Published 2:54 pm Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The tire is turned, the machine churns forward and backward and seems to come out at times, only to be pulled by some invisible force back into the rut. That same old rut.

So it was with Diane, those old thoughts returning time after time, her mind returning to that familiar territory.

It started in the most natural of ways. She and Emma, friends for years, were both with child, a mere month separating their due dates.

The births brought two beautiful daughters, “Katie,” so named for Diane’s grandmother, and “Rebecca,” simply because Emma had always liked the sound of three-syllable names.

The initial years brought much interaction, often involving afternoons spent watching their two daughters explore the world as only little girls can.

Both moms envisioned a long friendship for both their offspring and themselves, especially as they embarked on the adventure called “school.” But school was where it all started.

It crept into Diane’s mind, as smoke seeps into a room, the realization that her Katie was not quite up to par with Emma’s Rebecca. She simply wasn’t as smart. Katie studied and read and applied herself to her subjects. But try as she might, Katie could not make the grades of Rebecca.

Like a virus attaching itself to an organism, poisoning its host through time, this “thing” invaded Diane’s thought life, pitting devotion to her daughter against her friendship with Emma.

What started as mild irritation became a lingering thought pattern that, in turn, became an obsession. Like one viewing a sculpture from an entirely different angle and gathering a new perspective, so all the normal remarks that Diane previously took lighthearted took on a new meaning.

When Emma said, “How did Katie do on the test?” Diane heard, “I’ll bet Rebecca scored higher.”

“Rebecca loves her teacher,” became “Her teacher loves Rebecca better.”

“Don’t you love Rebecca’s dress?” became “Rebecca is prettier than Katie.”

Sensing the tension, Emma, not knowing how to respond, similarly pulled away.

And like two ships, carried away by opposing currents, the two women drifted apart, unable to bridge the gulf, forfeiting the rich relationship that could have been theirs.