Epilogue 23

"What's troubling you, Joe?"

He did not answer but I knew him well enough to wait. Eventually he sighed deeply and raised his eyes slowly to look at me.

"Aaron, my dear old friend, I've done something terrible."

I nodded encouragingly, continuing to wait.

"It's been on my heart for many years, and I've wanted to tell you, but coward that I am, I just couldn't."

I looked at him earnestly. "Go on, tell me. We're dead. What's the worst that can happen?"
He did not smile.

"I slept with Fiona."

I did not reply, stunned by what he had said, a whirl of confusion and emotions flowing over me.

"It was just the once, when you started going off the rails. She'd been crying and phoned me to talk. I came around, and one thing led to another. I am so very sorry."

He broke down, tears flowing from deep sorrow within. I sat, silent for a long time, watching him weep. I should have been angry, but all I felt was pity for my friend who had screwed up and been riddled with guilt for so long. I leaned forward and took his arm.

"Joe, my friend. It was a long time ago."

He looked up, his face streaked with pain, uncomprehending. I wrapped my arms around him and kissed him on the forehead.

"I forgive you, you idiot."

Then, suddenly, just as he had appeared, he disappeared.