Do you remember becoming friends? I don’t. We didn’t have a meetcute. (I don’t even remember actually meeting you.) There was no big moment of recognition, no “Now we’re best friends!” realisation. I put these things in my books, now. But when I think about us, I can’t find ours. What I have are moments.
Singing in the choir, side by side, a medley from The Little Mermaid. Two skinny 12 year olds, the same height, our hair the same length. But belonging to different friendship groups, how could we be friends? (How could we not be?)
Walking halfway home together, sitting on the wall at the end of the road, wondering if the grass we saw was the same colour for each of us. “What does green mean?” The same wonder in both of our eyes. Someone to share the weirdness with, when no one else understood.
Fake Halloween in Springtime. Carving peppers instead of pumpkins, delighted by our own cleverness.
Making paper cups last in the Asda café after school, me telling you about a story I was writing. You, question after question, taking in the characters, making them ours.
Making brownies in my kitchen. Sleeping on bedroom floors. So strange to think of this now, the secrets we both had when we thought we shared everything.
In the aisles of Asda, you sinking to your knees, pondering aloud, “Did I eat anything today?” Surprised by your own dizziness.
You, on the West End stage, me in the audience. Meeting you at the stage door, your stage make-up still on. Cheering as you emerge and your horrified, embarrassed, pleased grin.
Your first boyfriend and mine. Your first heartbreak and mine.
Separate universities, new friends. Creative writing class; write a poem about someone you love who is not your partner. I start, “You are the smile below full shining eyes.”
A year abroad and life suddenly dark and difficult. You, sending a bag of individually pink-wrapped gifts across the Atlantic so I had lots of things to open. Silly little gifts – I only remember the wooden spatula now. Every package a treasure.
Separate cities, miles apart. Grown-ups now – how did that happen? Graduating into adult adventures. Interrailing across Europe, husky mushing in Finland, climbing a glacier, accidentally stalking A1 in a Norwegian town. Hospital admissions and diagnoses of the head and the body both. Adult problems and adult tears. Adult jobs and adult lives.
This year, when that story two thirteen year olds discussed in an Asda café was finally real, you drove a five-hour round trip with bronchitis to spend half an hour with me at my very first book launch. What can be said about a friend like that?
It’s been a long time since we lived within walking distance of each other, of our houses and our school. A long time since The Wizard of Oz, and second set Science, and calling house phones, and Leah and Meg, and Fatty Arbuckles, and pouring rum into Coke bottles, and that GCSE drama exam, and that picture of us on our last day of school.
But still there is you at the other end of a conversation that’s been going on for years. This amazing person I’m so proud and so lucky to know.
Since Beautiful Broken Things, I get asked a lot about inspiration. Why did I write a book about friendship? And I can say all kinds of things – all of them true – about the overlooked importance of teen friendship, the unique love between girls, how we should celebrate these stories more in our fiction.
But the real answer is this: when I think of friendship, I think of you.
A text conversation two years ago:
You: You should write a book about us.
Me: I kind of just did!
You: I like us.
I like us too.