“Things were harder than usual at yoga.”

I believed her when she told me that after I noticed how stiff she looked walking into the restaurant. Why would she lie? She and Bill had one of the best marriages of anyone I know. So we enjoyed our weekly Wednesday lunch and I looked forward to meeting again the next week.

Shirley’s an old friend. We kept in touch after my husband and I moved to the suburbs for our kids. We made an effort, though, to talk several times a week and I came into town each week for lunch at one of the small places near their apartment on East 79th Street.

She was back to her old self the next week, and her prior week’s stiffness was forgotten.

Then it happened again. A month later. “Tough yoga” again. That’s when I got suspicious, Lieutenant. I followed her into the Ladies’ Room. I told her we’d beem friends for a long time and she could tell me anything. She said she knew. She promised that it was nothing. What could I do? We finished lunch on a somber note and both said we were looking forward to meeting next week. Same when we spoke on the phone two or three times. Nothing unusual. She had to cancel our lunch the next week but made it the week after. She was a little down and wore a little too much makeup. At least too much for her. Unusual, you know? She was walking me back to the subway, as usual. As we were crossing Third Avenue, she tripped and started to fall. Her blouse came loose. And that’s when I saw the purple bruise. Big. Extending below her waist. That’s why I’m here. She doesn’t know.