal and Kate’s score flicks over to 20. “Ha-ha! Take that, Cherwell!”

“I’m rusty, that’s all,” Alice says. “Just watch… next game, I’ll be back on form and you won’t stand a chance.”

“We’ll see, we’ll see,” Kate chuckles, and picks up her bag and jacket to begin walking towards the exit with Alice beside her.

They walk towards Kate’s VW campervan in the leisure centre’s car park and Kate gets her key fob out, preparing to unlock her vehicle. “Can I give you a lift anywhere?” she asks.

“Oh, thanks, Kate, but I’ve got some groceries I need to get at the market just down the road,” Alice replies, gesturing vaguely in the direction Kate knows there is a market every Sunday. She sometimes goes there herself but has become more and more reliant on online ordering from big supermarket chains despite hating herself for not supporting local traders.

She nods and opens the van. “It’s been great catching up, Alice. We should make this a regular thing.”

“Oh, definitely!” Alice agrees enthusiastically. “You’ve got my number, I’ve got yours… I’m sure there’ll be a phone call or a message or something in the next week.”

“Look forward to it!” Kate says and lifts her bag up onto the passenger seat. She then gives Alice a peck on the check and a friendly hug before saying goodbye and walking around to the driver’s door.

Alice waves as Kate’s van makes its way out of the car park, and she takes a moment to smile to herself at having re-established a friendship from the past that she only now realizes she had missed all the time it was absent.

Kate, on her drive back home, is thinking along the same lines.

(Posed and rendered in PoserPro 11, clothes created in Marvelous Designer 9.5, postwork in PSP 2022.)
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