Thursday, 18 March 2010

Best friends forever? Forever came and went...

We were inseparable.

We met, aged 13, at high school. With lots of things in common, she was my best friend in the world before I could blink an eye.

We'd share lessons, break times and lunch times. When school was over we'd stand gossiping under the library for 15 minutes before going our separate ways home. Within two minutes of stepping in through the door I'd pick up the phone to 'catch up' with her - see what I'd missed during the long minutes of my walk home.

Saturdays were spent together, shopping and chatting, watching films and finding every excuse to be together. She shared my good times, my bad times and each and every teenage worry I had. I did the same in return.

Her family history meant that she needed more support than the average friend. She'd lost her Mum when she was young and her Dad was a tyrant who cared little for her or her sister. She stepped into the role of mother to her younger sister and fought against her biggoted grandmother to steer herself and her sister through school and life.

We were as close as two girls could be. My family accepted her into our inner sanctum and we muddled through the complicated world of being a teenager, handling puberty and discovering boys.

University came and went. We went to different cities to pursue our education but still we kept in regular touch. We called, emailed and visited as often as limited budgets and busy new student lives would allow. We still knew everything about one another.

When it came time to leave the relative comfort and security of full time education we both sought jobs around the country. Our lives took us in different directions geographically but we always remained in touch. I found a partner and we moved in together. She remained single.

As the time passed a natural wedge began to emerge between us. It was difficult to keep up with one another's lives from such a distance. Life began to take over and our visits became less and less frequent.

One thing that didn't change, however, was the fact that I would always drop everything to be by her side or on the end of the telephone should she need my help and support.

Her life was approaching the dramatic proportions of a soap opera (only with more natural acting...) and I was the person she'd call at 4am, in tears and in desperate need of talking down. Once she called me threatening to end it all. It was one of the most terrifying times of my life. Thankfully, there was a happy ending that time.

But all this left me dreading the ring of the phone. Wishing I could know (before the days of caller display) who was breaking into my serene day to shatter the calm.

The only times we spoke now were times when she needed me. She rarely asked how I was. If she ever did I could hear the bitterness and jealousy dripping from her every word as she compared her own tumultuous love life to that of my own.

I still asked her to be my bridesmaid when I married my first husband. She was, after all, my best friend and we'd been through so much together. Even on my hen weekend she managed to make the whole thing about her, throwing a toddler-style tantrum and guarding every ounce of attention jealousy as if it belonged only to her.

Over the next few years we continued to keep in touch, seeing each other as much as possible, I tried to call her regularly but dreaded the conversations. I knew the calls would consume my energy, demand my innermost efforts and leave me feeling drained.

When I told her that my first husband, after 4.5 years of marriage, left me for another woman, she was one of the first people I told. Upon receiving that news, I could hear her, even down the phone line, withdrawing from me and running away. That hurt more than anything. I thought, that after all the times I'd been there for her, she might be able to find the strength to just listen. That's all I wanted. But no.

I couldn't bring myself to forgive her for that, even though we remained in contact for a few months after I moved home. Even after all that, the last thing I expected her to do was judge me so badly for taking my wedding ring off when I found out my husband had moved in with his new woman. She judged me for 'giving up on my marriage', the very one I'd fought tooth and nail for, the one I hadn't wanted to end.

Since then I've consciously withdrawn from her. She has hurt me irreparably.

I even tried to put it all behind me and invite her to my hen weekend and wedding when I remarried in 2009. She pulled out of the weekend at the eleventh hour and didn't make it to the wedding either. She made up weak excuses to explain why she just 'couldn't' be there.

I do feel bitter about the loss of our friendship and would love to be able to make things right. I recently found out that she has had a baby. She is a single mother and had been too scared to tell me about the pregnancy because she'd left it too long. I found out on the same day I discovered I was pregnant, the day before I had my miscarriage. I was over the moon for her and spent 40 minutes on the phone catching up and asking about her child and talking about her life. The next day I tried to call to tell her about my miscarriage. She never got back to me.

I guess I just have to put that friendship down and walk calmly away.

This is my latest post for Josie's Writing Workshop at Sleep is for the Weak. I chose prompt number one: Tell me about someone from you past who you lost touch with and who you often think about.