"Do you think you will be alright?" Mae asked with a worried look.
"I'll be fine," Rachel assured her. She snapped her suitcase closed with a confident air and dragged it off the bed, leaving a smooth track across the colorful quilt.
"But Ms. Gertrude is so difficult. I can't imagine going to live with her," Mae breathed. "She frightens most people. She even frightens me, and I have known her for five years."
"She doesn't scare me," Rachel boasted, dropping her suitcase on the floor with a bang. She lifted her handbag and shawl from the back of a wicker chair and draped them over her arm.
"I don't see how you are going to do it, Rachel," Mae persisted. She picked up Rachel's suitcase and followed her from the bedroom and down the carpeted stairs of the boarding house. "She clashes horribly with strong personalities; and she crushes weak personalities. There is no way to get along with her."
Rachel paused on the bottom step and grinned up at her roommate. "I," she began, taking the suitcase from Mae's hands, "am water."
"Water?!?" Mae exclaimed with a confused look. When Rachel didn't answer, Mae asked again "Water?"
Rachel nodded. She stepped down on the linoleum flooring of the foyer and crossed the checkered floor, being careful to trod only on the white squares. "Water is completely flexible," she said.
Mae hopped across the floor behind Rachel, being careful to only step on the black squares.
"It can take any shape that it needs to," Rachel continued. She grasped the brass knob of the front door and swung the door open wide, letting sunlight and the smell of spring filter into the foyer. "It can be poured into any container and fit it perfectly."
Mae followed Rachel outside and down the brick steps. She watched as Rachel stopped to bury her face in the azalea bush.
Rachel lifted her head and looked at Mae. "Completely flexible...but not compressible," she announced. Her eyes danced with fun as she waited for Mae to interpret her allegory. "At least, not compressible by the likes of Ms. Gertrude," she stipulated.
Slowly understanding dawned over Mae's face. "Flexible but not compressible," she murmured. She looked at Rachel with new admiration in her eyes. It was so like her.
"There will be no clashing and no crushing," Rachel stated.
For a moment, hope shined in Mae's eyes as she saw Rachel's determination. But then the hope faded, and she shook her head. "You can't put fire and water together, Rachel," Mae said. "Either you will extinguish her or she will flash you into steam. It won't work."
But Rachel was not to be discouraged. She shifted her suitcase to her other hand and gave her friend a farewell embrace. "I'll make it work. You'll see," she whispered.
Stepping back, Rachel looked into Mae's eyes. "Water," she said, saying the word as though it were a promise.
Mae returned the look with a wobbly smile that was meant to be encouraging despite her overwhelming misgivings. "Flexible but not compressible," she whispered. "I hope it works."