My husband and I are childhood sweethearts (which divides the camp into ‘ah so lovely’ and ‘what that’s crazy!’- usually a female vs male reaction). Thankfully though this has meant that I’ve managed to avoid any of those big boyfriend break-ups that crush your insides and leave you reaching for the second bottle a la Bridget Jones. But I haven’t completely escaped my youth without scars, for around a decade ago I had my one cataclysmic break-up.
With my best friend.
It wasn’t a cut throat one day we’re friends the next day we’re not kind of break-up. It festered then blew up then simmered again for over a year until one day I realised we were no longer communicating. The friendship had flown its nest and left behind a bucketload of poignant memories and a huge friend-shaped hole.
My best friend and I met at our school sports day when we were both ten. I was sitting on the sidelines nursing a severely bruised foot after my sister had driven over it (!) and so I got chatting to the new girl who was visiting for the day. I went home that afternoon and told my mum I’d met my new best friend. And just like that we fell into our roles – inseparable from the start. Finishing each other’s sentences, calling as soon as we got home from school, laughing until we hyperventilated. She was the kind of girl who brightened up the room with her warm, effervescent personality. Everyone loved her.
She stood by as I discovered boys and then fell for the school boffin with his blonde curtains and leather jacket. Then university beckoned and we made a pact to visit often and not let it drive us apart. After graduating we both moved to London to embark on our careers and everything was exciting and novel. For nine months we even lived together, the three of us. Like an episode of Friends. I had my best friend and my boyfriend under one roof. It was perfect. Even my now husband said it was ideal as he didn’t have to entertain me with a daily download after work. He could relax with a beer while we gossiped away. Win win.
I can’t pinpoint the exact time when the dynamics shifted. It was gradual. First she met a man who sounded wonderful but whom she kept very private, and then she was getting more and more involved with the church. I won’t bore you with the details but eventually she decided to cut off her old life in favour of starting afresh. I was devastated. I cried at her, pleaded with her. But nothing would convince her. She was resolute. I think that was the hardest part. Not being able to make her change her mind, or even get her to question it at the very least.
At the time and for a long while after I felt deeply wronged. What had I done? Why didn’t she cherish our memories and friendship like I did? Couldn’t she bridge the two worlds instead of alienating one completely? Time has made me realise how selfish this was of me. For now I can see I was not blameless in how events played out. There’s always two sides to a story.
Maybe I wasn’t there enough for her. Too focused on my developing relationship. I could have been more accepting of her new beliefs. Given her more time and space to take in her changes and maybe eventually she would have come back to me. Instead I got angry and frustrated and made it blatantly obvious.
Of course now it’s too late. We’re no longer in touch. We haven’t spoken for over 12 whole years. Through others I know she has a family and I’m so very happy for her. I still miss her and certain moments trigger memories. Like the time we lived together and I asked her to pick up bits for pancake day and she came home laden with two dozen eggs and four pints of milk – enough to feed an army! We were doubled over in the kitchen hysterical as we read the recipe requiring one egg. We did an awful lot of laughing in those years, but now it’s a chapter in my book and I’m deep into the next ones. New, important friendships have blossomed. It doesn’t mean I don’t sometimes stop and wonder what she’s up to now.
More than anything I hope she is happy and still laughs a lot.
Time clarifies everything. People change. Circumstances change. Life moves on. But memories are always there to hold.